Thursday, August 30, 2018

Ortega wants names of Costa Rican asylum seekers (Aug. 30, 2018)

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega will ask Costa Rica's government to reveal the names of asylum seekers fleeing Nicaragua. Speaking at a Managua rally, Ortega said 26,000 people have left Nicaragua for Costa Rica, and that "those that feel free of sin" can return home without fear of persecution. (El País)

Ortega said the information would be used to inform the Costa Rican government of criminal charges against the Nicaraguans in question -- but Costa Rica's foreign ministry said the information is confidential. (Confidencial)

According to the U.N., 23,000 Nicaraguans have sought refuge in Costa Rica since the violent repression of anti-government protests started in mi April. Activists say official crossing points between the two countries are manned by Nicaraguan military officials with lists of opposition activists and orders to detain them and hand them over to the police.

U.N. Human Rights Office report presented yesterday emphasized the judicial persecution of demonstrators and those considered opposition activists. "These trials have serious flaws and do not observe due process, including the impartiality of the courts." (See yesterday's post.)

The Nicaraguan government has declared war on it's people, writes Gioconda Belli in Foreign Affairs. A wave of repression against protesters over the past four months -- claiming over 300 lives, wounding over 2,000, and harassing dissidents with arbitrary detentions and judicial persecution -- is like a return to the old Somoza dictatorship, she argues. "Civic, non-violent resistance can at times look useless before a well-armed dictatorship intent on holding its ground. It is not. Ortega has lost all legitimacy as a ruler. His wife has become a pathetic figure, weaving unbelievable and perverse tales. Repression might allow them to hold on to power a while longer, but it is clear they are standing on quicksand." (See yesterday's post.)

News Briefs

  • Colombia is the primary receiving country for the Venezuelan exodus, and has served as a kind of weathervane for the region's response to the refugee crisis. Though Colombia has allowed up to a million Venezuelans to enter the country, the refugees are in increasingly dire straights, write WOLA's Geoff Ramsey and Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli in a New York Times op-ed. They call on Colombia to show a more humanitarian response to the fleeing Venezuelans, and the international community to support those efforts.
  • At Americas Quarterly, Oliver Stuenkel argues for a coherent regional strategy to address the refugee crisis.
  • Brazilian President Michel Temer said yesterday that the country might significantly reduce the number of Venezuelans permitted entry each day, but then backtracked. "... a sign of how fraught the issue has become as thousands flee political and economic turmoil in the neighboring country," according to the Associated Press.
  • Venezuelans are now the largest group by nationality of asylum seekers in the U.S. But increasingly they are denied asylum, despite the Trump administration's criticisms of the Venezuelan government, reports the Associated Press.
  • Venezuela's petro, the digital currency backed by oil reserves, is selling in billions and is used to pay for imports according to the government. But Reuters found that it's hard to spot anywhere -- "The coin is not sold on any major cryptocurrency exchange. No shops are known to accept it." Critics say the oil peg is fictitious, based on oil reserves the government can't afford to tap.
  • Subsidized fuel illegally smuggled from Venezuelan into Colombia has enriched a relatively new criminal group called Cartel de Contrabando. InSight Crime reports on how it works.
El Salvador
  • Police in El Salvador arrested more than 400 gang members this week -- the largest crackdown to date against MS-13, reports the Associated Press. The arrests include at least 18 leaders of the criminal organization. But the "Pacific Harpoon" operation also aimed to undermine the gang's financial network, and businessmen associated with gang leaders, reports Univisión. Prosecutors ordered over 600 detentions, reports AFP.
  • Former Salvadoran president Antonio Saca's trial over the alleged diversion of over $300 million during his term ended yesterday. Sentencing is set for Sept. 12, reports AFP. Prosecutors asked that former officials return funds to the state, reports La Prensa Gráfica. (See Aug. 15's briefs.)
  • Police should receive medals, not prosecution, for killing alleged criminals, said Brazil's polemic right-wing presidential candidate, Jair Bolsonaro. (Associated Press) Earlier this month, the Brazilian Public Security Forum reported that an average of 14 people died at the hands of police officers every day in 2017 – an increase of 20 percent from the previous year. (See Aug. 10's briefs.)
  • Gang war between the country's biggest criminal organizations -- the PCC and the CV -- will be a hot potato for Brazil's next president, according to El País.
  • Mexican president-elect Andres Manuel López Obrador will soon meet with the independent experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and will seek to resume their work on the landmark Ayotzinapa case, reports Reuters. AMLO has promised a truth commission for the case of the 43 teachers college students who disappeared in 2014. Yesterday outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto reiterated support for the government hypothesis that the students were murdered and incinerated in a garbage dump by a criminal gang. But numerous national and international experts have questioned this conclusion, and the IACHR experts said the government investigation was flawed, including the torture of witnesses who had allegedly participated in the disappearance of the students.
  • AMLO's proposed plans to reform Mexico's security agencies follow a long tradition of much heralded -- and failed --revolutions in the country's approach to national security, argues InSight Crime.
  • Mexico's new congress was sworn in yesterday -- AMLO's coalition has a majority in both chambers, the first absolute majority since 1994. (Jornada and AFP)
  • Former Mexican diplomat Andrés Rozenthal criticizes Mexico and Canada's lack of unity in renegotiating NAFTA, which he says played into U.S. President Donald Trump's strategy. (Globe and Mail)
  • Argentina's peso continued to lose value yesterday. President Mauricio Macri sought to reassure markets with a request to the IMF for early release of a $50 billion loan. But, the brief announcement decreased confidence and pushed the peso further down. It has lost more than 40 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar this year, and inflation is rampant in a country where the value of many goods and services tends to be tied to the dollar, reports the BBC. Appealing to the IMF in the midst of financial crisis brings back bad memories for Argentines scarred by the 2001 crisis, notes the Associated Press. The peso continued to drop this morning, and the Central Bank hiked interest rates up to 60 percent to try to stop the free fall, reports El País.
  • Haitian protesters in Port-au-Prince and Les Cayes demanded trials for government officials accused of embezzling funds from the Venezuelan PetroCaribe development program, reports EFE. (See last Friday's briefs.)
  • A Florida murder tried in a Cuban court gave U.S. prosecutors an inside look at the socialist island's legal system, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Comando Plath, a group of Peruvian writers, actresses, and intellectuals, successfully campaigned to withdraw national honors from Reynaldo Naranjo, a Peruvian poet accused of sexual abuse by his daughter and stepdaughter. The favorable response from the Peruvian government is a landmark moment in a country where gender violence cases tend to go unpunished by the justice system, writes Gabriela Wiener in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Bolivia and Spain signed three agreements yesterday, including one related to the bi-oceanic railway corridor, reports Telesur.
  • Hundreds of olive ridley sea turtles have been found dead in Mexico in recent days. (BBC)
  • A soybean boom is destroying Brazil's tropical savannah, reports Reuters.
  • In Chile's Atacama desert, local indigenous groups, copper mines and lithium mines are all competing for increasingly scarce water sources. (Reuters)
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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