Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Mexican military human rights violations go unpunished says WOLA (Nov. 8, 2017)

Hundreds of allegations of human rights violations against soldiers deployed in Mexico's War on Drugs have resulted in few convictions in recent years. Reforms aimed at improving civilian oversight have been only partially implemented, according to a new comprehensive report by the Washington Office on Latin America, that also points to military obstruction of civilian investigations and lack of political will to seriously prosecute such violations.

The attorney general's office launched 505 "criminal investigations into crimes and human rights violations committed by soldiers against civilians," between 2012 and 2016. "The majority of these investigations are for human rights violations, with torture (or crimes related to torture) and enforced disappearances being the most recurrent." But these resulted in just 16 convictions  -- a prosecutorial success rate of 3.2 percent.

The military has played a central role in the Mexican governments War on Drugs policy against cartels launched in 2006. Since then there have been hundreds of accusations of violations by a force critics say is not prepared for police work, reports the Associated Press

The report references the infamous case of the 2014 Tlatlaya massacre, in which 22 suspected criminals were killed by soldiers. The military's initial narrative was that of a gunfight, but later evidence pointed to extrajudicial executions. "The Tlatlaya case illustrates that holding military and civilian investigations concurrently delays and obstructs justice ... (and) shows that in military jurisdiction, cases of grave human rights violations also go unchecked or remain unpunished," the report said.

The report "emphasizes that if authorities demonstrate political will they can carry out efficient civilian investigations of soldiers implicated in human rights violations."

News Briefs
  • Prosecutors in conservative parts of Mexico are increasingly criminalizing women who have suffered miscarriages by accusing them of intentionally inducing abortions. The Guardian profiles the case of a woman serving a 16-year sentence after being convicted of homicide in an episode she said was a miscarriage of a pregnancy she wasn't even aware of. Sound familiar? This sort of prosecution has been denounced by rights groups in El Salvador, where women have been sentenced to 40 years of jail for obstetric complications (see May 9's post, for example). In Mexico, prosecutorial zeal against women who suffered miscarriages began when Mexico City decriminalized abortion about a decade ago, spurring an even more restrictive stance elsewhere in the country, according to the Guardian.
  • In Mexico's Guerrero state over a thousand people have been victims of forced disappearances in the past decade -- their families struggle to investigate their fates with little official support, reports Animal Político.
  • Mexican elections next year have an unusual and tumultuous cast of candidates -- including an ideologically unlikely coalition between the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party and the conservative National Action Party; a slew of independents who are allowed to run for president for the first time; and the oft-mentioned leftist populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador. "Sometimes, more options are good for democracy. Other times, they portend chaos," writes Salvador Vázquez del Mercado in the Conversation. "Shifting coalitions and independent candidacies are a new phenomenon in Mexico ... But traditional political systems elsewhere in Latin America have long since splintered under similar pressures, sometimes with devastating results."
  • Hundreds of protesters in Guatemala -- many from indigenous and rural communities -- blocked roads yesterday demanding President Jimmy Morales' resignation due to accusations of corruption in his 2015 campaign, reports AFP. Members of the Comité de Desarrollo Campesino (Codeca) and the Comité Campesino del Altiplano (CCDA) maintained roadblocks this morning, reports El Periódico.
  • El Periódico reports on electoral reform wending its way through Guatemala's National Assembly.
  • A proposed legislative reform would give the Morales administration the ability to shut down critical organizations of civil society, including those championing anti-corruption efforts, that question the government's fiscal policies and environmental groups, reports Nómada.
  • Guatemala's Supreme Court lifted parliamentary immunity for a lawmaker suspected of ordering an attack that killed two journalists. Guatemalan prosecutors and the U.N. sponsored anti-corruption commission -- the CICIG -- requested the measure, which allows for a judicial investigation to proceed. They said Congressman Julio Juarez Ramirez hired hit men to kill Prensa Libre correspondent Danilo Efrain Zapon Lopez, whose reporting had hurt Juarez’s plans to run for office, reports the Associated Press.
  • A Venezuelan journalist said he had been released following two days of captivity and torture after photographing criminal gang activities inside a prison, reports the Associated Press.
  • Venezuela could default as early as this week, according to analysts who say U.S. sanctions have helped push the country's crisis-ridden economy into further decline, reports the AFP.
  • A bill that would give U.S. Salvadoran, Honduran, Nicaraguan and Haitian TPS recipients a path to legal U.S. residency has little interest in Congress, though it has the bipartisan support of the entire Miami delegation, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday's and Monday's posts.)
  • The Venezuelan opposition's decision to boycott next month's municipal elections "will be counter-productive and fruitless. As with previous decisions to boycott elections, it will leave them excluded from political power and resources, with no apparent gain, and thereby help Nicolás Maduro steady his unstable political regime," argues Dimitris Pantoulas at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. "In the Venezuelan case, it is clear that the decision to boycott the municipal elections is a desperate reaction to the disastrous October 15 electoral result and not part of a clear strategy. ... It might seem naïve to argue for participation. But even in the case that the unfair conditions mean you cannot win everything you deserve, any victory provides resources and complicates the adversaries’ strategy."
  • Thousands of Bolivians rallied yesterday in La Paz calling for President Evo Morales to be allowed to run for a fourth consecutive term, reports the BBC.
  • Morales accused the U.S. embassy of a "conspiracy" against the Bolivian government, in reference to recent allegations made against current and former members of the government, reports EFE.
  • WOLA said this week's decision by U.S. to terminate TPS for Nicaraguan migrants was "inhumane and unfortunate." WOLA director Geoff Thale also referred to upcoming determinations that could end 300,000 migrants back to their home countries. "Hondurans, Haitians, and Salvadorans have a tense wait ahead of them. The DHS would do well to consider what on-the-ground conditions are really like in these countries before moving to end TPS to score political points. Forcing TPS recipients to go back to countries that struggle with high levels of violence and insecurity is wrong and could very well spark another wave of migration from the region," he said. (See yesterday's and Monday's posts.)
  • A Miami jury found a U.S. orphanage operator guilty of sexually abusing minors in his care, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Beauty pageants are the new political platform in Latin America. Following a Miss Peru competition last week where contestants used the opportunity to condemn gender violence, a competition to determine the best Brazilian posterior presented an opportunity for the winner to condemn President Michel Temer. Earlier this year, some Miss Bumbum contestants campaigned wearing shirts emblazoned with the slogan: "We are not just a beautiful butt, we also talk about politics," reports the Washington Post.

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