Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Black deaths in Brazil; Police Genocide? (Nov. 4, 2015)

The police committed more than 1 in every 6 of Rio de Janeiro's homicides between 2010 and 2013. And 4 out of 5 of those who are slain overall were under 29 years old — and of African descent. A piece in the Global Post reports on the local version of "Black Lives Matter": Amnesty International’s "Jovem Negro Vivo," meaning "Young Black Alive." 

New government figures released last week show killings by police are rising rapidly — up 18 percent so far this year compared to the first nine months of 2014 — but victims' ethnic data was unavailable.

On the subject it's worth revisiting a piece by Jaime A. Alves last month that makes the case that police killings in Brazil are part of a routine practice. "How many deaths of black youth are necessary before they are considered ‘genocide’ or political assassinations," he asks.

The numbers are terrible: "In the last ten years (from 2002-2012), the Brazilian police force killed 11, 200 individuals allegedly for resisting arrests." Alves denounces the impunity of these cases and calls on the international community to pressure Brazil for change.

And a map created by a young Brazilian geography student shows the startling racial segregation of Rio de Janeiro, reports the Global Post. According to Hugo Nicolau Barbosa de Gusmão's research, one neighborhood, Lagoas, was almost 90 percent white.

The data challenges a view in Brazil that the issue is one of class, not race.
"It's difficult in Brazil to point out racism" says Alexandre Ciconello, a human rights expert and adviser to Amnesty in Rio de Janeiro told the Global Post. "It’s a taboo for the elite of the country and for politicians and authorities. They always say ‘Brazil is a mixed country, we are not the US, we are not South Africa,’ and if you raise racial questions, you’re seen as trying to separate that."

News Briefs

  • Congress is the focal point of many conflicts in Brazil these days. President Dilma Rousseff's biggest foes in the battle to close a widening budget gap through austerity measures are her own legislators. A poll of members of the lower house show that the Workers' Party legislators are the most opposed to passing spending cuts and tax increases, instead favoring stimulus policies, reports the Wall Street Journal. The split between the president and her party ideology is part of what is making Brazil so hard to govern, ventures one expert quoted in the piece.
  • Finance Minister Joaquim Levy is staying in government just to get his unpopular austerity plan through Congress, reports Reuters."It will be too costly for Levy to leave now," said a senior Workers' Party lawmaker who has spoken with Levy and Rousseff about the minister's situation. "He will try to pass most of the package and very likely leave after that next year. He is very frustrated and under a lot of pressure."
  • And activists are concerned that a new bill working its way through Congress could criminalize protest movements, including those looking to use media attention on the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, reports VICE. The proposed law defining terrorism, which was authored by Rousseff's office, was amended by the lower chamber to add specific exemptions for social movements. But these were removed when the Senate approved the bill last week. The lower chamber must now revisit the proposal.
  • An oil workers union strike affected oil and gas production significantly on Monday. The strike affected 273,000 barrels of oil production and 7.3 million cubic meters of natural gas production, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Oil Workers Federation, or FUP, began the strike on Sunday to protest a series of asset sales by Petrobras, which they say will cause significant layoffs.
  • It might not be in the news anymore, but the Brazilian drought goes on, reports AFP.
  • Issues for Colombian peace talks: The Colombian government must prioritize the right of Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities to decide how their land is developed above companies' desire to exploit those territories for profit, said Amnesty International in a new report today. Over five decades of conflict, more than six million Colombians have been forced off their land by fighting among Marxist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and government troops. And the issue of how to return stolen and abandoned land to its rightful owners is a key talking point at peace talks in Cuba between the government and the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reports the Associated Press
  • But the FARC is increasingly wary about the agreed March 2016 deadline for peace talks. Yesterday they warned negotiators still needed to finalize talks on meting out justice for crimes committed during the five-decade conflict, reports AFP. The clock on the six month deadline for a final agreement was supposedly started six weeks ago, when Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Timoleon "Timochenko" Jimenez met for the signing of a deal on the justice issue (see Sept 24th's post.)
  • Colombia's second largest rebel group, the ELN, called on the Catholic Church to mediate peace with the Colombian government on Monday, reports EFE. ELN commander Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista made the plea in a Twitter message addressed to Colombia's Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • Also vía Twitter, the group announced it will be releasing two soldiers kidnapped in a post electoral ambush last week in which 11 soldiers and one policeman were killed, reports theBBC.
  • The recent mayor-elect of Bogotá, urban guru Enrique Peñalosa, is naming an all-star cabinet. He announced that the security and drug expert Daniel Mejía, of Universidad de los Andes, will be the future Secretary of Security for the city, reports El Tiempo
  • Twelve members of Colombia's top crime gang, the Usuga Clan, were killed during a confrontation with the armed forces in the northwestern province of Antioquia, reports Reuters.
  • Guatemala's president-elect, television comedian Jimmy Morales, said he will strengthen the role of the Guatemalan prosecutors and the U.N. International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, who revealed corruption scandals that forced former President Otto Pérez Molina to resign in September. He will use those investigative bodies to help vet his future cabinet as well, he told the Associated Press.
  • Security officers in Venezuela are increasingly at risk not on the line of duty, but for carrying weapons, which are valuable enough to steal, according to The Guardian. Regulations limiting weapons in the country -- an attempt to reduce violence -- have paradoxically made people in uniform more of a target.
  • The IMF denies that a loan program to Jamaica that emphasizes public spending cuts is behind a deadly outbreak of infectious bacteria affecting the health care service, as the political opposition is claiming, reports the Jamaica Gleaner.
  • Chilean officials are planning a crackdown on anti-competitive practices after a toilet paper collusion scandal came to light last week, reports Reuters. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • Tiempo newspaper is not the only casualty of the bank account freezing of Honduran business clan the Rosenthals, in the wake of U.S. Treasury accusations of money laundering for drug organizations. (See yesterday's briefs and Oct. 8th's post.) More than 10,000 crocodiles are starving to death on a farm in Honduras because the owners, the Rosenthals, can no longer pay for upkeep, reports the AFP.
  • A great Associated Press feature on the case of Luana, an 8-year-old who became the youngest person to take advantage of an Argentine law that allows people to identify their own gender for legal purposes. (See August 12th's briefs on the regional trend in favor of transgender rights.) 

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