Thursday, June 4, 2015

#NiUnaMenos (June 4, 2015)

Ni una menos. Not one women less.

Some 200,000 people gathered in front of Argentina's Congress yesterday to protest femicides -- the killing of women motivated by gender -- and domestic violence. A series of gruesome murders in recent months have brought gender violence to the fore. In particular the murder of a pregnant 14-year-old last month who was beat to death by her boyfriend and buried in a courtyard. 
Femicide is an increasingly recognized problem in Argentina, and in the region. 

Domestic violence claimed the life of nearly one woman per day last year in Argentina, a total of 277 in 2014. Over the past seven years, the media has reported 1,808 femicides, organizers say.

The statistics are based on civil society estimates, because Argentina doesn't yet have official statistics. A national registry of femicides was one of the demands of yesterday's march.
Demonstrators also demanded the implementation of a law meant to protect women from gender violence, protective measures for victims, educational policies and judicial assistance. Página 12 has the full list of demands.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in over 80 cities around country under the same slogan, Ni Una Menos, and in Uruguay and Chile as well. In Uruguay marchers demanded incorporation of femicide into the penal code, reports La Nación.

The problem belongs to everybody, said organizer Maitena Burundarena, a well-known feminist cartoonist. "We have to build the solution together. We need to commit to change a culture that tends to think of women as an object of consumption and discard and not as an autonomous person."

Earlier this week President Cristina Kirchner denounced a "culture that devastates women" on Twitter. She said the media is also to blame for fomenting a culture of female objectification. Stories reporting on gender violence often mention what the victim was wearing, or that she enjoyed going out, Kirchner said. She also criticized judges who pass light sentences for cases of domestic violence.

Mariana Carbajal, in Página 12, hopes that the march will serve as a focal point for creating cultural awareness of a deeply engrained issue, and of forcing politicians to pay attention during the upcoming presidential campaign. 

La Nación reports that many marchers wore t-shirts detailing abuses they and others have suffered for being women. Some men carried signs simply saying "Sorry."

Femicide is a particularly resonant problem in the region, 14 Latin American countries rank among the 25 countries with worst statistics. El Salvador, Jamaica and Guatemala have the highest rates in the world, reports TeleSur. Nearly five women are killed every day in Mexico, and 15 in Brazil, according to AFP.

In addition to Argentina, 11 countries in the region recognize femicide as a specific crime, including Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil reports the International Business Times. Nonetheless, reliable statistics on the phenomenon are lacking making accountability difficult. 

Earlier this week Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff urged women to report gender violence, saying that there must be zero tolerance of aggression against women. Last year there were 114 reports each day of gender violence, she said, according to EFE.

Yet there's a long way to go. As hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered around Argentina decrying gender violence, a man in the province of Corrientes decapitated his daughter in the heat of an argument and stabbed his wife who tried to defend her -- all this in front of the couple's eight other children, reports La Nación.


































News Briefs
  • The American Red Cross raised nearly $500 million for post earthquake aid in Haiti, but a scathing investigation by ProPublica and NPR says that the prestigious organization has done almost nothing on the ground with those funds. Among other failures, the organization relied on foreign staff that had little on-the-ground knowledge, and didn't even speak French or Creole. Projects focusing on housing were endlessly delayed due to lack of know-how, explain Justin Elliot and Laura Sullivan, who base the piece on internal documents and e-mails. While the Red Cross says they helped 4.5 million Haitians, there is reason to doubt that claim, according to the authors.
  • Much of the $1.7 billion of U.S. government aid to Haiti was also ineffectively spent, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report. Construction projects in particular suffer from cost overruns and delays, reports the Miami Herald, while several projects were scrapped due to poor performance or lack of support from the Haitian government. 
  • Electoral judges in Haiti recommended disqualifying former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe's candidacy for president. Lamothe's attorney will be challenging the recommendation, which comes on the same day that Haiti's largest human rights group reprimanded the country's electoral council for overlooking criminal allegations in some of the candidates approved for legislative and presidential candidacies, reports the Miami Herald. Lamothe's candidacy has been controversial because he lacks proper legal clearance.As a former government official -- he also headed the ministries of planning and foreign affairs -- he is required to obtain a certificate from Parliament showing he did not misuse government funds. However, Haiti has not had a functioning parliament since January, meaning the "décharges" cannot legally be issued. (See May 21's briefs.)
  • Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández admitted yesterday that his 2013 presidential campaign accepted funds from companies linked to a $200 million scandal involving the Honduran Institute of Social Security (IHSS), according to Reuters. Hernández, who is facing calls for his resignation (see Tuesday's briefs), said he was unaware of where the money came from.
  • U.S. diplomatic efforts with Cuba will fall short if Washington doesn't improve relations with Venezuela, argues Mark Weisbrot in an Al Jazeera piece. "This is important because U.S. hostility toward Venezuela, especially Washington’s support for regime change there, has poisoned relations with Latin America even more than the embargo against Cuba," he says. But U.S. opposition to Venezuela is entrenched in several areas of government he says, making diplomatic efforts very difficult. He questions a recent Wall Street Journal piece tying Venezuela's National Assembly president to cocaine trafficking, noting that many of the sources were interested parties.  
  • Two jailed opposition leaders in Venezuela are generating public interest with an ongoing hunger strike, according to the AP. Leopoldo López and Daniel Ceballos are demanding the freedom of political prisoners and an election date (see Monday's post). Family members say they are drinking only water and nutrient serum and that their health has deteriorated since the strike began nearly two weeks ago. They have been joined by seven students who are camped out in Caracas, drinking only water and Pedialyte.
  • The AP has a feature on a U.S. doctor participating in a pediatric liver transplant program in Venezuela. The World Health Organization says that only about 150 pediatric liver transplants are performed each year in Latin America and the Caribbean, mostly in Argentina and Brazil, compared with about 600 in the U.S.
  • Colombia's Congress passed a bill prohibiting presidential re-election yesterday. Though re-election had been banned in the country's 1991 Constitution, a 2004 modification permitted President Alvaro Uribe to run for a second term. Current President Juan Manuel Santos also benefited from the modification, though he now backed the bill eliminating it, says the AP. In 2008 a lawmaker said Uribe's party had bribed him to vote to permit re-election.
  • A lawyer for former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt was gunned down yesterday in the capital.. Ríos Montt was found guilty in 2013 of overseeing the killings by the armed forces of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil population during his 1982-83 rule. However, his 80 year sentence was thrown out on a technicality and his retrial was suspended early this year when the defense accused the judge of bias, reports Reuters.
  • Argentine ambassador to the U.S., Cecilia Nahon, published a reply to a Wall Street Journal piece on the death of Alberto Nisman, a federal prosecutor. The original front page story is "is full of misleading innuendos that deserve clarification," she says. She underscores the judicial rejection of Nisman's accusations that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and high level officials  conspired to cover up Iranian involvement in a 1994 terrorist bombing attack. "These unwarranted accusations have been rejected by Argentina’s courts on three different occasions on the grounds of nonexistence of a crime."
  • Brazil's central bank raised its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point yesterday, an attempt to combat stagflation in the country, reports the Wall Street Journal. Inflation is high in Brazil, despite strong signs of a recession.
  • A face-off between police and residents resisting attempts at forced evictions from their homes in Rio de Janeiro left at least six people wounded in a favela community on the edge of the Olympic Park, reports The Guardian. Most of Vila Autódromo's 600 residents have already moved out in exchange for financial compensation, but the remaining families say they don't want to leave their homes for a two-week sporting mega-event. Residents say police used violence and pepper spray to break up a human chain around houses slated for demolition.
  • Chile reduced its forecast for economic growth this year, saying floods earlier this year impacted the country's mining sector. The GDP is expected to expand between 2.25 percent and 3.25, details the Wall Street Journal.
  • Plans to expropriate land to build a 172 mile canal across Nicaragua have local farmers up in arms, reports the Wall Street Journal. Earlier this week the environmental impact study for the $50 billion megaproject determined its feasibility (see Tuesday's briefs), despite activists' concerns regarding sensitive areas and indigenous groups' land. The piece doesn't report anything new, but reviews the uproar over the canal which inspired about 50 protests over the last year, a few of them violent. Government authorities say the project will bring over 50,000 jobs to the impoverished country and double the economy.
  • Brazil has the highest amount of annual homicides in the world: 56,000 people are killed each year, most are young and black. Ilona Szabo de Carvalho, director of the Brazilian Igarapé Institute gave a TED talk summarizing four lessons that can be extrapolated from Brazil's twin fight against gun violence and drugs. Control the narrative, never underestimate your opponents, use data to drive your argument, and don't be afraid to bring together strange bedfellows, she says. 
  • The Dutch metals and energy firm Trafigura announced that it will invest $350 million in Argentina and that it will relaunch the Puma fuel brand, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune.
  • Costa Rica's Health Ministry outlined this week how a medical marijuana bill might be implemented. A proposed bill in congress would legalize the growing, processing and sale of cannabis for medical and industrial use, reports the Tico Times. If the law is passed, Costa Rica will be the first Central American country to legalize medical marijuana.

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