Tuesday, February 6, 2018

U.N. Rapporteur says Salvadoran police may have committed extrajudicial killings (Feb. 6, 2018)

News Briefs
  • Police in El Salvador may have committed extrajudicial killings and used excessive force in their battle against violent street gangs, said the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard. Callamard was on a two-week tour of the country, and said her findings did not indicate a state policy, but rather actions of a few members of security forces, reports Reuters. "I have found a pattern of behavior between security personnel that could be considered as extrajudicial killings," Callamard told a news conference, without giving further details."This is fomented more by weak answers from public institutions," she said. Rights groups accuse the government of at least 1,000 illegal executions since 2014, notes Deutsche Welle.
  • A Venezuelan victim of horrific sexual abuse has taken her case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The hearing today will be the first related to gender-based violence in Venezuela to be judged by the court. Linda Loaiza was kidnapped and abused for four months in a Caracas apartment in 2001. She determined to take her case to the international body because of the failure of the Venezuelan justice system. Scores of judges refused to take her case, and her abductor was never charged with rape, reports the Guardian.
  • The Venezuelan government has named a controversial official as "protector" of the opposition-governed border state of Táchira. The move is significant not only politically -- he is expected to try wrest power from opposition leaders -- but also involves "social control over a volatile but strategically critical region," reports InSight Crime. Freddy Bernal, the new Táchira protector, is one of many Venezuelan officials on the U.S. Treasury Department's Kingpinlist. "Bernal is infamous for his connections to the armed actors that have used their control over criminal economies to become key players along the Táchira-Norte de Santander border."
  • Colombian presidential and legislative elections this year could leave the implementation of the FARC peace deal in the hands of leaders with a significantly different vision to that of President Juan Manuel Santos. That could mean that the more complicated social and economic reforms promised as part of the agreement will be left by the roadside, experts told Americas Quarterly. Lawmakers have been cool regarding several initiatives mandated by the agreement, and Santos is running low on political capital. "According to the Kroc Institute, a think tank, Colombia’s Congress has so far approved eight legislative initiatives tied to the peace accords. But legislators are still reviewing 12 peace deal laws, including one that would give deferential legal treatment to coca growers, and another to create a national system for agricultural innovation." And Santos unpopularity means backing the agreements is a poor electoral bet ... 
  • With Chilean President Michelle Bachelet's tenure ending, an era of female leaders in the region is drawing to a close. Though Latin American countries have made inroads into gender disparity in politics, using quotas and affirmative action policies, political crises are showing that there is still a double standard when it comes to women and male presidents, argues Jennifer Piscopo in a New York Times op-ed. "My research shows that political parties from the left and right nominate fewer women when voters think the economy is doing poorly. Political parties on both sides also nominate fewer women when there is increased competition. In Latin America, disillusionment has fueled the growth of new parties. More choices for voters means fewer seats for each party — and parties with fewer seats to win appear less likely to take chances on women. More women in office also does not mean less discrimination or harassment. The glass ceiling remains."
  • Top security officials in Mexico and Brazil are questioning traditional organized crime fighting strategies, but that is unlikely to translate to concrete policy changes, according to InSight Crime
  • A person protesting against Honduras' questioned election results was killed on Monday when military police fired live rounds to clear demonstrators from a highway near the country’s Caribbean coast, reports the Associated Press.
  • The Honduran attorney general and the Asociación para una Sociedad más Justa have challenged an Honduran reform that would complicate anti-corruption prosecution efforts, reports InSight Crime. (See Jan. 24's post.)
  • A recent Associated Press report linking top Honduran police officials with drug trafficking could delegitimize the work of a special police commission aimed at rooting out corrupt cops, according to InSight Crime. (See Jan. 26's briefs.) The commission is investigating the allegations made in the report, linking Police Director José David Aguilar Morán with Wilter Blanco Ruíz, the leader of the Atlantic Cartel.
  • Guatemalan authorities have arrested 28 people, including nine police officers, in a bust of a network allegedly involved in organized crime and drug trafficking, reports the Associated Press.
  • There have been media reports of how Trump is casting a shadow over Mexican elections and drawing out nationalism in the electorate, but voters will likely focus more on national sources of discontent in choosing the next president, argues Shannon O'Neill in a Bloomberg column. In fact, U.S. influence has been positive in one of the country's key challenges, that of corruption, she writes, noting the impact of "high-profile [U.S.] prosecutions of insider trading, bribery, market manipulation and outright fraud."
  • The Washington Post portrays Ecuador's referendum as part of a series of defeats for the populist left-wing movements of the region. (See yesterday's post.)
  • A letter sent to the Pope in 2015 by a Chilean victim of sexual abuse has raised questions over his continued defense of a bishop accused of covering up for a pedophile priest, reports the New York Times.
  • Farmers in Mexico's Mexicali valley fear a U.S. brewery will suck up the little water left for agriculture in the area, reports the Guardian.
  • Zika babies are now two, and the their developmental delays are devastating their families, reports the Guardian.
  • Amazon Watch launched a campaign today on calling on e-commerce giant Amazon.com to take real action to stop destruction of the biome after which CEO Jeff Bezos named his company. Amazon Watch, as part of its ongoing work to stop Amazon destruction, is pressuring Amazon.com to speak out about the importance of protecting the Amazon rainforest, cut its use of Amazonian crude oil, and invest in vehicles powered by renewable energy.
  • The Guardian profiles the sudden change in lifestyle for people living along the Xingu river in Brazil, displaced to urban poverty by the Belo Horizonte dam. The "ribeirinhos" are "one of the most invisible, misunderstood populations in Brazil," according to the piece. "Accustomed to changing islands and indifferent to the concept of land as merchandise, they often confound people when they proclaim their freedom. ... They all work hard, because forest life is tough, but they only do what they want, when they want. Converting them into the urban poor drains them of their essence."

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