Monday, July 16, 2018

Bloody repression of anti-government bastions in Nicaragua (July 16, 2018)

At least 11 people were killed in Nicaragua over the weekend, as pro-government forces attacked protester bastions around the country. The Ortega administration may have temporarily reestablished control in these areas, but at a heavy cost amid increasing criticism of its heavy handed tactics against anti-goverment protesters since April. (Washington PostWall Street Journal and Guardian)

Three students were killed in a clash at Managua's main university campus, which has been occupied by anti-government protesters since April.  El Confidencial describes a fifteen hour siege on protesters at Universidad Nacional de Nicaragua (UNAN-Managua), though the students were in negotiations with authorities to liberate the space. On Friday, armed attackers kept about 200 students trapped in a Catholic church used for triage, and prevented medical assistance from reaching the wounded. Two journalists were trapped there as well, including Washington Post correspondent Joshua Partlow. Catholic Church clerics secured safe-passage out for students on Saturday.

And rights groups said another 10 people -- including a young girl -- died in clashes in Masaya, another city dominated by anti-governnment barricades over the past few months. (Reuters) Paramilitary groups also entered the nearby cities of Diriá, Niquinohomo and Catarina. El Confidencial said the reports are of five deaths, but so far has verified two. The attacks prevented a scheduled visit by Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' "Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua".

In the Miami Herald, Andrés Oppenheimer criticizes U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres' broad statement calling on all parties to end violence, noting that the vast majority of deaths have been caused by pro-government forces.

The Inter-American Human Rights Commission said last Wednesday that 264 people had been killed since the protests began and that the violence has intensified since the beginning of this month, particularly after the government began sweeping through towns to dismantle barricades. Thirty-four people had been killed in the previous week alone. (New York Times)

José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director for Human Rights Watch, said that his organization had as of last Tuesday verified about 270 deaths of civilians, but by the weekend that number had probably risen to more than 300, he said.
In a New York Times Español op-ed, Venezuelan writer Alberty Barrera Tyszka ponders President Daniel Ortega's path from revolutionary to authoritarianism.

News Briefs

Haiti
  • Haitian Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant resigned Saturday, after a plan to raise fuel prices set of deadly protests. He resigned ahead of a no-confidence vote in the Chamber of Delegates. Though unrest calmed last week, the situation is still considered volatile by many observers. Haiti’s president says he will appoint a new prime minister as soon as possible. (Associated PressReuters, and Miami Herald) At CEPR Jake Johnston analyzes IMF pressure to reduce fuel prices, aimed at improving the national budget deficit and obtaining international financing. The government failed to do outreach and implement mitigating policies along with the significant price hikes he writes, but the unrest also reflects more long-term failures of Haiti's governance.
Mexico
  • Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador met with a U.S. delegation headed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday. AMLO's transition team said the meeting was positive and that they suggested areas of work: commerce and the NAFTA renegotiation; development in Mexico to combat insecurity and poverty fueling migration; and including Central American governments in discussions regarding migration and security. Not on the docket of the brief meeting: the U.S. family separation policy and Trump's wall. (Animal PolíticoEl Universal) The issues highlighted by the AMLO team are at the center of the two countries' relationship, but shifted the focus in relation to migration to development, notes the New York Times. There have also been hints that the AMLO administration will shift security policies away from the war on drugs approach favored by the U.S.
  • Lame duck: Pompeo's meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto the same day received far less public attention than the AMLO meeting, reports El Financiero.
  • AMLO was elected with an ambitious mandate, with rooting out corruption and reducing violence at the top of the to-do list. The question for many is whether he will be able to advance on those and other issues given the disparate nature of the coalition he cobbled together to win the election. (Conversation)
  • AMLO is slashing his own salary by 60 percent, to about $5.700 a month -- and has decreed that no public official can earn more than he does. (Associated Press)
  • The public health effects of hydrating with soda are devastating in Chiapas, where water is scarce and Coca-Cola is produced locally. And angry protesters say the two issues are likely linked, reports the New York Times.
Migration
  • As children are reunited with their parents after forced separation at the U.S. border, it is becoming clear that the trauma of the experience will be deep. (Washington Post)
Colombia
  • FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño (Timochenko) appeared before a special transitional justice (JEP) tribunal on Friday, and apologized to victims of kidnappings and forced disappearances. Thirty-one FARC commanders were summoned to the first hearing for the case, in which the JEP is investigating FARC kidnappings between 1993 and 2012. The prosecution has documented 8,163 victims of kidnapping involving the rebels. (AFP)
  • The Wall Street Journal looks at the Colombian offensive against criminal gangs that have gained prominence since the FARC demobilization, in particular the Gulf Clan. (See last Thursday's post.)
  • Colombian president-elect Iván Duque named several cabinet members. (Reuters)
Guatemala
  • Weakening U.S. support for Guatemala's international anti-impunity commission -- recent reports indicate Guatemala is angling to do just that -- would be a mistake for both countries, argues Michael Allison in the Hill
Peru
  • Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra fired his justice minister on Friday, after local media released a secret audio recording of a conversation between the minister and a judge, reports Reuters. (See Friday's briefs on Peru's growing judicial corruption scandal.)
Argentina
  • The Argentine government may postpone implementing parts of a tax reform passed last year in hopes of meeting fiscal targets mandated by the IMF. Nonetheless, the government will push forward with reducing soy bean export taxes. (Reuters)
Dominican Republic
  • Thousands of Dominicans protested in favor of decriminalizing abortion in cases where the pregnant woman's life is endangered or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. (EFE)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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