Supreme Court orders Bolsonaro pandemic investigation (July 5, 2021)
Tens of thousands of Brazilians protested against President Jair Bolsonaro in more than 40 cities on Saturday, part of a mounting chorus of anger against a government whose pandemic policies pushed up the country's catastrophic coronavirus toll. It was the third large wave of demonstrations in recent weeks. (Guardian, New York Times, Associated Press)
On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Rosa Weber ordered an investigation into whether Bolsonaro had failed to act after being alerted to suspicions of high-level corruption involving the procurement of millions of Covid vaccines from the Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech, reports the Guardian. Prosecutors will investigate whether Bolsonaro committed the crime of “prevarication,” which entails delaying or refraining from action required as part of a public official’s duty for reasons of personal interest, reports the Associated Press. Weber said the investigation is supported by recent testimony in a Senate committee investigating the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. (See last Monday's briefs.)
Mounting allegations of pandemic-related corruption in the Bolsonaro administration pose an increasing threat to the president's electoral chances next year, and could possibly lead to his ouster before the end of his mandate, reports the New York Times. Politicians from the left and right are pushing for impeachment and believe the vaccine scandal could galvanize street demonstrations like those that led to the ouster of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016.
Nonetheless, analysts say Bolsonaro still holds enough support in Congress to quash any legal proceedings against him, notes the Wall Street Journal. Criminal charges against the president that would emanate from an investigation could only proceed with the backing of two-thirds of the lower house of Congress.
Covid-19 has proved fertile breeding ground for conspiracy theories everywhere, but there's something special about Brazil, where researchers found that not only does country has among the most false claims in the world, but also that Brazil’s disinformation is remarkably isolated from other countries, writes Vanessa Barbara in the New York Times.
Elsa kills three, batters Barbados
Tropical Storm Elsa killed at least three people in the Dominican Republic and St. Lucia as it battered the Caribbean this weekend. Storm damage further complicates efforts to contain Covid-19 on affected islands, as displaced people must find alternative shelter but also avoid crowding.
The storm is expected to move across central and western Cuba later today. Cuba evacuated 180,000 people in its southern region yesterday, amid fears that Elsa could unleash heavy flooding. (Associated Press, Reuters)
Elsa caused widespread damage in several eastern Caribbean islands starting Friday as a Category 1 hurricane, the first of the Atlantic season. Among the hardest hit was Barbados, where more than 1,100 people reported damaged houses, reports the Associated Press.
It went on to the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Saturday. Haiti is especially vulnerable to floods and landslides because of widespread erosion and deforestation. In addition, a recent spike in gang violence has forced thousands of people to flee from their homes, so the civil protection agency is running low on basic items including food and water.
Video of Elsa en the Eastern Caribbean, New York Times.
Elsa became the earliest E storm on record -- the links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. (See Friday's briefs.)
Chilean Constituent Assembly
Chile's Constituent Assembly launched yesterday. Delegates -- most politically independent, half women and with Indigenous representation -- will draft a new text to replace Chile’s previous Magna Carta, which was produced during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
Chile's constituent assembly representatives selected an Indigenous Mapuche woman to lead the process. University professor and activist for Mapuche educational and linguistic rights Elisa Loncón, a 58-year-old independent constituent, was picked by 96 of 155 delegates, including 17 Indigenous people, who make up the constitutional body. (Al Jazeera)
Loncón accepted the position with fist clenched above her head, telling her colleagues to noisy celebrations: "I salute the people of Chile from the north to Patagonia, from the sea to the mountains, to the islands, all those who are watching us today," she said. (Reuters)
Keiko Fujimori's unfounded, Trumpian claims of electoral fraud have not only delayed the certification of a victor in Peru's presidential runoff vote -- a month after the election -- they have also radicalized elements of the Peruvian right in a way that could threaten the country’s fragile democracy, reports the New York Times. The political crisis comes as Peru struggles to beat back the pandemic and mounting social discontent.
Peru's government rejected Fujimori's request to seek an international audit of its June 6 election on Friday. The decision leaves her with few recourses to overturn the results, reports Reuters.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued an updated report on the human rights situation in Venezuela. Her office reported that it continued to receive credible allegations of enforced disappearances, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the closing of civic spaces, and noted that “structural challenges previously identified by OHCHR continued to undermine the independence of the judiciary.” (Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights)
Venezuela’s new National Electoral Council (CNE) has announced the rehabilitation of the National Unity Roundtable (MUD) party ticket. The move will allow the opposition coalition to present a unified list of candidates for the first time since the Maduro government banned it from participating in 2018 -- though deep divides within the coalition mean that restoring the MUD unity ticket will not be easy, explains Geoff Ramsey at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights.
Covid-19 vaccines are trickling into Venezuela thanks to donations from allies -- Russia, China and now Cuba -- but their distribution is opaque. It is unclear how many jabs have actually entered the country, how many people have received a shot and how well priority groups are being respected, reports the Associated Press.
The United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) said on Thursday that its first shipment of food intended for Venezuelan school children had arrived in the country. (Reuters)
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó criticized Argentine President Alberto Fernández's recent statement that human rights issues were "disappearing" in Venezuela, but said the Argentine government could be a valid mediator with the Maduro government. (Perfil)
An ongoing, unofficial pact between MS-13 and El Salvador's government may be behind the country's recent decision to temporarily halt the extradition of several top gang leaders to the U.S. The explosive assertions concerning extraditions came from a half dozen sources, several of whom are very close to the US investigation of 15 top leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha, reports InSight Crime. Officially there is no pact, but several reports indicate gangs agreed to lower homicides and provide political support for President Nayib Bukele in return for better conditions in prison and control over government aid programs in their areas of operation.
The Ortega government's wave of repression against opponents has prompted many international human rights activists to turn against the Sandinista government. "The recent wave of arrests in Nicaragua, targeting five opposition presidential contenders, several former high-level Sandinista leaders, feminists, journalists and others, betrays every dream that we who lived and worked in Sandinista Nicaragua had in the 1980s," writes Margaret Randall in Confidencial.
A fire on the ocean surface west of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, featuring bright orange flames, was dubbed an "eye of fire" on social media. Others compared it to Mordor. State oil company Pemex blamed a gas leak from an underwater pipeline.It was not immediately clear what kind of damage the fire might have caused to marine life or how large the fire was. (Reuters, New York Times)
Firefighting boats put the fire out after about five hours, but the incident is raising questions about the risks of undersea pipelines, reports the Washington Post.
The OECD's proposed global minimum corporate tax rate is a missed opportunity to truly tackle multinationals' tax avoidance -- with particular relevance for Latin America, which relies more heavily on corporate tax revenue and has thus been hit harder by the issue, argue José Antonio Ocampo and Tommaso Faccio in Americas Quarterly.
Six people, including two U.S. missionaries, were killed when a private plane crashed in Haiti, Friday. (Reuters)
Conservationists in Chile are deploying dissuasive measures to keep pumas from preying on sheep, an effort to convince shepherds with a 150 tradition of killing the big cats, reports the Guardian.
"The era of social distancing has made tango an embodiment of all that is forbidden – the heat of another, closeness among strangers, touch. Those who find vitality and sustenance in the Argentinian dance are now living out that sense of longing that is captured in song." -- Guardian
Sound of Silence
Noise is invading every aspect of our lives, to detrimental effect, writes Ana Laura Lissardy in New York Times Español.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing