Salvadoran gang-leader's fake medical emergency (Jan. 13, 2021)
El Salvador's Penitentiary Directorate got an MS-13 gang leader out of jail for a "medical emergency," though the maximum security prison's medical chief said Chino Milo was healthy, reports El Faro in a new investigation. The transfer occurred in October of last year, a month after El Faro revealed negotiations between the Bukele administration and jailed MS-13 gang leaders.
According to Salvadoran attorney general Raúl Melara, Danilo Antonio Colocho Hernández alias Chino Milo, is part of the MS-13's top leadership, the right-hand of one of the street gang's main heads, Diablo de Hollywood.
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The head of El Salvador’s financial regulatory agency has instructed banks not to close the accounts of suspected or formally accused money launderers -- it "is the latest in a long line of incidents that expose El Salvador’s hollow fight against graft," reports InSight Crime.
Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump has been toxic and divisive for Venezuela, Federico Vegas hopes his successor can help stanch the country's human misery. (New York Times Español)
Moving forward, the best way for the U.S. to help Venezuela overcome its crisis is for president-elect Joe Biden to focus on multilateral diplomacy. In addition to supporting the Lima Group, "Biden should take advantage of certain leaders’ closer proximity to Maduro," argues Geoff Ramsey in the Responsible Statecraft. "Rather than demonizing Mexico, Argentina, or other countries for maintaining ties with the government in Caracas, the Biden administration should appreciate that other countries may be better positioned than the U.S. to engage with Maduro and his inner circle in ways that open opportunities for diplomacy."
Venezuela criticized joint naval exercises by the United States and Guyana. Vice President Delcy Rodriguez told a news conference that the maneuvers were an attempt by the outgoing Trump administration to “create provocations, threats," reports Reuters.
The outgoing U.S. Trump administration's designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism is "diplomatic vandalism," part of a series of moves aimed at hampering the incoming administration's foreign policy, experts told the Washington Post. (See yesterday's post.)
Former U.S. president George W. Bush's reference "banana republics" in his condemnation of last week's riot in Washington "is particularly ironic because it alludes to the debilitating impacts of U.S. foreign policy itself—something anyone who has read even the Sparknotes of any Gabriel García Márquez novel would know," writes Laura Weiss in The New Republic. More broadly, she calls out commentators who "have relied on fallacious allusions to the developing world to explain a problem unique to the United States."
What is evident is that the events will undermine the United States' democratic moral high ground. "U.S. democracy promotion, long seen as hypocritical by some in the Global South, now seems risible and will require time and recasting to have credibility," writes Charles Call in the Brookings Institution blog.
The Washington Post agrees: the riots, egged on by Trump, have "provided a propaganda coup for Washington’s enemies, undermined pro-democracy movements worldwide and offered a model for would-be autocrats."
Covid-19 vaccines may be Latin America's best hope at containing the coronavirus pandemic -- but access to jabs is extremely varied for now. Countries that have started vaccination campaigns -- Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica and Argentina -- have obtained supplies via bilateral deals with producers rather than the Covax initiative aimed at ensuring equitable access to the vaccine for developing countries. (El País)
The bets are on: "Who will be the first Latin American president kicked off Twitter?" asks James Bosworth at the Latin America Risk Report. Joking aside, the issue of U.S. based companies' ability to moderate content takes on extra significance in sovereignty sensitive Latin America, he notes.
Peruvian police used "unnecessary and excessive force" against political protests in November, according to a new UN Human Rights Office report. The report said police officers did not distinguish between the peacefully-protesting majority, and a minority alleged to have acted violently. The report said that police fired pellets from shotguns and tear gas canisters directly at people's heads and upper bodies, indiscriminately and from close range. Two protesters were killed by shotgun pellets fired at their torso, according to the report. (AFP)
Peruvian leftists face a lasting stigma, and are often accused (mostly without grounds) of being connected to once powerful communist terrorist organizations. But, the careless and defamatory use of a political and racial slur -- terruqueo -- reflects the fragility of Peru’s democracy, write Luisa Feline Freier and Soledad Castillo Jara in Americas Quarterly.
Colombia's ProAves Foundation informed the murder of forest guard Gonzalo Cardona in Valle del Cauca Department on Monday, the first assassination of an environmental leader in the country this year. (Telesur)
Brazil's Congress has shown unusual policy leadership over the past year, particularly regarding Covid-19, in part filling the void left by President Jair Bolsonaro, writes Beatriz Rey at the AULA Blog.
The Sinovac CoronaVac demonstrated a 50 percent efficacy rate in Brazilian vaccine trials, far lower than earlier results indicated. While it still meets the WHO threshold for widespread use, lack of transparency over the data has raised concerns over credibility, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is an unlikely fiscal conservative. His refusal to boost public spending in order to mitigate the pandemic's economic effects means Mexico will have the lowest budget deficit among Latin America’s major economies this year — but that also means its recovery is lagging behind, reports the Financial Times.
Support for abortion rose sharply in Mexico in 2020, according to a new poll. At the end of November, support for abortion was 48 percent up from 29 percent in March. (Reuters)
Most women detained in relation to illicit abortions or obstetric complications in Argentina -- including 30 with life sentences -- have actually been charged with other crimes, like homicide, which will complicate efforts to exonerate them under the new law legalizing abortion, reports Folha de S. Paulo.
Feminist struggles often involve a paradigm shift in perspective, questioning situations that once seemed natural (like that women are inherently maternal, or better at cleaning). A fight to reduce the price of tampons in Argentina might not immediately seem like the natural follow up to the struggle to legalize abortion, but activists within the government and outside are increasingly calling for menstrual justice. The cost of menstrual hygiene products disproportionately affects poorer households, and pushes some women to use dangerous substitutes or miss school and work. More than a dozen bills in Congress seek to remove tax from menstrual hygiene products, and activist efforts in the past pushed the government to include them in a price control program. (Bae Negocios)
Argentina successfully passed clinical trials for a hyperimmune serum to combat COVID-19 developed with antibodies from horses, and its distribution will begin over the next few days, reports Reuters.
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