Colombia's change-oriented runoff
(June 16, 2022)
Colombian presidential candidates Gustavo Petro and Rodolfo Hernández are technically tied ahead of Sunday’s runoff election. (La Silla Vacía) There remain a large number of undecided voters who will make their decision in the final days of the campaign. Those decisions by undecided voters, including those who will ultimately decide to cast blank ballots, will determine the result of the runoff election, according to the Latin America Risk Report.
Both Petro, the leftist who came in first in May’s vote, and Hernández, a political outsider obsessed with corruption, have capitalized on Colombian anger with establishment politicians. They have promised change, though what can be expected under a government led by either is less clear, writes Juanita León in La Silla Vacía. In a very optimistic reading, she predicts Hernández could advance towards eradicating endemic government corruption, while Petro could deepen democracy by incorporating excluded voices, giving the state greater legitimacy and reducing inequality.
Nonetheless, a less optimistic scenario is likely in both cases: neither candidate will enter office with a popular mandate, instead it will be narrow majority partially based on voters opting for the “lesser evil.” With a divided Congress, political gridlock is the most likely scenario, according to the Latin America Risk Report.
Hernández likes to offend. He routinely releases foul-mouthed diatribes on social media, has admitted to not knowing much of Colombia, and once described Adolf Hitler as “a great German thinker.” But his greatest strength is that he is not Petro, a former member of a guerrilla group whose history offends many Colombians scarred from decades of violence, reports the Guardian.
Hernández has promoted himself as a paragon of democracy, a successful businessman who makes good on promises and cares for the poor. But a trip to Bucaramanga, the small mountain city where he served as mayor and developed his business, reveals a different picture, reports the New York Times.
Brazilian police found two bodies buried near where Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira disappeared 10 days ago. The location was identified by one of the suspects arrested in the case, who confessed to killing the two men. (Guardian)
The man who police said confessed to the crime, Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, was reported to have made threats against Pereira. The announcement was mourned by the Indigenous people with whom Pereira was collaborating and whose struggle against illegal invasions Phillips was documenting. (Washington Post)
The news conference at Brazil’s federal police headquarters in Manaus also included military leaders, who joined the effort to find Phillips and Pereira a few days after their disappearance was reported. Indigenous leaders who sounded the alarm over their disappearance and started searching deep in the forest from day one were not invited, reports the Associated Press.
The disappearances are a particularly dark chapter in the recent bloody history of the Amazon, reports the New York Times. Their deaths reflect the dangers faced by environmental defenders in Brazil, a situation that has only grown worst under Bolsonaro, who has sought to dismantle regulations and strengthen extraction activities.
Before the announcement yesterday, President Jair Bolsonaro again attempted to shift blame for the tragedy onto the victims, saying Phillip’s journey, part of an investigation for a book on sustainable development in the Amazon, was ill-advised. (Globo)
The killings are part of “an undeclared global war against nature and the people who defend it,” writes Jonathan Watts in the Guardian. “Their work mattered because our planet, the threats to it and the activities of those who threaten it matter. That work must be continued.”
El Salvador’s massive crackdown on street gangs has real potential to create an internal split within MS-13, security expert Douglas Farrah told InSight Crime. A March spike in homicides that led to the ongoing state of emergency was led by a faction of the gang that is “deeply disturbed” some of the actions taken by historic leaders who had negotiated a secret pact with President Nayib Bukele, according to Farrah.
An InSight Crime investigation looks at the similarities between MS-13 and the Pentacostal Church: “both demand rigid discipline and utter devotion. And, within their power structure, they both contain elements that perpetuate inequality, abuse and discrimination.”
Inflation is a perennial economic problem in Argentina, but it’s also a political one, writes María Esperanza Casullo in Americas Quarterly, looking at scenarios ahead of next year’s presidential elections. While high inflation is electoral kryptonite, the perception that a government is combating the phenomenon is a boon.
Over the last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Puerto Rico has detected and intercepted an increasing number of migrant voyages, mostly made up of Dominicans and Haitians, looking to land on Puerto Rico’s shores, reports the Miami Herald. The Mona Passage, a historic migrant route with a deadly reputation for swallowing yolas, or small migrant boats, is at the heart of the activity.
The exhibition, “Everything Slackens in a Wreck,” highlights the experiences of South Asian and Asian indentured laborers who came to the Caribbean from 1838 to 1920. Despite the violence and economic bondage of their lives in the Caribbean, they created new forms of culture and new ways of thinking that endure today, reports the New York Times.
The “fantastic giant tortoise” was widely been considered extinct, but researchers confirmed that a lone tortoise found in 2019 is indeed a member of the rare Galápagos species with a huge, flared shell, reports the Washington Post.