Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Violence surges in Nicaragua (June 20, 2018)

Working alongside paramilitary forces, Nicaraguan police launched a siege in the town of Masaya in order to take back control of a city that just a few days ago declared its intent to self-govern (see yesterday's brief). Authorities managed to rescue a police commander who'd been held hostage in a police station for weeks. "It took 400 heavily armed police and paramilitaries to rescue [the police commander] from an unarmed city," tweeted Nicaragua expert Tim Rogers. 

A Nicaraguan human rights group said that six people were killed and dozens wounded during the clash; according to the truth commission formed by the government on April 27, the total death toll is 173.  

Masaya—a former stronghold of the Sandinista revolution— wasn't the only city to see violence: towns south of Masaya also reported experiencing drive-by shootings, and late-night para-police assaults on roadblocks. 

While talks between Church leaders and the Ortega government have broken down (and are unlikely to re-initiate unless the government shows it is serious about inviting international human rights observers into the country), there are unconfirmed rumors of President Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo engaging in negotiations with the U.S.—lauded Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ram√≠rez repeated some of these in an interview with Confidencial, saying, "Maybe Ortega doesn't want to reveal that he agreed with the U.S. to hold early elections, because that could create panic and disorder within the faction that defends him."

As the New York Times reportsthe State Department voiced support for early elections in Nicaragua earlier this week; Church leaders have pushed for a vote in March 2019 (about two years early). 

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will be presenting an updated report on the human rights situation in Nicaragua on June 29.

Latin America reacts to family separation in U.S.

As noted yesterday, Guatemala is the only Central American country to have remained tight-lipped about condemning the Trump administration's practice of prosecuting asylum-seekers for illegal entry then separating them from their children. "I can't shake the feeling that the Guatemalan government would happily sacrifice their citizens' best interest in return for the United States dropping its support for CICIG," writes Mike Allison at Central American Politics

According to the Mexican government, among the 21 Mexican children to have been separated from their parents is a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome. (WSJ). El Salvador's government says that it knows of at least 50 Salvadoran children separated from their families at the border; the number will likely be updated. (Diario de Hoy). Similarly to Mexico and El Salvador, Honduras called the practice "inhumane," but has not released an estimate on how many Honduran children may be in U.S. shelters. 

It remains to be seen whether, as intended, the practice will deter asylum-seekers fleeing violence in Central America. In Mexico, immigration advocates are predicting that the threat of family separation will help human traffickers charge more for their services, placing migrants in more vulnerable situations (New York Times). 

More reporting in the U.S. continues to shed light on how family separation works: the AP reported that "tender age" children—that is, infants—are being held in at least three shelters in South Texas. The Pope and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have also criticized the practice. 

Central America
  • A criminal court in Honduras will hear the case of murdered environmentalist Berta Caceres in September (Criterio). On trial are eight alleged conspirators of the crime, including former members of the security forces and employees of hydroelectric company DESA. 
  • Honduras anti-corruption initiative MACCIH has appointed a new leader:  Luiz Antonio Marrey Guimaraes of Brazil, a longtime Sao Paolo-based prosecutor. A ten-point agreement between the MACCIH and President Juan Orlando Hernandez (see them here) arguably limits the MACCIH's independence in investigating organized crime and corruption, with one part of the agreement asserting that the MACCIH must remain in "permanent communication" with the Honduran government
Mexico
  • A new special project by Animal Politico found that Mexico lacks the resources needed to make a dent in the staggering number of unsolved homicides in the country. The report found that 20 of Mexico's 31 states lack the biological databases needed to identify unclaimed bodies. Another 21 states lack access to the national munitions database used to trace bullets and weapons. 
Southern Cone
  • Argentina issued its first criminal sentence under a new law on crimes against transgender people (BBC)
Colombia

  • For the second time, Colombia's Senate has delayed a crucial vote on the implementation of its transitional justice system, arguing that the Constitutional Court first needs to weigh in on the system's legal reach. President Santos is pushing hard to get the bill passed; otherwise it will not come up for a vote again until mid-July (CNN). 
Venezuela

  • Diosdado Cabello is now the head of Venezuela's controversial Constituent Assembly (which the international community has refused to formally recognize). Caracas Chronicles predicts that this will move the Assembly towards a more "politically active" direction. 
Other
Elyssa Pachico 

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