Monday, September 28, 2015

Ayotzinapa draws attention to enforced disappearances in Mexico (Sept. 28, 2015)

Thousands of people marched in Mexico City on Saturday, the one year anniversary of the disappearance of 43 students from a teachers college in Ayotzinapa. The crime has mobilized Mexicans and the international community and drawn attention to the issue of forced disappearances in a country where 25,700 people are estimated missing in recent years, reports the Associated Press

(See Friday's post.) 

A new element in this latest demonstration was an increased emphasis on the thousands of other unsolved disappearances that have occurred in Mexico in the last decade, reports El Daily Post.

Amid the demands for justice, it's worth remembering that there were 49 victims that night: six more people died that night -- three students (one of whom was tortured brutally) and three people who were just in the wrong place, reports the Associated Press. Families say the judicial neglect that plagues the case of the 43 missing students extends to the other six deaths of the night.

WOLA prepared a summary of the events of the night of the 26 of September of last year, based on the findings of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (Grupo Interdisciplinario de Expertos y Expertas Independientes) appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

El Daily Post's Alejandro Hope predicts a tug-of-war between the government and the parents of the students on many fronts including how the OAS group of independent experts will operate; new experts for an investigation into the alleged incineration of the students; the newly announced special prosecutor on disappearances and continuing investigations into the case. He predicts that the parents will mostly lose. He also notes that international pressure could increase over the next months. "So far, not many people outside Mexico seem to be buying the "historical truth" and that skepticism could show up in diplomatic circles in the near future."

The parents of the missing 43 led Saturday's march. Many refuse to accept their children are dead, highlighting the special horror of forced disappearances: the uncertainty that haunts the victim's loved ones.

"When there a disappearance it's worse in a way than death. It's permanent, it's a crime that continues," says Argentine artist Marcelo Brodsky, whose brother was disappeared in the 1970s.

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times write about the continuing anguish of the families that don't know whether their children are dead or alive.

The independent experts group's report notes the psychological toll for families and the pressure they feel to maintain the search for their loved ones. WOLA emphasizes the horror of the night itself: 
"Apart from the 43 forcibly disappeared students, six people were extrajudicially executed that evening and more than 40 people were injured, some gravely, including a student who has been in a coma since the attacks. More than 110 people, including students, teachers who came to their aid, members of a soccer team, and passersby, were attacked that night. And by extension the incident affected the more than 700 immediate family members of those who were disappeared, killed, injured, and attacked."

Brodsky, together with the Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña Tlachinollan put together aphotography exhibit based on photos from around the world demanding justice for the 43 students from Ayotzinapa.

And the BBC features a reading of poet Horacio Lozano Warpola's writing on the issue in Poets for Ayotzinapa.

News Briefs

  • The U.N. will open a human rights monitoring office in Honduras this year to guard against potential violations by security forces as they crack down on drug gangs. President Juan Hernández emphasized that the ombudsman's office, which will be in place by the end of the year, comes at the government's specific request, reports Reuters. He says that the militarization of the country's security has helped stem gang bloodshed and disputes claims that violations have risen as a result.
  • Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff kicked off this year's General Assembly later today. Brazil's U.N. objectives include a burning desire to obtain a permanent seat on the Security Council, but also Internet governance, gender equality, the international migrant crisis, and affirmative action policies, reports the New York Times. What she is unlikely to mention, according to the piece is the reasons for Brazil's economic downturn.
  • This weekend Rousseff pledged to cut Brazil's emissions by 37 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels by reducing deforestation and boosting the share of renewable sources in its energy mix. It's the first big developing country to promise an absolute reduction in emissions as part of a proposed global pact against climate change, reports the Associated Press.
  • Raúl Castro is scheduled for this afternoon and will probably speak about the U.S. embargo -- framing the issue as the next step for Cuba's opening to the world, predicts the New York Times. On Saturday, speaking at the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit, he called the embargo an "economic, commercial and financial blockade" that brought hardship to the Cuban people and stood as the main obstacle to the country's economic development, reports CNN.
  • Obama and Castro will meet tomorrow for a bilateral meeting, reports CNN. It will be their first formal encounter since the U.S. and Cuba restored diplomatic relations in July, and will be accompanied by formal diplomatic trappings including flags of both nations, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • A last-minute glitch almost derailed last week's breakthrough agreement between the Colombian government and rebel FARC forces in Havana. In an interview with the New York Times, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos says rebel leader, Rodrigo Londoño questioned the agreed upon six month deadline to end negotiations, which Santos considered essential to the accord. But Santos affirmed his faith in the negotiations to end the 50 year conflict (see last Thursday's post). "I have learned to believe in the sincerity of what the FARC wants," he said.
  • Support for Latin American governments has fallen steadily since 2009 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, according to a new Latinobarómetro study. Citizens across the region are feeling disillusioned in light of weakened economies and corruption scandals, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Election politics: Accusations of corruption against Argentina's political elite are rife in the lead up to October's presidential elections. But voters don't seem to care much, according to theAssociated Press. The top issues are crime, the economy and inflation, with corruption coming in a distant fourth according to a recent think tank poll. It's worth noting that accusations of corruption are lobbed lightly in the politically charged climate as well as the fact that there are serious accusations against both leading parties. The piece also explains that the slow moving justice system leaves average citizens with few tools to discern which accusations are true.
  • A decision by the Haitian National Bureau of Electoral Litigation (BCEN) declares that two candidates for the national Senate had received enough votes against challengers to represent their respective departments. The decision, in response to the candidates' challenging of their preliminary standing after last month's first round of voting, further confuses the already muddy ground of an election that has been marred by episodes of violence and allegations of fraud, reports the Miami Herald
  • A post on Venezuelan Democracy and Human Rights by Eugenio G. Martínez (originally posted on parses the Venezuelan election authority's rejection of international observation, ahead of December's parliamentary elections. Martínez notes that while representatives of UNASUR, PARLASUR, CELAC, and other regional bodies will be invited to "accompany" the elections, that is not the same as an observation mission, which can make independent statements and diagnoses. He also says that "Electoral observation has been requested by politicians and technicians linked to the opposition, but also by people who in the past were part of the Chavez’s government or who at some point publicly supported the Bolivarian Revolution."
  • Venezuela and Guyana have agreed to restore their respective ambassadors, reports Reuters. The agreement came after a meeting between the two country's presidents and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York.
  • Violent crime is on the rise in Mexico City, contributing to a national increase in homicides, reports the Wall Street Journal. Homicides rose by 21 percent in the first eight months of this year, reaching the highest level since 1998.
  • The woes of Brazil’s sugar-cane industry -- in which companies struggling to pay back debt in light of China's lower demand for commodities have teetering on the edge of default -- are an example of the problems confronting emerging markets, according to the Wall Street Journal. Raw materials prices have tumbled in recent years thanks to reduced Chinese growth and excess production capacity, leaving industries unable to pay back debt issued to build up capacity in the first place.

    • New York Times feature focuses on Brazil's byzantine tax code -- curiously intertwined with one of Brazil’s institutional strengths: collecting taxes.

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