Essequibo dispute heats up (Jan. 28, 2021)
The US and the OAS condemned Venezuela's detention of 12 Guyanese fishermen. Venezuela's Navy detained the fishermen last week in Guyanese waters claimed by Venezuela, in a rapidly heating border dispute, with geostrategic relevance.
Venezuela has long claimed a significant chunk of Guyanese territory, but the controversy became more relevant in recent years with the discovery of off-shore oil deposits. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been sabre rattling on the issue of the disputed Essequibo region this month, likely as a nationalist rallying point for a country exhausted by a long-term humanitarian and political crisis. (See last week's Venezuela Weekly and last week's Caribbean News Updates for more on the territorial controversy.)
Caribbean observers also say Maduro's latest aggression is a demonstration of his unhappiness with the United States’ increasing presence in Guyana, reports the Miami Herald.
Haitian President Jovenel Moïse called on citizens to help police respond to a surge in kidnappings for ransom. Moïse’s plea and rare acknowledgment of the kidnapping epidemic that’s gaining ground in the country came amid protests by schoolchildren and parents in response to the abduction of a 10-year-old boy in front of his school, reports the Miami Herald. Kidnappings for ransom have surged in Haiti, and many observers say that some are politically motivated. (See Jan. 18's briefs, and Jan. 20's)
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) expects the deployment of COVID-19 vaccine made available for poorer countries through the U.N.-led COVAX facility to start in March, with some 164 million doses. (Reuters)
Vaccines, how to get them and which are a major theme right now in Lat Am -- it's hard to get a big picture of just the region. AS/COAS has a tracker that looks at deaths and Covid-19 measures taken in each country, as well as vaccine plans and economic impact.
The Russian Sputnik V is an option a lot of countries in the region -- including Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia -- are looking at but Russia has warned of supply delays for Latin America, reports Reuters.
Choking the developing world out of vaccine access will have negative economic repercussions for developed nations, warn experts. (New York Times)
More than 1.7 million coronavirus cases among indigenous people living in the Amazon basin have been registered, along with 42,000 deaths since the pandemic began, reports Reuters. Indigenous leaders in the Amazon rainforest urged governments to ensure vaccine rollouts reach all tribal communities. Brazil has included indigenous communities in its vaccine rollout, but leaders warn that other countries do not have immunization plans that specifically include and address the needs of tribal people.
The humanitarian disaster unfolding in Manaus, the Amazon’s largest city stems from a combination of government failures, scientific misfires and public indifference along with a mutating virus, reports the Washington Post. For scientists, it is a case study in what SARS-CoV-2 can do if allowed to spread unmitigated.
Brazilian social media exploded in anger over reports of extravagant presidential spending on condensed milk, $2.9 million last year. The number turned out to be inaccurate, it represents total government spending and includes defense ministry spending to feed the armed forces, reports the Guardian. Some enjoyed watching President Jair Bolsonaro, whose road to power has been paved with fake news, get a taste of his own medicine. He took it largely in stride: “Go and stick a can of condensed milk up your arses,” Bolsonaro told reporters.
Honduras' response to hurricane devastation and the coronavirus pandemic has been hindered by high-level corruption and poor governance, which have exacerbated the emergencies afflicting the country, writes Adriana Beltrán in World Politics Review. An audit by the watchdog NGO the Association for a More Just Society, for example, found that the Honduran agency charged with procuring emergency medical supplies had wasted tens of millions of dollars on subpar, overvalued medical equipment. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Cuba has detected the potentially more contagious "South Africa" Covid-19 variant, just as the island experiences its biggest uptick in new cases since the start of the pandemic, reports the Miami Herald.
Peruvian President Francisco Sagasti announced a total lockdown of Lima and nine other regions following a significant increase in Covid-19 cases, which he said had pushed hospitals close to collapse. (Reuters)
Ecuador heads to the polls on Feb. 7. The three main presidential candidates represent two known options -- former president Rafael Correa is second on one of the ballots, a neoliberal businessman heads another -- and a surprise third: an indigenous leader whose discourse focuses on environmental concerns and ancestral references. (Nueva Sociedad)
El Diario de El Salvador is publicly owned, and was presented by President Nayib Bukele as a self-sufficient project that would subsist on ad-revenue. But in the newspaper's first trimester in print its main advertiser, by far, has been the government itself, reports La Prensa Gráfica.
Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Pierluisi's plan to fund elections for a new group of shadow representatives in Washington requires the elected officials to support statehood — critics say the proposed election is an unconstitutional waste of money amid the coronavirus pandemic, reports the Miami Herald.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing