Nicaragua's ongoing clampdown (Feb. 19, 2021)
Since the current human rights crisis erupted in Nicaragua in 2018, the government has clamped down on all forms of dissent or criticism. The authorities have pursued a policy of eradicating, at any cost, activism and the defence of human rights, said Amnesty International in a new report. Human rights defenders fear the worst is yet to come. They maintain that, in the run-up to the November 2021 presidential elections, human rights violations, which have not stopped, will intensify as the government seeks to silence any form of opposition or criticism.
Nicaraguan lawmakers approved a new National Ministry for Extraterrestrial Space Affairs, The Moon and Other Celestial Bodies -- a proposal by President Daniel Ortega that has prompted scorn from critics. (See Feb. 2's briefs.) "In a country that has a hard time supplying its people with food, fuel and coronavirus vaccines, it is not clear exactly what the ministry is supposed to do," notes the Guardian.
Colombia's ruling Centro Democrático party has sought to interject themselves into the domestic politics of other countries including Peru, Argentina, and now Ecuador's elections -- a side operation allegedly unbeknownst to President Iván Duque, writes Sergio Guzmán in Global Americans. (See Tuesday's post.) "What is clear is that—as long as they are permitted to continue their foreign interference efforts unabated—the Centro Democrático and its operatives will seek to interfere in other elections around Latin America where it sees ideological battle lines drawn, and rally to defend their side."
In Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, managing polarization will be key to preserving democracy, according to a series of essays published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "The risks for democracy are serious, ranging from the rupture of basic democratic structures to the potential emergence of new illiberal political figures and forces. Remedial steps are possible, but they will be challenging to carry out."
November presidential elections in Honduras and Nicaragua will pose critical tests for the U.S. Biden administration's foreign policy, according to Orlando J. Pérez at Agenda Pública. (In English at Global Americans.)
The case of Keyla Martínez, a 26-year-old nursing student who died in police custody has spurred a wave of indignation in Honduras, amid a wave of suspected femicides, reports Vice News. (See Monday's briefs.) Last year, a new penal code was approved that reduces the sentence for rape. Furthermore, despite hundreds of femicides per year, it has only been applied as an aggravating circumstance in a handful of cases since its inclusion in the code in 2013.
Timing for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's new pro-gun policies could hardly be worse, argues Thiago Amparo in Americas Quarterly. (See Tuesday's briefs.) While the moves play to the president's political base, "by making more guns available and blurring the distinction between legal and illegal markets, Bolsonaro’s actions will primarily benefit organized crime and the paramilitary groups known as milicias – and thus make Brazil less safe for everyone, including law enforcement."
Joyce Fernandes, a television host who used to be a maid, is now among the highest-profile Black Brazilians. She is driving candid conversations about racism and inequality, particularly with a book compiling first-person accounts of domestic service employees, reports the New York Times.
Several dozen journalists officially accredited to cover El Salvador's elections on Feb. 28 are government employees, including the presidential press secretary, reports El Faro.
El Faro profiles the legislative candidates for President Nayib Bukele's Nuevas Ideas party, which is widely expected to win a majority in the vote.
India has become a major player in the global vaccine diplomacy game. Since starting vaccine exports last month, India has shipped 23 million doses, with 6.5 million of them donated by the government, mostly to neighbors, but also to remote recipients such as Dominica and Barbados, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Brazilian governors are seeking to obtain their own vaccine supplies, concerned that the national government's immunization efforts are faltering, reports the Associated Press.
Venezuela's government and opposition forces agreed, last week, to cooperate on obtaining coronavirus vaccines using cash frozen in the United States by economic sanctions. (Reuters) The announcement represents a significant expansion of the accord reached under the auspices of PAHO in June 2020, explains WOLA, which emphasizes the importance of the initiative, but also the necessity for strong multilateral oversight.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said his government had “heaps of contacts” with the Donald Trump administration, reports EFE.
Spain hopes the U.S: Biden administration will permit a fresh approach to international efforts to alleviate Venezuela's ongoing crisis, reports Voice of America.
Venezuela's emergency services have been gutted by crisis -- Angels of the Road, a group of volunteer paramedics in Caracas that relies on donated medical supplies and funding from international organizations is desperately trying to help fill the void, reports the Associated Press.
Latin America’s migrants — from the Caribbean, South America and Central America — are on the move again, after a year of pandemic-induced paralysis, reports the Associated Press.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador doesn't have many results to tout, but remains broadly popular, reports the Economist.
Mexico has protested Texas' decision to restrict natural gas exports as both sides of the border struggle to resolve power outages resulting from frigid weather, reports the New York Times. The Mexican government has blamed the U.S. state, in the midst of controversy over President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's plans for "energy sovereignty," which privileges state-owned plants. (See Wednesday's briefs.)
A plan to funnel millions of Mexican cell phone users’ data in a biometric registry, billed as a tool to fight kidnapping and extortion, has sparked a backlash from telecoms companies and rights groups who warn it could lead to stolen data and higher costs, reports Reuters.
Mexico City's ban on single-use plastics sounded like a good idea. But it's unintended consequences have enraged many women who discovered, last week, that they could no longer buy tampons with plastic applicators, reports the Economist.
Hopes that Covid-19 downplaying leaders -- notably Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and Andrés Manuel López Obrador -- might be humbled by their brushes with the coronavirus have been dashed by reality, reports the Atlantic: "Instead of learning from their illness, understanding the role of science and public health, and making proactive policy decisions, these leaders chose denial and deflection."
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