Thursday, October 20, 2016

#NiUnaMenos gathers tens of thousands in BA (Oct. 20, 2016)

Tens of thousands of women protested a growing problem of gender violence yesterday in Buenos Aires. The freezing rain did not deter marchers, and demonstrations were also held in other Argentine cities and in Mexico, El Salvador, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, reports the Guardian.

More than 25,000 people were estimated to have demonstrated in Santiago and more than 20 other cities throughout Chile, reports the Associated Press.

The protest, along with a first-ever "women's strike" held for an hour earlier in the day, was spurred by horrific case of a 16-year-old who was raped and tortured earlier this month. She died of cardiac arrest due to the intensity of the violence.

Women wore black in what was the third national march convoked since last year under the banner of #NiUnaMenos, reports the New York Times. Rights groups say a woman is killed every 30 hours in Argentina, and that 19 women were killed by gender violence so far in October alone.

The issue of femicide has garnered increasing attention in Argentina and the region: #NiUnaMenos marches were held earlier this year in Brazil and Peru, and last year in Argentina and Mexico.

President Mauricio Macri promised to push ahead with legislation announced in July, which would include establishing a hotline to report abuse, better monitoring of abusers, and shelters.

Sixteen countries in Latin America have written laws on domestic violence, but critics say they are not being effectively implemented, reports the BBC.

The femicide issue is regional, notes a Guardian editorial: " seven of the 10 countries with the highest rate of female murder victims are in Latin America, where activists say the phenomenon reflects not only high rates of violence, social conflict and organised crime, but also a cultural strain of aggressive hypermasculinity."

The most dangerous countries in the region for women are El Salvador and Honduras, according to the Geneva based Small Arms Survey cited in the Wall Street Journal.

News Briefs
  • Ecuador's government admitted to cutting off WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's internet connection, a strong rebuke for the group's publishing of damaging e-mails from the Clinton presidential campaign, reports the Associated Press. The government said the documents were impacting the U.S. election, a violation of Ecuador's respect for other countries' sovereignty. Assange has been living in Ecuador's London embassy since 2012, when he was granted asylum that protected him from extradition to Sweden where he faces charges of sexual assault. But Ecuador's latest move aims to align it on the side of the U.S., a major trade partner, in the midst of information leaks that U.S. officials pin on a Russia cyber-attack. It's part of a greater turn towards the U.S. after years of anti-"yanqui" discourse by President Rafael Correa, a sign of economic woes that promise to send the country to the IMF and of the fall of regional leftist allies, according to the AP.
  • Eduardo Cunha, the once powerful leader of Brazil's Evangelical Christian congressional caucus, was arrested yesterday on charges that he received millions in bribes related to Petrobras, reports Reuters. Cunha spearheaded efforts to impeach former President Dilma Rousseff, is the latest high profile development in the Operacion Lava Jato investigation that has implicated a number of high profile politicians from across the political spectrum. Some political analysts say the arrest, ordered by Judge Sergio Moro, allow him to counter growing criticisms that he is unfairly targeting the Workers' Party of former Presidents Rousseff and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, notes the New York Times. Lula could be arrested in coming weeks.
  • Julita Lemgruber has a piece in the Conversation, on how deadly prison riots in Brazil -- like the three that led to at least 18 inmates' deaths earlier this week -- are caused by inhumane jail conditions that are the "result of a vicious drug war that disproportionately deprives poor, black young men and women of their freedom." She details the difficulties in legally challenging overcrowding, and how corruption makes the situation worse for inmates who are preyed upon by criminal gangs.
  • The Colombian executive branch submitted a broad tax overhaul proposal to the country's congress -- approval before the end of the year is vital to restore investor confidence in the country and maintain social programs for the poor, according to the government. The changes would raise taxes for most Colombians and crack down on evasion, and are necessary to fund the rural development programs that form part of a potential peace deal with the FARC, reports the Wall Street Journal
  • Two more indigenous activists were killed in Honduras this week, sparking more international condemnation in a year where activist murders are piling up in the country, reports the BBC. Jose Angel Flores and Silmer Dionisio George were members of Muca, a group that fights for land it says has been fraudulently taken from farmers and given to multinationals, reports the BBC.
  • Presidential reelection appears to be moving forward by judicial decision in Honduras. The decision is part of "a tendency which took off with the coup d'état against Manuel Zelaya in 2009 and has the appearance of all the formalities of a representative democracy while, in practise, it consolidates an authoritarian and militarized regime that subordinates all institutionality to the executive branch," argues Joaquín Mejía in a New York Times Español op-ed. Reelection itself -- a key excuse for those who overthrew Zelaya -- is not necessarily problematic, he notes, but must be determined by a popular vote. If Honduras does not take measures to ensure separation of powers and to strengthen democratic institutions, despotism could very well consolidate. In addition to a plebiscite on reelection, he calls for a campaign finance law that would reduce the danger of state resources being used for Hernández's continuity and a hearings law that would reduce partisan politization in the election of state officials, particularly the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
  • São Paulo's Braços Abertos initiative to Cracolandia has implemented a harm reduction approach to rehabilitating drug users. It provides beneficiaries with a small cash allowance, food and shelter, in exchange for working on city maintenance projects. Users are encouraged to reduce their drug intake at their own pace. The approach is championed by drug reformist groups as an alternative to years of failed abstinence-based programs, reports Al Jazeera. An Open Society Foundations funded study released this year found that 65 percent of the programs beneficiaries reduced drug intake within the first year. The piece quotes Daniel Wolfe, international harm reduction development director at Open Society Foundations, who says the program recognizes the failure of forced abstinence.
  • Two leading Venezuelan economists, both living in the U.S., have outlined opposing views over how Venezuela could return from its current crisis. Ricardo Hausmann favors the ouster of the current government and an appeal to IMF aid. His former protege Francisco Rodriguez argues for dialogue and bridging proposals. But both agree that the price and currency controls that are the hallmark of the current government must go. Bloomberg notes that either could be tapped to run the country's economic policy in the future.
  • The Haitian town of Pestel, stronghold of notorious outlaw commander Guy Phillipe who led a successful rebellion against Aristide and is wanted by the U.S. for narcotics trafficking, is suffering the effects of Hurricane Matthew. And Phillipe, who is running for senator in the oft-delayed elections, says his constituents are being unfairly discriminated against due to his political associations, reports the New York Times. In the meantime, opponents worry that the warlord is staging a comeback based on a message of equality.
  • U.S. charities' offers of aid for Matthew hit Cuba have been rebuffed by the government, reports the Miami Herald.
  • A Mexican federal judge who was murdered earlier this month played a role in numerous cases involving well-known drug traffickers, including Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, reports Vice News. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Roberto Valencia challenges the rosy picture painted by San Salvador's mayor Nayib Bukele, who earlier this month boasted on Twitter that homicides in the city are down 70 percent. Bukele -- who has recently been hailed by the press as the "millenial mayor" who is "trying to wrest control of of El Salvador’s capital from the grip of murderous gangs" using "gentrification, Instagram and YouTube" as his weapons -- attributed the decrease to "city reorganization, a reconstruction of the social fabric, improved lighting around San Salvador, and the revitalization of the Historic Center." (See last Thursday's briefs for an article focusing on his urban policies.) In El Faro (reprinted in English at InSight Crime) Valencia takes apart homicide statistics, arguing that San Salvador has homicides go down this year at a lower rate than the rest of the country.
  • The Cuban government is cracking down on Havana "paladares," privately run restaurants. New permits are being suspended, as audits are carried out to determine regulatory violations. Owners say the tax burden and excessive regulation make staying within the constraints of the law very difficult, reports Reuters.
  • Frequent complainers of U.S. exceptionality in LatAm will be pleased that the upcoming presidential election will have OAS observers deployed in 15 states, notes Andrés Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald.

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