Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Police repression against austerity protests in Brazil (Oct. 18, 2016)

Brazilian police fired teargas against protesters in downtown Rio de Janeiro yesterday. It's the first time the latest wave of street protests in the country, this time against President Michel Temer's austerity policies, has turned violent, notes Reuters.

Organizers say about 5,000 people participated in a march against a constitutional amendment that would cap increases in government at the inflation rate for the next 20 years. (See last Tuesday's briefs.) Temer's signature policy, aimed at closing a massive budget deficit and reviving investor confidence in Brazil, would adversely impact health, education and other social spending said demonstrators.

El País reports 10,000 participants in São Paulo. 

Violent police reactions to protests -- especially left-wing ones -- have become more common in recent years, argues Vanesa Barbera in a New York Times op-ed. The abuses include physical assault and controversial mass detentions. Journalists documenting abuses have also been targeted. She details the many interesting ways activists themselves are providing each other with first aid, legal assistance and even a volunteer security group -- a response that could lead to an escalation in violence if forced to continue.

News Briefs
  • Venezuela's Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the opposition coalition must obtain signatures from 20 percent of voters in each of the country's 24 states in order to force a recall referendum. The ruling counters the opposition interpretation of the law, which held that signatures must represent 20 percent of voters nationally. The latest decision by the government stacked court favors the government, and throws another obstacle in the path of the opposition which next week must  collect and electronically verify 4 million signatures over three days allotted for the petition drive, reports the Associated PressEfecto Cocuyo looks at some of the difficulties on a state by state basis, including distance of much of the population from enabled polling places in Delta Amacuro and Amazonas, for example.
  • Infant mortality in Venezuela is soaring -- up 50 percent in the first five months of this year compared the same period in 2012 -- a sign of unraveling in a country once held up as a model of healthcare in the region, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • At least 550 Haitians in communities destroyed by Hurricane Matthew are living in caves and scavenging the ruined countryside for food, as shelters in towns overflow, reports the New York Times. "For much of the world, Haiti is known more as a crisis than a country. Disaster, whether man-made or natural, has come to define the nation, where progress is often just a prelude to another step back. Dictators, corrupt officials and international meddling have competed with earthquakes and hurricanes to destabilize the country."
  • Argentina's #NiUnaMenos campaign against femicide is organizing a national strike tomorrow, demanding public policies to combat gender violence and guarantee the economic independence of women, reports Página 12. The country's most important labor organizations have joined the call, and across the country and in Uruguay, Mexico and Chile participants dressed in black will stop working between 1 and 2 p.m. This protest comes in the wake of brutal rape and murder of a 16-year-old in Mar del Plata, and builds on protests over the past year and a half in Argentina and other countries in the region.
  • Latin American states are key factors driving the wave of criminal violence affecting the region, argues academic study by Florida International University professor José Miguel Cruz. He points to widespread violence perpetrated by state actors, from Mexico's 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students to the large number of people killed by police in Brazil and Venezuela, reports InSight Crime.
  • Honduras accepts thousands of deported individuals from the U.S. each month -- up to 200 a day -- just one of the many ways the country's government is expressing eagerness to cooperate with the U.S., reports McClatchy. The goodwill doesn't mean those deportees won't face life-threatening conditions upon their return, however. And the piece notes the many criticisms of the U.S. migration policy, which last year sent 33,000 people to Guatemala, 21,000 to El Salvador and 20,000 to Honduras.
  • Warm assurances of friendship from Honduras are coming as U.S. government sources point to potential drug connections among President Juan Orlando Hernández staunchest allies and potentially his family, reports InSight Crime
  • ead more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/article108754962.html#storylink=cpy
  • As the Obama administration seeks to make advances with Cuba impossible for the next administration to roll back (see yesterday's briefs, for example), conservative groups are seeking ways to legally challenge regulatory moves easing trade. But whether such a lawsuit will develop, and whether it would prosper, is unclear, reports the Miami Herald.
  • At least 18 inmates died in two separate prison riots in Brazil on Sunday. There is evidence that the riots were started by Primeiro Comando da Capital, a major criminal organization in São Paulo state, reports the Associated Press. More than three dozen inmates escaped from a São Paulo prison after a riot caused a fire there Monday, though that episode is apparently unconnected to the others.
  • Six men were found with their hands severed on the outskirts of Guadalajara, an area hotly contested by rival drug gangs, reports Reuters.
  • The arrest of 21 municipal police officers in the Mexican state of Chiapas on suspicion of kidnapping and extorting undocumented migrants highlights the rise of police violence against people in transit through Mexico, reports InSight Crime.
  • The Guardian has an amusing piece on Mexican companies taking advantage of widespread Trump distaste to carry out clever marketing campaigns. "Trump has been loathed in Mexico ever since decrying its people as criminals, rapists and drug-dealers when he launched his campaign last year. With Trump urging the US to stop doing business with its southern neighbor, it was only a matter of time before Mexican companies began to respond."
  • The spate of comparisons of Trump to Chávez have gotten exclusionary and inclusionary forms of populism all mixed up, argues Timothy M. Gill in the Washington Post. Both leaders may have had a penchant for populist rhetoric, but the dead Venezuelan leader promoted citizen inclusion and railed against the oligarchy, while Trump supports exclusionist policies and preaches against minorities, he writes. "In the end, there is little substantive similarity between Chávez and Trump. With the Venezuelan economy in a free fall and the Venezuelan government appearing more inept than ever, the urge to compare Trump to Chávez appears hard to resist. These comparisons, however, obscure much more than they illuminate."
  • Habitat III in Quito has attracted the urban policy global elite, including at least 200 city mayors, representatives from 140 national delegations, and a good swath of academics and policy makers. But a locally organized and eclectic resistencia group that includes community groups and cyclists says the global convention is ignoring local issues, reports the Guardian.
  • Also an interesting interview with Bogotá mayor Enrique Peñalosa in the Guardian, where he talks about how cities in the developing world could surpass European ones, and emphasizes the relevance relevance of equality for urban development: the right to the city.
  • The mayor of the Colombian city of Cali has launched a campaign against snobbery by eliminating the honorifics  doctor or don in City Hall, targeting terms that represent "a mark of endemic snobbery in a country where class distinctions are so entrenched that Colombians are formally classified into social strata depending not on their income but on where they live," reports the Guardian.
  • It's not Lat Am focused, but an interesting New York Times report on police body-cams in Seattle could be interesting for efforts to promote more police transparency.

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