5 Things to know from Latin America and the Caribbean this week: Panama launches border operation, Brazil launches anti-deforestation plan

Panama operation targets organized crime, migrant smugglers in Darien Gap 

Panama launched a security operation along its shared border with Colombia on Friday, the Associated Press reported. The operation is designed to combat criminal gangs and migrant smugglers involved in record-setting migration through the perilous Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama.

Security officials said the “Shield” campaign is part of an agreement reached with the governments of Colombia and the United States in April to stop the flow of migrants through the jungle that divides the countries.

Panama will dedicate some 1,200 immigration agents, border police and members of the naval air service to what it said will be an air, land and sea effort. The targets will not be the hundreds of migrants traversing the dense jungle each day, but the organized criminal groups that prey on and profit from them on both sides of the border.

Oriel Ortega, director of the border police, said that the dominant criminal group operating in the Darien was Colombia’s Gulf Clan. The gang terrorized much of northern Colombia to gain control of major cocaine smuggling routes through thick jungles north to Central America and into the U.S. It also moves weapons and migrants.

To read the full AP story, visit:  https://bit.ly/appanamaoperationshield

Mexico’s Morena party gains power in governor’s election 

Morena, the ruling party of Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador won the governorship of the State of Mexico on Monday, the AP reported. This victory of the country's most populous state dealt a life-threatening blow to the old ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party — or PRI — which had governed the State of Mexico without interruption for nearly a century.

The result was a new low for the PRI, which held Mexico’s presidency uninterrupted for 71 years until losing power in 2000 elections; the party had governed the State of Mexico and its 17 million inhabitants for 94 years until its loss Sunday.

The PRI managed to hold on to the governorship of the sparsely populated northern border state of Coahuila, and governs the neighboring state of Durango in coalition with other opposition parties. But the PRI is now a shadow of the old days when it ruled Mexico with a combination of hand-out programs and corruption.

The Morena party now governs 22 of Mexico’s 32 states, propelled by López Obrador’s personal popularity — and more generous payments to the elderly and students than the PRI offered. The conservative National Action party governs five states, the Morena-allied Green party governs one and the small Citizens Movement holds two large states.

To read the full AP story, visit: https://bit.ly/apmexicomorena

Death toll rises to 42 as Haiti struggles to recover from floods

Heavy rains pelted Haiti’s western, northwestern, southeastern and central regions over the weekend, the AP reported. The death toll from the heavy floods that hit Haiti over the weekend has risen to 42, with another 11 people missing, authorities said Monday.

At least 85 people are injured, and more than 13,600 homes were flooded, forcing people to evacuate, according to Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency.

The weather has since improved, but people are trying to find temporary shelters after the rain turned roads into rushing rivers of brown water.

The rain damaged many crops amid a spike in starvation and the World Food Program said tens of thousands of people have been affected, with the greatest damage reported in Port-au-Prince’s metropolitan area and in Haiti’s western region.

To read the full AP story, visit: https://bit.ly/aphaitifloods

Brazil's Lula lays out plan to halt Amazon deforestation

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva unveiled a plan on Monday to end illegal deforestation in the Amazon, the AP reported. This is a major campaign pledge that is a critical step in addressing the country’s significant carbon emissions from the region.

This strategy, set to be implemented over four years, provides a roadmap to achieve the ambitious goal of halting illegal deforestation by 2030. Lula’s term ends Jan. 1, 2027, so full implementation would depend on the willingness of whoever comes after him to continue the work.

To achieve this end, the plan includes measures that increase protected areas, give incentives to replant cut trees, reduce carbon emissions and encourage sustainable industries. 

The new measures mark the fifth phase of a large initiative called the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon. Created 20 years ago, during Lula’s first term, the plan was largely responsible for curbing deforestation by 83% between 2004 and 2012. The plan was suspended during Jair Bolsonaro’s time in office.

To read the full AP story, visit: https://bit.ly/apbrazildeforestationplan

Casabe, Cuba's little-known traditional bread, seeks world recognition

A delegation of countries including Cuba, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Honduras and Haiti, formally requested that UNESCO include the tradition of harvesting yuca, and preparing and consuming casabe to its cultural heritage list in March, the AP reported

Casabe is a flatbread made of yuca root, which is also called cassava. The crunchy bread is one of Cuba’s oldest Indigenous meals and is making a comeback on the island nation, with promoters and restaurants hyping its benefits as a gluten-free alternative to bread.

Casabe was a key part of the diet of Indigenous peoples in the Caribbean. It was also among the first native products embraced by the Spaniards upon their arrival. They incorporated it into their diet, partly because of its durability. It can last months once baked.

In addition to seeking UNESCO recognition, casabe enthusiasts hope it will be widely embraced as a healthy, sustainable meal that delights the palate of more people while preserving an Indigenous tradition.

To read the full AP story, visit: https://bit.ly/apcubacasabe


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