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Catch up on the news with Open Americas! 

Lula in Brazil, Cuba's new president, Pope Francis and sexual abuse in Chile, Journalists dead on Ecuador's northern border, Guatemala and Belize border conflict, Summit of the Americas addresses corruption


The country remains divided following the imprisonment of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last week, who is charged with accepting bribes in a corruption case that is sweeping the nation. Lula supporters have protested by occupying the former president’s beach residence, which is an imperative part of the corruption trial. Over 60 congress members have undergone official name changes to add “Lula” to show their support. Now, the Supreme Court will decide in the next couple days if they will reverse the 2016 decision under which Lula is imprisoned. The 2016 ruling allowed defendants to be imprisoned if their convictions are upheld on appeal. If this decision is reversed, it will mean Lula and several leading businessmen and politicians will be released from prison. Lula still leads in polls for October’s presidential election, and right-wing parties are using his sentencing to boost their party support.


Pope Francis apologized in a letter on Wednesday for the “grave errors” he made by ignoring the sexual abuse cases in Chile when he defended Bishop Juan Barros, who was accused of covering up the sexual abuse of Reverend Fernando Karadima. Karadima is notorious in Chile for sexually abusing minors and was forced by the Vatican to retire into a “life of prayer and penitence” in 2011. Following the Pope’s remarks while in Chile accusing the victims of “slander,” there was public outcry and the Pope sent a delegation to investigate further. The delegation put together a 2,300-page report filled with the testimonies of the victims. The Pope’s letter invited representatives of the victims to the Vatican so he could personally apologize to them and summoned Chile’s 32 bishops to meet at the Vatican in May to discuss clerical sexual abuse. Pope Francis aims to repair “sexual scandal where possible” and establish justice for victims.

On Wednesday, Cuba’s National Assembly selected Miguel Díaz-Canel to succeed Raúl Castro as Cuba’s next President. Díaz-Canel was the only candidate selected by the national assembly, and his selection is was confirmed Thursday, making him the new President of Cuba. Many Cubans are hopeful that Díaz-Canel will bring change, as he will be the first leader in over 40 years to not be a Castro. However, many remain indifferent as Raúl handpicked Díaz-Canel to be his successor and will remain head of the Communist Party. In his first speech to the nation, Díaz-Canel said he will defend the socialist revolution and modernize the country’s economy.

President Lenín Moreno announced Friday that the two journalists and their driver who disappeared along the Colombian border late last month are officially dead. Body remains were found but have not yet been identified. The announcement of the deaths comes after the Oliver Sinisterra Front, a faction of the FARC led by “El Guacho,” issued a statement Wednesday. Moreno gave the captors time to demonstrate the hostages were still alive, but the FARC failed to do so. Moreno is currently meeting with top military advisors to discuss deploying soldiers to the northern border.  


In a referendum on Sunday, Guatemalans voted to send their nation’s border dispute with Belize to the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ). Belize gained its independence in 1981, but Guatemala still claims that 11,000 square kilometers - half of Belize’s territory - still belongs to it. In Sunday’s vote, 90% of Guatemalans supported ICJ intervention in the conflict. Belize has yet to set a date for its referendum.

Summit of the Americas
The Summit of the Americas met over the weekend and was centered around the theme of “Democratic Governance against Corruption.” The main topics of the summit included the corruption from high-level politicians that is apparent in almost all countries in the region, the crisis and upcoming elections in Venezuela, and regional consensus on Syria. Leaders agreed on the need for "improvements in transparency of public tenders, more independent and accountable judiciaries and stronger international cooperation on money laundering." The United States, represented by vice president Mike Pence, led the charge in denouncing Venezuela’s “sham” elections and urging other countries to follow its lead. Other countries showed support by filing a joint statement pushing for international organizations to assist Colombia and Brazil, who have seen the most refugees as Venezuelans flee the nation. However, Pence’s remarks were overshadowed by US President Donald Trump’s absence and his airstrikes in Syria. Pence urged other countries to support the US effort in Syria, but countries like Peru, Brazil, and Argentina warned those convened to remain cautious about military escalation.
We've just published a piece on the upcoming May elections. Read it here
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