Friday, June 23, 2017

Homicides in LatAm will continue to rise without intervention - Instinto de Vida (June 23, 2017)

Latin America's average homicide rate is already the highest in the world -- but if nothing is done, projections have predict a climb from 21 homicides per 100,000 to 35 in 2030, according to a new Instinto de Vida campaign report, based on Igarapé Institute's Homicide Observatory. But the violence is distributed unequally. Seven countries -- Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, México and Venezuela -- concentrate about a third of the world's homicides. Certain cities -- 120 in the region specifically -- similarly concentrate higher homicide rates, and within these, certain blocks and streets further concentrate violence. 

Furthermore, violence begets violence -- in general each new homicide in Latin America means another 0.66 the following year. The causes for all the violence however are far from homogenous, and often have a heavy local component, notes the report. Yet certain common factors include: inequality, youth unemployment, impunity, and arms trafficking. 

The campaign is a call to action, for evidence based and results focused policies. They call for citizen participation, access to justice and due legal process -- as well as containing violence and considering citizen protection and security a public good. (See yesterday's briefs.)

News Briefs
  • Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto admitted yesterday that his government purchased the sophisticated software apparently used to spy on critics and human rights activists. He said the government had not ordered that surveillance, and promised an investigation into misuse. However, he also threatened to investigate those who “have raised false accusations” against his administration -- a group which would presumably include the victims themselves, reports the New York Times. Hacking victims reacted with shock, but a spokesman said the president was not threatening the group nor the NYT which broke the story earlier this week. Civil society groups said his statements were inappropriate and threatening, reports Animal Político. Peña Nieto said he himself has received suspicious messages (presumably akin to those used by the Pegasus software to infect victims' electronics) and is careful about his phone conversations, reports Animal Político.  (See yesterday's briefs and Wednesday's.)
  • A lack of agreement at the OAS foreign ministers' meeting this week in Mexico appears to have strengthened the Venezuelan government, according to David Smilde at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. "...The domestic opposition is on its heels, Luisa Ortega is isolated, and the countries of the region have broken into finger-pointing and excuses." However, he also notes that support for the Maduro government itself was lackluster, instead opposition to a resolution condemning the administration focussed on procedural issues. "But beyond the actual votes and resolutions, these meetings deepen countries´ knowledge, develop their commitment to the issue and prime them to act. When the Maduro government, less than 48 hours later tried to use the SupremeCourt (TSJ) to grab what power the National Asembly had left, they were taken aback by the chorus of criticism from the region. The OAS is in permanent session regarding Venezuela, suggesting they may take up the issue again. It is not clear that this would be helpful. Venezuela has stated clearly that it would not accept any sort of solution or initiative coming from the OAS and it is clear they are serious about that. Turning around now and accepting an OAS solution would clearly amount to a loss of face and it is unlikely they will do so."
  • Speaking of intervention: The U.S. treats no other country in the world as it does Cuba -- "What makes Cuba different from countries such as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, or Iran, where systemic human rights violations prevail," asks Ted Piccone at the Brookings Institution's Order from Chaos blog. The answer is not related to national security, but rather national politics, he argues. "What really makes Cuba exceptional is that it faces an organized, well-financed political machine of angry exiles in vote-rich Florida that extracts certain demands from political leaders for its votes." The blog gathers several other reactions to Trump's Cuba announcement. (See Monday's post.)
  • For now U.S. companies are not sure what the Cuba policy change implies, as regulations won't begin being drafted for another month. In the meantime "Don’t expect a rush by U.S. companies that have proposals pending before the Cuban government to get deals inked before the new rules go into effect," reports the Miami Herald.
  • Also a reaction from last week's Miami meetings: the U.S.'s shift in attitude towards Central America is a swing back to "war on drugs" type of policies, according to InSight Crime. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said that Washington assigns a large part of the responsibility regarding the war on drugs to Central America, and that such remedies are needed to strengthen public order. "In a nutshell, US policies in the region are going backwards. Washington has done nothing more than return to its outdated foreign policy doctrines, first used in Central America following the Cold War; those involving combatting drug trafficking via the one-size-fits-all approach of police and military intervention and the deportation of undocumented persons as a US national security strategy."
  • Central American gangs are playing an increasingly active role in trafficking cocaine and laundering money, in part through the use of the dark web, reports InSight Crime.
  • Though the White House is apparently pushing Colombia to resume aerial fumigation of illicit coca plants, U.S. officials speaking to InSight Crime tried to backtrack a bit on the issue. (See June 15's briefs.)
  • Mexico City authorities failed to properly investigate the murder of photojournalist Rubén Espinosa, activist Nadia Vera and three other women in a Mexico City apartment in July 2015, said the president of the city's human rights commission, reports the Guardian.
  • Bolivia is wandering in an authoritarian direction -- and keeping it on track will be a test case for the region's commitment to democracy, argues Oliver Della Costa Stuenkel in a piece for Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He nods towards President Evo Morales' success as the country's first indigenous president, and notes his relative moderation, despite unflinching support for Venezuela. "Morales brought social inclusion, relative stability, steady economic growth, and falling poverty levels. Even opposition figures readily recognize his remarkable capacity to get things done in a country that has seen far too many economic crises to count and more than 150 changes of leadership since it gained independence in 1825. ... However, other recent trends threaten to undo Morales’s otherwise positive legacy. He is exerting tighter control over the judiciary and the opposition media. And even more significantly, he has chosen to ignore the result of a 2016 referendum that should have prevented him from seeking a fourth presidential term."
  • InSight Crime examines why Colombia's government has tried and failed to capture Urabeños leader Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias "Otoniel," for two years. Despite the extensive manhunt, and the capture of thousands of its members, the powerful illegal organization is still growing, and seeking to capture former FARC territories.
  • Shortages are spurring Venezuelans to take on increasingly dangerous occupations, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • The United States has suspended Brazilian meat imports over "recurring concerns about the safety of products intended for the American market," reports the BBC.
  • "South America is a hotbed of potential viruses that could be the next major threat to the world's health, according to "danger maps,"" drawn up by EcoHealth Alliance in New York, reports the BBC.
  • Nazi week in the Southern Cone: Newly released archives from the Chilean police document how Nazi supporters in the country supplied information to the Third Reich and planned to bomb mines in Chile, reports Reuters. Earlier this week Argentine police uncovered a trove of Nazi paraphernalia hidden behind a Buenos Aires bookcase -- the New York Times has lots of pictures for WWII history buffs.

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