Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Four Tlatlaya Massacre suspects to be released (Oct. 6, 2015)

A Mexican judge ordered the release of four of the seven soldiers accused of participating in the killings of 22 alleged gang members last year -- the Tlatlaya Massacre. He said there is insufficient evidence to try them for the deaths, reports the Associated Press.The attorney general's office plans to appeal the decision, reports Reuters.

The four soldiers are freed in the civil case, but remain under custody in military prison for military crimes, but could face that process on bail, reports Aristegui Noticias.
The judge's decision would leave only three officers to face charges of abuse of authority, aggravated homicide against eight people and illicit alteration of a crime scene and evidence, reports Animal Político

The June 30, 2014, incident initially was announced as a gun battle between an army patrol and criminals that began when the soldiers were fired on. The army said 22 suspects died during a fierce firefight, while only one soldier was wounded. But testimony and forensic evidence disprove this version of the events. (CNN México has a step by step summary of the case.) 
The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) said in a report last year that 15 of the 22 people were probably killed after they surrendered, contradicting the Army, which said all died in a fierce gun battle. 
According to the attorney general's office, 11 of the victims were "practically shot to death," while five died doing "instinctive defensive maneuvers," reports TeleSur. 
Three surviving women came forward to say they were tortured and threatened by agents of the Mexico State prosecutor to support the army's version of the events. (See July 2nd's post.)   
Just a sampling of the conservative opinions justice seekers are up against: El Universal and La Razón have pieces arguing that there is little evidence of the army's involvement in the massacre, saying the outcry is merely due to social movement and human rights campaigns.

News Briefs:
  • Guatemalan officials are trying to persuade families remaining on a precarious hillside in Santa Catarina Pinula, outside of Guatemala City, to move, four days after a disastrous mudslide killed 152 people and left 300 missing, reports the New York Times. But poverty stricken residents say they have nowhere else to go, and many quoted in the piece say they'd rather risk their lives staying. Officials recognize that there are many such neighborhoods around the city that are similarly at risk of flooding or mudslides, reports the Associated Press. Officials might soon stop excavation efforts at the site of the acres-wide mudslide, declaring the area a de-facto graveyard.
  • Alleged ringleader of the customs corruption ring "La Línea" in Guatemala, Juan Carlos Monzón, appeared in court yesterday, and told the judge that former President Otto Pérez Molina and former Vice President Roxana Baldetti were behind the scheme. One day after turning himself in to authorities after months on the run, he said that any member of the governing Patriot Party's Cabinet "could affirm that you didn't do anything without the knowledge and approval of either of the two, Otto Perez or Roxana Baldetti," reports the Associated Press. Monzón said he was concerned about his safety, and appeared wearing a bullet-proof vest. He called for the press to investigate who the big businessmen are who defraud the country's customs agency.
  • A piece on NPR looks at the plight of young girls in El Salvador, who are faced with life-threatening violence from gangs and impossible odds of escape to other countries. The piece looks at several teens whose lives have been marked by gang-related deaths and threats. A two-part article from El Faro (translated by InSight Crime) looks at how El Salvador's Barrio 18 gang increasingly resembles a corporation that earns money from extortion and invests strategically in local businesses.
  • The 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal signed on Monday -- the biggest trade deal in history -- may take a while to materialize for the three Latin American signatories: Mexico, Peru and Chile. The Washington Post says their leaders are among the weakest and least popular in the region, presaging difficulties getting the agreement through their respective legislatures.
  • Brazil's state run oil company Petrobras cut its investments and expenses outlook through next year following a drop in oil prices and sharp depreciation of the Brazilian real, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • VICE examines hydroelectric power in Brazil, saying that the power generated by dams in the Amazon might have huge, unacknowledged greenhouse gas emissions that would undermine Brazil's pledge to slash its national carbon footprint by 43% by 2030.
  • Chilean President Michelle Bachelet's approval rating increased to 25 percent from 24 percent last month, the first upward tick since January when a series of corruption scandals hit her popularity rating hard, reports Reuters.
  • Colombia's Supreme Court is investigating accusations that congressmen received financial and political benefits in order to secure the 2014 reelection of President Juan Manuel Santos, according to Colombia Reports.
  • Eight of Haiti's 54 presidential candidates participated in a debate in Miami this weekend before a cynical and raucous crowd, reports the Miami Herald.  
  • Cuba and the U.S. agreed to work together to protect marine life in the area between the two countries -- the first environmental agreement since the two Cold War enemies began a diplomatic thaw last year. Environmental agencies from both countries will map marine life in protected areas in the Florida Straits and Gulf of Mexico and compile an inventory of shared species, reports the New York Times.
  • Well-heeled pot smokers in Mexico City are paying a high premium for marijuana produced in U.S. states where the substance has been legalized, reports El Daily Post. The so-called "counterflow" of drugs moving from north to south is a very specific (and small) market, according to the piece, very high-grade and expensive marijuana. These same preferences are leading to the growth of high quality grow houses in Mexico. The piece notes that while simple possession has been decriminalized in the capital city, growing for self-consumption is still illegal, forcing consumers to deal with the drug-trafficking underground.
  • And El Daily Post also has a feature on Mexican contraband cigarettes -- some 340 million packs are sold across the country each year, most coming in from Belize. The illicit tobacco trade illustrates some of the trade-offs that could potentially be associated with the legalization of marijuana, argues Alejandro Hope. "Legalization would likely lead to declining prices. All things being equal, cheaper drugs equal more consumption. To prevent runaway use, countries may decide (and are already deciding) to impose hefty taxes and stringent regulations. But those taxes and those regulations create incentives for illicit traders. To prevent that illicit trade from overwhelming the legal market, countries might choose to aggressively enforce the law. But that kind of takes us back to something resembling the drug war. That something might be preferable to the actual war we are currently waging, but it is certainly not peace. Sorry, but there are no magic wands in drug policy, no nirvanas, no simple solutions. It is always and everywhere a choice between bad options."
  • An Oxfam report says that at the current pace of growth in inequality, one percent of Latin America's population will be richer than the remaining 99 percent by 2022, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune.

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