Cuban gov't said U.S. behind protests (Nov. 11, 2021)
Cuba's foreign minister warned foreign diplomats that the government will not tolerate an anti-government march planned for Monday. The government claims the scheduled islandwide march, organized by the civic group Archipiélago to advocate for the release of political prisoners and respect for human rights, is part of a regime-change plot orchestrated by the United States, reports the Miami Herald.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez also alleged U.S.-based social media platform Facebook was helping to promote the protests, reports Reuters.
Last month, Cuba rejected the protest organizers’ request to demonstrate, and Havana’s public prosecutor’s office has warned protest organisers about the “criminal consequences” they face if they go ahead with their plans. (Al Jazeera)
Organizers are now urging people to take to the streets anyway, reports the Associated Press.
The biggest Cuban demonstrations in decades broke out in mid-July -- since then close to 1,200 people have been arrested. About half are in prison awaiting trial, reports the Wall Street Journal. Close to 200 detainees face longer sentences of between five and 25 years on criminal charges that include sabotage and sedition, according to Cubalex, a rights group.
Bolsonaro joins Centrão Partido Liberal
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro sealed an agreement with the centrist Partido Liberal to back his re-election bid next year. The Liberal Party is part of the Centrão group, a Congressional voting bloc known for ideological malleability, reports the Associated Press. They are key Bolsonaro allies in Congress, and historically exchange support for government appointments and earmarks. Bolsonaro has increasingly leaned on the group, as political pressure increases on the administration. In August, he appointed a senator from the Centrão to be his chief of staff.
But the move is an ideological departure from Bolsonaro's anti-political establishment discourse, note experts. In fact, Bolsonaro had previously said Partido Liberal leader Valdemar Costa Neto was corrupt. Yesterday criticisms of Costa Neto were deleted from the social media accounts of some of Mr. Bolsonaro’s family members.
Bolsonaro has not belonged to a political party for two years, after breaking with the leadership of the Social Liberal Party a year after his election victory. Bolsonaro's attempt to start his own party foundered.
Bolsonaro's spending amendment passes second vote
Brazil's lower house of Congress approved a constitutional amendment that would allow far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to spend an additional $16.5 billion next year. It's the second of four votes needed (two in each chamber) for the change which will permit Bolsonaro to bypass the country's constitutionally mandated spending cap and ramp up social welfare spending in an election year. (Reuters)
The amendment is crucial for the government to be able to fund Auxílio Brasil, a revamped welfare program that will replace the internationally acclaimed Bolsa Família anti-poverty program begun by former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is favored in polls over Bolsonaro in next year's election.
Critics, however, fear that some of the funds being freed up would not go social spending but rather to opaque parliamentary budgets that can be handed out for projects backed by lawmakers in exchange for political support, reports the Financial Times. A supreme court judge last week temporarily suspended such payments in the 2021 budget, and a full ruling by justices is expected shortly.
Experts say the bill, which must obtain at least three-fifths of each chamber in each vote, could founder in the Senate, reports Reuters. Bolsonaro pressured lawmakers ahead of the vote, saying opposition to the bill permitting expanded government spending next year was a vote against the country.
"The Bolsonaro era has been a rude reminder that Brazil’s darkest moments have always been the result of multinational corporate elites aligning with the military to crush democratic movements supposedly in the name of saving democracy," reports The Intercept.
El Salvador's government proposed a “foreign agent” law that will hamper civil society’s work by imposing high taxes on foreign donations and requiring NGOs and media receiving funding from abroad to submit to a special government registry. The bill is aimed explicitly at grant funding to independent journalism from international organizations of civil society, reports El Faro, an independent media outlet that was specifically referenced by a ruling party lawmaker defending the bill.
The bill, which is expected to be approved by the Nuevas Ideas-controlled National Assembly, broadly prohibits organizations from carrying out activities “for political or other purposes, with the intent of altering the public order or jeopardizing national security or the social or political stability of the country.” (El Faro)
The proposed law quickly drew comparisons to a similar “foreign agents” law passed by Nicaragua’s Ortega government and deployed as part of its pre-electoral crackdown on dissent this year. A similar law in Guatemala, which allows the government to cancel NGOs the government finds to “alter the public order” and increases government financial controls, went into effect in June of this year. (El Faro)
Four decades after Raymond Bonner filed his first story on the El Mozote massacre, the journalist returned to El Salvador and teamed up with El Faro reporter Nelson Rauda to track the country’s faltering efforts to hold the perpetrators accountable -- ProPublica
Dwindling crop yields in Central America's "Dry Corridor" are causing widespread food shortages, leaving many families in Guatemala facing two choices -- migrate or watch your children slowly starve, reports ABC.
Mexican authorities said a group of mainly Central American migrants attempting to walk across southern Mexico has dwindled to less than a thousand. Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said it had granted humanitarian visas to about 800 migrants who were once part of the group, mainly women with children of others considered at risk, reports the Associated Press.
Haitians are eligible for temporary, seasonal work in the United States under two federal guest-worker programs, three years after being kicked out by the Trump administration, reports the Miami Herald. Nonetheless, the Biden administration said overstays and instances of fraud "remain a concern," reports Fox News.
U.S. President Joe Biden has signed into law a bill calling for more sanctions and other punitive measures against the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, reports Al Jazeera. (See Monday's post and Tuesday's.)
Alex Saab, a businessman accused of siphoning off millions in state contracts from Venezuela met secretly with U.S. law enforcement to provide intelligence against Nicolás Maduro’s government prior to being charged in 2019 with money laundering, according to new filings in a related case against a disgraced University of Miami professor, reports the Associated Press.
Despite Bolsonaro's militant stance against the coronavirus vaccine, the vast majority of Brazilian are taking the shots as soon as they can get them. This is due to Brazil's respected public-health system -- particularly its vaccination program, reports New York Magazine.
Argentina's government will donate nearly a million Covid-19 vaccines to Mozambique, Santa Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Vietnam y Dominica. (Infobae)
Argentina's Fernández administration faces a March deadline to repay billions of dollars to the IMF -- in the midst of an economic crisis, the government needs a new deal in order to obtain funding, according to the Financial Times. But ahead of a likely loss in this Sunday's midterm elections, Argentine government officials are taking a hardline stance with the IMF, arguing that the fund's record-breaking loan to the previous government was used to finance former President Mauricio Macri's reelection campaign.
Fernández faces a difficult political scenario: the ruling Frente de Todos coalition has 41 senators out of a total 72. If it loses five or more senators in the election - as opinion polls predict it might - it will no longer have a majority in the upper chamber, reports Reuters. In the lower Chamber of Deputies, the opposition could also close an already narrow gap on the Frente de Todos, potentially deepening fractures within the coalition.
Theft from oil pipelines in Colombia is booming as criminal gangs look to replace dwindling supplies of smuggled Venezuelan gasoline for use in the drug trade, according to Reuters.
Colombian President Iván Duque has high hopes for the medical marijuana industry, but sees little future in legal opportunities for coca, he told the Associated Press.
Paraguayan police arrested three men suspected of killing a German man and his teenage daughter in a plot to sell stolen Stradivarius violins. (Vice, Guardian)
Mexico has not increased its emissions-mitigation goal, instead, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is doubling down on policies that increase the country's greenhouse gas emissions, write Lisa Viscidi and MK Vereen in a New York Times guest essay.
Rice's presence in Mexico poses a challenging question: What’s native, and what isn’t, when it comes to a nation’s culinary history? -- New York Times
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