Thursday, May 31, 2018

Thirteen reported dead in Nicaragua's Mothers' Day protest (May 31, 2018)

At least 13 people were killed yesterday, in a crackdown on what was billed as a peaceful march in support of mothers of victims of repression, reports El Confidencial. Apparent government supporters opened fire on marchers in Managua, reports the Associated PressYesterday was Mothers' Day in Nicaragua.

Though violent confrontations between protesters, security forces and armed government supporters have become commonplace over the past month and a half in Nicaragua, the attack on a large peace oriented manifestation was unexpected according to El Confidencial.

Yesterday's violence comes even as President Daniel Ortega's government agreed to a four person international truth commission to investigate the crackdowns on protests, which have killed over 80 people thus far. The GIEI would be created in agreement with the OAS and in keeping with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recommendations, reports El Confidencial separately. (See May 22's briefs.)

The Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference condemned yesterday's violence and said the process of national dialogue, which the organization is mediating, cannot be resumed under these conditions, reports El ConfidencialBishop Silvio Baéz noted on Twitter that they are not condemning generic violence, but rather "assassinations" carried out by "armed groups in support of the government against the civilian population.

Business leaders in the COSEP association urged Ortega to call early elections yesterday, urging the government to agree on a date with civil society, reports Reuters. In a speech Ortega retorted that Nicaragua "is not private property".

News Briefs

Colombia
  • Nearly a quarter of Colombian voters opted for centrist presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo in last Sunday's elections. He did not make it to the second round, leaving voters to pick between the polarized far right and far left candidates. Fajardo is unwilling to play the kingmaker, and is apparently prioritizing maintaining his coalition for regional elections next year, reports La Silla Vacía
  • His voters will have to choose between the lesser of two evils -- or abstain and hope to temper the eventual winner, argues Héctor Abad Faciolince in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Both candidates, urbista front-runner Iván Duque, and leftist Gustavo Petro, must battle Fajardo voters' potential abstention. The keys of the second round, according to la Silla Vacía are: moral conservatism vs progressive social values; peace accords as are or reduced in scope; the economic model; and the engine for social transformations.
  • La Silla Vacía analyzes the results in post-conflict regions, which split between Duque and Petro, making it hard for either to make headway for next month's second round. (See Monday's post.)
  • Peace negotiations with the ELN are shaky, and the difficult implementation of the FARC peace deal has guerrilla leader wary of advancing, reports InSight Crime, which interviewed group members and communities where they operate.
  • A group of 73 U.S. lawmakers urged the U.S. State Department to act in the defense of Colombian human rights activists, who have increasingly been the targets of violence over the past year.
Honduras
  • A legal analysis by Honduras' Congress found the OAS backed international anti-impunity commission created in 2016 is illegitimate. The document could form the underpinning for an eventual Supreme Court decision against the MACCIH, reports el Heraldo. The analysis released this week calls for the immediate suspension of the MACCIH as it was created "unconstitutionally," and interferes in the country's sovereignty. Reports suggest the court might chip away at MACCIH's investigative power, part of an onslaught against the anti-corruption body by the Hernández administration, reports InSight Crime. The piece cites the Woodrow Wilson Center's Eric Olsen, who notes that the court is packed with supporters of President Juan Orlando Hernández, and could leave a "toothless" mission.
Mexico
  • A U.N. investigation points to Mexican security force involvement in a a wave of forced disappearances in Nuevo Laredo over the past four months, reports the Washington Post. The UN Human Rights Office in Mexico has documented the disappearance of 21 men and two women between February and May -- a number local rights groups say is even higher.
  • Earlier this week Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto reiterated that the country will not pay for a border wall proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump, reports Reuters. His Tweeted statement was in response to Trump's comments at a Nashville rally that Mexico will pay for the wall and does nothing to stem migrants passing through the country on the way to the U.S., reports the Guardian.
Guatemala
  • Guatemala's Constitutional Court thwarted President Jimmy Morales' expulsion of Sweden's ambassador, reports the Associated Press. (See May 11's briefs.)
Venezuela
  • Cuba's new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, will make Venezuela his first international visit since assuming office, reports AFP.
  • Henri Falcón, who lost this month in a widely criticized presidential election, has asked the Venezuela's Supreme Court to order a new vote, citing deep flaws in the process, reports the Associated Press
  • Comprehending Cuban influence on the Venezuelan government is key to understanding the country's crisis, argues Craig Deare in Americas Quarterly. "As the decent into chaos has accelerated, Cuba now has “an occupation army” in Venezuela, according to Luis Almagro, the secretary general of the Organization of American States. De-facto ownership of Venezuela’s oil riches would be a lifeline to Cuba’s dismal economic model."
Brazil
  • A new bill approved by Brazil's lower chamber of Congress this week would require consent for public and private companies to store users' private data. Regulations set out in the project would also require personal information to be destroyed after client or user relationships end. "If approved by the Senate, the new law will dramatically reshape the rules for government agencies and private companies alike," argues Igarapé Institute's Robert Muggah and Louise Marie Hurel in Americas Quarterly.
Paraguay
  • Paraguayan President Horacio Cartés' opponents refused to attend a Congressional session on his resignation, aiming to thwart his goal to assume a Senate seat, but it's considered a temporary setback in his ambition to extend immunity from prosecution, reports the Associated Press. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
Argentina
  • Political tensions in Argentina are running high. Today President Mauricio Macri vetoed a bill passed early this morning by the Senate, that would freeze utility prices -- a flashpoint in his fiscal austerity program, reports Reuters.
  • Argentine lawmakers will vote on a bill legalizing abortion next month -- a testament to the political strength of women's rights activists, argues Estefanía Pozzo in a New York Times Español op-ed. In particular in recent years, Ni Una Menos activists have had the support of female lawmakers from across the political spectrum, demonstrating the transversality of women's rights. 
  • Argentina's government is considering granting the armed forces internal security tasks, especially protection of natural resources. The project is controversial -- and prohibited by law -- and could put the military at the front of conflicts with indigenous communities opposing extractivist projects, notes Página 12.
Buenos Aires
  • Transport for London, the public owned operator, is bidding to manage Buenos Aires' subway, a contract potentially worth about $3.5 billion over a decade, reports the Guardian.

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