Monday, October 15, 2018

Nicaraguan gov't cracks down on protest (Oct. 15, 2018)

Thirty-eight people were detained yesterday in Managua for planning to participate in a protest against the Nicaraguan government. Police said 8 people were released, the other 30 remain in prison for "involvement in instigating or provocative activities," reports El Confidencial

The government characterized the arrests as part of an ongoing response to "terrorist groups." Organizers, faced with a deployment of 400 police and anti-riot officers throwing stun bombs and tear gas, cancelled the planned march. (More details on the repression, at El Confidencial.) 

On Saturday police said the march was illegal, and President Daniel Ortega criticized demonstrators saying they sought blood not peace. Anti-government demonstrations were declared illegal by Ortega on 28 September. (ReutersEl País, and BBC)

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said on Twitter that it was deeply worried by the arrests, and called on the government to guarantee the security of the protesters. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro demanded the government free detainees and stop repressing peaceful protests. And Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado called for "an urgent and immediate end to the repression in Nicaragua".

Yesterday Monsignor Silvio Baez, Managua auxiliary archbishop, lamented the repression, while Managua Archbishop, Cardenal Leopoldo Brenes, called for the government and opponents to return to a dialogue process. (Confidencial)

News Briefs

  • Colombia's peace deal with the FARC lowered the country's homicide rates to the lowest level since 1975 -- but since 2016, social activists, mostly operating in former guerrilla territories, have been victims of violent attacks. At least 190 community leaders have been killed so far this year alone, according to Colombia’s Institute of Studies for Peace and Development. Most of the murders remain unsolved by authorities, but experts believe criminal groups consider the community leaders' development projects a potential threat to their illicit activities, reports the New York Times.
  • Colombian authorities seized more than 7 metric tons of drugs from users in the first nine days of a controversial new regulation that effectively eliminates a court ruling allowing for personal consumption. President Iván Duque's presidential decree allows police to confiscate and destroy even small quantities of drugs carried by people for "personal use." But the move "is more likely to affect low-level users than combat rising consumption and microtrafficking," reports InSight Crime, which classifies it as a throwback to historically unsuccessful hardline drug policies. (See last Wednesday's and Oct. 3's briefs.)
  • Guatemalan attorney general Consuelo Porras reported revoked the promotion of all the public ministry's regional prosecutors, alleging improprieties in their naming, reports Soy 502. She is expected to speak today about the measure which has provoked controversy, reports Prensa Libre.
  • Guatemala's Constitutional Court has served at the U.N. backed anti-corruption commission's principal protector from the President Jimmy Morales' attempts to disarm it. In retaliation, government officials have sought to portray the court as illegitimate. The court is paying a significant political costs just as several high-stakes cases are on the docket, reports Plaza Pública.
  • Nómada reports on the high-level officials who financed lobbying efforts against U.S. ambassador Todd Robinson and CICIG head Iván Velásquez.
  • Eleven CICIG employees still have not been granted visas from Guatemala's foreign ministry, reports El Periódico.
  • Venezuelan authorities insist -- contrary to all evidence -- that there is no humanitarian crisis going on in the country. A propaganda campaign portrays an alternative reality barely recognizable to citizens who cannot obtain vital medicines and food supplies. In part, the government is likely aiming to avoid potential justification for military intervention, WOLA expert David Smilde told the Washington Post.
  • Random: Donald Trump Jr. apparently enjoyed a dinner served by celebrity chef Salt Bae, who raised an outcry last month after serving Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in the midst of severe food shortages affecting Venezuelans, reports the Miami Herald. (See Sept. 20's briefs.)
  • Brazilian far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro's history of mysogynist comments spurred an angry feminist backlash. Which in turn appears to have actually bolstered Bolsonaro's support among women who reject feminist protests and demands for equal pay, reports the Guardian.
  • In an interview with El País, Workers' Party candidate Fernando Haddad argues that Bolsonaro is indeed a threat to Brazilian democracy.
  • But bankers are thrilled at Bolsonaro's promise of liberal economic reform, reports Ozy.
El Salvador
  • Pope Francis canonized  the murdered Salvadoran archbishop Óscar Romero yesterday, reports the Guardian. Romero spoke out against military death squads and against social inequality. His assassination in 1980 helped spark El Salvador's 12-year civil war. His sainthood has long been opposed by conservative factions who say his activities were politically motivated, reports the New York Times. And thus Francis' sustained support for his canonization is also a powerful act of revindication, reports El País
  • But pride and joy in the official recognition of Romero is tempered by ongoing impunity for this and thousands of killings, reports the Guardian separately. (See Thursday's briefs.)
  • series in the Guardian focus on the ongoing impact of the U.S. zero tolerance immigration policy. One profiles Raices (the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) -- a little Texas not-for-profit that became the focal point for opposition to the Trump administration's family separation policy. Another piece profiles three father and son pairs, reunited by detained indefinitely -- far longer than the 20 legal limit for children. 
  • Months after the chaotic six-week policy that separated 2,654 children from their parents the Guardian analyzes the federal documents pertaining to a single week in May, showcasing how the overwhelming majority of individuals gave up their cases -- pertaining to low-level immigration offenses -- and pleaded guilty.
  • An estimated 1,600 people have joined a migrant caravan moving through Honduras towards Guatemala and, ultimately, the U.S. The group formed just one day after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence urged the presidents of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to persuade their citizens to stay home, notes the Associated Press.
  • The numbers of Guatemalans seeking asylum in the U.S. has skyrocketed, surpassing applicants from El Salvador and Honduras, reports the Wall Street Journal. Food shortages, poverty and violence are motivating many of the migrants.
  • Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador should avoid diplomatic isolation in Latin America, and should instead play a leadership role for leftist-democrats in a region increasingly led by conservative governments, argues Rafael Rojas in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • AMLO's incoming government should focus on justice for emblematic cases of human rights violations, reforming civilian police, and empowering victims to participate in truth commissions which in turn can help build peace in the country, argues a new International Crisis Group report.
  • Chinese economic investments abroad show a recurring pattern of human rights violations, according to the International Federation for Human Rights, which focused on projects carried out in South America. (El País)
  • Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel joined the ranks of tweeting leaders, and an amassed more than 25,800 followers in the first week. (Miami Herald)
  • Difficulties implementing legal marijuana in Uruguay. (El País)
"I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. ... Plastics."
  • At least 20 Caribbean and Latin American nations -- including Jamaica -- either ban or are considering banning single-use plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam. (Washington Post)
  • Pope Francis expelled two retired Chilean bishops from the priesthood on Saturday. He made it clear that the two, who are accused of abusing minors, had no possibility of appeal. (New York Times)
Oct 12
  • October 12 is celebrated and reviled variously in Spain and the Americas as an opportunity to commemorate Columbus' arrival to the New World -- in a New York Times Español op-ed David Jiménez calls for a more inclusive historical perspective that reflects the deep wounds inflicted on indigenous Americans by Spanish colonizers.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...



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  2. Regarding the Berta Cáceres case that you've so aptly described (thank you), is that the accused have to be released from prisión preventativa (in jail without bail) on November 2, 2018. The Ministerio Público and may have wanted to start the trial so that that wouldn't occur and the accused wouldn't take flight and become fugitives from justice.