Ecuador’s government lifted the state of emergency imposed in six provinces in response to mass protests led by Indigenous groups, on Saturday. Parts of the country have been paralyzed for two weeks by protests against rising fuel costs, and inflation affecting basic necessities, and improved social services. The strike, called by Ecuador’s largest Indigenous organization, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), is set to continue today. (EFE)
The decision to end the state of emergency followed an initial meeting between government officials and Conaie leaders, on Saturday. (Associated Press)
The Conaie had previously conditioned dialogue on the government lifting the state of emergency, which suspends constitutional guarantees and permits military response to protests. But protesters say they will continue demonstrating until they receive a response to a list of 10 demands, including a better job-creation plan, increased investment in public education and health care, and a halt to oil and mining expansion. (Washington Post) Conaie leadership promised to open humanitarian corridors in Quito to permit transport of food and medicine.
President Guillermo Lasso also committed to lower fuel prices around the country, by about a third as much as protester groups have demanded. On Saturday National Assembly President Virgilio Saquicela said a commission would be formed to facilitate dialogue to end the strike. (Associated Press)
The government’s announcement came as lawmakers in the National Assembly heard an opposition petition to remove Lasso from office. The request was made by the Union for Hope party, linked to former president Rafael Correa, and was based on the state of emergency declared over “grave internal commotions,” which was then lifted. (Al Jazeera)
There were violent clashes between protesters and security forces in Quito last week. The Conaie has tallied five protester deaths, while the government says four civilians have died during protests and two died in ambulances delayed by blockades. (Reuters) Human rights advocates have criticized Lasso for employing what they say are heavy-handed tactics against protesters, including excessive force and arbitrary detentions. (New York Times)
Yesterday Ecuador’s energy ministry issued a statement warning that oil production could come to an end within 48 hours if protests and roadblocks continued this week. Production was at a “critical” point, it said, and could stop because of “vandalism, takeover of wells and closing of roads.” (Bloomberg)
- A Cuban court imposed prison sentences on two famous Cuban artists, hip-hop singer Maykel Castillo and visual artist Luis Manuel Otero, who took part in composing and recording “Patria y Vida,” the viral rap song that became the anthem for disaffected Cubans banned by Cuba’s Communist regime and won two Latin Grammys last year. They are leading members of a dissident movement defending civil rights on the communist island, and were convicted of contempt and public disorder, among other charges, reports the Wall Street Journal.
- A Guatemalan court annulled an agreement that made it easier to prosecute bribery involving the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht — a ruling that favors a former cabinet official accused of corruption and adds to a growing series of reversals for anti-corruption efforts in the country, reports the Associated Press.
- Mexico’s security crisis is not new, but the murder of two Jesuit priests in a church last week drew pointed criticism from the Roman Catholic Church, amplifying the public outcry, reports the New York Times.
- Six people were killed and over a hundred wounded in the Colombian city of El Espinal this weekend, when wooden spectator stands at a bullfighting festival collapsed. Colombia’s president-elect, Gustavo Petro, who as mayor of Bogotá sought to outlaw bullfighting, expressed his condolences and noted a history of such accidents. (New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian)
- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is trailing behind his rival, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in polls ahead of presidential elections in October. The incumbent is increasingly desperate to woo voters outside of his hardcore base — with cash handouts and a rising tide of rhetoric designed to question the validity of the election itself. His strategy is setting up a potential confrontation after the polls close, reports the Financial Times.
- Bolsonaro said yesterday he expects to announce former Defense Minister Walter Braga Netto as his running mate for this year’s election in the next few days, reports Reuters.
- More than 140,000 Cubans were detained at U.S. borders between October last year and May. The figure surpasses the 125,000 Cubans who departed from the Port of Mariel near Havana between April and October 1980, reports the Miami Herald.
- Hundreds of Russians are estimated to have relocated to Latin America in recent months, in the wake of Russia’s invasion, as a combination of relaxed entry rules and an ambivalence towards western sanctions makes it an increasingly attractive destination, reports the Financial Times. Most of the new migrants are part of Russia’s entrepreneurial or IT sectors, who find themselves handicapped by sanctions.
- Two months ago, Conti, one of the most feared cybercrime operations in the world, unleashed a blitz of raids against government websites in Costa Rica and Peru. Then it disappeared off the radar, due to a combination of sanctions against Russia and a massive leak of the organization’s internal communications, reports InSight Crime.
- Difficult macro economic conditions will make it hard for the current crop of Latin American leftist leaders to satisfy the high expectations of citizens who have bet on change, writes James Bosworth at World Politics Review. (See last Thursday’s post.)
- Gigantic bacteria 50 times larger than any bacterial species previously known to science, dubbed Thiomargarita magnifica, have been discovered in a Guadeloupe mangrove swamp. (Financial Times, New York Times)
- Rewilding efforts in the Galapagos demonstrate one approach to environmental restoration, focused on local community efforts to remove invasive species and restore native species. (Guardian)
- The Guardian also looks at a successful rewilding program in Argentina’s Impenetrable forest.
Jordana Timerman/Latin America Daily Briefing