5 things to know from Latin America and the Caribbean

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1. Venezuelan teachers march for better pay amid sky-high inflation

On Monday, teachers, retirees and workers' unions marched in at least six Venezuelan cities, including San Cristobal, Lara and Zulia, to demand better salaries, as the government of President Nicolas Maduro faces renewed challenges in its attempt to fight inflation, according to Reuters.

Nongovernmental group of economists have estimated that Venezuela's inflation reached 305 percent last year, after calculating indicators in the absence of official data.

The minimum monthly salary for a public school teacher is about $10 U.S. dollars, while university professors earn between $60 and $80.

“Our food is carbohydrates, no protein, few vegetables, it is very basic,” said Reina Sequera, a professor at the University of Carabobo and the main breadwinner in her family of three. “We can't even afford acetaminophen.”

Vice President Diosdado Cabello said in comments aired on state television that the economic strife is caused by sanctions imposed on the government by the United States. 

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2. Puerto Rico to privatize power generation amid outages

Puerto Rico announced Sunday that it plans to privatize electricity generation, per Associated Press. The U.S. territory has been facing chronic power outages as it struggles to rebuild a collapsing electric grid.

The move could mark the beginning of the end for Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority. The government agency has been accused of corruption, mismanagement and inefficiency, while holding some $9 billion in public debt — the largest of any government agency.

In June of 2021, the Puerto Rican government privatized the transmission and distribution of power, which has become detrimental for many families that continue to be affected by the frequent outages, length of outages and costly power bills.

The company selected to take over power generation is unknown as the contract has not yet been made public, in accordance with local laws.

The contract would be sent to the governing board of Puerto Rico’s power company and then to the territory’s governor for his signature. The contract is expected to be approved despite opposition to the privatization.

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3. Colombia president asks to stop arrest of narco sought by the U.S.

Colombia’s president, Gustavo Petro, is seeking to suspend arrest orders against some of the country’s biggest criminal suspects, including one individual wanted in the U.S. on narcotics charges. The measure is part of an ambitious plan to dismantle armed groups that have long dominated the countryside.

Per Associate Press, the request to suspend the arrest orders against eight members of the so-called Gulf Clan was made on Jan. 11. Among those on the list are Jobanis Villadiego, also known by his alias “Bad Boy,” who was indicted in Brooklyn federal court in 2015 alongside Dairo Antonio Úsuga, then leader of the Gulf Clan and at the time Colombia’s most wanted fugitive.

Colombia’s top law enforcement authority on Friday said there was no legal basis for Petro’s request. The Gulf Clan is accused of being Colombia’s largest drug trafficking organization, responsible for sending as much as 20 metric tons of cocaine each month to the U.S. and Europe.

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4. Top Brazil court greenlights probe of Bolsonaro for riot

A Brazilian Supreme Court justice allowed adding former President Jair Bolsonaro to its investigation into who incited the Jan. 8 riot in the nation’s capital. Authorities will hold the responsible parties accountable, through a broader crackdown.

Per Associated Press, Justice Alexandre de Moraes granted the request from the prosecutor-general’s office. It cited a video that Bolsonaro posted on Facebook two days after the riot. The video claimed President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wasn’t voted into office, but chosen by the Supreme Court and also Brazil’s electoral authority.

Brazilian authorities are investigating who helped Bolsonaro’s radical supporters storm the Supreme Court, Congress as well as the presidential palace in an attempt to overturn results of the general election.

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5. Caribbean queens shone in Miss Universe

Although they did not take the crown with them, several Caribbean contestants shone in the Miss Universe competition.

The Miss Universe 71st edition was celebrated in New Orleans, U.S. on Saturday crowning R’Bonney Gabriel, Miss Universe U.S. as the winner while Miss Miss Universe Venezuela, Amanda Dudamel, and Miss Universe Dominican Republic, Andreina Martínez, were first and second runner-up, respectively.

Before knowing these three candidates, Miss Universe Puerto Rico, Ashley Cariño, and Miss Universe Curaçao, Gabriela Dos Santos, were in the group of five finalists. The 16 semifinalists also included candidates from Spain, Haiti, Australia, Laos, South Africa, Portugal, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, India and Colombia. 

Nearly 90 contestants from around the world took part in the competition, organizers said, involving “personal statements, in depth interviews and various categories including evening gown & swimwear,” per Associated Press.

Rights to the pageant were bought last year by Chakrapong “Anne” Chakrajutathib, a Thai business tycoon and transgender activist for $20 million.

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