Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Nicaraguan government forces attack Monimbó (July 18, 2018)

Over 1,500 Nicaraguan police and pro-government paramilitary forces swarmed Masaya's indigenous Monimbó neighborhood at dawn yesterday in a battler that lasted over five hours. It was the last rebel bastion in the city that has been at the fore of protests against President Daniel Ortega's government. It's the first time since mid-April that government forces recovered control of Monimbo, and heavy machinery was used to clear citizen barricades. 

In a symbolically important city -- a traditional Sandinista stronghold -- Monimbó is particularly emblematic for its historic role of resistance against the Somoza dictatorship. The timing is crucial, the government seems to be angling to crush resistance before tomorrow, the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista's overthrow of Somoza. It's also the three month anniversary of the uprising against the government. (Confidencial, Wall Street JournalEl PaísAssociated Press and Al Jazeera

On Friday and over the weekend, the government cracked down on remaining focuses of resistance in Managua -- namely the UNAM campus -- and around the country. (See Monday's post.)

The Asociación Nicaragüense Pro Derechos Humanos (ANPDH) counted at least three dead in the Masaya clashes yesterday, and protest leaders said there were five dead. Testimony seems to indicate that one of the victims, Emilia Castro, was executed by paramilitaries after being captured in her home. There were widespread reports of pro-government forces detaining citizens.

Masaya was shut-off to outsiders yesterday. Press and human rights organizations were prevented from entering the city, reports Confidencial. In the evening, Alianza Cívica members denounced security forces and paramilitaries were searching homes. 

Government officials said the city had been "liberated from blockades" and Vice-President Rosario Murillo said "security and peace" had been restored. (BBC)

Yesterday the National Assembly passed two laws aimed at criminalizing opposition to the government, reports Confidencial. One of the new laws characterizes damage to public and private property in a protest as "terrorism" and punishes it with 15-20 years in jail. Another could be used to punish fundraising for opposition groups.

The attorney general's office charged Alianza Cívica negotiator Medardo Mairena of organized crime, terrorism and the deaths of four police officers in the context of the protests, reports EFE. Campesino leader Pedro Mena was also charged. The preliminary hearing was held yesterday without the opposition leaders' having proper representation, according to Confidencial.

The ANPDH denounced that paramilitaries are interfering with humanitarian actions. Paramilitaries and security forces alike shared pictures on social media after the clashes, showing the paramilitaries in their ski masks and blue t-shirts, toting assault rifles.

International condemnation has been growing louder from around the world. Yesterday the U.N. human rights office has asked the Nicaraguan government to open all prisons to monitors and called for a halt to violence. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the number of dead was "unacceptable" and noted the government's responsibility to protect citizens. Costa Rica, Spain, and the U.S. joined the chorus of criticism and the OAS is expected to vote a resolution condemning the violence today. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay expressed concern in a joint communique and denounced "violations of human rights and fundamental liberties." (Al Jazeera and EFE)

Confidencial covers the heart-rending funereal of a young student killed in Saturday's clashes at the Divina Misericordia church.

With the Sandinista Liberation Day anniversary, the historic parallels between Ortega and the dictatorship he helped overthrow four decades ago are more glaringly obvious than ever, writes Charles Lane in a Washington Post opinion piece.


News Briefs

  • Colombian president-elect Iván Duque promised to strengthen security in the nation, protect community leaders threatened by crime gangs, reduce cultivation of illicit crops and bolster the economy -- but also noted he is not a miracle worker. (Reuters)
  • A group calling itself the Aguilas Negras has been threatening human rights organizations, community leaders and journalists -- including reporters for RCN and La Silla Vacía. (Colombia Reports and El Tiempo)
  • Former FARC leader Iván Márquez said he will not assume his Senate seat in protest of the arrest of a former FARC commander and changes to the 2016 peace agreement. "I feel that Colombian peace is trapped in the networks of betrayal, and not so much because the agreement has not materialized - which requires some time - but because of the modifications introduced that disfigured the agreement," Márquez said in a letter. (Reuters) Nonetheless, the FARC political party leadership hopes the decision is not yet definite, reports la Silla Vacía.
  • Former general Mario Montoya agreed to submit to the transitional justice tribunal (JEP) this week. He is accused for his role in the "false positives" executions. (Semana)
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures to leaders and families belonging to the Siona people of Colombia. The measures were provided as a result of the persistent threats and risk of extinction faced by the Siona due to the interventions of armed groups operating within their lands, reports CEJIL.
  • Peruvian authorities detained more than 50 people in an anti-drug trafficking operation near the Colombian border where dissident FARC rebels have taken refuge, reports Reuters.
  • The Canadian government encouraged its diplomats in Venezuela last year to continue to defend and promote human rights, despite pressure from President Nicolas Maduro’s regime to back off, according to a new report. (Globe and Mail)
  • Deadly unrest last week, leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant, was nominally about fuel price increases. But the underlying problem is "the Haitian people’s inability to demand better governance and basic services from its leaders," writes the Executive Director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti Brian Concannon in the Miami Herald.
  • The Miami Herald's Caribbean correspondent, Jacqueline Charles, was awarded a 2018 Maria Moors Cabot Prize. The judges particularly noted her coverage of Haiti.
  • The death of a young Honduran anti-corruption agent was murder according to forensic investigation, not suicide as initially hypothesized, report el Heraldo and TeleSUR.
  • U.S. prosecutors charged Honduran Congressman Midence Oqueli Martinez Turcios of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States as a member of the Cachiros drug trafficking organization. He's the second Honduran legislator to be indicted on drug trafficking charges in New York federal court. He denies the charges. (Reuters)
  • Peruvian indigenous communities are using an app called ForestLink to help protect the rainforest. Members of the Masenawa community used the app to alert authorities to the presence of an illegal gold mining camp, reports TeleSUR.
  • The head of Mexico's ruling PRI stepped down Monday after the historic party's record defeat in this month's elections, reports Reuters.
  • President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador is considering legalizing drugs in order tu combat trafficking related violence, reports Newsweek. Incoming Interior Minister Olga Sánchez Cordero said AMLO gave her "carte blanche" on the subject of decriminalization.
  • Thirteen people were killed Monday in a land dispute between two Oaxaca communities -- disagreements have become more lethal as drug cultivation becomes more prominent in the region. (Associated Press)
  • Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's continuing popularity in Brazil's northeast may give a former governor from the region an edge in the contest to substitute for Lula in the upcoming presidential election. Jaques Wagner, a former governor of Bahia state and minister under Lula and Dilma Rousseff may displace former São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad as the Workers' Party likely candidate for October's vote, reports Reuters.
  • Lula's been in jail for three months, but he's keeping a high public profile, likely part of a strategy to benefit the Workers' Party in October, even if he is ultimately kept off the ballot, reports the Associated Press.
  • From Bloomberg: "Argentina has a new refrain: 30 — it’s a magic number. Just after President Mauricio Macri completed 30 months in office, inflation looks set to jump to a staggering 30 percent by the end of the year. The peso has tumbled 30 percent in 2018 and is forecast to decline to a once-unthinkable 30 per dollar."
  • Eight weeks after assuming office, Guatemala's new attorney general María Consuelo Porras remains silent on some key cases against the government, particularly one against President Jimmy Morales on illicit campaign financing, reports InSight Crime.
  • A four hour documentary exploring Uruguay's 1989 referendum on repealing immunity for the military dictatorship's human rights abuses is also more broadly about the effectiveness about referendums in democracy, according to the Guardian.

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing