Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Arrest warrants issued for three former Salvadoran guerrillas (July 25, 2017)

A Salvadoran issued arrest warrants against three former guerrillas last week, the first since an amnesty law was struck down last year, reports El Diario de Hoy. They are sought in connection to the execution of two U.S. soldiers killed in 1991, in the midst of the country's civil war. 

The warrants come amid mounting criticism of inaction with regards to human rights violations committed during the conflict, which lasted between 1979 and 1991, reports the Guardian. El Salvador’s civil war left about 80,000 people dead, 8,000 missing and a million displaced , according to a 1993 UN Truth Commission report.

The vast majority of war crimes were attributed to the American-backed armed forces and paramilitaries. Which makes it surprising that the first warrants out are for former guerrillas, notes the Guardian.

El Salvador's Supreme Court struck down a 1993 amnesty law as unconstitutional last year. (See posts for July 14 and July 15, 2016.) Chief prosecutor Douglas Meléndez told the court last week that a unit created to investigate war crimes is working on 139 reports of human rights violations during the armed conflict, reports La Prensa Gráfica. But he said he lacks resources -- just three prosecutors are working on a case load that would require 50, he said.

The case in question involves the summary execution of Lt Col David Pickett and Cpl Earnest Dawson, who were wounded when a U.S. army helicopter was shot down by FMLN guerrillas in the San Miguel district. According to the U.N. report, they were killed by Fernán Fernández Arévalo, on the orders of guerrilla leader Severiano Fuentes. The two presented themselves to justice in 1992, and were in pretrial detention when the amnesty law freed them, reports La Prensa Gráfica separately.

News Briefs
  • Mano dura policies are responsible for the severe gang problem El Salvador faces today, according to academic José Miguel Cruz, interviewed in El Faro. But, contrary to popular belief, it is possible for individuals to leave street gangs, though they face considerable difficulties in doing so, he says. He highlights the importance of Evangelical churches in helping gang members change their lives. Nonetheless, youths continue to be recruited, largely because of a lack of alternative options. And rather than rehabilitate, the country's penal system compounds the problem.
  • Bolivian and Chilean border officials are set to meet today for the first time in six years. The goal is to restore normal working relations along their mutual border, a perennial flashpoint since Bolivia lost its coastline to Chile in 1904. In recent months, with 11 officials – soldiers, police officers and customs officers – detained by their counterparts on the other side, reports Americas Quarterly.
  • Volkswagen, was an active participant in the persecution and oppression of political opponents of Brazil's military dictatorship that was in power from 1964 to 1985, according to a new investigation done by a group of German news organizations, reports Deutsche Welle. The accusations are not new, and in fact, the company commissioned historian Christopher Kopper to write on its role during the military dictatorship. The report is expected at the end of this year, and Kopper has said there was regular cooperation between VW's Brazilian factory security service and the police.
  • A tragic human smuggling episode in which migrants were transported in an airless truck led to 10 deaths, and demonstrates "the extremes people will go to to sneak into the United States," reports the New York Times.
  • "The amazing thing about Mr. Trump’s vision of an ever-shifting, ever-shrinking wall (he’s halved its needed length to 700 to 900 miles, plus “natural barriers”) is that House Republican appropriators somehow rate it credible enough that they approved funding last week for the administration’s request of $1.6 billion to start construction. Outside experts have estimated the ultimate cost at $25 billion or more," writes the New York Times editorial board. "The president still insists that Mexico will be brought to heel and pay for the wall. Right now, though, Mr. Trump needs front money, and that has to come from the American taxpayer."
  • Mexico's ruling PRI party is polling third for presidential elections to be held next year, reports Reuters. A Reforma poll shows leftist hopeful Andres Manuel López Obrador in first place, followed by the center-right opposition PAN.
  • Brazil's sweeping Operation Car Wash investigation into corruption has left the country leaderless as major politicians from all parties fall to allegations of misconduct. The speed with which this occurred has left politics unable to renew its ranks, and thrust conservatives into the fore in the country, writes Carol Pires in a New York Times Español op-ed. While it's understandable that the left clings to the still popular (though convicted) former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, its missing a golden opportunity to capitalize on the current government's massive lack of popularity, she argues. "The next leader capable of proposing a unity agenda won't be like Lula, harassed by Car Wash, nor somebody of the old political class who, like Temer, pushes the country towards the past. In order for that politician to not be a dark adventurer, society must not only stop betting on politicians with a guillotine over their heads, but also proclaim what agenda it wants for parties search among their new militants for who can respond to the call."
  • U.S. oil sanctions against Venezuela are on the table, but Caracas has spent at least $1.3 million on Washington lobbyists since Trump's election to try to push against the option, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday's post.)
  • The Venezuelan government released a remixed version of the pop-hit Despacito to promote the unpopular constituent assembly election next weekend. But Puerto Rican singers Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee said they rejected the use of their song and called it an illegal appropriation, reports Reuters.
  • "The country that was on the edge of the abyss is collapsing," writes New York Times correspondent Nicholas Casey in graphic article that tells the story of his time covering Venezuela's crisis.
  • Latin America's youths are coming of age in an era of unique opportunity -- they are the first raised in a Latin America where the middle class outnumbers the poor, and they are optimistic. But they also face economic instability, chronic insecurity and deficient infrastructure that makes it difficult for them to advance towards their dreams, according to an Americas Quarterly special report that follows fourth young adults from the region. "The good news is that many of the hurdles we’ve uncovered have policy solutions. Governments should resist the temptation to spend primarily on the old, and work to improve not just education systems but also infrastructure across the board. Smart, pro-business policies will also help ensure the creation of decent jobs that can keep young people engaged in society – and out of trouble."

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