Brazilian President Michel Temer a new extraordinary ministry of public security and appointed a general to head the defense ministry yesterday, reports the Guardian.
It's the first time a member of the armed forces holds the post of Defense Minister in nearly two decades, notes El País. It's yet another nod towards the militarization of public security, in the wake of a federal intervention of Rio de Janeiro state's security last week.
Yet military intervention spooks the very people its aimed at protecting, notes the Guardian. (See yesterday's briefs as well.)
Army involvement has led to human rights violations, and complicates investigations into them. Last week Human Rights Watch denounced that Brazil´s army is not making its personnel available to talk with state prosecutors in the investigation into the killing of eight people during a joint raid with civil police in Rio de Janeiro.
Yet Rio is hardly the most violent state in the country, and authorities are reacting more to press accounts and public fear than to cold violence data, notes Folha de S. Paulo. "Specialists say that the hilly relief that sets Rio de Janeiro's tourist neighborhoods next to violent neighborhoods, coupled with the closed highways used by most residents to commute, have increased the feeling of insecurity. ... The "media factor" also influences the feeling of insecurity. Rio de Janeiro, the country's biggest tourist destination and its former capital, is a window of Brazil and has the spotlights on it."
Temer has denied rumors that he is planning a presidential run later this year, reports Reuters. Nonetheless, there is increasing speculation that he might throw his hat into the ring, reports the AFP. Critics say the Rio intervention is designed to improve public opinion of Temer.
- Brazilian Attorney General Raquel Dodge asked the Supreme Court to intervene in order to prevent the federal police chief from interfering in a criminal investigation that could implicate Temer, reports Reuters.
- Dodge's office also said that it was seeking to quash a plea bargain deal that had been reached with Wesley Batista, the former chief executive officer of the world’s largest meatpacker, JBS SA, reports Reuters.
- U.S. officials say oil sanctions are on the table as a possible response to upcoming Venezuelan presidential elections, considered illegitimate by many in the international community, reports the Miami Herald.
- Less than two months away from the vote, the only opponent to President Nicolás Maduro's reelection bid is a little-known television evangelist with past charges of fuel smuggling, reports the Associated Press. Rev. Javier Bertucci humbly believes that Jesus Christ would support his candidacy, and claims to represent the poor who are disillusioned by the Socialist Party government. But critics say his running lends legitimacy to the election, and could potentially divide the fractured political opposition -- much of which has been advocating boycotting the elections due to lack of electoral guarantees.
- Candidates have until today to register to run in April 22's elections, reports AFP.
- A bizarre standoff between a Panamanian hotel owner and the Trump Organization that runs it has led Panamanian prosecutors to open an investigation into the case, effectively investigating the U.S. president's private business, though the day to day management is in his sons' hands, reports the Washington Post.
- A former Mexican state attorney general is accusing the government of forcing state governments to report falsely lowered homicide statistics, reports Buzzfeed.
- There are reports of increased Mexican cartel influence in Colombia's criminal groups and drug trafficking organizations in the post-FARC scenario. Colombian Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez has said cartels are also seeking to directly control cocaine production. While InSight Crime discounts "hyperbolic claims that Mexican cartels are trying to take over the Colombian underworld" it says "their presence and influence in the country has expanded rapidly in recent years, and they now appear to be developing new strategies for the post-FARC underworld."
- In La Macarena, Colombia, a booming eco-tourism industry -- a result of the FARC peace deal -- is pitting up against potential oil wells that could destroy it, reports the New York Times. The national government revoked an oil company's lease nearby, arguing that it could have negative environmental impact. And a dissident FARC group active in the area could impact everybody's plans.
- Natural parks in Colombia protect the environment, but also provide haven for illicit crops and groups, reports InSight Crime, based on a study by El Colombiano. "These protected areas are often difficult to access, offering strategic cover for smuggling of all kinds, and are additionally attractive to traffickers when located along international borders, as are several of Colombia’s parks."
- Colombia's ELN rebels announced a temporary ceasefire during next month's legislative elections, reports the AFP.
- A Mexican judge ordered the arrest of 31 high-ranking Veracruz state police officers accused of participating in a paramilitary group that allegedly carried out enforced disappearances, reports, InSight Crime.
- People in El Salvador asking for "mano dura" anti-gang policies are likely those who don't live in gang controlled areas, International Crisis Group's Ivan Briscoe told El Faro in an interview. "... Because they aren't affected by those repressive policies. This doesn't only happen in El Salvador. This phenomenon of not having direct contact with the consequences of repressive policies and yet support them is something we see in many countries in Latin America. In Colombia, for example." He also said negotiations with gangs could one day happen again, but would require a political paradigm shift. In this sense he also links to processes in Colombia and potentially Mexico.
- Uruguay's government said the country achieved an infant mortality rate of 6.6 per 1,000 live births last year, the lowest in the South American country’s history, reports EFE.
- An book by Francisco Cantú delves into the world of U.S. border patrol along the Mexican border. Though agents are prepared to battle "narco warfare" and instead find themselves up against desperate migrants attempting to cross murderous territory, according to the New York Times review. "The aliens we encounter are not narco bosses and murderous kidnappers but their victims: bewildered, disoriented, helpless migrants. Some are dead. They don’t fit the terror profile.