Colombia's transitional justice system officially opened up yesterday, fulfilling a key measure of the peace deal with the FARC, reports the Associated Press. The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) will try cases considered most representative of the war’s violence, committed by guerrillas and government soldiers, reports Reuters.
It will consist of three chambers where magistrates will examine case files gathered from years of investigations by various government agencies and humanitarian groups as well as victim accounts and compare them with testimony provided by offenders. More than 4,600 former FARC fighters and nearly 1,800 members of the armed forces have already submitted testimony for the JEP to process.
A special investigative unit will get involved when there is a discrepancy to help determine the truth. Human Rights Watch's America's director José Miguel Vivanco criticized the ambiguities of the system, which he said risks letting war criminals off the hook.
- In the wake of the peace accord, the Colombian government must combine military action with development projects to reclaim territories that have been affected by decades of conflict. InSight Crime reviews some of the key challenges, including security, coca eradication and substitution, and rural development.
- The Colombian government announced a new program to protect community social leaders, after acknowledging that at least 150 have been killed since 2016, reports Caracol.
- Colombian negotiators resumed peace talks with the ELN guerrilla in Ecuador, reports EFE.
- Mexican cartels are increasingly present in Colombia according to the country's attorney general, reports Reuters.
- Colombian authorities detected more than 50,000 cyber attacks against the country's voter registration system in the lead up to last Sunday's election. Some originated in Venezuela which experts say is a proxy for Russia, reports Voice of America.
- A new report by DeJusticia details cases of "corporate complicity" with human rights violations committed by paramilitary groups between 1970 and 2015 in Colombia. Despite the perception that foreign multinational actors played a dominant role in financing Colombia’s conflict, 98 percent of the cases included in the report involved Colombian economic actors, notes InSight Crime.
- Colombian authorities detained a Cuban man accused of plotting to kill U.S. diplomats in the name of ISIS, reports the Associated Press.
- Protests were held around Brazil after a Rio de Janeiro council member and her driver were killed on Wednesday, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's post.) Marielle Franco's home city, where she was known as a human rights defender and representative of the city's poor favela residents, turned out in anger at the deaths. She was a vocal critic of police brutality in a city where killings at the hands of security forces have risen sharply in recent years. The assassination has rattled a country that is somewhat inured to violence, reports the New York Times. And the crowds are a challenge to President Michel Temer's controversial military intervention of Rio de Janeiro state's security, reports El País. Franco and her party, the PSOL, had been highly critical of the president’s decision, which many considered politically motivated and likely to increase violence against favela residents, notes Americas Quarterly. Its the first politically motivated death since the Rio intervention started a month ago. "Marielle’s murder comes at a tense moment in Rio. The investigation of her death will test the military intervention she opposed; the state police she had often denounced; and the resolution of civil society, which will have to remain engaged to ensure a resolution," writes Maurício Santoro in another Americas Quarterly piece.
- The past month of military intervention in Rio de Janeiro "has been a mixture of promising moves from the military, and troubling echoes of previous deployments," according to InSight Crime. Though the government initially promised a significant show of force, there hasn't been a general deployment of federal forces in the city. "However, the main military deployment into Villa Kenedy has seen the rights of local residents waived in a way that would unlikely be seen in richer parts of the city. The extended placement of military personnel in communities like Villa Kenedy is the same tactic used previously in Rocinha, Maré and countless other favelas before that, and will likely have the same outcome once federal forces leave. A return to lawlessness and a spike in crime."
- Rising violence has some Brazilians nostalgic for military dictatorship. The country's authoritarian past violated human rights, but is also credited by admirers with maintaining public order. The result could be dangerous for the country's wobbly institutions, according to the Washington Post.
- A community organizer in the Brazilian state of Pará was killed earlier this week. Fellow activists believe Paulo Nascimento was shot in retaliation for his participation in a campaign against a Norwegian owned aluminium factory in the area, that the community believes is damaging their environment and health, reports the Guardian.
- Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski will against face impeachment charges in relation to alleged improper payments from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. (See yesterday's briefs.) Though he survived a similar ouster attempt in December, this time around analysts say he is far weaker, reports the Associated Press.
- Mexico's lower chamber of Congress picked David Rogelio Colmenares, an economist, to head the Federal Audit Office (ASF). The process was criticized by anti-corruption groups who said the selection of candidates was not transparent, reports Reuters.
- Artículo 19 criticized a bill intended to regulate government publicity, saying it ratifies current poor practices, reports Animal Político.
- Mexican authorities arrested 18 people in relation to the case of two prosecution agents kidnapped and later killed, reports the Los Angeles Times.
- Groups of migrants who have lost temporary protected status (TPS) in the U.S., along with advocacy groups, are legally challenging the Trump administration. All of the lawsuits raise similar claims that the decision to end TPS violated procedures and TPS holders’ due process, and question President Donald Trump's attitude towards people of color, reports the Miami Herald. One of the complaints presented this week raises the issue of children of TPS holders, U.S. citizens who must decide whether to leave their country or grow up without their parents, reports the Guardian.
- Recent U.S. governments have lacked vision when it comes to Latin American diplomacy, allowing a narrow security agenda to dominate, argues Thomas O'Keefe at the Aula Blog. "While broad policies and political commitment behind them have been lacking, Washington has run a number of security programs in the region. This focus, however, has often turned out to be problematic."
- Former President Michelle Bachelet may not have fulfilled her ambitious campaign promises, but her government took important steps to channel citizen mobilization, especially in the case of a project for a new constitution, writes Patricio Fernández in a New York Times Español op-ed. In Americas Quarterly, Beryl Seiler and Ben Raderstorf also argue she deserves more credit than pundits are giving now. "All told, Bachelet’s second government was arguably the most impactful – in a purely ideological sense, for good or ill – of any in Chile’s post-dictatorship history."
- Protests against urban regeneration plans in Panama's Colón turned violent, reports the BBC. Four police officers have been injured and 45 people arrested.
- ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Barcena called for a "Latin America First" strategy at the World Economic Forum being held in Brazil, reports EFE.