Arauz to face-off against Lasso (Feb. 23, 2021)
Leftist presidential front-runner Andrés Arauz will face off against business-friendly candidate Guillermo Lasso in Ecuador's runoff presidential vote on April 11. Third place candidate Yaku Pérez will dispute the results, after the national electoral commission (CNE) refused to recount votes in part of the country. Lasso obtained 19.74 percent of the votes in the official count, while Pérez had 19.36 percent, a difference of 32,600 votes.
“We’re preparing a report that shows that the results from the certificates that came from the polling stations simply don’t match those that they [the CNE] have given,” one official from Pérez’s leftist indigenous party Pachakutik told the Financial Times. “There was fraud.”
Pérez been marching with hundreds of indigenous Ecuadoreans through the country’s central highlands toward the capital Quito to demand a recount, since last week, reports Reuters. Other civil society groups have announced plans to demonstrate in favor of Pérez.
Pfizer has been accused of “bullying” Latin American governments in Covid vaccine negotiations and has asked some countries to put up sovereign assets, such as embassy buildings and military bases, as a guarantee against the cost of any future legal cases, according to a report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. In the case of one country, demands made by the pharmaceutical giant led to a three-month delay in a vaccine deal being agreed. For Argentina and Brazil, no national deals were agreed at all. Pfizer has been in talks with more than 100 countries and supranational organisations, and has supply agreements with nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean: Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay. The terms of those deals are unknown.
A group of developing countries, led by India and South Africa, have proposed a temporary Covid-19 patent waiver at the World Trade Organization, a move that could boost production and allow developing countries to vaccinate their populations more quickly. (Guardian, Washington Post)
Hunger in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua has increased almost fourfold over the past two years - from 2.2 million people in 2018 to close to 8 million people in 2021 – a result of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 and years of extreme climate events.
Colombian President Iván Duque's decision to grant temporary protection status to almost 2 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants "could turn the tide on one of the biggest crises of its kind in recent history," writes UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in the Financial Times. "A move that is both compassionate and pragmatic, it deserves immediate international support."
The European Union imposed sanctions on 19 senior Venezuelan officials, lawmakers and members of the security forces in response to December’s legislative election. The bloc said the vote last year was rigged in favour of President Nicolás Maduro, reports Reuters.
Argentine President Alberto Fernández is positioning himself as a natural leader for Latin America, according to the Financial Times. While he is building bridges with leaders from both the left and the right, he is hindered by the region's lack of effective forums for regional coordination, writes Michael Stott. Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think-tank, believes Buenos Aires could play a role in helping the U.S. broker a diplomatic solution to the Venezuela crisis.
A 20-year-old case linking private executives to paramilitary groups in Colombia illustrates the growing push for accountability and suggests that corporate wrongdoing will come under more aggressive scrutiny in Colombia and in the rest of the region in years to come, writes Raúl Gallegos in Americas Quarterly.
Emma Coronel, the wife of infamous drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, was arrested in the U.S. on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana for importation into the United States with the Sinaloa Cartel. She is a dual Mexican-U.S. citizen and former beauty queen. Coronel has also been charged with allegedly conspiring to help arrange Guzmán’s spectacular escape through a mile-long tunnel from the high-security Altiplano prison in Mexico in July 2015. (Washington Post, Guardian, New York Times)
The Colombian city of Buenaventura is in the midst of a wave of violence as armed gangs compete for territory in neighborhoods and incite fear among the mainly Afro-Colombian population, reports the Guardian. Many residents say the violence is the worst they have experienced since the 2016 peace deal.
Recent shootouts between Venezuelan security forces and the El Coqui gang included a clash in which at least two dozen people were gunned down, and experts warn of continued violence as the gang tries to advance on new territory, reports InSight Crime.
Venezuela's humanitarian crisis is having catastrophic environmental impact: "The dismantling of Venezuela’s environmental institutions and the collapse of its oil sector have generated a chain reaction of unsustainable natural resource extraction," warn Francisco Dallmeier and Cristina V. Burelli in the Washington Post.
Brazilian markets plunged yesterday, after President Jair Bolsonaro removed the head of state-controlled oil company, Petrobras on Friday. Experts say it is the latest in a trend of rolling back market-friendly policy initiatives to shore up Bolsonaro's sinking popularity. (Bloomberg) Bolsonaro fired Petrobras' head on Friday, in a feud over fuel prices, and the move surprised even his inner political circle. He justified his decision by saying the oil company’s current management has shown “zero commitment to Brazil.” (Reuters)
One of the last remaining Juma indigenous tribe members died of Covid-19 complications in Brazil. Aruká Juma's case illustrates how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the indigenous peoples who live in the villages of Brazil, which is the second-worst country in terms of the global impact of the pandemic, reports El País.
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