Haitian mass teargassed (April 16, 2021)
A Catholic Mass led by Haiti’s leading bishops to bring attention to the country’s surging violence ended yesterday in tear gas, gunshots and chaos in Port-au-Prince, reports the Miami Herald. Dubbed the “Mass for the freedom of Haiti,” the service was packed with crowds spilling onto the sidewalk and into the streets, protesting a rash of violent kidnappings that has the country under siege.
A river of illicitly trafficked U.S. guns contribute to making Latin America the most homicidal region in the world, and pushing people to make dangerous attempts to migrate away from Central America. The Biden administration's goal to reduce root causes of immigration should contemplate the gun trafficking that drives bloodshed in the region, argues Ioan Grillo in the Guardian.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is a gun advocate, and has sought to make it easier for Brazilians to own and use firearms. The number of registered firearms in circulation has surged by 66% since 2017, to just over a million, or one for every 200 Brazilians. His stance is mostly political, aimed at satisfying his supporter base, but some fear darker motives, reports the Economist. Some experts speculate that Bolsonaro is arming his base in preparation for a possible electoral loss in next year's elections, following the example of the Jan. 6 riot in Washington DC.
Brazil’s full Supreme Court upheld a ruling annulling former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s corruption convictions. This means the popular leader is clear to run in next year's presidential elections. The ruling was made on procedural grounds, and does not find Lula innocent. But it essentially puts prosecutors back to square one by sending the cases to another court, reports AFP.
Brazil's intensive care units are filling up with younger Covid-19 patients. An unusually high number of infant fatalities has also been reported. The explanation for the generational shift remains unclear, although some suspect it's related to the more contagious P1 variant, reports the Guardian.
The Brazilian government’s negligent response to Covid-19 has plunged the country into a snowballing “humanitarian catastrophe” that is likely to intensify in the coming weeks, the medical NGO Médecins Sans Frontières has warned. (Guardian)
Covid-19 vaccines have given China considerable leverage in Latin America, as wealthy countries have tied up most Western pharmaceutical company production, leaving much of Latin America desperate for jabs. In Paraguay, where the health system is collapsing due to the pandemic, some in the country are considering a strategic switch in alliance from Taiwan to China, reports the New York Times. (See April 2's briefs.)
Some Caribbean countries have been able to leverage vaccine diplomacy (and their relatively small population sizes) in their favor, and have obtained enough vaccines to cover significant chunks of their populations. (Nueva Sociedad)
U.S. President Joe Biden believes the world would be a better place if there were more countries like Uruguay, the White House’s senior Latin America adviser Juan González said yesterday on a visit to Montevideo. (EFE)
González's agenda in Uruguay focused on security, and he admitted the relevance of U.S. demand on drug trafficking in the region. “We recognize that and our responsibility is to reduce demand. Many of the drugs that pass through Argentina and Uruguay are en route to Europe or Africa, so it’s a responsibility that we all share,” Gonzalez said. (EFE)
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
St. Vincent officials are concerned that the ongoing volcanic eruption on the island will drive up Covid-19 cases. Lack of clean water and overcrowding among evacuees are hampering prevention efforts, reports the Associated Press.
Peru's democratic panorama is desolate, writes Daniel Encinas in a New York Times Español op-ed. Both second-round finalists -- union-leader Pedro Castillo and right-wing Keiko Fujimori -- "are extremists, of conservative profiles, and with dubious democratic credentials." Rather than a choice between the lesser of two evils, it is a choice between two evils, he writes.
"For many Peruvians, to have to choose between these two extremes is painful," notes the Economist. The fact that some people are grasping at an obscure rule in which the runoff result would be null if 66 percent of votes are blank is telling. (And, no, it's not a likely scenario, according to experts.) -- Canal N
Whoever the winner is, will face a fractured Congress with a history of hindering the country's governance, reports the Economist.
Raúl Castro is expected to step down as first secretary of the Communist Party when it meets this weekend in Havana. Other senior members of Cuba's revolutionary old guard are also expected to bow out at the party congress, which is held every five years, reports the Washington Post.
Analysts don't expect a new generation of leaders to make sweeping political changes, but they will face pressure to pursue economic reforms, reports Reuters.
Ecuadorean voters' choice of conservative Guillermo Lasso in last Sunday's presidential runoff was a referendum on Ecuador’s recent past. But "disillusion with democratic institutions is running high, and Lasso will take office as an isolated president with a weak mandate," according to Foreign Policy.
Best-selling neuroscientist Facundo Manes said Argentina is like a patient who has “never followed the right treatment.” Manes wants to join Argentina's political fray as a moderate -- but "a big question around a potential Manes candidacy would be whether his discourse can move from what verges at times on that of a self-help guru to that of a policy expert," writes Brendan O'Boyle in an Americas Quarterly profile.
Mexico's expected cannabis legalization has generated uncertainty among the country's marijuana growers, reports the Associated Press.
Latin America’s recovery from the pandemic crisis is lagging the rest of the world and the economy will not return to its pre-pandemic level until 2024, the IMF warned yesterday. (AFP)
Anger at the perceived failure of the political class has driven a wave of populist leaders in Latin America, but their lack of economic success is worrying for the region's future, according to Christopher Sabatini. (Chatham House)