Friday, September 23, 2016

Guatemalan human rights prosecutor arrested for alleged hit-and-run case (Sept. 23, 2016)

A Guatemalan prosecutor involved in high-profile human rights cases has been detained on homicide charges related to an alleged hit-and-run incident. Supporters say the accusations are part of a malicious wave of litigation against human rights advocates seeking justice for civil war crimes, brought forth by the Foundation against Terrorism, a group linked to retired generals, reports the Guardian

Orlando López was the lead prosecutor in the 2013 genocide trial against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt and in the arrest earlier this year of 14 former military officers in connection to crimes against humanity committed during the country's civil war. 

See Jan. 7's post on the arrests and Aug. 17's briefs on intimidation of human rights advocates in Guatemala. Earlier this week an International Justice Monitor post covered the specifics of the human rights case, see Wednesday's briefs.

López himself has been the target of litigation from the Foundation before, for example this case last year. 

News Briefs
  • Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales gave a fiery speech against corruption at the U.N., a week after his brother and son were barred from leaving the country pending a fraud investigation, reports Reuters. (See last Friday's briefs.)
  • The new timetable announced by the Venezuelan national election commission (CNE) makes a recall referendum all but impossible this year, according to Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. Earlier this week the CNE announced that the opposition must collect the signatures of 20 percent of the Venezuelan electorate in each state, within three days at the end of October. The opposition coalition will be hard pressed to come up with the signatures in all states, within such a short time frame, and with the added complication of too few finger print scanning machines for voter verification. Several experts dispute the 20 percent in each state requirement, arguing that the law calls for the signatures of 20 percent of the general electorate. 
  • Nonetheless, the opposition has promised to keep pushing for the recall referendum to occur this year, in which case the ousting of President Nicolás Maduro would trigger an election for his replacement. The opposition MUD coalition will meet this weekend and announce a strategy on Monday, reports Reuters. The obstacles could mean splits in the opposition front -- already hardliner María Corina Machado is calling for civil disobedience.
  • Brazilian police detained Guido Mantega, who served as former President Dilma Rousseff's finance minister, on allegations that he solicited a $2.35 million bribe from billionaire Eike Batista. The funds were allegedly used to pay off debt from Rousseff's 2010 campaign, reports the Wall Street Journal. The former minister was released yesterday, due to his wife's ill health. Investigators raided 30 homes yesterday in six Brazilian states, and issued warrants to question or arrest 16 people, all within the framework of the massive Petrobras corruption investigation. Other targets yesterday include dexecutives of construction companies Mendes Junior and OSX, which belongs to Eike Batista, once one of Brazil's richest men, reports the Associated Press.
  • Brazil's attorney general asked the Supreme Court to reverse a presidential decree permitting aerial spraying of insecticide in the fight against Zika-virus carrying mosquitos. The method poses risks of immediate damage to ecosystems and human poisoning, he said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • The U.S. should immediately suspend all police and military aid to Honduras, in line with the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act presented in Congress, argues Dana Frank in an New York Times op-ed. Frank points to violence against rights activists -- exemplified by the assassination of environmental and indigenous leader Berta Cáceres earlier this year, along with at least eight colleagues so far in 2016 -- as well as a general security crisis exacerbated by corrupt police and military forces. She also calls for a stronger international commission against corruption and impunity. (A counter to the vision presented by Sonia Nazarro who wrote last month about the effectiveness of U.S. aid to Honduras, see Aug. 15's post.)
  • The FARC guerrilla conference held this week for delegates to ratify the peace accord with the Colombian government has served as an opportunity for the rebel group to present a new face. The marxist Woodstock has been partially a marketing exercise to improve the image of a group hated in Colombia after decades of fighting, kidnappings and bombing, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See briefs through out this week.)
  • Cartagena is besieged by a crime wave, just days before the Colombian government and the FARC are due to sign the peace accord formally, reports InSight Crime.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Cuban President Raúl Castro and revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. He called for a strong, unified international response to North Korea's nuclear program, which puts neighbors South Korea and Japan at particular risk, reports Reuters. The elder Castro told Abe the issue of Pyongyang's nuclear program should be resolved peacefully through dialogue, according to a Japanese foreign ministry spokesman.
  • Mexico City female hip-hop artists are taking a stance gender violence in a neighborhood known for femicide and sexual violence, reports the Guardian.

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