🌊 Don’t Cry for Milei, Argentina
Hamas releases US hostages, scarecrows fool the Swifties, and Guatemala blockade crisis
Vinny Asaro, a mobster linked to the heist that inspired Goodfellas, died at 86 on Saturday. Although the Lufthansa Heist took place in 1978, Vinny was arrested in 2014 for his involvement. After a testy trial, the jury acquitted him in 2015. Upon leaving the courthouse he reportedly told his lawyer, “Don't let them see the body in the trunk.”
Unfortunately for Vinny, he did spend a good chunk of his 80s in prison for a different crime — ordering the arson of the car of a man who cut him off in traffic in Queens. Kids, remember: Never, ever cut off a Vinny in traffic.
In today's edition:
Hamas releases US hostages
Scarecrows fool the Swifties
Guatemala blockade crisis
🔑 Key Stories
$105B to Israel, Ukraine?
The Biden administration requested $105B from Congress for aid to Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan, the southern border, and humanitarian assistance
Numerous Republican lawmakers oppose further aid to Ukraine. Since Hamas invaded Israel, though, strong bipartisan support has emerged to provide Israel with more military aid
On Thursday, Biden compared Hamas to Putin and said he would request Congress for $105B. Of those funds, $61.4B would go to Ukraine; $14.3B to Israel; $13.6B to border security; $7.4B to Taiwan; and $9.15B for humanitarian aid to civilians in Ukraine, Israel, and Palestine
Several Republicans openly opposed the bill, with one calling it “dead upon arrival. Others, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), voiced strong support for it
“No Americans are getting killed in Ukraine…The Ukrainians are destroying the army of one of our biggest rivals. I have a hard time finding anything wrong with that. I think it’s wonderful that they’re defending themselves,” McConnell said of it, adding that he will work to rally support for the aid
So long as the House does not have a speaker, though, it’s unclear if any such bill could pass
Hamas Releases US Hostages
Hamas released two US hostages on Friday for “humanitarian reasons”
Hamas has 222+ hostages, roughly a dozen of whom are Americans. Hamas has said it will not release hostages until Israel stops bombing. The hostages are believed to be held in tunnels beneath Gaza
This weekend, Hamas released two US hostages, a 59-year-old mother and her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie. The women had been visiting Natalie’s grandmother in Israel when they were taken hostage
In a statement, Hamas said they released the hostages for “humanitarian reasons” and “to prove…that the claims made by Biden and his fascist administration are false and baseless.” US diplomats used Qatar as an intermediary to negotiate the deal
The women are in good health and were brought to an Israeli base where they met with family. Other hostage negotiations are ongoing, and those are reportedly delaying Israel’s land invasion of Gaza
Argentina Election Surprise
During the first-round of voting in Argentina’s election, a libertarian outsider who had led in polling for months finished in second place
In August, Javier Milei – a libertarian and former television pundit – won the most votes in primary voting for Argentina’s presidential election. Milei is known for his unorthodox political views and outsider persona
Most polls have shown Milei leading since. During an election on Sunday, though, Milei finished in second behind his center-left opponent. Milei won 30% of the vote versus his opponent’s 36%
Milei and his center-left opponent will now head to a final, head-to-head “runoff” election in November
We wrote a Wrap on Milei two months ago that breaks down his rise to political prominence. Click the link to read more!
Cervical Cancer Breakthrough
A study found that a new method for treating cervical cancer can substantially reduce death rates
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2023, 13,960 US women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,310 will die. For decades, doctors have been using a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy (CRT) to treat cervical cancer
Per a new trial led by the University College London, though, using chemotherapy for six weeks prior to CRT reduces death and cancer recurrence rates by 30%+ versus those who are just treated with CRT
The results – which haven’t been published in an academic journal yet – were based on a 10-year trial of 500 patients
The doctor who spearheaded the project called the finding “the biggest improvement in outcome in this disease in over 20 years”
Another researcher involved in the study called it “an important advance in [cancer] treatment” and said doctors could begin implementing the study’s findings in a relatively short span of time
Sparty sorry: Michigan State University apologized after an image of Adolf Hitler appeared on its football stadium’s scoreboard alongside a trivia question answer about his birthplace
Whoops! An Atlanta woman returned from vacation to find her vacant home mistakenly demolished. A company mistakenly destroyed her house thinking it was another
23 Jump Street: Federal prosecutors charged an NYPD officer with selling fentanyl and heroin, alleging that she negotiated drug deals while on duty
Taylor (Scarecrow’s version): Taylor Swift fans swarmed a Connecticut restaurant after hearing that she and Travis Kelce might be there. Instead, her fans found scarecrows dressed like them
Leave Más: Police arrested Indiana University star basketball player Mackenzie Mgbako on misdemeanor charges for refusing to leave a Taco Bell
Not in Czech: A Czech priest apologized after he stomped on Halloween pumpkins carved by children near his church. He defended his actions as a stand against “satanic” symbols
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🌯 Roca Wrap
For weeks, thousands of Guatemalans have been blocking roads throughout the country, causing a political crisis.
Several protesters told Roca they are part of the “resistance” and claim to be fighting a government that is becoming authoritarian. Other Guatemalans called the protesters “terrorists.”
Guatemala – a Central American country of 17M people – became a democracy in 1985. In 1996, it signed a peace deal that ended 36 years of war against communist guerillas. The country remains poor and underdeveloped, and its current right-wing government has often been accused of corruption.
In a report last year, several international watchdogs warned of a “strengthening of authoritarian rule” in Guatemala caused by the “capture…of public institutions by economic and political elites.” The government has also been accused of silencing journalists, intimidating judges, and more.
This June, Guatemala held the first-round of voting in presidential elections.
During that, left-wing candidate Bernardo Arévalo unexpectedly won the second-most votes. Arévalo had campaigned on an anti-establishment and anti-corruption platform. He and right-wing candidate Sandra Torres, who won the most votes, qualified for a head-to-head “runoff” election.
Following Arévalo’s strong first-round showing, Guatemala’s Public Prosecution Service (MP) suspended his political party for allegedly falsifying signatures to establish the party. That would have disqualified Arévalo from competing in the runoff election. The next day, though, Guatemala’s highest court reversed that suspension, citing laws that grant political candidates certain types of immunities during the electoral process. In the subsequent runoff election, held in August, Arévalo defeated Torres with a landslide 61% of the vote.
Guatemala’s ruling right-wing president congratulated Arévalo for his victory; a representative for an international body overseeing the election noted no irregularities. Yet Torres and others refused to accept the results and alleged massive voter fraud.
After the election, Guatemala’s conservative attorney general, Maria Consuelo Porras, reopened investigations into alleged fraud related to Arévalo’s political party. Porras and others again alleged the party used falsified signatures to become registered.
On August 28, Guatemala’s top election body certified Arévalo’s victory, making him the president-elect. The same day, though, a judge suspended Arévalo’s political party at Porras’ request. Porras has since authorized raids of several election sites, which Arévalo claims are illegal.
The election process is set to officially end on October 31, at which point Arévalo will lose the immunity provided to him by the process. On October 1, Arévalo called for protests until Porras and others resign.
“Let us show the coup plotters that we are united against them, and that we will know how to peacefully defend that common heritage that is our democracy,” he wrote on X.
In response, “48 Cantones,” an Indigenous group that supports Arévalo, called for protests to block Guatemala’s roadways. Those spread nationwide, blocking 150+ roads at its peak, crippling Guatemala’s economy, and causing food and fuel shortages.
Roca spoke to dozens of Guatemalans from all sides of the issue to learn more about what is happening.
Many Guatemalans told Roca that the blockades have severely affected their lives since the start of the month. Some said they can’t commute to work; others sent photos of empty grocery store shelves. One 34-year-old who lives in Guatemala City, the capital, said it felt like “Covid lockdowns.”
Several told Roca that despite the hardships, they generally support those who are protesting. One said “society is fed up with so much corruption”; another claimed Porras “manufactured a case” against Arévalo to prevent the political elites from losing power. One told Roca that in her small town northwest of Guatemala City, protesters hosted “artistic demonstrations,” “cooperative games,” and “dance classes” and cooked meals for the needy.
Roca also spoke to two protesters in their 20s who called themselves part of the “resistance.” They called the investigations against Arévalo fabricated, described the current government as a “dictatorship,” and said their objective is to stop an ongoing coup attempt. They also said the “main goal” of the protests is to cause an “economic crisis” that will “push the businessmen” – who they claim secretly run the country – to support Arévalo’s presidency.
Yet others felt the protests are misguided and are primarily harming the poor working class. “I know the blockades won’t achieve their objective,” one college student said.
The editor-in-chief of one of Guatemala’s largest right-leaning news outlets predicted the protests will “backfire” on Arévalo, undermining his support among the urban middle and working classes. He also claimed Western media misportrays the protests by circulating videos showing hundreds of protesters, when he claimed that in reality most blockades are led by only a few people.
A gas store manager in a region northwest of Guatemala City said that he was forced to ration gas as a result of the blockade. He sent Roca a picture of hundreds of motorists lining up in front of pumps.
“These inconveniences made us…do what the government [should] have done,” he said.
He and 200 others decided to clear a blockade near their town: “When we arrived screaming, ‘Out you motherf*ckers!’ ‘Get out now!,’ the protesters quickly ran away leaving all the supplies that organizations had been giving them (including high amounts of alcohol),” he told Roca.
Several Guatemalans told Roca that they believe the US – “the Empire” – is behind the protests. They pointed Roca to financial forms showing that earlier this year, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) allocated funds to 48 Cantones – the Indigenous group that initially led the protests – for “strengthening of skills for managing social conflict.” One also sent Roca an X post showing an image of Arévalo posing with the head of USAID.
Several others alleged massive voter fraud, including a professor Roca spoke to who claimed that Arévalo stole the election in the same way Donald Trump claims President Biden did from him. She claimed Arévalo called the protests to distract the country from the fraud. Many election oversight bodies and other people Roca spoke to, including the editor-in-chief of the conservative news outlet, refuted those claims and said there is no evidence of voter fraud.
While the government has largely declined to break up the protests, a protester died last Monday when masked gunmen attacked a blockade. Several protesters alleged without proof that the government embedded troublemakers among them to purposefully tarnish their image; others said they fear government reprisals. Protests continue, although the number of road blockades has declined.
As of writing, Porras remains in office while Arévalo’s political fate remains far from certain.
If you have thoughts, let us know at [email protected]!
🌊 Roca Clubhouse
If money wasn't an issue, would you rather
Buy your home: 90%
Rent your home: 10%
Just 20 Qs!
🧠 Final Thoughts
Last Friday we ran a special edition of 20 Questions to learn more about you, our newsletter audience. Here’s the link again if you didn’t have a chance to fill that out.
Have a great Monday!
—Max and Max