Opposition governors-elect break ranks with MUD coalition stance (Oct. 24, 2017)
Four newly elected opposition governors were quietly sworn in yesterday before Venezuela's internationally criticized National Constituent Assembly (ANC). Only one of the handful of opposition leaders elected ten days ago maintained the opposition alliance's initial promise not to swear in before the ANC.
The governors who took office yesterday are all from the Democratic Action party. The move demonstrates a growing schism within the MUD coalition, notes the Wall Street Journal. The Democratic Action's recognition of the polemically elected supra-legislative body bolsters the government's position and will likely contribute to frustration with the opposition.
President Nicolás Maduro said he had personally spoken with the four and promised to meet with them soon, reports Efecto Cocuyo. His friendly embrace is likely aimed at strengthening the government's democratic credentials before a skeptical international community.
Juan Pablo Guanipa, governor elect of Zulia state, said the ANC lacked legitimacy and refused to swear in yesterday, reports Efecto Cocuyo. The government has said a new election can be held in states where the winner does not swear loyalty to the ANC, reports Reuters.
The MUD schism will likely divide along the lines of electoral participation -- whether to compete in unfair elections or boycott them, according to analyst John Magdaleno in Efecto Cocuyo.
Rio de Janeiro police killed a Spanish tourist after the car she was traveling in failed to stop at an official roadblock near a favela. She is the third tourist killed in Rio's favelas in less than a year, episodes which draw attention to the stunningly high homicide levels there, reports the Guardian. Police violence is on track to kill over a 1,000 people in Rio state this year, according to the Wall Street Journal. In the first eight months of 2017, Rio state police killed 712 people, 30 percent more than a year earlier and the most since 2009, according to official statistics. Rio’s overall homicide rate also rose 8 percent. Human rights groups have accused police of using excessive force, notes the BBC. María Esperanza Jiménez Ruiz was killed while on a touristic tour of the Rocinha favela, which has been in upheaval since last month, when troops failed to control a gang turf war.
Two-thirds of the countries in the region will be holding key elections in the next two years -- and there is the real possibility of a populist comeback, though this time the candidates skew both to the right and left, argues Robert Muggah in Foreign Policy. "Taking the long view, Latin America has experienced general improvements over the past few decades. While social and economic progress — especially poverty reduction and job creation for the region’s 163 million young people — recently slowed, the overall trends are positive. ... The big question for Latin America in 2018 is whether voters also take this more constructive long view? Or will they embrace the populist anger and nationalist pride that seems to be sweeping much of the world? It’s impossible to know at this point, but the stakes are clearly huge. Policymakers and investors in Washington and elsewhere would do well to pay much closer attention."
Argentine President Mauricio Macri said his alliance's strong electoral showing last weekend represents a popular mandate for a controversial package of labor, tax and pension reforms aimed at strengthening the country's economy, reports the New York Times. Macri's Cambiemos exceeded predictions for the mid-term elections, and won the country's five largest electoral districts. However, Macri's deficit-cutting austerity program is politically risky, said experts interviewed by the NYT. Already gas prices increased by 10 percent yesterday, and Macri plans to push a tax overhaul, as well as labor reforms, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Street gangs are not Central America's most pressing problem, corruption is, argues FIU's director of research José Miguel Cruz in the Conversation. He looks at how corruption abets street gangs and violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. "The whole idea that the U.S. government can make America safer by getting tough on crime in Central America is questionable. But if the Trump administration wants to try, it should at least start at the top. Political institutions in the grip of organized crime use their power to erode the democratic rule of law in the region. They shield criminal organizations in exchange for economic support and political backing in gang-controlled barrios. Root out corruption in the Central American ruling class, and the gangs and crooks will go down with it."
A new app launched by Mexican civil society groups aims to help citizens report incidents of corruption. Though such apps are increasingly popular in the region, they have had little effect so far, reports InSight Crime.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto denied allegations that he received extensive campaign financing from an Odebrecht filial in his 2012 electoral run, reports Animal Político. (See yesterday's post.)
The president of Red Cross compared the effects of violence in Mexico to that of a war zone, a comparison that has proved polemic in the past, according to InSight Crime. "Many experts have stressed that equating Mexico's drug-related violence to that of an armed conflict or civil war is an "uneven comparison." That may well be true, but Maurer makes a good point when he talks of the consequences -- rather than nature -- of the violence and the way it impacts people's quality of life and access to basic services such as health, education and justice."
A quietly raised fist -- originally used by earthquake rescue workers to call for silence in order to hear trapped victims -- has become a symbol of resistance and resilience for Mexicans, according to the Washington Post.
Hurricane Maria's destruction has unleashed a crime wave in Puerto Rico, where violence was already a pressing problem, reports the Miami Herald.
So far 27 international companies have been approved to operate in Cuba's Mariel Special Economic Development Zone. Nine are already installed there. Cuban officials envision the site west of Havana as the "the beginning of a bustling commercial city built on high-tech, advanced manufacturing and sustainable development," reports the Miami Herald.
Nicaragua signed the Paris Climate Change agreement, leaving only the U.S. and Syria as the only countries not supporting the accord, reports the BBC.
Colombia is known for excellent coffee, but its residents are only recently coming to enjoy good quality brew, according to the Washington Post.
The design selection process for Trump's "big, beautiful" border wall has its similarities to a reality TV contest. Hundreds of proposals were winnowed down to eight designs. Contractors were given a month to construct 30 feet by 30 feet prototypes, which in late Nov. will be tested for resistance to climbing, tunneling and other efforts to cross them, reports the Guardian.