Discover more from Latin America Daily Briefing
Who will write Chile's new constitution? (Nov. 14, 2019)
Clashes continued yesterday around Chile -- downtown Santiago has been described as "no-mans land" -- and observers say the clock is running out for an institutional solution to the weeks of conflict. (Wires)
Currently the debate centers around how to renew Chile's constitution: President Sebastián Piñera has proposed that lawmakers write a new constitution, which would then be ratified by citizens. Opposition parties and some protesters are demanding a plebiscite and a constituent assembly, which would allow broader citizen input to draft a new constitution. Neither side has fleshed out how the proposals would be carried out. (Associated Press)
A possible compromise option could be a constitutional convention, proposed by former president Michelle Bachelet in 2017, which could entail a mix of delegates and lawmakers, reports El País. The previous administration carried out a consultation process that could form a start to the new constitutionl
At least 22 people have been killed in the past four weeks of protests in Chile -- and 2,209 have been wounded, at least half by security forces who have been shooting rubber bullets, buckshot and tear gas canisters. At least 209 people have had eye wounds. The National Institute for Human Rights counts 6,046 detainees so far in relation to protests, and has gathered evidence of illicit arrests, beatings, torture and other violations of human rights during detentions. (EFE)
"Chicago Boy" policies drove down poverty in Chile, but increased inequality in durable ways -- Richard Davies in the Guardian.
Áñez names cabinet, clashes in La Paz
Bolivia's interim leader, Jeanine Áñez, sought to shore-up her presidency yesterday in the midst of street battles between supporters of former president Evo Morales and security forces. Protesters carrying the indigenous flag were met by riot police, and the two sides engaged in brief confrontations, reports CNN. On the streets, police used tear gas to break up peaceful protest marches, reports the New York Times.
Movement For Socialism (MAS) lawmakers and senators, who hold a two-thirds majority, tried to hold sessions to declare Áñez’s claim to the presidency illegal and block Morales’s resignation. But police blocked about a dozen lawmakers allied with the former president from entering the legislature. MAS lawmakers ratified a party member as head of the lower chamber. (Guardian, Washington Post, La Razón)
Morales told reporters in Mexico City, where he was granted asylum, that Añez’s government was unconstitutional because the legislature had not approved his resignation.
Moving forward, quelling unrest -- without a mass crackdown -- and organizing a credible election -- with MAS participation -- are the priorities for Bolivian stability, according to a new Crisis Group report. "The new caretaker president will need to avoid partisanship and contain the outrage of Morales’ support base, which is sizeable. It will not be easy."
So far there is little sign that things are headed in this direction: Áñez named a partial cabinet of 11 ministers, and said the transition would be aimed at "reconciliation." But the new appointments come firmly from the anti-Morales camp, and include the lawyer of Santa Cruz civic leader Luis Fernando Camacho. None of the new cabinet members are of Bolivia's indigenous community. Last night Áñez replaced the commander of the armed forces, General Williams Kaliman. The new military commanders were sworn in with a bible, part of a marked return to religious symbols that had been withdrawn from government acts by Morales. (La Razón, La Razón, La Razón)
Indeed, survey of Áñez's social media found older comments mocking indigenous practices, reports the Washington Post. And Camacho entered the presidential palace on Sunday with a bible the promise that the Pachamama will never return to government.Viral videos showed Bolivian security forces removing the Wiphala, the square emblem representing the indigenous peoples of the Andes, from their uniforms. (Washington Post, see yesterday's briefs.)
Authorities estimate a total of ten people have been killed in post-election unrest, eight by fire-arms. It's not clear how many victims were killed after Morales resigned on Sunday, but prosecutors identified at least two, reports EFE. At least 508 people have been wounded in clashes since the Oct. 20 election.
The Crisis Group report suggests that the European Union might be an acceptable mediator, as the U.S., the OAS and Brazil "are seen as biased against Morales." (Elegant turn of phrase.)
There is little cause to be optimistic, reports Foreign Policy, which notes that "not a single popularly elected Bolivian president since 2002 has handed over power peacefully to an elected successor. This history—and the current tumultuous state of Bolivian politics—suggests that the next elected president will likely face protests and be forced to resign as well."
More from Bolivia
Morales' dramatic resignation and his flight to asylum in Mexico "have turned into something of a Rorschach test on the hemisphere’s politics," writes Ishaan Tharoor in the Washington Post. But in reality the case defies an easy political narrative, he notes.
Evo Morales spoke with El País and called for dialogue and peace in Bolivia.
International commentary is quick to point out the Morales government's flaws, but "it was his victories that fomented this most recent violent backlash," writes Nick Estes in the Guardian.
A new Foreign Affairs anthology, The Collapse of Venezuela, "examines the failed policies that drove the country to disaster and the forces that have kept it in a state of emergency." It includes a piece by Moisés Naím and Francisco Toro on the origins of Venezuela’s predicament and the difficulty of doing anything about it.
Venezuela's seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council does not invalidate the body's role as "an effective venue and voice for accountability for the most pressing human rights crises," argues Bruno Stagno Ugarte at Americas Quarterly. In fact, "serial abusers are interested in gaining a seat on the Council precisely because it is an effective body." The piece has some interesting insider information on how Brazil actually helped Venezuela gain the seat.
A 12-hour stand-off between diplomatic representatives of Venezuela's dueling governments in the country's Brasilia embassy highlights the diplomatic pitfalls of the Venezuelan legitimacy crisis. (New York Times, Washington Post)
A five-year-old girl was killed walking to school in Rio de Janeiro yesterday, investigators believe she was caught in crossfire between warring gangs. She is the sixth child killed this year by a stray bullet. At least 21 children have been hit by stray bullets in 2019, 11 during police operations. (New York Times)
Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's release from prison has rallied Brazil's left, and will likely further polarize the country. The battle between Lula and President Jair Bolsonaro will also further the cult of personality trait that negatively marks Brazilian and regional politics, writes Carol Pires in a New York Times op-ed.
Female gang members played an outsize role in recent murders carried out by the PCC, a sign that women can exercise positions of power within the violent criminal organization, reports InSight Crime.
Salvador's constitutional court will likely extend a deadline for lawmakers to vote on an amnesty law that would prohibit jail time for former military personnel and leftist guerrillas accused of atrocities during the country's long civil war. The measure was postponed earlier this year in the midst of intense opposition from human rights groups, civil society, universities, the Catholic church and then-president-elect Nayib Bukele. (Diario de Hoy, El Salvador Perspectives, see May 24's post.)
Mexico’s new human rights commissioner questioned whether journalists have been killed under the current López Obrador administration -- 11 have been murdered since he took office. Her comments enraged activists in one of the most dangerous countries in the world for reporters -- 131 have been killed since 2000 -- and will likely further tense relations between the government and the press. (Guardian)
Sensational reporting of Mexican violence contributes to justifying a new militarized crackdown, writes Oswaldo Zavala in a Post Opinión piece that urges the media to dig deeper in its coverage.
Jared Kushner and other senior Trump administration officials are planning to set up web cameras to live-stream construction of a controversial border wall, reports the Washington Post. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have objected to the plan.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing