“Residents in Arauca and Apure live in fear, as armed groups recruit their children and impose their own rules, threaten residents, and punish those who disobey, even with murder or months of forced labor in the fields,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The groups operate with near-to-absolute impunity on both sides of the border, and especially in Venezuela they sometimes are in collusion with security forces and local authorities.”
“The Colombian-Venezuelan border is strategically important to armed groups due to the illegal economies that exist there, including contraband, drug trafficking, and human trafficking,” Juan Pappier, one of the authors of the report, told the Guardian. “Armed groups can also attack civilians in Colombia and then use Venezuela as a rearguard, something that happens often on the Arauca-Apure border.”
Colombian authorities have attempted to wrest power from these armed groups, with limited success. And HRW's investigation found that the groups operate with even more freedom in Venezuela, where, in some cases, they act in collusion with national security forces and local authorities. In Colombia the groups often act as a local government, imposing regulations on daily lives that are enforced with violence.
Greenwald accused of cybecrimes
Brazilian prosecutors accused journalist Glenn Greenwald of cybercrimes. They accuse him of forming part of a "criminal organization," and say he “helped, encouraged and guided” a group of hackers who obtained phone messages between key figures Brazil's landmark Lava Jato corruption investigation. A federal judge must affirm the charges before he is officially indicted. (Guardian, BBC)
Prosecutors cite intercepted messages between Greenwald and hackers, saying they show the journalist played a “clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime.” Prosecutors also say that Greenwald was communicating with the hackers while they were actively monitoring private chats on Telegram, a messaging app. The complaint charged six other individuals, including four who were detained last year in connection with the cellphone hacking.
Legal experts say the case against Greenwald is shaky at best, and that journalists have broad protections under Brazilian law. The Intercept calls the accusations further proof that Brazilian prosecutors are acting as "political police" for Moro, who is currently the country's Justice Minister. Press freedom advocates are concerned about the escalation of tensions with Brazil's government: President Jair Bolsonaro accused Greenwald of committing crimes last year and suggested he would do jail-time as a result. (Guardian)
The accusations against Greenwald sent shockwaves in Brazil, where many commentators said they were politically motivated, reports the Washington Post. More broadly, they raise concerns among journalists and advocates for a free press because journalists often rely on confidential or leaked information, sometimes obtained by whistle-blowers or hackers, reports the New York Times.
Greenwald called the charges “an obvious attempt to attack a free press in retaliation for the revelations we reported about Minister Moro and the Bolsonaro government,” in a statement to the Daily Beast. The Committee to Protect Journalists said the criminal complaint was intended to scare investigative reporters in the country.
The Intercept Brasil, co-founded by Greenwald, published articles last year based on leaked cellphone messages that questioned the integrity Brazil's judiciary and showed apparent political maneuvering in relation to the landmark Lava Jato corruption investigation. The articles showed apparently politically motivated collusion by then-judge Sergio Moro with corruption prosecutors regarding accusations against former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, among others. (See post for June 10, 2019, among others.)
- Colombia is asking the United States, the European Union and other countries to include dissidents from the former FARC rebels on their lists of terrorist organizations, reports Reuters. (Colombia accepted the full U.S. and E.U. lists of terrorist organizations this week, including Hezbolla, see yesterday's briefs.)
- Colombian protesters returned to the streets yesterday, a continuation of last year's demonstrations. Though the reasons for the movement are varied and include opposition to tax reform and social demands, they have also become an avenue to protest violence against social activists, which has remained high in the beginning of this year, reports Infobae. Most of yesterday's marches were peaceful, but police clashed with some groups in Bogotá and there were reports of damage to public transportation infrastructure, reports Reuters. Organizers said there will be more protests in March.
- Former Brazilian Culture Minister Roberto Alvim's ignominious exit from the government last week -- after evoking Goebbels in an official announcement -- doesn't mean that the country's cultural officials will be free of Nazi ideals, warns The Intercept. (See Friday's briefs.)
- Brazilian prosecutors charged the former president of the Brazil-based mining giant Vale and 15 other people with homicide, yesterday, faulting them for negligence in the Brumadinho dam disaster that killed at least 259 people a year ago. Vale and the German safety-certification company TUV SUD will also face environmental charges. (New York Times, Washington Post)
- About 40 Venezuelan intelligence officers raided opposition leader Juan Guaidó's office yesterday, in what fellow lawmakers called an illegal search. (Efecto Cocuyo) Footage showed hooded and armed officers from the Sebin service outside the building in Caracas, reports the BBC. Guaidó is currently traveling outside of the country. The move came just hours after opposition lawmakers called off an attempt to hold a National Assembly session in the congress building, saying they wanted to avoid clashes with security forces and armed government supporters blocking entry, reports the Associated Press.
- Guaidó should harness "renewed international support to obtain electoral conditions that lead to an independent electoral council, legalizing opposition parties and removing political bans and thus allowing free and fair elections," argues Michael Penfold in a New York Times op-ed.
- A well-known Mexican conservationist, Homero Gómez González, has been missing since Jan. 13, raising alarm bells among human rights activists, reports the Washington Post.
- Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is engaging in a risky strategy to convince citizens of the need to raise taxes: he has cut back on critical government services, including health coverage and operational budgets, in order to demonstrate funding needs. But the human and institutional costs of the strategy are too high, argues Viri Ríos in a New York Times Español op-ed.
- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was set to meet with Caricom leaders yesterday in Jamaica. But the visit demonstrates a growing schism between Caribbean countries that are open to improved relations with the Trump administration, and those who have opposed talks on principle, reports the Guardian. The prime ministers of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago chose not to participate, and have been critical of U.S. inaction on the climate crisis and its regional impact on migration. But Jamaica's Prime Minister was joined by leaders representing the Bahamas, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St Kitts and Nevis and St Lucia. (Jamaica Observer)
- A young man killed by members of a rugby team outside a nightclub is another victim of machismo, writes journalist Mariana Carbajal in Página 12.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...