Friday, October 27, 2017

Analysis of El Salvador's extrajudicial killings (Oct. 27, 2017)

El Salvador's police kill with alarming frequency in a country that has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. The Economist examines a study by Brazilian criminologist Ignacio Cano linking the overall rate of killings by police using firearms with the overall homicide rates in a country."It seems that police unable to quell violence may lose their inhibitions about taking part in it." 

In part this is the result of mano dura policies, which have proved ineffective in reducing homicides, and can even backfire by making the public trust police less. Technical fixes to reduce mortality are one option, but broader systemic reform to root out police death squads and systemic corruption are needed to really improve in El Salvador, argues the piece. (See Aug. 23's post, for example, on a Factum investigation into summary executions and other abuses carried out by an elite Salvadoran police squad.) 

Here's the link to the full study by Cano and Anneke Osse, in which the authors argue that "more transparency about police use of firearms is needed in order to gain better understanding of when and why police resort to the use of firearms, and develop more effective measures to prevent loss of life."

News Briefs
  • Reporters Sans Frontières selected El Salvador's online magazine Factum among those nominated for this year's Press Freedom Award. Carmen Aristegui is among the journalists nominated.
  • An Honduran cameraman who reported receiving death threats was killed this week in western Honduras. Carlos Oveniel Lara, a 23-year-old cameraman for Canal 12 Telemaya in Copán was shot leaving for work, according to the Knight Center. Freedom of expression organization C-Libre said he was well known in the area. Seventy-three journalists, including owners and media workers, have been killed in Honduras since 2003.
  • The European Parliament awarded the EU's most prestigious human rights award to the opposition-led National Assembly in Venezuela. Antonio Tajani, the Parliament’s president's lauded Venezuela's "only democratically elected Parliament," a repudiation of the recently elected supra-congressional National Constituent Assembly which many members of the international community have refused to recognize as legitimate. The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was officially awarded to the "democratic opposition in Venezuela," as represented by the country’s National Assembly and its president, Julio Borges, and the political prisoners listed by Foro Penal, reports the New York Times.
  • Amazing analysis of Venezuela's surprise results in the regional elections by Dorothy Kronick and Francisco Rodríguez at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. Tricky maneuvering and outright fraud in some cases certainly occurred and contributed to the opposition's shockingly low results. But these only account for a tiny percentage of the government's sweep of governorships. Instead the authors point to high levels of abstention in opposition strongholds, far more than in neighborhoods supporting the government. "A back-of-the-envelope calculation using these data suggests that, if turnout in last Sunday’s election had looked more like turnout in 2015, the opposition would have won more than one million additional votes, while the government would have picked up only half a million." Another interesting factor they point to is U.S. sanctions -- which most Venezuelans oppose -- and opposition leaders' refusal to condemn them. Though the authors note that violent repression of protests and imprisonment of leadership has hit the opposition hard, the MUD coalition "also committed some of the same mistakes it has made in the past: boycotting elections; trying to block the government’s access to resources; and, perhaps most importantly, focusing on regime change instead of policy proposals."
  • Members of the 12-nation so-called Lima group called on the United Nations to help fight human rights violations in Venezuela, reports the AFP. They said the recent gubernatorial elections were marked by "acts of intimidation, manipulation, social coercion and voting conditioning, among other irregularities." See above.
  • The lone opposition governor elect who refused to swear in before the ANC was sacked yesterday by the pro-government Zulia state legislature, reports Reuters.
  • In the midst of the opposition coalition crisis (see Tuesday's post), the MUD must confront upcoming municipal elections. Capitalizing on the government's good showing, officials have announced mayoral elections in December. Actors within the coalition are actively talking about restructuring, notes Geoff Ramsey in a review of the various factions and positions at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. Voluntad Popular is the only party that has so far declared that it will not participate in the municipal elections. Some smaller MUD parties have said they will participate. "This division does not bode well for the opposition’s longer-term electoral aspirations. With Leopoldo Lopez still under house arrest, Henrique Capriles barred from holding public office, and Ramos Allup under fire, the Venezuelan opposition is far from rallying behind a single figure to run in presidential elections slated for next year. Some have suggested that the time is ripe for an outsider to emerge as a viable opposition candidate, but so far none has materialized."
  • For those despairing of a democratic solution to Venezuela's crisis, Oscar Morales Rodríguez has a piece in Efecto Cocuyo with a slew of historical cases where voters threw out autocratic regimes through the ballot box -- from Pinochet in 1981, to Poland in 1989 to Guatemala in 1985 and Bolivia in 1982. Of course, he recognizes differences in the examples, but elections carried out on uneven playing fields (to say the least) are a common denominator, he argues, making the case for participation.
  • Most of a group of 33 magistrates named to the Supreme Court by the opposition National Assembly earlier this year fled the country after President Nicolás Maduro threatened them with jail time. They are now connecting virtually, perhaps the first example of a "Supreme Court in exile," according to the Miami Herald. This week a group of the judges in the U.S. issued a ruling declaring the ANC illegitimate.
  • Spanish police arrested a former deputy Venezuelan energy minister yesterday, on a U.S. warrant for alleged involvement in $1 billion bribery scheme involving Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA, reports the Associated Press.
  • Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno's cabinet and high level officials rallied behind his proposed plebiscite on several of his predecessor's reforms, reports EFE. They marked that a revolution requires criticism, self criticism, and popular participation. Earlier this week, members of the Alianza País coalition rejected the move, saying it's aimed at undermining the social gains of Rafael Correa and preventing the former president from running for office again. (See Wednesday's briefs.) The schism within the ruling party has extended to Congress, where El Universal says most AP lawmakers back Moreno.
  • A tiny Swiss company quietly obtained exclusive World Cup broadcast rights in 16 countries in Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina. The deal came to light as part of U.S. and Swiss investigations into FIFA corruption and show corruption in the world football elite works, reports the New York Times. Among other details, investigators found that Mountrigi is a wholly owned subsidiary of a giant Mexican television network, Grupo Televisa. And investigators have found hints that a major broadcasting affiliate had helped to pay millions in bribes to get the rights in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay for the next four World Cups.  (Televisa and Mountrigi deny paying bribes in connection to acquiring rights.)
  • In an unrelated (?) move, Televisa's chairman is stepping down, part of the media conglomerate's move towards new styles of programming after a sharp decline in ratings, reports the New York Times.
  • Some of Colombia's former FARC rebels have begun to construct communes in rural areas, reports Reuters. They aim to help reduce socio-economic inequalities in areas sorely lacking in access to public services and economic opportunity.
  • Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner denied plotting a cover-up for Iranian suspects in a 1994 Buenos Aires bombing. She was accused of treason and plotting a cover-up for signing a 2012 pact with Iran that would have allowed senior Iranian officials accused of the deadly attack to be investigated in their own country, rather than in Argentina, reports the AFP.
  • Clashes erupted between protesters and police in French Guiana last night, during a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, reports the BBC.
  • Guatemala's Constitutional Court eliminated the death penalty for civil cases, reports the Associated Press.
  • Panama’s Attorney General accused the judiciary of provoking impunity, after a court decided not to approve further investigation into the alleged money-laundering case involving the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht and its Lava Jato corruption scandal, according to EFE.
  • For the first time United States has blocked imports from a Peruvian timber exporter suspected of illegal logging. But the actual impact of the move aimed at limiting the illicit timber trade is likely to be limited because of widespread corruption in Peru, reports InSight Crime.
  • Brazil's market welcomed a Congressional vote shielding President Michel Temer from facing a corruption trial, but experts doubt the government's ability to advance economic reform ahead of next year's elections, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See yesterday's post.)
  • A sign of Temer's amazingly low popularity, a rap video called I’m Happy (I Killed The President) 2 has become a viral hit, reports the Guardian.
  • TGIF: Two Rio de Janeiro favela entrepreneurs have brought artisanal beer to their community, and their craft brews are becoming popular around the city and possibly expanding beyond, reports Americas Quarterly. In just five years Bistrô Estação R&R in the city's Complexo do Alemão favelas has become a hotspot for beer lovers local and foreign. Owners Marcelo Ramos and Gabriela Romualdo are launching a third artisanal beer, all named for local favelas.

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