Haitian police detain alleged coup plotters, Supreme Court judge (Feb. 8, 2021)
Haitian police arrested 23 people in what President Jovenel Moïse called a foiled coup attempt. Moïse accused the group, which includes a Supreme Court judge and an inspector general with the police, of trying to kill him and overthrow his government. Moïse spoke at Haiti’s airport in Port-au-Prince, flanked by the country’s prime minister and the police chief, broadcast on Facebook live, yesterday.
The alleged coup comes during what opponents and human rights leaders have described as a crackdown against detractors of the president, notes the Miami Herald.
Anti-government demonstrators in Port-Au-Prince clashed with police yesterday, who responded with tear gas. (Reuters) There was gunfire in areas near the national palace Sunday morning, reports Voice of America. Yesterday was slated to be a turning point in Haiti's protracted political crisis. The opposition claims Moïse's legal mandate as president ended yesterday, four years after his predecessor's term ended, while Moïse maintains his term ends in a year, four years after he effectively took office. (See last Wednesday's post.)
Leading opposition figures had announced a plan, last week, to replace Moïse with a transitional government headed by a sitting Supreme Court judge.
The alleged coup plotters were arrested during a four-hour police operation at a house in Port-au-Prince, Haitian officials said. Several of those accused were taken while still wearing their pajamas, reports the Miami Herald.
Prime Minister Joseph Joute said yesterday that police made 23 arrests and seized U.S. and Haitian currency, weapons and ammunition. “These people had contacted national palace security officials, high-ranking officers of the national palace whose mission was to arrest the president ... and also to facilitate the installation of a new president,” Jouthe said, speaking alongside the minister of justice and the chief of police. He said they also found a speech that Supreme Court Judge Yvcikel Dabresil had allegedly prepared if he were to become provisional president. Dabresil is one of three judges that the opposition favors as a potential transitional president. (Associated Press)
The State Department and U.S. Embassy in Haiti did not comment on Sunday’s events, but on Friday the U.S. Biden administration expressed support for Moise’s position that his term would end February 7, 2022, while urging him to respect the rule of law, refrain from issuing more decrees and organize elections as soon as possible. A group of U.S. lawmakers, including Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Senate’s president pro tempore, disagrees and and has asked the Biden administration to back a transition government in Haiti.
Pierre Esperance, executive director of the National Human Rights Defense Network, said the State Department’s statement had emboldened Moïse.
André Michel, one of Haiti's top opposition leaders, said Dabrézil's arrest was illegal and called for civil disobedience.
Moïse has led by presidential decree for the past year, after suspending two-thirds of the Senate, the entire lower Chamber of Deputies and every mayor throughout the country. Haiti now has only 11 elected officials in office to represent its 11 million people.
Many fear the current increase in political tensions will only worsen the country's existing paralysis and poor governance, reports the New York Times. Haiti is “on the verge of explosion,” a collection of the country’s Episcopal bishops said in a statement late last month. A spate of kidnappings for ransom and gang violence has contributed to growing unrest.
Last month the U.N. Human Rights Office referenced kidnappings and gang attacks in parallel to rising political tensions over when elections should be held, and voiced concern that "that persistent insecurity, poverty and structural inequalities in Haiti coupled with increasing political tensions may lead to a pattern of public discontent followed by violent police repression and other human rights violations."
Ecuador presidential election goes to second round
Economist Andrés Arauz took the lead in Ecuador's presidential election yesterday, with 32 percent of the votes, according to the electoral council's rapid count. Runner-up candidates Yaku Pérez (19.8 percent) and Guillermo Lasso (19.6 percent) were virtually tied, and it's not clear which will face off against Arauz in April's runoff election. (El Comercio)
Environmental activist Pérez is a surprising challenger in Ecuador's election -- if elected he would be the country's first indigenous president. (See Friday's post.) Pérez positioned himself as a leftist alternative to Arauz, a protege of former president Rafael Correa. Experts were divided over how a second round between Arauz and Pérez could play out, reports the Associated Press.
The election demonstrated the country's deep political polarization, reports the New York Times.
Chilean police fatally shot a popular street juggler in the southern city of Panguipulli. Angry protesters set public buildings on fire -- the municipal government building, the post office, the civil registry, a local court and a water management company, among others, burned to the ground. The Friday shooting took place after the juggler, identified as Francisco Martínez, did not comply with a police officer’s request to provide identification as he performed at a busy intersection, reports the New York Times. Local authorities blamed police for the killing, and subsequent protest destruction. Confrontations between protesters and the police were later reported in Santiago. (El País)
Prominent Nicaraguan civil society organizations -- including Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation and PEN-Nicaragua -- shut down in response to government requirements that they register as "foreign agents." The law, passed in October creates onerous registration requirements for organizations receiving any foreign funding, and grants President Daniel Ortega's government more power to monitor recipients. Other groups, like the Comisión Permanente de Derechos Humanos (CPDH), sought to register, but denounced that they were presented with new requirements each time they presented themselves, making completion by Friday's deadline impossible. (Associated Press, El País, Associated Press)
Nicaragua will hold presidential elections in November, but the situation is difficult for opposition parties that seek to challenge Ortega's grip on power. A brutal crackdown on protesters that started in 2018 left over 300 people dead, 2,000 injured, and hundreds detained. Since then, Congress has passed several laws, including the "Foreign Agents" one, that seriously restrict rights to freedom of expression and association in the country and could undermine free and fair elections in 2021, Human Rights Watch denounced in December.
Managua Archdiocese Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes warned that Nicaragua's crisis will worsen if the elections are not held in fair conditions. (EFE)
Polls give Ortega about 25 percent support, and the opposition is fractured and suffers from low name recognition. (Confidencial and Confidencial)
Central American families and children have been crossing into the U.S. from Mexico in numbers that point to a building crisis, reports the Washington Post. The development is a challenge for the U.S. Biden administration's more-welcoming message to immigrants.
The U.S. suspended deportation flights to Haiti, the latest sign the new Biden administration is attempting to assert control over the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, reports the Guardian. The reported halt to Haitian flights came after a night of frantic calls from community activists and congressional staffers to the office of the newly confirmed secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas.
Biden issued an executive order halting all deportations for 100 days as one of his first acts in office. But, less than a week later, a federal judge barred the U.S. government from enforcing the president’s moratorium for two weeks, and the rapid pace of removals had continued, reports the Miami Herald.
At least 11 babies were sent to Mexico with their mothers just days after being born in the U.S. under a U.S. Trump administration policy of immediate expulsion for migrants entering without authorization. Advocates suspect the actual number of such cases since last March could be higher, reports the Guardian.
Brazil's 10 biggest favelas are launching a bank that will off micro-loans to small business owners struggling to survive the pandemic and debit cards to slum-dwellers excluded from the traditional banking system, reports AFP. The bank will have initial assets of $335,000, funded by anonymous investors. One-third of its funds will be slated for social programs.
Mexican authorities have arrested former Puebla state governor Mario Marín on charges that he ordered the illegal arrest and torture of Lydia Cacho, a prominent reporter who investigated Marín's protection of a paedophile ring. (Guardian)
The Mexican government's crashing vaccine sign-up website has only added to a sense that its pandemic management is awry, as Covid-19 deaths remain high and supplies scarce. Mexico was the first country in Latin America to receive Covid-19 vaccines and started vaccinating health workers on Dec. 22, but at the current pace, it would take decade to vaccinate the country, reports the Guardian.
Argentina's Formosa province has the country's lowest Covid-19 death rate, but critics are increasingly questioning the local government's compulsory quarantine methods. Human rights campaigners describe an abusive panorama of overcrowding, arbitrary arrests, unsanitary conditions and heavy police control of those under quarantine, reports the Guardian.
Climate change issues offer opportunities for collaboration between the new U.S. administration and Argentina on a range of environmental initiatives, from renewable energy production to forest conservation and marine protection -- Wilson Center Weekly Asado.
Protest cacerolazos date back to at least the 19th century, when French women banged pots and pans outside their Paris homes to protest economic conditions and food shortages. (Washington Post)
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