Peruvian president Merino resigns (Nov. 16, 2020)
Peruvian President Manuel Merino resigned his post yesterday, after less than a week on the job and in the midst of massive protests. Two protesters were killed this weekend and half the cabinet resigned before Merino followed suit. Nonetheless, Merino defended the ouster of his predecessor Martín Vizcarra by lawmakers, while critics call it a parliamentary coup.
Lawmakers failed to agree last night on who should be the next president, though there was just one candidate considered for interim-leadership, Frente Amplio congresswoman Rocío Silva Santisteban. Congress will convene again today to select new leadership. (Infobae, La República, El Comercio)
Human rights groups reported that 112 people were hurt in Saturday’s protests and the whereabouts of 41 others were unknown. The two lethal victims were each shot multiple times. “Two young people were absurdly, stupidly, unjustly sacrificed by the police,” Peruvian writer and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa said in a recorded video shared on Twitter. “This repression – which is against all of Peru – needs to stop.” Protests continued last night, with demonstrators angered over police repression and excessive use of force. Images from the protests on Saturday showed hundreds of riot police using batons and shields against largely peaceful protesters, teargas and buckshot being fired directly at crowds or individuals and tanks using water cannon, reports the Guardian.
Vizcarra questioned the appropriateness of having lawmakers choose the next president: “Should those who took these unconstitutional measures be the ones who bring us a solution?” he said. Peru's Constitutional Court will hold a hearing today on whether Vizcarra's ouster a week ago was legal, reports Reuters.
Nor was it clear that Peruvians would accept Congress’ pick as their leader, reported the New York Times yesterday. Many demanded that lawmakers choose the next leader from the small group of congresspeople who voted against Vizcarra’s impeachment, and that the nominee have a clean reputation, with no pending investigations or charges. (See La República's editorial, for example.)
Though Peru periodically goes through presidential upheaval, this crisis is significantly more acute. Some analysts say it is the worst since Alberto Fujimori's dictatorship. But the protests send a powerful message to Peru's political elite: that citizens will serve as a check on Congress if they try to illegitimately grab power, Steven Levitsky told the Associated Press. Many of those who poured out in anger at Vizcarra's ouster hope the moment is an opportunity for broader political change, but business leaders also pressured Merino to step down, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Iota heads to Central America
Iota was expected to be a major hurricane by the time it reaches Central America, which was just battered by hurricane Eta. Forecasters expected Iota to pass or cross over Providencia, Colombia, sometime today and approach Nicaragua and Honduras this evening. (Associated Press)
Iota will cause heavy rains in many of the same areas of Nicaragua and Honduras that were affected by Eta earlier this month. Iota’s eyewall, which is the ring of thunderstorms surrounding the calm eye, could directly hit Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua, where Eta made landfall just a week and a half ago, reports the Washington Post.
Forecasters predict Eta's damage could exacerbate Iota’s impact, reports the New York Times. Hundreds of thousands of subsistence farmers across the region have lost everything in flooding caused by Eta. According to the Red Cross, at least 2.5 million people were affected by Hurricane Eta, including 1.7 million in Honduras.
Iota became the 13th hurricane of the Atlantic season early on Sunday, a record-breaking 30th named storm. The issue is not so much the number of storms, but their intensity. Scientists say climate change is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.
Storms are just one aspect of the climate change caused extreme weather patterns afflicting Central America, the flip side of intense droughts along the region's "dry corridor." Subsistence farmers in the region have struggled to adapt to the new reality, and many in the region have simply given up and left, reports the Guardian. Groups are beginning to organize caravans via social media.
The slow pace of aid for Guatemalan indigenous communities affected by Eta are just the latest example of neglect, writes Sandra Cuffe in the New Humanitarian. Instead, spontaneous initiatives provided a lot of the immediate support to rural areas and people long marginalised by the central authorities, she writes.
Brazilian congresswoman Talíria Petrone, a black feminist activist, fled Rio de Janeiro and went into hiding after an alleged paramilitary plot to kill her was uncovered. Petrone was a close friend and colleague of Marielle Franco, who was assassinated in 2018. An anonymous tipoff to an anti-crime hotline warned of the plot against Petrone. The informant claimed the masterminds were “milicianos”, as members of Rio’s paramilitary gangs are known, reports the Guardian.
President Jair Bolsonaro was politically weakened by yesterday's local elections in Brazil -- candidates he backed in major cities either lost or faced a difficult runoff later this month, reports Bloomberg. Center right parties had a strong performance, while the leftist Workers' Party failed to make a comeback.
While analysts caution against interpreting the municipal elections as a referendum on the national government, it certainly provides a strong signal for where Brazil is headed and where the government stands, according to Al Jazeera.
The growing dominance of militias in Rio cast a shadow over campaigning for yesterday's municipal elections, report EFE. Across the country, campaigning was marred by violence: 82 candidates or political activists were assassinated, reports El País.
Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rose 50 percent in October over the same period last year. (Al Jazeera)
Stuck in a new "Cold War" between the U.S. and China, Latin American countries should adopt active non-alignment and focus efforts on the region's own goals and objectives, argues Jorge Heine at the Aula Blog.
Mexican reporter Israel Vázquez was assassinated last week, the third Mexican journalist to be murdered in less than two weeks – and the eighth this year, reports the Guardian.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he will propose legislation that would ban subcontracting or outsourcing of jobs by private companies, except with government authorization, reports the Associated Press.
The Haitian government moved to limit the Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes (CSCCA), one of only a handful of nominally independent government institutions. With the recent changes made by decree, the Haitian presidency will no longer have to wait for the court’s approval before moving forward with government contracts, explains CEPR.
Joe Biden's arrival in the White House in January could pave the way for a political solution to the crisis in Venezuela, according to AFP. While the U.S. overarching goal of democratization is unlikely to change, analysts expect Biden to soften blanket sanctions and seek more international collaboration on the issue.
U.S. sanctions may have exhausted Venezuelans, leaving them more submissive rather than rebellious and organized against Nicolás Maduro's government, writes Federico Vegas in a New York Times Español op-ed.
Bogotá is Latin America's cycling capital, and the pandemic has pushed even more commuters to bike lanes. But the streets are lethal for cyclists who are the target of drivers' ire, writes Sinar Alvarado in the New York Times Español.
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