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Haiti reeling from floods and earthquake
June 7, 2023
Back-to-back natural disasters in Haiti — torrential rains over the weekend that provoked flooding and an earthquake yesterday — have added stress to the Grand’Anse, which was already reeling from the country’s ongoing humanitarian crises. Ongoing violence and damage to roads are hampering relief efforts, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday’s briefs.)
Haitian vigilante groups have been somewhat celebrated in recent reports, as an imperfect tool in a desperate situation. (See last Wednesday’s post.) “But analytically, it is a grave misnomer to characterize these organized community groups wielding machetes and gasoline as “civilians,” as opposed to armed actors bent on unlawful, violent conduct in revenge for gang activity,” argues Charli Carpenter in World Politics Review. “Bwa Kale should instead be seen and portrayed as what it is: an understandable and predictable response to horrific conditions that will in all likelihood quickly constitute a serious threat to Haiti’s civilian communities.”
Indeed, in other countries in the region where vigilante groups arise in response to ineffective security institutions, they frequently evolve into criminal groups in their own right, taking “advantage of popular support and a lack of institutional capacity to move into criminal economies like extortion, arms and drug trafficking, and murder-for-hire,” reported InSight Crime last month.
Gangs control significant swathes of Haitian territory, and are now targeting religious groups that had traditionally been spared such violence — “a sign of how the new level of lawlessness here is shattering long-standing taboos,” reports the Washington Post.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, a frontrunner for the ruling Morena party’s presidential nomination, said he will resign to focus on the 2024 election. Ebrard reiterated his view that contenders for the Morena nomination should leave their posts to ensure a fair campaign, reports Reuters. (See Monday’s post.)
Evidence that a Mexican human rights official — a close ally of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador — was targeted with spyware, “is part of a mounting trove of evidence that civilians looking into human rights abuses by Mexico’s armed forces — including activists, journalists, even officials close to the president — are being targeted with malware,” reports the Washington Post. (See post for May 24.)
The Mexican spyware cases are “part of a broader regional trend in which more Latin Americans than ever are having their movements, communications and even body temperatures tracked by their governments,” reports Americas Quarterly. “Throughout the hemisphere, governments are signing lucrative contracts for monitoring tools … a potential cause for alarm in a region with a history of intelligence agencies surveilling their own citizens with little accountability, oversight or basic information about their use.”
Two alleged smuggling schemes that run through the Brazilian border town of Pacaraima give a glimpse into the murky world of Venezuela’s illegal gold trade — Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.
Brazil's government will launch a new social program, Bolsa Verde, that will pay poor families that work in forest protection, environment minister Marina Silva announced. The move is part of the Lula administration’s bid to increase environmental protection, particularly in the Amazon. (Reuters, see yesterday’s post.)
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s promise to reindustrialize Brazil won’t be easy, according to Latin America’s Moment.
Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is set to go on trial this month on charges that he abused his power to make baseless attacks on the country’s electoral system. f convicted, he would be ineligible to run for office for eight years, reports the New York Times.
Friends and colleagues of journalist Dom Phillips, who was murdered a year ago in the Amazon, have come together to complete his unfinished project: a book called How to Save the Amazon: Ask the People Who Know. (Guardian)
The story of an heiress recluse fallen on hard times in São Paulo — she is a fugitive from the U.S. justice system, where she is accused of not paying a servant brought from Brazil, who lived under brutal and physically abusive conditions. The case has sparked a true-crime sensation in Brazil, and a national reckoning over how domestic workers are treated, reports the Washington Post.
“Most Western observers perceive the Brazilian approach to the Ukraine war as undesirable and counterproductive,” write Mónica Hirst and Juan Gabriel Tokatlian in El País. But this vision elides the perspective of many global south countries. “The Brazilian initiative reflects a deep sense of frustration and fatigue in the developing world in the face of an extensive confrontation that is generating enormous suffering”
Honduran President Xiomara Castro will travel to China this week — the Central American nation recently established diplomatic relations with Beijing. (Al Jazeera)
Honduras’ state of exception — created to combat gang extortion — was been in place for six months. “But contrary to government claims and National Police figures, the policy has done little to reduce criminal activity in the country,” reports InSight Crime.
The ongoing scandal involving close allies of Colombian President Gustavo Petro and, now, allegations of illicit campaign financing have jeopardized the leader’s “reputation as a relatively clean figure in Colombian politics,” and has affected “the cohesion of the broad political coalition he rode to victory in 2022,” writes Sergio Guzmán in Americas Quarterly. (See yesterday’s briefs, and Monday’s.)
A Colombian senate commission approved a marijuana legalization bill that has already passed the lower chamber of Congress. The bill will be voted on by the senate plenary in about two weeks. (El Tiempo)
A new study by UNICEF and the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare examines how Colombia’s armed groups have changed tactics around child recruitment, highlighting the widespread nature of the issue and the involvement of various armed groups. (InSight Crime)
A plan by Peruvian workers to reopen the La Oroya foundry has divided the city’s residents between dreams of renewed prosperity and fears of a return to life in a massively polluted environment, reports AFP.
A new Cenital dossier delves into the social and political contributions to a mental malaise afflicting a generation of Argentines.
Regional Mexican music is at an inflection point, thanks to the streaming era, and a new generation of artists eager to collaborate across genres, according to the Washington Post.
Astrud Gilberto, the Brazilian singer catapulted to fame by “Girl from Ipanema,” died at age 83. (Washington Post, Guardian) “Ms. Gilberto’s whispery voice, though limited in range and power, had a genuine ache and mystery to it, as well as the ability to evoke images of summers imagined or lost,” according to the New York Times obituary. Enjoy this recording …