Monday, August 15, 2016

Successful U.S. violence reduction in Honduras (Aug. 15, 2016)

U.S. funded programs treating violence as a communicable disease -- and targeting the environment in which it spreads -- have had a marked impact in Honduras over the past few years, according to an in-depth New York Times Sunday Review piece.

Sonia Nazarro argues that smart aid investments have driven down homicides in San Pedro Sula's most murderous neighborhood, Rivera Hernández, by 62 percent. The policies are a rebuke to isolationist tendencies in the U.S. Not only are they driving down migration by unaccompanied minors -- a central tenet of current aid initiatives for the Central American "Northern Triangle," but are also contributing to repair U.S. inflicted harms, she argues.

"The United States modeled its prevention strategy on what had worked in Boston in the 1990s, and later in Los Angeles: Concentrate efforts on the most violent hot spots. In 2014, U.S.A.I.D. and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs began organizing community leaders in three pilot locations in San Pedro Sula, including the one in Rivera Hernández. ..."

"One of the most effective tactics is the creation of neighborhood outreach centers; the United States has sponsored 46 of these. Typically, a church donates the building, and the United States remodels it and provides computers, equipment and initial funds to hire a coordinator. The centers recruit mentors and provide vocational training for residents and help finding jobs for them as barbers, bakers and electricians. Arnold Linares, a Baptist preacher who runs one of the centers, says that, despite many shortcomings, “The U.S. government has been a bigger partner in change than the Honduran government.”

The piece also details efforts to bring murderers to justice, in a country where the vast majority of homicides go unpunished, including funding for organizations who encourage witnesses to step forward and protect them from gang retaliation.

In interesting avenue the U.S. government is not pursuing is working with people within gangs, active participants who want to leave. Though a U.S.A.I.D study this year found that approach produced the biggest drops in violence, the U.S. avoids it for fear of appearing to collaborate with or pay off gang members.

Cutting funding for police programs out of concern for human rights abusesalso impacts their violence prevention programs. "Community leaders say the United States must find a better way to punish bad cops without withholding programs that help children," writes Nazaro.

She concludes that the U.S. must find a way to scale up these pilot programs to a national level.

News Briefs

  • Eight men were killed with assault rifles in the outskirts of Tegucigalpa yesterday, an episode Honduran authorities are blaming on gang rivalry over territory, reports the Associated Press.
  • Venezuela's economic collapse is driving tens of thousands of people from around the country -- including white collar workers -- to illegal gold mines. There awful working conditions have brought a resurgence of malaria, long a fringe-disease in Venezuela, reports the New York Times. When these temporary miners return home, they bring the disease, spreading it in urban centers where there is no money for fumigation or other prevention measures. "Officially, the spread of malaria in Venezuela has become a state secret. The government has not published epidemiological reports on the disease in the past year, and it says there is no crisis. But the most recent internal figures, obtained by The New York Times from Venezuelan doctors involved in compiling it, confirms a surge is underway."
  • New York Times editorial argues that the Venezuelan government's timetable for a referendum on President Nicolás Maduro's mandate -- which likely precludes holding a new election for his successor if he is ousted -- puts the nation on an "avoidable" collision course. (See last Wednesday's post.) Indeed, the opposition is already calling for civil disobedience if they cannot legally oust Maduro and elect a successor. The NYTimes editorial board criticizes regional leaders for offering "only platitudes, urging dialogue and a respect for human rights. Venezuela needs to be called out for what it is: a corrupt, authoritarian pariah state that has become the hemisphere’s most pressing time bomb."
  • In a similar vein, the Miami Herald's Andrés Oppenheimer urges the international community to pressure for the referendum to be held this year, as a pressure valve to prevent "a refugee crisis that will spill across the region."
  • Over 80,000 of Venezuelans flocked to Colombia under a gradual reopening of the border between the two countries, seeking basic food and hygiene products that are unobtainable at home, reports the Wall Street Journal. For now they are only permitted to cross on foot, limiting their purchases to what can be carried home, as well as what they can afford. Colombian authorities welcomed shoppers, but attempted to deflect a flood by reminding Venezuelans that the opening will now be permanent. The Miami Herald focuses on what shoppers were looking for -- everything from baby products to fresh produce.
  • Fidel Castro remains true to form. In a letter published in Cuban state media on his 90th birthday, Castro thanked citizens for their well wishes, reminisced about his childhood and criticized U.S. President Barack Obama for not apologizing to the Japanese people during a May trip to Hiroshima. He appeared on television, but did not address the public, reports the Associated Press. Cubans celebrated the event with the annual carnival parade along Havana's Malecon and a birthday concert for Castro, according to Reuters.
  • Over 50,000 people marched in cities around Peru on Saturday, protesting violence against woman and perceived judicial indifference to the issue, reports the Associated Press. Newly inaugurated President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski took part in the march along with first lady Nancy Lange. The march follows the example of "Ni una menos" marches in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia and Colombia over the past year, and comes as media reports point to a "femicide" epidemic in the country, notes the Guardian.
  • The last step of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment trial is set for Aug. 25, a few days after the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro close. The Supreme Court President Ricardo Lewandowski will preside over the Senate vote in which she is largely expected to be ousted from office over violations in budgetary law, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Despite months of reporting on Brazil's negative outlook for the Olympics, the games are providing a boost for a nation hit hard by economic and political crisis, reports the New York Times. "... all of the bad news has been temporarily supplanted by an unexpected love affair with the Olympic Games, an event that has softened the hearts of even some of the most hardened cynics who now find themselves swooning with delight and national pride." On the other hand, the Guardian emphasizes empty venues and lackluster audience for events.
  • Italian super-chef Massimo Bottura is using Olympic Village food surplus to feed homeless people in Rio de Janeiro, and creating a sensation while he's at it, reports the New York Times. Over 50 chefs of world renown have signedup to work shifts at Refettorio Gastromotiva. The site will later be turned into a restaurant for paying customers for lunch, which will fund over a 100 free dinner meals for the homeless.
  • Last week Belize's Supreme Court determined that a law banning homosexuality is unconstitutional, reports Pink News.

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