Friday, September 16, 2016

Peña Nieto's #RenunciaYa (Sept. 16, 2016)

A demonstration in Mexico City yesterday demanding the resignation of President Enrique Peña Nieto interrupted Independence Day celebrations in the Zócalo. The march was led by the parents of the Ayotzinapa 43 and largely composed of young people gathered through social media (#RenunciaYa), reports Animal Político.

The exact numbers are hard to gauge, and protesters were prevented from entering the city's central square, where crowds were awaiting the launch of Independence Day festivities, according to Animal Político. The Associated Press said it numbered in the thousands, relatively small in comparison to others in the city, but a notable expression of the country's dissatisfaction with the Peña Nieto administration.

"As Mr. Peña Nieto enters the final two years of his six-year term, there is a sense among his many critics that the country is adrift and that he cannot change course," explains the New York Times.

Aristegui Noticias has a colorful play by play of yesterday's protests.

This week the lead investigator, Tomás Zerón, in the Iguala disappearances resigned, an apparent reflection of heavy criticisms of his handling of the case ahead of the two year anniversary of the crime. But activists were angered when Peña Nieto immediately appointed him as the technical secretary for Mexico’s National Security Council. (See yesterday's briefs.)

Recently Peña Nieto has also come under fire for his meeting with U.S. Republican candidate Donald Trump, which angered many Mexicans and was perceived as a failure (see Sept. 8's post), as well as revelations that his wife's Miami apartment's property taxes were paid for by a wealthy businessman (see Aug. 9's briefs). Other issues raised by protesters include the death of eight protesters in a clash in Nochixtlán in June (see June 30's post) and previous reports of corruption in relation to his wife, reports El Informador.

Further south, CNTE dissident teacher's union members clashed with police when they tried to enter Oaxaca's Zócalo, where an Independence Day celebration was also slated, reports Animal Político.

News Briefs
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos admitted the state's responsibility in the assassination of approximately 5,000 members of a FARC derived leftist political party thirty years ago. The Patriotic Union (UP) was formed in the mid-1980s following a previous peace agreement, and many of its members were killed by right-wing paramilitaries, some working with state backing, reports Reuters. "That tragedy should never have happened, and we must recognize that the government didn't take sufficient measures to impede and prevent the assassinations, attacks and other violations even though there was evidence the persecution was taking place," Santos said. The admission comes less than two weeks before the government signs a broad peace agreement with the FARC, which contains guarantees of safety for demobilized guerrilla fighters. Earlier this week the FARC apologized for the pain caused by abductions it carried out over the years of conflict. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
  • El Salvador's crusading attorney general, Douglas Meléndez, announced the creation of a new anti-impunity unit that will work on politically sensitive cases. Though it does not have direct international participation, the Grupo Especial Contra la Impunidad (GECI) will have technical assistance from the U.S. to address corruption cases against former political officials, reports InSight Crime. Meléndez made the announcement yesterday during a video conference with the Wilson Center, and said he had the backing of several embassies, reports El Diario de Hoy. Nonetheless, he said the new unit responds to popular demand, not international pressure, reports el Diario de Hoy in a separate piece.
  • Corruption scandals are tainting Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales' inner circle -- which is especially problematic given his platform as a clean break with "politics as usual." Though still incipient, accusations against his son and brother-in-law have the potential to throw the administration into political crisis, according to InSight Crime.
  • A new generation of web-based media in Cuba is challenging the state monopoly, but have also distanced themselves from dissident groups. Outlets like El Estornudo and Periodismo de Barrio portray critical perspectives of Cuban reality, but avoid an anti-government political message. Many of the new media outlets explicitly avoid foreign funding that could compromise their integrity, reports Reuters. (The Knight Center had another good profile on Cuba's new media, see July 22's briefs.)
  • Costa Rica's homicide rate, though low for the region, has nearly doubled over the past fifteen years, due mostly to drug-related murders, reports InSight Crime.
  • Even Venezuela's tourist paradise Margarita Island is being buffeted by food and water shortages. The island's hotels and beaches are empty -- a combination of the country's economic crisis that has decimated national tourism, and Venezuela's increasingly bad international reputation which has scared off foreigners, reports the Associated Press.
  • The Guardian has a piece on cannabis cultivation in Colombia's Cauca province, and how growers are hoping to cash in on the newly legalized medical marijuana business.
  • Infectious disease specialists say they have detected a new mosquito-borne illness in Haiti -- the Mayaro virus, which is closely related to the chikungunya virus, reports the Miami Herald. It's not clear whether this could signal a new outbreak. The Zika virus is also present in Haiti, but has been difficult to track because of the country's weak health system.

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