Chilean President Sebastian Piñera arrives at La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, Monday Nov. 8, 2021 (AP Photo Esteban Felix)
This Week in Latin America

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera impeached

November 14, 2021 By Staff

THIS WEEK IN LATIN AMERICA

CHILE: The lower house on Tuesday impeached President Sebastian Piñera over alleged financial misconduct revealed in the Pandora Papers. Seventy-eight of the 155 members of the lower house voted to move forward with the charges. 

The congressional session lasted almost 23 hours. An opposition member stalled for more than 14 hours to ensure that a colleague who was completing a period of mandatory quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 would be able to vote. The bill passed with the minimum number of votes required.

The charges relate to alleged government involvement in the sale of a mine owned by the Piñera family through an offshore account in the British Virgin Islands during his first term in office. A 2017 investigation into the transaction cleared Piñera of any wrongdoing. However, the public prosecutor’s office last month reopened the case following the release of previously unseen documents in the Pandora Papers leak.

The Senate trial is set to begin on either Tuesday or Wednesday. A ‘guilty’ verdict would require 29 votes in favor. The opposition currently holds 24 seats in the 43-member chamber. 

SOUTHERN CONE

ARGENTINA: The governing Frente de Todos party will lose control of the upper house for the first time in 38 years following the midterm elections yesterday. 

The party of President Alberto Fernández looks set to maintain a plurality of seats in the Senate, 35 of 72. However, this is two short of the number needed to pass legislation without the support of other parties. The opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio gained five seats, taking their total to 31.

In voting for the house of representatives, at the time of writing, Juntos por el Cambio received 42.5% of the vote to Frente de Todos 33.8%.

Electoral participation was estimated at 71%.

ANDES

ECUADOR: Ecuador has seen yet another bloody episode of prison violence that left 68 inmates dead on Saturday. The clashes occurred at the Litoral Penitentiary in Guayaquil, where last September, 119 inmates were killed.

Police tactical units responded to gunshots and reports of riots in the prison on Friday night. Authorities said that a dispute broke out after a prisoner’s early release, leaving a section of the prison without its ringleader. 

The prisoners acquired smuggled guns and explosives through delivery vehicles and sometimes drones, according to officials. 

Gang violence is responsible for the deaths of more than 300 inmates in Ecuador’s prisons this year. The nation’s prisons are well over capacity, with the Litoral Penitentiary currently holding 8,500 inmates despite being designed for 5,300. 

VENEZUELA: Venezuela’s National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras and Choirs gathered at the military academy in Caracas on Saturday, in an effort to break the record for the world’s largest orchestra. While the final tally has not been declared, the country’s music network hoped to gather 12,000 musicians. 

In a one-hour concert, performers played Tchaikovsky’s “Slavonic March,” the Venezuelan national anthem, and a version of the popular song “Alma Llanera,” which many consider Venezuela’s unofficial anthem. 

The current world record was set in 2019 in St. Petersburg, Russia, in an event involving 8,097 musicians. The Guinness World Records will determine in the next ten days if the record was broken. 

CARIBBEAN 

CUBA: Anti-government protests are expected to take place today in Cuba. The Cuban government previously rejected organizers’ request for permission to stage a demonstration, alleging that anti-Castro Miami Cubans and the U.S. government were behind an attempt to destabilize the country.

A Facebook group called ‘Archipiélago’ has urged people to take to the streets despite warnings from the administration of President Miguel Díaz-Canel. Díaz-Canel said on Friday that the government “is prepared to defend the Revolution [and] to face any interventionist action…”

Archipiélago organized what they call, ‘the Civic March for Change’. Their stated aims for the demonstration are to hold “a peaceful march to achieve rights and build a new social pact.”

PUERTO RICO: Judge Anthony Cuevas on Wednesday issued an arrest order for LUMA Energy CEO Wayne Stensby. Stensby was held in contempt of court for failing to submit all documents requested by the House of Representatives for the ongoing investigation into the company’s management of the island’s power grid.

The judge later suspended the arrest order after an emergency meeting in which lawyers for Luma argued that they had complied with all requests for information.

Lawyers representing the energy company and the House of Representatives have until Monday to jointly confirm that all documents requested were submitted.

After Luma Energy took over electricity distribution in June, blackouts in Puerto Rico have become increasingly frequent. Legislators are therefore conducting investigations into the reasons for these occurrences.

CENTRAL AMERICA

EL SALVADOR: President Nayib Bukele deployed troops on Thursday to patrol the streets of San Salvador after a surge in murders. 12 homicides were reported on Tuesday and an additional 12 on Wednesday.  

Bukele announced a plan to increase patrols to end the violence but did not provide details on the number of troops or the duration of the operation. A government source said that the troops would patrol San Salvador’s most populated areas

In the coming years, Bukele’s administration intends to double the military from 20,000 to 40,000 troops. Critics of the president claim that his actions are authoritarian. 

Since Bukele took office in 2019, homicides have dropped by nearly 60 percent. Methods to reduce the number of murders have been criticized by human rights groups. 

HONDURAS: A surprise three-day visit to Taiwan from the outgoing Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández began on Friday, just weeks before the Honduran presidential election.    

Hernández met with President Tsai Ing-wen to commemorate 80 years of diplomatic relations between Honduras and Taiwan.

The self-governed island fears that relations with Honduras will cease once Hernández leaves office in January. Honduran presidential candidate, Xiomara Castro openly favors China and said that she would establish relations with the Chinese government.

China does not recognize the island as an independent nation – and continues to persuade countries to switch their diplomatic recognition of Taiwan from independent to a province of China. 

Other Latin American and Caribbean nations that maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan include Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Paraguay.

NORTH AMERICA

MEXICO: Farmers armed with rifles gathered in Chiapas on Friday to reject a Supreme Court ruling over a decades-old land dispute. The group Pueblos Autónomos en Defensa de sus Tierras, assembled to declare their autonomy and refused the ruling that granted neighboring Oaxaca 400,000 acres of land. 

The group demanded intervention from the Mexican president to help them defend their land and overturn the ruling. 

The Supreme Court’s new decision allows up to six months for both territories to modify any local laws to settle their boundaries. 

The conflict began in 1967 when Oaxaca argued that the creation of a new Chiapas municipality occupied Oaxacan ancestral territory. The dispute flared once more in 2011.  

US/MEXICO/CANADA: The White House announced on Wednesday that President Joe Biden is set to host a face-to-face summit with Mexican and Canadian leaders this week.

The meeting will address matters including the COVID-19 pandemic, and the improvement of supply chains in North America. The White House said that the summit will revitalize the countries’ “strong ties” and open a “new path for collaboration.”

The last summit was held in 2016. Donald Trump suspended the traditional talks during his tenure. The Biden administration has tried to normalize relations between the three nations that grew unbalanced under Trump’s. 

The three nations abide by the United States-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement (USMCA) that controls about $1.5 trillion in North American trade annually.

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