Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mexican security forces' kill rate indicate summary executions (May 26, 2016)

Experts examining the Mexican armed forces' kill rate say the high lethality rates indicate summary executions, reports the New York Times. Thousands of accusations of torture, forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings have piled up since the government began a war on drug trafficking cartels a decade ago. Of the 4,000 complaints of torture that the attorney general’s office has reviewed since 2006, only 15 have resulted in convictions.

But the government is loathe to crack down on the security forces most able to take on the fight against criminal organizations, according to the piece.
"Not only is torture generalized in Mexico, but it is also surrounded by impunity," said Juan E. Méndez, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture. "If the government knows it is frequent and you still don’t get any prosecutions, and the ones you do prosecute usually wind up going nowhere, the blame lies with the state."

Earlier this month soldiers accused of executing over a dozen alleged gang members after their surrender were released (see May 17's briefs).

Mexico asides: Homicides in the country are ever rising, but government officials persist in denying that fact, reports Alejandro Hope in his Daily Post column. April's average daily murder rate of 56.1 was the worst since the government began officially counting victims in January 2014. (See Monday's briefs.)

Lawlessness in Tamaulipas state has residents threatening to throw out the ruling PRI party -- they say they're voting on local issues: kidnapping, extortion and unsafe highways, reports the Guardian.

The U.S. border with Mexico is seeing a surge of migrants ahead of a possible "Trump Wall," reports the Washington Post

News Briefs
  • A recording of senate leader Renan Calheiros suggesting legal changes that would weaken the massive corruption investigation into graft at Petrobras appears to strengthen suspicions that top lawmakers are seeking to quash the probe that has implicated many of them, reports the Associated Press. In the recording, published by Folha de S. Paulo, Calheiros suggests legal changes to bar the use of plea bargains for people who have been arrested. Such deals have been used to persuade suspects to implicate high-ranking businessmen and politicians, including Calheiros. Ironically, the recording seems to be a conversation with former Senator Sergio Machado, who reached a plea-bargain agreement with the Supreme Court, reports Reuters.
  • Brazilian diplomats have been ordered to refute foreign press, governments and international organizations that criticize the impeachment of suspended President Dilma Rousseff, reports Reuters.
  • Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state missed an $8.4 million payment to the French Development Agency, part of an ongoing debt crisis, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Acting Brazilian President Michel Temer's government continues to name insiders to top positions. Paulo Rogério Caffarelli was named president of Banco do Brasil, the biggest bank in the country by assets, and Gilberto Magalhães Occhi will be president of Caixa Econômica Federal, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Prosecutors in Brazil are expanding a corruption probe into the upcoming Rio Olympics to include all the venues and services financed with federal funds, reports Reuters.
  • New York Times editorial calls Bolivian President Evo Morales the "worst boyfriend in the country." The piece reviews the scandal that has captured the country since early this year, when a former girlfriend of Morales, Gabriela Zapata, was accused of making a fortune off of Chinese companies who hired her to secure state contracts. The tale became more compelling when Zapata, who was then arrested by the government for influence peddling, revealed the two had had a child. Morales believed the child had died in infancy, but he was alive and 8 years old, she said. The editorial denounces the jailing of Zapata's lawyer and an aunt, who defended her version of the boy. But the BBC notes that the boy apparently does not exist after all, and a family judge found as much after Zapata presented a boy at court, but refused to allow DNA testing. La Razón reports that Zapata's lawyer is in jail for knowingly presenting false evidence, in the form of the boy, though he says he is a political prisoner. (See Feb. 19's briefs on how the whole scandal affected Morales' failed attempt to expand presidential term limits.)
  • A Venezuelan opposition demonstration drew scant crowds yesterday, a sign that Maduro opposers should better marshal their energies in the an unequal battle against government forces, said political opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski, according to Efecto Cocuyo.
  • A piece in Reuters' ongoing series on abortion in Latin America focuses on how women in the Caribbean travel to secure abortions that are illegal in their home countries or to avoid getting the procedure in small places where they might be identified. Travel between countries applies elsewhere in the region as well, according to the piece. For example, the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association has received so many patients from neighboring Brazil that they are considering opening a branch closer to the border.
  • A Colombian court struck down a law requiring that mining permits be issued exclusively by the national government. The decision could allow provincial and local authorities to restrict mining in their areas, reports Reuters.
  • A Spanish journalist reported missing in Colombia's Catacumba region is working on a story about the ELN rebel group and is expected to return in the coming days, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said yesterday, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune.
  • Former Honduran President Mel Zelaya, ousted by a coup in 2009, announced interest in running for the country's top office again in the next electoral cycle, reports TeleSur.
  • An Ecuadorian environmental activist says he received threats from Chevron after he became a key witness in a case accusing the oil giant of environmental contamination in the Amazon, reports TeleSur.
  • A U.N. official said Argentina's indigenous people face "appalling" plight. Mutuma Ruteere, U.N. special rapporteur on racism and related intolerance said the country must do more to ensure indigenous groups can defend their land rights and claim title deeds without facing intimidation and violence from security forces, reports Reuters.
  • Argentine judges will deliver a verdict tomorrow on the first case to focus on Operación Condor, an international program designed by South America's authoritarian regimes to kill thousands of exiled leftwing activist who challenged the regions' military dictators in the 1970s and 80s. Eighteen former military officers – including Argentina's last dictator Reynaldo Bignone, 88 – will on Friday be sentenced on charges including kidnapping, torture and forced disappearance, reports the Guardian.
  • Latin America should look to Saudi Arabia's example in mapping out economic independence from commodities, argues Andrés Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald.

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