Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Colombia's violent peace (May 2, 2018)

  • Rights groups asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the killings of social leaders in Colombia. Homicides of rights defenders have soared since the 2016 peace deal with the FARC -- last year 120 were killed, mostly by hit men, and human rights groups say the government is not investigating properly, reports the Guardian. The Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CCAJAR), based in Bogotá, which submitted the dossier jointly with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, argues that the systematic nature of the killings, the amount of victims, and the government's failure to investigate and protect at risk people amount to crimes against humanity. The piece notes that experts had predicted that a power vacuum in the wake of FARC demobilization would lead to violence. Rights groups have been criticizing the government's failure to protect activists. In March the U.N. human rights office urged the government to punish those responsible for the growing number of killings.
  • Colombia's government has failed to fill the power vacuum left by the demobilized FARC in its former territories, opening a power struggle between other militants, criminal gangs and paramilitary groups who are fighting to control lucrative illegal industries ranging from drug trafficking to illegal mining and extortion, reports Reuters, based on extensive on the ground reporting in Tumaco.
  • Ecuador is a relative bastion of safety in terms of homicides. But the low rates fail to take into account the Colombian border areas, where spill-over violence has increased drastically in recent months, reports Forbes.
  • Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro says that the war on drugs is only causing deaths. He promised to roll out economic and social programs that would give coca farmers real alternatives, thus undermining drug cartels, reports the Miami Herald.
News Briefs

  • In Honduras environmental activists also face mortal danger -- the case of Berta Cáceres' killing is emblematic of the issue. But increasingly, environmental defenders have also been challenged with criminal proceedings that bog down their struggles against extractive industries setting up in their communities, reports the Guardian.
  • Fake news flooding Mexico ahead of July's election, in which citizens will choose a new president and over 3,400 elected positions at the local, state and federal levels, more than in any other election in Mexican history. Though some observers are concerned about alleged Russian interference, Mexican authorities are more concerned over attempts to undermine the integrity of the system, such as an online rumor telling citizens they would have to reregister in order to vote, reports the New York Times. Experts point to the increasing importance of social media and the prevalence of bots and trolls generating election related content. The piece references Verificado, a fact-checking organization that has defused many electoral rumors.
  • The latest Reforma poll maintains Andrés Manuel López Obrador's strong lead, with 48 percent intention of vote, 18 points ahead of his closest rival, Ricardo Anaya, reports Animal Político.
  • About 25 asylum seekers gathered at the San Ysidro crossing into the U.S. were allowed to begin the process of applying yesterday -- a trickle of the 150 members of a migrant caravan that has attracted international attention after U.S. President Donald Trump singled it out. The administration's hands are largely tied when it comes to asylum seekers, reports the Washington Post. But some advocates fear the enormous amount of attention these migrants have attracted will push authorities to deport them quickly. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Migrant "caravans are a product of militarized borders and increased deportations, not the cause of them. Marching migrants are not part of a hostile takeover, but rather the effect of one," writes Levi Vonk in a Guardian opinion piece. 
  • Guardian analysis of settlements in relation to the U.S. Border Patrol reveals a troublesome history of the agency's interactions with civilians, both native-born and immigrant. 
  • Thousands of Haitians who sought to move to the U.S. are stranded in Mexico, where they can stay on humanitarian visas, but not work legally, reports IPS.
  • Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is seeking to ensure military loyalty by increasing the armed forces' access to loans, benefits and turning over control of businesses to officers, reports the Miami Herald. The issue is becoming more pressing as general citizen discontent spills over into barracks, according to the piece.
Paradise lost
  • The Cayman Islands and Bermuda are pushing back against newly passed UK legislation that would force the overseas territories to open company ownership registers to public scrutiny, reports the Guardian.
  • Relatives of victims of Chile's dictatorship hope that a new excavation will shed light on the fate of their loved ones. Authorities are looking for a mass grave on the site of "Colonia Dignidad," the religious sect run by a former Nazi, which was also used as a clandestine torture center by dictator Augusto Pinochet, reports the Guardian.
Puerto Rico
  • Thousands of people protesting against school closings and potential pension cuts were tear gassed by police in San Juan, Puerto Rico, reports the New York Times
Drug mule puppies
  • A Colombian vet is accused of implanting liquid heroin in puppies to turn them into drug mules for a Colombian trafficking ring, reports the Guardian.

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take?  Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing

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