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 ...

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