Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

This Week in Latin America: Puerto Rico’s Debt Deadline—Montt on Trial—Ayotzinapa Protest—Press Freedom in the Americas

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Here’s a look at some of the stories we’re following this week:

Puerto Rico’s Debt Deadline: Puerto Rico, which is struggling to meet its obligations to international creditors, faces a deadline on two debt payments Saturday. The government there will have to pay down $169.9 million on debts assumed by the Government Development Bank, and another $93.7 million on bonds sold through its Public Finance Corporation. These are the first payments to come due since Puerto Rico’s governor, Alejandro García Padilla, announced last month that the island’s debts were “not payable.” The territory has already missed its first deposit deadline, though the government is reportedly working on ways to increase liquidity and service its debts before August 1. Even if successful, Moody’s, a credit rating agency, predicts that Puerto Rico will default on at least some of its debt; its total obligation is around $72 billion, and García Padilla says that, without restructuring, the territory will have to default.

Guatemalan ex-president on trial: A state medical examiner will review whether former president of Guatemala, Efraín Ríos Montt, can be considered fit to stand trial for war crimes, further delaying an ongoing legal effort against the one-time army general. In 2013, Montt was found guilty of overseeing the genocide of indigenous Ixil Mayans while serving as president from 1982-83, though the conviction was later overturned on procedural grounds. A retrial, set for January of this year, was delayed after the presiding judge was forced to recuse himself for having taken a position on the genocide as a graduate student. According to his lawyers, Montt, now 89 and battling illness, is mentally incompetent for trial, and lacks the necessary faculties to understand the charges against him.

Relatives in ‘Ayotzinapa case’ stage protest march: The parents of 43 students kidnapped and presumed killed last September in the restive state of Guerrero, Mexico will begin a cross-country protest march on Thursday to demand answers in what they deem has been an unsatisfactory investigation of the incident. Over the course of their investigation, officials have uncovered the remains of 129 people in the area surrounding the town of Iguala, where the young people were last seen, though none belonging to the missing students. Investigators claim the missing remains were burned and dispersed in a nearby river, though a representative from the National Commission for Human Rights in Mexico, Luis Raúl González Pérez, said last week that the investigation was “incomplete” and should not be closed. The parents of the students say they will march in two “caravans,” one beginning in the north of Mexico and the other in the south, and stage demonstrations in towns and cities throughout the country.

Press freedom in the Americas: On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere will hear testimony on threats to press freedom in the Americas. The hearing comes as both censorship and violent threats to journalists remain endemic in the region. According to Reporters without Borders, an advocacy group, Mexico is the worst place in Latin America for journalists, followed closely by Venezuela and Honduras. The climate for press freedom has also deteriorated in Ecuador, according to the group, following the implementation of a new regulatory framework promoted by the government, meant to define how news and information should be provided by the media. Wednesday’s hearing will feature testimony from Nicolás Pérez Lapentti, the co-director of El Universo in Ecuador, and Carlos Ponce, the director of the Latin America Program for Freedom House, among others.


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