LatinNews Daily - 03 February 2022

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On 2 February Costa Rica’s attorney general’s office (FGR) requested that President Carlos Alvarado be stripped of his immunity from prosecution and face legal action in relation to alleged crimes including prevarication and abuse of authority.


The FGR’s request, which also calls for his former minister for the presidency (2019-2020), Víctor Morales Mora, to face justice, relates to the scandal stemming from the creation of a data unit (UPAD) within the executive branch which first broke in March 2020. It could damage already meagre support for the ruling centre-left Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC), just days before the 6 February general elections (in which President Alvarado is constitutionally barred from running again), and which is already expected to go to a second round run-off on 3 April (which takes place if none of the candidates secure 40% + 1 of the valid vote). This lack of support for the PAC and its competitors reflects widespread public disillusionment with the political establishment which stems in part from public sector corruption, a major voter concern following recent scandals such as the ‘Diamante’ case involving municipal officials and the ‘Cochinilla’ public works scandal.

  • Back in March 2020, President Alvarado said that the UPAD, which was effectively operating since May 2018, was set up to help shape public policies, through compiling and analysing private personal data collected from various government entities. However, outcry erupted after the decree, which was signed in October 2019, was published in the official gazette on 17 February 2020 and revealed that the UPAD would have access to confidential information.
  • This prompted a string of complaints which led Alvarado to revoke the decree on 21 February, admitting that there were issues with its wording, but not before the FGR announced an investigation.
  • The FGR yesterday presented its request before the supreme court (CSJ), which must now determine whether to proceed with it, in which case it which would then go to the 57-member unicameral legislature to be voted upon.
  • It could damage already poor backing for the PAC whose presidential candidate Welmar Ramos, a national deputy, currently garners just 1.0% support according to the latest survey by the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR)’s centre for research and policy studies (CIEP), released yesterday.
  • The frontrunner is the candidate for the main opposition right-of-centre Partido Liberación Nacional, PLN), former president José María Figueres (PLN, 1994-1998), who is on 17.0%, up from 15.0% a week earlier. Second, on 12.9% is Lineth Saborío, a former vice president (PLN, 2002-2006), now of the right-of-centre opposition Partido Unidad Social Cristiana (PUSC), down from 13.7%. The 2018 shock first round winner, evangelical preacher Fabricio Alvarado (Partido Nueva República, NR) is on 10.3%, down from 10.6%.
  • The CIEP survey showed 31.8% of respondents were undecided, down from 40.8% a week earlier, although much of the support from the newly ‘decideds’ seems to have gone to candidates with less chance of winning.
  • The legislative contest is even less certain, with 47.1% of respondents saying they were undecided. The PLN, which currently has 17 seats, was on 13.4% of voting intention, followed by the PUSC, which has nine seats, on 10.5%, and leftist Frente Amplio, which has just one seat, on 6.8%.

Looking Ahead: President Alvarado has yet to respond to the FGR’s latest request which could further damage public trust in the establishment ahead of the electoral contest and affect turnout, which is already likely to be low due to the current surge in coronavirus (Covid-19) cases as a result of the omicron variant.


On 2 February, Bolivia’s Foreign Minister Rogelio Mayta announced that the US has requested the extradition of Maximiliano Dávila, a former director of Bolivia’s counter-narcotics agency (FELCN) who is accused by US prosecutors of drug trafficking.


The extradition request for Dávila, who is in custody in Bolivia, is an embarrassment for the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) government led by President Luis Arce, which has repeatedly accused Arce’s predecessor, Jeanine Áñez (2019-2020), of overseeing a culture of corruption. The charges will heighten scrutiny of MAS’s drug policies and prompt calls for wider investigations into high-level corruption in Bolivian law enforcement.

  • Dávila directed the FELCN in 2019, during the final months of the Evo Morales administration (2006-2019). He was arrested on 22 January while trying to cross the border with Argentina, charged with illicit enrichment and drug trafficking offences, and placed in pre-trial detention for six months.
  • Yesterday, Mayta announced that the government is considering a US extradition request in response to charges filed in the US Southern District Court of New York accusing Dávila of “work[ing] in partnership with Bolivian drug labs… to send more than a thousand kilograms of cocaine to the United States.” The US court’s statement adds that Dávila “further abused his position by using Bolivian law enforcement officers, armed with machine guns, to guard and transport cocaine shipments.”
  • Further details of Dávila’s alleged crimes became apparent on 26 January, when Interior Minister Eduardo del Castillo revealed that intelligence from Interpol indicated that he had held a series of meetings in 2020 with a Dominican cocaine trafficker and one of Bolivia’s most notorious drug traffickers, Jorge Roca Suárez (‘Techo de Paja’). Del Castillo said that in these meetings Dávila boasted of his access to cocaine laboratories and illegal runways in an attempt to strike a deal with the Dominican, who Del Castillo only named by the initials DRC.

Looking Ahead: The government and MAS have denied that the charges against Dávila are symptomatic of wider corruption in law enforcement, with Del Castillo arguing on 26 January that the Bolivian investigation, based on the Interpol reports, concerns events that took place in 2020, after Dávila had left his post and Morales had been replaced by Áñez. However, the US claims that Dávila “abused his position” suggest a longer-running conspiracy, and are likely to be weaponised by the opposition.

* Ecuador’s constitutional court (CC) has struck down parts of a 2019 decree implemented by the Lenín Moreno administration (2017-2021) that had permitted oil drilling in the buffer zone of the Zona Intangible Tagaeri-Taromenane (ZITT) protected area, which contains the Yasuní national park in the provinces of Pastaza and Orellana. The CC ruled that the oil projects would have violated the principle of non-contact for isolated indigenous peoples, as outlined in Ecuador’s 2008 constitution, and that indigenous communities must be consulted on projects within their territories. Yasuní contains two voluntarily isolated indigenous peoples – the Tagaeri and the Taromenane – and is widely considered to be one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. The ruling will impact the ‘Block 43’ oil well, which is part of the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil field. Coming as clean-up operations continue following a 28 January oil spill in the Amazonian province of Napo, the court’s decision was welcomed by environmental campaigners, with Kevin Koenig, director of US-based NGO Amazon Watch’s climate and energy programmes, calling it “a reminder for oil companies and investors that expanding oil extraction in Ecuador’s Amazon is a risk and full of potential legal liabilities.” The current government, led by President Guillermo Lasso, aims to double Ecuador’s oil production to 1m barrels per day over the course of his presidency.


On 2 February, Brazil’s former president Lula da Silva (2003-2011) joined in with the calls for justice to be served for Moïse Mugenyi Kabagambe, a Congolese refugee who was brutally killed in the city of Rio de Janeiro last week.


Kabagambe’s killing has outraged Brazil. The 24-year-old was tied up and beaten to death by at least three men on 24 January at a beachside kiosk in the upmarket neighbourhood of Barra da Tijuca in Rio, reportedly after requesting back pay for two days of work. The circumstances of his death reached the public sphere this week, prompting an outpouring of rage and shock. Civil society organisations in Brazil including the Coalizão Negra por Direitos have denounced the killing as a further sign of structural racism and of growing violence and xenophobia in the country.  

  • NGOs Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) both issued statements on 1 February calling for a rapid and transparent investigation. AI noted that it was not until the crime became public knowledge, six days after it took place, that authorities began taking action. Kabagambe’s assasination “is deplorable and deserves absolute repudiation by Brazilian society,” HRW wrote, stressing “the extremely serious context of violence against Brazil’s black population”.   
  • Lula, who yesterday said that Kabagambe’s “brutal” killing “is not normal, is not human”, is just the latest politician to speak out. Other prospective presidential candidates have expressed their shock and sorrow. The mayor of Rio de Janeiro city, Eduardo Paes, condemned the killing as “unacceptable and shocking” on 1 February, and said municipal authorities would accompany the police investigation. 
  • President Jair Bolsonaro has not commented on Kabagambe’s death, although the foreign ministry issued a note on 1 February expressing its indignation. Kabagambe had arrived as a refugee in Brazil from the Democratic Republic of Congo 10 years ago.
  • Yesterday three men were arrested in relation to Kabagambe’s killing. Police are also seeking to question the owner of the kiosk at which Kabagambe worked.

Looking Ahead: Protests in solidarity with Brazil’s Congolese community and to demand justice for Kabagambe’s death are planned to take place in Rio and São Paulo city on 5 February.

* The monetary policy committee (Copom) in Brazil’s central bank (BCB) has raised the country’s benchmark interest rate, the Selic, by 150 basis points (bps) to 10.75%. This is the first time that the Selic has entered the double digits since July 2017. The rate hike was expected as the BCB has indicated that it will continue its policy of monetary tightening until inflationary pressures are brought under control (beyond-target inflation is expected in 2022, with the Copom currently forecasting 5.4% inflation this year). The Copom nevertheless indicated that it would start decreasing the pace of the rate hikes; this was the eighth consecutive increase in the Selic since the BCB began raising rates in March last year, and the third consecutive 150 bps increase.  

Central America & Caribbean

* The Dominican Republic’s central bank (BCRD) has released new figures which reveal that the country’s economy grew 12.3% in 2021, driven by hotels, bars & restaurants (+39.5%); construction (23.4%); free zones’ manufacturing (20.3%); transport & storage (12.9%); trade (12.9%); and local manufacturing (10.6%). The BCRD is forecasting GDP growth of 5.5%-6.0% for 2022.


On 2 February, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador reiterated his defence of deputy health minister, Hugo López-Gatell, who is being investigated for alleged homicide through negligence in relation to his handling of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.


López Obrador has been staunch in his defence of López-Gatell, who has also been accused of alleged negligence in relation to Mexico’s ongoing medicine shortage. The investigation into López-Gatell will heighten scrutiny on the government’s handling of the pandemic in a week where daily deaths have reached the highest numbers in four months.

  • In a press conference on 2 February, in response to a question from a journalist López Obrador said that López-Gatell and all those involved in management of the pandemic should be given “public, global recognition”.
  • A judge ordered the federal attorney general’s (FGR) office to open an investigation into López-Gatell on 20 January for alleged responsibility in the crime of murder by neglect, related to two deaths from Covid-19.
  • On 26 January, in an interview with Mexican radio network Radio Fórmula, Javier Coello Trejo, the lawyer presenting the case against López-Gatell, invited those interested in joining the lawsuit to send him an email. By 31 January, Coello said he had received over 2,500 emails from people submitting complaints.
  • Mexico is currently experiencing a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, driven predominantly by the omicron variant. On 1 February, López-Gatell announced that Mexico had passed the peak of the fourth wave, although recognising that deaths were continuing to trend upwards.
  • Mexico recorded 829 deaths from Covid-19 on 1 February, the highest number since October 2021 and 43,099 daily infections, down from the record high 60,000 recorded on 19 January. As of 2 February, 307,493 people had died from Covid-19 in Mexico.

Looking Ahead: The FGR had been reluctant to open the investigation into López-Gatell, saying there lacked sufficient evidence, but was obliged to by federal judge Ganther Alejandro Villar Ceballos. Tomorrow (3 February), Coello will go to the FGR to present the evidence from the two original complainants in the case and ask it to be added to the investigation file.

* The Consejo Coordinador Empresarial (CCE), Mexico’s leading private sector lobby, has warned against the economic impact of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s electricity reform, which seeks to prioritise Mexico’s state-run electricity firm Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) over private renewable energy companies. Speaking at the ongoing congressional debate on the contentious reform, CCE president Carlos Salazar said that there were currently more than 150 future projects on hold, equivalent to more than US$40bn of investment, because of the uncertainty generated by the reform. “If there is a bigger energy supply, the price will go down, it’s a basic economic principle,” said Salazar. On 25 January, the CFE dismissed as “negative propaganda” criticism levelled at the reform by another private sector lobby, the Confederación Patronal de la República Mexicana (Coparmex), and the Mexican automobile industry association (Amia), who had questioned the CFE’s ability to produce enough energy, and enough clean energy, if the reform were passed.

Southern Cone

On 2 February a group of 28 deputies, including some members of the ruling Asociación Nacional Republicana-Partido Colorado (ANR-PC) and of the opposition Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (PLRA), said that they were initiating impeachment proceedings against the interior minister, Arnaldo Giuzzio.   


The move against Giuzzio comes amid widespread outrage over a shooting incident at a crowded music concert in San Bernardino in the eastern department of Cordillera on 30 January, which left two people dead and five injured. One of the dead was Cristina Aranda, a model and popular social media ‘influencer’; the other was Marcos Rojas, a young man thought to be linked to drug trafficking groups. The police hypothesis is that the incident was sparked by a dispute over payment for drugs between rival gangs, and that Aranda, a mother of three, was simply caught in the crossfire.

  • Because the full congress is currently in recess, the deputies have sought to initiate their impeachment request through the permanent committee of congress, presided by Senator Lilian Samaniego. She has responded by convening an initial closed-doors session of the committee to hear testimonies on the manipulation of the police computer system.
  • Sebastián Villarejo, a deputy from the small Partido Patria Querida (PPQ), said both the interior minister and police chief Luis Arias, should be sacked because of their failure to improve public security. President Mario Abdo Benítez has dismissed calls to sack Giuzzio, saying he has confidence in his minister and will not replace him.
  • Giuzzio is a controversial figure within the ruling party. Last month, in what was seen as a move to influence presidential primaries due this December, he accused former president Horacio Cartes (2013-2018) of money-laundering and illicit enrichment. In what could be interpreted as a countermove, deputies from Honor Colorado, the ANR faction that is loyal to Cartes, are supporting the impeachment request.        

Looking Ahead: Since many deputies have not yet fixed their positions, it is still too early to judge whether an impeachment motion will gather the necessary two-thirds majority to begin hearings in the senate.

*Argentina’s state-owned nuclear power firm, Nucleoeléctrica Argentina (NA-SA) and China’s nuclear power firm China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), have signed a contract for the construction of the Atucha III nuclear power plant in Lima city, Buenos Aires province. The construction of the plant, Argentina’s fourth nuclear power plant, was first agreed in 2015 under the government led by former president Cristina Fernández (2007-2015), who is currently the country’s vice president, but the project subsequently stalled. According to Argentina’s government, the construction project involves an investment of US$8.3bn for engineering, construction, acquisition, commissioning, and delivery of an HPR-1000 type reactor. The new 1200-megawatt (MW) plant will have an initial useful life of 60 years, and will allow the expansion of national nuclear capacities, while construction is set to start at the end of this year. The deal comes ahead of an international tour of Russia, China and Barbados by President Alberto Fernández which begins today.

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