Friday, August 5, 2016

Journalist mortality in LatAm: Honduras and Veracruz in focus (Aug. 5, 2016)

Several reports on journalist mortality. In Honduras over 50 have been killed in the past decade, a fact which affects freedom of expression there, warned Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Freedom of Expression rapporteur Edilson Lanza. He said the mortality rate must draw attention, as should "many aggressions of all kinds agains the media," reports La Información.

In Mexico there have been growing reports of journalist insecurity. The latest by the freedom of expression group Article 19 found that eight journalists were killed so far this year, reports Vice News

The report emphasized the especial insecurity of Veracruz, where three of the victims were covering police and violence. See briefs for July 13, 2015 on the fraught relationship of questioned Veracruz governor Javier Duarte and the press. Earlier this year the Guardian's Roy Greenslade noted that "at least six journalists have been killed in direct retribution for their work since Javier Duarte de Ochoa became governor of Veracruz in 2010," see May 20's briefs. And the Committee to Protect Journalists has called Veracruz "the most lethal place for the press in the western hemisphere," see last Friday's briefs.

In addition, Article 19's report notes hundreds of examples of "aggression towards the press."

Throughout the region twenty-four journalists were killed or died under unclear circumstances in Latin America in the first six months of 2016, reports the Knight Center's Journalism in the Americas blog. Last year Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala made the Committee to Protect Journalists' (CPJ) list of deadliest countries for journalists in 2015, reports the blog separately.

News Briefs
  • New York Times editorial criticizes Nicaragua's slide towards "repression and authoritarianism," in reference to recent judicial undercutting of the political opposition there ahead of presidential elections in November. The piece notes Nicaragua's relative prosperity and safety, relative to its violence-racked Central American neighbors: But concludes ominously that President Daniel Ortega's personal history, he led a guerrilla rebellion that ousted the authoritarian Somoza government, "... should serve as reminder that overthrowing a government can be the citizens’ response when all other avenues for dissent are shut." (See Wednesday's post and yesterday's briefs.)
  • An interesting post on Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights analyzes dissent within the ranks of Chavismo, specifically critiques of the government from former Chávez officials. "As the economic crisis deepens, and Maduro faces the threat of a recall referendum, critics and alternative interpretations of Chávez’s legacy are becoming more common inside the movement." The looks at one of the most vocal Chavista dissident groups, Marea Socialista, and the legal difficulties it has faced in trying to field electoral candidates and participate politically. Its leader claims to be the victim of a conspiracy of both the ruling PSUV and the opposition MUD to block initiatives outside of the prevailing political polarization.
  • Venezuela's crisis has little to do with the current political scenario and everything to do with the oil wealth "curse," according to Foreign Affairs. The piece polemically argues that Venezuelans "believe they deserve entitlements," including unsustainable government jobs and food subsidies, and goes on to make the (contestable) case that "Venezuela has long been a morality tale for the world, an example of what can go wrong when abundant resources are poorly managed."
  • Citizen security is rapidly becoming a hot topic for Peru's new government. Interior Minister Carlos Basombrio announced the "massification" of a bounty system for denouncing not only serious crime, but also general criminal activity, reports La Mula. Human rights groups, including the Centro de Investigación Drogas y Derechos Humanos, criticized the move, especially coming from Basombrio, who worked to bring visibility to cases of unjustly convicted "terrorists" under Fujimori. Critics say the policy has led to a "wild west" scenario of false reports, accusations, testimonies. (See yesterday's briefs, on accusations that police extrajudicially killed 27 civilians, seeking to earn promotions and cash awards for stopping "criminals.")
  • Colombians could vote in a plebiscite to ratify a peace accord with the FARC before a final agreement is actually signed, said President Juan Manuel Santos. "When we finish the agenda points, that is to say, when everything is agreed, that is when we will send the texts to Congress and convene the plebiscite," Santos said according to Reuters. "That moment won't necessarily coincide with the signing of the accords. The signing is a formality, it can be done afterward."
  • Colombia's conflict victims seek land and reconciliation, reports AFP, looking at the challenges ahead for peace as demobilized FARC fighters will reintegrate into a society torn by decades of civil war.
  • Legal medical marijuana is behind Colombia's latest drug boom, a crop authorities hope will help to displace illegal cultivation and boost the economy, reports the New York Times.
  • An Argentine judge ordered the arrest of human rights leader Hébe Bonafini yesterday. He declared the founder of Madres de Plaza de Mayo was in contempt of court after she failed to appear in court to declare in a case over the alleged embezzlement of millions of dollars from a low-income housing project, reports the BBC. She is not personally accused in this case and said the investigation is politically motivated, notes the Wall Street Journal. The arrest order yesterday led to a spontaneous outpouring of support, as Bonafini spoke first at her group's offices and then later in Plaza de Mayo, where the Madres have marched every Thursday since the last dictatorship, demanding their disappeared children. La Nación notes that the judge had initially said he'd avoid an arrest order on Thursday, because of the public relations connotations. Página 12 is extremely critical of the judicial maneuver -- pointing out that missing such court appointments is relatively common, and that such an operation to detain an 87-year-old woman seems unwarranted. Another Página piece quotes former Argentine Supreme Court judge Raúl Zaffaroni, currently serving on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, who points out that there are far less confrontational ways of allowing Bonafini to refuse to testify -- which she is legally permitted to do.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he'll personally deliver the first batch of declassified documents relating to the U.S. role in Argentina's 1976-1983 dictatorship, a sign of warmer relations between the two countries, notes Reuters.
  • In Argentina Kerry urged citizens to be patient with the slow pace of economic progress under President Mauricio Macri and urged Venezuela's government to allow the recall referendum to be held this year, reports Reuters
  • Animal Político analyses the numbers behind Mexico's new homicide stats that show a new upward trend in murders. Around the country, homicides tended to drop after 2011, which had the highest murder rate recorded. But now there is a trend of resurgent violence, explains the piece. The piece includes lots of great statistics and graphics analyzing the broader trends behind the constant media stories about violence in Mexico.
  • Eight out of ten Mexicans feel the government spends "inefficiently" and without transparency, according to a new poll by the Centro de Estudios Sociales y de Opinión Pública (Cesop), reported by Animal Político.
  • The massive security operation deployed to keep the Olympics games safe includes 1,000 U.S. spies, according to NBC News. In addition, military sources say more than a dozen highly trained Navy and Marine Corps commandos from the U.S. Special Operations Command are in Brazil.
  • A piece in Univisión gives a more long-term analysis of the security issue -- though crime and homicides in Rio have increased this year, the trend takes place against a backdrop of improvement. The piece looks at the makeup of the criminal underworld, the police and the pacification program. Of particular concern is that improvements could be lost amid an austerity bid that will slash funding for pacification and security policies.
  • In the midst of the Brazilian political debacle and the press massacre of the Olympics lead up, a Brookings Institution analysis looks at how the 2007 Olympic bid was an example of the country's bid for soft power and to showcase what was considered a remarkable success story. "Soft power is the ability to attract support: Other governments and peoples come to support your country’s international policies because they admire you and want to emulate you. Successfully hosting the world’s largest celebration of peaceful athletic competition was a perfect fit with how Brazil would like to be perceived by the world and with how Brazil would prefer the international order to function." Authors David R. Mares and Harold Trinkunas wonder if the apparent disastrous context of the games will be the relaunching of Brazil's global aspirations. "... Properly handled, the resolution of this crisis can contribute to restoring the luster of Brazil’s domestic model, showcasing the strength of its democratic institutions, preserving (as much as possible) the social and economic gains of recent times, and adding a successful model for fighting corruption. And despite the negative international coverage preceding them, the 2016 Olympics are likely to turn out better than expected: International attention will soon turn to the prowess of the athletes and the beauty of the Games’ setting in Rio."
  • But "Brazil’s high levels of inequality sharpen questions about who gains from staging the Games and who loses – notably those displaced by construction," warns a Guardian editorial.
  • A twelve-year old Syrian refugee who carried the Olympic torch through Brasilia drew attention to the country's "little-noticed role as a haven for Syrian asylum seekers" reports the New York Times.
  • Olympic village chefs, led by Brazilian David Hertz and Italian Massimo Bottura, aim to use surplus food to make 5,000 meals for Rio's disadvantaged, reports Reuters.
  • Another piece on the potential impact of the next U.S. government on the region. American University's Aula blog argues that Democrat VP candidate Tim Kaine could have potentially important influence on U.S policy towards Latin America. He spent time in Honduras in 1980, and has pushed for human rights issues in the wake of the 2009 coup there. Most recently he's spoken to President Juan Orlando Hernández on the issue of justice for assassinated environmental leader Berta Cáceres. And he's pushed against deportations of Central American families and minors seeking to escape rampant violence at home, argues Tom Long. (See July 28's briefs on JOH's approval of Kaine and The Nation's considerably more negative take on Kaine's LatAm credentials.)
  • A piece in the Economist by Sarah Maslin on how increasingly stringent regulations, aimed at curbing child trafficking, have slowed international adoptions. The article looks at the example of Guatemala, which between 1998 and 2008 became a hotspot for international adoption: 30,000 children adopted abroad. But authorities cracked down after reports of country’s adoption "supply chain," complete with baby snatchers and fattening houses, came to light.

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