Bolsonaro can't be trusted say climate activists (April 13, 2021)
The US is negotiating a multi-billion dollar climate deal with Brazil that observers fear could help the reelection of president Jair Bolsonaro and reward illegal forest clearance in the Amazon, reports the Guardian. Indigenous groups, environmental campaigners and civil society activists, say they are being shut out of the most important talks on the future of the rainforest since at least 1992.
Last week Brazilian environment minister Ricardo Salles said he sought $1 billion in foreign aid to help reduce deforestation in the Amazon between 30 and 40 percent. A third of the money would be used to fund actions to combat deforestation directly, Salles said, while the remaining two thirds would be used for economic development, to give people who have benefited from the rainforest alternative opportunities. Salles' plan would leave the military in charge of protecting the rainforest, a task at which they have, so far, failed since 2019. (See last Wednesday's briefs.)
But Bolsonaro administration officials, including Salles, are not trustworthy interlocutors, say activists, who fear international funding will be funneled to support the strongly Bolsonarista constituency of farmers and land-grabbers, rewarding them for invading, stealing and burning forest.
Campaigners and academics say any deal should involve payments for results, money should be channelled through state governors rather than the federal government, it should not reward landowners simply for obeying the law, and resources for enforcement should be in the form of specialist environmental rangers, rather than recruits for the pro-Bolsonaro police force, reports the Guardian.
Such a bargain would not be merely Faustian, but would fail even in pragmatic terms, argue a group of nearly 200 organizations of civil society, who launched a video arguing that it is either #AmazonOrBolsonaro. "If you want to help the Amazon, talk to the people that live and keep the forest alive." (See last Wednesday's briefs on their campaign.)
The U.S. Biden administration has struck an agreement with Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras to temporarily increase border security in an effort to stop migrants from reaching the U.S. border. According to the White House, “the objective is to make it more difficult to make the journey, and make crossing the borders more difficult.” (Associated Press)
Mexico has sent 1,500 police and military personnel to its southern border and Honduras deployed 7,000 police and military to its border “to disperse a large contingent of migrants” there. Guatemala will also set up 12 checkpoints along the migratory route through the country. The Guardian notes that security forces in all three countries have been frequently accused of using excessive violence against migrants, and targeting them for extortion and robbery.
Policies targeting the Central American migration crisis must address the destabilizing threat posed by environmental degradation in the region's forests, argues Jeremy Radachowsky in Scientific American. Climate change and illegal cattle ranching -- often related to organized crime -- is driving forest destruction and lawlessness in Central America "directly imperiling the physical, cultural, food and water security of local communities and Indigenous peoples."
Migration is not so much a political issue in El Paso as it is the very fabric of the city, writes Diana Spechler in a New York Times op-ed on the murals that tell the story of the U.S. border city's rich bicultural community. The city's muralists build on a rich Mexican tradition: "Walking around the city, checking out the walls, is a master class in life on the border."
Leftist presidential candidate Pedro Castillo, a veteran teachers’ union leader, came in first in Sunday's election and will face off against right-wing opposition leader Keiko Fujimori in a June runoff vote. (See yesterday's post.) The results demonstrate the unpredictability that was the only sure thing ahead of Peru's vote: Castillo won 19 percent of the vote, and Fujimori won 13 percent. (ONPE) The runoff campaign will feature two wildly opposed visions of how to run the country -- but also pit a political outsider against a the heir of the county's most notorious political dynasty reports the New York Times.
Castillo was largely unknown, but swept up votes in poorer regions of the country, winning in 16 of Peru’s 24 regions, and by more than 50% in two of the poorest Andean states, reports the Guardian.
"Castillo represents a radical shift from Peru’s political and economic status quo at a time when recurrent political crises and a mismanaged pandemic have left voters disillusioned with the powers that be," reports Americas Quarterly.
U.S. President Joe Biden will not immediately seek to reestablish improved relations with Cuba, said Juan González, the U.S. the National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere. (EFE)
The U.S. Biden administration is vetting Ken Salazar, a former senator and Interior secretary, to serve as U.S. ambassador to Mexico, according to Axios.
Ten people, including seven members of the clergy, were abducted in the Haitian town of Croix-des-Bouquets by kidnappers demanding $1m ransom. The Catholic church warned that Haiti is facing a “descent into hell” and condemned government inaction after the kidnapping, reports AFP.
The assault of a 13-year-old girl in Venezuela and the arrest of her mother and a teacher who helped her end the pregnancy have forced a national debate about legalizing abortion, reports the New York Times. The case has become a point of outrage for women’s rights activists, who say it demonstrates the way the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis has stripped away protections for young women and girls. The arrest of the teacher, Vanessa Rosales, has also become a rallying cry for activists who say it is time for Venezuela to have a serious discussion about further legalizing abortion, an issue, they argue, that is now more important than ever.
Honduran authorities arrested two former government officials on fraud charges related to the $47 million pandemic purchase of seven mobile hospitals, only two of which are in use. The case has became Honduras’ greatest pandemic-related scandal, reports the Associated Press.
Facebook allowed Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández to artificially inflate the appearance of popularity on his posts for nearly a year after the company was first alerted to the activity, reports the Guardian. The digital equivalent of a bussed-in crowd was just one facet of a broader online disinformation effort that the administration has used to attack critics and undermine social movements, Honduran activists and scholars say.
Facebook whistleblower Sophie Zhang speaks with the Guardian about how the social media company allowed fake engagement distort global politics, including examples from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Mexico, in addition to the Honduras case.
Europe has eclipsed the US as the Colombian cartels’ favored market, because of higher prices and much lower risks posed by European governments in terms of interdiction, extradition and seizure of assets, reports the Guardian.
Brazil's Senate is preparing to investigate how the Bolsonaro administration has dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic. The official toll since the pandemic began is more than 13.5 million cases and over 354,000 deaths. Yesterday 1,480 people died. (Reuters)
Brazilian Supreme Court judge Rosa Weber annulled parts of a series of presidential decrees that would have made it easier for Brazilians to access firearms, reports EFE. (See this AP article on President Jair Bolsonaro's efforts to undermine gun control.)
Le Monde does a very deep-dive into Brazil's landmark Lava Jato corruption investigation, beginning with the U.S. influence in the judicial strategy, which recommended not only targeting corrupt politicians, but also ensuring that they are condemned in public opinion.
"Some episodes of “ Lava Jato ” highlight unmentionable complicities. Others, on the contrary, reveal how certain judges and prosecutors have sometimes used their independence - quite real - in the service of a political project, by embarking on a mad dash, establishing motives, means and denials. 'It was like a ball thrown into a game of skittles,' admits anonymously a former close associate of the Obama administration, in charge of judicial matters related to South America."
Criticism of the Supreme Court’s decision to annul ex-president Lula’s corruption convictions reveals how polarised the country has become, writes Daniel Cerqueira at Open Democracy.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
St. Vincent remains under a shower of ash and subject to severe water restrictions as authorities grow increasingly concerned for the safety of those who refused to evacuate after La Soufrière volcano started to erupt last Friday, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's post.)
Bolivia's governing Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) was defeated in the gubernatorial races in four provinces in runoff votes on Sunday, according to preliminary results that indicate that opposition party candidates handily prevailed in those races. (EFE)
Mexico’s navy said it turned 30 marines over to civilian prosecutors to face justice in the cases of people who disappeared during anti-crime operations in the northern border city of Nuevo Laredo in 2014, reports the Associated Press.
Mexico aims to have developed a vaccine against Covid-19 that could be granted approval for emergency use by the end of this year, according to the government. (Reuters)
Tens of thousands of trucks on Mexico’s highways are being hijacked for their cargo each year, with criminal gangs becoming more daring, sophisticated and violent in carrying out these assaults, reports InSight Crime.
A parody on Chilean television of the Korean boy band BTS prompted an international backlash over the weekend, reports the New York Times.
Bolivia's Uru Uru Lake was once a thriving ecosystem and tourist attraction. But through climate change and human pollution it has become little more than a wasteland. Recently hundreds of volunteers gathered at Uru Uru to begin picking up and taking away some of the vast swathes of rubbish, hoping to restore the lake to something of its former glory -- AFP.
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