Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Lat Am news briefs (Dec. 13, 2017)

  • Among the expenses that are out of reach for many Haitians is decent burial for deceased loved ones. Instead, bodies pile up until their faces melt, they are buried in common graves or simply left out in the open. A New York Times feature looks at a team of social workers who cary out the grisly work of giving these people a more dignified final resting spot. The piece traces their work to show the devastating effects of poverty in the country. "Like most Haitians, the men are intimately familiar with death in ways North Americans have not been for almost a century. They know people whose lives are cut short by violence or easily treated illnesses — dysentery, pneumonia, malnutrition, and more recently, cholera. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth add to the toll."
  • A group of Guatemalan indigenous women have launched a precedent-setting suit against a Canadian mining company they accuse of responsibility in abuses allegedly committed by security forces and mining security employees in 2007. The 11 women say they were raped repeatedly by the armed men, part of a push to force them to leave their ancestral lands near mines owned by Vancouver-based Skye Resources. In 2008, Skye was acquired by Toronto’s Hudbay Minerals, who sold the mine to a Russian company in 2011. "The lawsuits may offer a legal means of addressing a longstanding obstacle for human rights campaigners: the perceived legal disconnect between multinationals and the local subsidiaries who carry out their operations abroad," reports the Guardian.
  • Venezuelans of all political stripes have every reason to disbelieve "in civility or democracy while their nation slides into the abyss. However, dialogue and votes are still the country’s only hope, and Venezuelans cannot afford to be blinded by anger and desperation," argues Reynaldo Trombetta in a Guardian op-ed. He urges participation in upcoming elections. Instead of boycotting unfair circumstances, he urges the international community to help ensure "free and monitored presidential elections in 2018. The opposition can’t afford to get sidetracked by other demands: true democracy and freedom will only be possible after the elections lead to a regime change."
  • Migration out of Venezuela is one of the biggest in recent history, and could pose a humanitarian issue for Brazil, which is struggling to absorb the crush, according to Reuters. Social services, especially in areas bordering Venezuela, are overwhelmed and authorities are warning of a potential crisis.
  • Venezuelan authorities announced they are opening a corruption investigation into former oil minister Rafael Ramírez. Ramirez was ousted from his position as U.N. ambassador last week and left the U.S. for an undisclosed third country, reports the BBC.
  • David Smilde writes on the HIV treatment crisis in Venezuela at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. "Stock-outs of antiretroviral (ARV) therapy are the norm, undermining viral suppression and thereby exposing the patient to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Shortages of medicines and medical supplies contributed to a 75% increase in AIDS-related deaths from 2011 to 2015. This crisis is the result of a political conflict that has brought with it an economic collapse. Government corruption schemes based on foreign exchange distortions leave it without enough foreign currency to import basic goods leading to widespread shortages of food and medicines."
  • Josh Holt, a former Mormon missionary who has been held in Venezuela for almost 18 months, will stand trial on weapons charges, despite growing fears about his health, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Candidates in Mexico's presidential race are engaged in a race to simulate what they are not, argues Diego Fonseca in a New York Times Español op-ed. Populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador is making efforts to appear a moderate centrist, while former first lady Margarita Zavala, of the conservative PAN party inner circle is running as an independent. The leftist PRD and right-wing PAN have allied in an electoral front. And the ruling PRI party is combating it's reputation for corruption and abuses by fronting an independent technocrat who must now be marketed as a man of the people. Fonseca mocks the transformation of former finance minister José Antonio Meade into the rally-attending, glad-handing Pepe Meade who smiles in campaign posters.
  • Changes proposed by Mexican senators for a security bill that would legislate the military's role in internal security were characterized as merely cosmetic by organizations of civil society that continue to criticize the measure, reports Animal Político.
  • The wife of the disgraced former Veracruz governor Javier Duarte is living in the U.K. and has asked the Mexican government to return artwork, golf clubs and crystal seized by prosecutors, reports Reuters. Duarte is awaiting trial on charges of embezzlement and organized crime, in a case that public auditors said was the worst they had ever seen in Mexico.
  • The human rights situation in the Dominican Republic has deteriorated in 2017, the head of the independent National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) said this week. He said roughly 180 civilians have died this year in alleged shootouts with soldiers or police, reports EFE.
  • Salvadoran judges delayed a decision on whether to free a woman who was sentenced to 30 years in prison after she gave birth to a stillborn baby, reports Democracy Now. Teodora Vásquez has maintained her innocence, saying she called an ambulance late in her pregnancy and passed out. When she woke up her newborn was dead. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2008 for aggravated murder, reports the BBC. Human rights groups have voiced concern that the judges hearing her review are the same ones who sentenced her in 2008.
  • A Brazilian woman who took her request for an abortion to the country's Supreme Court has terminated her pregnancy in Colombia to avoid punishment at home. Rebeca Mendes petitioned the court for permission to abort -- though her case does not fit into the narrow window of permitted abortions, which include danger to mothers life and fetal inviability -- when she was six weeks pregnant. In an interview with the Associated Press, she "said her decision was not just an economic one. The single mother of two boys, ages 6 and 9, said a third child would have substantially affected her family, both financially and emotionally."
  • Rogério Avelino da Silva, alias “Rogério 157,” was arrested by Brazilian security forces last week, but "while Rio authorities have hailed Rogério’s arrest as a win in the fight against organized crime, experts told InSight Crime that his capture is unlikely to disrupt existing criminal control over Rocinha, and could lead to further violent turf wars."
  • Rio de Janeiro's Evangelical Christian mayor has made the city a petri-dish for the Brazil's culture wars. Marcelo Crivella has slashed funding for the Carnival, a gay pride parade, and a celebration of a syncretic ocean goddess -- all in the name of fiscal austerity, but advancing a religiously conservative cultural agenda according to critics. The battle between conservatives and social progressives is increasingly pitched in Brazil, and lawmakers that form part of the "Bullets, Bulls, and Bible" caucus (pro-gun, rural and Evangelical) are showing their power, reports the Washington Post.
  • Residents near the world’s fourth largest hydroelectric power plant, in Brazil, say the Belo Monte dam has made their houses prone to floods of waste water, reports the Guardian.
  • Bolivian lawmakers voted to ease the country's tight restrictions on abortion last week. The measure will allow “students, adolescents or girls” to have abortions up to the eighth week of pregnancy, reports the Associated Press.
  • Nueva Fuerabamba, a remote town in Peru’s southern Andes, was supposed to be an example of how mining companies can mitigate communities displaced by the extraction industry. "But three years after moving in, many transplants are struggling amid their suburban-style conveniences, Reuters interviews with two dozen residents showed. Many miss their old lives growing potatoes and raising livestock. Some have squandered their cash settlements. Idleness and isolation have dulled the spirits of a people whose ancestors were feared cattle rustlers."
  • A portion of Gabriel García Marquez's archive has been digitized and made freely available online by the University of Texas' Harry Ransom Center. This includes  drafts and other material relating to all of García Márquez’s major books, including "One Hundred Years of Solitude," reports the New York Times.

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