Friday, August 10, 2018

Nicaraguan security forces detain, torture protesters (Aug. 10, 2018)

News Briefs

  • Alongside brutal repression of protesters that has killed hundreds in Nicaragua over the past four months, arbitrary detentions and abuses by security forces of alleged protesters have become common, reports the Associated Press. The piece interviews students who detail torture by police while under detention. The Nicaraguan Human Rights Center said the government is carrying out a systematic manhunt for those involved in unrest.
  • Brazil broke its own grim homicide record last year: 63,880 people were killed in 2017 – a 3 percent increase from the previous year, reports the Guardian. The Brazilian Public Security Forum found that an average of 14 people died at the hands of police officers every day – an increase of 20 percent from the previous year. Rapes also rose 8 percent to 60,018, while murders of women increased 6.1 percent to 4,539.
  • Brazilians head to the ballot box in October, in a race that remains unusually unpredictable. More than a quarter of the country's voters remain undecided, and nearly a third say they may spoil their ballots or cast blank votes. It seems increasingly likely that front-runner Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will be blocked from running next week. The remaining candidates each have small percentages of support, meaning a candidate could reach an eventual run-off vote with just 15 percent of the vote, notes the Economist.
  • Right-wing firebrand Jair Bolsonaro remains a frontrunner in Brazil's elections -- but his admiration of dictatorship and iron fist political leanings pose a danger to the country's democracy, argues the Economist in another piece. However, polls show that 60 percent of the country's voters are opposed to Bolsonaro, suggesting he would be defeated in an eventual second round of voting.
  • Peru's top courts are in chaos after leaked wire taps show extensive influence peddling and corruption. Calls for reform have been met with promises but little substance so far. President Martín Vizcarra has proposed a series of reforms aimed at combating judicial corruption, and could hold a citizen referendum to vote on them. Journalists have been threatened with criminal charges in an attempt to force them to reveal their sources -- a move criticized by the Organization of American States and the Committee to Protect Journalists. (InSight Crime)
  • An investigation by InSight Crime looks at alleged financing from Mexican and Guatemalan organized crime groups to former Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom's 2007 campaign.
  • Former National Assembly president Julio Borges rejected as absurd allegations that he participated in an alleged assassination attempt against President Nicolás Maduro, reports the Guardian. He was stripped of parliamentary immunity this week, and authorities ordered his arrest. Borges is living in exile in Colombia. (See yesterday's briefs and Monday's post.)
  • The drone attempt against Maduro demonstrates his vulnerability to a coup, argues the Economist
  • A new Venezuelan law allows citizens to freely exchange foreign currency, but did not immediately impact the parallel rate of approximately 3.5 million Bolivares to the dollar, reports David Smilde in his Venezuela Weekly.
  • Hundreds of Chavista peasants marched to Caracas and denounced corruption, influence trafficking, and the jailing of 34 of their fellow peasants on national television. (Venezuela Weekly)
  • A confusing government announcement in July, regarding a new citizen security initiative called "Great Socialist Mission Quadrants of Peace" appears to be "simply the new name for the overarching security structure of the government, substituting for the previous Great Mission Socialist Justice," explains Hugo Pérez Hernáiz at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights.
  • Fuel is technically dirt cheap in Venezuela -- but drivers confront a failing infrastructure, decreased production, and lack of mechanical parts that make actually using cars prohibitive, reports the Guardian.
  • Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador won July's election by a landslide -- obtaining comfortable majorities in both chambers of congress and majorities in many states. But the lack of a strong opposition could wind up hurting AMLO's government argues CIDE investigator Carlos Bravo Regidor in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Even with NAFTA under threat, Mexico's participation in the U.S. automotive industry is thriving -- largely driven by low labor costs, reports the Washington Post.
  • Fifty manatees have been found dead in Mexico's Tabasco state, near major oil wells. (Washington Post)
Costa Rica
  • Costa Rica's Supreme Court has ruled that the country's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional and discriminatory. Lawmakers have 18 months to change the current law, reports the BBC. President Carlos Alvarado welcomed the ruling on what became a central electoral issue earlier this year.
  • Ecuador's government should prioritize protecting indigenous activists attacked for their campaigns against extractivist industries said Amnesty International's Americas director, Erika Guevara-Rosas. (Americas Quarterly)
  • Argentina's senate vote against legalizing abortion fell largely along age and gender lines -- most most senators over 50 years of age voted against the reform as did more than half the men, reports the Guardian. The result plays into activists promises that the law will pass sooner or later. (See yesterday's post.) 
  • In the meantime, lawmakers in favor of abortion promise to keep the issue on the agenda and activists hope to make it a central campaign topic in the upcoming electoral year. (La Nación) And activists around Latin America emphasized the importance of the near win in galvanizing womens' rights movements around the region. (New York Times)
  • The penal code reform bill the government will present to Congress later this month is being spun as a potential decriminalization of abortion -- a sort of midway point between the full legalization activists demand and the current situation. But the proposal maintains jail-time for women who abort and for the doctors who assist them -- leaving the ability to exonerate the in hands of individual judges, explains Página 12.
  • Abortion opponents argued fervently for sexual education initiatives to help avoid unintended pregnancies in the first place -- a silver lining of the legalization loss might be increased funding for programs targeting teen pregnancy and potentially reforming Argentina's difficult adoption laws. (La Nación)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 

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