Displaying items by tag: Latin America
In October we prayed for the presidential election in Ecuador. Now millionaire Daniel Noboa has been sworn in as president, marking a significant shift in the country's political landscape. A businessman with no prior political experience, he surprisingly won the snap election which former president Guillermo Lasso called to avoid possible impeachment. He will serve only 18 months, the remainder of Lasso’s term. Once considered one of the safest countries in the region, Ecuador has seen violence explode in recent years; there was an unprecedented increase in bloodshed, and drug violence has led to some 3,600 murders so far this year. Noboa has said he will target the violence by tackling unemployment, but also implement a state of emergency, suspend some citizen rights such as freedom of movement, and deploy the military to the streets. There is a considerable sense of uncertainty and anticipation surrounding his presidency.
Opinion polls are showing an increasingly tight race between Peronist economy minister Sergio Massa and radical libertarian Javier Milei ahead of a runoff ballot for president on 19 November. The two candidates offer polarised visions for the embattled Latin American country, the region's third largest economy, a major supplier of grains, beef and lithium, but also the largest debtor to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). One recent survey showed Massa ahead with 42.4% of the likely vote against Milei on 39.7%, his lead more than cut in half versus the previous poll in late October. He is still seen as the candidate to beat, but Milei has gained ground, winning the backing of conservative Patricia Bullrich, who finished third in the first-round vote, and her powerful ally, former President Mauricio Macri. Significantly, with some 18% of those polled remaining unsure, the outcome is hard to call.
Two indigenous families in rural Mexico, previously unaware of God's existence, were profoundly impacted by audio recordings of the Gospel of Mark in their tribal language. This led them to embrace Christianity and attend church services. They said that listening to the audios helped them understand Jesus' purpose on Earth, inspiring them to accept God into their hearts. Some members had been suffering from an incurable disease but attributed their complete healing to their newfound faith. Despite a history of tribal beliefs, one family member thanked God for His Word in their language and the worker who shared the recordings. This success reinforces the importance of continuing translation efforts to bring the message of redemption and salvation to people in their native languages. Pray that everyone can access and be transformed by God's Word in the language of their hearts. Various projects, including translating the Book of Jonah, have contributed to this mission, promoting literacy and understanding in indigenous communities.
The USA is easing sanctions on Venezuela after the government and opposition agreed on 17 October to have next year's election monitored by international observers. They also promised to give all candidates access to public and private media, and to guarantee their free and safe movement throughout the country. In addition, the two sides have agreed to update the voter registries, to ensure that the millions of Venezuelans who have emigrated can exercise their right to vote. But the opposition and the government still disagree on whether the agreement allows for the exclusion of opposition frontrunner María Corina Machado. US sanctions will be eased on Venezuela's oil, gas and gold sectors, but other sanctions imposed over the suppression of protests and the erosion of democracy remain in place. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called for the release of ‘all wrongfully detained US nationals and Venezuelan political prisoners’.
Tension is rising in Guatemala, where protests by supporters of president-elect Bernardo Arévalo have run into a second week. They are demanding the resignation of attorney-general Consuelo Porras, who they accuse of plotting to prevent Mr Arévalo from taking office. He won the presidential election by a landslide in August, but just hours later his party was suspended by the supreme electoral tribunal - a move widely viewed as an attempt to stop Mr Arévalo, a political outsider who has campaigned against corruption, from being sworn in as planned. Ms Porras argues that the party was not properly registered, but critics point out that she only launched her investigation after Mr Arévalo secured a spot in the run-off. The protests intensified last week as demonstrators blocked key roads across the country, causing fuel and food shortages and paralysing traffic. The outgoing president, Alejandro Giammattei, condemned the blockades, and asked Mr Arévalo to sit down with mediators sent by the Organisation of American States (OAS), to ensure a peaceful handover of power.
Left-leaning Luisa González and centrist Daniel Noboa have faced each other in the last debate before the run-off election on 15 October. The debate gave both candidates a platform to address long-simmering issues in the country. The economy remains Ecuador’s Achilles heel: at the end of 2022, debt alone accounted for 57 percent of the GDP. The other major issue facing the candidates is crime. Ecuador, once one of the most peaceful countries in Latin America, is now on track to become the third-most violent country in the region. In August, that violence spilled over with the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio in Quito. Since then, candidates have been wearing bullet-proof vests. Noboa is ahead in the polls, but many Ecuadorians have not yet made up their minds about who to vote for.
The Venezuelan government has announced that it has regained control of a notorious jail, which had been controlled by the powerful Tren de Aragua criminal gang. Some 11,000 security personnel stormed the Tocorón prison, which had been run by inmates for years and had hotel-like facilities including a pool, nightclub and a mini zoo. It doubled up as the gang’s headquarters. From it, Tren de Aragua ruled a criminal enterprise spanning several Latin American countries and reaching as far as Chile. Its members engage in human trafficking, run prostitution rings, and extort migrants. One commentator said that the clearing of the prison did not automatically constitute the end of the gang. ‘Their centre of operations has been closed down, but the leaders of this organisation and its cells abroad can continue functioning’, she said.
Elections in Guatemala and Ecuador are a test of democracy as both have a climate of corruption, tension and violence in politics. In Guatemala’s election on 20 August, anti-corruption candidate Bernardo Arévalo won, despite Guatemala’s court recently ordering his political party into suspension, triggering massive protests and unrest. He denounced the police raid that followed, stating it was an act of ‘political persecution’. Also on 20 August Ecuador voted for a president. Rampant crime blamed on drug gangs, a struggling economy, and a rise in unemployment and migration are the top concerns of voters. The candidate standing against corruption and organised crime was assassinated on 9 August. There was no outright winner on the 20th. The runoff will be on 15 October, between leftist candidate Luisa Gonzalez and businessman politician Daniel Noboa. Noboa wants to implement harsh policies in relation to crime, and talks about security, which appeals to those unhappy with the current political system.
From 7 to 9 August, eight Amazonian nations met in Brazil hoping to agree on future strategies to protect the rainforest while sustainably developing the region. President Lula called this summit for the eight South American countries sharing a slice of the Amazon. It is the first time in 45 years that there has been a meeting to ensure a regional response to combat deforestation, crime and climate change. Three days before the event, a pre-summit meeting of civil society representatives agreed on an alliance to combat deforestation, but each country will pursue its own conservation goals when the heads of state discuss and make decisions. President Lula said that previous meetings were just talk, talk, talk, and nothing happened, and this meeting is the first great opportunity for people to show the world what they want to do. Experts and conservationists have hailed the event as a turning point for the future of the Amazon rainforest. See also
Brazilian president Lula wants his Nicaraguan counterpart, Daniel Ortega, to free Bishop Rolando Alvarez, who was sent to prison for over 26 years for refusing to leave Nicaragua after Ortega expelled him with 222 other political prisoners to America. He had been locked up for sermons unflattering to the government. Because he refused to leave, he was sent to a maximum-security cell. President Lula said, ‘There is no reason for the bishop to be prevented from exercising his function in the Church. The only thing the Church wants is for Nicaragua to free him.’ While Brazil and Nicaragua have good relations, ties between the Vatican and the Central American state have been severely strained following a crackdown on anti-government protests in 2018, when the Church acted as a mediator between them. Lula said that Ortega should recognise that a mistake had been made.