Coronavirus unravels LatAm development (July 13, 2020)
The pandemic threatens to quickly unravel significant strides Latin America has taken against inequality over the past twenty years. In just a few short months, families who had painstakingly eked their way out of poverty find themselves backsliding. A New York Times report delves into what that means, on the ground, in Colombia, where "the engines of upward mobility were failing, choked off by an economic shutdown that began in March and fell hardest on the working poor and vulnerable members of the middle class."
Politics play a major role in how Latin American countries fare with the pandemic, reports the BBC.
U.S. President Donald Trump doubled down on criticism of Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro and praise for his rival, Juan Guaidó, comments experts say are aimed at wooing Latino voters. Trump accused his presumptive Democratic rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., of supporting “pro-Communist policies” across Latin America, reports the New York Times.
Trump said parts of his border wall with Mexico are saving the country from being "inundated" with coronavirus -- though he offered no evidence of this, and, in fact, many border areas in Mexico are more concerned about U.S. travelers bringing the virus to their areas. Trump's statements to anti-narcotics officials came just after his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, thanked Trump for avoiding the controversial border wall issue during their meeting in Washington last week, reports the Guardian.
More than 1,500 Mexican nationals have died in the United States of Covid-19, according to the Mexican government; some advocacy groups say the true figure is higher, reports the Guardian.
An investigation by The New York Times in collaboration with The Marshall Project reveals how unsafe conditions and scattershot testing helped turn U.S. immigration authorities into a domestic and global spreader of the coronavirus — and how pressure from the Trump administration led countries to take in sick deportees. (See June 29's post for other reports on the subject.)
The number of migrants detained by the U.S. along the Mexico border jumped 40 percent in June. The sharp month-over-month increase appears to be a sign that the deterrent effects of Trump’s coronavirus immigration crackdown are wearing off, reports the Washington Post. The vast majority of migrants — 89 percent — were promptly turned back to Mexico using the Trump administration's rapid-expulsion system that is facing a legal challenge from rights groups and immigrant advocates.
The pandemic has made reunification for migrant families split between Central America and the U.S. even more difficult than before, reports The Intercept.
Haitian death squad leader Emmanuel "Toto" Constant might be freed soon. He was arrested three weeks ago immediately after his deportation from the U.S. to Haiti, but the government’s chief prosecutor in the northern city of Gonaives assigned to his case told the Miami Herald that he doesn’t have any information about Constant’s alleged crimes or his 2000 murder conviction in absentia for the 1994 massacre in the seaside slum of Raboteau, just outside of Gonaives and north of the capital. (See July 7's briefs.)
The country’s justice minister, Lucmane Délile, was abruptly fired last week and replaced by Haitian President Jovenel Moïse via a presidential decree with Rockfeller Vincent. Délile's dismissal came just hours after he held a press conference in which he condemned a recent demonstration of force by armed gangs through the streets of Port-au-Prince, reports the Miami Herald.
Brazil's systemic racism has been made more conspicuous by the coronavirus pandemic and President Jair Bolsonaro, reports the New Yorker. The virus has made racial disparities and inequality more glaring than ever: "Blacks in São Paulo are sixty-two per cent more likely to die from covid-19 than whites."
The story of Brazil's Confederate loyal cities, up till now more of a historical oddity than anything else, is due for reckoning as Brazilians increasingly push back against racism in the country, reports the Washington Post.
Bolsonaro appointed Milton Ribeiro as the nation's new education minister on Friday, after the previous minister stepped down amid a series of scandals in June. Bolsonaro's first pick for a replacement, economist Carlos Decotelli, stepped down before he was sworn in after various irregularities in his curriculum vitae came to light, reports Reuters.
Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon increased by a record 25 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2020, according to official data released Friday. (AFP)
Brazil's government announced last week it planned to ban setting fires in the Amazon for 120 days. The promise came in a meeting with global investors to address their rising concerns over destruction of the rainforest, reports Reuters.
The renewal process for Guatemala's Supreme Court and Court of Appeals has been "marred by irregularities and a renewed attempt by corrupt and illicit groups to manipulate the process and its outcome," reports WOLA. "By influencing the process by which justices are elected, criminal actors find corrupt allies willing to ensure their protection and impunity for their misdeeds." (See Friday's post.) The process began in 2019 and has been fairly convoluted, the WOLA report walks through who is who in the battle to control the country's judiciary. "From their actions, it is clear that the aim of these corrupt networks is to impose and uphold a system that would benefit the illicit activities of corruption networks and organized crime in Guatemala. Such an outcome would have serious repercussions for the security and stability of Guatemala and the region."
A new International Crisis Group report analyzes how Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and his opponents are struggling to shape an online narrative regarding the president's more controversial policies, in part through artificial means. "...Both sides of the political divide engage in ferocious online slanging matches. The result is to present Salvadorans with artificially polarised choices: reject Bukele, despite his apparent successes; or support him, and ignore the abuses committed by his government. ... But as social media-fuelled polarisation intensifies, the risk is that both sides will shun the complexities of tackling gang violence in an effort to win the online popularity contest and the forthcoming elections in February 2021.
Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador said the identification of the remains of a student missing since 2014, one of the Ayotzinapa 43, will give added impetus to the ongoing investigation into the emblematic forced disappearance case, reports EFE. (See last Wednesday's post.)
Mexico is to seek the arrest and extradition from Canada of the former chief investigator, Tomas Zeron, in the disappearance of 43 students in 2014, reports AFP. (See last Wednesday's post.)
Deaths in Mexico from the coronavirus pandemic have crossed the 35,000 mark, reports Al Jazeera.
Nicolás Maduro is engaging in "preventive fraud" ahead of this year's legislative elections that will renew the only opposition-led branch of government, writes Alberto Barrera Tyszka in New York Times Español. His recent moves to intervene in the electoral commission and the main opposition parties mean there is no more possibility for dialogue and negotiation, he argues. (See last Wednesday's briefs, among others.)
Rogue tankers play a key role in helping the Maduro government to evade U.S. oil sanctions, reports the Associated Press. A new report by C4ADS and IBI Consultants, show the limits of enforcement, according to the piece.
Honduras will extend its coronavirus curfew for another week in an effort to tame the coronavirus pandemic, reports Reuters.
Chile's indigenous communities criticize the government's pandemic response as "monocultural." Leaders say recommendations to simply stay home are inapplicable for indigenous peoples, many of whom live in impoverished rural communities, reports the Guardian.
The case of a young man who has been missing since April 30 in Argentina's Buenos Aires province, last seen in a police checkpoint, has provoked widespread anger in a country where disappearances by security forces have a bloody history. Social media mobilized this weekend under "#DondeEstaFacundo." Federal investigators have replaced provincial forces on the case, and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asked the national government for further information. (Página 12, Infobae)
A separate case of a teen killed this weekend by police in the Buenos Aires province forms part of what the Center para Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) identifies as an "alarming" increase of institutional violence since Argentina's coronavirus lockdown began in March.
Abortion legalization is within reach in Argentina, but has been pushed off the agenda by the Covid-19 pandemic, reports NACLA. Activists have been forced to get creative and move online, mobilizing supporters virtually.
The international community should support Argentina in its debt renegotiation with private funds, who seek unravel measures aimed at protecting the country from opportunistic holdout behavior, write Joseph Stiglitz, Robert Howse and Anne-Marie Slaughter in Project Syndicate. "The proposed move backward will exacerbate the collective-action problems in sovereign-debt workouts, increase political and ideological tensions over sovereign debt, and make pragmatic and viable solutions to sovereign insolvency much more elusive."
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always.Latin America Daily Briefing