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Latam Brief: García Luna trial begins in U.S.(January 17, 2023)

Latin America Daily Briefing

The U.S. federal trial against former Mexican security chief Genaro García Luna, which starts today, “is a kind of sequel to the El Chapo trial, a blockbuster proceeding that resulted in a conviction in 2019 in the same federal courthouse,” reports the New York Times.

He is accused of accepting million-dollar bribes from the violent Sinaloa Cartel, while spearheading then-President Felipe Calderón’s bloody war against the country’s powerful criminal organizations. The case has “profound political implications that could expose the inner workings of the “war on drugs” on both sides of the border,” reports the Guardian.

U.S prosecutors allege García Luna brazenly took tens of millions of dollars in bribes, often stuffed in briefcases. The case could reveal the methodology — bribes of top police and military officials — that has permitted Mexican cartels to operate openly for so long, according to the Associated Press.

The trial could also implicate Calderón, and has generated intense expectation in Mexico reports Animal Político.

More Mexico

  • While vast amounts of perilous synthetic drugs such as fentanyl and crystal meth are pouring through Mexico, Mexican authorities have chosen to target Indigenous healers who carry out healing ceremonies with ayahuasca, writes Ioan Grillo in Narco Politics.

  • Mexico’s new anti-tobacco legislation, which bans smoking in public places, including hotels, beaches and parks, went into force last weekend. (ABC)


  • Peru’s protests have ballooned beyond their original calls for President Dina Boluarte to resign — the unrest, now in its second month, “represents a profound frustration with Peru’s young democracy, which protesters say has failed to address a yawning gap between the rich and the poor and between Lima and the country’s rural areas,” reports the New York Times.


  • Colombian President Gustavo Petro said Monday he would not accept any “order for the arrest” of Defense Minister Iván Velásquez, after a Guatemalan prosecutor said his unit would begin “legal actions” against Velásquez, a former UN anti-corruption investigator in Guatemala. (Reuters)


  • Venezuela’s public sector workers are mounting the biggest anti-government protests in years, reports Bloomberg. They are demanding higher wages, as a de-facto dollarization pushes down the real value of their salaries.

  • Recognizing Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim-president, four years ago, seems to have, ultimately, been a losing strategy, in terms of democratizing Venezuela, writes James Bosworth in World Politics Review.


  • Ecuadorians are increasingly migrating through the Darien Gap, and a diplomatic delegation from Ecuador visited Panama this past week to discuss migration, writes Jordi Amaral in the newly launched Migration Briefing.

  • More than 248,284 people migrated through Panama’s once-impenetrable Darién Gap jungle region last year — Adam Isacson susses out the numbers. (Migration Briefing)


  • Chile and Colombia presented a request to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for an Advisory Opinion on climate change and human rights. The country’s foreign ministers said the request aims to support a fair, sustainable, and timely response to the climate emergency taking into account the obligations arising from International Human Rights Law. (CEJIL)


  • Colombian police authorities said they confiscated an arsenal of weapons, including grenades and a machine gun, belonging to FARC dissidents, reports Al Jazeera.


  • Cuba´s Central Bank lashed out against a “vulture fund” seeking to cash in on unpaid government debt lingering from the Castro era, reports Reuters.


  • A new study has revealed nearly 1,000 ancient Maya settlements, including 417 previously unknown cites linked by what may be the world’s first highway in northern Guatemala and southern Mexico, reports Reuters.

Critter Corner

  • Scientists in Chile’s Patagonia region are unearthing the southernmost dinosaur fossils recorded outside Antarctica, including remains of megaraptors, reports Reuters.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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