Unrest in Nicaragua appeared to subside yesterday amid renewed calls for dialogue from the government, the release of protesters detained over the past week, and the reestablishment of suspended television channels. (See yesterday's briefs.) Schools yesterday reopened, after being suspended during the protests, and Managuan streets were relatively calm, reports AFP.
But the protests, which started over changes to country's social security system, have turned into the biggest uprising in the country since the civil war ended in 1990, reports the New York Times. Tensions over the past week boiled over as a heavy handed security response to demonstrations led to an estimated 34 deaths.
Protesters are now calling for President Daniel Ortega's resignation, though yesterday students at Managua's Polytechnic University -- a focal point in the protests -- agreed to join a dialogue with the government mediated by the Roman Catholic Church.
The protests "represent a national rejection of President Daniel Ortega’s blatant aspiration to perpetuate himself and his family in power at any cost," argues Mateo Jarquín Chamorro in a New York Times op-ed. "The people on the streets have shown that their indifference has come to an end. The government has been unable to stop them from tearing down the ubiquitous propaganda billboards and some of the garish, tin-metal “trees of life” erected on hundreds of streets and roundabouts by the first lady as symbols of her government’s supposedly divine mandate. Nicaragua will never be the same again."
NYT has a video of the disturbances that have suddenly changed the country's course.
"The violence was particularly jarring in a country that has been a relative bastion of calm in a volatile region," according to the Economist, which links Ortega's new fragility to lack of funds in the wake of allied Venezuela's economic crisis.
Homicides set to keep increasing
- A new Igarapé Institute study warns that the region's dramatic rates of criminal violence and homicide are likely to continue rising if nothing is done. “The overall trend right now in Latin America is one of increasing homicides and deteriorating security,” Robert Muggah told the Guardian. The report also notes the large role of guns in the region's violent crime.
Migrants have become unrecognized refugees
- Univision News and El Faro received the 2018 Hillman Prize for Web Journalism for their coverage of the dangers faced by Central American migrants in a special feature: From migrants to refugees: the new plight of Central Americans. "The migrant shelters that were once pit stops for people pursuing a better future have now become refugee camps, filled with people often narrowly escaping death and experiencing profound trauma. In contrast to the plight of refugees in other areas of the world, very little has been told here about the struggles, fear, stress, and desperation that are experienced by refugees from Central America."
- Inter-American Court of Human Rights starts hearing a landmark human rights case regarding three cousins who were disappeared in 2009 by soldiers deployed within Mexico as part of the country's "war on drugs" policy. The court is expected to rule that Mexico is guilty of human rights violations for failing to bring justice in the case and require the government to make reparations to the victims' family, reports the Los Angeles Times. But more broadly, the case is a trial of Mexico's use of armed forces for internal security, a policy criticized by human rights organizations and formalized recently by a new law. Rulings issued by the Inter-American Court, based in Costa Rica, are legally binding in Mexico, and the court's opinion on the law could influence the Supreme Court. (See yesterday's briefs.)
- The tragic deaths of three cinema students -- apparently killed by a criminal gang that mistook their identities -- has drawn attention to the massive enforced disappearance problem in Mexico, where about half of the country's 34,000 missing were under 29 years of age, reports El País.
- Mexico's Senate passed a bill regulating government ad spending. But critics -- including Artículo 19 and Fundar -- say the so-called Ley Chayote only institutionalizes discretional spending that impacts media freedom, reports Animal Político. (See April 16's briefs.)
- Independent presidential candidate Jaime "El Bronco" Rodríguez suggested cutting off the hands of corrupt public officials in a debate on Sunday. He later doubled down on the proposal, saying "It’’s something we have to do to end corruption in Mexico, which is a cancer." Hours later, a drug cartel dumped a dismembered corpse in Acapulco with a sign saying that they were already enforcing the punishment, reports the Guardian.
- Buzzfeed profiles Tatiana Clouthier, the campaign manager who might help perennial presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador win office in July.
- Opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcón accused President Nicolás Maduro of violating electoral rules in his reelection campaign, reports EFE. Falcón pointed to promotion of Maduro on official government websites, state media support for the incumbent, and government pressure on private media to provide Maduro with coverage. He asked electoral authorities to enforce both legal regulations and the accord signed by presidential candidates in March, reports Efecto Cocuyo. Falcón also challenged Maduro to a public debate.
- Of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to irregularities, which are of such magnitude that the country's major opposition parties have called for a boycott on the upcoming May 20 vote. Efecto Cocuyo lists the top 10 irregularities.
- The only other challenger to Maduro, little known evangelical pastor Javier Bertucci said he'd be open to supporting Falcón's bid, but that he is also considering stepping down due to electoral irregularities, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
- The U.S. consulate in Caracas called on the government to allow humanitarian aide to enter the country. Vía Twitter, the consulate said this could include medicine for preventable diseases, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
- At Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights Geoff Ramsey analyzes the status of international sanctions against Venezuela. He notes the particular significance of Panamanian sanctions against officials announced in late March, as its the first time a Latin American country has joined efforts to isolate the Maduro regime. "Panama’s announcement may be a sign that other Latin American countries could join in applying sanctions in the future, and this does not appear to be lost on Venezuelan officials."
- "Becoming an active member of a religious community remains virtually the only way someone can leave the notorious gang Mara Salvatrucha, better known as MS-13, alive," writes InSight Crime co-director Stephen Dudley in a New York Times op-ed. And that is a clue into how to best diffuse the threat posed by the criminal organizations, he argues. "The gang carries out horrific crimes, but after spending three years studying MS-13, my colleagues and I concluded that the best way to diminish the gang’s appeal to vulnerable young men is to think of it as more of a social organization than a criminal enterprise."
- A witness in a case against former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe was killed earlier this month, and others have bene threatened, denounced Human Rights Watch today. The Colombian Supreme Court's criminal chamber is investigating whether Uribe with witnesses linking him and his brother to paramilitary atrocities in the 1990s.
- Colombia's new ambassador to Seoul is a former commander of the country's military, accused of participating in war crimes and supporting cyberespionage against human-rights activists, reports the Washington Post.
- Tumaco bishop Orlando Olave Villanova told EFE that the Colombian city near the border with Ecuador is suffering government neglect and the rise of armed criminal groups in the wake of FARC demobilization. The situation is such that some citizens long for the days when the guerrilla group dominated the Nariño area, he said.
- Alleged Colombian drug-lord "Don Mario" was charged with leading a continuing criminal enterprise in the U.S., reports the Associated Press.
- Brazil's Supreme Court undercut crusading anti-corruption Judge Sergio Moro this week. Magistrates accepted an appeal by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's lawyers that would take Odebrecht plea bargain testimonies from Moro's hands, giving them to Sao Paulo justices instead, reports Folha de S. Paulo.
- Former Brazilian finance minister Antonio Palocci has struck a plea deal with federal police. Palocci served under Lula, and as chief of staff of former president Dilma Rousseff. His testimony could lead to new investigations and arrests in the landmark Lava Jato corruption investigation, reports Reuters.
- The United Nations’ environment chief called for an investigation into the killings of three environmental activists recently, and said the escalation of violence against environmental defenders in Brazil is of "deep concern," reports Reuters.
- A bill in Brazil's congress could totally ban abortion in Brazil, where already restrictive clauses push most women into illegality to terminate pregnancies. As many as one in five women in Brazil are estimated to have had an abortion, and some estimates say as many as four women die from unsafe abortions each day, reports the Guardian.
- Haiti's government shuffled its new cabinet, named earlier this week, in response to pressure from lawmakers who support President Jovenel Moise, reports AFP.
- Peru's new president lost his first minister to scandal already -- Production Minister Daniel Cordova resigned yesterday after a local TV channel revealed he had offered to fire his deputy minister to avert a strike by fishermen, reports Reuters.
- Argentina's government said it received over 30 bids in for six road projects to be built through public private partnerships (PPPs). It's the starting point for a total of $26.5 billion in PPP investment planned through 2022, reports Reuters.
- A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced a resolution calling on Russia not to interfere in Latin American elections happening this year, reports the Hill. Though there have been allegations and rumors, no substantial evidence of Russian interference has been presented. Mexico particularly rejects the accusations.
- Mexican authorities arrested a Chinese airline passenger transporting 416 swim bladders from the endangered totoaba fish. They were tipped off by the strong smell emanating from his suitcases, reports AFP.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...