Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Under-regulated private security is a threat in the region (March 28, 2018

News Briefs
  • A new Inter-American Dialogue report explores the challenges associated with the proliferation of private military and security companies in Latin America. Though private security guards outnumber police around the world, the gap in violence plagued Latin America is far greater, according to authors Sarah Kinosian and James Bosworth. In Brazil, the ratio is four to one, in Guatemala, five to one, and in Honduras there are almost seven private guards for every public officer. And "... lack of oversight and enforcement has led to instances where corruption, human rights abuses and excessive use of force have gone unchecked," they write, citing the case of assassinated Honduran activist Berta Cáceres. And they note that private security firms have become major suppliers of weapons for criminal groups. 
  • More than a dozen political figures have been murdered in Mexico since the start of this year — an average of more than one per week. The attacks have again drawn attention to the impact of organized crime on Mexican politics, reports InSight Crime. Experts have found that high levels of violence have increased abstention in elections in the past. Organized crime also deters citizens from serving in polls, a necessary role in elections.
  • U.S. Senator Marco Rubio warned the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela to toe the line, after the diplomat made a comment that differed from the Trump administration's stance on the country's upcoming presidential elections, reports the Miami Herald. Todd Robinson said in a media interview that "There are different theories about the outcome of the elections, and in the end Venezuelans will decide whether the elections are credible or not, and we will wait for the decision of the Venezuelans." The U.S. administration and other countries in the region have denounced the elections as illegitimate.
  • The U.S. First Son-in-Law, Jared Kushner, is quietly working behind the scenes to mend increasingly frayed diplomatic relations with Mexico, reports the New York Times. According to insider sources, Kushner has tried to keep President Donald Trump from publicly discussing who will pay for a wall along the Mexican border, and to keep him from ripping up NAFTA.
  • Earlier this week Mexico and the U.S. announced three new accords to improve bilateral customs procedures and expedite the flow of agricultural produce across their shared border, reports Reuters.
  • International anti-graft commissions in Guatemala and Honduras have endured an onslaught of attacks by entrenched political elites in recent months, reports InSight Crime. In Guatemala the government removed 11 agents who had been working with the U.N. backed CICIG. (See last Wednesday's briefs.) While in Honduras lawmakers accused of corruption are seeking to declare the country's agreement with the OAS regarding an anti-corruption mission unconstitutional. (See last Wednesday's post.)
  • Conservative Colombian presidential candidate Iván Duque is leading in polls for the June elections. With 41.6 percent he has a 16 point lead over his closest opponent, leftist Gustavo Petro, reports El País.
  • Colombia's association of coca growers said it is considering suspending participation in the country's voluntary crop-substitution program, reports Contagio Radio.
  • Peru's new president, Martín Vizcarra, did not fully ratify his predecessor's ban on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's presence at the upcoming Summit of the Americas. Vizcarra said the issue would be determined by top diplomats, reports Reuters.
  • Vizcarra promised to increase infrastructure spending, reports Reuters.
  • Peruvian lawmaker Kenji Fujimori raised the stakes in his family feud by offering to testify against his sister, Keiko Fujimori, in corruption investigations, reports Gustavo Gorriti in El País.
  • Two buses in Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's presidential campaign caravan were hit with gunfire yesterday. The former leader's Workers' Party also said nails were placed along the caravan route, piercing a bus' tires. Lula was not in the bus when it was attacked, reports Reuters.
  • Lula's candidacy and the ratification of his corruption conviction open a confusing legal path to the October elections, reports El País.
  • Brazilian police detained a priest who defended the rights of small landholders in the Amazon was arrested yesterday on charges of extortion and sexual harassment. But defenders say the charges are trumped up powerful agricultural interests affected by Father Amaro Lopes' activism. He is the best-known follower of the American-born nun, Dorothy Stang, who was murdered in 2005 in a killing orchestrated by landowners during a dispute that continues today, reports the Guardian. "The police operation to arrest Lopes involved 15 officers, a large number for a single priest – and a sharp contrast to the resources devoted to investigating the 10 killings carried out in Anapu since 2015."
  • Brazil's government announced plans to vaccinate the entire population against yellow fever, but already it has been unable to fulfill plans in states affected by the virus, raising concerns that it will not be able to obtain the 77 million vaccinations needed by the end of 2019, reports the Guardian.
  • The Los Angeles Times profiles a Rio de Janeiro hospital flooded with gunshot victims. "Nova Iguacu General Hospital, or HGNI, last year treated 687 people who had been shot, up from 475 the previous year, dozens of them fatalities. As of mid-March, the trauma center known as Rio’s war hospital had treated 159 shooting victims this year, including 31 who died of their wounds, putting it on track to surpass last year’s total if the violence does not ease."
  • Satellite imagery of the Amazon is revealing archeological evidence of settlements in areas previously believed to have been sparsely inhabited before European colonization, reports the Guardian. Models based on the research suggest that at the time, the southern rim of the Amazon alone could have been home to between 500,000 and one million people, before diseases brought from Europe took a heavy human toll.
  • Ninaj Raoul, co-founder of the organization Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees spoke with The Intercept about the U.S.'s mistreatment of Haitian refugees fleeing a military coup between 1991 and 1993.
  • Chile’s constitutional court struck down a law that would have banned universities operating for profit, dealing a blow to free tuition reforms brought in by former left-wing president Michelle Bachelet, reports the AFP.
  • Two Ecuadorean journalists working for El Comercio and their driver have been kidnapped in a conflictive area of the country's border with Colombia, reports the Associated Press. Dissident FARC guerrillas operate in the area, reports the BBC.
  • Haitian journalists planned a protest for this morning against government inaction in the case of a photojournalist who has been missing for two weeks, reports the Miami Herald. Vladjimir Legagneur was working in the gang-ridden Grand Ravine neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Haiti ranked 53rd out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index.
  • Over the past two years workers cooperatives took over at least Argentine media companies that had shut their doors or declared bankruptcy. The move represents "a reconfiguration of the country's media landscape that is connected to the relationship between media and governments, but also represents new paths for journalism in Argentina," according to the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.
  • Fear not repressed heterosexuals of the world, the Argentine government's human rights office is watching out for you. A tweet by the Human Rights Secretariat stating that heterosexuality is also part of sexual diversity met with widespread mockery, reports the BBC.



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