Technocrat Sagasti is Peru's latest president (Nov. 17, 2020)
Peruvian lawmakers chose Francisco Sagasti, a centrist technocrat of the Partido Moreno, to head the country until next April. A majority of legislators picked Sagasti to lead congress yesterday, which made him the country's third president in a week.
Sagasti is a respected academic, he has also spent decades consulting government institutions and held a post at the World Bank, reports the Associated Press. He is known as a consensus builder, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Observers hope he is better positioned to quell tumult in Peru. His Partido Moreno voted against the ousting of former president Martín Vizcarra last week, which gives him credibility with protesters incensed by the move. And having a party in congress will give Sagasti strength Vizcarra lacked.
Protesters have poured out on Peru's streets for over a week. Clashes with police over the weekend resulted in two deaths, and pushed Vizcarra's successor, Manuel Merino, to resign. The Committee to Protect Journalists said at least 35 journalists were injured covering anti-government protests in Peru. More than 100 protesters needed hospital treatment and four were still unaccounted for. (Guardian) United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet announced a mission to Peru to investigate repression. (El Comercio) “Today is not a day of celebration because we have seen the death of two young people in the protests expressing their point of view,” said Sagasti after being elected.
Sagasti will have to navigate difficult waters: Peruvians are angered at lawmakers and backed Vizcarra's efforts to pass anti-corruption reforms. The majority of lawmakers opposed such efforts, which led to Vizcarra's ouster. Analysts warn that lawmakers will try to block further reform and will push damaging economic policies. (New York Times, Latin America Risk Report, Wall Street Journal)
Peru's dysfunctional congress stems from the absence of stable political parties writes Patricio Navia in Americas Quarterly: "With fluid allegiances, little experience in drafting laws and selfish demands, the legislature is like a Tower of Babel, with people talking past each other unable to understand or produce coherent legislation." The bad news is that the problem won't go away with next April's elections. The case shows the flaws in "que se vayan todos," and the importance of political parties in building stable democracies, Navia argues.
Peru's Constitutional Court will determine the legality of Vizcarra's ouster via an article about "moral incapacity." The decision will not be retroactive, but will have implications for Peruvian politics moving forward, according to the Associated Press.
Iota: llueve sobre mojado
Hurricane Iota made landfall in Nicaragua last night as a Category 4 storm, about 15 miles from where Eta hit the coast just two weeks ago. The latest storm, the strongest recorded for this time of year, is expected to cause intense rainfall in Nicaragua and Honduras, which could lead to significant flash flooding and mudslides in higher elevations. (Associated Press)
Nicaraguan authorities estimated 80,000 families will be affected by Iota, both in coastal communities where the hurricane will hit directly and in other parts of the country that could experience flooding and deadly landslides, reports the Washington Post.
Already Iota's impact was complicating efforts to aid victims of Eta, many of whom remain stranded in inaccessible villages. Guatemala, where 200,000 people have been displaced by the Eta, was reeling yesterday. “If Iota hits with the strength they’re forecasting, it will be chaos,” said Francisco Muss, a retired Guatemalan army general who is coordinating rescue efforts. “I don’t think we have begun to comprehend the impact of this crisis, in terms of the humanitarian disaster.”
The leaders of Honduras and Guatemala called Monday for an increase in international funding to combat the effects of climate change and to aid their recovery efforts amid recent natural disasters, reports the New York Times.
The results of Sunday's municipal elections in Brazil suggest that President Jair Bolsonaro's political star is waning: there were painful defeats for Bolsonarista candidates in key cities and the resurgence of politicians from mainstream parties, reports the Guardian. Bolsonaro had endorsed rightwing candidates in six state capitals – four of whom suffered heavy defeats. A new generation of leftist leaders had a relatively strong performance Sunday, including Guilherme Boulos who will compete in a run-off to be São Paulo mayor.
But, despite the electoral results, Bolsonaro's popularity is higher than before the pandemic -- in fact he has fared much better than counterparts in the region who carried out strict lockdowns and took coronavirus seriously. Bolsonaro deftly took credit for a broad social assistance program passed by congress, which helped mitigate some of the economic effects of the pandemic, reports the New York Times.
The fight for racial equality has sparked redefinition for many Brazilians of African heritage who identify as Black for the first time, reports the Washington Post. Experts note that Brazilian definitions of race are fairly fluid.
Brazilian leftists have been inspired by Joe Biden's electoral triumph, and hope to apply his blueprint to defeating Bolsonaro at the ballot box. The key in the U.S. campaign was unity and political moderation, Maranhão state governor Flavio Dino told the Guardian.
The U.S. Trump administration has pursued a narrow Latin America agenda, focused on stemming immigration and pressuring the governments of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. President-elect Joe "Biden will probably bring changes on immigration, climate change, promotion of democracy and fighting corruption — but also, just as significant, a shift in tone," according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Miami Herald editorial board calls for the incoming U.S. administration to pay attention to Haiti, which "must not be an afterthought." Haitian elections next year -- the country has been ruled by presidential decree for nearly a year -- will be a crucial early test of the Biden administration's approach to Haiti, according to the Haitian Times.
Haiti's government fired its top cop and appointed a diplomat who held the police chief post 15 years ago instead. Léon Charles, Haiti’s permanent representative to the Organization of American States who also served as chargé d’affaires in its Washington embassy, took the post yesterday after being named interim director general of the Haiti National Police in a presidential decree, reports the Miami Herald. The switch has been rumored for days and comes ahead of planned anti-government protests. But the choice of Charles doesn't seem to fit legal requirements that the head of the force must be selected from among the three central directors in the force or from among the departmental chiefs on active duty.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will not slow any possible criminal investigation into former president Enrique Peña Nieto given the “independence and autonomy” of the attorney general’s office, reports Reuters.
Mexican journalists in general face attacks on Twitter -- but female journalists get far more comments about their physical appearance, while men are targeted for their work, reports Animal Político.
Researchers discovered human-to-human transmission of a rare virus in Bolivia belonging to a family of viruses that can cause hemorrhagic fevers, such as Ebola, reports the Guardian.
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