The battle against bakeries is on in Venezuela -- authorities occupied two bakeries and ordered the detention of six managers, reports Efecto Cocuyo. Four bakers were arrested for making illegal brownies and pastries, according to Reuters.
The government accuses bakeries of selling underweight bread and using price-regulated flour to make specialty items instead of price-controlled white bread, reports the Miami Herald.
The government accuses pro-opposition businesses of sabotage by hoarding goods and creating scarcity. Bakers in turn say the government is responsible for a national shortage of wheat. (See yesterday's briefs.)
- Honduras may be the deadliest place in the world for environmental defenders, but Mexico has emerged as one of the most perilous countries in the region, reports Newsweek. "Organized crime, state-sanctioned intimidation and near-total impunity have proved to be a hazardous and often deadly combination for the many activists trying to protect the country’s natural resources. In January, Mexico’s Center for Environmental Rights (CEMDA) released a report that documented 63 attacks against environmental activists in 2015 and 2016."
- OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro's move to suspend Venezuela lacks support of two-thirds of member states to pass, according to experts cited in Efecto Cocuyo. (See Wednesday's post.)
- A Washington Post investigative piece by Sarah Maslin traces the prison death of an innocent man jailed in a case of mistaken identity to highlight the deep flaws in the Salvadoran justice system and the life-threatening conditions inmates face. "At a time when thousands of Central Americans are fleeing toward the United States, and border control is at the top of President Trump’s agenda, the weaknesses of this region’s courts and cops have assumed outsize importance. The same institutions that allowed an innocent man to die have failed to prevent street gangs from turning the country into one of the most violent in the hemisphere. The U.S. government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to help Central American countries capture and prosecute gang leaders and corrupt officials. Although there have been some advances, the system remains dysfunctional. Police in El Salvador frequently don’t use forensic evidence, prosecutors handle several hundred cases at once, and prisons are so bad that the Supreme Court has ruled them unconstitutional."
- Women migrating north towards the United States are routinely raped and subjected to abuse -- to the point where advocates help them access contraceptives, so as to at least avoid pregnancy, reports the Guardian. Cartel violence is pushing increasing numbers of Central American women to migrate alone or with children.
- Mexico's hardline dissident teachers union, the CNTE, periodically makes international headlines for its violent protests and the government crackdowns they provoke. But the teachers in Oaxaca and other states where the CNTE is powerful find themselves trapped between the government, which they perceive "as an entrenched century-old political machine that has resurged with more impunity than ever" and the union, which they consider "driven by special interests and cronyism," writes Christian Bracho at the Aula blog.
- Odebrecht's admissions of paying bribes across the region to land infrastructure projects has endangered funding for several major public works in Colombia, where investors are reluctant to get involved fearing eventual wrongdoing, reports the Wall Street Journal.
- Brazilian prosecutors moved against meatpacking company officials accused of bribing sanitary officials to falsely certify the companies’ products, reports the Wall Street Journal.
- U.S. law enforcement authorities, collaborating with Haitian counterparts, played an elaborate cat-and-mouse game attempting to catch ex-Haitian rebel leader Guy Philippe over a decade, until finally succeeding earlier this year. Court documents filed this week detail more than 10 attempts including setting up checkpoints, paying informants, launching a U.S. military operation and pursuing him in a foot chase in which Philippe lost them in dense vegetation, reports the Miami Herald.
- Germán Vargas Lleras, who just renounced the Colombian vice presidency in order to run in next year's presidential race, once seemed like a shoo-in. But in a country sick of its political elite, such predictions now seem premature, argues Ricardo Silva Romero in a New York Times op-ed.
- Dangerous mudslides are threatening Lima, and have killed a dozen people over the past few days, reports the Associated Press. Peruvian authorities say they expect the unusual intense rains to continue for another couple of weeks. Dramatic footage of a woman who survived a mudslide.
- Maduro made a plea to Trump in English -- but it's so mangled that the message might have gotten lost, reports the Miami Herald.
- Trinidad and Tobago's carnival is "an annual expression of female political resistance," according to Gabrielle Hosein in the Conversation, who explains how a bikini masquerade "authorizes women to push back against the strict moral controls that religion and society place on them."
- The Sacagawea coin never took off in the U.S., but it's ubiquitous in Ecuador, reports the Miami Herald.
- Looking to clear up all manner of modern-day ills? (It is Friday after all.) Amazon expeditions featuring Ayahuasca promise life-changing experiences, reports the Guardian.