This Latino Week

US Ambassador To Panama Resigns, Assange Granted Ecuadorian Citizenship, Pope's Latin American Tour Met With Death Threats , Latin American Stars Dominate Football Transfer Window
by: 
Jim McKenna

US Ambassador To Panama Resigns

The American Ambassador to the Central American nation of Panama, John Feeley, has decided to step down from his role this week. He claims that his resignation was a matter of conscience, saying he was "honour-bound" to step down from the role. Feeley made it clear that he disagreed with Donald Trump's political agenda, stating that he could not serve in an apolitical fashion when he disagreed with the current leader's policies. 

It is believed that the U.S. government was made aware of his decision in late December, and as such came long before Trump's latest comments about "s**thole" nations, which has sparked a wave of anger throughout the world, particularly in Latin America and Africa. The comments were believed to be initially about El Salvador, Haiti and a range of countries in sub-saharan Africa, and the revelation of his words has led to embarassment for the United States and a diplomatic nightmare for U.S. embassies around the world.

This is not the first time that Latin America has responded to Trump's policies and words with anger. The infamous declaration against Mexican citizens while discussing his border wall is just one of a string of controversies, which recently has included his decision to remove residency permits from thousands of people from Latin American countries including Haiti and Nicaragua.  

Assange Granted Ecuadorian Citizenship

Julian Assange, the controversial founder of Wikileaks, has been announced to have received Ecuadorian citizenship this week, following over five years of hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The move was part of attempts by Ecuador to grant Assange diplomatic immunity from prosecution, which was quickly rejected by the United Kingdom.

The awarding of citizenship actually came in December 2017, but was only revealed by the British government this week. Assange has been stuck in the embassy since 2012, following Swedish attempts to try him in court over charges of assault. They were dropped in 2015 but Assange has remained, claiming that he would be extradited to the United States for his past role in Wikileaks, which published secret information and classified documents for the past twelve years, with the organisation claiming that around 10 million documents have been uploaded on their site since their founding in 2006. 

Assange was offered Ecuadorian support because of the role of populist former President Rafael Correa, who left office in 2017. His successor, fellow leftist Lenin Moreno, has continued the policy, citing fears over Assange's safety.

Pope's Latin American Tour Met With Death Threats 

Pope Francis I, the first leader of the Catholic Church to come from Latin America, has faced a bemusing range of protests ahead of his visit to Chile, with a range of churches attacked in Santiago, with many buildings vandalised and threats of violence against the Pope once he arrives. Chilean authorities are currently attempting to identify who was responsible for the attacks, but have been unable to identify a culprit, or even a strong motive for the actions. Some literature left behind at the damaged churches accused the Chilean state of wasting money on the visit which could be invested to help the poor in Chile. The Pope has made compassion for migrants and the global poor one of the cornerstones of his papacy, and it is unclear which aspect of his programme has resulted in such strong disagreement. 

It is expected that the visit will go ahead, with Pope Francis scheduled to hold a public mass in Santiago on Tuesday, with hundreds of thousands of people expected to attend. It is hoped that the remainer of the Pope's tour will be free from similar threats, which concludes in Chile with a meeting with Mapuche leaders before visiting to Peru.

Latin American Stars Dominate Football Transfer Window

Barcelona's purchase of Brazilian midfielder Coutinho, confirmed this week for a fee believed to be total £142 million, has marked just the beginning of a potentially hectic midseason transfer window for world football, with Latin American stars some of the most heavily linked figures. The most curious is the transfer bidding war being held over Arsenal's Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez, whose contract expires at the end of the season and would be allowed to sign for another club on a free transfer at this date. Manchester City, long considered to be admirers of the former Barcelona man, have baulked at the mooted £35 million fee to secure him this month, allowing city rivals Manchester United to outbid their rivals with a £25 million offer, although it is unclear whether Arsenal will risk accepting the transfer and losing a key player without a replacement. 

Even outside of this move, there is a great deal of activity involving Latin American players and teams. Barcelona have again moved to reinforce their squad, with the La Liga leaders bringing in Colombian defender Yerry Mina, from Brazilian side Palmeiras. Mina, 23, plays in the center of defence, and had gained plaudits as one of the leading defenders in South America over the past few years. He has represented Colombia on nine occasions, and moves for a fee of £10.5 million. He is likely to arrive as a direct replacement for Argentinian star Javier Mascherano, who is expected to depart Spain for China in the coming weeks. It is believed that there will be even more movement between now and the end of the window, with major moves including Bordeaux's young Brazilian talent Malcom, who has been linked with a host of leading European sides including Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester United.