Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Top Latin America Stories, April 1, 2015


Several unrelated articles from Mexico are woven together by the theme of impunity - including a nonprofit human rights group in Aguascalientes that is making some progress against it; some mirreyes youth behavior showing old patterns die hard; and parents of the 43 missing college students reaching out to criminal elements for help since they have given up on their government.

The Aguascalientes Human Rights Commission (CEDHA) attends the annual San Marcos Fair in Aguascalientes, an event that draws millions of visitors, to observe police misconduct as well as informing the public about its rights, according to Frontera Norte Sur  (3/29) and re-published in Counter Punch. Last year, CEDHA personnel found "untrained officers from other municipalities deployed at the fair; patrols carrying assault weapons into extremely crowded quarters; officers failing to inform detainees of their rights; and cops using electric cattle prods on some suspects." Since then, CEDHA was able to get government, civil society and business leaders to sign on to explicit reforms including pledges not to use the electric prods and to read suspects their rights. While they do not have the authority to enact its recommendations or levy sanctions, they are not shy about using the power of public shaming. CEDHA's Jesús Eduardo Martín Jáuregui says, "torture is unacceptable, insecurity is unacceptable, violence is unacceptable, corruption is unacceptable, impunity is unacceptable."

A video by Mexican adolescents from a private, all-boys Catholic high school went viral as it showed revealing gender and class roles, according to the Christian Science Monitor (3/30) and El Universal (3/29). The video offers an “unadulterated look at how many of these people see the world,” according to TV critic Susana Moscatel in Milenio Noticias and is a revealing look at mirreyes, "a term used to describe the privileged children of Mexico’s richest 1%," according to a Fusion columnist.  The video is PG but shows stereotypes and power relationships that are not often part of public discourse. The school and most of the boys have since apologized although Fusionfound a few of the students who claimed it was "self-satire."

Migrant kidnapping in Mexico has increased 1000% since 2013 that may be linked to increased migration from Central America or rising kidnapping rates in Mexico, according to according to Mexico's National Institute of Migration (INM), reported by Excelsior (3/30). It is also possible the increase "is at least partly a result of better reporting and collating of statistics, especially as the INM has only maintained statistics on migrant kidnapping since 2012," assesses Insight Crime (3/31).

Mexico's government has silently implemented a law blocking public access to archival documents related to the country's Guerra Sucia, according to La Jornada (3/11) and updated in Vice News (4/1). Documents that were open for public viewing at Mexico's National Archives for more than a decade are now off limits to the public as a result of the 2012 Federal Law of Archives, which reclassified these historic documents as "confidential.

Some parents of the missing 43 Ayotzinapa college students have posted a public plea to Santiago Hernandez Mazari Reel, 'El Carrete', leader of Los Rojos, to help locate their children, according to Proceso and Ecxelsior(3/31).  Hernandez is on the most wanted list in Morales and federal authorities hold him responsible for the violence with an opposing group, the Warriors States. 

Chiapas' MOVER party leader Enoc Hernández Cruz was videotaped singing a narcocorrido as his birthday party, according to Proceso (3/31). The magazine has both the video and the lyrics.

Separately, vigilante 'self-defense' groups clashed in Guerrero killing at least four people and dozens more were taken prisoner by each side, according to the Associated Press.

  • Data from 'The Political Culture of Democracy in the Americas 2014' (Vanderbilt University's Latin American Public Opinion Project) shows high support for vigilante justice in Latin America, "a phenomenon linked to a lack of faith in often corrupt and inefficient state institutions, as well as other social and cultural factors," according to Insight Crime (3/30). "The United States ranked within the top ten countries with the highest degree of support for taking the law into one's own hands, ranking far above other countries with higher homicide rates, including Venezuela, Mexico, and Colombia." 
  • The U.S. and Cuba's meeting on human rights went as scheduled yesterday with no major announcements, according to Reuters (3/30).  "There was broad agreement on the way forward for a future substantive dialogue," according to a very brief State Department press release. Separately, a new national poll of Cuban Americans shows their support for the White House's new Cuba policy is growing and is now at 51% percent, according to a Bendixen & Amandi International poll and reported by the Miami Herald (4/1). The poll will be unveiled today at the Cuba Opportunity Summit, a conference for businesses interested in exploring opportunities in Cuba. Finally, a Cuban taxi cooperatives will participate in side meetings at the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama, according to the Cuban News Agency (3/30). The taxi agency highlighted "emerged as a proposal of the Ministry of Transport but with much will of its members, who today have incomes five times higher than they had as state employees, and participate directly in the decision making of the organization."
  • Former Brazilian Pres. Fernando Henrique Cardoso has joined the team defending jailed Venezuelan opposition leaders, Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma, according to the BBC (3/30) "It's very important to safeguard the defense of human rights in Latin America," he said in an interview with Colombia's Blu Radio (10 min).  Cardoso joins former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, former Peruvian Pres. Alan Garcia, and former Canada Minister for Justice Irwin Cotler. 
  • Uruguayans appear to be uncertain about becoming the first Latin American country to regulate marijuana in Latin America, according to LAPOP's AmericasBarometer (3/25). "The most powerful variables associated with support for marijuana are not related to marijuana itself: they are political" as those self‐ identified on the 'left' hold more positive attitudes towards the law than those who place themselves on the 'right'.
  • Mexico's Partido Verde Ecologista de México is growing (polls show a growth in popularity from 6% in 2009 to 11% today), and being co-opted by the ruling PRI party, according to Bloomberg (3/31). The Green Party, |which despite its name has few links with the international green movement," almost always votes with Pres. Pena Nieto's PRI party in congress which "should enable the PRI to hold onto a majority in congress in June’s vote."
  • Peruvian Pres. Humala's options after the forced resignation of his Prime Minister by the opposition is assessed by Fernando Tuesta Soldevilla, in Info LATAM (3/30).  Tuesta suggests that Humala will either select a technocrat or a confrontational leader that will likely guide his government until elections next year. 
  • Brazil's President is profiled by InterPress and New Yorker.  Pres. Rousseff was caught off guard by the Petrobras corruption scandal and became "paralysed by the rapid fall in public support, completely losing the power of initiative and creating a dangerous political vacuum in the country," according to an oped byFernando Cardim de Carvalho (Univ Federal Rio de Janeiro) in Inter Press Service (4/1) Fortunately for Rousseff, "her opposition seems to be [equally] as lost." A separate and warm profile in the New Yorker(3/27) notes that Rousseff is "brilliant, forceful, hardworking, detail-oriented, trained in economics, and, from what we know thus far, personally honest."  Repeating oft-heard institutional challenges, the article reports that "the myriad political parties, the dozens of cabinet departments, the very large and powerful state governments—all are part of a system in which there is far more regular and deep economic and political exchange between the state and the market than the term 'bribery scandal' can capture." 
  • Another Brazilian conglomerate, this time Grupo OAS, is having to restructure billions of dollars of loans as a result of the corruption scandal at Petrobras, a major customer, according to Reuters
  • Colombia's Constitutional Court ordered the Ministry of Health to regulate the procedures for the patient's willingness to undergo euthanasia, according to Semana (3/31) and Eje21.

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