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Catch up on the news with Open Americas! 

In the headlines: Bolivia loses to Chile in land dispute, Brazilians vote for a new President this weekend, a Cuba-US joint biotech venture, and more.

The head of Argentina’s central bank resigned unexpectedly on last week, citing personal reasons for the decision. Currently, the Argentine government is negotiating a new financing deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ease the nation’s struggling economy. The unexpected resignation caused the Argentine peso to depreciate further, despite it showing signs of recovery just days before. The former economic policy secretary Guido Sandleris will take over as the head of the central bank. The loan being negotiated with the IMF is the largest loan in IMF history, and will likely lead to President Mauricio Macri cutting government budgets. The likelihood of austerity measures sent a wave of panic through the country, as many remembered the 2001-02 economic crisis that left many unemployed and put numerous people into poverty. In response, the nation protested and striked last week against the IMF funding.

In an over 130-year land dispute between Bolivia and Chile, the International Court of Justice in The Hague voted 12 to 3 to reject Bolivia’s request to order Chile to negotiate sea access for the landlocked country. Bolivian President Evo Morales filed the lawsuit in 2013, in an effort to gain access to a sovereign port on the Pacific coast. While the Court said the decision should not impede the countries from continuing conversation, Chile saw the ruling as a “historic triumph.”

As election day approaches next week, it seems likely that no candidate will win the 50% of votes needed to win outright on October 7, and a runoff vote is expected. Candidate Jair Bolsonaro leads polls, but Fernando Haddad is close behind him despite falling in the polls within the last week. Haddad, the Worker’s Party candidate who assumed Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s candidacy, polls behind Bolsonaro in the general election and was favored to win in a runoff election last week, but a new poll shows him now even with the right-leaning candidate. Bolsonaro has made a name for himself in the campaign with controversial statements about women, the LGBTQ community, and people of color. Recently, women throughout the country banded together online through #NotHim and pages like Women United Against Bolsonaro. The movement has reached to over 2 million people, including celebrities and influential television figures. As Bolsonaro was released from the hospital on Saturday, following a near-fatal stabbing, women, children, men, and LGBTQ demonstrators took to the streets in every Brazilian state to protest, chanting “Ele Não” (Not Him). Bolsonaro supporters also rallied on Saturday and Sunday to show their support of the presidential candidate. In the presidential debate Sunday, candidates united against the far-right and far-left candidates, accusing them of polarizing the election and calling on voters to not vote for either side. Voting is obligatory in Brazil, but last week, the Supreme Court barred 3.4 million people from voting in the upcoming election due to their failure to register their fingerprints with authorities on time. This ruling excludes many poor and uninformed voters from participating in the election, and especially affects the nation’s northeast, which historically supports left-leaning candidates.

In an effort to settle charges in the “Car Wash” investigation, Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras has agreed to pay an $853.2 million fine for bookkeeping violations related to bribing politicians and political parties. Eighty percent of the fine will be paid to Brazil, while the rest will be split between the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Two years after the historic peace treaty between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), peace has not been fully achieved. Reports from the Washington Office on Latin America and The New York Times show that violence has not ceased, as criminal groups have moved to take over territory abandoned by the FARC. The government promised to control the lands left by the FARC and bring education and health services, but they have had a minimal presence. In fear of violence, many FARC members have rearmed in an effort to protect their communities and themselves. Fueling many of these criminal groups is cocaine production, which is being produced at an all time high in Colombia. Since 2016, cocaine production has increased 31% despite the government’s efforts to reduce cultivation of the drug.

A US-Cuban joint biotech venture was announced Wednesday, creating the Innovative Immunotherapy Alliance SA. The Roswell Park Cancer Institute of Buffalo, New York and Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunotherapy will work together to bring four new cancer medicines to US patients. The institutes began their partnership in 2014 and continued to work together despite the rolling back of relations between the US and Cuba under US President Donald Trump. The Alliance will be based in Cuba’s Mariel Bay Special Development Zone, west of Havana. Cuba has been looking to expand their pharmaceutical market into the United States for years. See Open Americas’s contributor Christina La Fleur’s three-part series on previous collaborations between the University of Illinois Cancer Center and Cuban Ministry of Health representatives.

Thousands of Guatemalans took to the streets to protest President Jimmy Morales decisions to end the UN International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) and barr the head commissioner from returning to Guatemala after a business trip to the United States. Students, farmers, academics, and civilians called for the resignation of the President and dozens of other legislators and officials. The Constitutional Court overruled Morales and ordered him to allow Ivan Velasquez back into the country, but the government again refused to readmit the head commissioner. Morales spoke out against CICIG during the UN General Assembly, accusing it of “manipulating justice” and violating the agreement on which it was created. The Constitutional Court ruling is legally binding, and prosecutors are waiting on the court of make an official complaint before pursuing legal consequences.

Guatemalan judges ruled unanimously last week that the country’s military is guilty of mass genocide and crimes against humanity that occurred during the nation’s civil war. Between 1960 and 1996, over 200,000 civilians were killed and 43,000 disappeared, mostly indigenous Maya people. While genocide survivors were thrilled the genocide is now recognized, no one is being held responsible. The judges ruled in a 2-1 decision to acquit former military intelligence chief Jose Mauricio Rodriguez of the killings, stating that Rodriguez had no knowledge or role in the genocide.
A year after the 7.1-magnitude earthquake in Mexico City, many are still living on the streets and find it difficult to live. Numerous buildings have not yet been rebuilt, and other buildings deemed dangerous are still standing. Many are frustrated with the slow recovery pace, which can be classified as due to corruption and negligence. A report by the Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI) found that construction regulations are regularly ignored, building plans falsified, and responsible works directors (DROs) are not qualified and sign off on unsafe buildings. Some of the earthquake survivors have pressured the government to rebuild their apartments through rallies, demonstrations, and meetings, but many more remain on the streets and feel as if they have lost everything.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
Canada agreed to join the US-Mexico trade agreement late Sunday night, ending NAFTA and beginning the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The major changes in the new trade agreement include increased regulations on the auto industry, less restrictions on Canada’s dairy industry, improved labor and environmental rights, and much more. The agreement must now be passed by the US Congress and the Mexican and Canadian legislatures in order to go into effect. 

Protests continue in Nicaragua with around 300 people arrested as “terrorists” and over 320 killed since violence broke out in April. Police and government supporters continue to clash with anti-government protesters, and one teenager was killed in the crossfire between the two groups last week. A judge issued an arrest warrant for three opposition leaders last week on charges of financing and promoting terrorism. Felix Maradiaga, one of the men accused, is not currently in Nicaragua but spoke out against the warrant saying his “conscience is clean” and the “civil struggle” must continue. The judge also ordered the homes of the three leaders be searched. The United Nations condemned the government’s actions last month, citing that government opponents are being “persecuted and criminalized.” Protesters and business lobbies are calling for an early presidential election, but President Daniel Ortega has said that there will be no election until his term is over in 2021.

Peru’s Supreme Court overturned the medical pardon of former president Alberto Fujimori. Last year Fujimori was pardoned by then-president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on grounds that Fujimori suffered a heart condition that was made worse within prison conditions. Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2009 for committing crimes against humanity and overseeing corruption and vote-rigging during his presidency. Last year’s pardon was seen by many as a political move by Kuczynski and was immediately met with widespread protests and appealed by the families of victims. The court ruled the pardon lacked legal foundation and was pushed through too quickly, adding that Fujimori was convicted of crimes against humanity, which cannot be pardoned under Peruvian or international law. Fujimori’s immediate arrest was ordered so he could continue serving the remaining 14 years of his 25-year sentence.

The international community is coming together to act upon the crisis in Venezuela. Canada, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Chile, and Paraguay called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his senior officials for crimes against humanity going back to 2014 - the first time member nations have called on the ICC to investigate another member nation. At the United Nations General Assembly last week, the migration crisis in the region was a main topic, as Venezuela’s neighboring countries called for international assistance. The United Nations assigned a special envoy to work with migrants in the region, and the United States has pledged over $95 million in humanitarian aid to for migrants since 2016. However, leaders are looking to end the migration crisis. Colombia called for the “end of the dictatorship” and the United States continues talk of military intervention. The United States also imposed more sanctions on Venezuela, this time towards Maduro’s wife and several top allies. Despite these international actions and fears for his security, Maduro attended the UN General Assembly in New York last week. Maduro centered his speech on the United States’ role in worsening Venezuela’s economic problems and denying a humanitarian crisis in the country. Maduro and US President Donald Trump traded remarks about being willing to meet with each other, but no meeting has yet occurred. Nevertheless, Maduro has increased relations with China as a Chinese naval medical ship known as the “Peace Ark” landed in Venezuela for a week to offer free health services to local patients. Venezuela’s economic turmoil has led to medicine shortages and a collapse of public services as health care providers protest the shortages. The Chinese officials also met with officials and inspected Venezuelan medical and military facilities.

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