Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Rights groups urge abortion ban reform in El Salvador (May 9, 2017)

A group of U.N. experts recommended El Salvador decriminalize abortion in certain cases, reports TeleSUR. El Salvador's current total abortion ban goes against international human rights standards and is likely to increase the number of women seeking risky abortions in underground clinics to terminate their pregnancy, according to the U.N. Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs.

Salvadoran lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow abortion in cases of danger to the woman's life, pregnancies resulting from rape, or if the baby will not survive.

The proposed penal code reform represents a crucial opportunity, according to Amnesty International. Human Rights Watch director José Miguel Vivanco expressed concern recently over the total prohibition on abortion, reports El Diario de Hoy.

The bill was introduced last year, but faces serious political opposition, reported Vice News recently. 

El Salvador's abortion ban is among the world's most draconian, and has been heavily criticized by rights groups. 

"The current law obligates women and girls to resort to clandestine abortions to save their lives, and creates an atmosphere of suspition towards women who suffer a spontenous abortion or other obstetric emergencies. As a consequence, women who have had complications during their pregnancies have been condemned to up to 40 years in prison after being accused of 'induced abortion,'" according to Amnesty. Over a dozen women have been incarcerated for miscarriages or obstetric complications, accused of seeking abortions. 

Recently a woman previously jailed for four years after having a miscarriage in El Salvador, was granted asylum in Sweden with her 11-year-old son, reports Newsweek.

Hundreds of thousands of women have defied the 19-year ban. Nearly 250,000 abortions took place between 1995 and 2000, and more than 11 percent resulted in the death of the pregnant woman,  according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. A 2014 Reuters report found that three out of eight maternal deaths in El Salvador are the result of suicide of pregnant girls under the age of 19, and girls aged 10 to 19 make up one-third of pregnancies in the country, reports Newsweek.

News Briefs
  • Under Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua has become a classic corporativist state -- one in which an undemocratic leadership allows the private business sector to determine its economic policy, which is then rubber stamped by a parliament without debate, argues Carlos Chamorro in El Confidencial. Relevant policy, such as social security, tax reform or bank law are negotiated and decided between the government and the Cosep (business association), "marginalizing all institutional accountability," argues Chamorro. He cites various characterizations of the administration such as: "institutional dictatorship," "traditional caudillismo," "crony capitalism," "competitive authoritarianism," and "corporativist authoritarianism." Chamorro contrasts the situation in Nicaragua with the increasingly visible fights against corruption in Central America and the rest of the region.
  • Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández is seeking to lower the age of criminal responsibility below 18, arguing a high proportion of high-impact crimes are carried out by minors, reports AFP. He will create a multi-disciplinary commission to examine the issue, reports El Heraldo. JOH also called for a review of the country's penal system, calling for a structure to reinsert criminal offending youths into society, reports La Prensa.
  • Thousands of Venezuelans gathered yesterday in ongoing protests against the government. The political opposition boycotted a meeting yesterday to discuss President Nicolás Maduro's plan for a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the constitution, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's post.) Venezuelans detained in protests are being tried in secretive military courts, denounce rights groups. "Thousands of people have been detained across the country in recent months, with authorities rounding up politicians, activists, student leaders, even shoppers waiting in queues to buy food who made complaints police officers decided were out of line," according to Bloomberg.
  • Maduro's former interior minister and a long-time intelligence chief under his predecessor, Miguel Rodríguez Torres said protests are attracting broader swathes of the population. (Rodríguez Torres is positioning himself as a presidential candidate, see yesterday's post.) He said the government needs to start negotiating election dates to avoid anarchy, reports the Wall Street Journal. And while he said he is unaware of discontent among military leadership, he points to growing discontent among soldiers who are also affected by widespread shortages and economic recession. (Also see yesterday's post.)
  • Venezuelan's need elections, not a new constitution, said OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, according to Bloomberg. (See yesterday's post.)
  • A life-size statue of the late former president, Hugo Chávez, was toppled by protesters last week in the small western town of Villa del Rosario. It was apparently made of plastic or glass-fiber -- "in terms of historical significance, the incident is unlikely to rank alongside the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s 12-meter statue in Baghdad, shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq," notes the Guardian. But cellphone footage of the event went viral, and since then there have been more cases of Chávez representations being disfigured. "Some argue that such incidents demonstrate that after years of economic chaos, food shortages and government repression, Venezuelans have finally reached the breaking point."
  • About 400 indigenous Warao tribe members have left Venezuela's Orinoco Valley and crossed over the Brazilian border. Manaus authorities have declared a social emergency to seek government funds to help with the influx, reports the BBC.
  • Peruvian police repressed a peaceful protest of families demanding medical marijuana, reports TeleSUR. Activists have filed a lawsuit against the National Police alleging officers violently attacked their children in a pacific demonstration in Lima on Saturday. Demonstrators were demanding a bill that would allow them to self-cultivate cannabis for medical use.
  • Cuba's "Soviet style" May Day celebrations were interrupted by a self-proclaimed dissident who ran into the official parade waving a U.S. flag before getting tackled by security forces, reports the Miami Herald.
  • The Colombian government has accused the ELN of kidnapping eight people in the Chocó department, reports the BBC. Colombia's Defense Minister said 500 soldiers would be deployed to the region, in addition to the 6,300 already there.
  • Colombia's peace deal with the FARC has created incentives for a coca boom in the country, by promising assistance for families to switch over to legal crops. The result has been "a cocaine market so saturated that prices have crashed and unpicked coca leaves are rotting in the fields," reports the Washington Post. The strategy, which includes offering cash incentives for communities to switch to alternate crops and forced manual eradication for those who do not comply is sound, but needs more time to work, argue authorities. The issue is likely to be on the table when President Juan Manuel Santos visits Washington next week, where lawmakers have become skeptical of the peace process.
  • Former Veracruz governor Javier Duarte -- captured in Guatemala in April after months on the run -- is an example of the PRI's enmeshed corruption. But though the ruling party is making much of his capture and facing justice, graft networks remain untouched and numerous reports of fraud remain uninvestigated, argues Animal Político journalist Arturo Angel in a New York Times Español op-ed. "Some weeks ago the media ran a picture of the day [President Enrique] Peña Nieto took office in 2012. He appears alongside 19 PRI governors, 10 of whom are accused of corruption. Only three are detained and none have been sentenced," he notes. Angel calls on lawmakers to approve a law that would allow for an independent general prosecutor to pursue cases of corruption, and calls on the media to avoid normalizing the general state of corruption.
  • Who's afraid of the big bad Trump? Not the Mexicans. Not as much as a few months ago, anyway, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • A border wall between Mexico and the U.S. won't stop human and drug trafficking -- but it will increase the costs, writes Ioan Grillo in a New York Times op-ed. "Strengthening defenses does not stop smuggling. It only makes it more expensive, which inadvertently gives more money to criminal networks. The cartels have taken advantage of this to build a multibillion industry, and they protect it with brutal violence that destabilizes Mexico and forces thousands of Mexicans to head north seeking asylum." Stopping the illegal business requires providing a path to legality for migrants in the U.S. and ensuring that business only hire people with working papers in the future, he writes. "Stopping the demand for the smugglers’ services actually hits them in their pockets. Otherwise, they will just keep getting richer as the bricks get higher."
  • The Trump administration is investigating the criminal history of Haitian immigrants in the U.S. as it decides whether to extend a temporary protected status shielding about 50,000 people from deportation. The Associated Press bases its report on internal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services emails, though it's not clear if the results of the inquiries will be used to determine the Haitians' fate. (See May 2's briefs.)
  • Former Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva will be questioned tomorrow by Judge Sergio Moro as part of the landmark corruption investigation, Operation Car Wash, reports AFP. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Chile's Communist Party will support leftist Alejandro Guillier in November's presidential race, reports TeleSUR.
  • Officials are under growing pressure to crack down on illegal gold mining in Amazonas state. Thousands of miners have  destroying 14,000 hectares of jungle in northwestern Brazil since 2007, reports Reuters.

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