Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Mexican corruption affects campaigns (May 30, 2018)

  • For every peso spent on campaigning that political parties report to electoral authorities, another 15 flow under the table, according to a new study pointing to massive irregularities in Mexican campaign financing. The report by Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity comes a month before the presidential election and doesn't point to any one party, but rather a systemic issue, reports the Guardian. This week, Mexico's electoral authorities accused an independent candidate of irregular financing, including using citizens to front illicit contributions and using municipal employees to gather signatures in support of his candidacy. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Widespread corruption is a key issue in this year's electoral races in Mexico. At least 14 current and former governors are under investigation for corruption, and some are accused of cooperating with crime groups that have contributed to the country's rampant violence problem. "Although all of the presidential candidates have made comments about how they will combat corruption, a nascent structure for doing so already exists. A landmark anti-corruption reform package that created a National Anti-Corruption System (Sistema Nacional Anticorrupción, SNA) and laid the foundation for a tougher and more comprehensive approach to combating corruption entered into force in July 2016," explains WOLA.
  • Major Mexican business owners have been nudging -- or outrightly pushing -- their employees to vote against front-runner Andrés Manuel López Obrador, reports Bloomberg.
  • The latest Reforma poll shows AMLO winning 52 percent of the vote, the widest margin thus far in the campaign, reports the Dallas Morning News.
  • Animal Político and Univisión have teamed up with ProPublica to create a tool to track political ads on Facebook during Mexico's campaign.
Mexican violence
  • Reporter Héctor González Antonio was beaten to death in Tamaulipas, the sixth journalist killed so far in Mexico, reports Animal Político. He was the correspondent for national newspaper Excelsior, and his recent stories reflected the violence and corruption present in Tamaulipas state, reports the Associated Press. Artículo 19 said that 43 reporters have been killed in the nearly six-years Enrique Peña Nieto has governed the country, reports El País.
  • Mexican authorities detained the wife of Jalisco Cartel New Generation's leader, who allegedly helped manage the criminal group's finances, reports InSight Crime.
  • The introduction of military forces against organized crime in Mexico has been a major factor in criminal group fragmentation and drastic increase in violence in recent years, writes Evan Ellis in Military Review piece.
  • Nicaragua's government "adopted a strategy of repression, characterized by the excessive use of force, extrajudicial executions, control of the media, and the use of pro-government armed groups, to crush protests in which at least 81 people have been killed," Amnesty International said in a report yesterday. The report "documents the Nicaraguan police’s use of lethal weapons, the large numbers of people injured by firearms, the trajectory of shots fired, the concentration of bullet wounds in the head, neck and chest of those killed, and attempts to obstruct justice and cover up the nature of the killings. These patterns have led the organization to conclude that there is evidence that police and pro-government armed groups committed multiple extrajudicial executions." The report found that "the strategy for repression appears to have been directed from the highest levels of government." 
  • The AI team, currently in Nicaragua, was caught in an attack by pro-government gangs and security forces against one of the local universities involved in the protests, reports the BBC.
  • Oil workers threatened to go on strike today in Brazil, adding onto the chaos of a week-long truckers strike, reports Reuters. They are seeking to halt incessant price increases in fuel prices, explains El País.
  • The impact of week-long truckers strike in Brazil has been vast. The economic costs for farmers alone -- who have been slaughtering chickens prematurely because feed is unavailable -- is estimated at $1.76 billion, reports Reuters. And political observers are disconcerted by the banner of "military intervention," adopted by protesters this week, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • President Michel Temer promised not to deviate from his market  liberalization plan, despite the chaos, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • The Organization of American States (OAS) will present evidence from an international panel of independent experts that Venezuela’s government under President Nicolas Maduro has committed “crimes against humanity” to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The experts' report found that that state security forces or militant grassroots groups known as “colectivos” had murdered 131 people between 2014 and 2017, and that more than 1,300 political prisoners had been detained in Venezuela, reports Reuters.
  • Two active generals with Venezuela’s National Guard were part of a group of 15 military officials detained in the context of presidential elections earlier this month. Reuters reviewed documents showing that the number of new detentions of soldiers for treason, rebellion and desertion rose to 172 in the first four months of 2018. (See Monday's briefs.)
El Salvador
  • U.S. funded elite police officers in El Salvador are accused of extra-judicial killings of alleged gang members. CNN reports on a United Nations report, set to be released next month, that found "a pattern of behavior by security personnel amounting to extrajudicial executions."
  • Street camera evidence could contradict the police version of how a protester in El Alto died last week, reports the Associated Press. Victim Jonathan Quispe's lawyer said he was shot by police in the midst of a protest over university budget last week. The police initially said he was killed by a marble fired by protesters.
  • Guatemalan authorities seized a coca field and cocaine lab in the country for the first time, part of a string of discoveries indicating drug trafficking expansion into Central America, reports Reuters.
Central America
  • Last week the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved an amendment aimed at identifying corrupt government officials in Central America's Northern Triangle countries, reports InSight Crime.
  • Cuba's top scientist has urged the US and Canadian national science academies for a joint scientific inquiry to examine the evidence behind alleged sonic attacks that affected diplomats from those countries posted in Havana, reports the Guardian.
  • In a rare move, Brazil's government has provided armed backup to protect an indigenous group threatened by illegal loggers, reports Reuters.
  • The efforts of philanthropists Doug and Kristine Tompkins to preserve large tracts of Chilean and Argentine Patagonia are a laboratory for rewilding efforts worldwide, reports the Guardian. (Yes, the piece defines rewilding.)
Word of the Week: Machirulo
  • President Mauricio Macri sparred with his predecessor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, this week. In a televised speech, Macri urged lawmakers not to follow "Cristina's craziness," in reference to a plan to legislatively halt service tariff increases, reports Página 12. Fernández responded vía Twitter, saying that dismissing a woman as crazy is a typical stance for a "machirulo," a neologism used to refer to a machista who is proud of his stance.

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