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Latam Brief: Haiti’s crisis a month into gang insurrection

A man assists an injured woman during a protest demanding the resignation of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on October 10, 2022. (Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images)
A man assists an injured woman during a protest demanding the resignation of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on October 10, 2022. (Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP)

Latin America Daily Briefing

It has been a month since Haitian gangs besieged capital Port-au-Prince with a series of violent coordinated attacks that successfully destabilized the remnants of the Henry administration. Scenes of destruction continue to play out as “thousands continue to be forced out of their homes and into soiled encampments amid spreading disease and a lack of medicine and medical care,” reports the Miami Herald.

The Haitian situation is dire — rapidly moving towards becoming “like Somalia in the worst of its times —” warned the UN’s top expert on human rights in Haiti yesterday. “I’m running out of words frankly at this point … it’s apocalyptic, it’s like the end of times,” William O’Neill – an American human rights lawyer who has been travelling to Haiti for more than 30 years told the Guardian.

Weeks after Prime Minister Ariel Henry agreed to step down in favor of a Caricom-backed transitional presidential council, the new leadership body is stumbling towards political agreement, while the outgoing government struggles to formalize the transition, reports Jacqueline Charles in the Miami Herald.

“Yet this could also be a moment of transformative change in Haiti,” writes Pierre Espérance of Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network in Foreign Affairs. “After years of frustration and despair, there is hope that Haiti could finally create a government that is committed to the country’s democratic future. But this opportunity can be realized only if the United States, which has long had a deciding role in Haitian politics, works with Haitian democrats carefully and constructively, and avoids repeating the mistakes it has made in the past.”

Haiti’s heavily armed gangs obtain most of their guns in the U.S. — part of a broader Caribbean problem with firearms smuggled from the U.S., reports the Washington Post. O’Neill believes Washington could severely disrupt the gangs by cracking down on the smuggling of US-made weapons from Florida to Haitian ports, reports the Guardian.

Canada’s and Jamaica’s militaries have begun training security forces from the Bahamas, Belize, and Jamaica to prepare them for a mission in Haiti, reports the Latin America Brief.

Migration

  • Criminal assaults are a constant danger for migrants, but aid workers have documented an extraordinary increase in attacks on migrants crossing the Darién Gap over the past six months — “with patterns and frequencies rarely seen outside of war zones,” reports the New York Times. They say the attacks, more on the Panamanian side of the border are organized and exceptionally cruel. “And the assaults often involve cases in which dozens of women are violated in a single event.”

  • InSight Crime reports in depth on how the Gaitanista Self-Defense Armed Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia – AGC) has monopolized the entire Darién Gap migrant ecosystem: “they define what routes migrants can take and charge a tax for migrants who want to transit through their territory. Though multiple routes through the jungle exist, the AGC permits travel only through Acandí, which benefits the group in many ways.”

Panama

  • Panama will hold presidential elections in a month, in the midst of political crisis that has exacerbated “uncertainty in a country dealing with drought and fallout from widespread protests,” reports the New York Times.

Colombia

  • Colombia’s Petro administration must advance with a constitutional assembly after Congress sunk another attempt to reform the country’s health care system, according to health minister Guillermo Jaramillo. (Infobae)

  • Medellín declared a “war on sex tourism” after a U.S. citizen was discovered with two girls in a luxury hotel in the city’s El Poblado neighborhood. Mayor Federico Gutiérrez senacted a temporary prohibition on the area’s sex work for six months, aimed at pushing back against what he termed as “mafias,” reports El País.

  • “La Guajira, Colombia’s second-poorest state, has become the focal point and battleground of the government’s proposed energy transition, a push to develop renewable energy sources and reduce its dependency on oil and coal to tackle the climate crisis,” reports the Guardian.

Peru

  • Peruvian lawmakers rejected two separate motions to start impeachment proceedings against President Dina Boluarte in relation to a criminal investigation for alleged illicit enrichment related to her acquisition of high-end jewelry, reports Reuters.

  • Boluarte survived thanks to congressional allies who are also “moving forward with a controversial push to remove judges from a panel that oversees electoral integrity in Peru—one of numerous attacks on the country’s democratic institutions under Boluarte,” writes Catherine Osborn in the Latin America Brief.

  • Boluarte’s dogged determination to cling to power at any price goes against the her initial promise to call for elections for Peru to choose a president when she took over from ousted President Pedro Castillo in 2022, notes El País in an editorial.

Regional Relations

  • Ecuador’s government declared Mexico’s ambassador persona non grata in response to remarks by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in which he implied that Ecuadorean President Daniel Noboa won the elections thanks to the murder of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio at the hands of organized crime hitmen, reports El País.

Mexico

  • Ruling Morena party presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum is an environmental scientist and a co-author of the 2007 Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. Yet, facing a conundrum common to leaders — economic development now versus long-term sustainability — she has not made environmental issues central to her campaign, reports the Associated Press.

Guyana

  • On that note, a video of Guyanese President Irfaan Ali blasting a BBC reporter for trying to lecture him about climate change went viral last week — Ali voiced the view of many developing countries who view Western efforts to limit their extraction as hypocrisy. “Are you and your system in the pockets of those who destroy the environment through the industrial revolution and now lecturing us?” (Fox)

Regional

  • Latin America’s new hard right shares Donald Trump’s culture war obsessions, but the diverse national leaders are more like cousins than ideological brothers, according to the Economist. (via Latin America Risk Report)

Culture Corner

  • Amid government efforts to modernize Panama City, the city’s iconic “diablo rojo” buses risk being phased out and fully decommissioned. The diablos are old U.S. manufactured school buses dating to the 1970s — making them “prity” is an art form, reports Nacla. (via Latin America Risk Report)
“Diablos rojos buses are a form of “arte rodante” or rolling art installations. Unlike art found in galleries or museums, bus art is a literal form of street art accessible to all.” — Grant Burrier and Sarah Saeed

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing
latinamericadailybriefing.blogspot 04 05 2024

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