Monday, July 25, 2016

Two Mexican mayors killed Saturday (July 25, 2016)

Two Mexican mayors were killed this weekend, part of an ongoing trend, reports the Associated Press

Ambrosio Soto, mayor of a township in Guerrero known as haven for drug traffickers, was killed when gunmen blocked a highway and opened fire on his vehicle. Local press reported that Soto had received threats after he had refused to hand over part of his budget to a local drugs gang. The Democratic Revolution Party said the mayor had taken "special protection measures" after he dared to file complaints and complained that the security patrols had abandoned the area.  After the two unrelated killings, the National Association of Mayors asked the federal government to offer added security to mayors "at risk," reports the BBC

The issue of security for mayors came up earlier this year, when the newly-sworn in mayor of Temixco was killed. Ioan Grillo wrote a good piece on the issue for the New York Times in January. Earlier this year I reported in City Lab that the Mexican National Mayor's Association said that 37 mayors, seven mayors-elect, and 31 former mayors have been assassinated over the past decade.

News Briefs
  • Strikes in Haiti's 12 government run hospitals since March have dealt a strong blow to a health-care system that struggles under the best of circumstances, reports the Associated Press. Four state hospitals are closed altogether, and the others are functioning at diminished capacity. Hospitals serving the country's poorest population lack basic supplies, such as gauze, antiseptics, and sometimes even water. Power outages have forced doctors to finish surgeries using cellphone flashlights.
  • A Brazilian judge said Facebook and Twitter cooperated with the investigation that led to the arrest of suspected Islamist militants last week by providing information about their use of social networks, reports Reuters. Yesterday, Brazilian authorities arrested the twelfth man suspected of participating in a group that was allegedly planning a terrorist attack during the upcoming Olympics, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See Friday's briefs.) The companies refused to comment. But the case comes as the issue of cooperation by social media companies for judicial investigations is hotly debated in Brazil. The Whatsapp messaging service, used by nearly half the population, has been briefly shut down three times for refusing to handover data -- which the company says it cannot access. (See last Wednesday's briefs for the most recent example.) Reuters notes that Facebook and Twitter data, on the other hand, is openly shared with other users.
  • The Olympics are opening up in two weeks, but nobody in Brazil seems to care, according to the Los Angeles Times. "The dominating sentiment seems neither strong support nor dedicated opposition, but rather general indifference."
  • Economists say the Brazilian economy is showing signs of a potential return to growth after the country's worst downturn since the Great Depression, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • As a murdered Mexican journalist Pedro Tamayo was buried, his friends and family are accusing the Veracruz state police of suspected compliance and negligence, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • Fugitive drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero said he is not back in the narcotics business and has no problems with other cartel leaders, in response to rumors that he's in a dispute with the Sinaloa Cartel, according to an interview Proceso published this weekend. The attorney general of Chihuahua, said earlier this month that Caro Quintero may be trying to compete with the Sinaloa cartel's operations, reports the Associated Press. Quintero, who has a $5 million bounty on his head from the U.S., denies killing U.S. DEA agent Enrique Camarena, was considered one of the country's most powerful drug traffickers in the 80s. 
  • Venezuela's electoral authorities are expected to announced tomorrow whether the initiative to stage a recall referendum against President Nicolás Maduro can continue, reports AFP. (See last Wednesday's post.)
    Jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez appealed his 14-year sentence during a 12-hour hearing on Friday. He himself innocent of inciting violence at anti-government protests in 2014. The court has ten days to decide, according to AFP.
  • Two nephews of the Venezuelan president's wife confessed to trying to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the U.S., according to U.S. prosecutors, reports the Associated Press. The piece reports on details such as allegations that the plot by the two men was thought out over two months, that the drugs in question came from the Colombian FARC and that the case was brought to the DEA by a wheelchair-bound cooperating witness nicknamed "El Sentado." The documents say the two nephews aimed to organize repeated runs to the U.S. for a short-term profit of $20 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • The diplomatic kerfuffle over Venezuela's scheduled assumption of the Mercosur trading bloc's rotating presidency continues. Paraguay has officially said it will skip the group's next meeting if the agenda includes the transfer of the presidency to Venezuela, reports Mercopress. (See July 13's post.)
  • The U.N. welcomed an agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC that dictates women will have equal access to land under an eventual peace deal. Colombia, which will also set up a commission to look into sexual violence during the 50-year conflict, is an example for other conflict zones in the world, said the head of U.N. Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka speaking in Havana, reports the BBC.
  • The Wall Street Journal has a feature on the FARC's "First Front" which is saying it won't demobilize under an eventual peace deal. President Juan Manuel Santos has staked his presidency on the peace process, and says it's rebels' last chance to lay-down arms peacefully.
  • Ongoing unrest in Mexico's Oaxaca state over education reform is impacting tourism and the region's economy, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • Over 50,000 Chileans gathered in Santiago, with other gatherings around the country, to protest  against the country’s private pension system and its low payouts, reports the Buenos Aires Herald. The Valparaiso march ended up being dispersed with water cannons and tear gas by police.
  • Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori filed a new request for pardon, just a week before a new president takes office in the country. Fujimori is servinga 25-year-sentence for human rights abuses, corruption and sanctioning death squads during his 1990-2000 government, reports the Associated Press. About 1,000 people marched in Lima to demand Fujimori's “immediate freedom," according to the Latin American Herald Tribune.
  • The Peruvian government submitted documentation for approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) had been sent to Congress, a day ahead of the new Congress swearing in, reports Bloomberg.
  • Four inmates died in a Salvadoran prison riot this weekend, according to Reuters.
  • El Salvador is facing a complicated financial situation. If the two main parties, the governing FMLN and the opposition ARENA don't reach an accord, the government could run out of resources by October, leading to an inability to pay providers, salaries and pensions, reported El Faro last week.
  • A Guatemalan judge said he will decide today whether to try 57 people accused of an illegal campaign-finance and government-contracting scheme that prosecutors say amounted to “state co-optation," reports the Latin American Herald Tribune. Former president Otto Pérez Molina is among the accused.
  • Nearly 27 years after the U.S. invasion of Panama that led to the fall of dictator Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian government is seeking to determine how many people died and to identify them, reports the BBC. The commission in charge of the investigation has asked the U.S. government to declassify records related to the episode, and will give its first report in December.
  • Ecuador has paid $112 million to energy company Chevron Corp over a four-decade-old contract dispute, after years of various appeals on a Hague arbitration court ruling failed, reports Reuters.
  • A new book by Mexican researcher Mateo Crossa Niell says maquiladoras play a role in perpetuating underdevelopment in Honduras. The country's emphasis on maquiladoras “means the wrenching of the economy toward foreign markets at the cost of pauperizing the national economy,” he said, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune.
  • Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said she's not afraid of going to prison on corruption charges she faces, reports the BBC. "When you make decisions like these, it's clear that you risk going to jail and being politically persecuted," she told a group of foreign correspondents. Fernández was indicted on charges related to the central bank's sale of dollars in the futures market, notes Reuters.

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