Monday, January 9, 2017

Riots kill about 100 inmates in Brazil in one week (Jan. 9, 2017)

Yet another prison riot in Brazil, killed four more inmates this Sunday, bringing the total death tally over the past week to over a 100 due to gang related violence in the penitentiary system, reports Reuters. And over 140 in the past three months, notes the Wall Street Journal.

And the violence, part of a power struggle between the São Paulo-based First Capital Command (PCC) and the Rio de Janeiro-based Red Command gang, along with its ally, the Northern Family is likely to continue, reports El País

The bloodshed is due to the end of a two decade working relationship between the country's largest drug gangs, about six months ago. But it is also related to notoriously grim prison conditions, where horrific overcrowding and rights violations are routine. (See last Friday's and Wednesday's briefs as well as last Tuesday's post.) Experts have long pointed to the potentially explosive situation in the country's prisons, notes the New York Times.

President Michel Temer's government has refused to take responsibility for the killings, pointing to state responsibility for security and penitentiaries -- a stance lambasted by critics, reports the New York Times. (See Friday's  briefs.) 

Last week 60 inmates were killed in Manaus, and on Friday 31 were murdered in Roraima. This weekend's killings occurred in the Manaus Complexo Penitenciário Anísio Jardim, where 283 prisoners were transferred after the earlier riot in the state. The deaths call into question the authorities' attempts to separate warring gang members within the penitentiary system, according to El País.

The advance of the PCC in the country's north points to the increasing cartelization of the drug trade, according to the national attorney general's office, reports Folha de S. Paulo.

Folha de S. Paulo reports on the ramshackle conditions at the Roaima prison where Friday's murders took place, including a sort of internal shanty-town with housing walls built from disposable food containers.

Beyond the riots, last year InSight Crime reported on a 60 percent increase in prison murders, indicating the turf war between the two gangs in the country's northeast.

News Briefs
  • U.S. president-elect Donald Trump's twitter bullying of car makers is threatening Mexico's automotive industry and foreign investment, at a time when the country's economy is already facing significant challenges, reports the Guardian. "...Economists and Mexican politicians have warned that Trump’s tantrums portend further economic problems as companies shy away from the public shaming that could come with investment in the country." (See last Thursday's and Friday's posts.) Last week Trump lashed out at General Motors and Toyota for Mexican production, and Ford announced that it was canceling a $1.6 billion new factory that had been criticized by him. The Mexican government responded without mentioning Trump, but rejecting "any attempt to influence the investment decisions of companies on the basis of fear or threats," reports the Guardian separately.
  • All of this is coming as Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto faces widespread unrest (and significant looting) over gas price increases of up to 20 percent, and a downward spiral of unpopularity, reports the New York Times. Citizens long for a more energetic defense of Mexican interests against Trump's rhetoric, but have yet to hear it. Instead Peña Nieto promoted an advisor lauded by Trump to head the foreign ministry. (See last Thursday's post.)
  • U.S. and Mexican authorities announced the arrest of a U.S. citizen suspected of shooting an American consular official in Guadalajara, reports the Guardian. He was reportedly detained in a joint operation by the FBI, DEA and Jalisco state officials in Guadalajara. The Mexican government said the suspect would be "expulsed and repatriated" to the U.S. for trial, reports the Wall Street Journal. Though the city is a stronghold of Jalisco New Generation Cartel, officials have not linked the incident to cartel activity. Though a handful of U.S. officials have been attacked in the past in Mexico, it has usually been attributed to cases of mistaken identity, according to Reuters.
  • Some U.S. Republican lawmakers are questioning Colombia's much lauded peace deal with the FARC, an example of troublesome shifts in U.S. foreign policy, argue Chris Sabatini and Jimena Galindo in Latin America Goes Global. "While there is plenty to be skeptical about in the plan and in the FARC’s commitment to becoming legal, the peace deal came out of an organic process within the country that the U.S. should have no business undermining. In addition, despite the plan’s warts and a well-founded distrust of the FARC, Uribe’s vitriolic opposition is borne more out of personal pique than a constructive desire to shape a better deal—as his behavior after the popular rejection of the deal made clear," they write. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • Under the terms of the peace deal and a related amnesty law passed in December, hundreds of imprisoned FARC fighters will be released and moved to concentration zones along with their demobilized companions. The Miami Herald explores what a political continuation of the revolutionary struggle could look like for some.
  • French President Francois Hollande's plan to visit a demobilization camp has been criticized by opponents to the peace deal, reports Deutsche Welle.
  • A well known Ecuadorian environmental NGO is struggling to survive a government shutdown attempt in the wake of violence between soldiers, police and indigenous Shuar people opposed to a Chinese-run copper development, reports the Guardian. U.N. rights experts have condemned the onslaught against the organization, which is accused of supporting violence by the Shuar against security forces. (See last Wednesday's briefs.)
  • Artisanal charcoal produced on Cuban worker-owned cooperatives will become the island's first legal export to the U.S. in decades, reports the Associated Press. The first shipment is due to be delivered two days before Trump, who has threatened to reverse the regulation changes that have permitted the deal, takes office. The charcoal is being bought by a company founded by attorney Scott Gilbert, the former lawyer for imprisoned US government contractor Alan Gross.
  • A chant shouted by marching troops at a Cuban military parade a "a hat out of bullets to the head," reports the Miami Herald.
  • The operation to capture senator-elect Guy Phillipe, who last week was extradited to the U.S. where he faces charges of drug trafficking and money laundering, involved infiltrating the security detail of a man who has successfully avoided detention for years, reports the Miami Herald. The Daily Beast has a colorful story on the coup leader turned politician. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • Venezuela's government announced the fifth increase in the minimum wage in the past year. The fifty percent hike aims to help workers keep abreast of the world's highest inflation rate, reports Reuters
  • The U.S. embassy in Caracas will no longer accept Venezuela's crumbling currency, visa applicants will have to pay in U.S. dollars, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Tomorrow marks the official midway point of President Nicolás Maduro's term -- efforts to oust him needed to succeed before in order to trigger a new election, notes the Associated Press. A recall referendum could still occur, but if successful, would replace Maduro with his newly named vice president. (See last Thursday's post.)
  • A Taiwanese diplomatic offensive aims to keep Central American allies from cozying up to China, reports the Financial Times. (See Dec. 13's post.)
  • Chilean senator Alejandro Guillier will be the center-left Radical Party's candidate for president in the November election in which he will face off against center-right ex-president Sebastian Pinera, reports Reuters. The former journalist and anti-establishment candidate promised to deepen education reforms and tackle the polemic private pension system. Though relatively unknown up to a year ago, he is now a favorite in polls and could the center-left ruling coalition New Majority's candidate.
  • New York Times feature piece focuses on Brazil's ranching culture which exemplifies the country's shift towards a socially conservative right.

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