Thursday, June 22, 2017

Alliance for Prosperity efforts could create more rights violations, displacement (June 22, 2017)

The Alliance for Prosperity, a key U.S. policy aimed at improving conditions in Central America in order to stem the flow of migrants headed north, could trample the rights of the local population and cause even worst displacement, reports Reuters

In 2014 the U.S. committed $750 million to create jobs and cut murder rates and corruption -- under Trump the focus has shifted to supporting policing efforts and increasing investment. The result could be reduction in regulation and investment in infrastructure megaprojects, which often foster violent displacement. 

Billy Kyte, a campaign leader for rights charity Global Witness, said the Alliance's silence on the property rights of regular people means more could be driven from ancestral homes. And Amnesty International and Oxfam said the strategy sticks to a model based on private investment that has failed to stem migration for four decades, and voiced concern that human rights abuses might follow.

News Briefs
  • Four National Civil Police officers and 15 soldiers participated in death squads that killed 36 people in El Salvador, between 2014 and 2016, according to the national prosecutors office. Arrest warrants were issued for the government agents and nearly three dozen civilians who allegedly participated in the killings, reports the Associated Press. Some of the victims were alleged gang members, and others appeared to be targets of contracted killings. National Civil Police Director Howard Cotto says the squads began killing gang members, but branched out to make money.
  • El Salvador -- where government officials cynically congratulated themselves for security success in 2016, despite having the highest national homicide rate in the world -- is basically a model of how not to put together a country, writes Óscar Martínez in NACLA. "The persistence of repression is one of the primary features of this manual. Repression at the center of the security strategy. The unchallenged idea that violence can be solved with bullets. ... But then El Salvador became illustrative of other key elements in the manual on how not to assemble a country: the inability of a country to learn from its own past and the cowardice of leaders, who give preference to votes instead of lives."
  • Murders in Mexico topped records in May -- surpassing even those for the same month in 2011, the previous monthly high. (See yesterday's briefs.) Analysts point to various reasons for the increase, including increased cultivation of heroin to meet US demand and the legalisation of marijuana in some U.S. states, which has caused cartel profits to plummet and prompted criminal groups to diversify into crimes such as kidnap and extortion, reports the Guardian. Others question the efficacy of the government's kingpin strategy, which targets cartel leaders.
  • On that issue, Instinto de Vida presented a report at the OAS foreign ministers' meeting in Mexico this week. The seven most dangerous countries account for around a third of the world's homicides, with violence in some cities on a par with war zones, according to the report. Over thirty organizations from the region have gathered to propose halving Latin America's homicide rate over the next decade. They advocate focusing on the worst-hit countries - Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, Colombia, El Salvador and Guatemala – which need to cut homicides by 7 percent a year to halve murder rates and save up to 365,000 lives over 10 years, reports Reuters. Regardless of what country the homicides occur in, they are hyper-localized in cities, notes Robert Muggah in Animal Político. The costs -- in terms of policing efforts impacts to the economy -- are large, and could be better applied to targeted policies, he writes. (See May 12's post.)
  • The Mexican government announced an investigation into whether prominent critics and journalists were subjected to illegal electronic surveillance with government-owned software. (See yesterday's briefs.) But activists say the promise falls short of their demands. For example, the investigation will be carried out by the prosecutor general's office, which is among the government agencies that purchased the software in question, reports the New York Times.
  • The mainstream media narrative regarding Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is that he has failed to fulfill his campaign promise of a revamped, modern PRI. He promised a pro-business and contemporary approach that has been discredited by a series of corruption scandals, human rights violations and record levels of homicides. (See yesterday's briefs.) But that narrative ignored Peña Nieto's troublesome history as governor of Mexico State, where in 2006 he sent 3,500 members of the stat police to crackdown on disturbances generated by the eviction of 40 flower sellers on the street. Hundreds of protesters were arrested, and dozens of women were sexually abused by police in detention. "The question that pursues me and which I find pertinent to ask not only with regards to Mexico, but in general, is why pro-business reforms ... are interpreted by so many people as something that promises modern democratic values and respect for rule of law? Why, in contrast, was the history of a candidate who had violated human rights as well as those of security and individual dignity, especially women, not interpreted as a warning of anti-democratic values and a failure of the rule of law," asks Francisco Goldman in a pointed New York Times Español op-ed. The revelations this week that government owned software was used to illegally spy on journalists and critics of the administration confirms what many already knew to some degree, he says. And the question remains, he writes: who is the Mexican government working for?
  • Mexico's new medicinal marijuana law will not lead to dispensaries on every corner, explains the Washington Post. Rather to draft and implement regulations and public policies regulating the medicinal use pharmacological derivatives of cannabis. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Several army generals were promoted to key posts in Venezuela, as President Nicolás Maduro reshuffled his cabinet to allow top officials to run for seats on a polemic Constituent Assembly, reports the Associated Press. Gen. Antonio Benavides, who headed the national guard, which has been accused of abuses during the crackdown on anti-government protests will lead an agency created to oversee Caracas. And Gen. Carlos Osorio, who had been serving as the armed forces' inspector general and is allegedly linked to the food black market, is taking over as Maduro's chief of staff. Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez is among the cabinet members who quit in order to run, reports Reuters.
  • OAS foreign ministers failed to even reach an agreement on creating a mediation group of friends for Venezuela, reports the Associated Press, though it might be approved at a later date. Earlier this week the ministers failed to pass a resolution criticizing the Maduro's push to rewrite the national constitution. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Lost in much of the Cuba debate, the issue of how the U.S. continues to occupy an area of Guantanamo bay for an overseas naval base is quite relevant argues Ernesto Londoño in the New York Times. "Is it legally defensible to hold on to the territory in perpetuity? Have we become squatters in paradise?" The continued U.S. presence on the island is illegal under international law, and has long been "a thorn in the Cuban psyche, a reminder of an era of American domination that is taught early and often in Cuban schools."
  • Brazil's increasingly weak government coalition relies on the PSDB partner to maintain the ruling alliance. Though the party elders maintain their support of President Michel Temer, despite increasing corruption allegations, a younger faction of party members are pushing the party to break with the government, reports the Financial Times.
  • Temer is being accused of organizing the distribution of about $6 million of public funds into Brazil’s election campaigns, reports the Associated Press. The latest in a slew of allegations of corruption comes from fundraiser Lucio Bolonha Funaro in testimony made public by Brazil’s top court late Tuesday.
  • The next environmental battle in Brazil will be proposed legislation that would end a nearly 40-year ban on foreign-owned mining companies operating on land near the roughly 16,000-kilometer (10,000-mile) border, reports Bloomberg. (See yesterday's briefs.) 
  • Workers' unions in Uruguay began a general strike yesterday demanding a higher budget for education, reports TeleSUR.
  • Thousands of Paraguayan farmers protested a proposed 15 percent tax on soy, corn and wheat exports. The measure, which will likely be voted on in the Senate this week, was proposed a leftist coalition in Congress, but is supported by President Horacio Cartes' party as part of a legislative pact, reports Reuters.
  • Peruvian Finance Minister Alfredo Thorne resigned yesterday after a vote of no-confidence by congress, in light of accusations of influence peddling, reports the Financial Times. The ouster is another hit to President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's efforts to jumpstart the economy, reports Reuters.
  • Guy Philippe - Haitian senator elect, former police commander and fugitive -- was sentenced to nine years in prison in Miami federal court yesterday for accepting bribes to protect cocaine smugglers who used the island to ship drugs to the United States, reports the Miami Herald.
  • The ELN said that it will investigate whether some of its fighters were behind the kidnapping of two Dutch journalists in Colombia, reports EFE.
  • An expedition of "ice scientists" gathered samples from a melting Bolivian glacier, and will store them for study and preservation on an Antartica base, reports the Guardian.
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales joined in the celebration Wednesday of “Willka Kuti” – the Sun’s return –  marking the start of the year 5525 in Aymara culture, reports EFE.
  • Are you a former government official seeking to evade allegations of impropriety? "South Florida’s climate and waterfront condos make it a prime spot for former leaders under an investigative microscope back home," reports the Miami Herald.

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