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El Salvador extended a controversial state of emergency to combat gangs for the third time on Tuesday, prompting criticism from human rights organizations over the suspension of constitutional protections. President Nayib Bukele's government first passed what was meant to be a 30-day measure in late March after the Central American country's murder rate spiked. Lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to extend the measure for another month beginning June 25, giving security forces extra powers to fight violent gangs. The extension passed with 67 votes in favor out of a possible 84, with 15 against.

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On March 27, El Salvador imposed a state of exception suspending certain civil liberties, according to data from Amnesty International shared with Al Jazeera. More than 40,000 people have since been arrested. Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele called for the emergency measures as part of a crackdown on gangs, following a surge in homicides that left more than 80 people dead in a single March weekend. Human rights groups say the policy has led to widespread human rights abuses, including deaths in state care as the already overpopulated prison system has extended even further past its breaking point.

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Like other sectors of the population, artisanal fishers work in almost absolute vulnerability, without any social measures to protect them or provide adequate coverage from the accidents or illnesses they face on a daily basis, and with only precarious health systems to rely on. According to a FAO report from January 2021, in El Salvador in 2018 the fishing sector employed about 30,730 people, with a total fleet of 13,764 boats, 55 of which were used by the industrial sector and the rest by artisanal fishers, 50 percent of whose boats were motorized. FAO urged the countries of Central America to begin efforts to incorporate artisanal fisheries into national social security policies, during the Mesoamerican Forum on Social Protection in Artisanal Fisheries and Small-scale Aquaculture, held in May in Panama City. The UN agency pointed out that worldwide, small-scale fishers account for half of the world’s fisheries production and employ 90 percent of the sector’s workforce, half of whom are women.

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On Monday, Roberto David Castillo, a US-trained former Honduran army intelligence officer who was the president of an internationally financed energy company has been sentenced to 22 years and six months for the assassination of the Indigenous environmentalist Berta Cáceres. The sentence was handed down almost a year after Castillo was found guilty, and falls short of the 25-year maximum – a decision condemned by Cáceres’s supporters outside the high court in Tegucigalpa. Castillo will be required to carry out public works coordinated by the prison service as part of his sentence and is responsible for any future civil claims brought by the victims, the court ruled. Cáceres, the coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh), was best known for defending indigenous Lenca territory and natural resources, but she was also a respected political analyst, women’s rights defender and anti-capitalist campaigner.

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Gustavo Petro, a senator and former guerrilla, was elected the country’s first leftist president, galvanizing millions of poor, young, struggling Colombians desperate for someone different. His victory, unthinkable just a generation ago, was the most stunning example yet of how the pandemic has transformed the politics of Latin America. The pandemic hit the economies of this region harder than almost anywhere else in the world, kicking 12 million people out of the middle class in a single year. Across the continent, voters have punished those in power for failing to lift them out of their misery. And the winner has been Latin America’s left, a diverse movement of leaders that could now take a leading role in the hemisphere. 

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History was made in Colombia. A presidential ticket with a message of social justice and equality will govern the country for the next four years. An Afro-descendant woman was elected Vice President. Against many predictions, the electoral process took place largely peacefully, with President Iván Duque and fellow candidate Rodolfo Hernández quickly congratulating President elect Gustavo Petro and Vice President elect Francia Márquez, who won by a small but clear margin. In a country with a long history of tragic political violence and deep polarization, this should not be underestimated. But the election marks only the beginning. Time for celebration will undoubtedly be cut short by the monumental human rights, ethnic rights, and humanitarian crises facing the South American nation. 

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Long before it even began on June 6, this year’s Summit of the Americas, held in downtown Los Angeles, was widely expected to be a flop. Several heads of state—including Andrés Manuel Lopéz Obrador of Mexico—boycotted the summit because of the U.S. decision, and many other regional leaders began their speeches by criticizing the exclusions. Indeed, the U.S. decision to freeze out the three governments, previously labeled the “troika of tyranny” by former Trump advisor John Bolton, was but a symptom of a far bigger issue, one that many leaders touched on during the summit: the continuation, under Biden, of Trump’s destructive and deeply unpopular policies. 

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Colombia has elected a former guerrilla fighter Gustavo Petro as president, making him the South American country’s first leftist head of state. Petro’s election marks a tidal shift for Colombia, a country that has never before had a leftist president, and follows similar victories for the left in Peru, Chile and Honduras. During his victory speech, Petro issued a call for unity and extended an olive branch to some of his harshest critics, saying all members of the opposition will be welcomed at the presidential palace “to discuss the problems of Colombia”. Petro’s journey from a fighter in the M-19 guerrilla army in the 80s to president also saw him become a senator and the mayor of the capital, Bogotá. He has a reputation for meandering speeches and high-handedness.

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June 19 is the second and final round of Colombia’s presidential elections. The race has come down to two anti-establishment candidates: populist businessman Rodolfo Hernández, who has little political experience, and leftist Gustavo Petro, whose election would end decades of rightwing leadership. As the polls predicted, Petro won the most votes in both the primaries and first round, but Hernández as the runner-up came as a surprise. Perhaps the most surprising outcome of this year’s election cycle, however, has been Márquez’s meteoric rise. Although she failed to garner enough signatures to run as an independent presidential candidate, her star performance in the Pacto Histórico coalition's primaries secured her spot as Petro's running mate. This Sunday, she could become Colombia’s first Black vice president. An Afro-Colombian environmental activist and lawyer, Márquez is new to politics. Since announcing her candidacy, Márquez has become a rallying point for Colombian activists and youth dissatisfied with the status quo. She is only the second Black woman to run for president in Colombia and campaigned on a platform that challenges the traditional powers in a highly militarized, conservative country. Unlike other presidential candidates, Márquez is from a small majority-Black town in southwest Colombia and doesn’t have a political machine behind her. So she did something that other candidates did not: she appealed to the Colombian diaspora.

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The White House put out a statement last week in which Vice President Harris announced "more than $1.9 billion in new private sector commitments to create economic opportunity in northern Central America" as part of the so-called U.S. Strategy to Address the Root Causes of Migration. As we have shared before, this strategy promotes corporate interests at the expense of the majorities and replicates the same type of policies that have contributed to migration in the first place. A quick look at just a few of the corporate "commitments" announced by VP Harris this week illustrates this.

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