Thursday, March 2, 2017

Colombia paramilitary victims to be heard in U.S. court (March 2, 2017)

News Briefs
  • Over a dozen Colombian paramilitary leaders managed to evade trials for crimes against humanity at home when they were extradited to the U.S. to face drug trafficking charges. But in Hernán Giraldo Serna's trial in U.S. federal court tomorrow on cocaine trafficking charges, he will face the family of a victim who was tortured and murdered by his henchmen in 2001, reports the Guardian. They plan to tell the court of the extent of Giraldo's crimes -- the men under his command in the AUC are accused of killing 270 people -- and ask that he receive a life-sentence. (See yesterday's briefs on fears over returning paramilitaries.)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump's wall plan has a budgeting shortfall, which means Congress will have to appropriate funds for the estimated $21.6 billion project. Trump instructed the Department of Homeland Security to fund the project out of existing resources in a January executive order. But a document from the agency to congressional budget staff indicates that Homeland Security can only scrape up $20 million -- enough for some prototypes, but not much more, according to Reuters.
  • A 22-year-old Argentine in the U.S. was arrested shortly after addressing a conference on undocumented migrants' rights. Daniela Vargas, who came to the U.S. as a 7-year-old, had been a recipient of Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program. Her lawyers were in the process of renewing her status, reports the Guardian. Her attorneys say the arrest could be related to her activism, and emphasized that Vargas has no criminal record, but had committed minor traffic offenses, reports the Huffington Post
  • Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented migrant who has lived in Denver for 20 years, has a New York Times Español op-ed tells her story and how she is taking refuge in a church to avoid deportation away from her young children.
  • Trump's dependence on military men to fill his cabinet is unusual in the U.S., but "the same can’t be said of Latin America and the Caribbean, with their long history of military rule," writes Lilian Bobea in the Conversation. "Interestingly, the region’s 20th century military dictatorships often resulted from the same dilemma North Americans now face: choosing between a strong military elite and an incompetent commander-in-chief directing a chaotic national administration."
  • The Mexico representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced concern over the Mexican attorney general's internal investigation into the flawed Ayotzinapa disappearances investigation, reports El País. (See Feb. 13's briefs on the PGR report which essentially clears officials of wrongdoing and leaves the much questioned government version of events intact. Outside experts found serious flaws in evidence gathering and human rights abuses of suspects.)
  • Mexican police found the tortured bodies of 11 people near a stolen van in Veracruz state yesterday, a day after increased state and federal security forces were deployed to parts of the state, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's briefs on the Crisis Group report on Veracruz.)
  • Last year was one of the deadliest for Mexican reporters, an increasing level of violence that threatens free speech and "has turned many parts of the country into black holes, granting immunity to corrupt officials," writes Ioan Grillo in a New York Times op-ed. "Mexico is knee deep in problems, including rampant corruption that strangles the economy. Journalists are a key part of the solution, but they can expose the country’s rot only if they have the basic protection from being murdered. We should not become accustomed to the killing of our colleagues."
  • Deportations of undocumented migrants from the U.S. are surging. And Mexico City is trying to make the best of the sad situation. Governor Miguel Ángel Mancera has declared the capital a sanctuary city for migrants deported from the U.S. and promises to offer targeted retraining schemes to tackle the city’s skills deficits and job vacancies, reports the Guardian. Though Trump has portrayed the deportees as criminals, the city is emphasizing their years of U.S. work experience, English skills and work ethic.
  • Honduran Attorney General Oscar Chinchilla has focused on fighting the country's powerful criminal groups, but he often finds himself alone in the battle -- criticized both by entrenched corrupt political elites and civil society groups that accuse him of mishandling Berta Cáceres' murder investigation, reports InSight Crime. "In spite of strong backing from the international community, Chinchilla and his colleagues have been bearing the brunt of the battle against organized crime and corruption, and shouldering the blame when anything goes wrong."
  • A Guatemalan judge is scheduled to determine whether five high-ranking military officers will stand trial for the illegal detention, torture, and sexual violation of political activist Emma Molina Theissen and the revenge kidnapping of her 14-year-old brother Marco Antonio today, reports the International Justice Monitor. All five officers, now retired, were believe to be untouchable up until now. Four were arrested in January of last year, in relation to this case, and another in relation to the CREOMPAZ enforced disappearance case. (See post for Jan. 7, 2016.)
  • Ernesto Tenembaum in El País takes a cool look at Argentina's heated "cat fight" politics, in which the government loyalists accuse the Peronist opposition of promoting ungovernability, while unions on the warpath say austerity measures push up poverty and benefit the country's rich.
  • Though Macri has been criticized for failing to condemn an official who downplayed the gravity of military dictatorship crimes, and is now accused of favoritism towards his father's company in debt negotiations worth $300 million, he heads into this years mid-term elections in a strong position, reports the Financial Times.
  • Argentina's government complained to Brazil for hosting British RAF aircraft flying to and from the Falklands, reports the Guardian.
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales is in Cuba to consult medical specialists regarding a persistent throat pain, reports El País.
  • In a New York Times Español op-ed, Carol Pires tells the story of MC Beijinho, a carnival hit who found fame when he was arrested by police after an attempted robbery -- and won the hearts of television viewers by singing in handcuffs. "Its curious to think how many of those who don't want to look beyond their little worlds would not pay to see the alleged thief since "Me Libera, Nega," the carnival hit, when in normal circumstances they'd rather seem him jailed," she writes, noting that but for the empathy he generated, he would have rapidly become one of the hundreds of thousands of inmates in the country's overcrowded jails.
  • A samba school that highlighted the environmental impact caused by the collapse of a dam has been crowned champions of the Rio de Janeiro carnival, reports the BBC.

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