Monday, May 14, 2018

Nicaraguan protesters repressed again (May 14, 2018)

At least one person was killed and dozens injured in violent clashed between protesters, riot police, and government supporting youth groups in Nicaragua on Saturday, reports the Associated Press. El Confidencial says at least 130 were injured in the city of Masaya, where the death occured.

In a statement late Saturday, the country's military called for halt in violence and expressed solidarity with the families of the estimated 60 victims since a crackdown on protests in late April, reports the Associated Press separately. Military leaders said they would not repress protesters, according to AFP

Thousands of Nicaraguans marched yesterday to express solidarity with the locality of Masaya. In Masaya witnesses say "paramilitaries" cracked down on protesters, turning the city into a battlefield, reports El País.

The crackdowns this weekend came even as the government expressed willingness to sit down for talks aimed at resolving the country's political crisis, reports el Confidencial.

President Daniel Ortega made a brief audio statement saying he's committed to peace. El Confidencial notes the uncharacteristic message was brief and made by telephone, while Ortega is better known for long-winded public speeches.

The OAS's Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will be visiting the country to observe the human rights situation on the ground, with the Nicaraguan government's permission, reports Confidencial. It's one of the demands made by the Catholic Church, which will mediate in a planned national dialogue.

A group of mothers of victims has organized under the name "Movimiento Madres de Abril" to pressure for justice, reports El País.

News Briefs

Venezuela
  • Venezuelans -- at least some of them -- head to the polls next Sunday in a presidential election boycotted by much of the opposition and considered illegitimate by most international observers. One of the many irregularities that make an honest outcome impossible is the use of much needed government food assistance to pressure voters. In a New York Times Español op-ed, Human Rights Watch's Tamara Taraciuk and Provea's Rafael Uzcátegui detail how the Maduro administration has called for citizens to use a sort of social security card when voting, provoking many to fear their access to scarce supplies could be cut short. "The Venezuelan government denies the humanitarian crisis, but uses hunger and health as mechanisms of social control."
  • At Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, WOLA's Geoff Ramsey shares some insights from field research last month. He notes that while most Venezuelan's don't support the government, the MUD opposition coalition's ratings are also descending. People are not protesting out of fear of repression, but his research also points to fatigue with the opposition leadership, which is perceived as uncoordinated. He quotes recent polling that found that about two-thirds of Venezuelans are opposed to the boycott. All of this is occurring amid a growing refugee crisis, as Venezuelan's flee the country. Colombia has enacted new rules requiring proper documentation (difficult to obtain in Venezuela), which means many of those crossing into Cucuta are undocumented. While Brazil has friendly regulations, though many shelters are operating at capacity, reports Ramsey.
  • The "Lima Group," a diplomatic coalition of countries in the region focused on pressuring the Venezuelan government for a peaceful resolution to the country's crisis, will meet this week in Mexico City, the last meeting before the upcoming elections, reports Reuters.
  • A group of open-source forensic investigators have found "disturbing indications " that Venezuelan rebel (?) Óscar Pérez and six companions were executed by security forces in January. (See Jan. 16's briefs.) In a New York Times op-ed, they call for citizen contributions to their investigation.
Brazil
  • A newly unearthed CIA memo shows that former dictator Ernesto Geisel personally approved summary executions of allegedly "dangerous subversives." The document shows an example of how leadership at the highest level of Brazil's 1964-1985 dictatorship was involved in human rights violations, discrediting versions that abuses were committed by junior officers without higher up approval, reports the Guardian. The revelations are pertinent amid strong support for presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, a dictatorship apologist who compared the approval of executions to a "spank on the bum."
  • Residents of quilombos -- descendants of former slaves who occupied territories at the end the 19th century -- increasingly fear for their lives as large-land owners resort to violence in an attempt to appropriate their land, reports El País.
Mexico
  • Presidential frontrunner Andrés Manuel López Obrador maintains a 20 point lead over his closest competitor for July's election. He has 46 percent intention to vote, while Ricardo Anaya has 26, reports Reuters.
  • AMLO met with teachers in Oaxaca state, a bastion of docent unions that reject an educational reform enacted by the current administration. He shared his education proposal, which would roll back the Peña Nieto reform and would focus on scholarships for secondary students and food programs for the country's poorest families, reports El País. He also criticized the education secretary's promotional budget, saying it has been dedicated to promoting the reform, reports Animal Político.
  • Two tourists found dead in a Chiapas ravine were likely murdered. The two European cyclists were initially believed to have plunged off a cliff in an accident, reports AFP.
  • A U.S. border patrol agent who killed a teen on the Mexican side of the border will be retried, after he was found not guilty of second-degree murder last month, reports the Guardian.
Colombia
  • Colombia's election is still focused on the FARC. Voters seem unable to accept that the guerrilla group has disarmed and that other pressing concerns must be addressed, argues Catalina Lobo-Guerrero in a New York Times Español op-ed. The right-wing particularly is framing the contest in terms of accepting or rejecting the 2016 peace agreement that led the guerrillas to lay down arms, a dangerous tactic that prevents much needed reconciliation.
Uruguay
  • Spain approved the extradition of a former Uruguayan military officer to face charges of human rights violations in Uruguay during the country's 1973-1985 military dictatorship, reports Reuters.
U.S. guns
  • Chilean authorities uncovered a gun smuggling ring importing arms from the U.S. -- the latest example of how international criminal groups take advantage of lax U.S. laws to illicitly sell guns in the region, reports InSight Crime.
Cuba
  • A 40 percent drop in U.S. tourism to Cuba -- product of a cooled relationship with the Trump administration -- is hitting the island's economy hard, particularly small-business owners, reports the Washington Post.

Obit
  • Dr. Davida Coady, who worked with public health crises around the world -- from Biafra to India to Honduras and Haiti -- died at 80, reports the New York Times.
Colombia's transgender farm workers
  • The Washington Post has a photo-essay of transgender indigenous women who have left their communities to work at coffee farms, where they have more freedom to openly express their gender identity.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take?  Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing

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