Bulletin From The Borderlands
15 January 2023
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In This Issue:
The Americas : Covered in this issue by Analyze Educate and the Expeditionary Intelligence Group
Protestors supporting the ousted presidents Castillo of Peru and Bolsonaro of Brazil continue to wreak havoc. across both countries. Despite being in pre-trial custody, Castillo has remained an outspoken figure as well, idolizing fallen protesters on social media as warriors that are defending democracy. Boluarte has been forced to reshuffle her cabinet multiple times within the past month and it would be reasonable to conclude that more resignations and firings could come further down the line. The new president will see the target on her back grow until she can somehow tamp down the protest movement. The attorney general’s investigation is not something to turn a blind eye to and opposition leaders in Congress are surely hoping for Boluarte to resign or be removed from office. In short, Peru’s six year political crisis will not end for the foreseeable future. The direction of Brazil remains unclear as well. The country remains incredibly divided and, with Peru, it shows us the tense situation that much of South America currently finds itself in. Jair Bolsonaro is under pressure to return to Brazil and the current government is under pressure to investigate him and his allies in relation to the events of January 8th. Additionally, the likelihood of any protest or resistance movements leading to the ouster of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is slim.
Europe : Covered in this issue by Croatoan Report and Sino Talk
Russian forces inched their way into Soledar, paving the way for a northern axis of attack into the Ukrainian held city of Bahkmut. Casualties continue to mount on both sides, with Wagner Group increasingly taking on a greater and greater role in the fighting. In Belarus, an estimated 500,000 Russian conscripts are being stationed to reattempt an invasion of Ukraine from the north. Western arms, including American Strykers and British Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks, continue to flow into Ukrainian hands.
East Asia and Oceania: Covered in this issue by Expeditionary Intelligence Group
Significant anti government protests have persisted throughout China, as resistance to Chinese hegemony grows ever stronger. Japan and the United States enter into a new arms production and mutual defense pact. Taiwan continues to arm itself in preparation for a potential invasion by CCP forces. The dynamic between Russia and the CCP has further evolved into a CCP dominated relationship in which Russia and its leadership is very much the junior partner.
Central Asia and the Mid East: Covered in this issue by S2 Forward, Expeditionary Intelligence Group, and Vermillion Analysis
The Syrian Arab Army and the Assad government is attempting another negotiated peace between itself, Turkey, and Russia, in another attempt to bypass the stalemate it finds itself in. Iraq’s PM moves away from the Iranian regime in public statements defending the presence of American troops in the country. Pakistan continues to collapse, as its tribal regions grow in power, fueled by support from the Afghan Taliban. The Taliban and China have signed a deal to extract oil and natural gas from Afghan territory, the first deal of its kind with the terrorist government of Afghanistan.
Africa : Covered in this issue by the Expeditionary Intelligence Group
Peace in Africa, in an unusual reversal for the subcontinent. Ethiopia and Mali both make progress in their peace processes. Ethiopia’s latest ceasefire seems to be holding as the Tigray militias begin the disarmament process. Violence still holds sway over much of central Africa, so this brief moment of peace is an exception, not a trend.
The Big Points:
The Highlight: Mafia No More
The Sinaloa Cartel has risen up against the Mexican government for the arrest of one of their senior leaders, as they did a few months ago when he was arrested by accident. The arrest of the Sinaloa Cartel operator has resulted in widespread violence and fear across the nation. Social media reports have shown that most businesses in Sinaloa have closed as well as the burning of vehicles all along major highways in and out of the state. Additionally, many videos have surfaced of Sinaloa Cartel members setting up roadblocks on major roadways to ambush police and national security forces. Furthermore, the cartel has launched multiple attacks at airports within their home state resulting in the cancellation of over 100 flights and damaging multiple planes via gunfire including one that was preparing to take off.
The Long Term Concern: A Violent World
Conflict is the name of the game for the fifth month in a row. The war in Ukraine continues to intensify, the Mid East and Central Asia continue to maintain their low level conflicts, and Africa remains a violence hotbed. Instability in South and Central America spiked this month with the arrest of El Raton, Ovidio Guzman. The Sinaloa Cartel has risen against the Mexican government, and is at this time engaged in running gun battles with Mexican police and military forces across the state of Sinaloa. In South America, the deposition of authoritarian presidents in Brazil and Peru has led to widespread January 6th style uprisings against government institutions and security forces.
Argentina’s government has resisted pressure from the CCP to allow Chinese forces to build a naval base on Argentine soil.
President Joe Biden mishandled classified materials, which were discovered in his Delaware home.
A small right wing segment of the Republican party delayed the nomination of Republican Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House for several days, severely weakening the slim Republican majority and new speaker.
The United States and Great Britain have expanded their arms aid programs to Ukraine, with the US sending Bradleys and Stryker tactical vehicles, and Britain sending Challenger tanks.
A Month of Chaos in Peru
Continuous nationwide political protests in Peru have surpassed one month after the failed self-coup by former President Pedro Castillo on December 7th. Since the Bulletin’s last update on the situation the death toll has continued to rise. Additionally, President Dina Bolularte, once Castillo’s vice president, finds herself in an increasingly precarious position as some within the government have put her in their crosshairs. The new year has brought anything but stability for the people of Peru.
The new year began with the Peruvian National Police (PNP) calling on citizens to join a “Great March for Peace” in town squares across the country on January 3rd. It was later revealed that the march was organized to shore up support for Boluarte’s government and some became concerned that the security apparatus of the state was getting too cozy with elected officials. For this reason, Minister of the Interior, Victor Rojas, canceled the march.
Demonstrations around the country continue to target areas such as Cusco (a major tourist destination), Lima, and various airports. Protesters have been dispersed using a variety of means from tear gas to live fire. Innocent civilians and journalists have also found themselves in the crossfire. On January 7th in Juliaca, a journalist with Spanish news agency EFE was shot in the leg by security forces. The journalist, Aldair Mejia, was earlier threatened by a police officer who told him, “I’ll blow off your head and you get out of here dead”.
The situation in the country took another drastic turn on January 9th when protesters marched on the Inca Manco Cápac International Airport in the city of Julicaca. Some tried to force their way into the airport just before 5:30pm and security forces responded by shooting into the crowd. Multiple protesters and bystanders were hit including a doctor and two teenagers. One of them was shot by police while she was walking to purchase food. In total, 18 people were killed in Juliaca that day, all of whom died due to gunshot wounds. Among the dead are a man who was shot a few hours prior by police and a police officer who was burned alive in his vehicle. Over 100 others were injured. The event has widely been regarded as the “Juliaca massacre”.
On January 10th, the Office of the Attorney General announced that it was investigating President Boluarte and other prominent figures in her cabinet on allegations of genocide and aggravated homicide. This came as the death toll in the past month of unrest reached 49 and the investigation was sparked by the Juliaca massacre. Among the cabinet members under investigation are the Prime Minister Alberto Otarola, the Defense Minister Jorge Chavez, and Interior Minister Rojas. The latter defended the actions of security forces in Juliaca, saying that they faced down approximately 9,000 protesters that were armed with makeshift firearms and explosives.
Victor Rojas resigned from his position this past Friday and Grecia Rojas, the Minister of Women, resigned as well. The two were replaced by retired general Vicente Romero and Nancy Tolentino, respectively. Minister of Labor, Eduardo Garcia, resigned as well.
The attorney general’s office is also carrying out an investigation into the alleged corruption of former President Castillo. A task force assigned to the case announced that part of its probe includes looking at the “irregular promotions” of multiple figures within the military and National Police. The task force conducted at least two dozen searches, including searches at two homes of Castillo’s former defense minister, Walter Ayala. Six arrests have been disclosed so far, of which three of the men were active duty police generals that are accused of bestowing promotions to subordinates in exchange for money, with Castillo’s blessing.
Despite the growing pressure that is surrounding her and her administration, Boluarte has remained firm in her decision to not resign from office, saying that her “commitment is with Peru” as recently as Friday1.
Populism on Display in Brazil
On the first day of 2023, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, commonly known as “Lula”, was sworn in as the President of Brazil in a peaceful transition of power from former president Jair Bolsonaro. The two men fought a bitter election campaign late last year which was characterized by populist tactics from both the Right (Bolsonaro) and the Left (Lula). On October 30th, Lula, who previously served as president from 2003-2010, came out on top.
After the election was over Bolsonaro was skeptical of his loss and the administration took legal action to challenge the outcome of the election. However, Bolsonaro’s supporters were more active and outspoken. Skepticism towards the result of the election from his supporters led to events that some are comparing to the events of January 6th, 2021 at the United States Capitol Building. Whether that comparison is warranted or not, the past two and a half months in Brazil have added another episode to the chronicle of Latin America’s fragile history with representative government.
Per Brazil’s constitution, a presidential candidate must receive over 50% of the vote to win the election outright. Otherwise, a runoff election is held soon after. Lula was heavily favored to win the first round on October 2nd according to pollsters with a lead of anywhere from 7.7-14%. However, neither candidate won a majority and a runoff election was to be held on October 30th.
The voter turnout for the runoff was 79.41%, slightly more than the first round and more than the 2018 general election as well. The 77-year-old Lula beat Bolsonaro by just .9% of the vote. Bolsonaro was fairly silent in the immediate aftermath of the election, sparking concerns from some domestic and international observers that he may attempt to challenge the results given that he had not conceded.
Denial and “Bad Faith Litigation”?
Bolsonaro broke his silence after the election in a press conference on November 1st. In his brief statement to reporters, he neither acknowledged nor denied the results from two days prior. He did, however, say that his actions moving forward would be in accordance with the constitution. His chief of staff, Ciro Nogueira, also stated that the “process of transition” had begun, without expanding on that statement.
After weeks of remaining mostly silent, Bolsonaro and his Liberal Party (PL) filed a lawsuit in the Federal Supreme Court after it was revealed that electronic voting machines made after 2020 did not have identification numbers in internal logs due to a software error. These machines accounted for 59% of the machines used in the election and Bolsonaro requested that the votes they counted be thrown out. However, those who disagreed with him argued that the error did not affect the vote as identification numbers for the machines appeared on physical records. The next day, the court under Justice Alexandre de Moraes rejected the lawsuit and fined Bolsoanro’s team the equivalent of $4.3 million USD for “bad faith litigation”.
Supporters of the now-former president, ‘Bolsonaristas’, took immediate action. Hundreds of roads were blocked for multiple days and protests were held across Brazil. Some protesters were seen praying for God to keep Bolsonaro in power and many of them also begged the military to intervene in order to keep Lula from being inaugurated. During Brazil’s military dictatorship, Jair Bolsonaro served 15 years in the army as an artillery officer. His military service led some to fear that the military may side with him in regards to the 2022 election. However, on November 10th, the Ministry of Defense released a report concluding that it had found no evidence of election fraud that led to Lula’s victory.
The results of the election were certified on December 12th and one supporter of the former president was arrested for allegedly trying to incite violence to stop Lula from being sworn in two weeks later. Some Bolsonaristas responded to the arrest by attempting to storm the headquarters of the Federal Police in Brasília. Rioters clashed with police as tear gas filled the air, vehicles were torched, and stun grenades went off. Police were eventually able to beat the rioters back.
On December 30th, Bolsonaro gave his last address to the people of Brazil. In that address he stated that the election was not impartial but did condemn violence carried about by his supporters. After the address, he flew to Florida where he remains at the home of former UFC Featherweight champion José Aldo, a Brazilian national, in an Orlando suburb. His detractors say that he came to the United States to avoid attending Lula’s inauguration on January 1st. However, Bolsonaro says he is in the United States to receive medical care in regards to wounds suffered while on the 2018 campaign trail when a man stabbed him with a knife.
Jan. 8th and Repercussions
On January 7th, buses filled with Bolsonaristas began arriving in the capital Brasília and joined with a group that had been staying in front of the Army Headquarters in the hope that the military would launch a coup against Lula. On the afternoon of the 8th, the group, numbering over 4,000 people, began to march towards the National Congress. Some clashes with law enforcement ensued, but the rioters were mostly left alone to storm the building. The legislature was not in session at this time so there were no lawmakers in the area.
Rioters then turned their attention to the Palácio do Planalto, the president’s workspace, and the Supreme Federal Court. They eventually made their way into the buildings which led the army to try and disperse the crowd using helicopters. All three areas were heavily vandalized and looted. Many historical artifacts and portraits were destroyed or damaged. Some rioters defecated in the press areas of the Congress building and some rioters stole weapons from the security office of the presidential workspace, including grenades of an unstated type.
State and federal sources vary as to how many rioters were arrested during the attack; anywhere from 200-400 people. According to the Minister of Justice, another 1,500 have been arrested since then. At least 684 of them were later released. Police and the military began clearing camps in front of military installations and counter-protests were held around the country on the next day. Additionally, Justice Moraes issued arrest warrants for former public secretary of Brasília Anderson Torres and the Federal District Military Police chief Fabio Augusto Vieira on charges of negligence.
In a tweet, President Lula called the demonstrators “fascists” and barbarians. He also accused officials overseeing the Federal District of incompetence and acting in bad faith.
Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party condemned the attack. In a statement, party leadership said that any party member involved in the attack would be expelled. Bolsonaro also condemned the rioters in a tweet, but denied responsibility for their actions.
On January 13th, the Supreme Court authorized an investigation into Bolsonaro to determine if he should be charged in connection with the attacks. Bolsonaro recently stated that he would return to Brazil sooner than planned due to the events of January 8th. Despite dozens of Democratic lawmakers and media pundits pressuring President Joe Biden to expel Bolsonaro, it appears that he will be allowed to leave the United States according to his plan. The visa he used to enter the country is reserved for current heads of state and only lasts for 30 days before it needs to be renewed. This gives him until late January to leave the country or update his visa status with the Department of State2.