The victims were presented as criminals, but a preliminary report from the Interior Ministry found that 11 of them did not have criminal records. In a press conference yesterday, Vice minister Rubén Vargas said there were "serious indications of the existence of an irregular group formed by police officials and sub-officials, which to obtain personal advantages, falsified intelligence reports, simulated shootouts and brought down people in at least six cases," reports La República, which was the first media outlet to report on the case of the so-called "Death Squads" earlier this month.
Interior Minister Carlos Basombrio has compared the case to a lesser version of the Colombian "false positives" scandal, notes the AP.
At IDL Reporteros Gustavo Gorriti cautions that the government hasn't carried out the investigation with proper impartiality. Basombrio and his second in command have commented on the case before the investigation is concluded and notes that the results are far from certain. He analyzes specific accusations against officers -- who deny the allegations -- and questions media accounts of the case.
- Almost 26,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the U.S. border in the first six months of this year, along with 29,700 people traveling as part of a family group -- mostly mothers with young children -- according to a new UNICEF report. Most of the thousands of children are trying to escape violence and poverty in Central America's Northern Triangle, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, reports the Associated Press. In recent years the U.S. has pressured Mexico to detain migrants before they reach the U.S. -- in the first six months of this year, more than 16,000 migrant children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were apprehended in Mexico. The report shows that having a lawyer in the U.S. makes a vast difference. A comparison of cases started last year shows that as of June 2016, 40 per cent of unrepresented children were ordered deported, compared with 3 per cent of children who had lawyers, notes the AP.
- U.S. President Barack Obama met with Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis and discussed a new "protective transfer arrangement" in which Costa Rica provides temporary safe haven for up to 200 migrants at a time from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration, reports Reuters.
- The apparent massacre of nearly two dozen alleged gang members by police in Michoacán last year might have been an act of revenge for cartel attacks on police, reports Reuters. (See last Friday's post.) Most of the victims came from Ocotlan, a small town that has served as a base for Jalisco New General Cartel gunmen.
- Venezuelan cabinet ministers have two days to fire public workers who signed petitions demanding a recall referendum on President Nicolás Maduro's mandate. Socialist party leader Jorge Rodríguez said five ministries -- including food, basic industries and finance -- must purge opponents from management positions. Hundreds of workers have already denounced losing their jobs for supporting the recall, reports Reuters.
- Honduras is one of the world's most dangerous places for human rights defenders, according to statements last week from United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights representatives. Eight activists have been killed so far this year, and the Honduran government must take steps to protect people working for human rights, said U.N. Special Rapporteur on Rights Defenders Michel Forst and the Inter-American Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, according to TeleSur.
- A New York Times piece by Sonia Nazario earlier this month showed the positive effects of U.S. funding for violence reduction. (See Aug. 15's post.) But the negative aspects include deepening of divisions within communities and weakening of local efforts, argues Deborah Kern, a Catholic nun who forms part of the the South Central Community leadership team of Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, in a response letter.
- The school year started yesterday in Mexico, but members of the dissident CNTE teachers union are maintaining a months-old strike in the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero and Michoacán and in parts of Mexico City, reports the Wall Street Journal. The CNTE is protesting the government's signature policy of system-wide education overhaul.
- InSight Crime has an in-depth series on the links between Colombia's elite and organized crime.
- Dr. Evan Ellis, of the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, notes parallels between the Colombian army's new post-conflict transformation project and similar efforts within the US military following the end of the Cold War. "As the US also continues to restructure its own force to accommodate new missions ... there are important opportunities for US and Colombian institutions to work together on transformation issues, in order to reap lessons learned, avoid pitfalls, and advance the processes of institutional adaptation by the Armed Forces of both of our countries," he argues.
- The names of more than 8 million victims of Colombia's five decade-long armed conflict will be inscribed on trees in the southeastern province of Vaupes. The "Forest of Peace" initiative by the NGO Saving the Amazon will involve indigenous communities which will be responsible for planting and cultivating the trees, reports EFE.
- In Open Democracy, Argentine foreign policy expert Juan Gabriel Tokatlian notes indications that President Mauricio Macri is veering towards a "war on drugs" strategy, and warns "no example in the region demonstrates the merit of such a policy: everywhere when the military became directly involved in the fight against drugs human rights violations grew dramatically, civil-military relations became more unbalanced, corruption was not tackled, organized crime has not been eradicated, and the drug issue worsened."