LATAM Weekly – 07/05/2022

Brasil

Brazil’s, two-term, ex-president kicked off his presidential campaign against incumbent Jair Bolsonaro this week with the slogan “Vamos juntos pelo Brasil” (let’s go forward for Brasil) in a Sao Paulo Aviation Hangar encircled by thousands of adoring supporters pouring their hearts out for who many have called the world’s most popular politician.

Despite this, the PT (Partido Trabalhadores) or workers party frontman has experienced his fair share of hardships in the last 5 years, both politically and personally – spending 580 days in prison on corruption charges, only to be released in March 2021 after a supreme court judge annulled the 8-year sentence because of judicial bias.

Whilst embroiled in the initial Petrobras ‘operation car wash’ scandal, his second wife Marisa died of a stroke in 2017 which was the beginning of a smear campaign led by state Judge, Sergio Moro aimed at ruling him out, successfully, from the 2018 election in which Bolsonaro won.

The 2022 election will define Brasil for the foreseeable decade and with Lula ahead in the polls at 47% compared to Bolsonaros 29%. They mentioned that Lula would take 54% in a runoff between the two candidates.

Peru

In other news, Peru’s president Pedro Castillo’s bid to call a referendum on the 1993 constitution has failed with the congress voting 11 in favour to 6 against the proposals. The country has felt the revolving door more than most with 5 presidents in the last 6 years alongside Castillo changing his cabinet 4 times in the last year.

Many Peruvians are fed up with the rising costs of living and increases in crime, but the incumbent president had sought to defuse the political situation with these proposals – what happens next will depend largely on the growing frustrations of Castillo’s rural voter base.

That frustration is most clearly seen in the mining regions of Peru. Where voracious local communities have formed an alliance to retake the Las Bambas mines from its current Chinese owners, MMG Ltd. Nearly 8 years ago, a resettlement scheme involving housing and cash payments for locals of Fuerabamba had taken place, making way for copper extraction in a region that produces 2% of the world’s supply.

Now that extraction is set to increase, the previously evicted communities want their land back and have been seen camping near the mine as a form of protest.

Colombia

Colombia, a culturally rich, booming economy aiming to shed a violent past has seen a slight resurgence this week in the Northern province of Choco with Dairo Antonio Úsuga, more commonly known as Otoniel on the receiving end of a US extradition notice.

Otoniel, leader of the infamous Gulf Clan cartel is facing countless charges of drug trafficking, murder, kidnapping, and abuse by prosecutors in New York.

His extradition has left the citizens of the region in a state of perpetual fear with thousands of cartel militiamen blocking roads, taking hostages, and preventing access to public services in response.

But surely it will just lead to another power vacuum in the Colombian drug trade? What does this extradition really do for ordinary Colombians?

Colombia & Paraguay

Also in Colombia, Paraguayan crime prosecutor, Marcelo Pecci has been killed on his honeymoon. The murder occurred on the island of Baru, close to Cartagena where his wife shortly before, announced her pregnancy. A reward of $500,000 leading to an arrest has been offered with Colombian authorities not yet revealing the identity of those involved.

Pecci’s work had a strong anti-drug slant with Jorge Vargas, Colombia’s head of police calling him a victim of “transnational crime”

Mexico

Heading over to Mexico, two journalists, Yessenia Mollinedo and Sheila Johana Garcia have been killed in the state of Veracruz which is the 11th so far in 2022 – many Mexicans have accused AMLO of inciting the steep increase and failing to address the issue, even berating the profession itself, calling them hired thugs. What we do know is that the drug war in Mexico has intensified in recent years, with the military being called into the fight.

However, this has led to attacks on journalists who report on the drug war itself – since 90% of crimes against journalists go on unprosecuted the murders can happen with total impunity.

This kind of news gives Mexicans a poor reputation around the world and with drug violence spreading to almost every state outside Mexico City. Mexicans like to affirm they play no part in this war and when they do, are usually caught in the crossfire.

Ecuador

And since Colombia simmered down after the fall of Pablo Escobar, Mexican cartels are increasing their presence in Ecuador, contributing to the increased prison violence that has seen 43 more inmates die on Monday after the Ecuadorean government transferred a high-ranking gang leader to a new prison, a natural trigger for internal violence.

Ecuador plays a key part in the drug trafficking strategy of cartels looking to export across the world with the coastal port and largest city, Guayaquil being used to export tonnes of product around the world.

An IACHR report has blamed consistent underfunding of the prison system and lack of preventative measures that cause overcrowding and fail to rehabilitate prisoners.

Conservative president Guillermo Lasso has declared a state of emergency in 3 of the country’s coastal provinces looking to bring the situation under control – Ecuador is operating 15% over normal capacity in its prison system and a solution seems far from likely bringing the total of inmates killed to just under 400.

Chile

Chile, set to release a digital peso, has been told that any digital currency introduced should not negatively affect financial and monetary policy. This completely ruins the whole premise of digital currency which aims to run on a decentralised basis.

Guyana

Guyana has signed an air services deal with Saudi Arabia with both oil-rich countries looking to expand their cooperation over the coming years. The country is set to export up to 1 million barrels per day by 2025 according to President Irfaan Ali. Efforts are being made to avoid the “oil curse” that so often plagues newly oil-rich nations with a commitment to never fully nationalising being made just last month.

However, Arnette Arjoon, head of the Guyana Marine Conservation Society believes Exxon, the company awarded the drilling contract for offshore oil, will pay zero attention to the environmental impact on Guyanas’ unique ecosystem. Despite this, she does believe the $150 billion in revenue will benefit a country under the grip of extreme poverty, where most earn less than $6 dollars a day.

Haiti

Just across the Caribbean Sea in Haiti, the outlook is much bleaker, with over 150 dying in gang violence across the capital Port-au-Prince. The country is still reeling from the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last July and an earthquake that rocked the nation a month later.

Turf wars between powerful, politically connected gangs have ensued, leading to widespread rape, burnings and internal displacements. Neighbourhoods previously regarded as safe, have become battlegrounds, according to the Guardian.

Haiti has been in a dire situation for centuries and violence, like we are seeing, is nothing out of the ordinary but continues to affect the growth of a nation that has always been threatened by both external and internal problems.   

Other news

Argentina’s president Alberto Fernandez has complained of protectionism in many EU countries as a key reason for holding up the current EU-Mercosur free trade deal signed in 2019. Many countries including France and Ireland cite agricultural terms as being unfavourable to European farmers.

Costa Rica’s newly incumbent President Rodrigo Chavez was sworn in on Sunday but swiftly moved to declare a state of emergency usually reserved for natural disasters. The Russian-speaking Conti gang have been using ransomware to attack various government departments, including the finance ministry, which is still not fully operational after the attacks. There is a $10 million dollar bounty on anyone who can identify those involved.

With Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua unlikely to attend the Americas summit, leaders across the region such as Luis Acre of Bolivia and AMLO of Mexico have expressed their discomfort at the US’ unwillingness to invite the leftist nations. Acre has said he will not attend the June summit if the others cannot.

Published by Harry Allen

Freelance journalist & Marketing Afficionado

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