Thursday, March 15, 2018

#JustiçaParaMarielle (March 15, 2018)

A Rio de Janeiro council member and her driver were shot dead yesterday in an apparent targeted assassination. Police sources say gunmen opened fire on her car, but nothing was taken, reports El País.

City council member Marielle Franco was a vocal critic of police violence and recognized for her human rights trajectory. She was a member of a city commission monitoring the federally decreed military intervention of Rio de Janeiro's security, reports El País. Last weekend, she had criticized security forces for harassing favela residents -- a common issue worsened by the intervention, she tweeted.

Amnesty International urged that the investigation be rigorous and focus on "the context, motive and responsibility" for the killing.

President Michel Temer said the shooting was an attack against democracy and called an emergency meeting regarding the federal intervention in Rio, according to El País

In a city increasingly used to shooting deaths, this attack stands out as it wasn't a shootout between gangs or security forces, but rather appears to be an execution of a politician. The word "mexicanization" began to appear in social media in the hours following the attack, reports El País separately.

Protests were called for today against the genocide of black youths in cities around the country.

Franco grew up in the Maré favela, and criticized deaths of residents ascribed to security forces, reports the BBC. Defense of favela inhabitants' rights was a key part of her 2016 campaign platform, when she was the city's fifth most voted council candidate, reports O Globo. As president of the council's Commission for the Defense of Women she presented a project for the municipal government to compile data on gender violence. She also questioned the lack of female representation in city politics.


Ayotzinapa investigation marked by torture of detainees

Mexico's investigation into the disappearance of 43 students who disappeared in 2014 was marked by "a pattern of committing, tolerating and covering up torture," according to a new report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The report draws on judicial files, interviews with authorities, detainees and witnesses to conclude that there is evidence that at least 34 of the individuals prosecuted in relation to the Ayotzinapa case were tortured.

The report states that the internal oversight unit of the Office of the Attorney-General of the Republic (OAG) appeared to have made a genuine effort in 2016 to address some of alleged torture or other human rights violations, but this internal investigation was subsequently thwarted by the replacement of the officials in the unit. To date, there has been no prosecution and sanction for the acts of torture or other human rights violations, the report says. 

The report identifies extensive physical torture, including electrocution and anal penetration, as well as threats to rape detainees' families and mock executions, reports El País.

On Monday authorities said they had detained a key suspect in the case, with links to a drug gang. (See Tuesday's briefs.) But an independent group of experts and local human rights groups have questioned the government's account of what happened to the Ayotzinapa students, reports Reuters.

Another report by Mexican human rights groups, including Fundar and Centro Prodh, looks at the aftermath of the disappearances for victims' families. On the whole, they are poorer and sicker than they were four years ago. Many are afflicted with "survivors guilt" or "frozen mourning," reports El País.

News Briefs
  • Nicaragua's powerful vice president and first lady, Rosario Murillo, said Nicaraguans are "negatively influenced" by social media. On her daily television program she announced a project to target "fake news," shorthand for censorship of critical voices, reports El País.
  • Not that fake news and misinformation aren't also threats to democracy, note the participants of a World Economic Forum and El País organized round table.
  • Peru's Congress approved a motion to impeach President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who must now defend himself against allegations of impropriety for a second time in a few months, reports La República.
  • Sources say Vice President Martin Vizcarra would not resign in order to spur early elections if PPK is impeached, according to Reuters.
  • Corruption allegations have essentially kept PPK's government on hold, a fact that is intimately related to Peru's institutional oddities, argues Simeon Tegel in Americas Quarterly. "Peru’s peculiar democratic framework – a presidential-parliamentary hybrid unique in Latin America – serves both to institutionalize conflict and prevent fresh voices with public backing from entering the political arena."
  • At Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights David Smilde responds to critics who feel the U.S. has no moral standing to pressure Venezuela. "The only reason I would oppose a Trump policy regarding Venezuela is because I think it would worsen the situation. The only reason I would support a Trump policy regarding Venezuela is that I think it could improve the situation. I am not willing to use nor dismiss the plight of Venezuelans for other political ends, however noble these latter might be. I understand politics and coalitions, and how one battle might be sacrificed for a larger battle. But people’s basic human rights serves as a check on the play and conflict of politics. They point to the areas in which people must be treated as ends in themselves."
  • Pentacostalism is helping members of El Salvador's street gangs escape their commitment to the bloody groups, writes Sarah Maslin in 1843. "Rehabilitating gang members demands filling the void that drove them into gangs. Pentecostalism offers a compelling mix of boot-strapping individualism and tight-knit community. Some swear it is the only way. Gangs stay in power by maintaining a large standing army; defectors undermine their projection of strength. Members know sensitive information: the location of weapon stashes and clandestine graves, the gang’s leadership structure and its extortion network. ... Gangs need to manage this risk, so leaving entails a delicate process of negotiation. Older gangsters who have proved their trustworthiness have an easier time, as do churchgoers who avoid alcohol, drugs and other activities associated with la vida loca. Religion serves as a kind of ankle tag that lets the gang keep an eye on its former members."
  • Diplomatic observers are holding their breaths after former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's surprise ousting. But the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Lima could provide a good forum for U.S. President Donald Trump to favorably engage with regional leaders. A wave of conservative leaders could be more accommodating to the U.S. president, if he can avoid bluster aimed at impressing his domestic audience, argues Richard Feinberg in Americas Quarterly. "The assembled Latin American leaders will avoid warm embraces that would be unpopular with their voters back home, but they will not seek to ignite inter-American warfare. Possibly, the Lima summit might even make some substantive progress on salient regional issues. The Latin American leaders might persuade Trump to return, at least partially, to the more open trade policies of his predecessors. There should be pre-negotiated documents that advance national battles against corruption in public life.  And the search will continue for a mediated, diplomatic solution to the deepening crisis in Venezuela."
  • Six people died and 20 more were wounded in a police operative to reestablish control over a Bolivian jail, reports El País. A group of inmates attacked police officers engaged in unraveling gang control over the prison with lit gas canisters and firearms. Earlier this week a couple of inmates escaped during a mutiny in the same prison.
  • Brazil could take Trump's steel tariffs to the WTO, reports El País.
  • The daughter of two victims of Argentina's last military dictatorship, Paula Mónaco Felipe, ponders the death of Luciano Benjamín Menéndez, a prominent member of the regime that killed an estimated 30,000 people, in a New York Times Español op-ed. "We don't celebrate death, we are not them. He went in cowardly silence, without saying where he hid the remains of our loved ones. But his family could bury him, because he died in a different Argentina than the one he terrified, he died in a more just country, which, among other things, is what our parents wanted." His death has helped reignite old debates about justice and punishment in Argentina, writes Sylvia Colombo in another New York Times Español op-ed. Rather than pushing for former torturers to continue accruing life sentences, she argues, perhaps prosecutors should seek a sort of plea bargain system in order to obtain information about the victims whose whereabouts have never been discovered.


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