Ecuadorean protesters captured police officers (Oct. 11, 2019)
Indigenous anti-government protesters briefly captured ten police officers yesterday. They were held in a cultural center in Quito, which has been used as a base for indigenous protesters for the past week, in the midst of demonstrations against President Lenín Moreno's austerity measures. The officers were paraded on a stage in front of demonstrators, forced to remove their boots, and to carry the coffin of an indigenous activist allegedly killed during the unrest before being released.
About 30 journalists covering the incident were temporarily prevented from leaving the building, and one local TV reporter was attacked by activists. Protesters said media coverage of the protests had ignored police brutality.
(Guardian, Associated Press, and BBC)
Protesters are furious at repression. The public defenders office says at least five people have been killed over the past week of violent demonstrations. This morning a large crowd in Quito held a funeral for an indigenous leader activists say was shot in the head on Wednesday night. Ecuadorean officials counter that he died from a fall on the street. There are indications that the death may have derailed behind the scenes negotiations between the government and protesters. (Al Jazeera, Proceso, see yesterday's post)
Former president Rafael Correa denied government accusations that he is orchestrating a coup from his current home in Belgium, but said Moreno should call new elections in the midst of intense unrest. (EFE)
The fuel subsidy cuts and the wave of protests is reminiscent of previous cycles in the 1990s and early 2000s that ousted several previous presidents. (Nueva Sociedad)
The Economist calls the situation in Ecuador "scarily volatile," but defends the broader wisdom behind Moreno's subsidy cuts, which studies suggest benefitted the country's wealthier population.
Since January, the U.S. government has ordered 13,000 migrants under 18, including more than 400 infants, to wait with their families in Mexico for U.S. immigration court hearings, reports Reuters, based on analysis of government data. These families are often living in crowded shelters or tents in high-crime border cities, where the risk of violence and illness runs high. (See yesterday's briefs, on a Human Rights First report on violence suffered by people in the Migrant Protection Protocols.)
Increasingly restrictive U.S asylum policies are not deterring a soaring number of Honduran women fleeing gender violence -- and near-total impunity -- at home, reports The Intercept.
Given unsafe circumstances in El Salvador, a U.S. move to return asylum seekers there may violate an international law called “non-refoulement," argues Mneesha Gellman in the Conversation.
The U.S. Trump administration will seek bilateral agreements with Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, rather than treating the so-called Northern Triangle countries as a block, said U.S. presidential advisor Mauricio Claver-Carone. The goal, he said in a telephone press conference, is to focus on the specific needs of each country. The move could indicate the eventual end of the Alliance for Prosperity initiative, and follows the Trump administration strategy of signing separate migration agreements with Central American countries. (El Diario de Hoy)
The U.S. administration promised to support the Brazilian bid to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) -- but appears to be first backing Argentina and Romania's bid, according to a leaked State Department letter. U.S. and Brazilian authorities downplayed the significance of the letter, reports Reuters.
Hundreds of protesters demanded Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández's resignation on Wednesday in Tegucigalpa, spurred by allegations of drug trafficker connections that have come to light in a New York trial against Hernández's brother, former congressman Tony Hernández. (Reuters) The sit-in was later broken up by police with tear gas, reports Deutsche Welle.
The Hernández trial is bringing to light several different criminal tendencies in Honduras and the region. (See yesterday's briefs.) A document from the case file reveals details of a drug trafficking connection involving one of Central America’s wealthiest and most politically connected families, the Rosenthals, reports InSight Crime.
As expected, Cuba's National Assembly ratified Miguel Díaz-Canel as head of the Cuban state. He is now technically the "President of the Republic," rather than the “President of the Council of State," reflecting changes under the new Cuban constitution. Only one candidate for each position, including that of the president, was nominated by an electoral commission composed of members of mass organizations controlled by the Communist Party, reports the Miami Herald. (See also EFE.)
Nineteen Cuban media outlets denounced government repression aimed at silencing them, and demanded more protection and respect for the press from government. The outlets that signed the statement, including 14yMedio and El Estornudo, say aggression against journalists has increased sharply this year. (Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas)
Latin American Left (again?!)
It seems like the requiems for the the Pink Tide have just subsided, but the region's rightward turn is not as broad as initially believed. Leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador won resoundingly last year in Mexico. And leftists are strong contenders in this months general elections in Bolivia, Argentina and Uruguay. Santiago Anria and Kenneth Roberts analyze the phenomenon in the Conversation, and find that the strongest leftist governments maintained ties with social movements, which also constrained potential slides towards autocracy.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri's likely electoral defeat later this month raises the question about what space there is in Latin America "for a moderate, democratic center-right in an era of increasing polarization," according to Oliver Stuenkel in Americas Quarterly. "Macri's exit will thus leave a void for Latin America's liberal and ‘civilized right’, and its impact is already being felt outside of Argentina. ... it may also increase the risk of economically liberal candidates joining illiberal nationalist forces, as happened in Brazil."
The left, under the governing Frente Amplio coalition, heads to the Oct. 27 elections on the defensive, for the first time in decades. Though the FA will likely win the first round of voting, candidate Daniel Martínez is not expected to win outright, and would likely lose to the Partido Nacional in a second round of voting. Rafael Sanseviero delves into the context of the national elections and the impact of the regional right-ward swing in Nueva Sociedad.
Polls have varied wildly in the lead up to Bolivia's presidential elections, which will occur on Oct. 20. A few months ago, polls predicted that President Evo Morales would win outright, while now there are indications his nearest challenger, Carlos Mesa, might make it to a second round and potentially unify opposition to Morales, reports Americas Quarterly. However, an unusually high rate of undecided voters, sitting somewhere between 20% and 30%, depending on the poll, adds to the uncertainty. Devastating Amazon fires in Bolivia seem to have played a key role in denting Morales' popularity in recent months. The fires focused public anger on the president, and critics say the government responded too slowly to the environmental disaster, reports the Guardian.
Seven candidates have been killed and more than 60 others attacked in the lead up to Colombia's local elections later this month. The violence is in marked contrast to last year's relatively peaceful presidential election, reports Al Jazeera. Experts say the string of lethal attacks reflects the slow implementation of the FARC peace deal, which allowed illegal groups to move into former guerrilla-controlled territories.
Most former FARC fighters remain committed to the 2016 peace agreement, said Colombia's U.N. ambassador. This week the political party established by the former guerrilla force, also known by the FARC acronym, expelled a few former commanders who took up arms again earlier this year. (Associated Press)
A criminal case against former president Álvaro Uribe -- who testified this week before the Supreme Court -- "has serious implications for the independence of Colombia’s justice institutions, as well as the ongoing efforts to uncover the full truth about the powerful political networks that backed paramilitary death squads during Colombia’s decades-long conflict," write Elyssa Pachico, Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli and Adam Isacson in a WOLA analysis. (See yesterday's briefs and Tuesday's.) The case could also further polarize Colombia's bitter political divisions, they warn.
U.S. failure to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is "almost reminiscent of the Bay of Pigs" writes Jorge Castañeda in a New York Times op-ed. Indeed, today "Maduro appears to be further from being ousted than he was a year ago."
More vessel operators and energy firms are shunning Venezuelan oil and the tankers that have carried it, reports Reuters.
Indian refiner Reliance Industries will resume loading Venezuelan crude this month, after a four-month pause, reports Reuters.
The Guardian reports on how, a decade after the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, U.S. aid failed to rebuild as promised.
Brazil's battle over gay and trans rights is playing out in the country's courts, and pits a growing population of young, educated urban liberals against religious conservatives who say LGBT+ expression goes against traditional Brazilian values, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
A proposal to build an international airport at the Santa Lucia military base near Mexico City received a judicial green-light this week, reports BNAmericas. A large number of legal injunctions have delayed the controversial project championed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. In response the government classified as secret all information about the airport construction project. (Proceso, Infobae)
Legalization of abortion in Mexico's Oaxaca state is on of the effects of the region's "green tide," according to NUSO. (See Sept. 27's briefs.)
Former President Leonel Fernández on Monday contested his apparent defeat in a primary vote by the Dominican Republic’s governing party to pick its presidential candidate for May’s election, reports the Associated Press.
Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra's dissolution of Congress was not a coup, but it could destabilize the country, warns the Economist. "... by blundering into what some consider an abuse of presidential power, Mr Vizcarra has thrown into question the rules of Peru’s political game. And he has set a precedent which may be copied by rulers whose intentions are far worse."
A U.S. federal judge said former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo could be entitled to bail while challenging his extradition to Peru on bribery charges. (San Francisco Chronicle)
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