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Latam Brief: Balloon spotted over Colombia(February 06, 2023)

Latin America Daily Briefing
Latin America Daily Briefing

Colombia’s air force spotted an unidentified flying object similar to a balloon flying over its territory on Friday. The object is suspected to be a Chinese spy balloon, similar to the one shot down by the U.S. on Saturday.

Beijing said today the balloon spotted over Colombia is intended for civilian use and drifted off course.

No other official confirmation of unidentified balloons flying over other Latin American countries has been issued as of Sunday. But images shared on Twitter appeared to show the second balloon passing over Colombia and Venezuela. And balloon sightings were made in Costa Rica by multiple people on Thursday.

(GuardianReutersNewsweekBBCTico Times

El Salvador

  • Ten months into an ongoing state of exception that has curbed basic constitutional rights, El Salvador’s government has managed to undermine street gangs’ “territorial presence and control, their main source of financing —extortion— and their internal structure,” reports El Faro. “The gangs do not exist in this moment as El Salvador knew them for decades.”

  • Numerous human rights organization and community leaders have denounced thousands of arbitrary arrests during the state of exception and cases of torture and violent death of detainees without apparent ties to gangs. El Faro has shown how the justice system is condemning people in mass trials of hundreds of people and how, in just four months under the state of exception, the country hit an all-time record of habeas corpus petitions since the end of the civil war.

  • But despite the many denunciations of human rights violations, the state of exception maintains the approval of nearly 80 percent of Salvadorans, notes El Faro.

  • Bukele’s cash-strapped government is making moves to reverse El Salvador’s metal mining ban — a move that would be a disaster for the country’s already contaminated water supply, according to Jacobin.


  • At least 24 people have been killed in wildfires raging in Chile’s south. President Gabriel Boric declared a state of emergency in the regions of Biobio, Ñuble and Araucania. Efforts to combat the flames have been hampered by record summer temperatures of over 40 celsius. (Guardian)

  • International help began arriving yesterday, including planes and expert firefighting teams. (Reuters)

  • Photos at the Washington Post.


  • The record-breaking heat wave affecting South America is expected to continue this week with forecasts in mid-to-high 30s celsius for Chile, Argentina, and Paraguay, with maximum temperatures possibly hitting 40C across northern Argentina. (Guardian)

  • Caribbean countries battered by high energy costs are turning to Venezuela for oil and gas as the U.S. eases sanctions that have kept its supplies off limits for years, reports the Wall Street Journal.

  • Special migratory regularization programs have become increasingly common across Latin America and the Caribbean over the course of the 2000s and 2010s, according to an IDB report that highlights recent programs in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Peru. (Americas Migration Brief)


  • Argentina’s government wants to purchase a plane used by the the dictatorship government for the infamous “Flights of Death,” in which disappeared people were thrown, alive, from aircrafts into the Rio de la Plata. Chillingly, the plane in question is currently being used for skydiving in Arizona. (Página 12)


  • Peruvian rural protesters have locked down huge swaths of the Andes in two months of anti-government demonstrations. They have four key demands: the resignation of President Dina Boluarte, the dissolution of congress, new elections, and a constitutional rewrite, reports the Guardian.

  • Protest deaths in Ayacucho have reopened old wounds in the Peruvian region hit hardest by guerrilla violence and terror 40 years ago. There have been no arrests in the killings here, which evidence links to the military, reports the Washington Post.


  • The aristocratic British Trevelyan family will make history paying reparations to the people of Grenada, where it owned six sugar plantations, and publicly apologizing for its ownership of more than 1,000 enslaved people, reports the Guardian.


  • Honduran President Xiomara Castro’s campaign promise to combat corruption hinges on several factors, including the election of a new Supreme Court, currently before the country’s Congress. “The need for a new court was once again emphasized this month with the current court dropping important MACCIH-era corruption cases,” writes Daniel Langmeier in January’s Foro Honduras’ Human Rights Monitor.


  • José Antonio Santiago Pérez, a social leader in Colombia’s Tibú municipality was killed on Saturday, the latest in a wave of violence against activists. (Telesur)

  • “The rise in assassinations of social leaders is one of several trends in Colombia’s violence that point to an acute worsening of the conflict” between armed criminal organizations, the International Crisis Group’s Elizabeth Dickinson told the Latin America Advisor. “Targeting social leaders is a way to silence the community: by threatening or killing local leaders, they broadcast the potential repercussions facing for anyone who dares speak out.”


  • Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro expressed bafflement at how he could have lost October’s election, speaking at an event in the Miami Trump Hotel. Though Bolsonaro did not explicitly mention the Jan. 8 attacks in Brasília, he smiled silently as a crowd of supporters cried, “Fraud!” (Associated Press)He did not directly address the Jan. 8 assault on the buildings housing Brazil’s Congress and Supreme Court during his appearance in Miami before a conservative group tied to former U.S. President Donald Trump.

  • Brazil’s navy sunk a decommissioned aircraft carrier despite concerns that the French-built ship was packed with toxic materials. (AFP)

  • Elaíze Farias is the editor of Amazônia Real, a digital media outlet dedicated to telling stories about the violation of Indigenous, environmental and human rights in the Brazilian Amazon. The platform is “a laboratory for thinking about what a new, post-colonial journalism could look like,” reports the Guardian.

Critter Corner

  • The endangered pink Amazon River dolphin and former FARC guerrillas are key components in an ecotourism industry that is creating jobs, promoting conservation and reconciliation in an isolated corner of Colombia’s Amazon basin, reports the Guardian.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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