PERU: President Martín Vizcarra dissolved Peru’s opposition-led Congress last night after lawmakers pushed through a controversial vote. Members of Congress then moved to suspend Vizcarra, though it’s unclear if their actions have any meaning now. Earlier that day, lawmakers elected Gonzalo Ortiz de Zevallos to the Constitutional Tribunal, which Vizcarra opposed, prompting him to order the dissolution. Ortiz de Zevallos is related to the president of Congress and has no judicial experience.
Vizcarra’s move is part of his anti-corruption agenda, which has pitted him against the majority of lawmakers, who are led by Keiko Fujimori, a jailed former presidential candidate and the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori. Though the dissolution of Congress casts a shadow of uncertainty on the country’s politics and leadership, Peruvians are likely to support Vizcarra’s decision as Peru grapples with fallout from the Odebrecht corruption scandal.
HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
BRAZIL: At the gates of Brasilia’s presidential palace yesterday, President Jair Bolsonaro encouraged teenage students to read a book by infamous torturer Brilhante Ustra. Ustra has been accused of directing interrogations, tortures and kidnappings during Brazil’s dictatorship. Bolsonaro has previously praised the dictatorship and Ustra, speaking in support of the 1964-1985 military regime and referencing the author during his speeches to congress in 2016.
URUGUAY: Senior government officials met with customs agents and exporters to determine what is making the smallest Spanish-speaking country in South America an international drug trafficking hub. According to Attorney General Jorge Díaz, “certain controls have been weakened or are not at the level they should be.” Uruguay’s controls focus on imports rather than exports, since exports represent 12.6% of the country’s gross domestic product and are crucial to the economy. As a result, less than 3% of containers leaving the port of Montevideo are inspected.
BOLIVIA: Approximately 200 Bolivians from an Indigenous group in the Chiquitanía region protested yesterday to urge President Evo Morales to take action on fires that have destroyed 2.9 million hectares in the region. Morales has yet to declare the fires a national emergency and has been criticized for passing a decree in July that allows farmers to perform “controlled burning” so they can plant more. The fires have shifted the historical support the president has enjoyed from Indigenous groups.
PANAMA: Panama’s decision whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage is stuck in the country’s Supreme Court. The firm Morgan & Morgan filed a lawsuit in 2016 claiming that Article 26 of the Family Code is unconstitutional because it stipulates that marriage is “between a man and a woman.” Magistrate Luis Ramón Fábrega has since written two decisions, while other attorneys suggest a national referendum to let the people decide.
REGION: Latin America and the Caribbean are close to eradicating rabies deaths in the region, according to an announcement that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) made in Brazil over the weekend. Reporting by Caribbean360 shows only five cases of the disease were reported last year in the region, and Haiti and the Dominican Republic are the only countries where rabies-related deaths occurred. PAHO has been working on eliminating rabies in the region since 1982 and aims to eradicate it by 2022.
JAMAICA: Yesterday, the Jamaican Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries announced a new partnership with Harvard University’s International Phytomedicines and Medical Cannabis Institute to work on initiatives to strengthen Jamaica’s role in the cannabis industry. Representatives from Harvard will tour the island’s key facilities through Wednesday as part of the agreement.
MEXICO: Topo Chico Prison, one of Mexico’s oldest and most notorious prisons, has officially been shut down. In 2016, Topo Chico Prison was the site of a violent prison riot that left 49 inmates dead. At the time, there were only 100 guards for an inmate population of 3,800 people. Current Nuevo León Gov. Jaime Rodríguez stated that previous administrations knew the prison was overpopulated and out of control, yet failed to act. Rodríguez said that in the prison’s place the government will construct a park and state archives.
MEXICO: In Guanajuato, police officers are leaving the state police force to join higher paying municipal forces. Gov. Diego Sinhue Rodríguez Vallejo had aimed to reach a state police force of over 14,000, but he says the goal is unattainable with police changing forces. However, he has also said he believes security is built from the local level and is content with police joining municipal forces instead. Salaries for new recruits in Irapuato, Guanajauato, León, Pénjamo and San Miguel de Allende are around $910 a month. In places like Celaya, where extortion for business owners is a serious problem, the salaries are only $660.
UNITED STATES: A federal judge has rejected a bid made by Pedro Flores, a key witness in the case against Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, for a lesser prison sentence. Court filings released yesterday reveal that Flores asked for a reduction to his 14-year sentence in July. He claimed that he was risking his life by testifying against El Chapo last year. Flores claims that in his testimonies in New York against El Chapo, he went beyond the cooperation agreement made by prosecutors. However, the federal judge said he made considerations for Flores’ assistance, reducing Flores’s sentence to 14 years from life.