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Gas tanker explodes in Haiti (Dec. 15, 2021)
A gasoline tanker overturned and exploded in Cap-Haitien in northern Haiti yesterday, killing at least 75 people, reports the Associated Press. Early reports indicate that the tanker was trying to avoid an oncoming motorcycle when it flipped.
After the tanker flipped, people rushed to the scene with buckets to scoop up what they could of the tanker's valuable cargo -- 9,000 gallons of fuel in a country where an unreliable electricity grid forces most people to rely on generators. In recent months criminal gangs have blocked fuel deliveries, provoking severe shortages, reports the New York Times.
That desperation contributed to the accident's high death toll, adding to the number of people around the tanker when it exploded, scorching a 100-yard radius. At least 40 homes were burned. The injured also included those who were trampled as people fled the scene. “It’s a drama of misery,” Prime Minister Ariel Henry said at a news conference yesterday. “Some people died in their home without understanding what happened.”
Henry called the tragedy an example of misery and lack of education because “people do not pay attention to the danger that gasoline represents, and this is why we have the number of dead that we have.” Lack of medical supplies and infrastructure will likely contribute to the death toll, reports the Miami Herald.
The accident is "the latest in a series of human-made and natural calamities to rock the beleaguered Caribbean nation this year," compounding an increasingly acute humanitarian crisis, reports the Washington Post.
Haiti's former Foreign Minister Claude Joseph accused the country's government of “lacking the political will to arrest those responsible” for the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. (Voice of America)
According to a New York Times report this week, Moïse may have been killed because he had compiled a list of Haitian officials and businessmen who were involved in illegal drug trafficking as well as arms trafficking. Joseph said the judge investigating the killing should summon those named in the NYT piece. (See Monday's post.)
Haitian blogger Patricia Camilien called on the Moïse aides who were compiling the list to publicize the information, and places the NYT revelations within a broader, ongoing power struggle between Moïse supporters and those of former president Michel Martelly, originally Moïse's political mentor. (La Loi De Ma Bouche)
Several aid organizations in Haiti have temporarily cut back operations in response to a spike in violence that has hindered their work precisely as it is most needed, reports the Associated Press.
Colombian police were responsible for 28 deaths during months of nationwide protests this year, according to a new report by the United Nations human rights agency, which said Colombia’s riot police should undergo a “profound transformation” to prevent the disproportionate use of force against peaceful protesters. (Washington Post, see yesterday's post on a separate report on police repression of protesters in Bogotá in 2020.)
The International Criminal Court's decision to close down its preliminary examination in Colombia was cast as heralding a new chapter in the ICC’s support for national justice. But given the fragile transitional justice system in Colombia, the ICC’s decision to step back now raises concerns that it could undermine victims’ access to justice, write Juan Pappier and Liz Evenson in the Blog of the European Journal of International Law.
The International Seabed Authority (ISA), a UN body, met in Kingston, Jamaica, last week to agree a route for finalizing regulations by July 2023 that would allow the undersea mining of cobalt, nickel and other metals to go ahead, reports the Guardian.
In October, a group of 10 Latin American and Caribbean nations, including Costa Rica, Argentina and Chile, filed a submission to the Council expressing unease with the two-year deadline. It noted that, among other things, the ISA has yet to agree on the creation of an inspectorate to monitor mining and enforce regulations and has not adopted environmental management plans for areas of the deep sea targeted for mining. (See today's Just Caribbean Updates.)
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is seriously considering former rival Geraldo Alckmin as a centrist running mate next year, a potential "unity" ticket for a divided country, reports Reuters. The joint ticket would put aside two decades of fierce opposition between the two, but follows Lula's past choices of centrist veeps.
A Santa's grotto in Rio Branco has been painted blue, then white, then red, and then back to blue, in a kerfuffle that says more about politics than Christmas, reports the Guardian. (A color guide: blue is identified with President Jair Bolsonaro, red is Communism, Lula and Santa Claus.)
A Brazilian police investigation of alleged bribery of Petrobras employees to fix the price of fuel sold to JPMorgan Chase & Co by the state-run oil firm has expanded from one deal to at least four over the course of 2011, reports Reuters.
Poor rural Peruvians have poured out to protest the country's mining industry, which they say punishes their regions without leaving any wealth. Their main complaints are pollution affecting water sources, a lack of infrastructure or jobs, and dust from trucks locals blamed for killing crops and animals. Protests have increased under President Pedro Castillo, who has ordered local officials to go easy on protesters and has not imposed martial law to maintain order, a tool often used by presidents in the past, reports Reuters.
Mexican Finance Minister Rogelio Ramirez de la O met with Peruvian President Pedro Castillo and his cabinet, part of a Mexican mission aimed at supporting the embattled Peruvian leader, reports Reuters. They discussed mutually beneficial economic proposals, including strengthening trade between the two countries and authorizing development bank lines of credit aimed at boosting exports.
Mexico City lawmakers are weighing a ban on bullfighting, an abolition that could be "the greatest blow the sport has suffered," according to the Washington Post.
Mexico's monarch butterfly winter population has halved over the past decade. While scientists originally believed the problem was illegal logging in local forests, they later discovered the decline's roots are in the U.S., where industrial farms have decimated caterpillar food sources, reports Vox.
The latest Venezuela Briefing features Adelys Ferro, director of the recently-launched Venezuelan American Caucus, a new initiative to mobilize and organize the Venezuelan diaspora in the United States to advocate for comprehensive policies centered around humanitarian needs and democratic efforts in Venezuela.
Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele initially appeared to be a champion of justice for the victims of the El Mozote massacre, which was carried out 40 years ago this week. But instead "Bukele's antagonism towards the actual court proceeding which could bring justice, belies his rhetoric," writes Tim Muth at El Salvador Perspectives.
Central America is in the midst of a democracy crisis, and backsliding in the region has made problems that have long plagued the region — poverty, lack of economic opportunity, and criminal violence — grow worse, writes Lucas Perelló in El Faro. While the U.S. Biden administration has sanctioned officials, its not clear the policy on its own can strengthen crumbling democracies. Instead, argues Perelló, the U.S. "should consider inviting rival parties—including incumbents, opposition blocs, civil society, and the private sector—to pursue a series of multilateral 'Democracy Accords.'"
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