LATAM Weekly – 14/05/2022

El Salvador

Police have arrested over 30,000 people in 2 months after a flare-up in gang violence back in March, which left 80 people dead. President Nayib Bukele called a ‘state of exception’ back in April allowing for the suspension of certain civil liberties across the country, for 30 days.

Most notably, the need for an arrest warrant has been removed making it simple to arrest anyone even loosely connected to the war.

This 30-day period was renewed in April with the government looking to take back control of the country engulfed by deadly drug-related violence.

El Salvador is home to 2 of the most notorious gangs in Central America – MS-13 and Barrio 18 which have around 70,000 members between them. The sheer size of them makes Bukele’s plan sound like a strong response but human rights groups are complaining of false and arbitrary arrests.

These are not empty concerns, with Bukele removing 5 Supreme Court judges and the attorney general in April last year. His intentions are difficult to decipher with many praising his adoption of Bitcoin as progressive yet pounding his chest politically, seemingly hell-bent on changing the constitution and living up to his nickname ‘the world’s coolest dictator’.

However, Vice President Felix Ulloa mentioned that the Latin legal precedent ‘Jus ad Bellum’ (right to war) gives the El Salvadorean state the right to undertake these mass arrests for the security of its citizens.


The US government rolled back some Trump-era sanctions on Cuba earlier this week, allowing for increased foreign travel as well as lifting the cap on remittances, allowing the US dollar to flow back into Cuban families previously crippled by US sanctions and pandemic restrictions.

Cuba is wrestling with a poor economy, made worse by mass emigration to the United States in which 80,000 Cubans have tried to arrive at the southern Mexico border in the last 6 months.  The majority of migrants transit through Nicaragua, which waived visa requirements for Cuban nationals – allowing them to reach Mexico’s northern border.

A week of celebration for many Cubans who have been reuniting with their families thanks to the restriction’s removal has not met with the same sense of joy by the Cuban government. They claim the US has not gone far enough since high-level talks began in April.


In Venezuela, sanctions are being lifted on the certain sectors previously embargoed by the US, in a move aimed at easing the grave humanitarian and political crisis that has plagued the country in recent years.

Sanctions against certain Venezuelan officials are being lifted after previous October talks were scrapped following the US extradition of Colombian businessman Alex Saab – a close ally of the Maduro government.

Talks between the Venezuelan opposition and the Maduro government are sure to ignite hopes of an economic and democratic resurgence. In a country where Maduro has overseen inflation rise to record-breaking levels, he continually seeks to rule with an iron fist, ridding himself of any opposition and completely mismanaging the economy.

This negligence has led to over 6 million Venezuelans fleeing to neighbouring countries across Latin America as the humanitarian situation has worsened.

Venezuela’s opposition government of Juan Guaido, internationally recognized by the US as the de-facto leader, aim to have free and fair elections by 2024.

US efforts to ease sanctions, in collaboration with the opposition are part of efforts to bring Maduro back to the negotiating table, in the hopes of a more stable Venezuela.


In an extra bit of news, Herlinda Bobadilla, leader of the Montes drug cartel in Honduras has been arrested after a bloody shootout with police – two weeks after the US put a $5 million dollar bounty on her head.

One of the infamous “patronas” or female cartel bosses, Bobadilla, and two of her sons were also involved in the shootout with one escaping and the other being killed.

The arrest leaves a huge gap in which another cartel is likely to step into, with critics arguing that nothing will come of the arrest.

The Honduran state is trying to rid itself of the previous administration’s corruption and Bobadilla, considering the speed of her capture and arrest, was clearly first in line.


In a huge boost to indigenous causes across Latin America, an Argentinian judge called for reparations to the Qom and Moquit communities after the state had been found guilty of massacring 400 inhabitants in 1924.

Immigrant European farmers enslaved the natives to work on their cotton plantations and until now, nobody had ever been charged with a crime.

The reparations ordered by the judge include the massacre being added to Argentina’s school curriculum and continuing forensic efforts to find the victims’ remains.

Unlike in Canada, the indigenous peoples sought no financial reparations, but surely this is a huge morale boost to indigenous causes across the continent.

Smaller stories

Mexico on Tuesday suspended import duties on key food staples to curb inflationary price hikes. The measures are to be in place for 1 year and will include essentials such as corn, beef, and rice among the long list.

Also in Mexico, lawmakers in the state of Guerrero voted 30 votes to 13, making abortion up to 12 weeks legal – this comes amidst a time when Mexico’s northern neighbors seek to roll back Roe v Wade, a landmark supreme court ruling, legalizing abortion in the US.

In Chile, the minimum wage has been increased by President Gabriel Boric in response to the global price hike.

And in the run-up to the Colombian presidential election, the infamous guerrilla group, the ELN have announced a 10-day ceasefire, presumably as a goodwill gesture but equally to show their civility to a population increasingly frustrated with the Colombian government’s ineptitude.

Leftist candidate and ex-guerrilla, Gustavo Petro is leading in the polls with Federico Gutierrez at a close second – Tik Tok has been playing a huge part in these elections and how politicians are spreading their message.

Back to last week’s fiasco, 2 more countries, Guatemala, and Nicaragua have decided not to attend America’s summit in June, joining Bolivia and potentially Brazil in doing so.

It is turning into a diplomatic nightmare for the US, which has been criticized across the continent for its alleged non-invitation to Cuba and Venezuela.

Published by Harry Allen

Freelance journalist & Marketing Afficionado

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