May 16, 2023
Guatemalan independent newspaper elPeriódico shuttered yesterday, after 27 years. Publisher José Ruben Zamora was detained last year and has faced a drawn out trial, plagued by irregularities and legal threats against his attorneys — part of a broad crackdown against human rights activists, journalists, opposition officials and — particularly — anti-corruption prosecutors and judges, under the Giammattei administration. (Reuters)
Six of elPeriódico’s reporters and three columnists are also under investigation.
“In the nine months since his capture in July 2022, the judicial file of the renowned journalist and businessman has passed through the hands of seven private defense attorneys and two public defenders. Four were detained for alleged crimes committed in Zamora’s defense; two of these accepted charges of obstruction of justice. A fifth attorney abandoned the country,” reports El Faro English.
ElPeriódico distinguished itself with hard-hitting coverage of government corruption, publishing more than 200 investigations since President Alejandro Giammattei took office in January 2020, reports the Washington Post.
Zamora said accusations against him of money laundering, blackmail and influence peddling are trumped up charges, “political persecution” aimed at silencing uncomfortable reporting. ElPeriódico had stopped its print edition in November, but had continued to publish as a digital outlet.
The Guatemalan Association of Journalists and human rights activists say the case is retaliation for Zamora’s anti-corruption efforts, and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists denounced months of judicial harassment of the newspaper, its founder and journalists. (Associated Press)
ElPeriódico’s “closure is a blow to all Central American journalism — a major setback, and a testament to the fact that silencing critics is not a practice exclusive to the Ortega dictatorship in Nicaragua,” writes El Faro’s editorial board. “The corrupt, the same who are impeding candidacies in the upcoming presidential elections — have already shown how eager it is to put the final nails in the coffin of the fight against corruption, and to put an end to democracy in Guatemala altogether.
Holness and Guterres discuss Haiti and climate change in the Caribbean
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness will met with United Nations-Secretary General António Guterres in Kingston this week. The topics on the agenda included the impact of the climate crisis in the Caribbean region, the global framework for disaster risk reduction and development financing, reports the Miami Herald.
The two leaders called for greater support from the international community in addressing the worsening crisis in Haiti, reports the Jamaica Observer. Holness noted that while the Caribbean Community was doing its part to assist, more support was needed.
Guterres warned that Haiti’s “tragic situation” is threatening the security of the Caribbean region and beyond as he pressed the international community for a response. “We are kind of in a stalemate right now,” he said, adding that it’s been difficult to mobilize the will of countries who could best lead an international rapid action force requested by Haiti’s interim government. (Associated Press)
El Faro turned 25, yesterday, and “despite the onslaughts from those in power, our thoughts and pens are still free. We will continue to investigate the powerful and expose the rampant corruption and criminal pacts of the Bukele regime, as we did under the governments of the FMLN and Arena. And we will continue to report on how the decisions of the most powerful affect the most vulnerable.”
The Bukele administration’s iron-fisted crackdown on street gangs has provoked admiration from leaders and citizens around the continent — but even visitors face the risk of arbitrary detention, reports the Washington Post.
A key factor behind Latin America’s epidemic of armed violence is “the diversion of, and illicit trafficking in, small arms and light weapons (SALW) across the region,” reports Americas Quarterly. “The millions of illegal weapons circulating in the region and the persistent trafficking between countries and from the United States has allowed the activities of criminal organizations to expand, and it has made their activities even more violent,” writes Carina Solmirano.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) could play a key role aiding Latin American economies rocked by inflation and low growth, but in order to do so, the institution must be strengthened in its capacity to “respond financially before an urgent social, economic and environmental agenda in all the region,” argues the Mesa De Reflexión Latinoamericana. (Open Democracy)
Argentina’s economic crisis and dwindling dollar reserves have prompted the country to pay for imports from China with yuan. The country also activated a currency swap agreement, making it possible for companies to borrow yuan from China, Argentina’s second-largest trading partner, reports the Washington Post.
Brazil’s Lula administration has included “de-dollarization” in its foreign policy agenda — a narrative that includes “demands for inclusive reforms in global governance, the condemnation of geopolitical worldviews leading to securitized methods and military escalation, and the questioning of the Dollar’s dominance in international trade and finance,” write Mónica Hirst and Juan Gabriel Tokatlian in IPS.
The number of migrants crossing into the United States illegally has dropped by roughly half along the southern border since the U.S. Biden administration implemented new restrictions on asylum last week — but officials said it was too soon to tell if the statistics are a major shift or a momentary lull, reports the Washington Post. (See yesterday’s post.)
Chile's new Reparation Law for Victims of Femicide is one of the most comprehensive legal measures in Latin America to support relatives in a region with some of the highest femicide rates in the world, reports the BBC.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador finally managed to sell the country’s presidential jet — to Tajikistan. (New York Times)
A human rights researcher travels across Mexico chasing chiles - New York Times