Wednesday, November 21, 2018

AMLO's National Guard plan (Nov. 21, 2018)

Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador's Morena party presented a plan to create a national guard. In line with AMLO's national security proposal last week, the bill would create a new 50,000-strong force with members of the military and the federal police.

AMLO campaigned against the ongoing use of the military for public security, coming after a decade of failed "war on drugs" policies. But last week he presented the National Guard plan, citing the extreme lack of professionalism and integrity that afflicts the country's police forces. (See last Thursday's post.)

"More than 90 percent of crimes end up going unpunished, and the country is still seriously suffering from not having a professional police force,” said Morena congresswoman Maria Alvarado yesterday presenting the bill.

But critics say the proposal merely continues questionable military intervention in internal security that has come at a high human rights cost. Just last week the Mexican Supreme Court struck down a law passed last year that also sought to regulate the military's role in public security. (See Friday's post.)

The new bill does seek to address some of these issues, notes Reuters. It contemplates constitutional changes that would mean that national guard members receive human rights training, are tried by civil courts and will not be able to move detainees to military institutions.

The bill takes into account the recent Supreme Court ruling, and would modify a constitutional ban limiting soldiers from intervening in non-national security actions during peace time. The proposal grants the military new powers formerly reserved for civilian authorities, explains Animal Político. The bill would also gradually eliminate the federal police.

Surveys show that Mexico’s armed forces are the country’s most trusted institution, despite frequent allegations of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings, reports the Guardian.

New data shows this year is well on track to be the bloodiest on record: so far there have been 28,500 homicides in 2018 -- that's an average of 95 per day, four per hour. The uptick in murders has been particularly pronounced over the past three years. (Animal Político)

Animal Político analyzes AMLO's change of heart regarding the military.

News Briefs

More from Mexico
  • Another measure AMLO has proposed to reduce violence is legalization of cannabis. Advocates of the legalization bill presented recently in Congress (see Nov. 13's briefs) say it will help reduce cartel violence and free law enforcement up for more serious crimes. Some government officials also point to a potential tourism bonanza. But public opinion and the Catholic Church remain opposed to the plan, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • A new report shows that about a third of Mexico's incarcerated teens are recidivists -- many recruited by criminal groups in their neighborhoods at young ages. (Animal Político)
  • El Chapo's U.S. trial continues to showcase allegations of corruption in Mexico's government. (See Monday's briefs.) Former Sinaloa cartel operations chief Jesús Zambada García said he personally delivered at least $6 million in cash to one of the country's top law enforcement officials in 2005 and 2006, reports the New York Times. The former secretary of public security Genaro García Luna denied the allegations, reports Animal Político.
  • Uber is collaborating with the Mexican government in an innovative new automatic tax payment program aimed at reducing evasion, reports Bloomberg.
  • International Crisis Group Senior Analyst Falko Ernst profiles a low level Mexican sicario, Grillo. "Child soldiers like him are recruited into a system whose roots are sunk deep in Mexico’s inequalities. Then they are often trained to become ruthless killers, going from victims to victimisers. Grillo taught me about why, amid the cycles of revenge, it’s so hard to get out. "
  • Brazilian foreign policy will likely change drastically under the incoming government. President-elect Jair Bolsonaro's affinity for U.S. President Donald Trump will likely become a major factor in Itamaraty's new direction, reports the New York Times. And the realignment will impact the rest of the region's alliances. Top on the Bolsonaro foreign policy agenda will likely be the issue of Venezuelan refugees.
  • The Trump administration is preparing to add Venezuela to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. It would represent a "dramatic escalation" against Venezuela's Maduro government reports the Washington Post, noting that only Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria are currently on the list.
  • Former Venezuelan treasurer Alejandro Andrade  said he took bribes of over $1 billion from businessmen to allow them to make foreign-currency transactions at favorable rates. Andrade, a former body guard to the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, pleaded guilty to money laundering in a U.S. federal court last year. Andrade received properties, platinum and gold Rolex watches and Mercedes Benz vehicles according to court documents unsealed this week. Venezuelan TV mogul Raúl Gorrín was also charged in the case. (Miami HeraldWall Street Journal and Reuters)
  • A Brazilian judge blocked TV Globo from reporting on investigative documents about the killing of black rights activist Marielle Franco earlier this year. Brazil's Association of Investigative Journalists (ABRAJI) condemned what it termed "censorship." (AFP)
  • An international alliance of Amazon communities proposed creating a 200 million-hectare sanctuary for people, wildlife and climate stability. The plan to create a "sacred corridor of life and culture" encompasses land from several countries, though the indigenous alliance does not recognise national boundaries. The proposal, which would create the world's largest protected area, was presented at the the UN Conference on Biodiversity today. (Guardian)
  • The killing of a young Mapuche man in southern Chile by police last week has triggered widespread protests and could undermine support for President Sebastian Piñera's plan to for the Araucania region. (Bloomberg)
El Salvador
  • Salvadoran lawmakers will pick a new attorney general in December. The initial list of 33 candidates includes four with open cases against them pending, potentially jeopardizing the strength of the institution, reports InSight Crime. In addition, four out of seven Congress members in charge of selecting El Salvador’s top prosecutor have themselves been accused of alleged illicit enrichment, obstruction of justice, misuse of public funds and war crimes, notes InSight.
  • Most of the Central American migrants heading to the U.S. are spurred in part by violence in their home countries, but LGBTI people are particularly exposed to violence in the Northern Triangle countries, according to a new Amnesty International report. ABC News reports on the LGBTI members of the migrant caravans gathering in Tijuana. (See last Wednesday's briefs.) 
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is gathering intelligence from paid undercover informants inside the caravan and also monitoring migrants' Whatsapp group messages, reports NBC News.
  • Using thousands of military troops to help secure the U.S. southwest border will cost an estimated $210 million, according to a Pentagon report seen by the Associated Press.
  • "The migrant caravan is a literal and massive example of how mass undocumented migration is a form of civil disobedience against a global order," writes Amelia Frank-Vitale in Nacla.
  • Colombia's first camp for refugees, in Bogotá, houses about 300 Venezuelans in difficult conditions, reports the Guardian.
  • Colombia's government asked the national regulator to ban Odebrecht from state contracts for 20 years in light of the Brazilian construction giant's admission that it paid bribes in the country. According to the attorney general’s office, Odebrecht’s bribes in Colombia totaled about $30 million. (Reuters)
  • Colombian authorities asked asked Cuba to capture ELN rebel commander Nicolas Rodriguez, reports Reuters.
  • Victims of sexual violence during Colombia's civil war hope for justice under the special tribunal established by the FARC peace deal. In August, some 2000 documented cases of sexual violence were brought before the JEP, reports the Guardian.
  • Massive termite mounds in Brazil's remote North East -- about 200 million of them, visible from space and up to 3,820 years old. (New York Times)

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

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