September 26, 2023
😎 How was your weekend? If you didn't spend some of it preaching to your friends about Axios Latino, now's the time!
🚨 Situational awareness: More than six of Sen. Bob Menendez's fellow Senate Democrats are calling for him to resign after his indictment on federal bribery charges. Menendez (D-N.J.), the most senior Latino in the Senate, has refused to step down.
👀 Puede leer este boletín en español aquí.
This newsletter, edited by Astrid Galván and Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath, is 1,412 words, a 5.5-minute read.
1 big thing: 🇪🇨 Campaigning in bulletproof vests
The big picture: The Oct. 15 special elections come as the nation grapples with swelling crime, which has become a central issue for voters and the candidates, leftist Luisa González and conservative Daniel Noboa.
- Homicides in Ecuador have skyrocketed from 5.8 for every 100,000 people in 2018 to 18.89 per 100,000 this year, prompting authorities to put the country under intermittent states of emergency, and leading to more migration to the U.S.
- Experts attribute the root of increased crime to international cartels, who have made Ecuador's port cities a major hub for moving illegal products, and to local gangs becoming affiliated with those cartels.
- Fernando Villavicencio, a former journalist who was running for president, was murdered on Aug. 9 during a campaign event. Authorities believe a gang targeted him for his work as a journalist.
What to know: González and Noboa are vying to replace outgoing President Guillermo Lasso, who is leaving office early after dissolving Congress over an impeachment inquiry. González and Noboa have zeroed in on security policies.
- Noboa, a businessman backed by the conservative coalition Alianza ADN, promises to invest in police equipment, create a major cybersecurity program and strengthen the justice system so prisons won't be overrun.
- González, a lawyer running with the Revolución Ciudadana political movement, promises to restructure the Ministry of the Interior to enhance police investigation processes and reduce impunity, and to tackle poverty and lack of opportunities as underlying causes of gang affiliation.
- Both González and Noboa have recently claimed, without offering evidence, that their campaigns have been possible targets of assassination attempts or violence.
- "Because of that I've been compelled to wear this bulletproof vest and accept the government's offer of military escorts," González said at a campaign event earlier this month. "Before that, I'd been unwilling to wear the vest because I feel everyone should have access to the same security" in the country.
What they're saying: Despite Villavicencio's murder and the heavy police presence at the polls, 82% of Ecuadorians voted in the first-round election, showing that they won't be intimidated, says Máximo Zaldívar, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.
- "I hope the same happens for the runoff," Zaldívar tells Axios Latino.
2. 🎂 A Hispanic happy birthday to you, United States
Latinos will take center stage during the celebrations marking the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Rosie Rios, the former U.S. treasurer and head of the planning commission, tells Astrid.
Catch up quick: Congress established the nonpartisan Semiquincentennial Commission, composed of private citizens, members of Congress and government appointees, in 2016.
- Rios, who served as U.S. treasurer from 2009 to 2016, was appointed chair of the commission last year.
- The commission, which also goes by America 250, is creating nationwide commemorations in partnership with organizations like the MLB and YWCA. It's also aiming for every state and D.C. to have their own commission.
What she's saying: Rios says that, as the fastest growing demographic, Latinos will be "front and center" in the commemorations, which are still being planned.
- Rios, who grew up in Northern California as the daughter of Mexican immigrants, is heading a national publicity campaign for the anniversary that she says will be focused on storytelling.
- "Everyone has a different narrative, and America means different things to many people, and I think this is really going to be something that we want people to see themselves in," Rios says.
- "The American dream is very real for me, and it was very real for my mom and my family," says Rios, who fondly remembers the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976. "To have my kids feel a love of country, the way I felt in 1976, is a personal aspiration for this process."
3. Disaster preparedness, in Spanish
The Biden Administration is pushing for Latinos to be better prepared for natural disasters and the effects of climate change, Russell writes.
Why it matters: A large percentage of Latinos live in the Southwest, where wildfires hit annually, and along hurricane-prone areas like Florida and North Carolina. But until a couple of years ago, the federal government didn't have enough materials targeting Latinos about potential disasters.
- Experts say Latinos are less likely to be prepared for a disaster than other groups. This worries experts, especially after many cities this summer saw record-high temperatures, which is attributable to human-caused climate change.
- Only 38 percent of Latino households in Los Angeles County reported having a disaster plan, the lowest of any ethnic or racial group, according to the county Department of Public Health's Community Health Assessment.
Details: Beginning in 2021, the administration started developing more Spanish-language content and culturally relevant materials around disasters, Justin Ángel Knighten, FEMA's director of the office of external affairs, tells Axios Latino.
- That work has increased in recent months with added content on the Spanish-language website listo.gov, which launched in 2023, and with new educational outreach efforts all around the country.
- "FEMA needed to listen to the information of who wasn't getting prepared, who were being disproportionately impacted, and really transformed the way that we're preparing the nation," Knighten says.
The big picture: Latinos have been disproportionately affected by disasters like the 2022 Calf Canyon Fire in New Mexico, which destroyed some historic Hispanic enclaves and left some ranchers injured.
- A study of the 2017 Hurricane Harvey in Houston found that floods from the storm hit Hispanics the hardest.
4. A day in the life of a rural educator
Karen Sanchez-Griego is a longtime educator who has defied the odds as a superintendent of a rural New Mexico school district, dramatically improving graduation rates and growing enrollment, especially among Native American students in nearby communities.
Through the lens: This month, Russell spent time with Sanchez-Griego — who has held her position for six years in a state where the average superintendent tenure is about two — to see firsthand how she does her job.
5. Stories we're watching
1. Cuban authorities yesterday condemned an attack on the island's embassy in Washington, D.C.
- The purported attack with Molotov cocktails happened Sunday after President Miguel Díaz-Canel left the U.S. after a state visit for the United Nations General Assembly.
- The Secret Service told the AP that the building was not significantly damaged and no arrests have been made.
2. Bogotá, Colombia, held a public mass yesterday as part of its weekend-long state honoring of artist Fernando Botero, who died Sep. 15.
- Botero, internationally renowned for his sculptures and paintings depicting voluminous people and animals, was 91.
- In Medellín, ceremonies in Botero's memory will next be held until Thursday.
6. 👽 Smile to go: Aliens-turned-piñatas
The recent viral moment in which Mexican TV personality Jaime Maussan presented alleged alien remains during a televised Congressional hearing is now a piñata, Marina writes.
Details: The piñata, which went on sale last week, is modeled on Maussan and one of the two alleged alien corpses that, during a hearing before Mexico's Congress on Sep. 12, he claimed were real.
- The intention of the hearing was to get testimony from Ryan Graves, the former U.S. Navy pilot who spoke during a similar event in the U.S. Congress this year, and of experts from across the world on unidentified aerial or anomalous phenomena.
What to know: Maussan, a TV show presenter, has become Mexico's most well-known ufologist.
- Maussan has said the corpses he showed are mummified remains of alleged aliens found in the Nazca archeological site in Peru.
- Peru's Ministry of Culture says the remains were likely illegally taken, which he has not addressed.
- The ministry also said the Nazca remains did not originally look as Maussan presented them, and that there were signs that parts were glued together.
Thanks for reading, and thanks to Carlos Cunha and Axios Visuals for their contributions!