This Latino Week

Ruling party wins majority in Venezuelan gubernational elections, World Cup qualifying update, Infamous gang leader arrested in Guatemala, Mass pro-unity demonstration in Barcelona, Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez set up Puerto Rico benefit concert
Jim McKenna

Ruling party wins majority in Venezuelan gubernational elections

Nicolas Maduro’s government won a strong majority in the latest set of elections in Venezuela, with the results declaring that his socialist party had won at least 17 of the 23 states within the country; with potential further victories set to be announced. The announcement, which comes in the midst of political turmoil and widespread unpopularity, has led opposition forces to declare the result illegitimate, and have vowed to fight against alleged corruption.

The official turnout was 61%, according to the President, and the National Electoral Council confirmed the figures in an official televised announcement. The results are at odds with pre-election polling, which had suggested that the opposition coalition would win an overall majority.

The results have been declared irreversible until the next gubernational elections, which is likely to come in a few years time. The elections decided a range of state governorships throughout Venezuela. Although this election could not directly bring down Maduro, opposition figures hoped that the removal of loyal Maduro allies from senior governor posts would further weaken his position. In reality, the elections, if not overturned, represent an entrenchment of his position, with another part of the government bolstered by Maduro’s hand-picked governors.

World Cup qualifying update

The World Cup qualification system for CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) and CONMEBOL (South American Football Confederation) has drawn to a close, with most of Latin America’s representatives for the 2018 World Cup in Russia confirmed. In the build-up to the last round of group fixtures, analysts in South America were focused on Argentina. The team, following a disappointing 0-0 draw against Peru, were forced to go to Ecuador and win to all-but-guarantee an automatic qualification spot. This was eventually achieved after Argentina went down within 48 seconds, thanks to a superb hat-trick from captain Lionel Messi. This eventually placed them in third, which represented a massive relief for a team that has struggled throughout the past few years.

As a result, Argentina joined Brazil in qualifying, who lost only once in qualifying and ended 10 points clear second-placed Uruguay. The final automatic qualifying place was taken by Colombia, who struggled through with a feisty 1-1 draw against Peru, who took the inter-confederation play-off role. The Peruvians, who enjoyed a surprisingly strong campaign, will play against New Zealand next month. The major losers were Paraguay and Chile, who have both regularly qualified for recent World Cups. Chile’s 3-0 loss to Brazil in the final round meant that they were unable to progress to even a play-off, which is a bitter blow for a team commonly considered one of the best in South America, and who had won the previous two Copa Americas.

In CONCACAF, the major news was a stunning defeat for U.S.A against the final qualifying groups worst team Trinidad and Tobago. The Caribbean side had only won once in nine games prior to the final game, but managed to defeat the Americas 2-1. The Americans only needed a draw to advance, and the loss has prompted a great deal of soul-searching about the future of football in the country. Instead, the team that will join already-qualified Mexico and Costa Rica is Panama, who will attend a World Cup for the first time. Their narrow home win over Costa Rica took them to third place and above Honduras, who beat Mexico 3-2 in an entertaining match, and will now play Australia in their own inter-confederation play-off.

Infamous gang leader arrested in Guatemala

Ángel Gabriel Reyes Marroquín, better known as ‘Blanco’, has been arrested this week in the town of Chimaltenango in Guatemala, following repeated attempts to escape security forces over the past few months. Blanco is the leader of the MS-13 street gang, one of many maras that dominate society in Central America.

The gang originated in Los Angeles, but spread to Central America following U.S. deportation policies against convicted gang members. MS-13 has an international reach and is often involved in smuggling drugs and weaponry across borders. Reyes was previously detained in prison in 2014, with prosecutors alleging he was responsible for the deaths of around 300 people. He escaped shortly afterwards, in what is a common trend for high-profile convicts in Central America.

The arrest took place under charges relating to a gun attack at a hospital two months ago, but it is widely believed that he is connected to a much greater level of crimes in the region. MS-13 is commonly connected to violence and brutality, with the gang synonymous with macho culture and aggression. The gang still remains prevalent even with the capture of their leader, with MS-13 operating in El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and parts of the South of the U.S.A.

Mass demonstration in Barcelona calling for National Unity

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Barcelona to protest against the Catalan government’s decision to push for independence, as Spain’s prime minister warned that he was prepared to suspend the region’s autonomy to stop it splitting from the rest of the country.

Sunday’s rally – organised by Societat Civil Catalana, the region’s main pro-unity organisation – comes a week after the independence referendum that has plunged Spain into its worst political crisis in four decades.

The march, whose slogan is “Let’s recover our common sense”, was intended to call for a new phase of dialogue with the rest of Spain and featured such luminaries as the Nobel-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa and Josep Borrell, former president of the European parliament.

Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez set up Puerto Rico benefit concert

A range of celebrities have stepped up attempts to set up a massive televised concert to assist with the attempts to help Puerto Rica, which was ravaged by Hurricane Maria recently. The event, called One Voice: Somos Live!, was created by Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, with assistance from Dominican-American baseball royalty Alex Rodriguez. The concert was broadcast throughout the spanish-speaking world, and was notably broadcasted on both Univision and Telemundo at the same time. This is the first time that the twin giants of broadcasting have united for such an event, which speaks volumes about the power of the event and the people responsible for organising it. Tickets, which were available for anywhere between $15 and $50, were immediately sold out, and it is believed that the overall televised audience for the concert have broken many existing records. A range of performers, such as Daddy Yankee, Nicky Jam and DJ Khaled, performed on stage for the event.

All proceeds for the concert will go to a range of relief efforts designed to assist humanitarian efforts throughout the areas destroyed by Maria, such as Save the Children, UNICEF and Habitat for Humanity.