Monday, October 9, 2017

Colombia Reels from Police Clash in Coca Community (Oct 9, Mon)

The fallout continues from last week's clash between Colombian police and community residents in Tumaco, one of the poorest areas of the country, which has long been a hub for coca cultivation (see Friday's brief). While Colombia has frequently registered clashes between police-led coca eradication teams and communities that usually receive little to no state services, last week's confrontation was unusually violent. 
 La Silla Vacia found that both the security forces and the community members protesting police presence included false or misleading details in their accounts of what happened, after security forces began firing indiscriminately upon protestors (estimates for the number of dead and wounded vary widely, with Colombia's National Forensics Institute reporting six dead). Farmers in the region say that they are open to coca eradication and crop substitution efforts, but they want the government to prioritize previously shelved plans for infrastructure and development initiatives, reports Verdad Abierta
International organizations and representatives -- including the head of the UN Special Mission in Colombia and representatives from the UK parliament -- rebuked Colombia for the violence. The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) called on the U.S. government to "cease its aggressive demands for forced coca eradication, which places unnecessary pressure on Colombia’s security forces and could bring about more tragedies resembling what just happened in Tumaco." 
Semana reported that an international team of journalists, NGO representatives, and others who attempted to enter the community on Sunday were fired upon by police. Colombia's National Police have suspended four officers involved in the incident. 
News Briefs
  • Transparency International estimates that up to 90 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean have paid bribes, according to findings revealed in their latest survey. Mexico and the Dominican Republic had the highest number of respondents who reported having paid bribes, while Brazil had one of the lowest reported bribery rates. The survey involved 22,000 respondents in 20 countries. 
  • With support from the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Guatemala is creating a multi-disciplinary team to help track campaign financing irregularitiesreports elPeriodico. The team will report its findings to a specialized unit within the Attorney General's Office that focuses on campaign finance crimes, first created with the CICIG's backing in 2015.  
  • Ecuador's Constitutional Court is currently considering a national referendum proposed by President Lenin Moreno, which would ask citizens to vote on seven questions that would amend Ecuador's Constitution. The questions range from reinstating term limits for elected officials, to banning those convicted of corruption from running for public office. Overall, the proposed referendum would represent something of a reversal to the 2008 Constitutional reforms under President Rafael Correa.  
  • new El Faro-Univision collaboration looks at the surge of Honduran and Salvadoran migrants attempting to enter Belize, which has fueled a wave of anti-migrant backlash in the country. Belize does not report how many asylum applications it processes, but according to one Belizean NGO, during the peak of El Salvador's gang violence in 2015, some 300 people were attempting to cross the border into Belize every week. Belize has not granted refugee status to anyone for two decades and is unlikely to change its policy anytime soon, the article notes. 
  • The Associated Press reports on Sao Paulo's "Crackland," a hub for the city's crack cocaine trade, where those addicted to the drug can buy and use openly. Brazil has the largest crack cocaine market in the world, and the Sao Paulo city government has experimented with a number of measures -- from police raids to rehabilitation programs -- to "clean up" the area. Critics have likened the current attempt to aid "Crackland" as "symbolic of a larger campaign to 'sanitize' the city: to slap a coat of paint over social problems like poverty and homelessness while pursuing a revitalization of the dilapidated city center that could push working-class families out."
  • The New York Times reports on a plea deal that U.S. prosecutors made with Honduran drug trafficker Devis Rivera, one of the former heads of the Cachiros drug trafficking group, who began cooperating with the DEA in 2013. Rivera's clandestine collaboration with U.S. prosecutors enabled them to charge top Honduran police officials and politicians (including a former president's son) with drug trafficking crimes. However, as part of his plea deal, Rivera also admitted to participating in 78 killings, including the 2011 assassination of politician and counternarcotics official Alfredo Landaverde, and it is unlikely that he will ever face justice for those crimes in Honduras. 
  • The Washington Post examines President Trump's stance in Venezuela, with one unnamed White House official quoted as saying, "He talks about it all the time." Trump has mentioned Venezuela in the majority of his calls with Latin American leaders, and his tough rhetoric may be striking "the right tone" for the moment, given that many other international actors have recognized the need for increased international pressure on the Maduro government, the article says. 
  • Last week's resignation of a prominent radio host in Mexico -- who says he was forced out after criticizing government influence over the media -- is emblematic of how government media spending acts as a severe restriction on Mexico's freedom of speechreports The New York Times
  • The Guardian has an article and photo essay profiling the transgender community in Bogota, Colombia; while The New York Times reports on a Brazilian soap opera that includes a "dignified and nuanced portrayal" of a transgender man's transition. The show has earned many fans in the transgender community, at a time when Brazil's Supreme Court is about to consider two cases that could create an important precedent for transgender rights in the country. 
  • Buzzfeed chronicles the rise of Mexico's "narco-rap," in which -- continuing the tradition of Mexico's "narco-corrido" genre -- rappers are commissioned by gang members to write songs about their exploits. 
--- Elyssa Pachico

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