The Andes
Quito police

Ecuador votes to approve tightened security measures

Ecuadorans voted to approve a number of security proposals from President Daniel Noboa as the South American country experiences a surge in violence that has claimed the lives of multiple public officials. Among the proposals was a measure to amend Ecuador’s constitution to allow the armed forces to fight organized crime alongside the police. The vote also included a “popular consultation,” containing six non-binding proposals. Among those approved was a proposal to increase penalties for crimes such as murder, human trafficking, drug trafficking and arms trafficking. (Photo: Indymedia Ecuador)

Central America
Panama

Protests prompt Panama mining moratorium

Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo announced that he will hold a referendum to determine the fate of a contentious mega-mining contract, after several days of the country’s largest protests in decades. Cortizo also said he would instate a moratorium on any new mining projects in response to the protests, a move signed into law on Panama’s independence day. The protests, driven by environmental concerns, were sparked by the National Assembly’s earlier vote to award an extended concession to Canadian company First Quantum, allowing it to operate the largest open-pit copper mine on the Central American isthmus for another 20 years. The Cobre Panamá mine, in ColĂłn province, has faced strong opposition from local residents since it opened in 2019, but extension of the contract brought thousands of angry demonstrators to the streets of Panama City. The protests reached the doors of the capital’s Marriott Hotel, where regional environment ministers were meeting for the Latin America & the Caribbean Climate Week summit. (Photo via Twitter)

Central America
guna

Relocation of Panama coastal islanders stalled

Human Rights Watch released a report critiquing the Panamanian government’s lax efforts to assist coastal indigenous peoples with relocation as their ancestral homelands are destroyed by climate change. The report focuses on the island of Gardi Sugdub and its Guna indigenous inhabitants. The residents of Gardi Sugdub have been planning an evacuation from the island due to rising sea levels since 2017. However, HRW charges that the Panamanian government’s promised support for the evacuation has been slow to come: little work has been done at the site residents are being relocated to on the mainland, with the location still lacking sewage, water, garbage removal and health services. Additionally, there may not be enough water supply in wells on site to support Gardi Sugdub residents, even if water service is connected. (Photo: Congress hall on Gardi Sugdub. Credit: Erica Bower/HRW)

Planet Watch
ColĂłn

Vatican rejects ‘Doctrine of Discovery’

Following a long campaign by indigenous peoples around the world, the Vatican announced a formal rejection of the 15th century “Doctrine of Discovery.” In a statement, the Church said it “repudiates those concepts that fail to recognize the inherent rights of indigenous peoples.” The Doctrine of Discovery arose from several papal bulls, key amongst them the Inter Caetera, issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493. The document effectively granted Spain the right to claim newly “discovered” areas unoccupied by Christians. The Doctrine, which the Vatican now states was “manipulated for political purposes by colonial powers,” found its way into the common law of several nations. In the United States, the Doctrine was enshrined in the famous 1823 property rights case Johnson v. M’Intosh. That opinion, written by Chief Justice John Marshall, subjugated indigenous land claims to those of the US government, allowing federal authorities to seize large portions of indigenous land and sell it to white settlers. (Photo: statue of Christopher Columbus in ColĂłn, Panama. Via Wikimedia Commons)

The Andes
Francia-Petro

Colombia: pending presidency ‘between two populisms’

Following a first round of presidential elections, “between two populisms” is the catchphrase being used by Colombia’s media for an unprecedented moment. A pair of political “outsiders” are to face each other in the run-off: Gustavo Petro, a former guerilla leader and Colombia’s first leftist presidential contender, versus Rodolfo Hernández, a construction magnate whose pugnacious swagger inevitably invites comparison to Donald Trump. Hernández, an independent candidate and the former mayor of Bucaramanga, rose precipitously in an ostensibly anti-establishment campaign driven by social media, winning him the epithet “King of TikTok.” But Colombia’s political establishment is now lining up behind him to defeat Petro. The former mayor of Bogotá and a veteran of the demobilized M-19 guerillas, Petro is the candidate of a new progressive coalition, Colombia Humana, emphasizing multiculturalism and ecology as well as more traditional social justice demands. (Photo via Twitter)

Central America

Honduras transition in the New Cold War

Hondurans elected self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” Xiomara Castro to be the country’s first woman president. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, the populist president who was removed in a coup in 2009, Castro pledges to revive his program—and take it much further, instating far-reaching reforms. Castro also announced that she will “open diplomatic and commercial relations with continental China,” which was widely taken as meaning a switch of diplomatic recognition. Honduras is currently one of only 14 countries that recognize Taipei rather than Beijing.  It is tragic to see the Central American republics, in their struggle to break free of Washington’s orbit, acquiesce in Beijing’s design to incorporate Taiwan into its own orbit—or, more ambitiously, its national territory.  (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Central America
Darién

Danger grows on Darién Gap migrant route

The DariĂ©n Gap, a dangerous jungle route used by a growing number of migrants trying to reach the United States from South America, has become even deadlier, according to Panama’s Forensic Sciences Institute. It reports over 50 migrant deaths to date in 2021, although the figure is believed to be far higher. Towns on the Colombian side of the border are swelling with migrants waiting to cross the Gap—mostly Haitians, Cubans and Venezuelans, but some from as far as Afghanistan and Burkina Faso. Colombian authorities say 67,000 migrants have passed through the border zone so far this year, more than 15 times the number in 2020. Former paramilitaries operating in the area are now preying on the migrants, who face rape, armed violence and extortion. (Photo: David González/TNH)

Greater Middle East

Yemen: rights group accuses UAE of war crimes

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR-UK) called for the International Criminal Court to investigate allegations of war crimes in Yemen by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), especially concerning the recruiting of foreign nationals to serve in an army of mercenaries. AOHR-UK alleges that the mercenaries began work under contract to the UAE in March 2015 and have conducted military operations in Yemen, in addition to supervising secret prisons in which Yemeni citizens have been subjected to torture.

Central America

Taiwan sacrificed to Central America geopolitics

Panama is the latest Central American nation to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Bejing—under pressure of China's fast-growing economic presence on the isthmus.

The Andes

Panama Papers pummel Peru politicians

Four of Peru's presidential candidates, including far-right front-runner Keiko Fujimori, have been implicated in the "Panama Papers" revelations.