This Latino Week

Venezuelan government starts negotiations with opposition, Narcos location scout killed in Mexico, Hurricane Irma devastates region, Mexico hit by earthquake, Congress rejects lifting Presidential immunity, World Cup qualifier update
Jim McKenna

The government of President Maduro has engaged in some preliminary discussions with opposition parties in Venezuela, which are hoped will lead to some form of conciliation and peace within the country, which has been devastated by domestic conflict, political unrest and rampant inflation.

Delegates from government and opposition sent delegates to Santo Domingo, with the talks largely debating the nature of any future agreement. It is widely believed that concrete proposals have not been tabled yet, although this may change in the coming weeks.

The motives of Maduro remain unclear, with some cynical voices suggesting that government figures may attempt to spoil the negotiations, while others think this is a proactive move in the face of sanctions from the European Union and potential further actions from the United States. The latter would hopefully encourage a more positive approach to talks.

President Maduro stressed that current interactions have been positive and predicted that an agreement could soon be forthcoming, although opposition figures have been more pessimistic. Nonetheless, the move has been welcomed by a range of actors, with further Latin American states planning to join a future round of talks at the end of September. These countries have not yet been fully verified, but Dominican Republican President Danilo Medina claimed that his country would attend, alongside Mexico, Chile, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

Narcos location scout killed in Mexico

Carlos Muñoz Portal, a Mexican location scout for the acclaimed TV show Narcos, was shot and murdered in Central Mexico while examining potential places to shoot the fourth series of the programme.

The circumstances around his death are currently unclear, but it is known that his car and body were discovered in a distant location, near San Bartolo Actopan, an area with one of the highest murder rates within Latin America.

Muñoz Portal, who died aged 37, worked for a range of TV production companies, and had previously assisted with Mexican shoots for shows such as Sicario, Apocalypto and the Fast & Furious series. Confirmation of his death led to a range of obituaries and positive reports from those who worked alongside him, including Netflix, the company that broadcasts Narcos worldwide, who acknowledged him as ‘a well-respected location scout’ who will be sorely missed. 

Hurricane Irma devestates region

One of the most powerful cyclones in recent history has struck the United States and various parts of the Caribbean, with current estimates suggesting that 46 people have died and over $30 billion worth of damage has occurred during the past few weeks. A wide range of islands have been hit by the storm, with the biggest damage occurring in Barbuda and Cuba.

Irma is considered to be a category 5 hurricane, the most severe category possible. Such storms are highly infrequent even within the Caribbean, and generally only appear every few years. Irma has emerged shortly after the peak of Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas and caused major damage to the region.

At the time of writing, Irma has hit the southern U.S. state of Florida, and is expected to continue for the near future. Relief efforts have already begun, with international efforts concentrated around the Caribbean. The immediate aftermath for Florida has been devastating, with around 11 people dead and 16 million people without power. The island of Barbuda is in greatest need of assistance, however, with around 95 per cent of buildings destroyed and claims that the island is now uninhabitable.

Mexico hit by earthquake

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake, one of the biggest in recent global history, has hit the south of Mexico killing at least 90 people and ruining the lives of millions. Aftershocks have been recorded in a wide range of States, particularly Oaxaca, Tabasco and Chiapas.

The epicentre of the quake hit the Oaxacan city of Juchitán, with most of the buildings in the area, which includes around 100,000 people, being ruined.

The earthquake represents a major issue for the Mexican government and state facilities. Even outside of the initial death toll, many people have been left homeless, some due to fears about the structural integrity of still-standing buildings. Around 2,000 troops have been deployed to help deliver basic necessities to the hardest-hit areas, and President Enrique Peña Nieto has publicly announced that there will be three days of national mourning.

Congress rejects lifting Presidential immunity

The Guatemalan Congress has voted overwhelmingly to prevent an investigation into President Jimmy Morales’ corruption charges, just hours after investigators suggested that Congress should vote on the matter. A congressional commission within Guatemala had suggested that Jimmy Morales’ immunity prosecution should be lifted, so he can face allegations against his campaign financing. Morales, who came to power promising an end to the corruption of previous regimes, has already faced a public outcry over his brother Sammy, who was arrested over corruption charges earlier this year.

The five-person panel reached this decision after analysing the evidence that has built up against Morales, but they required a two-thirds majority from Congress. Such a vote was always highly unlikely, with various supporters of Morales refusing to allow an investigation into the President, not to mention the risks that an investigation could have for political allies.

The decision of Congress does not entirely stop pressure against Morales, but does mean that he can continue to avoid directly facing charges of illicit financing. The Guatemalan public remain furious, and the decision has been met with a wide range of public protests.

World Cup qualifier update

Matchdays 15 and 16 of the South American (CONMEBOL) World Cup Qualifiers for 2018 saw Chile drop out of the qualifying positions with two defeats, leaving them with ground to make up in the final two fixtures next month. A 3-0 defeat to Paraguay at Santiago left them in a risky position, which was compounded by a 1-0 loss to already-eliminated Bolivia. Their place in the automatic qualifying positions is taken up by Peru, who beat both Bolivia and Ecuador. Argentina and Colombia both failed to win in their two games, but managed to secure two draws that keep them in the hunt for automatic qualification. The top two spots are currently secured by Brazil and Uruguay, who managed a win and a draw in their games. Brazil are comfortably qualified for Russia 2018, while Uruguay has a three-point gap between themselves and Argentina, who occupy the fifth play-off spot.

As such, the final two fixtures will see Uruguay (27 points) and Colombia (26) with a strong hold on a top-four spot, with Peru, Argentina (24) and Chile (23) risking their place in next year’s tournament. Parguay (21) and Ecuador (20) have little chance of overcoming the top six sides, although still maintain a mathematical possibility.

In North America, Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF), the United States still face a major challenge to qualify automatically, falling behind already-qualified Mexico, as well as Costa Rica and Panama. As it stands, their next match against Panama, who are a point and a place ahead of them, will probably decide which side manages to secure an automatic qualification berth. Fifth-placed Honduras could still upset both teams, however, and secure either a top-three qualification slot or a fourth-placed play-off.