Moreno inherits a polarized country (April 7, 2017)
Ecuador's president-elect, Lenín Moreno, is seeking to prove he won't govern in the shadow of his predecessor, reports the Guardian. He is promising to triple poverty relief, crack down on corruption and ease up on the media.
On the issue of press freedom Moreno has particularly distanced himself from President Rafael Correa, notes the Guardian. Ecuador is one of South America’s most restrictive nations for the press, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Correa hailed the results, saying they point to a reversal of the region's rightward swing over the past two years, reports the Wall Street Journal. He has also promised to get out of his successors way by moving to his wife's native Belgium.
Yet the former VP will be hindered both financially and politically. He faces a difficult macroeconomic situation, and will likely have to implement some form of adjustment, argues Felipe Burbano in a New York Times Español op-ed.
His opponent, conservative Guillermo Lasso, refuses to concede, and has been granted a request for a recount.
Moreno, who has been characterized as affable, has taken the challenge in stride, joking that his opponent has the "right to throw a tantrum," according to the Guardian.
Nonetheless, the close results point to a polarized country -- an aspect many commentators have seized on as a difficulty Moreno must overcome. Correa has dominated the political scene for a decade, and the subject of his legacy is one of intense debate. Material advances are contrasted with increased polarization for journalist Soraya Constante in a New York Times Español op-ed. In fact, the campaign focused too much on divisions rather than concrete policies, she writes.
Lasso's campaign sold a paradigm shift away from Correa's policies, mistaking fatigue with the politician for voter desire for return to neoliberal policies -- a fatal mistake -- argues Franklin Ramírez Gallegos in a New York Times Español op-ed from last weekend.
About 100,000 protesters blocked Caracas' main highway yesterday, in demand of general elections. It's the largest rally the political opposition has mustered since October, reports the Wall Street Journal. Security forces clashed with demonstrators, exchanging tear gas and stones respectively. The turnout, led by lawmakers in the capital and accompanied by thousands around the country, is another setback for President Nicolás Maduro who is increasingly beset by international pressure and internal divisions. Maduro critics are also demanding the removal of seven Supreme Court justices who briefly annulled the National Assembly's legislative powers last week, reports Reuters. The radical move was criticized even by party loyalists, including the attorney general, giving the opposition a golden opportunity, according to Efecto Cocuyo.
Opposition political leader Henrique Capriles said he has been banned from participating in politics for 15 years by a government control body, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
The situation in Venezuela is worsening and could trigger a humanitarian crisis requiring regional intervention, testified the admiral in charge of the U.S. Southern Command at Congress, reports the Miami Herald.
A strike called by Argentina's most powerful unions -- the first against the current administration -- brought the country to a virtual halt yesterday. Workers are demanding wage increases in line with inflation (40 percent last year and predicted 20 this one), which has pushed $1.5 million people into poverty, report the Guardian and the Wall Street Journal. Increasingly, they are demanding changes in economic and social policies they say are jeopardizing jobs and social security, reports Página 12. Security forces clashed with picketers blocking one of the main highways into Buenos Aires. President Mauricio Macri, speaking at the World Economic Forum in the capital, taunted strikers, welcoming "all those who are here, working." Union leadership retorted that millions of unemployed don't have that luxury. Public school teachers have been on strike for a month -- they are demanding a 25 percent increase in wages, while the government offers 19.
Brazilian President Michel Temer might have to modify his signature pension reform bill in order to push it through a fractious congress, reports the Wall Street Journal. The government seeks to set a minimum retirement age of 65, and reduce generous payouts and perks, but is far short of the 60 percent approval it would need for the motion to pass the lower chamber. Already the vote has been postponed many times, as legislators sought modifications that would soften the blow. Experts say Brazil's economic recovery depends on Temer's ability to pass significant reform, efforts that are hindered by his rock bottom approval rating, which is currently at 10 percent.
The regional push for austerity in the wake of the economic slowdowns "have slowed and, in some cases, reversed the reforms that moved the region toward greater decentralization, citizen participation, and environmental protection over the past decade. Latin American governments of the left and right used the commodities supercycle to drive growth and poverty reduction at an unprecedented pace. They also undertook institutional reforms aimed at improving governance at large," writes Carlos Monge at AULA blog.
The Pacific-Asian region is ready to become the world's new free trade leader in the wake of the U.S.'s retreat into nationalism, writes Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz in a New York Times Español op-ed in praise of free trade.
Central American government's must focus on addressing the social and economic roots of gang culture, rather than maintain the punitive and militarized approach that has brought few results, argues a new Crisis Group report. "Assorted crackdowns have not taken account of the deep social roots of the gangs, which provide identity, purpose and status for youths who are unaccommodated in their home societies and “born dead”. The responses have also failed to recognise the counterproductive effects of security measures that have given maras prisons in which to organise and confirmation of their identity as social outcasts." Extortion in particular forms the backbone of mara territorial control. "By plaguing local businesses for protection payments, they reaffirm control over poor urban enclaves to fund misery wages for members. Reducing the impact of these schemes, replacing them with formal employment and restoring free movement across the Northern Triangle’s urban zones would greatly reduce the harm of gang activity."
U.N. Special Rapporteur Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, a member of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council and special rapporteur on trafficking in persons will visit Cuba next week. She is traveling at the behest of the government, and will be the first independent U.N. human rights expert to visit the country in a decade, reports the Miami Herald.
Colombia is advancing well towards implementation of the peace accord with the FARC, according to a LAWG review. Nonetheless, significant challenges remain, including the expansion of criminal networks into territories previously controlled by the FARC and use of the transitional justice system to try to weaken prosecution of some human rights violations.
The New York Times accompanies a specialized unit of nerds deployed to combat jungle destruction in the Amazon Basin.
Brazil's sky high homicide rate, 32.4 per 100,000, is pushed up by high numbers of police killings. Brutal raids in Rio de Janeiro's favelas have residents terrorized and contribute nothing to reducing violence. "Research shows that warlike invasions of places like Maré – primarily carried out by the military police – do not provide any positive or sustainable results. Instead, the raids create widespread fear, injure or kill innocent bystanders, and kill people: both suspects and police officers," writes Miriam Krenzinger in the Conversation.
The wave of mudslides devastating Peruvian towns points to the failure to invest years of economic expansion into disaster preparedness, reports the New York Times. And experts fear that the disasters are a result of climate change and could continue to threaten the region.
Officially, Trump doesn't seem to have substantially increased deportation of undocumented migrants, but a growing body of anecdotal evidence points to "a notable shift in the willingness of Ice agents to pick up individuals who were regarded by the previous administration as of such low priority that it would inflict more harm than good on communities to wrench them from their families," reports the Guardian.
A temporary protected status for Haitian migrants is up for renewal in July, and tens of thousands of Haitians in the U.S. fear getting sent back to their country, reports the Miami Herald.
Mexico set records for car production and exports in March, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The tiny Mexican state of Tlaxcala has become the butt of social media jokes after inaugurating its first escalator, reports the Guardian.