Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Life sentences for former Operación Condor leaders (Jan. 18, 2017)

News Briefs
  • An Italian court handed down life sentences to eight South American former political and military leaders, for the disappearance of 23 Italian nationals during the 70s and 80s as part of the transnational Operation Condor used to crack down on leftist dissidents, reports the BBC. The group includes ex-presidents of Bolivia and Peru, and a former foreign minister from Uruguay.
  • El Salvador's civil war ended 25 years ago this week, but the legacy of human rights violations -- up to 10,000 people disappeared -- has yet to be brought to justice, laments Leonor Arteaga, in an opinion piece for El País. Rights organizations seek to create a Search Commission, which would include independent experts with genetic-forensic expertise and psycho-social help for families of victims.
  • The rise of the outsider in Latin American politics reflects decades of  political discrediting as well as a failure of traditional party politics. But in Guatemala the election of comedian Jimmy Morales has done nothing to rectify the popular anger at corruption that ushered him in a year ago, argues María Teresa Hernández in a New York Times Español op-ed. Though he ran on an outsider platform, he was funded by right-wing military veterans of the civil war era. And he has failed to enact meaningful policies targeting graft and social inequality, she writes. 
  • Last week Honduran police briefly detained rights activist Miriam Miranda, a situation denounced by rights groups, reports La Prensa.
  • Four people died in a gunbattle outside of the Cancun prosecutor's office yesterday, reports Reuters. Coming just a day after five people were killed in Playa del Carmen, the attacks are causing fear that drug violence is spreading to the country's most important tourist areas, reports the Wall Street Journal. Authorities attributed both events to organized crime, but gave no indication whether they might be linked, according to the Associated Press. The U.S. Consulate in Merida issued an alert about the incidents in Cancun. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Mexico has a long history of responding to U.S. aggression with a conciliatory stance, but the fast-approaching Trump presidency merits a new attitude, argues Enrique Krauze in a New York Times op-ed. Mexico's Congress must demand an apology from Trump for having called Mexicans rapists and criminals. The country must also stand up against mass deportations of Mexicans, and make it clear that if U.S. policies set of a severe economic crisis in Mexico, the result will be border instability and further illegal migration, he writes. "The friendship between our modern countries is a state of mutually beneficial harmony that surely deserves to be preserved. A confrontation should be avoided. But Mexico is not the defenseless country it was in 1846. It has legal means of response to assaults, whether in commerce or migration, diplomacy or security. And it will not stand alone but will find support among key political and economic figures and forces in the United States and in much of the rest of the world. It would be a battle of great ethical significance."
  • Cuban, Mexican and U.S. diplomats aim to sign an agreement delimiting territorial water limits in the Gulf of Mexico before Trump takes office. The accord would cover the Eastern Gap of the Gulf of Mexico, an area believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits, report Reuters. Cuba and the U.S. have aimed to advance as much as possible in deals that would make an unravelling of the engagement policy more difficult.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama commuted the sentence of 74-year-old Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar López Rivera, an announcement that caused celebration in San Juan, reports the Associated Press.
  • The incoming U.S. president's stance on drugs could have considerable impact in Latin America, where the war on drugs has had considerable human, social and economic costs. Several "drug warriors" on the new cabinet bodes ill for efforts to end the unceasing crackdown in Latin America, argues Luis Gómez Romero in the Conversation.
  • A less publicized aspect of Obama's cancellation of preferential immigration policies for Cuba is the scrapping of a program permitting Cuban doctors posted to international missions to defect to any U.S. embassy or consulate, explains the Los Angeles Times.
  • Venezuelan politicians and civil society actors opposed to the Chavista government have failed to transform the catastrophic ruin of the country into effective political action, writes Margarita López Maya in a New York Times Español op-ed. She compares the government to a Hydra, which manages to successfully evade death by reproducing its many heads as soon as they are lopped off. Only a combined and unified approach to defeating Chavismo can succeed, she argues. "The MUD must rethink its strategies to spur change again. This time it must give more importance to organizing non-violent massive mobilizations, with institutional actions carried out from the National Aseembly or negotiation tables. It's necessary to join its force to dissident groups of chavismo that profess attachment to democracy. This will contribute to bring together more social and political diversity, giving the movement more credibility. This is a formula that hasn't het been tried."
  • Among all the anti-Trump hype, a surprising (though backhanded) vote of confidence from Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro who said the U.S. president-elect is the victim of a "brutal hate campaign" and that "he won't be worse than Obama, that's all I dare say," reports Reuters.
  • Latin America is expected to pull out of recession this year, but thanks strong growth in Central America, while South America is expected to lag behind, reports the Financial Times.
  • Brazil will prioritize job creation through economic growth, President Michel Temer told Reuters, in response to speculation that corruption scandals could derail economic reforms.
  • Peru's president has taken a hard stance against revelations that Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht paid $29 million in bribes to Peruvian officials. Though he immediately promised to pursue justice in the case, his approval ratings took a hit, dropping to 43 percent and outweighed by a 45 percent disapproval, reports Reuters.
  • Colombia's attorney general's office has arrested an official in former president Alvaro Uribe's administration suspected of receiving $6.5 million in bribes from Brazil's Odebrecht during a 2009 roadway contract, reports Reuters.
  • Ecuador assumed the presidency of the Group of 77, and plans to use its leadership of the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries at the U.N. to tackle tax havens and attendant corruption, reports TeleSUR. Tax dodging “is one of the great scourges of the 21st century and we need to put an end to it,” Guillaume Long, Ecuador’s minister of foreign affairs and human mobility, told the Huffington Post.

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