Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Russian bombers carrying out exercises in Venezuela (Dec. 11, 2018)

News Briefs
  • Russia has landed two nuclear-capable “Blackjack” bombers in Venezuela. They are part of a joint training exercise,  Venezuelan and Russian officials say it is not intended as a provocation. But experts say it is intended to as a message of support for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro at a time of increasing tension with the U.S., reports the Guardian. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • Leaders of Colombian guerrilla groups -- FARC dissidents and the ELN -- met in Venezuela, where they apparently came to non-aggression agreement and are collaborating to smuggle cocaine, reports InSight Crime.
  • Anti-corruption efforts in Central America have significant popular support, but face powerful backlash from entrenched elites, reports Ozy. (Lots more corruption news in briefs below.)
  • Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro was elected in large part on an anti-corruption platform by citizens tired of graft scandals tainting all of the country's major parties. But already his appointments and allies betray those promises, reports The Intercept: Bolsonaro picked at least seven people tangled up in scandals, from lawsuits and official investigations to criminal convictions and even confession of guilt.
  • Brazil's incoming environmental minister, Ricardo Salles, said the country has too many environmental fines, many of which are "ideological." The former environment secretary for São Paulo state questioned new data showing record rates of deforestation in the Amazon. His selection was backed by the Brazilian Rural Society – an agribusiness group -- though he has been accused of altering plans for an environmentally protected area in order to favor businesses, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Tomorrow marks the 50 year anniversary of the Ato Institucional Número Cinco (Institutional Act Number 5, AI-5), a 1968 extrajudicial decree that deepened repression and violence under Brazil’s military dictatorship -- with important lessons for today, reports NACLA.
  • Two members of Brazil's landless workers' movement (MST) were killed this weekend in the northeast state of Paraíba. MST said in a statement that heavily armed men entered a rural camp set up by activists last year, and shot the two men dead on Saturday, reports Reuters.
Aid and Migration
  • The U.S. has invested significantly in combatting gangs in El Salvador, hoping to stem the violence that sends so many migrants fleeing from their country -- despite President Donald Trump's periodic threats to cut aid. But two years in, it's difficult to asses the impact of efforts to overhaul the justice system, reports the New York Times. Though officials believe aid has contributed to a decrease in homicides, critics say U.S. trained police officers have carried out acts of brutality and extrajudicial killings.
  • Cutting aid to Honduras won't reduce migration, but it will threaten fragile and hard-won progress in the region warn Kurt Alan Ver Beek and James D. Nealon in a Wilson Center article.
  • Both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border are dominated by fear at the moment -- migrants pushed violence that threatens their lives, while nearly half of the U.S. considers the caravans to be a real danger to the country. Bridging the divide requires facing the issues caused by fear and insecurity, argues Patricio Fernández in a New York Times Español op-ed. The left has failed to grapple with the issue of criminality, a fact that condemns it to increasing irrelevance, he writes.
  • Mexico will dedicate $30 billion into development for the southern part of the country, part of an effort to deter illicit migration. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the focus on development is meant to counter other narratives about migration. (Los Angeles Times)
  • U.S. border patrol agents arrested 32 religious leaders and activists protesting in favor of migrants at the San Diego border. (Guardian)
  • A blanket amnesty for officials who committed acts of corruption in the past, as Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is a terrible idea. It is akin to his predecessor's failure to combat corruption, against which AMLO successfully campaigned this year, argues Luis Pérez de Acha in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • The new administration is taking aim at drug cartel finances -- it already filed a complaint against three businesses and seven people linked to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, reports Reuters. But it's not clear if the López Obrador administration has the institutional capacity and coordination to attack Mexican criminal groups' finances, according to InSight Crime.
  • British and Irish restaurants are increasingly leaving avocados off the menu, due to concerns that the imports are funding Mexican drug cartels, which have seized cultivation land in Michoacán. (Guardian)
  • Peru's anti-corruption prosecutor aims to to fine local companies, politicians and businessmen about $180 million for participating in Odebrecht's kickback schemes. Jorge Ramirez already obtained a promise from Odebrecht to pay back $180 million for having bribed local officials, but seeks to recoup the rest of the estimated $370 million owed to Peru for illegal cost overruns that resulted from Odebrecht’s bribes, reports Reuters.
  • Former Paraguayan president Horacio Cartes was subpoenaed yesterday by lawmakers in relation to money laundering allegations. (EFE)
  • Argentina President Mauricio Macri's father and brother have been called to court to testify in relation to the kickbacks case known as the "corruption notebooks." Franco and Gianfranco Macri are to testify on Thursday in a Buenos Aires court over the alleged payment of bribes by which their construction company, Socma, secured contracts to complete two stretches of a state highway, reports AFP.
  • Colombia 2020 is a journalism project that seeks to report on the country's transition from civil war to peace, and educate citizens about the roots of the Colombian conflict. (Guardian)
  • The weapons used by FARC guerrillas during the war, turned over as part of the peace process, have been turned into an "anti-monument" by artist Doris Salcedo. She melted down 37 tonnes of rifles, pistols and grenade launchers and -- with the help of conflict victims -- recast as tiles that line the floor of a new gallery space that will host two guest exhibitions every year related to the conflict. (Guardian)
  • Colombian President Iván Duque is pushing for a return to supply-side drug war policies, eradication instead of substitution as called for in the 2016 peace accord, according to NACLA.

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

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