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Latan Brief: UN group compares Ortega to Nazis (March 3, 2023)

Latin America Daily Briefing
Latin America Daily Briefing

Widespread human rights violations that amount to crimes against humanity are being committed against civilians by Nicaragua’s government for political reasons, according to a U.N. investigative team. The head of the investigation, yesterday, compared Nicaragua’s track record on human rights to the Nazis, saying the current government’s tactics to hold power beginning in 2018 were like those seen during the Nuremberg trials.

President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo “ have been weaponizing the justice system, weaponizing the legislative function, weaponizing the executive function of the State against the population,” said Jan Simon, Chair of the Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua. (United Nations)

The three-person body said the government has committed, and continues to commit, acts of torture, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention since 2018, and called for international sanctions. (Reuters)

From testimonies gathered, the expert report identified a pattern of extrajudicial executions carried out by agents of the National Police and members of pro-government armed groups. The group said Nicaragua’s Ortega government executed at least 40 people and ordered hospitals not to treat demonstrators wounded in antigovernment protests. (Associated Press)

The report also condemned Ortega’s government for stripping 222 opponents — previously held in prison — of their nationality after exiling them.

The U.N. report could lead to international repercussions, including legal charges in other countries, according to human rights experts. Under universal jurisdiction, any country’s courts can try people for atrocities committed anywhere and has become a global mechanism for human rights lawyers mostly in Europe to prosecute war crimes carried out by governments, reports the New York Times.

Lula speaks to Zelenskiy

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, yesterday. Lula, who has been advocating the creation of a group of countries that could mediate a peaceful solution to the wa, said that he will encourage countries to join peace talks to end the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. (Reuters)

Brazil supported a U.N. General Assembly condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, last week, but — like other countries in the region — has refused to send ammunition to Ukraine and has sought to mediate between the two sides.

Zelenskiy called on Friday for a summit with Latin American leaders, last week, and said Ukraine should take steps to build relations with African countries. “You know how difficult it is for me to leave the country, but I would travel especially for this meeting,” he said of the prospect of a summit with Latin American countries. (Reuters)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced plans to pay a visit to a number of Latin American countries in the near future. (EFE

Regional Relations

  • Latin America’s refusal to sign on to sanctions against Russia “signals divisions in the international system, while giving Russia some outlets for continued trade in oil, fertilizer and other products,” notes James Bosworth in World Politics Review, pointing to aspirations of neutrality, economic concerns and “anti-imperialism” as potential factors.

  • The G20 foreign minister’s summit concluded yesterday without consensus, dominated by disagreement over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On December 1 this year, Brazil will assume the G20’s rotating presidency — it “will be a crucial platform for the new government to resume Brazil’s international protagonism,” argues Karin Costa Vazquez in the Wilson Center’s Brazil 100.

  • Argentina’s government asked the United Kingdom to restart negotiations over the sovereignty of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. The renewed diplomatic push over the disputed islands comes after Argentina said it would withdraw from a 2016 cooperation pact in which the two sides agreed to disagree about sovereignty, but to cooperate on issues such as energy, shipping and fishing, and on identifying the remains of unknown Argentine soldiers killed in battle. (ReutersAFP)

  • In 1982, U.S. policymakers failed to grasp was “the extent to which U.S. support for Britain during the Falklands War was seen as a betrayal, not just in Argentina but across Latin America,” writes Antonio De Loera-Brust in Foreign Policy. “The conflict confirmed some of South America’s worst assumptions about its northern neighbor.”


  • Médecins Sans Frontières may have to cut back services in Haiti as violence grows. With Haiti’s public health system in collapse, the organization has become the last treatment option for many Haitians, and is the only non-governmental group running or directly supporting hospitals in Port-au-Prince. (Guardian)


  • “Community leaders in Colombia’s Putumayo department have historically supported coca substitution programs as part of peace processes aimed at resolving the country’s long-running civil conflict. But they put their lives at risk by betting on change and seeking new opportunities for the department, where ex-FARC mafia factions earn huge profits from drug trafficking.” — InSight Crime


  • “Suriname’s debt limbo is emblematic of a broader problem: The world lacks an effective framework for dealing with post-pandemic debt crises, Daniel Munevar, an economic affairs officer at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), told Foreign Policy.” (Latin America Brief)

  • Latin America “suffers from a strange combination of overconfidence and low self-esteem that has made it unquestioningly fond of incoming foreign tech,” notes Alex González Ormerod in Rest of World.

  • China’s Latin American gold rush is about lithium, according to Foreign Policy.


  • Chile’s Commission of Experts will begin drafting a new constitution on Monday. The 24 appointed experts, the vast majority lawyers, must hand a draft to an elected Constitutional Council on June 7. (EMOL, see today’s Chile Constitutional Updates)

  • Campaigning begins for candidates to the new Constitutional Council on March 8. Fifty members will be elected by citizens on May 7. The coalitions that will participate are: Partido Republicano, Unidad para Chile, Todo por Chile, Chile Seguro and Partido de la Gente. La Neta has an interactive map with candidates by geographic location.

  • Boric’s approval rating increased by 2 points in February, to 32% according to the latest Cadem poll.


  • An Ecuadorean legislative commission recommended that President Guillermo Lasso be subject to an impeachment process over alleged corruption at public companies. The recommendation, from an opposition dominated commsion, is the first step of a possible process, reports Reuters.


  • Gunmen threatened Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi in a written message left Thursday when they opened fire at a supermarket owned by his in-laws in Rosario. Mayor Pablo Javkin lashed out at federal authorities over what he called their failure to curb a surge in drug-related violence in the city. (Associated Press)

Critter Corner

  • “Mishicles,” a cat rescued in a Mexican prison — the Sphynx cat allegedly belonged to the leader of Los Mexicles and bears tattoos of symbols associated with the cartel — will be adopted by a family in Texas. (Washington Post)

Jordana Timerman/Latin America Daily Briefing

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