Friday, November 30, 2018

Seven found guilty of murdering Berta Cáceres (Nov. 30, 2018)

Seven men were found guilty of murdering Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres in 2016. The six week trial ended yesterday, amid criticisms that the proceedings ignored evidence about the true masterminds behind the assassination. (See yesterday's briefs.) The court determined the murder was carried out by a group of hitmen, and ordered by executives of the Agua Zarca dam company Desa, affected by delays and financial losses provoked by Cáceres' opposition to the hydroelectric project. Two former Desa executives are in the group convicted yesterday, and the company's general manager was arrested in March and will be tried separately. (Guardian and New York Times)

The Cáceres' family lawyer emphasized that the ruling shows Desa is responsible for ideating and carrying out the activist's murder. (Criterio)

But Cáceres' family and the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh) she co-founded criticized that the assassination's true masterminds have been ignored in the investigation. Last year the International Advisory Group of Experts (GAIPE) released a scathing report linking the killing to a criminal structure that spanned from senior executives of an Honduran dam development company to state officials and criminal organizations. (See posts for Nov. 2, 2017, and Oct. 30, 2017.)

Amnesty International cited irregularities in the investigation and court proceedings, and lack of identification of the assassination's masterminds, to conclude "that neither the right to justice, the right to the truth, nor the right to reparation have been guaranteed in this emblematic case."

The assassination, shortly after Cáceres won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, became emblematic of the significant dangers faced by land activists in Honduras and, increasingly, in the region. Five environmental defenders were killed in Honduras last year, and 14 in 2016, according Global Witness' annual report.  (See July 25's post for more data.)

News Briefs

  • Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has become an unofficial focal point of the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires. Argentine prosecutors are investigating charging him with crimes against humanity (see yesterday's post), but in the meantime world heads of state must decided how they will engage with the controversial Saudi leader. (Guardian and New York Times)
  • It's U.S. President Donald Trump's first visit to Latin America since assuming office -- but he's pretty unpopular in the region anyway, so it's unlikely anybody has taken offense, reports the Washington Post. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Argentina had hoped to portray itself as a prosperous stable nation during this week's gathering. Instead the G-20 is convening in "a country reeling from a severe recession and rattled by a recent string of security incidents," reports the New York Times.
  • Four former Chilean police officers were arrested in relation to the fatal shooting of a young Mapuche man. The case has incited outrage in Chile, and called attention to the country's treatment of the indigenous group. The case has also raised calls to dismantle the so-called "Jungle Commando," reports the Guardian. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • Andrés Manuel López Obrador will (finally!) assume Mexico's presidency tomorrow.
  • He's part of a wave of anti-corruption furor sweeping in anti-establishment politicians across the region, reports the Washington Post.
  • The migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border will be an immediate baptism of fire. According to the Wall Street Journal Mexican and U.S. authorities have been discussing a plan under which asylum seeking migrants would remain in Mexico while their claims are processed, while the U.S. would commit to processing more claims and providing funds to assist the migrants in Mexico. (Earlier this week incoming Interior Minister Olga Sánchez denied such a deal was on the table, see Monday's post.) 
  • Containing migratory pressure in Central American and southern Mexico will require a Marshall-plan scale development effort, said incoming Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard. (Reuters)
  • Mexican authorities have started moving migrants massed in Tijuana to a government run shelter farther away from the U.S. border. Many migrants want to stay put, despite unsanitary conditions in the overflowing shelter hastily put together by city authorities ahead of the migrant caravans that started arriving earlier this month, reports the Washington Post.
  • "Migrants and other persons in mobility, such as refugees and asylum seekers, travelling in caravans from Central America towards Mexico and the United States of America deserve full respect of their human rights by all countries involved," said an independent group of U.N. experts in letters to the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the United States and called on them to abide by international law.
  • Faced with months of waiting, some migrants are deciding to return home, a stunning reversal for migrants who endured the difficult trek north on foot, reports the Washington Post.
  • Forty-one Venezuelan women who have fled the country's humanitarian crisis were murdered across Latin America this year  -- some by criminal groups, some by significant others, reports the Miami Herald focusing on the dangers of the Venezuelan refugee crisis.
  • InSight Crime reports on how criminal structures operating within the Venezuelan government extort citizens trying to leave the country.
  • A group of Cuban doctors is suing the Pan American Health Organization in Miami. They accuse the U.N. World Health Organization division of aiding in human trafficking for taking a cut of fees paid to Cuban doctors working in Brazil's "Mais Medicos" program, reports the New York Times. The program has come under fire from Cuban doctors who denounce they were not allowed to bring their families with them, among other restrictions. (See Nov. 15's post.)
  • Another Canadian diplomat posted in Havana is experiencing mysterious health symptoms, the latest in a case affecting U.S. and Canadian diplomats. (Wall Street Journal)
Music corner
  • The U.N. added reggae music to its list of international cultural treasures worthy of protection and promotion. The UNESCO said: "[Reggae’s] contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity underscores the dynamics of the element as being at once cerebral, sociopolitical, sensual and spiritual." (Guardian)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Honduran police repress anti-gov't protest (Nov. 29, 2018)

Honduran police repressed hundreds of protesters demanding the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernández, earlier this week. They were marking the one year anniversary of his controversial reelection, when they were countered with an "avalanche" of tear gas, reports AFP. A journalist for television channel critical of the government was hospitalized with an apparent wound to his arm while transmitting live, and some activists said police fired weapons at the crowd.

A year after the Honduran security forces began their repression of those involved in mass post-election protests, Amnesty International called for investigations into cases of unnecessary or excessive use of force by Honduran authorities, including killings, arbitrary detentions and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Calls for JOH's resignation have intensified after his brother was detained by U.S. federal agents on drug and weapons charges earlier this month. (See Tuesday's briefs.) Radio Progreso argues that the level of the allegations against Tony Hernández mean JOH is either complicit in his illicit activities or negligently naive. Indeed, the opposition LIBRE party called for a congressional investigation into JOH's role in relation to the accusations against his brother. (Tiempo)

The Liberal and LIBRE parties called on JOH to resign and call for early elections, in order to establish credibility nationally and internationally. LIBRE also questioned why Tony Hernández, a former lawmaker, was targeted by U.S. justice rather than Honduran prosecutors. (La Prensa and Criterio)

Among the charges against Tony Hernández, are allegations he received $50,000 from the former Los Cachiros leader Devis Rivera Maradiaga. The two met in 2014, coordinated by a former member of the Honduran national police, according to prosecutors' documents. (El Heraldo)

(Hat tip to Daniel Langmeier's Honduras Daily.)

More from Honduras
  • A verdict is expected later today in the trial against environmentalist Berta Cáceres' alleged killers. The five week trial has been riddled with allegations of irregularities, negligence and cover-ups. Her family has denounced that the trial may end in the conviction of Cáceres' material killers, but fails to address the high-level conspiracy behind her assassination. The Guardian looks at some of the trial's details, including the blocked offer to testify by the only witness to the murder, Mexican environmentalist Gustavo Castro. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Shocking levels of violence are pushing migrants out of Honduras, but deteriorating economic and political conditions are also major factors reports Univisión.
Argentine prosecutor advances against Prince Mohammed bin Salman

An Argentine prosecutor accepted a request to press charges against Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is in Buenos Aires for this week's G-20 summit. The case is in response to a writ by Human Rights Watch that argued Argentine authorities should invoke universal jurisdiction laws to seek prosecution of the prince for mass civilian casualties caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign in Yemen, and for the torture of Saudi citizens – including Jamal Khashoggi. (Guardian)

Federal prosecutor Ramiro González asked investigating judge Ariel Lijo to request information from the Saudi and Yemeni governments about whether they are investigating the allegations. The Argentine foreign ministry was asked to provide information about the crown prince’s diplomatic status, reports Human Rights Watch.

Though it is unlikely the prosecution could advance before Prince Mohammed leaves, "the Argentine judiciary has sent a clear message that even powerful officials like Mohammed bin Salman are not above the law and will be scrutinized if implicated in grave international crimes," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "A cloud of suspicion will loom over the crown prince as he tries to rebuild his shattered reputation at the G20, and world leaders would do well to think twice before posing for pictures next to someone who may come under investigation for war crimes and torture."

News Briefs

  • U.S. President Donald Trump will make his first Latin America visit this week, at the Buenos Aires G-20 meeting -- though some say it doesn't count as a trip to the region as the location is coincidental. Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico are the only Latin American members of the group, and some diplomats are concerned the countries will not reflect well on the rest of the region, reports McClatchy. Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro will not be present, but U.S. National Security advisor John Bolton met with him in Brazil this morning, reports Reuters. (See below for more on Bolsonaro.)
  • Argentina is pushing natural gas as a climate friendly "bridge fuel," but the reality is that Argentina’s shale drilling has already violated the rights of workers and indigenous people and raised household energy costs, argues Fernando Cabrera at Project Syndicate.
  • Argentine civil society organizations have kicked off a counter summit, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Bolton's characterization of Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela as Latin America's “troika of tyranny,” is an indication of the Trump administration's misguided Cold War-style strategy towards the region, argues Christopher Sabbatini in a New York Times op-ed. The result is potentially polarizing and "ignores, at Washington’s peril, the domestic concerns of elected leaders in Latin America’s democracies. And we already see troubling signs that in pursuing this narrow focus on leftist autocrats, the Trump administration is embracing far-right-wing populist leaders."
  • Panama has become the latest flashpoint in the region for the growing dispute between China and the U.S., reports the Guardian.
  • Bolsonaro will appoint military engineer Tarcisio Freitas to head his infrastructure ministry -- the sixth member of his incoming cabinet with a strong military background, reports Reuters.
  • Former general Augusto Heleno has been tapped to be Bolsonaro's top national security advisor. Heleno led a polemic operation in Haiti to bring down a gangster in a Port-au-Prince slum. Human rights groups called the U.N. peacekeepers' seven-hour gun battle in Cite Soleil a "massacre," and said dozens of onlookers were killed in crossfire. Reuters reports that the Bolsonaro administration is hoping to employ tactics from Haitian slums to pacify Brazilian favelas. Several of the other military men appointed to the incoming cabinet also had experience in the Haiti peacekeeping mission.
  • This week Brazil pulled out of hosting next year’s United Nations global summit meeting on climate change, a move that signals the incoming administration's lack of interest in the environment and threatens to mar Brazil’s’ reputation as a leading actor on environmental sustainability, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador has squandered a historic opportunity to pacify the country and hold meaningful dialogue regarding the proper role of the country's armed forces, argues Alejandro Madrazo Lajous in a New York Times Español op-ed. AMLO's plan to create a national guard will only deepen the role of the military in internal security, contrary to his electoral promises that garnered him a landslide vote earlier this year. (See Nov. 21's post.)
  • A possible reason for AMLO's security policy u-turn is the realization that Mexico's problems are more intractable than he portrayed them during the campaign, according to InSight Crime. But a new proposal to grant immunity to corrupt official who promise to behave in the future is a worrisome sign of unpredictability, argues the piece.
  • President Enrique Peña Nieto's mandate ends Saturday. His legacy of turmoil, from a dramatic spike in violence to institutional failures and corruption -- InSight Crime.
  • A total of 946,000 people participated in AMLO's latest citizen consultation, held last weekend. That's about 1 in 90 Mexican voters, who overwhelmingly approved 10 projects, including a train connecting the Yucatan Peninsula's main tourist attractions. (Associated Press)
  • Titillating details in the El Chapo trial are not focusing on the ill effects of the U.S. backed "war on drugs" in Mexico. On the contrary, "it’s a last-gasp effort to salvage the reputation of a failing war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives—a war that has been justified through a series of dissimulations, half-truths, and outright lies about how drugs are trafficked, why violence has skyrocketed, and who does the “organizing” of organized crime," writes Christy Thornton at NACLA.
  • Its not clear that the U.S. acted legally when it fired tear gas into a group of migrants on the Mexican side of the border, reports the New York Times. (See Monday's post.)
  • Venezuelan Vice President Diosdado Cabello said all “Chavistas” were “hurt” by revelations that a former national treasurer took more than $1 billion in bribes. But he sought to distance the government from Alejandro Andrade's money laundering and corruption sentence this week, report Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Figures sent by Venezuelan officials to the IMF admit 860 percent inflation last year and a 15.7 percent contraction of the country's economy, reports Bloomberg.
  • Colombian President Iván Duque has failed to articulate a credible vision for his four year term, writes an anonymous Colombia expert in an AULA blog post criticizing the administration's struggles with economic development policies, financial strategies and promises to reduce corruption.
  • Chilean President Sebastián Piñera signed a transgender identity law yesterday, but said only cultural change can fully solve painful discriminatory experiences against transgender people. (Associated Press)
  • Odebrecht said it's close to reaching a leniency accord with Argentine authorities, reports Reuters. (See Tuesday's briefs on a potential deal between Odebrecht and Peruvian authorities.)
  • Wondering where you can pick up Pinochet admiring swag to put under your favorite fascist's Christmas tree? Like t-shirts alluding to the Chilean dictatorship's death flights reading "Pinochet is my copilot"? The answer is Amazon, with free shipping and returns in some cases! (Think Progress)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

U.S. sanctions Nicaragua's VP (Nov. 28, 2018)

The U.S. ratcheted up pressure against Nicaragua's Ortega administration yesterday, with financial sanctions against Vice President Rosario Murillo and a top Ortega aide. Murillo, who is President Daniel Ortega's wife, and Néstor Moncada Lau, a national security advisor, are accused of complicity and responsibility for severe human rights abuses in Nicaragua. An estimated 325 people have been killed in protests agains the government since April, and an estimated 600 people are political prisoners. Murillo is accused of influencing the FSLN's youth organization and the Nicaraguan National Police, both involved in this year's rights abuses. Both Murillo and Moncada are also accused of corruption, dismantling democratic institutions, and exploiting Nicaragua's public resources for personal gain. (ConfidencialLa Prensa, and El País)

The sanctions prohibit Murillo and Moncada from traveling to the U.S., accessing assets they hold there, and prohibit U.S. citizens from doing business with the targets. The sanctions were announced under a new executive order allowing Washington to target Nicaraguan officials for a crackdown on anti-government protests. The order signed by U.S. President Donald Trump declared that the Ortega government’s actions constituted "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." The order also lays the foundation to also punish companies and individuals found to be facilitating its alleged repression and corruption. Further sanctions are to be expected. (ReutersMiami HeraldNew York Times, and Wall Street Journal)

El Confidencial recently reported on testimony linking Murillo to crackdown orders in April.

In a speech in Miami earlier this month, U.S. national security advisor John Bolton promised harsher measures against Nicaragua, calling it part of  the “troika of tyranny” along with Cuba and Venezuela. (See Nov. 2's briefs.) Trump administration officials cast the sanctions on Murillo and Lau as the first step in fulfilling that pledge, reports the Washington Post.

Yesterday the U.S. Senate passed the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality (NICA) Act, which seeks to condition U.S. approval for loans to the Ortega government from international financial institutions.  It also grants the U.S. administration additional authorities to sanction more regime operatives, and seeks to hold accountable any regime that provides assistance to help Ortega stay in power. It now passes to the House of Representatives. (El Nuevo Diario and U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen)

More from Nicaragua
  • The Inter American Press Association denounced the detention of Luis Sánchez Sancho, editorial writer for La Prensa in Managua. (Infobae)
News Briefs

  • Young opposition leaders in Venezuela are focusing on long-term strategies, focusing on bread-and-butter issues in poverty stricken neighborhoods that used to be Chavista strongholds, reports the Associated Press.
  • Former Venezuelan national treasurer Alejandro Andrade was sentenced to 10 years in prison in a U.S. court this week for his role in a $1 billion bribery and money-laundering scheme, reports the Miami Herald. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • The New York Times interviews Meridith Kohut, an American photojournalist who's worked in Venezuela for the past decade. "I’ve been detained more times than I can count. I’ve received death threats. I’ve been beaten by soldiers, punched in the face and shot with rubber bullets."
  • Incoming Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador is uniquely positioned to push for meaningful dialogue between Venezuela's government and opposition, argues WOLA's Geoff Ramsey in a Reforma column. Though AMLO's been criticized strongly for inviting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to his inauguration later this week, the overture presents an opportunity take advantage of Mexico's considerable diplomatic muscle, he writes.
  • Human Rights Watch's Daniel Wilkinson's latest column on the human rights catastrophe that AMLO will inherit when he takes office on Saturday focuses on Mexico's forced disappearance crisis. You can access the entire series here.
  • Yesterday's testimony in El Chapo's New York trial detailed the details of the Sinaloa Cartel leader's lavish lifestyle in the 1990's, from a $10 million beach house to a private zoo and impromptu beauty treatment trips, report the New York Times and the Associated Press. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Till the bitter end: Outgoing Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto angered many Mexicans by bestowing the nation’s highest honor for foreigners, the Order of the Aztec Eagle, on Jared Kushner, senior White House advisor and Trump's son-in-law. (Guardian)
  • The Trump administration has quietly resumed separating immigrant families at the border, reports ProPublica's Ginger Thompson. The justification is protecting kids from allegedly criminal parents, but immigration advocates say its a return to this year's hugely controversial zero-tolerance policy. 
  • Migrants massed in Tijuana are organizing among themselves to fairly organize the long list of people who intend to seek asylum in the U.S. and will have to wait months for an appointment, reports the Washington Post.
  • The U.S. justice department said it would appeal a judge’s order barring the Trump administration from enforcing an asylum ban ban for immigrants who illegally enter the U.S., reports the Associated Press. (See Nov. 20's post.)
  • A transgender woman who died of dehydration in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in May, appeared to have been physically abused before her death. (New York Times)
  • Colombia has taken in 1 million Venezuelans fleeing their country's crisis already, but it will not be able to unilaterally absorb the next million refugees predicted to arrive in coming months, said Colombian vice president Marta Lucía Ramírez, calling on the international community to contribute. However she denied rumors that Colombia is participating in a plan to militarily intervene in Venezuela. (Miami Herald)
  • A U.S. Navy hospital ship is providing health services to Venezuelan migrants in Colombia this week: everything from tooth extractions to hernias, reports the Associated Press.
  • Brazil pulled out of hosting important U.N. climate talks next year, an indication that president-elect Jair Bolsonaro plans to follow through with promises to weaken environmental protections and climate change leadership. (Guardian)
  • A judicial decision is expected tomorrow in the case against Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres alleged killers, reports El País. Her family denounces that the investigation has been focused on the material assassins, and not the structure behind the murder. "There will be convictions, but not justice," said Berta Zúñiga Cáceres, Cáceres' daughter and the current coordinator of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares en Indígenas de Honduras (Copinh).
El Salvador
  • Eighteen military officers are belatedly standing trial for the El Mozote massacre, considered one of the worst atrocities of El Salvador's history, reports the Guardian.
  • #MMLPQTP: Argentine President Mauricio Macri's performance over the past three years has fallen far short of his promises of international investment and stability in Argentina. The G-20 meeting this week in Buenos Aires will give him an opportunity to showcase Argentina as a peaceful, lucid, and capable international protagonist -- a chance that was squandered in last weekend's aborted Copa Libertadores final, writes Sylvia Colombo in a New York Times Español op-ed. (See Monday's briefs.) Headed into next year's presidential elections, Macri's chances of reelection will depend more on his own performance than his eventual opponents' tactics, she argues. 
  • Buenos Aires will be on virtual lock-down for the meeting -- all flights over Buenos Aires will be diverted and trains, subways and all public transport will be cancelled for the duration of the summit. The city will be covered by no-go zones in an attempt to contain potential disturbances, and protests will block passersby at other points. But look at it as an opportunity to get away for a long weekend, urged Argentina's tone-deaf security minister Patricia Bullrich. (Guardian)
  • Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman landed in Buenos Aires today, where he was greeted by Argentina's foreign minister. The visit has taken on added significance after Human Rights Watch urged Argentine prosecutors to investigate the prince for alleged war crimes. (ReutersWall Street Journal and see yesterday's briefs.) Even the proposal to investigate could impact the prince's agenda and image. The Washington Post explores how Argentine law makes it unusually easy to bring international human rights cases, a legacy of its last bloody dictatorship.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

San Ysidro tensions grow (Nov. 27, 2018)

Clashes at the San Ysidro border crossing between Mexico and the U.S. stem, in part, from confusion regarding what rights migrants have while they wait to begin applying for asylum in the U.S., reports the New York Times. The number of migrants in Tijuana, already beyond capacity, is set to double once all the caravans arrive. (See yesterday's post.)

The case is creating a humanitarian emergency along the border, and presents incoming Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador with a political crisis even before he assumes office this weekend. He will be forced to choose between promises of humanitarian migration policies and the need for good relations with the U.S., according to the New York Times.
The New York Times has the story behind a Reuters photo that has provoked outrage among migrant advocates: a woman with two young children in diapers fleeing tear gas thrown by U.S. authorities. "I thought my kids were going to die with me because of the gas we inhaled," said María Meza about the picture. (See yesterday's post.) U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan defended the use of tear gas. (Los Angeles Times)

News Briefs

  • Mexican prosecutors requested a 50 year jail sentence for the alleged killer of journalist Javier Valdéz last year. (El País)
  • The day after Valdéz was killed, his colleagues received text messages infected with Pegasus spying software. It's the latest revelation in a series of illegal uses of surveillance technology purchased by the Mexican government, reports the New York Times. The Citizen Lab has confirmed nearly two dozen targets that include some of Mexico’s most prominent journalists, human rights lawyers and anticorruption activists. (See post for July 11, 2017, for example.)
  • The latest witness in El Chapo's trial portrays Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquín Guzmán in the early days of his drug smuggling operation, when it resembled a scrappy startup, according to the New York Times.
  • An investigation by Proceso found that one of El Chapo's sons, Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, lived in Medellín for several months in 2016, under the protection of one of the city's most powerful gangs. (InSight Crime)
  • Human Rights Watch urged Argentine prosecutors to charge Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman with war crimes and torture if he attends this week's G-20 summit in Buenos Aires. HRW argued that Argentine courts should invoke a universal jurisdiction statute in Argentinian law, to seek prosecution of the Crown Prince for mass civilian casualties caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign in Yemen, and for the torture of Saudi citizens, reports the Guardian. It will be the most significant challenge faced by Prince Mohammed since the killing of the Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi earlier this year, according to the New York Times
Fake news
  • Nine countries are participating in an "international grand committee session on fake news" in the U.K. Lawmakers will grill Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice-president of policy solutions today at the House of Commons. Representatives from Argentina and Brazil will participate. The Guardian reports that Argentine electoral authorities are seeking to reduce the impact of fake news on next year's presidential election.
  • Allegations against Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández's brother show the extensive influence of drug traffickers over the Honduran state and could tarnish JOH's reputation, according to the New York Times. Or a demonstration of Honduran elites' active role in the drug trade, for InSight Crime. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • A year after questioned presidential elections in Honduras last year ratified Hernández, the country remains in a political crisis that has contributed to the mass exodus of migrants, reports Al Jazeera.
  • U.S. support for JOH is no different than the country's historic support for Central American dictators, writes Dana Frank in a new book: The Long Honduran Night: Resistance, Terror, and the Aftermath of the Coup. In Jacobin she explains why she's taken to calling the Honduran president an axe murderer, though the term doesn't "capture the systemic way in which raw violence is countenanced, encouraged, and committed by the post-coup Honduran government as an institution, and directed especially at social justice activists, land rights defenders, the opposition, and journalists."
  • North Korea’s ceremonial leader Kim Yong Nam was expected to meet with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas this week, reports Reuters.
  • Bitcoin was touted as a potential work around to Venezuela's failing currency, but it turns out that the cryptocurrency only moderately outperformed the bolivar this year. (Washington Post Wonkblog)
  • Crop substitution has been tough on coca farmers switching to legal products, reports NPR.
  • Peruvian prosecutors are close to reaching a final deal with Odebrecht regarding bribes paid by the Brazilian construction giant for Peruvian public works contracts. (Reuters)
  • Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro added a fifth military man to his cabinet, retired General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz who will serve as minister in charge of political relations with Congress. (Reuters)
  • Bolsonaro's ascent "reflects Brazil’s long, enduring, and foundational antiblackness" write Jaime A. Alves and Joao Costa Vargas in NACLA.
  • Rio de Janeiro's elevator attendants are part of a dying breed. (New York Times)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

Monday, November 26, 2018

Migrants tear gassed at U.S. border (Nov. 26, 2018)

U.S. authorities threw tear gas at a group of Central American migrants who attempted to push past Mexican police and border fences to illegally cross into the U.S. Authorities temporarily shut down the San Ysidro border crossing between Tijuana and San Diego after a group of a few hundred migrants -- many with children -- protesting the slow pace of asylum request processing tried to rush the fence between the two countries. Some migrants believed that they would be granted asylum if they managed to reach U.S. soil, reports Animal Político. (Video at New York Times, pictures at the Guardian.)

Though the group represented just a tiny fraction of the thousands of migrants gathering in Tijuana to request asylum, its an escalation of the ongoing crisis started by the Central American migrant caravans that initially attracted U.S. President Donald Trump's ire a month ago. U.S. Homeland Security said Customs and Border Protection officials were targeted by projectiles thrown by migrants and the images of the scuffle yesterday could provide ammunition for Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric, warns the New York Times. Authorities responded to criticism of their use of tear gas saying that migrants pushed women and children to the front of the group, reports the Guardian.

Tijuana police detained 39 migrants involved in the incident, and Mexico will deport them back to their home countries, reports Animal Político separately. The Interior Ministry announced that a total of 500 migrants will be deported in relation to the incident, according to the Guardian. Forty-two migrants were detained on the U.S. side of the border.

An estimated 8,200 migrants have gathered in Tijuana and Mexicali. City authorities are overwhelmed by the number and lack resources to meet needs and many of the migrants could be waiting months for asylum appointments. U.S. authorities have been processing asylum seekers at a maximum rate of 100 per day, but often far less, reports the Washington Post.

The shelter run by Tijuana authorities is far beyond capacity, and migrants say living conditions there are unsustainable. This weekend Tijuana mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum declared a humanitarian crisis in the city and said he'd ask the U.N. for help in dealing with the thousands of migrants. (Associated Press)

The Trump administration is angling to have Mexico host asylum seekers until they obtain a hearing before a U.S. judge, a process that can take years, reports the New York Times. But incoming Interior Minister Olga Sánchez denied having reached such an agreement, according to the Associated Press. The move would represent a sharp change in current rules, under which asylum seekers are generally permitted to stay and work in the U.S. while awaiting their hearings -- a practise derided as a “catch and release” by Trump. A talk with Mexico's incoming administration officials on Sunday was reportedly derailed by the protest. 

More on migration
  • A 26-year-old Honduran killed last month when a migrant caravan tried to push past Guatemalan police at Mexico's southern border may have been hit by a powerful projectile launched by Mexican authorities, not intended for use in crowd control, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • The Guardian profiles the families of the caravan traveling with children with disabilities.
  • Political violence in Honduras, which has contributed to an exodus of migrants, was sometimes carried out with U.S.-made weapons used by the government’s paramilitary force, reports the Miami Herald.

Haitian protests intensify

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant promised a program to create jobs and loans for the country's poor youths, after a week of protests against corruption intensified into persistent calls for President Jovenel Moïse's resignation. Public works programs to clean canals, build roads and pick up trash will begin today said Ceant in a speech posted on Facebook on Saturday. (AFP)

On Friday thousands of protesters in Port-au-Prince culminated a week of unrest clashing with riot police, reports the New York Times. Though protests began targeting government corruption in relation to a Venezuelan development program, it has rapidly evolved to broader demonstrations against Haiti's economic doldrums and against Moïse.

(See last Thursday's post.)

In an unrelated incident, six people -- four customs officers and two civilians -- were killed in an argument on the Haitian border with the Dominican Republic. (Associated Press)

News Briefs

  • Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador asked the army to support his plan to create a National Guard for public security, even as the proposal comes under fire from organizations opposed to the militarization of internal security. (Animal Político)
  • Just days away from the end of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's mandate, there has been not a single conviction in the emblematic case of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students, notes Animal Político.
  • Mexico's Procuraduría General de la República refused to divulge facts about the ongoing investigation into Odebrecht bribes in the country, in response to an information request by Animal Político.
  • Former Venezuelan official Andrés Andrade is expected to be sentenced this week in a U.S. money laundering case. (See last Wednesday's briefs.) The example of the opulent lifestyle led by the former bodyguard to Hugo Chávez and his family is an example of how a small group of officials and connected business leaders have made a fortune, and arguably laid the groundwork for Venezuela's current humanitarian crisis, reports the New York Times.
  • Russian oil company Rosneft  head, Igor Sechin, met with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas to complain over delayed oil shipments designed to repay loans, according to Reuters.
  • Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, was detained by U.S. federal agents on drug and weapons charges, reports the Miami Herald.
Gender violence
  • Women around the world marched against gender violence yesterday, commemorating the U.N.-designated International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, reports the New York Times.
  • In the Dominican Republic, thousands marched calling for the end to the country’s total abortion ban, which includes cases when a pregnancy is life-threatening, unviable, or the result of rape. A recent Human Rights Watch report details how the criminalization of abortion affects women's health in the DR.
  • In Mexico demonstrators called for protection against femicides. (Animal Político)
  • In Bolivia demonstrators commemorated women killed in acts of gender violence demanded policies to target the phenomenon. (EFE)
  • Deforestation figures for the past year in Brazil are the worst in a decade, and environmentalists fear the situation will only get worst under incoming president Jair Bolsonaro, reports the Guardian.
  • The killing of a young Mapuche man by a Chilean anti-terrorism police squad dubbed the "Jungle Commando" has focused criticism of security forces' treatment of indigenous communities in southern Chile, reports the New York Times.
  • The focus of this week's G-20 meeting in Buenos Aires is supposed to be development, infrastructure and food security -- the real themes will likely be trade disputes between the U.S. and China and the signing of the new North American free trade deal, reports the Associated Press. While, Argentina had hoped for the meeting to be an opportunity to showcase economic transformation -- instead it will be a moment to plead for international aid. 
  • A highly anticipated final between Argentine fútbol rivals Boca and River was postponed on Saturday after a violent attack on the visiting team's bus as players arrived for the match. (New York TimesGuardianGuardian again, and Washington Post) Though the incident was largely contained, it reflects poorly on Argentine security less than a week ahead of the G-20 meeting, which will be held close to the River Stadium where local and national authorities failed to guarantee order on Saturday. La Política Online susses out the many political links.
  • "In a country where many see their soccer team as the principle source of their identity, where far too many feel they have little else to live for, and where the economy is struggling and inflation rampant, [the intense focus on winning] can have much more serious consequences for fans," writes Rory Smith in the New York Times. (More here in another piece by Smith.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

Friday, November 23, 2018

Former Kaibile convicted of participating in Dos Erres massacre (Nov. 23, 2018)

News Briefs

  • A former Guatemalan soldier was sentenced to 5,160 years in prison for participating in the 1982 Dos Erres massacre during the country's civil war. Santos López Alonzo is accused of belonging to the Kaibiles, an elite U.S.-trained counter-insurgency deployed against left-wing guerrillas, which killed virtually the entire town of Dos Erres. López was found guilty of killing 171 people in what is considered one of the war's greatest atrocities. (NómadaNew York Times and BBC
  • The CICIG put out a fact sheet on the “Extrajudicial Executions and Torture" case. (See Oct. 29's and Oct. 30's briefs.) Martín Rodríguez Pellecer analyzes the case and more at Nómada.
  • InSight Crime criticizes the methodology of a recent report that directly linked the CICIG to a homicide reduction in Guatemala.
  • Nómada deep dive on the Izabal nickel mine.
  • Venezuela's fractured opposition must a common strategy in order to reach a negotiated solution to the country's crisis -- "absent that, further violence – whether civil strife or even military action – remains likely," according to a new International Crisis Group.
  • A decision is expected imminently in the case against Berta Cáceres' alleged murderers. But CEJIL warns that grave procedural irregularities mean integral justice will not be served.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to close the entire U.S.-Mexico border if he determines that Mexican authorities have lost "control" on their side. In a Thanksgiving day phone call with U.S. troops posted abroad, Trump said "if we find that it gets to a level where we lose control or people are going to start getting hurt, we're going to close entry into the country for a period of time until we get it under control." He also railed against a U.S. judge who blocked an attempt to limit asylum claims from migrants who entered the U.S. illegally. (Associated PressCNN, and BBC. See Tuesday's post on the judicial decision.)
  • "Instead of blaming the migrants who are fleeing violence and corruption in Central America, we should recognize why they are leaving and do something about it," write George P. Shultz and Pedro Aspe in a Washington Post opinion piece. They argue that its necessary to target the poor economies and rampant violence pushing migration from Central America.
  • How real are concerns of a growing schism between Mexico and the U.S. with ideologically opposed presidents? The Economist analyzes.
  • Cuba has begun withdrawing 8,300 doctors working in Brazil, spurring fears that isolated communities might be left without medical care. This week, Brazil published an emergency tender for doctors trained in the country to replace the Cubans, reports the Guardian. (See Nov. 15's post.)
  • Bolivia has presidential elections next year -- President Evo Morales will run for a controversial fourth mandate. But the political process will be novel in many ways, including obligatory party primaries for the first time. At least six parties or alliances are throwing their hats into the ring at this point, including one led by former president Carlos Mesa. (Nueva Sociedad)
  • Colombia's government's talks with the ELN continue to devolve, reports InSight Crime.
  • Could Edgardo Novick become Uruguay's version of Bolsonaro? Perhaps, but the country's radically different context makes that unlikely, argues Agustín Canzani in Nueva Sociedad.
  • A proposal to name Chile's main international airport for Pablo Neruda has been met with outrage by activists who point to the poet's admission of rape in his memoirs. (Guardian)

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...