Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Police ineptitude in Mexico and killings in Brazil (Nov. 11, 2015)

A new report by NGO Causa en Común presents a dire situation for policing in Mexico. The country's law enforcement problems are deeply structural, and any worthy solution requires pretty much starting from scratch, reports El Daily Post.

Police agents are poorly trained, poorly paid, and poorly performing. Examples such as the fact that 75 percent of Michoacán's police officers don't do police work, or that Guerrero police officers are paid the same as cleaning crew members, only add to the general issues of lack of equipment, administrative disorder and structural deficiencies, according to a presentation by Causa en Común's president, María Elena Morera at a forum this week.

The findings, highly critical of federal law enforcement oversight, were supported by President Enrique Peña Nieto, who said they show the reality on the ground in some parts of the country.

El Daily Post's Alejandro Hope notes that the problem is a symptom of broader political dysfunction. There is little accountability for law enforcement agencies he says, and federal transfers to local security agencies are so low that there is little leverage to force change in state and municipal forces. "Under the current rules, every local and state government has an incentive to pass the buck. Until that changes, we will continue to have “police officers” that do no police work, cops that are paid less than janitors, and police academies that consist of a single classroom," according to Hope.

In Brazil, in the meantime, there is a focus on widespread police brutality that leads to thousands of deaths every year.

New York Times video follows the challenges faced by the family of Eduardo de Jesus a 10-year-old boy fatally shot by a police officer on the doorstep of his home in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year. This month investigators concluded the police officers involved in the killing acted in self-defense, reacting to gunfire in their direction. But this version directly contradicts accounts by witnesses, who say there was no exchange of gunfire. The case draws attention to the thousands of people killed each year by police in Brazil.

An August Amnesty International report found that "military police in Rio de Janeiro who seem to follow a 'shoot first, ask questions later' strategy are contributing to a soaring homicide rate but are rarely investigated and brought to justice."

And while some residents most affected by violence are protesting in diverse manners (see Nov. 4th's post), a recent Datafolha survey found that half of the residents of the biggest Brazilian cities believe that "the only good criminal is the dead criminal," reports Folha de S. Paulo.

Nonetheless, sociologist Renato Sérgio de Lima, the vice president of the Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública, says that the division can be interpreted in a positive fashion. "As the glass is half full and half empty, half of the Brazilian population is against [the statement], and that can be regarded as a window to the construction of public policies. There is room for change."

News Briefs

  • Brazilian prosecutors say that negligence likely played a part in the deadly dam failure in Minas Gerais last week that caused widespread destruction in the area and killed at least six people, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See Monday's briefs and yesterday's.) Prosecutors say there was evidence that Vale -- the Brazilian mining giant that owns the Sanmarco mine along with the Australian BHP Billiton -- may have been dumping detritus from its own nearby iron-ore mines into Samarco's waste reservoir, further pressuring the dam system. And experts say that if Samarco itself can't cover the cleanup and legal costs, the Brazilian government can pursue the assets of the shareholders, Vale and BHP, reports the WSJ in a separate piece. Sanmarco's mining licence was suspended this week after the accident, reports the BBC.
  • Brazilian truckers partially closed highways in at least eight states Monday and yesterday to call for lower fuel prices and better financing conditions reports the Wall Street Journal. A presidential spokesman said their actions are intended to hurt the government and that no demands were formally presented. The federal government is negotiating with independent truckers to try to prevent a prolonged strike and supply shortages, reports Reuters.
  • An entertaining New York Times op-ed by Vanesa Barbara describes the impact of Brazilian television giant Globo's programing -- which is watched by nearly half the population every day, according to some statistics. The news programs tuned into by 34 percent of the television audience are unbearably superficial and focused on easy news stories, to the detriment of complex issues facing Brazil such as the potential impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and the management of the dire water crisis affecting half of the country. Barbara also notes the noxious messages of the widely watched Globo soap operas "from which you could learn that women always wear heavy makeup, huge earrings, polished nails, tight skirts, high heels and straight hair."
  • A new WOLA report found that Mexico's controversial Southern Border Program has lead to an increase in detained migrants, and dangerous shifts in the paths they take, but has not deterred Central Americans fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries. Researchers found the boosted capacity to apprehend and rapidly deport migrants was not paired with a greater capacity to screen them for protection concerns, leading many to be deported back to dangerous situations in their home countries. Additionally, while migrants now face far more dangerous conditions, residents of the southern border area have not seen any security improvements. (See Oct. 13th's post.)
  • Mexico City's authorities are being criticized for failing to recognize the impact of organized criminal gangs in the area, after a recent spate of brutal killings and extortion rackets, reports The Guardian. The relatively recent infiltration of criminal groups into the capital follows years of government denial and inaction according to some residents.
  • Argentina's conservative presidential candidate Mauricio Macri is presenting himself to the international press as a pragmatic candidate who will get things done, reports the Associated Press. He described his vision of governing as "21st century development" as opposed to "21st century socialism" — a term used by supporters of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and regional allies. (See yesterday's post on the heated run-off presidential campaign in Argentina and last Friday's post on the possible end of the region's "pink tide" of leftist governments.)
  • Conservative newspaper La Nación published a poll from the reliable (though anti-Kirchner) consultants Poliarquía predicting that Macri will win the November 22 run-off election against government candidate Daniel Scioli. The study predicts that 60 percent of voters for the third-place candidate in the first round of elections, Sergio Massa, will go for Macri. (See yesterday's post for other views.)
  • The Argentine peso strengthened against the dollar in the black market this week, reflecting a general view that Macri will win the election and lift currency controls that restrict free access to dollars, reports Reuters. It seems increasingly clear that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's successor, which ever of the two it is, will have to devalue the peso -- the question is how. This weekend Macri promised to permit free currency exchange, which will in effect be a shock-devaluation, warns economic expert Alfredo Zaiat in Página 12.
  • A member of the Colombian FARC rebel group was sentenced to 27 years in prison in the U.S. for his role in a 2003 hostage taking of three American defense contractors, reports the Wall Street Journal. Diego Alfonso Navarrete Beltrán's lawyers pleaded for clemency, saying he was a rank-and-file member of the armed guerrilla group and forced to follow orders. 
  • Illegal Colombian coca cultivation is surging -- just two years after the country ceased to be the world's primary producer, Colombia is back in first place, displacing Peru. One reason for the current bumper crop, according to U.S. and Colombian officials is that armed groups, including the FARC, are encouraging farmers to plan more coca in anticipation of a peace deal which will come with a massive crop substitution campaign, reports the Washington Post. With the potential for peace in the area, the program could succeed where others have failed, President Juan Manuel Santos told the Post in an interview.
  • Manually eradicating coca fields is difficult and grueling. An Associated Press feature on Peruvian coca eradicators notes that they have destroyed a record 136,000 acres (55,000 hectares) of coca plants in 2013-14, but stay out of the main production area — the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro river valley -- where an estimated 15 drug trafficking groups operate.
  • Indigenous people on Honduras' Caribbean coast are suffering invasions of their lands by squatters, loggers, palm-oil planters and drug traffickers said the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, reports the Associated Press. The Miskitos and other groups are demanding government assistance to defend their swampy, heavily forested territory.
  • Judicial activism? Mexico's Supreme Court is ahead of public opinion when it comes to pot legalization. (See last Thursday's post.) Two-thirds of Mexicans are against decriminalizing marijuana, according to an opinion poll published yesterday, reports Reuters.
  • A 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck in the Pacific off the coast of central Chile last night, but there were no reports of injuries or serious damage, reports the Associated Press.

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