Thursday, June 30, 2016

Clashes in Nochixtlán provoke debate in Mexico (June 30, 2016)

Nochixtlán, where clashes earlier this month between security forces and protesting teachers led to nine deaths, is becoming the center of a political battle in Mexico. (See June 20's post.)

Government representatives will meet today with Nochixtlán residents to discuss the investigation into the episode and possible reparations for victims' families, reports Animal Político.

Competing versions of what happened alternately pin the blame on violent attacks from the protest side -- albeit from non-union related actors -- while others say the police came in guns blazing. More than ten days after the attacks, little is clear about what actually happened.

Witnesses interviewed by Animal Político say the police arrived to break up a quiet roadblock maintained by about 30 protesters already throwing tear gas grenades, without any attempt at dialogue. The onslaught brought out Nochixtlán residents to face the police, not in defense of the teachers' movement, but in defense of their neighbors and community, according to the report based on 20 witness accounts, documents and video.

In the third installment of Animal Político's reconstruction of the clash, witnesses say that undercover cops wearing bullet-proof vests wandered around the town in the days before the lethal encounter. (See Tuesday's briefs and last Friday's.)

Mary Anastasia O'Grady in a Wall Street Journal column says the police blame the violence on militant political organizations at the teachers' roadblock. At heart of all the different versions of what happened in Nochixtlán is the question of who writes the definitive narrative, a key issue for Mexico's future, she argues.

In a column for El Universal Héctor de Mauleón decries the official silence on the issue and goes into depth on some of the competing versions. He also notes the potential presence of violent groups sympathizing with the CNTE teachers' union cause, but also questions why the police chose to act on a market Sunday, and using security forces unschooled in crowd control.

Leftwing leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador led a march this week in support of the teachers union that opposes President Enrique Peña Nieto's signature education overhaul, reports Animal Político.

And a NACLA piece included in yesterday's briefs gives background on the Oaxaca teacher's union struggle against education reform, and the local populations rejection of police repression.

News Briefs
  • Haiti's National Assembly again failed to resolve the leadership vacuum affecting the country since the interim president's mandate expired two weeks, ago, reports the Associated Press. (See June 16's post.)
  • A group of 158 U.S. lawmakers are asking the government to pressure the U.N. for a more effective response to a six-year cholera epidemic in Haiti brought by infected peacekeepers. The U.N. has contributed to the effort to combat the epidemic, which has killed about 10,000 people and sickened another 800,000, but has not acknowledged any responsibility for causing it or provided a way for victims to seek compensation, reports the New York Times. Lawyers for victims have filed suits in New York, which the U.N. argues are invalid as it is given immunity by diplomatic treaties. The U.S. government has defended the U.N.'s stance in court, an approach criticized by victims demanding compensation, notes the Guardian.
  • The head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) warned that the country's Attorney General Thelma Aldana was in a "real situation of danger." His statement comes a week after she received threats in retaliation for her anti-corruption efforts, reports TeleSUR.
  • Mexico's Supreme Court rejected an initiative that would declare prison sentences for illegal abortions unconstitutional and extend sanctioned abortions to women for medical reasons, in a country where the procedure is mostly prohibited except in cases of danger to women's lives. The court did however suggest further debate on the issue, reports AFP. Mexico City has allowed abortions within the first three months of conception since 2007.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama warned Venezuela's government not to block the political opposition's "legitimate" efforts to hold a referendum on President Nicolás Maduro's continuity, reports AFP.
  • In an interview with Time Magazine, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos praised U.S. support for the peace process with the FARC. "The FARC long considered the U.S. as one of its enemies. So to see the U.S. supporting the peace process was extremely useful," he said.
  • The first group of U.N. observers arrived in Colombia as part of a mission to monitor and verify an eventual peace deal with the FARC, reports TeleSUR.
  • Nine people were injured yesterday and 29 arrested in the first day of a 72 hour union strike in Bolivia to protest the closure of the state-run firm Enatex, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune.
  • Economic briefs: Brazil's unemployment rose to 11.2 percent over the past three months, up 8.1 percent over the same period last year, reports the Wall Street Journal. The country's financial situation worsened as well, with an increased budget deficit and debt load in May, reports the WSJ separately. But the government plans to reduce its inflation target to 4-4.25 in 2018, to show a greater commitment to ending high inflation, reports Reuters.
  • Argentina's economy grew slightly, 0.5 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period last year, thanks to private and public consumption, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • And Chile's unemployment rate rose to nearly a five-year-high of 6.8 percent in the March-May period, reports Bloomberg.
  • The legal battle over the extradition of Sinaloa cartel king pin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán continues. Two judges are evaluating appeals filed by his lawyers, including claims that the statute of limitations has run out on some of the crimes he is accused of having committed and that some of the accusations are based on hearsay, reports the New York Times.
  • More questions than answers remain with Zika. Researchers are warning couples to refrain from sex for six months after a male partner is infected, reports Reuters.
  • Pre-Olympics shootouts in Rio de Janeiro: Attempts to recapture a drug dealer who escaped from a Rio hospital have led to a week of gunbattles in the city's favelas, with 10 people killed and fifty schools shut down, reports the Wall Street Journal. And parts of a mutilated body washed up on the Copacabana beach yesterday, meters away from where the beach volleyball games will be held, according to Reuters.
  • But don't let the violence distract from the political drama. Brazilian Senators could vote on President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment the day before the Olympics games end, reports Reuters.
  • U.S. prosecutors have charged a new defendant in a case that accuses the nephews of Venezuela's first lady of conspiring to transport a multi-hundred kilogram load of cocaine to the United States, reports Reuters.
  • And six Honduran national police officers have been charged with conspiring to import drugs to the U.S. with the son of former President Porfirio Lobo, reports the Associated Press. A U.S. attorney says the officers agreed to ensure safe passage of tons of cocaine through Honduran jungles from 2004 to 2014.
  • Soccer legend Diego Maradonna says people should get off of star player Lionel Messi's case over quitting Argentina's national team, reports the Associated Press. Messi caused a national uproar when he quit suddenly after Argentina lost a Copa America championship match to Chile on Sunday.
  • American Airlines will work with an outside company to assist would-be travelers to Cuba, and will set up a special Cuba reservations desk, according to the Miami Herald. Commercial flights to the island from the U.S. start in September.

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