Gulf Clan carried out 4 day paro armado (May 9, 2022)
Colombia's feared Gulf Clan cartel shut down cities, towns and villages across the country's north for four days, starting last Thursday, in retaliation for the extradition to the United States of its former leader, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, better known as Otoniel. At least six people were killed and 180 vehicles attacked as part of the move, reports Infobae. The armed group imposed strict curfews on communities, burning vehicles and blocking off highways. Militiamen blocked main roads and forbidden everyone to venture out, even to buy food, reports the Guardian. The group, which calls itself the Autodefensas Gaitanistas, lifted the measure today.
It is not the first time the Urabeños, as the Gulf Clan is also known, have mounted such nationwide demonstrations of force, reports InSight Crime. Indeed, "the paro armado has been a common way for Colombian armed actors to show their power when their leaders are killed or arrested, when they face military operations or ahead of national elections."
But previous shutdowns haven't reached the same levels of violence and simultaneity in multiple regions as this one. Analysts say the Gulf Clan's move evinces the failure of President Iván Duque's security strategy, reports France 24.
Otoniel’s capture was hailed by U.S. and Colombian authorities as a major blow against drug traffickers, but police say that two of his lieutenants, known as Gonzalito and Chiquito Malo, have taken command of the militia, which is believed to have as many as 2,000 fighters, and in addition to drug trafficking is also involved in people trafficking, extortion, kidnapping for ransom, and forced recruitment of children. (See Friday's briefs.)
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva formally launched his much anticipated presidential bid for Brazil's October elections, this weekend. The former leader is challenging incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro, and posited Brazilians' choice as one between democracy or authoritarianism; truth or lies; tolerance or obscurantism; education or automatic rifles; environmental preservation or depredation. "Never was it easier to choose – and never was it so important to make the right choice," he said. (Guardian)
Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon surged to record levels for the month of April, to 1,012.5 square km.Preliminary data for last month shows that nearly double the area of forest was removed as in the same month last year, which was already a record, reports Reuters.
Brazilian buyers have managed to continue purchasing Russian fertilizer, a crucial commodity for the country's food production, despite dire predictions that Russia's invasion of Ukraine and ensuing sanctions would lead to agricultural shortages, reports the New York Times.
At least 31 people were killed and a further 54 injured in a powerful explosion that destroyed parts of a luxury hotel in central Havana on Friday morning. Speaking at the scene soon afterwards, the Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, ruled out a bomb, and said the Hotel Saratoga blast was likely caused by a gas leak. The hotel was under renovation and not open to guests at the time. (Guardian, Associated Press, New York Times)
The explosion comes as Cuba struggles to relaunch its economically crucial tourist industry after Covid-19, reports the Guardian.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador carried a five-day, migration-themed tour of four Central American countries and Cuba, reports AFP. In Havana yesterday he called for an end to US sanctions against Cuba.
AMLO met with El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, on Friday. Comments on their meeting focused on concerns about immigration and the Mexican president's desire for development aid so that people in Central America won't feel forced to emigrate, reports the Associated Press. Concerns about rights violations in El Salvador in relation to Bukele's massive crackdown on street gangs did not come up publicly.
Yesterday in Havana AMLO said he will emphasize to his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden that no country should be left out of the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles in June, reports Reuters. (See Friday's briefs.)
If the U.S. Supreme Court votes to overturn Roe v Wade, many U.S. residents in need of surgical abortion could be forced to travel across international borders, a return to practises of many decades ago. Options now would include the northern border to Canada and the southern one to Mexico, reports the Guardian. Mexican advocates are preparing for an increase U.S. residents visiting to access abortion services.
A Guatemalan judge ruled Friday that nine former police and military officers will stand trial for a range of alleged crimes, including forced disappearances, torture and killings during the country’s civil war, reports the Associated Press.
Peru's Congress rejected a bill presented by President Pedro Castillo to call a referendum to change the constitution, on Friday. The proposal, which fulfilled a Castillo campaign promise, called for a constitutional assembly to redraft Peru's Constitution of 1993. It was rejected by a congressional commission with 11 votes against and six votes in favor, reports Reuters.
Ecuador’s Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric project has become a lightning rod for debate around China’s preferred form of international cooperation -- loans for large infrastructure projects. "Critics of Chinese global economic expansion have seized on Coca Codo Sinclair as a symbol of the danger of China’s influence in Latin America," writes Julie Radomski at the AULA blog. While "other observers argue that the project’s downsides are a result of national institutional failures, irrespective of the “Chineseness” of its finance, engineering, and construction."
Belgium has refused to extradite Ecuador's former president Rafael Correa, after Brussels recently granted him asylum. Correa was sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison in Ecuador in relation to a corruption case, reports AFP.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric's honeymoon ended abruptly after just a month in office -- three April surveys found that more people now disapprove of the leader than support him. The drop is partially related to voter discontent as the government ends pandemic-era financial aid, reports the Financial Times.
Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner lambasted her own government’s management of the economy in a speech on Friday, fueling already high tensions with President Alberto Fernández, reports Bloomberg.
Colombian vice presidential candidate Francia Márquez has cracked open a discussion about race and class in a manner rarely seen in the country's national politics, reports the New York Times.
Thank you to Jordi Amaral and Arianna Kohan for their expert work on the Briefing last week. Glad to be back!