Monday, June 20, 2016

Six protesters killed Oaxaca clashes

Six protesters were killed yesterday in clashes between a teacher's union and police in Nochixtlán, in Mexico's Oaxaca state. Over a hundred police offices and civilians were injured, as security forces were attempting to clear a highway block set up by the CNTE, a dissident faction of the national teachers union, protesting the arrest of two of the group's leaders last week, reports Animal Político. (See Thursday's briefs.)

Police used firearms in the operative, but "only in the end," and after people outside of the manifestation had fired shots, the Federal Police told Animal Político. The police initially denied using firearms, despite media footage showing an officer firing a gun, explains the Associated Press.

Oaxaca authorities said they had decided to clear the road after a week of blockades obstructed the distribution of fuel, food and medicine, reports the Wall Street Journal. Last week Pemex warned it could be forced to shut operations at the refinery in "a few days" if the highway blockade persisted.

The head of the Mexican Federal Police said masked individuals who were unaffiliated with the union were behind much of the violence, which included Molotov cocktails and shooting, reports Reuters.

The CNTE has been protesting changes to the education system, which introduced aptitude and performance tests for teachers. Oaxaca a stronghold of teachers opposed to the reform. They were also angered by the arrest of two group leaders last week, on charges of money laundering and other charges, reports the Associated Press.

Proceso has a piece criticizing the state's administration by governor Gabino Cué and saying that his mandate is ending in a "blood bath, sprayed with tear gas and ungovernability."

News Briefs
  • Note: Last Friday's post was titled "Venezuela-caused OAS rift marks Almagro's first year in office." The title was misleading, "Venezuela polarization marks Almagro's first year at the OAS," would have been more appropriate. I intended to express, and more in tone with the post itself, that the issue of Venezuela has defined Almagro's stint as Secretary General of the OAS and has caused divisions among member states.
  • A reader has complained of an anti-Venezuela bias in this blog. That is certainly not my intention, and perhaps speaks more to a combination of the blog's mission, which is to review international (mainly U.S.) coverage of Latin America, and an increasingly polarized situation in Venezuela, in which the narrative itself and basic facts are contested and portrayed as tools of either the government or its opponents. The crisis is overplayed by one side, downplayed by the other, and its very causes are central issues in a debate between government supporters and opposition. The international media is hardly an objective player. I do try to note that the coverage has tended towards the sensational, and have attempted to include criticisms of certain portrayals, see for example April 28's post, which includes a lengthy excerpt of a piece by David Smilde on the more quotidian -- but less sensational -- problems of obtaining groceries and moving around in Caracas. Comments or suggestions from readers are very welcome.
  • On that note, the New York Times reports that the country is "convulsing from hunger," noting that 50 food riots, protests and mass looting have erupted around the country over the past couple of weeks. The moment harkens back to the 1989 "Caracazo," when riots over cuts in subsidies led to hundreds of deaths. An assessment by the Simón Bolívar University found that 87 percent of Venezuelans say they do not have money to buy enough food. The Caracas Chronicles has a critical analysis of a new initiative to get subsidized food directly to households, saying it could lead use of starvation -- or lack of access to cheap food anyway -- as a political pressure tool.
  • This week the OAS member states will gather to analyze whether Venezuela's government has violated the organization's Democratic Charter. A group of 30 former Latin American presidents said on Friday that they support Almagro's call pressuring the Venezuelan government to set a date for a recall referendum that could end President Nicolás Maduro's term in office, reports the Miami Herald. Though Almagro's push against Venezuela has the support of the United States, most other OAS member states are averse to taking disciplinary actions against a sovereign state.
  • The New York Times has a piece on the curious protagonism of Venezuela in Spain's upcoming elections, as a far-left party Podemos -- whose leaders once served as advisors to Hugo Chávez -- gains strength and opponents try to argue that the Venezuelan crisis could happen in Spain.
  • Mexican business leaders have complained about anti-graft measures that have been extended to government contractors as part of a set of anti-corruption bills passed on Friday, reports the Wall Street Journal. The approved legislation included stiffer penalties for graft, but was defanged by the removal of a provision that would have required public officials to make asset declarations public, reports Reuters.
  • An ongoing debate over marriage equality and LGBT rights in Mexico has been affected by the massacre in an Florida nightclub, reports the Christian Science Monitor. In May, President Enrique Peña Nieto proposed a constitutional amendment permitting gay marriage, which the Church and swathes of society have opposed. Since the killings, headlines have focused on the negative effects of homophobia and the federal government has called out the church for using language about the LGBT community that incites hate.
  • The Nicaraguan government expelled three U.S. officials who were in the country on temporary assignment, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Nicaraguan government said two officials were in the country without permission, and made no mention of the third. The U.S. government said the actions could affect bilateral relations between the two countries, including trade.
  • Brazil's economic recovery could come sooner than expected, but will be led by slow growth, Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles told the Wall Street Journal.
  • Bad news run out of Rio de Janeiro ahead of the upcoming Olympics games: The governor has declared a "state of calamity" due to a fiscal crisis that could endanger basic public services for the state's 17 million residents, reports the Wall Street Journal. The fiscal crisis is, in part, due to soaring payroll costs and costly Olympics infrastructure investments. The governor has begged the federal government for support to avoid a “total collapse in public security, health, education, transport and environmental management," reports the Guardian.
  • Armed men attacked a Rio de Janeiro hospital yesterday to free a suspected drug trafficker. The shootout at the facility, one of those recommended for tourists seeking emergency treatment during the Olympics, killed a patient and wounded a nurse and an off-duty police officer, reports the Associated Press.
  • On Friday Rio police said they had asked for charged to be filed against seven people in the case of a gang-rape of a 16-year-old girl, reports the Associated Press. Police were aided in identifying suspects by videos and messages on social media, in a case which attracted international attention. The crime of raping a vulnerable victim carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, in Brazil.
  • Perhaps the solution to the Brazil crisis is a return of the monarchy, at least that's what one group of protesters argue, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • The Cuban and Colombian governments agreed to eliminate tariffs on more than 2,000 Colombian products, part of the Communist government's push to engage with the world, reports the Wall Street Journal.

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