Monday, August 20, 2018

18 human rights activists killed in Guatemala this year (Aug. 20, 2018)

News Briefs

  • Eighteen human rights activists have been killed in Guatemala this year. Of these 13 were involved in land conflicts, and 9 were members of Codeca, a group of indigenous farmers that defends people from evictions, land grabs and pollution resulting from mines, hydro dams, logging, and huge palm oil and sugar cane developments. The Guardian reports that a high-level, UN-backed mission to Guatemala "will suggest in a report to be published this week that although the men may have been killed by local hitmen, the killings have probably been orchestrated by more powerful political and financial interests, with links to the drug trade and the military."
  • Residents in the Brazilian border town of Paracaraima attacked Venezuelan migrant camps. As many as 1,200 Venezuelans crossed back into the home country they were fleeing. The attacks -- which included burning tents and chasing migrants -- stemmed from what was initially a demonstration against the impact the migrants have had on locals. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have poured into Brazil's Roraima state, part of a mass exodus of over 2 million from the crisis wracked country. (New York Times)
  • Ecuador's government announced new rules requiring Venezuelan migrants to hold valid passports in order to cross the border. Ecuador has become the latest flashpoint in the Venezuelan refugee crisis -- earlier this month authorities said more than half a million Venezuelans had entered the country this year. (See Aug. 13's post.)
  • Dozens of desperate Venezuelans defied new Ecuadorean regulations and crossed the border from Colombia without passports. Authorities appeared to allow the irregular crossings, reports Reuters.
  • La Silla Vacía visits the Rumichaca crossing between Colombia and Ecuador, where most of the migrants seek to cross.
  • Colombia's new Duque administration has been less of a radical change than one might have expected from campaign promises: at least 15 high level officials under the previous Santos administration have formed part of the new government, reports La Silla Vacía.
  • The government is testing herbicide carrying drones in order to reimplement aerial fumigation of illicit coca crops, reports the Wall Street Journal. Authorities say the application is more targeted and less likely to impact legal crops growing close by.
  • U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis met with Duque on Friday. The Venezuelan crisis was reportedly on the agenda. (EFE)
  • Colombian President Iván Duque ratified a decision to withdraw from the UNASUR regional bloc, calling it functional to the Venezuelan "dictatorship." (Europa Press
  • The group has been increasingly fractured in recent years, and half of the twelve member states (those with more conservative governments) are considering a permanent exit. (Deutsche Welle)
Latin American Left
  • Latin America's leftists have been increasingly divided in recent years -- first over Venezuela, and now over Nicaragua, rights Rafael Rojas in a New York Times Español op-ed. The division is between the autocratic left, that continues to support the Maduro administration, and the democratic left that condemns the violence in Nicaragua, writes the author who examines the diplomatic trends in the region as well. 
  • OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro reiterated his call for Nicaragua to hold new elections in order to return to democracy after months of protests have resulted in over 300 deaths. (AFP)
  • The OAS has created a working group to follow the Nicaraguan crisis. It must ensure that the experts can rigorously supervise the human rights situation and impede the Ortega administration from using forced disappearances and other human rights crimes to remain in power, argue Human Rights Watch's José Miguel Vivanco and Juan Pappier in a New York Times Español op-ed. There are numerous cases of people kidnapped by the "parapolice" who are tortured and later handed over to police authorities, they write.
Dominican Republic - Haiti
  • Four people were wounded in a shootout on the Haiti - Dominican Republic border. DR authorities say their soldiers were trying to stop a contraband shipment of cement from the neighboring country. (Associated Press)
  • A new Peruvian law aims to return remains of victims of conflict between the state and Maoist guerrillas to families more quickly. More than 20,300 Peruvians are still considered “disappeared” in the struggle between Peru’s military and Shining Path rebels during the 1980s and 1990s, reports the Associated Press.
  • Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, jailed on corruption charges, should have full political rights while the appeals process against his conviction continues, said United Nations Human Rights Committee on Friday. This means allowing the popular former leader to run for president. (Reuters)
  • Indigenous groups say their children are being forcibly taken from them and institutionalized. (The Intercept)
  • Honduras has the region's highest rate of rapes, according to Médecins Sans Frontières. (Criterio)
  • The Argentine government is deploying military troops to fortify its borders. The measure alters a strict separation of the armed forces from internal security -- in place since the country's return to democracy in 1983 -- with little justification in the country's actual security challenges, write CELS's Gastón Chillier and Paula Litvachky in a New York Times Español op-ed. Authorities referred terrorist and drug trafficking threats, though its not clear that either is very pressing for the country. The measures announced will be risky for human rights, and don't take into account structural challenges to combating the illicit drug trade: police corruption, an inefficient judicial system and the ease of laundering assets in Argentina.
  • Argentina's Macri administration is running out of options to shore up the battered peso, after interest rate hikes and selling reserves, say experts. (Reuters)
  • Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador said citizens should determine the fate of a $15.7 billion airport project. AMLO promised to scrap the new Mexico City airport during his campaign this year, but is now promising a consultation on the issue. (Associated Press)
  • Guerrero state legislators are pushing for the national government to legalize opium production for pharmaceutical use. They hope the measure would reduce violence in the country's main heroin producing state and provide an alternative for farmers. Incoming Interior Minister Olga Sanchez has expressed support for nationwide legalization of opium production for medical purposes, reports the Associated Press.
Transitional justice
  • Animal Político interviews Xiomara Balanta Moreno, vice president of the Colombian Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz (JEP) for insights on how the system of transitional justice is working and how it might apply -- or not -- to Mexico's organized crime related violence.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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