Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Mexican court orders new Ayotzinapa investigation (June 5, 2018)

A Mexican federal court ordered the government to reinvestigate the 2014 disappearances of 43 students from Ayotzinapa. The court said the investigation carried out by the federal prosecutors office (PGR) was not quick, effective, independent, nor impartial, reports Animal Político

The landmark ruling criticized the government case, which has been accused of using torture to force confessions, and would put a new investigation under the supervision of a truth commission to be led by the nation’s top human rights body and parents of the victims, reports the New York Times

The decision demands the government fund the truth commission, and that the group have free and immediate access to all areas that might have relevant evidence, including areas under military control, explains Animal Político in a separate piece.

The Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez and families of the victims hailed the decision, noting that the judges considered the PGR omitted lines of investigation that implicated the military and police forces in the disappearances, reports El País.

The abductions which occurred in Iguala, Guerrero state, have become emblematic of the country's forced disappearance problem. (There have been 21,286 disappearances during the current Peña Nieto administration, reports the Associated Press in a piece looking at the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team's efforts to identify remains.)

For years the government has clung to a version of events rejected by an international group of experts reviewing the evidence. The version of events dubbed the "historical truth" by the government claimed the students were abducted by corrupt police, who handed them over to a criminal gang that killed them and burned the bodies in an outdoor dump in Cocula.

But an international group of experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found significant flaws in the investigation and said the incineration hypothesis was impossible, reports Reuters. Authorities have detained 129 people in the case, some of whom confessed to the kidnapping, execution and incineration version of events, reports BBC Mundo.

But in March a report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights' office found that Mexico's investigation into the disappearance of 43 students who disappeared in 2014 was marked by "a pattern of committing, tolerating and covering up torture." The report draws on judicial files, interviews with authorities, detainees and witnesses to conclude that there is evidence that at least 34 of the individuals prosecuted in relation to the Ayotzinapa case were tortured. (See March 15's post.)

Yesterday the PGR rejected the ruling, saying it ignored division of powers and that reports of torture were being investigated. 

Presidential front-runner Andrés Manuel López Obrador recently promised to create a truth commission, with U.N. participation, to investigate the case, should he win next month's election, reports TeleSUR.

Other Mexico news

  • AMLO is expected to win the presidency handily on July 1, the question is only by how much, writes Guillermo Osorno, in a New York Times Español op-ed. He argues country might be on the brink of a political paradigm shift comparable to the Thatcher and Reagan eras -- "personalities who realigned political alliances and national priorities, in an also shifting international context."
  • He's also promised to slash government spending, starting in the presidential palace, which he said he'll turn into a public park, reports the Washington Post. He also intends to sell the entire fleet of government planes and helicopters and halve his own salary.
  • "The Commercial War Begins"
Patrick Chappatte/New York Times Español

News Briefs

  • Six people were killed in clashes on Sunday between police and anti-government protesters. One of the victims was a 15-year-old boy, while eye-witness accounts say another was summarily executed by a police officer beside a church, reports Confidencial.
  • Throughout the past month and a half of conflict in Nicaragua, a constant has been reports of violence perpetrated by armed pro-government groups. Confidencial reports on paramilitary groups, whose existence has been denied by the government. They are composed of Managua municipal workers, police officers dressed as civilians, former cops, former combatants, and gang members from Managua and other cities. They operate at night, and their mission is to sow terror, according to Confidencial's source. The Comisión Permanente de Derechos Humanos (CPDH) has gathered accounts of kidnappings and torture by masked groups.
  • Pope Francis called for an end to violence in Nicaragua on Sunday, reports Reuters.
  • The Public Ministry criticized an Honduran Constitutional Court decision last week that validated an international anti-corruption commission, but invalidated the government arm created to work with it, reports Criterio. Anti-corruption groups criticized the decision on Friday, noting that it strikes a blow at the OAS backed MACCIH's work in Honduras, reports Reuters.
  • The OAS is set to vote on suspending Venezuela today -- a call pushed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence. Venezuela was scornful of the move, noting that it had started withdrawal from the organization last year, but the process takes two years and will be effective next April, reports the Washington Post.
  • In a New York Times op-ed Jorge Castañeda links the Venezuelan crisis to Cuban economic difficulties and argues that Chávez and the Castro's brand of 21st century socialism is utterly bankrupt.
  • Amid Venezuela's increasing chaos, Colombia's rebel groups are finding fertile operating grounds, reports the Miami Herald. (See May 25's briefs for an InSight Crime report on the subject.)
  • Killings of former FARC fighters, at an apparently increasing rate, endanger the fragile peace process, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • In Brazil's utterly polarized political scene, one thing commentators from across the spectrum agree on is that it's a delicate moment for the country. The ten day trucker strike that brought the country to its knees; the fact that most of the country supported strikers but not any reasonable measure to meet their demands; and indications of increasingly less faith in democracy are all troublesome factors the Guardian points to.
Ni Una Menos: Peru
  • Women's rights activists are incensed by insensitive comments by Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra after a woman died from burns inflicted by a stalker. "Sometimes that’s how life is and we have to accept it," he said, offering condolences to the family of Eyvi Agreda. She died from infections caused by an April attack by a stalker which left 60 percent of her body covered in second and third-degree burns, reports the Guardian. She had complained of harassment for two years, but her family said the police had not responded.
  • New York Times Español op-ed by Gabriela Wiener focuses on the case that inspired Peru's Ni Una Menos movement, a young lawyer, Arlette Contreras, brutally harassed by her former partner, who she accused of rape and attempted femicide. He was captured on hotel security cameras chasing her naked, hitting and dragging Contreras down the hall by her hair. He was convicted in 2016, but absolved the next year. Now he's accused Contreras of false testimony and she faces potential prison time.
  • The death count from a Guatemalan volcanic eruption is at least 65, and the number of missing was still unclear yesterday, reports the New York Times. The death toll was expected to rise further as rescue workers searched through knee deep ash near the Fuego volcano. Authorities said aid 3,271 people had been evacuated from the vicinity of the volcano, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Human rights groups denounced a government proposal to use the Armed Forces in Argentina's internal security, reports Página 12.
El Salvador
  • Social work in El Salvador, with a long legacy of violence and child abandonment, is a difficult task. The Guardian profiles the work of the Salvadoran Institute for the Integral Development of Children and Adolescents in San Salvador.

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