Thursday, August 23, 2018

Soldiers accused of extrajudicial killings in Rio (Aug. 23, 2018)

Rio de Janeiro favela residents say soldiers killed several young men and left their bodies in a nearby forest, reports the Associated Press. Earlier this week at least 14 people were killed in an operation in Alemao and Mare favela complexes. A soldier wounded in a related shootout died, the third killed in the operation.
Over the past six months, the military has been in charge of Rio de Janeiro's security -- in the first half of 2018 police killed 895 people, and killings of police officers increased by nearly 40 percent, wrote Human Rights Watch's César Muñoz last week.

News Briefs

  • Venezuela's migration exodus is by far the most pressing crisis in the region, argues the Washington Post. Comparisons to the Syrian refugee crisis or the second world war are in order, with estimates that between 2.4 and 4 million people have already fled crushing economic deprivation. On a comic note, a Venezuelan satire site joked that a 7.3 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday was caused by a tectonic plate trying to join the fleeing masses.
  • Guatemala's Supreme Court will allow lawmakers to decide whether to lift President Jimmy Morales' immunity from prosecution in relation to an illicit campaign financing investigation. Morales is suspected of receiving at least $1 million in undeclared contributions during the 2015 campaign. He avoided two similar requests from prosecutors last year, once shielded by lawmakers and the other time by the Supreme Court. (Associated Press and EFE)
  • Guatemala's presidential election next year will be the most closely monitored in the country's history, thanks to a new accord that will allow the CICIG access to political party financial declarations. The U.N. backed anti-impunity commission will with the electoral tribunal specifically targeting potential illicit financial contributions. (Nómada)
  • U.S. aid plays a critical role in strengthening Honduran civil society, and attacking the root causes of migration to the U.S., argue James Nealon and Kurt Alan Ver Beek at the Wilson Center.
El Salvador
  • El Salvador's lawmakers ratified measures tightening security at prisons where gang members are held. The previously temporary measures have been criticized as ineffective and against inmates' human rights, reports InSight Crime.
  • El Salvador's decision to recognize China instead of Taiwan has spurred sparring between Beijing and Washington DC, reports the Associated Press. Chinese officials say the U.S. has sought to deter other countries from making a similar choice. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Unasur is in crisis, a situation that relates to an older problem for Latin America: lack of robust integration projects that can survive changes in governments and ideologies, argues Juan C. Herrera in a New York Times Español op-ed.
Social security
  • International Labor Organization officials warned of the shortcomings in Latin America's social protection systems, especially during economic crises. (EFE)
  • Ecuador's president, Lenín Moreno, announced austerity measures that eliminate 20 state institutions, increase gas prices and "optimization" of public companies. About $60 million will be saved by the moves, and about 900 jobs will be lost, reports Telesur.
  • Bolivian president Evo Morales suggested an anti-lying law that would penalize public officials and media outlets that disseminate falsehoods. (EFE)
  • Colombian environmental and indigenous rights defenders face extermination by criminal gangs, reports the Guardian.
  • In Brazil's Javari Valley, home to 16 uncontacted indigenous tribes, is increasingly encroached by illicit hunters and miners, reports the Guardian. (See also yesterday's briefs.)
  • This week Paraguay's new president, Mario Abdo Benítez threw out a forestry law that critics said weakened environmental protections of forest reserves. (EFE)
  • Peruvian authorities used drones to assess damage caused by illegal mining in the Madre de Dios jungle. (EFE)
  • Mexico's recent presidential election was short on environmental proposals, a pressing need for a country where many native species are in a state of crisis. The Guardian interviews poet and activist Homero Aridjis about his decades of fighting to protect Mexico's natural wonders.
  • U.S. and Mexican negotiators are advancing in NAFTA discussions, and could reach a new agreement by the end of the month, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador will hold off auctioning any new oil blocks for at least two years and plans to modify laws to bolster the dominant role of state oil company Petróleos Mexicanos, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • AMLO's incoming government secretary, Olga Sánchez Cordero, said the country's true homicide rate could be double official figures -- which already marked a record high for last year. (EFE)
  • Mexican authorities seized 50 metric tons of methamphetamine, a record amount that suggests Mexican criminal groups have increased production to meet U.S. demand. (InSight Crime)
  • InSight Crime heralds a multi-country effort that dismantled a massive drug trafficking organization -- Arpón de Neptuno. Authorities from Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico collaborated in an operation that arrested 38 individuals from the group that was reportedly "capable of producing a metric ton of cocaine hydrochloride and moving up to $2 million in just three days."
  • Argentine authorities burned 389 kilos of seized cocaine -- worth an estimated $93 million -- in a Buenos Aires crematorium. A fitting end to a best-seller worthy narrative, reports the BBC.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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