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Latam Brief: Bukele’s gov’t cooperated with gangs, says U.S.(March 1, 2023)

Latin America Daily Briefing
Latin America Daily Briefing

El Salvador

  • “In a number of situations the [current] government of El Salvador has cooperated with the gangs,” a U.S. Justice Department official told El Faro English, days after the unsealing of a grand jury indictment of 13 senior MS-13 leaders that digs deep into the political influence of the gang with at least the three most recent administrations and, especially, that of Nayib Bukele. (See Monday’s post.)

  • The Justice, State, and Treasury Departments consider it a fact that Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele’s administration secretly negotiated with the Mara Salvatrucha-13, and that his government offered the gang’s primary leaders financial benefits and facilitated communication so that they could maintain control within the gang and in their turf in El Salvador, reports El Faro English.


  • Vast forest fires in Cuba’s east are moving closer to Santiago de Cuba. More than 2,000 hectares of forest, including plantations and coffee crops, have been devoured by the flames and authorities say recovery could take years. (Reuters and Al Jazeera)

  • “The famous Caribbean adage, ‘without sugar, there is no country,’ is quickly becoming the reality” on Cuba, which “faces shortages, emigration, and isolation,” reports El País.


  • Brazil’s Lula administration wants former President Jair Bolsonaro to appear before Brazilian courts in the next few months. The government is considering options to force him to return to Brazil — he’s currently in Florida — if he doesn’t voluntarily come back by the end of the month, reports Bloomberg. The former president is active on social media again, after a period of silence following his electoral defeat last October, touting accomplishments from his time in office and doing live broadcasts.

Regional Relations

  • Latin America is a region of peace, one of the primary reasons several countries in the region have refused to send ammunition to Ukraine, despite condemning Russia’s actions, Brazilian diplomat Celso Amorim told Democracy Now. “If you only talk how to defeat Russia, how to enfeeble or weaken Russia, that will not come to a positive conclusion,” says Amorim. “You have to talk to everyone, including your adversaries.” (See last Friday’s post.)

  • Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness visited Haiti this week, along with government ministers and ambassadors from the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago. The visit was part of a long-awaited visit to see how Caribbean leaders can help Haitians find their way out of their country’s multiple, intertwined crises, reports the Miami Herald. (See today’s Just Caribbean Updates.)


  • Rural gangs have clashed with police in Haiti’s primary agricultural region, the Artibonite. It is “the latest sign of criminal violence disrupting food production and pushing the Caribbean nation closer to an acute hunger crisis,” reports InSight Crime.


  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador dismissed concerns about his plan to reform the country’s election agency, accusing protesters of links to drug traffickers. (CNN, see Monday’s post.)

  • The internet has been flummoxed by AMLO’s tweeting of an apparent elf sighting, that turned out to be an old photo. While he might well be a believer, it’s also likely meant as a distraction tactic, according to experts. (Washington Post)


  • Colombian President Gustavo Petro shuffled three ministries this week. Now ex-Education Minister Alejandro Gaviria – who served as Health Minister in the government of former President Juan Manuel Santos – disagreed with the main elements of Petro’s controversial health reform, which looks to increase access to services, raise salaries of healthcare workers, and combat corruption by eliminating payment intermediaries. (Reuters)


  • With one of the highest vaccinations against Covid-19, Uruguay is a pandemic-control success story. “The country’s successful management —there have been no COVID-19 related hospitalizations over the past three weeks and they haven’t recorded any deaths — was put on display here Tuesday as regional leaders in disaster risk management and climate-change response used the pandemic as a blueprint on the need for better disaster-risk reduction, and the consequences if it doesn’t happen,” reports Miami Herald.


  • U.S. agro-exporters ADM and Cargill buy soybeans from companies or producers linked to at least seven cases of human rights violations against Indigenous and campesino communities in eastern Paraguay, according to a new report by the human rights and environmental organization Global Witness. (Global VoicesEl Surtidor)

  • Heavy rainfall and floods have damaged bridges, homes, and buildings in at least four departments of Paraguay and forced the municipality of Puerto Casado in Alto Paraguay Department to declare a state of emergency. (Floodlist)


  • Peruvian police seized a mummified human, between 600 and 800 years old, from a former food delivery man who kept the remains in the isothermal bag he had once used to deliver food to people’s homes. (Al Jazeera)

Just Caribbean Updates

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