This Latino Week

Haitian Prime Minister Resigns, World Cup final sees no Latin American representation, Key El Chapo henchman extradited to United States

 

Haitian Prime Minister Resigns

Jack Guy Lafontant announced his resignation as Prime Minister of Haiti, after days of vocal and occasionally violent protests over a planned hike to fuel prices. In a speech to Congress, he announced that President Jovenel Moise had accepted his resignation, and the current fuel proposals have been shelved.

The issues began immediately after the announcement that fuel subsidies would be removed, as part of a planned deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF argued that freeing up money would allow for a better-balanced budget, and more money for areas such as healthcare and education. However, people were angered by prices of petrol rising by 38%, diesel by 47% and kerosene by 51%. Shops and businesses were attacked by protestors, with four people believed to have died over the past few days as a result of the protests. The government responded by suspending the reforms, and now Lafontant has announced his intention to step down, following sustained calls for a vote of no confidence.

The affair was also slightly surreal, since it could be argued that Kevin De Bruyne's winner against Brazil in the World Cup led to the departure of Lafontant. The Haitian government, aware of the unpopularity of the move (and also mindful of similar protests in 2015), elected to announce the move 10 minutes into the World Cup fixture. Haiti, who have not been to the World Cup since 1974 and are often considerd minnows in world football, have a passionate and long-standing support for Brazil, with nearly all Haitians adopting the side as their own. The government hoped that, by announcing the news at this time, a Brazilian victory would lead to widespread celebrations and bury the news about the fuel price rises. In the event, Brazil lost 2-1, and the government's decision futher inflamed an angry population. 

World Cup final sees no Latin American representation

All teams from South America (CONMEBOL), North, Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF), as well as Spain and Portugal, have been knocked out of the World Cup, with the semi-finals ending up as an all-European affair this year. The last two remaining Latin American sides were knocked out last week, as Uruguay fell 2-0 to France, and Brazil lost 2-1 to Belgium. Uruguay were often competitive but were let down by a goalkeeping error from Fernando Muslera, who allowed a straightforward shot from Antoine Griezmann to slip through this hands to gift France a second goal. Brazil, in turn, came up against a tactically flexible Belgian side, who lined up with a fluid 4-4-2 diamond, and went down 2-0 in the first half to an own goal from Fernandinho and a stunning strike from advanced midfielder Kevin De Bruyne. Substitute Renato Augusto's second-half header proved to only be consolation.

As such, the eventual final will see France play Croatia, after semi-final victories over Belgium and England respectively. While the prospect of first-time finalists Croatia facing off against pre-tournament favourites France will be an exciting affair, the European domination of the latter rounds has led to some regions turning away from the World Cup.

While the tournament can only be considered a failure for the region as a whole, with all Spanish and Portuguese-speaking nations failing to exceed expectations, there were still a lot of highlights throughout the tournament. Mexico lighted up the tournament early on with a 1-0 victory over World Cup holders Germany, and Colombia put in one of the performances of the tournament in a 3-0 win over Poland, before narrowly losing to England on penalties in the round of 16. Argentina struggled throughout the tournament but were still able to have a moment of glory through Marcos Rojo's late winner to secure second spot in Group D, while Panama scored their first ever World Cup goal and Costa Rica ensured that they would pick up at least a point with a 2-2 draw against Switzerland. Spain and Portugal also contested one of the games of the tournament with a stunning 3-3 draw, although both will be disappointed to have crashed out to Russia and Uruguay respectively.

Fortunately for the South American nations, there will be a chance to correct their failings in 12 months time, with the 2019 Copa America seeing all members of CONMEBOL, plus Japan and Qatar, contesting a prestigious 12-team tournament. Hosts Brazil will be hoping to compensate for their World Cup disappointment, while various sides who were not even in Russia, such as Copa America holders Chile and Ecuador, will be hoping to show the world what they missed out on.

Key El Chapo henchman extradited to United States

Damaso Lopez, a senior member of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's Sinaloa cartel, has been extradited to the United States, where he is likely to face trial regarding a range of charges related to drug trafficking and cartel warfare. Lopez, previously one of Guzman's closest allies, was responsible for organising his escape from a Mexican jail in 2001, and is believed to have quickly rose through the ranks of the organisation by gaining the trust of the infamous leader. 

He has faced an interesting history prior to his arrest in May of last year. Following El Chapo's arrest in 2016, he started fighting Guzman's sons to try and gain control of the cartel, with the inevitable bloody results of such infighting. He is alleged to have been seeking an alliance with the rival Jalisco New Generation Cartel, who were involved in various cartel wars in the north of Mexico. He was arrested in Mexico City following a long operation by Mexican forces, and is considered a major kingpin in cartel warfare.

Lopez is nicknamed "The Graduate" because of his more cerebral background; he studied law and was previously a senior official in the Mexican prison system. His future remains unclear, but it is likely that he will receive leniency in exchange for his testimony about the Sinaola cartel and the incarcerated former leader Guzman.