Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Broken justice in Mexico's Guerrero State (Sept 15, 2015)

A report published last month by the Open Society Justice Initiative on Mexico's Guerrero State's failed justice system denounces its "nearly comprehensive failure to hold perpetrators to criminal account."

Broken Justice in Mexico's Guerrero State was released ahead of the one year anniversary of the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa.

"Why has there been so little justice for atrocities in Guerrero? This report identifies the primary cause as political. ...The justice system has been unduly influenced by an authoritarian executive that has not respected the legal autonomy or independence of institutions, and has sought to manipulate them through inappropriate and irregular means. Further, the same investigative police force heavily implicated in committing serious crimes has been tasked with investigating them. Until recently, the prosecutor's office was an appendage of the executive, and appeared more interested in minimizing the incidence of serious crime than prosecuting it. Defense counsel capacities and infrastructure are weak, with too few defenders, especially in poor, rural, and indigenous areas. This has presented a key obstacle to the prevention and punishment of torture. The judiciary is insufficiently independent of the executive, illustrated by an interior minister who was simultaneously on temporary leave as president of the state judiciary. The state Congress has failed to adequately scrutinize the power of the executive and, in 2014, was complicit in former Governor Angel Aguirre’s irregular neutralization of the one state institution that had served as a check on impunity for grave violations of human rights: the state Human Rights Commission."

A newly elected state Congress and governor provide an opportunity to acknowledge the crisis and take new actions to investigate and prosecute the killings, enforced disappearances and torture that now characterize Guerrero. The report notes that 19,434 homicides were reported to prosecutors between 2005 and 2014 — in a state with a population of only 3.4 million. And evidence of mass and clandestine graves uncovered over the past year suggest that the real murder numbers are even higher.

The report recommends action on five key areas: strengthen systematic accountability in the justice sector; strengthen the legal framework; strengthen security; create integrated multi-disciplinary teams to investigate disappearances; and locate, exhume, and investigate clandestine and mass graves.

News Briefs

  • Manuel Baldizón, the former presidential front-runner who came in third in Guatemala's presidential elections dropped out of the running for the run-off election. Television comedian Jimmy Morales came in first, and will now face off with former First Lady Sandra Torres. Baldizón, who had a statistical tie with Torres who he was trailing by about 6,000 votes, quit both the race and his party on Monday, saying the process had been marred with irregularities, reports the Associated Press. Baldizón accused election authorities of fraud last week, since they have yet to publish final results of the polls, reports Reuters. Nómada has interviews withMorales ("a contradiction in a very empty discourse") and Torres ("who says she'll be president because the poor can't wait").
  • Last week Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa announced measures to combat contraband from Colombia, reports TeleSur. The measures include stricter taxes on imports which arrive over land and higher gas prices for vehicles with foreign license plates, according to Colombia Reports. The BBC explains that Ecuadorans are taking advantage of the currency disparity between Colombia's devalued peso and Ecuador's dollar economy -- Colombia's coin devalued 60 percent to the dollar. Many Ecuadoreans living on the border have been taking advantage of their strong dollar to cross over to Colombia and buy cheaper goods.
  • In the meantime, Colombia accused Venezuela yesterday of violating its airspace for the second time in two days -- the latest in the two countries' ongoing border crisis -- saying a warplane had again flown well into its territory, reports AFP.
  • Yesterday, the U.N. urged Venezuela to prevent human rights abuses of Colombians being deported from the country, including the separation of children from their parents, reportsVoice of America.
  • The two countries' foreign ministers met this weekend in Quito to prepare for a presidential meeting, but have not yet announced a concrete date, reports Univisión.
  • The Huffington Post reports that U.S. officials secretly indicted officials close to the Bolivian government for their alleged involvement in a cocaine trafficking scheme. 
  • Brazilian state oil giant Petrobras' chairman has taken a temporary leave of absence, fueling speculation regarding posible boardroom conflict as the company faces a multi-billion dollar corruption investigation and an enormous debt burden, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Brazil's government announced nearly $17 billion of new austerity measures in a last-ditch attempt to balance the national budget and try to restore investor confidence in the economy, reports the Wall Street Journal. The proposed measures are split between spending cuts and tax hikes.
  • Mexico is looking to attract more interest to this month's oil field auction by setting minimum bids Monday that are generally lower than for the exploratory blocks offered in July, which generated little interest, explains the Wall Street Journal.
  • The latest in a series of leaked telephone recordings involving toll operator OHL Mexico SAB is threatening to ensnare President Enrique Peña Nieto, reports Bloomberg. The events are the latest revelations in a scandal that has been unfolding since April largely via seven recordings uploaded to YouTube that purport to show OHL executives discussing ways to inflate toll rates, pay off judges and offer to cover a state official’s Christmas-week stay at a luxury Caribbean beach hotel.
  • The Washington Post's Joshua Partlow had lunch with Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán's lawyer: he also doesn't know where the escaped drug kingpin is. He insists "he had no advance knowledge of the escape nor any contact with Guzman afterward, has not stopped defending his client just because he's on the lam. He has filed two judicial requests ... arguing that the state should stop hunting Guzman. He believes that belligerent language coming from authorities in Mexico and the United States — phrases like "we’re going to find him and take him off the streets” — sound like death threats, and he wants the authorities to protect his client."
  • Moody's Investors Service says Puerto Rico's public debt restructuring plan would probably set off "messy and protracted" litigation and potentially broader financial turmoil that harms the island's banks, reports Bloomberg. Another case of national insolvency that might be aided by the recently passed U.N. general assembly guidelines for sovereign debt? (See Friday's post.)
  • The Associated Press has a piece on the Roman Catholic Church's social outreach in Cuba, which is making inroads in areas such as food and education where the state traditionally has held a monopoly on the island. La Nación reports that the Pontiff might well meet with Fidel Castro in his upcoming visit to the island.

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