Pérez requests vote recount in Ecuador (Feb. 12, 2021)
Business-friendly presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso pulled ahead of environmentalist Yaku Pérez the vote tally after Sunday's presidential election. The two are disputing the second-place slot, in order to participate in an April runoff vote against Andrés Arauz. After edging ahead by 5,000 votes, Lasso claimed victory, even though he acknowledged 350,000 ballots still had to be counted, Wednesday.
The change prompted accusations of fraud by Pérez's supporters yesterday, even as Lasso's lead increased to 18,000 votes, reports the Financial Times. Hundreds of Pérez's supporters gathered outside the regional headquarters of the National Electoral Council in Guayaquil, where votes were still being counted. Many had come from the country’s indigenous heartland in the Andes mountains and wore traditional dress. They waved the rainbow flags of the Ecuadorean indigenous movement -- Pérez is campaigning to become Ecuador's first indigenous leader.
Yesterday Pérez requested a recount in seven provinces, in which his team said it detected inconsistencies. Pérez and Lasso will meet today at the Electoral Council to discuss a strategy, reports El Comercio.
The Trump administration’s response to the mysterious health episodes experienced by intelligence and diplomatic personnel in Havana, Cuba (known informally as "Havana Syndrome") was plagued by mismanagement, poor leadership, lack of coordination and a failure to follow established procedures, according to a formerly secret internal State Department review posted by the National Security Archive.
The document suggests the Trump administration's decision to dismantle the U.S. Havana embassy in 2018, in reaction to the "sonic attacks" was a political response, plagued by mismanagement, reports El País.
The Biden administration is reviewing the United States' policy toward Cuba, including whether to re-staff the embassy. To ensure the issue of health attacks receives top billing, U.S.Secretary of State Antony Blinken just this week "elevated" the official coordinating the U.S. government response to a "senior level position," reports ABC News.
"In his first weeks in office, Biden has adopted a starkly different approach to the region, but four years of Trump’s coercive diplomacy have cemented decades of distrust of Washington," reports the New Yorker.
Three weeks into the U.S. Biden administration, while few actual changes have been implemented, the tone of the discussion on US policy towards Venezuela feels very different, writes James Bosworth at the Latin America Risk Report.
Resentment is growing among lower-income countries watching the U.S. and developed countries speed forward with nationalistic Covid-19 rollouts. "Seizing on the opportunity, Russia and China have stepped up to provide the developing world with their own vaccines. In Latin America, these efforts will bring unpredictable consequences for alliances and geopolitics for years to come," writes Genaro Lozano in Americas Quarterly.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández -- accused by U.S. prosecutors of collaborating with criminal organizations -- is desperately trying to win over the Biden administration. But whatever Biden does to restore accountability to U.S. foreign policy, it is likely Hernández who has the most to lose, reports the Washington Post. “President Hernández, like many foreign leaders, has been very skillful at telling people in Washington what they want to hear,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy. “But the reality is that democracy and human rights are under assault in Honduras, and corruption permeates the government.”
Honduras will hold presidential elections in November -- primaries in March will determine the candidates. The front-runners include Yani Rosenthal, who recently completed a money-laundering sentence in the U.S., and Mauricio Oliva, accused by an international commission of running a corruption ring. In fact, none of the candidates should be allowed to set foot in the White House, "even as a democratically elected president of Honduras," said Dan Restrepo, former advisor to former U.S. president Barack Obama, at a conference hosted by National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, OSF and the Wilson Center. (Criterio, TN5 Estelar)
Desperate Hondurans are "caught in a cycle of migration," reports the Associated Press. "Poverty and gang violence push them out and increasingly aggressive measures to stop them, driven by the United States government, scuttle their efforts and send them back."
Colombia's social leaders have been routinely assassinated at increasing rates since the 2016 peace deal with the FARC. (See Wednesday's post.) The reasons are varied, but largely relate to territorial disputes between armed groups seeking to fill the power vacuum left by guerillas. State absence from large swathes of Colombia's territory is an underlying factor, reports the Economist: "The government sends soldiers to kill drug-traffickers and other troublemakers. But it has not set up institutions needed to enforce the law consistently. Without order, it is left to protect social leaders one by one."
The Washington Post reports on the many challenges of getting oxygen tanks to Brazil's Amazonas state.
Cuba and Venezuela are quietly pivoting to free market practices, in hopes of reviving moribund economies, reports the Economist.
South American governments can curtail deforestation, nudged by the United States, foreign investors and growing local awareness. The Wilson Center's Weekly Asado spoke to leading conservationists from Greenpeace and the Wildlife Conservation Society about strategies.
The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) has carried out groundbreaking work in identifying victims of political, social and ethnic killings -- from Argentina's dictatorship disappearances to Mexico's Ayotzinapa disappearances. "Dictatorships have ceased to exist, but the continent's democracies show profound fissures in the resolution of grave problems that affect citizenship: institutional crimes, gender violence, human trafficking, migrant disapparances, and grave abuses by security forces against citizens," writes Olga Wornat in the Post Opinión. "The work the EAAF has carried out gives identity to disappeared people, consolation to their families, and strengthens the idea of justice.
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