REGION: For the fourth consecutive year, Latin America has dropped in the Democracy Index. The Economist’s Intelligence Unit creates the report annually by analyzing each country’s electoral process, civil liberties and political participation. The publication concluded that the average score of 24 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean has declined from 6.24 in 2018 to 6.13 in 2019, on a scale of zero to 10. While the score fell in almost half of the countries, the primary factors according to the report included the post-electoral crisis in Bolivia, a democratic regression in Guatemala and Haiti and the growing use of authoritarian practices in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia.
Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are at the bottom of the ranking, defined as “authoritarian regimes.” Above them, four countries are described as having “hybrid regimes,” another 14 as “flawed democracies” and only three —Uruguay, Costa Rica and Chile— are categorized as “full democracies.” Nicaragua lost the most points in the shortest period of time. President Daniel Ortega’s regime received a 3.55 grade, down from 7.0 in the 2017 index. Overall, the global democratic score fell from 5.48 in 2018 to 5.44 in 2019, the worst score since the report was commissioned in 2006.
HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
PARAGUAY: President Mario Abdo Benítez is among the thousands sick in a deadly dengue outbreak. The health minister confirmed the diagnosis in Asunción on Wednesday after the president began to feel sick while on a trip to eastern Paraguay. The country has been bracing for an epidemic after reporting around 7,000 suspected cases of dengue in the first weeks of January. A similar outbreak in 2013 resulted in 250 deaths. Dengue is a tropical disease transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.
BRAZIL: According to official crime statistics for 2019, Rio de Janeiro had a record low number of homicides alongside a record high in police killings. Compared to the previous year, 2019 saw a 19 percent decrease in murders to a low of 3,995. Meanwhile there was an 18 percent spike in police killings to an all-time high of 1,810. Governor Wilson Witzel praised his security policy even though the decrease in crime began before his administration. Witzel is an ally of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro and was elected on a promise to “slaughter” gangsters.
VENEZUELA: Opposition leader Juan Guaidó spoke in Brussels on Wednesday calling for tighter European Union sanctions on the government of President Nicolás Maduro. Guaidó is currently touring Europe as the self-proclaimed president of Venezuela, defying a travel ban placed against him by Maduro. The United States and over 50 nations recognize Guaidó as president of Venezuela but Maduro still controls the major government institutions. Guaidó will also travel to speak in Spain, France and the economic forum of Davos.
HONDURAS: A caravan of Honduran migrants failed to advance past the Mexico-Guatemala border yesterday, after a four day journey that began in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Mexican troops pushed the group of 4,000 back to Guatemala, sending some of the migrants to detention centers, while others chose to go back to Honduras. An unknown number of them, however, were able to slip past Mexican authorities and continue north. Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said that of the 2,400 migrants who entered the country legally, 1,000 requested help to return to their countries. The rest will stay in immigration centers to seek refuge in Mexico or obtain temporary work permits. Honduran authorities say hundreds of migrants are expected to be sent back by bus and plane in the coming days.
NICARAGUA: The Florida Senate approved a resolution yesterday that condemns the “oppression of the Nicaraguan people under President Daniel Ortega.” The resolution, proposed by Democratic Senator José Javier Rodríguez, says Ortega used governmental and paramilitary forces to attack protesters, persecute journalists, target social organizations, end human rights monitors and torture opponents, including the use of rape, electric shock, acid burns and the removal of fingernails. Rodríguez said the resolution sends a “solidarity message” to Nicaraguans, including the 160,000 who live in Florida. Meanwhile, on a visit to Costa Rica, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Ortega regime to “cease its repression and restore basic civil liberties and support free and fair elections.”
MEXICO: At least 53 police officers have been questioned about the disappearance of Homero Gómez González, a well-known environmental conservationist who manages a monarch butterfly sanctuary in Michoacán. Prosecutors investigating the disappearance said they detained the entire police forces of both Ocampo and Angangueo for questioning. However, they have not said why they suspect police officers were involved. In June 2018, the entire Ocampo police force was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the murder of a mayoral candidate. Gómez González’s relatives said that he received threats from a gang prior to his disappearance.
MEXICO: The number of homicides in 2019 was the highest on record, at 35,588 recorded deaths. Government figures show that the rate of annual increase in murders has slowed. The 2019 rate is equal to around 95 murders per day. While 2019 saw 2.7 percent more killings than 2018, this increase is far lower than previous annual rates of growth in the double digits. Homicides increased by 17 percent-28 percent from 2015 through 2018.
UNITED STATES: The Trump administration is planning to send Brazilian asylum seekers to Mexico while they wait for their immigration cases to process. The move would be an extension of the controversial “Remain in Mexico” program, with Brazilians joining more than 57,000 non-Mexican migrants waiting in the country. While the program previously focused only on Spanish speakers, this would widen the scope to include Portuguese speakers. The administration has also considered the possibility of sending Brazilian asylum seekers to other countries.