Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mexican security forces routinely torture women - Amnesty

A new Amnesty International report says "the Mexican police and armed forces routinely torture and ill-treat women, and that sexual violence is routine during arrest and interrogation." 

"Severe beatings to the stomach, head and ears; threats of rape against women and their families; near-asphyxiation, electric shocks to the genitals; groping of breasts and pinching of nipples; rape with objects, fingers, firearms and the penis – these are just some of the forms of violence inflicted on women."

Based on interviews with 100 women who reported violence during arrest, the organization found that they all described some form of sexual harassment or psychological abuse. About 72 percent reported sexual violence during arrest or in the hours that followed.

Police appear to be using women -- accused of being girlfriends of a criminal or accomplices to criminal acts -- to boost figures in the government's "war on drugs."

The women affected are mostly young and from low income backgrounds, and many face discrimination for not conforming to gender expectations -- many said they were bisexual or lesbian.

The report emphasizes that torturers remain untouched, despite attempts by the Mexican state to address rampant impunity. "Of the thousands of reports of torture since 1991, only 15 have resulted in federal criminal convictions."

"Not only have the authorities failed to publish comprehensive information on torture and ill-treatment of women, but they appear intent on keeping the issue hidden. In the course of Amnesty International’s research for this report, a number of authorities put various barriers to prevent the organization from accessing a larger number of women interviewees."

The Associated Press and the Guardian have pieces on the report which came out this morning.

Separately, the Mexican government declared a gender alert in 14 Michoacán state municipalities, where at least 600 women have been violently killed over the past four years, reports Animal Político. Last year Mexico state was the first to declare such a gender alert, in the wake of an increase in femicides.

News Briefs
  • Note: Yesterday I highlighted an article in the Caracas Chronicles which was critical of a piece in the Nation by Gabriel Hetland. (See last Thursday's post on Hetland's article.) On second consideration, the piece did not merit any recommendation. I sought to include a variety of perspectives, but the article was inappropriate. The author needlessly criticized Hetland, and falsely asserted that Hetland has worked for Aporrea and TeleSUR. Again, as the situation in Venezuela gets increasingly polarized, I'll continue to attempt to show varied perspectives (see briefs below). Reader response is always welcome.
  • Animal Político has a three part series (part two out today) reconstructing the clash between a teachers union protesting education reform and security forces in Nochixtlán on June 19 that killed at least 9 people. (See June 20's post.) Witnesses say the police arrived to break up a quiet roadblock maintained by about 30 protesters already throwing tear gas grenades, without any attempt at dialogue. The onslaught brought out Nochixtlán residents to face the police, not in defense of the teachers' movement, but in defense of their neighbors and community, according to the report based on 20 witness accounts, documents and video.
  • Mexico joined the U.S. and Canada in a promise to have their countries produce half of their power from clean energy sources by 2025, reports the Guardian.
  • Independent auditors hired by Brazil's Senate found that suspended President Dilma Rousseff did not engage in the financial maneuvers at the heart of her impeachment trial, reports the Associated Press. Their findings, which are not binding, show how fragile the case against her is, according to the AP. The auditors note that Rousseff did author three 2015 decrees releasing additional credits without Congress' consent. Rousseff said she might order a plebiscite on Brazil's political future if she is returned to office.
  • Salvadorans celebrated LGBT pride this weekend, El Faro reports on the history of the march in San Salvador, where the LGBT community has challenged reigning homophobia since 1997. They seek to change a "culture that accepts as normal insulting, physical aggression, denial of legal equality and humiliation" of LGBT people. Human Rights First has an interview with Karla Avelar, Executive Director of COMCAVIS Trans in San Salvador. "In El Salvador, we don’t live, we survive," she said.  Earlier this year the Latin American Working Group published a report on the violence faced by the LGTB community, specifically transgender people. And in January El Faro published a piece on community's "invisible" deaths: over 500 LGBT people have been killed since 1995, but their cases remain untouched by the police.
  • Latin America's rightward swing is not a result of citizen attraction to right-wing economic policies, but rather a rejection of anemic growth and bad public services, especially social services, argues Mohamed A. El-Erian in Nueva Sociedad. He compares the trend to that of the "anti-system" movements in the developed world, and warns that elites will have to "effectively address the causes of popular discontent, or run the risk of facing the eventual rise of anti-systemic movements like those of the United States or Europe. This would seriously complicate the political panorama of the region and further reduce" maneuvering room for governments adapting to economic circumstance.
  • Mercosur's upcoming presidential summit, in which Uruguay was supposed to hand over the group's chair to Venezuela, has been called off, due to "the special political conditions which some country members are undergoing, such as Brazil and Venezuela," announced Argentina and Uruguay's foreign ministers yesterday. Venezuela will still get the chair. (See yesterday's briefs on Brazil's decision to skip the summit.)
  • Opponents must maintain unity and welcome all Venezuelan's to participate in recovery, argues former U.S. ambassador to the OAS Roger Noriega. "Venezuela’s vast natural wealth can fuel a robust and rapid recovery, provided people of good will find common ground and pull together," he said, pointing to a 10-point strategy released by the opposition-led National Assembly in April. 
  • Journalist Tamara Pearson calls for the defense of community organizations, which play a vital role in countering shortages and struggling against endemic corruption. But she warns that Venezuelans should resist calls for austerity in a country where citizens "still benefit from free health care, cultural activities and higher education and almost-free water, gas and electricity; attempts by the government to deny these benefits would hurt the poor majority the most."
  • CEPR co-directo Marc Weisbrot changes the focus and calls for Washington to avoid intervention in Venezuela. "U.S. intervention in Venezuela, as in other countries, has contributed to political polarization and conflict over the years, as it encouraged elements of the opposition at numerous junctures to also pursue a strategy of regime change, rather than seeking peaceful political change."
  • But Venezuela will need international assistance to climb out of its current hole, according to Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann. He calls for emergency supplies of food and medicine; financial assistance in restructuring Venezuela's international debt; and intelligence cooperation with the U.S. and other security agencies to tackle drug trafficking and money launderers. 
  • Earlier this month, Venezuela's National Assembly rejected the creation of the Strategic Zone of National Development Mining Arch of Orinoco (OMA). They had the unlikely support of dissenting Chavistas -- including Chávez's former environment minister, Ana Elisa Osorio, who spoke about the dangers that this project entails for national sovereignty and the environment, writes Antulio Rosales at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. The government's executive decree establishing the strategic zone seeks to limit the country's oil dependence. But Rosales notes a series of problems, including lack of environmental assessment, violation of the rights of indigenous peoples regarding development on their land and the potential militarization of the area.
  • While critics say Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is seeking to maintain a single-party system (see yesterday's briefs), a poll published yesterday presents a different picture. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed planned to vote for Ortega's leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) party, compared with just 13 percent for the entire opposition, a disparity attributed to Ortega's economic policies and divisions among the opposition, reports Reuters.
  • Colombia will offer businesses tax incentives to invest in infrastructure and social service projects in areas scarred by the country's five decade conflict, reports Reuters.
  • Is racism in Brazil fundamentally different from that in the U.S.? A piece in El País looks at the work of philosopher and economist Eduardo Giannetti who argues that in Brazil discrimination against blacks is based on socio-economic factors and not race. It might seem like a moot point for the black people who find themselves disproportionately represented in police homicide statistics (see yesterday's briefs, for example, or the post for Nov. 4, 2015). But the difference could point towards potential policy remedies, which include improving blacks socio-economic status, argues the piece, somewhat polemically. 
  • An Orlando federal jury found that a former Chilean Army officer who had emigrated to the United States was liable for the torture and extrajudicial killing of folksinger Victor Jara at the Chilean sports stadium where he was held after a 1973 coup, reports the New York Times. Thejury awarded $28 million in damages to his widow and daughters, "one of the biggest and most significant legal human rights victories against a foreign war criminal in a US courtroom," according to the Guardian.
  • The murder of a Swedish tourist vacationing in Haiti is drawing attention to a rise in violent incidents in the country's capital, according to the Associated Press.
  • Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán's lawyers presented two injunction requests to protect the Sinaloa Cartel leader from extradition to the United States, reports El País
  • The Four Points by Sheraton is opening its doors in Havana, the first American-owned hotel in Cuba to do so since 1959, reports El País

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