Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Salvadoran attorney general orders arrest of police involved in San Blas massacre (June 12, 2016)

Salvadoran attorney general Douglas Meléndez said he has ordered the arrest of seven police officers who participated in the so-called "San Blas Massacre" last year, in which six alleged gang members and two civilians were killed, reports El Faro.

In a press conference last week Meléndez said there was at least one extrajudicial execution at the San Blas farm committed by members of the National Civil Police.

El Faro broke the story of the eight killings last year (see post for July 23, 2015). Meléndez confirmed what El Faro's investigation last year had said: that 20-year-old farm worker Dennis Alexander Martínez Hernández, de 20 años, who was killed by police on March 26 last year, "had nothing to do with gangs."

News Briefs
  • San Salvador mayor Nayib Bukele says he is unlikely to be the FMLN's candidate to succeed current President Salvador Sánchez Cerén. El Faro reports on Bukele's critical stance on some ruling party policies, such as taxation, which he portrays as neoliberal. "Bukele says what he thinks many FMLN militants think but don't dare to say," according to the piece, which notes the importance of his position as the capital's mayor and the highest polling Salvadoran politician. "Nobody expects to go to sleep and wake up in Switzerland," he said in a conversation with three journalists. "But one wants to see an improvement, but like a building ten story building that you plan; at one month it has only one, then two floors, and at four months it has three floors, and so on until ten. But when you see a floor, then two floors, but then the second floor disappears, and then the first floor disappears, and then there's a new floor, and later two, but it falls because they did it poorly, and then we have to cede the first floor because the right is pressuring us ... One asks oneself: when will we reach ten floors?"
  • Amid rough economic forecasts and the crisis in Venezuela, Cubans are increasingly afraid of a return to the rampant power shortages they endured in the early 1990s, reports the New York Times. Economy minister, Marino Murillo, told a closed Parliamentary session that the country would have to cut fuel consumption by nearly a third during the second half of the year and reduce state investments and imports. In a speech last week President Raúl Castro sought to allay fears that troubles in Venezuela -- which supplies the island with oil -- will mean a return to the "special period" when Cuba lost Soviet subsidies. (See last Thursday's briefs on a speech by Granma's deputy editor, warning that Cuban's leadership would not be prepared to face the resulting unrest.)
  • A classmate of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students, who was found dead the day after they vanished, was tortured before his death, according to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission. The commission investigation recommended federal prosecutors to investigate all suspects in the case for torture. Though twenty-eight people have been accused of murder in the Julio César Mondragón case, two years after the killing, nobody has been tried, reports the Associated Press.
  • The average Venezuelan shopper spends 35 hours waiting to buy food each month, three times more what they did two years ago, according to the polling firm Datanalisis. As the lines grow longer, they have also become more dangerous. More than two dozen people have been killed in line in the past 12 months, including a 4-year-old girl caught in gang crossfire, reports the Associated Press.
  • Mexico's federal attorney general's office is challenging legislation in two states that could potentially shield outgoing officials from corruption charges, reports the Wall Street Journal. The government said the constitutional challenge before the Supreme Court responds to state laws in conflict with national anticorruption system approved last year with changes to the constitution.
  • The Venezuelan government said it will take over operations at a Kimberly Clark factory, after the U.S. company announced it would suspend production in Venezuela due to lack of materials, soaring inflation and currency problems, reports the Associated Press. The government attributed the closure to an "economic war" on Venezuela, and said it would take over the factory occupied by 971 workers. But the administration's track record for turning around such businesses is lackluster, notes the Associated Press in a separate story.  Lack of currency to import raw materials has forced other international companies including Generals Mills Inc. and Bridgestone Corp. to leave the country this year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • U.S. Citybank has also announced it will close the Venezuelan government's international payments account with it. President Nicolás Maduro called the move a "financial blockade," reports the AFP
  • Representatives of Venezuela's government and political opposition met separately with international mediators led by Spain’s former Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, reports AFP.
  • In an interview with NPR, WOLA's David Smilde notes, the increasing scarcity of basic goods is exacerbating inequalities: the most affected are the population at the lowest socioeconomic levels, while a minority of the country's citizens with access to dollars are relatively unaffected.
  • In a Huffington Post op-ed CEPR's Marc Weisbrot compares OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro to Donald Trump and argues that Almagro "has abused his position and authority more flagrantly and outrageously than any predecessor in recent years."
  • Five former Honduran police officers have turned themselves in to U.S. authorities to face drug trafficking charges in a case that involves the son of former Honduran President Porfirio Lobo. Ambassador James Nealon said on his official Twitter account Monday that the voluntary surrender was "another blow to impunity in Honduras," reports the Associated Press. (See June 30's briefs.) The agents turned themselves in to avoid an extradition process, and are revealing a criminal structure working within the country's security forces, reports El Heraldo.
  • Honduran lawyer Néstor Humberto Martínez was chosen as the country's new attorney general by the Supreme Court yesterday, reports El Tiempo.
  • Honduran presidential advisor Marvin Ponce is refusing to apologize to a opposition politician and economist Nelson Ávila, who he threw a glass at during a television debate panel earlier this week, reports El Heraldo. Ávila, a presidential hopeful, said he will press charges against Ponce, who he says has threatened him with death on two occasions, explains El Heraldo separately.
  • Nicaragua’s Constitutionalist Liberal Party, or PLC, chose former Contra fighter Maximino Rodriguez as its presidential candidate for November's elections, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune. The country's main opposition coalition will not have a candidate, and incumbent Daniel Ortega is leading opinion polls as he seeks his second consecutive re-election.
  • Ortega's challenge is not how to win the election, but how to govern afterwards, according to an analysis by Inter-American Dialogue researcher Manuel Orozco, cited in El Confidencial. He says the president is using repression in a "systemic and extended manner" that goes beyond a tactical strategy and has to do with a mixture of desperation to try to maintain control.
  • FARC negotiators say a clash between guerrilla fighters and Colombian security forces last week was not a mistake, as officials claim, but rather the result of a deliberate attack, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • With peace on Colombia's horizon, work is increasing on dimining operations. Colombia has the third highest number of landmine casualties, with 11,440 people, including civilians, children and soldiers killed or injured by landmines since 1990. Reuters has a piece on war widows and former fighters engaged in the painstaking work of finding and disarming the landmines scattered in a majority of the country's municipalities.
  • Peruvian soldiers accused of gang-raping peasant women three decades ago, during the country's conflict with Shining Path guerrillas, went on trial on Friday. The landmark case, the first of its kind in Peru, is seeking prison terms of up to 18 years for each defendant, along with restitution payments, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune. Rape, especially against indigenous woman, was part of the government's military strategy in the country's civil war, according to human rights groups, reports TeleSUR.
  • Brexit is reverberating in English-speaking Caribbean countries, which are struggling with the region’s commitment to create its own European Union-type economic model, reports the Miami Herald. "Some leaders and experts in the region say the vote could affect financial services, immigration, development assistance and overall Caricom-UK and Caricom-EU relations. Others worry that it could further slow down Caricom’s economic integration plans."
  • Isabel Allende, Chilean Senate President and daughter of deposed President Salvador Allende, said she's considering running in next year's presidential elections, reports Reuters. She would potentially fight over the Socialist Party's bid with former president Ricardo Lagos. Allende is one of the few members of the ruling party whose popularity has withstood the beating taken by President Michelle Bachelet, according to thepiece. Allende said on Saturday that that she is “more than ready” to run for the presidency of Chile, reports TeleSUR.
  • Eleven Paraguayan subsistence farmers were sentenced up to 30 years in prison for the deaths of six police officers in a land reform protest four years ago, reports the BBC. Eleven protesters were also killed in the Curuguaty clashes, which deepened political tensions and which was used by Congress in the ouster of then-president Fernando Lugo. The BBC notes that human rights organizations allege judicial irregularities during the trial.
  • The U.S. State Department should demand the U.N. take responsibility for Haiti's cholera outbreak, argues a Boston Globe editorial.

  • Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article88894032.html#storylink=cpy"

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article88894032.html#storylink=cpy
  • The new U.S. ambassador to Uruguay said yesterday she was concerned over the lack of information regarding the whereabouts of one of the former Guantanamo Bay detainees who were resettled in the country in 2014, reports the Associated Press. Uruguayan authorities say Abu Wa'el Dhiab is visiting Brazil, and is permitted to do so as a refugee, but Brazilian authorities say they have no record of him entering the country. (See last Thursday's briefs.)
  • Brazilian police released with no charges a foreign man detained after his Brazilian wife said he was planning a terrorist attack in Brasilia, reports the Wall Street Journal
  • Rio de Janeiro state officials insist the Olympics will go off without a hitch, thanks toan emergency bailout of $870 million from the federal government. But the question remains what will happen after the games in the state, where financial crisis has jeopardized the ability to fund basic public services, reports the Washington Post
  • Argentine President Mauricio Macri promised to cap natural gas price increases, though he also pledged to fight a court ruling halting hikes of more than 1,000 percent in some places, reports Reuters.

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