In Haiti, Gay Men Infected With HIV Are Targets Of Discrimination

EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Latino USA.

By Willy Dunbar, Université Libre de Bruxelles and Yves Coppieters, Université Libre de Bruxelles

In Haiti, about 150,000 people out of a population of 11 million are believed to be living with the HIV virus. Of those, only 55 percent have access to antiretroviral medications. What explains this lack of access to care?

Despite many public health interventions in the region, people in Haiti that are infected with HIV are vulnerable to stigmatization, particularly sexual minorities. The latter suffer considerable ostracism, which prevents access to care.

Sometimes extreme marginalization also affects the social, emotional and relational aspects of their life.

A Difficult Commitment In The Fight Against HIV

The poorest country in the Western hemisphere, Haiti has the highest number of people living with HIV in the Caribbean, the second most affected region in the world outside of Africa in terms of prevalence.

Haïti : Nombre de personnes vivants avec le VIH (1990-2017).
(US Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), 2018, CC BY 4.0)

Despite political unrest, socio-economic difficulties and ongoing natural disasters, Haiti remains committed to the fight against the HIV epidemic.

The prevention and treatment strategies implemented by the government in collaboration with non-governmental organizations and international donors have contributed to reducing the national HIV prevalence from 6.2 percent in 1993 to 2.2 percent in 2012 and at 1.9 percent in 2017.

As the national response to the epidemic continues to grow, infected and affected people also continue to be discriminated against and stigmatized both in the community and in healthcare settings.

Infected people are often perceived as having socially despised behaviors, such as Men who have Sex with Men (MSM). According to a survey conducted in Haiti and published by the United Nations Program for HIV, the prevalence of this infection among MSM is 18.2 percent.

Sickness And Social Exclusion: The Double Burden Of MSM

Sociologist Erving Goffman distinguished three types of stigma: physical deformity, character blemishes and prejudices. The first type is attributed to innate or acquired physical deformities. It is therefore different from the standards of fitness that are idealized by society. The second is attributable to behaviors with perceived negative consequences. This is the case, for example, of people infected with HIV, men who have sex with men (MSM) and alcoholics. And, the third results from the perception that one race, religion or nationality is superior to another.

The second case, people with HIV face considerable stigma because many believe that they could have controlled the behaviors at the root of the infection.

Ethnographically, Haiti is closer to several countries on the African continent where studies have been conducted on this issue. They reveal how homosexuality is perceived as a dangerous threat to fight as it could disturb the social, religious, moral and demographic order. This perception hampers the continuum of care available to citizens including prevention, screening, enrollment in care and therapeutic adherence.

Sexual behavior is framed by strict social taboos against homosexuality, which leads MSM to conceal their sexual activities. Many MSM, therefore, develop heterosexual relationships, a behavior that also serves as a bridge for HIV transmission from the MSM community to the general population.

The homosexual population is at greater risk of HIV infection because of certain personal and social factors including multiple partners and short-term relationships, low condom use, and misconceptions about anal sex. Although MSM express a need for support, they fear being rejected by revealing their sexual orientation.

A View From The Haitian Laws

As several human rights organizations have pointed out there is no law against homosexuality in the Haitian penal code. And MSM are protected under the 1987 constitution. According to art. 35-2, discrimination in the workplace on the basis of “sex, opinions and marital status” is prohibited.

Yet, in August 2017, the Haitian Senate passed a law prohibiting marriage between same-sex couples.

While this measure is not new —as the national civil code recognizes only the unions between a man and a woman— the vote reflects a growing intolerance towards the MSM community, because it aims to prohibit any display of homosexuality in the public space.

In addition, there is no anti-hate crime law that specifically addresses the discrimination and harassment experienced by MSM because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Homosexuality is considered taboo by Haitians who are largely influenced by Christianity.

Weaknesses in government and legal structures —including the penal system— also contribute to stigmatize and discriminate against people living with HIV. A proposal in December 2011 of a law to the Haitian Parliament to better protect people living with HIV hasn’t been considered so far.

Homophobia Paralyzes Medical Progress

Stigma is also perceived and experienced in healthcare settings.

Anxiety about their HIV status and its social consequences are cited by people as major deterrents to testing. Confidentiality is also a concern because some health facilities separate patients presenting for HIV testing from those seeking other health services so it is made obvious who is attending HIV services.

Negative perceptions of the medical community related to lack of specific skills and knowledge of care providers also hamper good care management —which often requires specific needs— and fuels the fear of being exposed as a homosexual.

Homophobic opinions expressed in common culture result in stigma and discrimination against MSM in society, negatively affecting their participation in successful national response strategies against the epidemic. They are also victims of multiple forms of violence perpetrated by the police force.

Even in the presence of aid development donors and a supportive political community, stigma and public discrimination create an environment conducive to hostilities.

Inclusion, Respect and Tolerance

Although many efforts are being made to improve the management of MSM infected with HIV in Haiti, societal situations persist at different levels that prevent the identification and full implementation of effective strategies to reduce stigma on a large scale.

Although clinical interventions remain the most common, some community initiatives have also been tested in small groups and some organizational level interventions. This includes training and sensitization sessions for medical staff, peer tutoring and support throughout the continuum of care. It has also included the setting up and evaluation of specialized clinics.

But without the political will and resources to support and intensify activities in healthcare facilities and communities, inclusion, respect and tolerance, which are essential to HIV eradication, will remain purely theoretical.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

OAS Convenes In Colombia With Venezuela As Top Hemispheric Issue

COLOMBIA: Today, national delegations from 35 countries will congregate in Medellín for the 49th annual General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) for a multilateral dialogue on migration, corruption, and regional integration. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro said that Venezuela will dominate the conversations as it is the “most urgent” in the hemisphere since there is “no rule of law” in the country. The hemispheric organization is expected to deliver a “regional approach” to resolve the mass migration from the embattled country, as estimates say that 6 million Venezuelans would have left by 2021. The General Assembly concludes on Friday.

HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

NORTH AMERICA

UNITED STATES: The House of Representatives approved an emergency funding bill for humanitarian aid aimed at alleviating conditions at detention facilities at the border. Approved along party lines with at 230-195 vote, the $4.5 billion package ensures food and medical attention for minors, as well as setting sanitary standards at the detention centers. The White House has threatened to veto the bill as the Senate is expected to take up on it today.

U.S.-MEXICO BORDER: High-ranking border official resigned yesterday amid uproar over treatment of migrant children in detention centers. Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) John Sanders will step down in early July, as controversy regarding approaches towards border policy continues to grow. Mark Morgan, acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), will assume Sanders’ position. According to the New York Times, Morgan is known for having pushed raids to deport undocumented migrants.

CENTRAL AMERICA

GUATEMALA: After several delays, the electoral court (TSE) is set to begin its “vote-by-vote” recount today. The TSE is blaming a computer error in the mismatched vote tallies on their website, while other candidates are decrying that the elections were a fraud. Contributing as an observer during the June 16, the OAS has rejected fraud allegations, saying that the recount “will not change the will of the people.”

THE CARIBBEAN

CUBA: Renovations have made significant progress in Cuba’s oldest Jewish cemetery. The state-sponsored spruce-up has made strides ahead of the 500th anniversary of the Jewish Cemetery of Guanabacoa, to be celebrated in November this year. Around 1,500 tombs are estimated to be in the graveyard located in the east side of Havana, some of which date back to the colonial era. Many Jewish families left the island after the 1959 revolution. Today, Israel and Cuba do not have diplomatic relations.

HAITI: The U.N. Security Council voted yesterday to continue its operations on the island in a different capacity, replacing its fifteen-year-old peacekeeping operation with a “political” mission. The U.S.-sponsored resolution, which passed unanimously, says that the new mission will advise the Haitian government in “good governance” and will promote an inclusive dialogue that “promotes human rights.” The lack of any climate change mitigation initiatives for Haiti prompted some disappointment among members of the Council.

PUERTO RICO: Governor Ricardo Rosselló asked for the immediate resignation of Treasury Secretary Raúl Maldonado on Monday, after Maldonado admitted during a radio interview that the FBI had launched a corruption probe into the Puerto Rican treasury.  Yesterday, Maldonado’s son, Raúl Maldonado Nieve, excoriated Rosselló via Facebook, prompting the governor to question the “mental state” of the treasurer’s son. Puerto Rican prosecutors have asked recently-fired Maldonado to testify about the remarks made during the radio interview, where he alleged that an “institutional mafia” existed in the treasury.

THE ANDES

VENEZUELA: The chief of the Venezuelan secret police fled to the United States on Monday. General Cristopher Figuera, who directed intelligence agency SEBIN, told the Washington Post that President Nicolás Maduro is the “head of a criminal enterprise,” alluding to the degree to which corruption has become embedded in Venezuela’s political system. Maduro has accused Gen. Figuera of “plotting to oust” his administration after he collaborated with opposition leader Juan Guaidó in his failed uprising in April. The United States is “hopeful” the Figuera’s move will “animate” other Venezuelan military officers to defect.

SOUTHERN CONE

URUGUAY: Following the escape of an Italian druglord on Monday, the director of Uruguay’s penitentiary system resigned yesterday. Alberto Gadea, who served as interim director of the country’s prisons since Nov. 2018, stepped down following the improbable escape. Known as Milan’s “cocaine king”, the hunt for Rocco Morabito has generated international attention, including that of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who demanded an “immediate explanation” from the Uruguayan government and a collaborative search for the fugitive.

BRAZIL: Yesterday, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal to free former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from prison after leaked messages allegedly show a campaign determined to stop his candidacy’s success. Additionally, judges from Brazil’s top court voted 3-2 in favor of postponing a debate regarding then-judge Sérgio Moro’s impartiality during the trial and conviction against da Silva in 2017. The former leader of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) will remain in prison until the Supreme Court resumes the case on August.

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Seeking Asylum, Seeking To Stay Together

An increasing number of Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans are opting to seek asylum in Mexico rather than continue the journey North to the United States.

Most of them are denied permission to remain in Mexico, and are forced to scramble to figure what to do next. For LGBTQ migrants, there’s an added layer of vulnerability.

Mauricio Pérez and his boyfriend Jorge Alberto Alfaro González met on Facebook in El Salvador during the summer of 2015. They are from separate towns, both of which are dominated by gang-related violence.

After Mauricio’s sister was killed by members of one gang and Jorge’s young cousins were killed by a rival group, both of them became further enmeshed in the conflict. The same groups that targeted their family members were trying to recruit them into their ranks, and they both refused. Soon they became targets of repeated attacks and death threats.

So by January of 2016, Jorge and Mauricio decided to flee the country.

They would have left together, but Jorge didn’t have enough money to make the journey. So they decided that Mauricio would travel ahead to Mexico, and wait for Jorge to gather funds. In that moment, they didn’t know if they would ever see each other again.

Jorge said that he felt full of uncertainty, “from not knowing what could happen, knowing that you are leaving a place but you don’t know if you will arrive.”

Mauricio arrived safely in Tapachula, Mexico, and a few weeks later, Jorge did too. They both applied for asylum separately with the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid, but only Jorge received asylum meaning the threat of deportation is still there for Mauricio.

But despite everything, their devotion to each other is stronger than ever.

“It’s true that we left separately, but I want my life to be with him,” Jorge said. “I tell him that I want to grow old with him.”

Featured image: Katie Schlechter
This episode was originally aired on June 23, 2017.

Hundreds Of Underage Migrants Moved From “Inhumane” Detention Facility In Texas

U.S.-MEXICO BORDER: After an article published June 21 by the Associated Press exposed the “inhumane conditions” in a particular migrant detention center for children, the U.S. government transferred 270 migrants from that remote border station in Texas yesterday. The original report described how the center neglected the medical needs of over 300 detainees, as well as how the underage migrants lived in unsanitary and overcrowded conditions and were poorly fed by border authorities. Around 30 minors remain at the facility located in Clint, Texas, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The children will come into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHH) today.

HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

NORTH AMERICA

U.S.-MEXICO BORDER: Border Patrol (CBP) agents found four bodies by the Rio Grande. Sheriff Eddie Guerra from Hidalgo County, Texas, announced via Twitter that three of the deceased appeared to be children —one toddler and two infants— and the other was a 20-year-old woman.

Their identity and country of origin are unknown. CBP data shows that the 2018 fiscal year had 283 deaths, the majority (96) of which were counted in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, where Hidalgo County is located.

U.S.-MEXICO BORDER: Mexico has sent 15,000 troops composed of military and police elements to its northern border with the United States. Agents will be tasked with stopping migrants that attempt to cross into the U.S. illegally, said the Mexican defense minister yesterday in a joint press conference with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The recent increase in border enforcement comes as after Mexico struck a deal with the United States to avert tariffs on all its goods.

THE CARIBBEAN

CUBA: A Russian guided-missile frigate called Admiral Gorshkov entered Havana’s bay yesterday. Docking at a port used by cruise ships until recently, the vessel’s arrival comes at a time of rising tensions between the old Cold War allies and the United States. In the last months, the Trump administration has reinstated travel restrictions and pushed for tougher economic sanctions on the island. One of the most modern ships in Russia’s navy, the Gorshkov had previously made stops in China, Djibouti, and Sri Lanka before arriving in Cuba, where the crew is set to “tour places of historical and cultural interest.”

CENTRAL AMERICA

HONDURAS: The Honduran military reportedly injured at least three students while they participated in anti-government protests at the National University of Honduras (UNAH) in Tegucigalpa. Around three hundred police officers and 40 agents of the Honduran riot police entered UNAH’s campus yesterday and tried to disperse the student demonstrations with tear gas and “live” bullets. UNAH’s president, Francisco Herrera, condemned the “attack on the university’s autonomy,” saying that the university did not authorize the police’s entry.   

COSTA RICA: On Sunday, thousands of Costa Ricans participated in the first Pride Parade since the historic ruling on gay marriage back in November 2018. President Carlos Alvarado was among the attendees in the celebrations, standing behind a banner that read “never again will you walk alone.” Costa Rica will legalize same-sex marriage in May 2020, becoming the first nation to do so in socially-conservative Central America.

THE ANDES

COLOMBIA: Last Friday, yet another murder of a community leader prompted a wave of anger across the country. Two gunmen on a motorcycle shot down María del Pilar Hurtado in Tierralta, in the department of Córdoba, as two of her four children watched. On Sunday, Defense Minister Guillermo Botero was forced to admit that he lied to a local news channel when he said that the ELN guerrilla was guilty of Hurtado’s assassination. The mayor of Tierralta, Fabio Otero, was also caught in a lie after Colombia’s Ombudsman Office rejected his claims that Hurtado was not a social leader after Otera asked “not to politicize” the murder.

PERU: Yesterday, Defense Minister José Huerta died during an official trip to the Peruvian Amazon. Huerta, 71, reportedly suffered a heart attack while visiting Santa María de Nieva, in the northeast part of Peru. Huerta had led the ministry since 2018, and one of his most important tasks was to command an operation in February that evicted thousands of informal gold miners from one of Peru’s mineral-rich areas in its southeast jungle.

SOUTHERN CONE

ARGENTINA: The U.S. Supreme Court rejected to take up an appeal by Argentina, allowing a lawsuit for former shareholders of the now state-run oil company YPF to go forward. Madrid-based Petersen Energía Inversora held 25 percent of the stock at the time YPF was nationalized in 2012 and sought to receive compensation for their shares after the South American country confiscated 51 percent of the energy company. The $3 billion lawsuit makes Argentina liable for the loss of share value after the price collapsed following the company’s nationalization.

URUGUAY: An Italian mafia boss escaped from a prison in Uruguay yesterday. Rocco Morabito, the leader of the ‘Ndrangheta criminal group, also known as the “cocaine king of Milan,” reportedly fled through a hole in the roof of the National Rehabilitation Center holding facility in Montevideo while waiting to be deported to Italy late night Sunday. Morabito, one of Italy’s most wanted fugitives, was arrested in Uruguay in 2017 on charges of illicit association and international drug trafficking after twenty years on the run. Interpol has issued a high-priority arrest warrant for the kingpin and three other inmates who also escaped on Sunday.

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Reporter’s Notebook: What Happens To Pregnant Migrants In Custody

After a year-long investigation, Tina Vasquez of Rewire.News published a three-part series on pregnant migrant women in Texas who are being criminally prosecuted under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy and detained by the U.S. Marshals Service.

Prior to 2017, when pregnant migrant women were apprehended at the border, they would normally be released within a day or two. But under the Trump Administration, pregnant migrants are subject to indefinite detention.

Also, under the administration’s zero-tolerance policy, the government began to criminally prosecute any migrant that crosses illegally into the United States instead of through a port of entry—including pregnant women.

Vasquez’s reporting focuses on pregnant migrant women who are being prosecuted in the Western District of Texas. In part, through the account of an OB-GYN, her series details the challenges migrant women in that area face in getting adequate prenatal care, including that they are sometimes shackled when seeing the doctor.

Latino USA sits down with Tina Vasquez, the immigration reporter at Rewire.News, to talk about her latest reporting—which has been recently cited by members of Congress who are calling for a hearing on this topic.

Featured image by Ulises Ruiz/AFP/Getty Images.

With Boots On The Ground, Mexico Increases Migratory Policing

MEXICO: Mexican security forces began intensifying their crackdown on Central American migration over the weekend. Security forces have reportedly detained over two hundred migrants after officials declared that the deployment of six thousand National Guard agents was “complete” on Friday. Mexican media are reporting that 146 migrants were apprehended in a residence located in San Juan del Río, Querétaro, whereas the Associated Press reported 100 migrants being transported to a detention center yesterday. Elements from the Mexican security forces also prevented migrants from crossing into the United States in the border town of Ciudad Juárez.

HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

NORTH AMERICA

MEXICO: Starting on June 21, the government began auctioning several properties seized from drug traffickers. Ranches with several hectares of land, luxury apartments, and mansions with pools and escape tunnels were among the twenty-seven properties scattered around eleven states up for sale. Only nine properties were sold over the weekend, collecting around 56.6 million pesos ($2.96 million). President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that the funds would be reinvested in “poor communities” in the state of Guerrero.

THE CARIBBEAN

JAMAICA: Thousands of Jamaicans congregated in the capital for the funeral service for former conservative Prime Minister Edward Seaga, in office between 1980 and 1989. During the service, the former leader of the Jamaican Labor Party (JLP) was recognized as a “champion of regional integration” and a “West Kingston transformer.” In his Washington Post obituary, Seaga is recognized as Ronald Reagan’s closest Caribbean ally and is linked with state-sponsored violence of the era, when the JLP used “gun-toting gangsters” to sway votes in their favor.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: A domestic court has ordered an ex-leader in the Dominican Senate and former minister of public works to face trial in a corruption scandal involving construction conglomerate Odebrecht. Former Senate president Andrés Bautista García and Minister Víctor Díaz Rúa allegedly received bribes from Odebrecht between 2001 and 2014. Four other individuals will also face trial, including businessman Ángel Rondón, who along Día Rúa became the primary beneficiaries of the multimillion-dollar corruption scheme.

CENTRAL AMERICA

EL SALVADOR: President Nayib Bukele has asked phone companies to “completely block” signal near Salvadoran penitentiaries. On a Twitter post on Friday, Bukele announced that the four leading mobile providers in El Salvador —Digicel, Movistar, Tigo, and Claro— have “72 hours” to comply with the order, meaning that the signal should be disabled starting today.

The initiative seeks to thwart the criminal gangs’ abilities to conduct operations like kidnapping and extortion from within prisons.

NICARAGUA: On Friday, the Canadian government and the United States Treasury imposed economic sanctions on four high-ranking members of Daniel Ortega’s regime. These include the head of Nicaragua’s National Assembly, Gustavo Porras Cortés; the chief of the state-owned telecommunications company, Orlando Castillo Castillo; Minister of Health, Sonia Castro Gonzalez; and Minister of Transportation, Oscar Mojica Obregón. These punishments freeze their domestic and international assets, barring them from engaging in any monetary transactions.

THE ANDES

VENEZUELA: Six members of the country’s security forces were arrested over the weekend. Family members of the detained officers denounced that the arbitrary detention took place Friday, the same day UN Human Rights Commissioner Michele Bachelet called for all “prisoners” to be released and left the country. Via Twitter, the relatives of Air Force Brigade General Miguel Sisco Mora and Captain Rafael Acosta demanded the Venezuelan government to disclose the officials’ whereabouts.

These arrests come two months after several officials defected from the armed forces following a call by opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

BOLIVIA: An urban art project commissioned by the Bolivian government seeks to use indigenous imagery to transform and revitalize a neighborhood in La Paz. Murals include depictions of Aymara women selling produce, hummingbirds taking flight, and multicolored geometric shapes reminiscent of the Wiphala —the square-shaped flag for indigenous communities in the Andes—, which decorate the walls of the Chaulluma neighborhood in the capital. Known as Mi Qhatu (“market” in Aymara), the project cost an estimated 4.5 million bolivianos ($624,000).

SOUTHERN CONE

CHILE: On Saturday, the Chilean foreign minister announced that Venezuelans seeking asylum in the country would be able to apply for a “democratic responsibility” visa. This particular document grants applicants a temporary residence permit for one year, which can be extended once, and subsequently allowing for a permanent residence application. Venezuelans will be able to begin applying for the visa in any Chilean consulate in the world today.

BRAZIL: An estimated three million people participated in São Paulo’s Pride Parade yesterday. The massive crowds paraded down the city’s main thoroughfare, Avenida Paulista, where members of the Brazilian LGBTQ community commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, which will host World Pride on Sunday, June 30. Amid a tense political climate, local and international performers participated in the 23rd edition of the largest Pride Parade in Brazil, known as the “best” in the world by HomeToGo, a tourism website.

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As Honduran Protestors Demand His Ouster, President Hernández Deploys The Military

HONDURAS: Anti-government demonstrators have erected roadblocks across the country as they continue to protest against President Juan Orlando Hernández, clashing with state security forces in multiple points across Honduras. President Hernández has deployed the military in the streets of Tegucigalpa after overnight protests on Wednesday left two dead. In the capital, gas stations were attacked, and businesses were looted as demonstrators demanded that the president stepped down. Hernández has been embroiled in several controversies, the most recent being a probe launched by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for alleged drug trafficking.

HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

NORTH AMERICA

MEXICO: President Andrés Manuel López Obrador hosted his Salvadoran counterpart Nayib Bukele in southern Mexico yesterday. Immigration was at the center of the bilateral meeting celebrated in Chiapas, with both presidents discussing a comprehensive development plan for Central America that allows for citizens of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to remain in their countries. Luis García Rey Villagrán, the spokesperson for the migrant community in Mexico, demanded more presence of his constituency in the talks that are defining this new migratory policy.

MEXICO: A group of Mexican researchers has confirmed the existence of 1,606 clandestine graves around the country. Coordinated by the Universidad Iberoamericana, the study has found that these secret burials contain 2,489 bodies, most of the casualties resulting from an escalating conflict between rival drug cartels between 2006 and 2017. Researchers emphasized that these numbers put in evidence the “massive disinformation” that for decades has obscured violence-related data.

THE CARIBBEAN

PUERTO RICO: The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take the issue of Puerto Rico’s financial crisis as part of its judicial agenda at the end of the year. A ruling by a lower court earlier this year stated that oversight board members, tasked with handling the island’s crippling finances, were appointed unconstitutionally. New board members remain to be appointed by the White House. The Justices are set to review the constitutionality of the initial appointments during the second week of October of this year.

ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA: A sprawling urban development project funded with Chinese capital has raised concerns over environmental risks in Antigua and Barbuda. Nicknamed  “the Chinese colony” by locals, Yida, the 200-acre infrastructure plan in the eastern part of Antigua, includes a housing section, a manufacturing hub with three factories, and holiday resorts. Environmental activists believe Yida’s construction will decimate valuable parts of the coastal vegetation of the area, destroying buffer zones that protect locals in case of a hurricane. Antigua and Barbuda became the first Caribbean nation to join the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s global trade project that spans the entire globe.

CENTRAL AMERICA

GUATEMALA: The country’s Electoral Tribunal (TSE) announced yesterday that it would review the vote count at each polling station, following allegations of fraud by several candidates after the general elections on June 16. Inconsistencies in the vote count were revealed after officials at several voting centers said that the digital records provided by the TSE did not add up to the physical votes they tallies. Recount begins of the 21,099 stations start Monday.

THE ANDES

PERU: A new scientific approach has provided a new way to read and understand the famous desert etchings in Nazca. An article published by Japanese researchers in the Journal of Archeological Science: Reports uses an ornithological approach —the study of birds— to show that the geoglyphs depict birds from Peru’s forests and coastal areas. Among those pictured are two hummingbirds, a flamingo, a duck, and a long-tailed mockingbird, according to the researchers.

ECUADOR: The country’s Constitutional Court has approved an Australian-owned copper, gold, and silver mine after ruling against community consultations regarding a large mining project in the northern provinces of Imbabura and Carachi. Ecuadorean authorities have said that the Cascabel mine could become the largest underground silver mines in the world, able to yield up to 1.4 million ounces of the precious metal in its first 25 years of operation. SolGold, the mining company that owns the mine, has also estimated 10.9 million tonnes of copper and 23 million tonnes of gold.

SOUTHERN CONE

CHILE: La Pintana, an impoverished municipality in the outskirts of Santiago, leads waste recycling at 140 tonnes per week in Chile. The initiative began in 2005 as a financial means to save municipal funds from expenditure in waste management. Despite its 42 percent poverty rate, residents of La Pitana have created a scheme that includes a compositing and vermiculture plant. When waste is processed, the ‘dark earth’ becomes fertilizer for a nearby community garden at a nursery.

BRAZIL: A Brazilian subsidiary of Walmart has agreed to pay $282.7 million after being found guilty of foreign corruption in a U.S. court, settling both criminal and civil charges. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) concluded that Walmart Brazil violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) after court filings showed a $527,000 payment in 2011 to an intermediary that facilitated permit contracts, earning him the nickname of feiticeiro, or “sorceress.” Under the FCPA, U.S. companies are forbidden to receive or give bribes to obtain or retain businesses.

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Comedian Arturo Castro Finds Humor In This Political Moment

Arturo Castro is a Guatemalan actor and writer best known for playing “Jaime” on Comedy Central’s “Broad City” and cartel leader David Rodriguez on Netflix’s “Narcos.” Now, after a decade in the business, Castro is taking the lead and starring in his own sketch show on Comedy Central.

“Alternatino with Arturo Castro” is about Castro’s identity as an immigrant and navigating life as a Latinx millennial. However, Castro makes it clear that you don’t have to be Latinx to enjoy the show. From a sketch about a depressed robot to a father having a birds and bees talk with his son—he says there is something for everyone in his show.

We sit down with Arturo Castro to talk about how he got his start in comedy and how he often draws on the cultural and political moment while writing sketches.

Featured image by Cara Howe. 

Brazil’s Crumbling Political Culture Laid Bare As Impartiality Of Operation Car Wash Judge Questioned

EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Latino USA.

By Marieke Riethof, University of Liverpool

The front cover of the Brazilian conservative magazine Veja of June 19 shows a crumbling Roman bust of judge Sergio Moro, once a national hero in the country’s fight against corruption. Moro was the leading figure in the Lava Jato, or “Operation Car Wash” anti-corruption investigation, the largest in Brazil’s history, which led to the conviction and imprisonment of major political figures, including, controversially, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The magazine’s headline was “Desmoronando”, a play on Moro’s name and the word “falling apart”. It followed the shockwaves from the publication of alleged leaked messages from the Car Wash team published by The Intercept Brazil on June 9 that engulfed Moro in a new scandal.

Damaging Leaks

Moro began his career as a judge in the southern state of Curitiba with an interest in financial misconduct. He became responsible for Operation Car Wash in 2014 and his popularity in Brazil grew on the back of the mass anti-corruption demonstrations that followed the Car Wash revelations. He was also courted and celebrated by commentators from abroad, even making it onto Fortune Magazine’s list of “world’s greatest leaders” in 2016.

After Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil in 2018, Moro entered government as the new justice minister.

The Intercept’s reporting alleges that the anti-corruption drive that helped bring Bolsonaro to power in 2018 became highly politicized. The alleged leaked transcripts of conversations between the Car Wash team suggest that, as the judge presiding over the investigations, Moro colluded with the prosecutors who were building cases against corrupt politicians and entrepreneurs. Most notably, the leaked transcripts allege that when prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol had doubts about the corruption allegations against Lula, Moro suggested how the case could be constructed, leading to Lula’s eventual imprisonment in 2018. Moro has questioned the authenticity of the messages and said he had always acted within the law, when he appeared before a Senate committee on June 19.

Lula had been the clear frontrunner to succeed President Michel Temer, who came to power after the impeachment of his successor, Dilma Rousseff in 2016. But Lula was prevented from being a presidential candidate in 2018 after his conviction for corruption. The perception on the Brazilian left was that Operation Car Wash was used to imprison Lula in order to prevent him from being a presidential candidate in 2018—suspicions which The Intercept’s reporting would appear to support.

Impact On Bolsonaro

Allegations of collusion between politicians and judges —and which if proved, is illegal in Brazil— might lead to a serious political and constitutional crisis in most countries. But Bolsonaro’s reaction to the allegations has been to try and minimize the damage that he might accrue by his association with Moro, who he appointed as justice minister, while also maintaining his government’s political and ideological shape. Despite his ambitious far-right political program, Bolsonaro has been unable to establish the foundation for a clear legislative program.

Despite the right-wing majority in Brazil’s congress, Bolsonaro has not managed to achieve the government majority he needs for his proposals. His controversial pension reforms were delayed in April 2019 because he could not count on a majority in Congress. And in mid-June, his flagship proposal to loosen gun control was defeated in a Senate committee. Meanwhile, his government has also been marked by factionalism and internal struggles, reflecting competing interests and ideological perspectives.

What little Bolsonaro has said about Moro’s future suggests that he will keep the judge in post as justice minister if at all possible. But in the week following the publication of The Intercept revelations, Bolsonaro dismissed Carlos dos Santos Cruz, his secretary of government, who was considered a relative moderate. The move was sparked by conflicts between Santos Cruz, the president’s son Carlos Bolsonaro, and the U.S.-based Olavo Carvalho, also known as Bolsonaro’s intellectual guru.

The Intercept’s allegations have shown that the anti-corruption drive —ironically often based on secretly recorded material— is a double-edged sword. Despite attempts by the right to say corruption is unique to the Workers’ Party of Lula and Rousseff, corruption allegations have been leveled at Brazilian politicians across the ideological spectrum.

The new allegations of political bias and collusion in the fight against corruption also raise questions about Brazil’s democratic culture and its capacity to rejuvenate itself.

Although Bolsonaro has to govern within democratic institutions and processes, given his frequently stated support for Brazil’s military dictatorship his election reflects the erosion of Brazil’s hard-won constitution, a country which only returned to democracy in 1985. Despite the short-term ramifications of The Intercept’s revelations, the contradictions of Operation Car Wash are yet another indication of an uncertain future for Brazil’s fragile democracy.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.