Dorian unusually strong and slow -- at least five deaths in Bahamas (Sept. 3, 2019)
Hurricane Dorian killed at least five people in the Bahamas and injured 21, though the toll is likely higher. The hurricane was one of the strongest on record in the Atlantic, but has combined the force with an unusually slow pace. It remained over Grand Bahamas Island this morning, complicating rescue efforts and causing "extreme destruction," reports the Guardian. Parts of Grand Bahamas Island and Abaco Islands were afflicted for more than 36 hours -- few places on the planet have experienced storm conditions as horrifically lengthy, according to the Washington Post.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis called the devastation "unprecedented and extensive" and compared the situation to that of a war zone. (Guardian) The Red Cross estimates that 13,000 homes are damaged or destroyed. (BBC)
The Abaco Islands were particularly hard-hit -- and is where the known fatalities took place. Thousands of homes were hit, in that part of the Bahamas, where the local population usually rides out lesser storms, reports the New York Times. Throughout the area, residents were unprepared for the severity of the storm, which was far stronger than those experienced in recent years.
Experts are warning that climate change could be partially responsible. "Rising temperatures don’t make hurricanes more frequent, but they do help make them more devastating," writes Kate Aronoff in the Guardian. Adapting to already certain climate impacts will require trillions of dollars, and repairing the loss and damage of storms and other disasters is expected to cost $300 billionn a year by 2030, jumping to $1.2 trillion a year by 2060.
The UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) officially shuts down today. "Though it leaves a vital legacy, the commission’s exit risks strengthening the hand of criminal networks that operate with state complicity," according to a new International Crisis Group report. (See last Thursday's post.)
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales turned against the CICIG after he and relatives faced criminal investigations. "His fear of the CICIG was a recognition of its efficacy. His ultimate success in driving the CICIG away offers a cautionary tale," writes the outgoing head commissioner, Iván Velásquez in the Washington Post.
Latin America's anti-corruption fight -- which five years ago was on a crest of success -- is foundering and discredited in several countries. "The risk is that the region returns to a status quo where impunity is accepted as the norm," write Brendan O'Boyle and Brian Winter in the Washington Post. They recommend reforms and stronger institutions.
Colombia's government must act swiftly to stop the country from backsliding back into war, writes Adam Isacson in a New York Times op-ed. A FARC dissidents' group threat to rearm, last week, might not amount to much. But if Colombia's government fails to get the peace accord back on track, a new guerrilla group could emerge. Efforts to reintegrate former FARC fighters into civilian life have been delayed, and the government has failed to provide protection for social leaders who confront a horrific wave of lethal violence. "The peace process isn’t dead, but Colombia will need changes to avoid joining the list of countries that relapse into war within five years. The government must disprove the extremist FARC faction’s narrative."
A growing number of Cubans are applying for asylum in Mexico, amid a clampdown on legal alternatives for reaching the U.S., reports the Guardian. In the first seven months of this year, 4,604 Cubans applied for asylum in Mexico, representing 10% of all applicants. In 2018, 218 Cubans sought asylum, representing 1% of total applicants.
A group of U.S. politicians wants to limit cultural exchange with Cuba, after a new decree requires artists to obtain governmental permission to perform. But critics say closing off cultural exchange won't promote change in Cuba, and will limit opportunities for engagement, reports Rolling Stone.
If El Salvador's relatively low murder rate for this August was maintained for a year, the country's homicide rate would be "only" 24 per 100,000. (See yesterday's briefs.) President Nayib Bukele is giving the credit for the reduction in violence to his Territorial Control Plan, and the people of El Salvador are agreeing with him, writes Tim Muth at El Salvador Perspectives. Though he argues it's still too soon to determine the factors behind the reduction.
Thus far Bukele has a historically high approval rating: 90.4 percent reports El Salvador Perspectives, separately.
Argentines react with shell-shocked panic to financial fluctuations -- but yesterday new currency restrictions implemented by the previously market-friendly Macri administration seemed to have imparted a modicum of calm, reports the New York Times.
An innovative drug smuggling trick uses divers to weld sealed packets of cocaine to the hulls of boats. Up to 600 kilos can be smuggled per ship without the crew's knowledge, and the technique has been detected in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, reports InSight Crime.
A Colombian gang leader has been accused of exporting the "gota a gota" extortion system to Chile, where people who have trouble obtaining credit are offered micro loans at extremely high rates of interest (as high as 20 percent per day), reports InSight Crime.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...Latin America Daily Briefing