Thursday, August 11, 2016

Shootings in Rio provide counterpart to Olympic celebration (Aug. 11, 2016)

Shootouts in Rio injured a bystander and two police officers yesterday, in separate incidents in favelas near the thoroughfares connecting the city's downtown to the airport. The incidents represent the challenges to securing the city during the ongoing Olympics Games, reports the Wall Street Journal

The New York Times notes the disconnect between Olympic excitement and the grim, violent reality of Rio de Janeiro's favelas."...In the shadow of the Olympics, a slow-burning war between drug gangs and the nation’s security forces is taking place." Last week more than 200 police officers carried out an operation in the Complexo do Alemão as gunfights sprouted throughout the area. 

Rio's drug gang wars are a harbinger of a new wave of conflict around the world, says Igarapé Institute's research director Robert Muggah in the NYTimes piece.

An aside: The Wall Street Journal looks at some of the glitches with Olympics organization so far, focusing on the (mis)management of the volunteer corps.

News Briefs
  • A young Venezuelan economist, Carlos Hernández, writes about how Venezuela's middle class is facing increasingly empty refrigerators in a New York Times op-ed. He notes the ever-growing list of acquaintances who are thinner as a result of the food shortages, and the exhausting process of standing in line hoping to obtain supplies. A study by Simón Bolívar University says 90 percent of the population cannot afford to buy enough food.
  • Brazil's lower chamber of Congress approved a weaker version of a bill that imposed spending limits on states in exchange for financial bailout, reports Reuters. Specifically, awmakers scrapped a limit to salary increases for state employees, a defeat for Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • Markets are champing at the bit for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment -- investors expect it will clear the way for further fiscal reform, reports Bloomberg.
  • Colombian government officials, together with FARC and U.N. delegates began visits to demobilization sites this week, according to Colombia Reports.They will visit the 23 camps to verify their suitability for the decommissioning of FARC weapons.
  • Bogotá authorities have begun to demolish a notorious criminal neighborhood in the city center, known as the Bronx. In May security forces sent to clear the area found children forced into prostitution and hundreds of drug addicts, reports the BBC. But residents complain the plan to turn the neighborhood into a commercial center has not impacted street crime, as former Bronx residents have simply decamped for other parts of town.  Sixty-six buildings are slated for demolition over the next five months, to make way for a $12 million urban renewal project, reports Bogotá's City Paper.
  • Honduras' government is trying to convince El Salvador and Guatemala to form a tri-national force to combat street gangs, reports Vice News. "Given that we are suffering the same problems we should organize a joint effort so that we can work more closely and effectively," Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández told reporters on Tuesday. His chief of staff suggested that the program could permit Northern Triangle countries to enforce joint arrest orders, fast track extradition, collaborate on controlling communication from incarcerated gang members and a tri-national witness protection program.
  • The U.S. deported a former Guatemalan soldier accused of participating in the 1984 massacre of over 200 people that effectively wiped out the town of Las Dos Erres. Santos Lopez Alonzo maintains his innocence in the killings, which took place during Guatemala's bloody, three-decade civil war, reports the Associated Press.
  • Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's popularity has plunged to 23 percent, according to a new poll by Reforma. People surveyed pointed to negative views of rising violence and poor economic performance, reports Bloomberg.
  • A legislative bill in St. Vincent and the Grenadines would allow prison sentences of up to two years for cyber-crime. Rights groups and international press organizations worry that the measure could stifle freedom of expression in the country, reports the Associated Press.
  • Ecuador's media authority demanded an apology from television station Teleamazonas for broadcasting prominent journalist Janet Hinostroza, who is accused of committing a "media lynching" of a government agency with investigative reports. The reports in question focused on practices at the National Public Contracting Service which could lead to the distribution of substandard medicines, reports the Associated Press. The move was condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
  • Chilean President Michelle Bachelet proposed changes to the Pinochet-era private pension system, which would require companies to contribute for the first time. The reform attempt responds to a demonstration of over 100,000 people in Santiago last month, reports Bloomberg.
  • Argentina is pushing forward with an increasingly militarized internal security strategy, with U.S. and Israeli support, despite what InSight Crime refers to as "the uneven track record this type of strategy has had in other Latin American countries."
  • U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May wrote a letter to Argentine President Mauricio Macri, calling on him to discuss increasing flights to the Falkland Islands and lifting oil exploration restrictions in the area, reports the Guardian.
  • A Cold War era car relic -- the Polish made Fiat 126p -- is making a comeback in Cuba, where the "Polski's" tiny size and low price allow families to access independent mobility, reports the Associated Press.


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