Nicaragua recognizes China (Dec. 10, 2021)
Nicaragua has switched diplomatic allegiance to China, and recognized Beijing's claim over Taiwan as a Chinese province. The move leaves Taiwan with just 14 governments around the world that formally recognise it as a country. Nicaragua’s foreign minister, Denis Moncada, did not explain the reasons behind the decision, but China has continually put pressure on Taiwan’s official allies to sever ties with the island. (Guardian, New York Times)
The announcement came after a meeting in Tianjin between China’s deputy foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu and a Nicaraguan delegation led by President Daniel Ortega’s son Laureano Ortega Murillo, who is the presidential adviser for investments, trade and international cooperation.
Nicaragua's Ortega administration is increasingly an international pariah, after a severe crackdown on opponents starting in 2018 and sham elections last month. That may have prompted President Daniel Ortega to take up an offer from China, which has been steadily luring away Taiwan’s remaining allies by promising trade and development assistance while ignoring political controversies, reports the Associated Press.
Nicaragua’s announcement comes as representatives from Taiwan participate in the inaugural Summit for Democracy, a two-day virtual gathering of democratic governments organized by U.S. President Joe Biden that kicked off yesterday. Biden’s invitation to Taiwan irked Beijing, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Other observers note that the announcement came on the same day as the U.S. State Department slapped sanctions on a national security adviser to Ortega. (South China Morning Post)
The U.S. focus on global geopolitics as a battle between autocracies and democracies has some Latin American policymakers worried Washington will pressure them to choose sides in an effort to decouple U.S. economic ties from China, writes Catherine Osborn in the Latin America Brief. Instead some diplomats in the region favor "active nonalignment," and "urge Latin American nations to strengthen regional integration and work to benefit from ties to both China and the United States—while avoiding being controlled by either."
"U.S. President Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy started yesterday without the presence of eight Latin American and Caribbean nations, an absence that highlights both the backsliding of democratic values in the region as well as his administration’s challenges in a crucial area where setbacks can have an immediate impact on U.S. national security and domestic politics," reports the Miami Herald. (See Tuesday's post.)
Central American countries were particularly, and pointedly absent, notes the Miami Herald. Many experts criticized the lack of engagement with a region so critical to U.S. goals, particularly in light of the Biden administration's relatively inclusive definition of democracy in the case of other invitees.
Latin American democracy is at its weakest point in 30 years, outgoing Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco told La Nación. Democracy's weakness has created fertile ground for populism, and puts human rights at risk, he warns, part of a growing chorus of analysts who signal a new Latin American democratic crisis.
"Democracy in Central America is experiencing its worst crisis since the militarized authoritarianism of the 1970s," writes Charles T Call for the Brookings Institution. "Presidents in these countries face fewer and fewer checks on their power. State oversight bodies like legislatures, criminal courts, financial audit courts, and attorneys general have increasingly fallen under the control of the executive."
At least 54 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a horrific accident involving a truck that was reportedly smuggling mostly Central American migrants towards the U.S. (New York Times, Guardian)
A surge in migration from Central America and Mexico to the U.S. over the past decade has brought increasing international attention to the criminal violence impacting these countries. While most analyses focus on criminal violence as "non-political," this characterization is misguided, argues Gema Santamaría in a Wilson Center analysis.
A transnational labor trafficking network brought dozens of individuals from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico to the United States under the guise of agricultural work only to exploit them using brutal conditions, a case that demonstrates how vulnerable temporary migrant workers are to human trafficking networks, reports InSight Crime.
Chile's upcoming runoff election is part of the country's long battle against dictatorship, writes Ariel Dorfman in the Guardian. On one side, Gabriel Boric "embodies the desire to finally overcome the toxic remnants of the dictatorship and adopt a new constitution that could lead to a radically different and inclusive society," while on the other José Antonio Kast embraces the Pinochet legacy.
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo avoided impeachment in Congress this week, when lawmakers who sought to oust him on grounds of moral incapacity fell six votes short for the motion to be debated. (El Comercio) But it's hardly likely to be the last attempt to impeach Castillo, writes Andrea Moncada in Americas Quarterly. "Scandals are overshadowing any policy advances that the government may be making. ... Castillo’s real problem seems to be that he seems uninterested in governing, and instead seems focused on using his position to favor his allies, and perhaps himself."
Colombia could buck the regional trend towards extremes and hew to the center in next year's presidential elections, according to the Economist, though many analysts believe leftist Gustavo Petro will win.
Pandemic school closures in Colombia created a recruitment opportunity for armed groups, and produced a new generation of child soldiers, Elizabeth Dickinson writes in Foreign Policy.
The Venezuelan government is battling to revert an electoral loss in Barinas state, a traditional Chavista stronghold, with irregular judicial decisions that "raised further doubts about the fairness of Venezuela’s electoral system following the first vote in years in which most major political movements took part," reports the Associated Press. (See Dec. 1's briefs.)
"The extreme actions done by Maduro and his supporters to steal the election in Barinas have proven his critics correct and given attention to the anti-democratic abuses of his regime," writes James Bosworth in the Latin America Risk Report.
Maduro plans to replace Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami - a key ruling party official - because of health issues, reports Reuters.
Brazilian investigators accused members of Rio de Janeiro's Red Command drug gang of killing three boys who disappeared a year ago. Investigators said the children, who lived in a city favela, had been tortured and subjected to a vicious punishment beating, in which one of them had died, for allegedly stealing a bird belonging to the uncle of a local gangster. (Guardian)
The Andean cat is the most endangered feline in the Americas, but environmentalists discovered a population living on the outskirts of Santiago, raising hopes for their conservation, reports the Guardian.
Happy Human Rights Day!