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Latam Brief: Region should address “chronic human rights concerns” — HRW (January 12, 2022)

“Governments in Latin America and the Caribbean should address chronic human rights concerns, including poverty, inequality, corruption, insecurity, and environmental degradation while protecting democracy,” Human Rights Watch said in it’s newly released World Report 2023.

“Longstanding failure to address these concerns has been used by some politicians to justify policies that restrict or disregard rights and has driven millions of people in the Americas to flee their homes to seek safety and opportunity abroad.”

The report looks at environmental degradation in Brazil and Venezuela, repressive governments in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba (calling on the region’s democratic governments to collectively pressure for democratic transitions), and high levels of violence in El Salvador, Mexico, Haiti and Ecuador.

The report calls for “a coordinated regional response to migration” that “should implement commitments in the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, adopted in June, to expand access to legal status and integration.”

The report also notes the need to strengthen democracy in countries that are backsliding, like Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Guatemala.

Brazil unifies against attacks — for now

Backlash against the attacks on Brazilian government buildings on Sunday could unify the country in defense of democracy, and strengthen President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who must govern a deeply polarized country.

Authorities acted aggressively ahead of announced anti-government rallies planned for yesterday, with ramped up security, particularly in Brasília, and blocking social media accounts. Low turnout suggests supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro “are at least temporarily demotivated,” though Justice Minister Flavio Dino suggested the call for protests might have been a red herring, reports the Washington Post.

But though Brazilians are largely against last weekend’s rioters, sentiment could change as the government begins prosecuting the hundreds of people detained in relation to the attacks, reports the New York Times.

And troubling questions remain, according to the Guardian: “how did the mob get into what should have been highly protected state buildings? How was the riot organised without being disrupted by the security forces? After being sworn in to office less than a fortnight ago, who can Lula trust?”

Tackling anti-government sentiment in Brazil’s police forces is another critical task for the Lula administration, which believes security forces permitted the attacks. (New York Times)

While the actual risk of a coup is low, t”here are already reasons to believe that Brazil will face a persistent risk of domestic terror and disruptions to daily life, at least in the near term,” warns Brian Winter in Americas Quarterly.

More Brazil

  • U.S. and Brazilian lawmakers are looking for ways to cooperate on an investigation into the attacks, reports Reuters.

  • Some of the top Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden urging his administration to revoke any diplomatic visa that former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro may be using to stay in the United States, reports the Washington Post.


  • After 17 people were killed in clashes with police in Peru on Monday, the nation is now debating whether security forces gratuitously escalating the conflict with anti-government protesters, reports the Washington Post. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the killings this week. Amnesty International accused security forces of the “unnecessary and disproportionate use of force against the civilian population.” (See yesterday’s briefs.)


  • The collapse of the Venezuelan opposition’s “flawed interim government, which the U.S. had backed, provides an opportunity for a new approach,” argues William Neuman in the Atlantic.

  • The U.S. Biden administration’s decision to permit Chevron to resume limited operations in Venezuela, last year is evidence of the strength of the U.S. sanctions policy, argues Anthony Eterno in Global Americans. “In fact, sanctions continue to be some of the best tools to get the Maduro regime to the negotiating table and to hold the regime and its enablers accountable.”

  • But Francisco Rodríguez points to unacceptable costs of the U.S. sanctions policy: “During the past decade, Venezuela lived through the largest economic contraction documented in the history of the Western Hemisphere. The implosion took place at the same time as the U.S. government barred oil purchases, froze government bank accounts, prohibited the country from issuing new debt, and seized tankers bound for Venezuela. One would think it should be self-evident that any account of Venezuela’s economic contraction would place economic sanctions in a central role.” (Global Americans)


  • A new report by Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime delves into the inner workings of extortion techniques across Latin America. It shows the constant innovation needed to ensure numerous businesses pay out fees to criminal groups with little complaint, reports InSight Crime.


  • Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s ambitious plans to finance the fight against the climate crisis have the world listening, reports Americas Quarterly.


  • A panel of French judges dismissed a case that sought to hold the French government criminally responsible for the banana industry’s extended use of a banned pesticide in Martinique and Guadeloupe. (Just Caribbean Updates)


  • Chile’s new effort to redraft its magna carta, a 50-member elected Constitutional Council guided by a panel of appointed experts, is structured so that “the convention deliberates with a leash, straitjacket and chaperones making sure that it will not go rogue,” Patricio Navia told Americas Quarterly. Expect ”a dull document, as constitutions normally are.”

  • “The consensus seems to be that the new constitutional agreement takes into account some of the excesses of the previous process, providing some limits to the upcoming discussions,” writes Robert Funk in Americas Quarterly. “Because the agreement emerged from cross-party discussions, these limits may be considered as a minimum consensus — almost a social contract — regarding what Chile’s institutional structure ought to look like.”


  • “The root of the most recent protests in Santa Cruz is, among other things, that Bolivia has no ballast to its politics, no steadying weight to keep the boat from pitching too far from one side to the other,” Holly K. Sonneland of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas writes in the Latin America Advisor.

Dominican Republic

  • Recent acts of anti-Haitian violence and discrimination in the Dominican Republic reflect a long history of anti-Blackness in the DR. “The narrative that Dominican national identity is defined in opposition to all things Haitian—that is, Dominican history as always in opposition to Haitian humanity and existence—has contributed to what I call the institutionalization of anti-Haitianism in the Dominican Republic and elsewhere,” writes Ayendy Bonifacio in Nacla.


  • Mauby, a tree bark-based Caribbean drink, is a centuries old brew made from the bark of the columbrina elliptica and boiled with sugar and a variety of spices. And it may be poised for a global boom, writes Daphne Ewing-Chow at Forbes.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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