A Venezuelan opposition candidate won a special gubernatorial election in Barinas state yesterday — a significant blow against Nicolás Maduro’s government. Garrido obtained 55.36 percent of the vote, according to the National Electoral Council (CNE), while his opponent, former foreign minister Jorge Arreaza, obtained 41.26. (Efecto Cocuyo)
The special election was organized after an opposition contender in November’s regional elections was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. The move added to questions about the fairness of Venezuela’s electoral process after the first vote in years in which most major political parties participated. (See post for last Nov. 22, and Dec. 10’s briefs.)
Though international observers regarded the November 21 elections as the most free and inclusive process the country has seen in years, the elections occurred in a fundamentally uneven playing field, according to the preliminary reports of the European Union and Carter Center. “Nowhere was this more apparent than in the case of Barinas,” writes Kristen Martinez-Gugerli in WOLA’s Venezuela Update.
Garrido’s defeat of Arreaza is particularly symbolic in Barinas, late President Hugo Chavez’s home state and longtime government stronghold, notes the Associated Press. Arreaza conceded defeat on social media even before officials released the results. It was the first time in more than two decades, no member of Chávez’s family was on the ballot in the northwestern state.
Following the determination of a special election for the state’s governor, the Maduro government deployed significant resources — high level officials campaigned and handouts were marshaled for the population — aimed at maintaining control in Barinas, making the loss even more significant, notes Efecto Cocuyo.
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó, welcomed the result in Barinas yesterday: “Beautiful Barinas, where it started, ends,” he tweeted, referring to the cradle of Chavismo.
Haitian journalists killed
Two Haitian journalists were killed by gang members while reporting in a conflictive area south of Port-au-Prince, last Thursday. A third journalist who was part of the group survived. (See Friday’s briefs.) One of the journalist’s employers and some media reports said the men had been shot then burned alive, reports the Associated Press. Later reports indicate the victims were not burned.
Local media reported that the three journalists were crossing a canal separating one gang territory from another when a group of armed individuals opened fire on them from a vehicle, on Thursday. Members of Haiti’s National Police did not go to the scene of the crime that day due to security concerns. Without enough resources, the police were concerned they could face severe danger from gangs operating in the area, reports CNN. The bodies were finally recovered Friday afternoon by police accompanied by a justice of the peace.
Laboule 12, where the journalists were killed, has for months been the site of violent gang clashes and is the only way by road to reach the southern region of the country, which has been cut off since June by gang violence at the southern entrance of Port-au-Prince, reports the Miami Herald.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the killings and called on Haitian authorities to conduct “a swift and thorough” investigation.
- Convicted drug trafficker and former DEA informant Rodolphe Jaar, who had been in hiding since Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated last July, has been apprehended in the Dominican Republic, reports the Miami Herald. Jaar, also known as “Dodof,” was arrested Friday in Santo Domingo by Dominican authorities after crossing from Haiti. He was detained at the request of U.S. authorities based on statements provided by Mario Antonio Palacios Palacios, a retired Colombian sergeant charged by U.S. authorities in the assassination. (See last Thursday’s briefs.)
- Underpinning much of Haiti’s troubles is environmental injustice and food insecurity, with 4.4 million people (of a population of nearly 11 million) at risk of hunger, reports the Guardian. Haiti’s grassroots Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) works to tackle deforestation and the climate crisis in Haiti’s poorest regions by working with subsistence farmers.
- Ten people were killed by a giant rock slab that fell off a cliff in a popular tourist spot in Minas Gerais, in Brazil. Onlookers filmed the rock slide onto tourist boats in Lake Furnas, and the videos went viral in Brazil, where intense rain and flooding in recent weeks have left at least 20 other people dead and damaged thousands of homes. (New York Times, Associated Press, Washington Post)
- Brazilian health regulator Anvisa’s head asked vaccine-skeptic President Jair Bolsonaro to retract statements he made criticizing the agency for authorizing the vaccination of children against Covid-19, reports Reuters. A few weeks ago, Bolsonaro asked for the names of health officials who approved Covid vaccines for children, saying he planned to make their identities public despite previous death threats.
- Evangelical Andre Mendonça’s appointment to the Supreme Court marks the beginning of a new era of increased evangelical influence in Brazil, argues Raphael Tsavkko Garcia in Al Jazeera. “Throughout Bolsonaro’s presidency the Supreme Court served as the final, and sometimes only, line of resistance against deeply conservative, and at times discriminatory and dangerous, policies supported by evangelicals on issues like minority rights, abortion access and drugs regulation. Mendonça’s arrival to the bench will likely inhibit the court’s ability to resist such policies and allow evangelicals to increase their influence over Brazilian politics further.”
- Leftist Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro has lost his claim to represent socially progressive voters, in a bid to expand his 2018 voter base by building alliances with more traditional politicians, argues Mariana Palau in Americas Quarterly. Petro’s new allies have alienated those who were once faithful to him, most notably feminists, many of whom have become some of his fiercest critics.
- Victor Escobar became the first person Colombia with a non-terminal illness to die by legally regulated euthanasia late on Friday, reports Reuters.
- Martha Sepúlveda, a 51-year-old Colombian woman died by euthanasia on Saturday after a historic legal battle to exercise the right without a terminal prognosis, reports the Washington Post. Her plan to terminate her life was postponed for months, after a medical committee said she did not meet the legal requirements.
- Chile’s “new left” has brought hope, but president-elect Gabriel Boric faces significant challenges, including the national version of the regional phenomenon of the “new right”: radicals “who mobilize moral discourse, evangelical churches and Catholic hard-liners, and xenophobic agitation against migrants and fear of feminist gains and the LGBTQ movement,” writes Franck Gaudichaud in The Nation.
- The tallest mountain in the Galápagos islands, Wolf Volcano, has erupted, spewing lava down its flanks and clouds of ash over the Pacific Ocean. There was no immediate danger to populated areas. (Associated Press)
- The Tate Britain’s show “Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art, 1950s — Now” charts 70 years of Caribbean-British art through the works of over 40 artists with either Caribbean heritage or other connections to those islands. It tackles the themes of identity and family, colonialism and racism, and celebrates the richness of Caribbean culture, reports the New York Times.
Latin America Daily Briefing —