The U.S. Trump administration donated 38 military jeeps to the Guatemalan government in October, just weeks after President Jimmy Morales used previously donated vehicles to intimidate anti-corruption investigators and U.S. embassy personnel, reports the Washington Post.
The J8 Jeeps were given to the Guatemalan Defense Ministry on Oct. 11 for use in anti-narcotics operations. But Democrat lawmakers questioned the handover, after the Guatemalan government deployed U.S. donated jeeps outside the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala headquarters, the U.S. embassy, and human rights activists' homes in August. The intimidation accompanied an announcement by President Jimmy Morales that the CICIG's mandate would be terminated, which he made flanked by members of the military. (See Sept. 3's post.)
The U.S. jeeps were provided to Guatemala only for use in anti-narcotics operations. A Pentagon spokesman told the Washington Post that apparent misuse on Aug. 31 was under investigation.
In November, The Intercept reported that Guatemalan police documents show a pattern of such misuse in the months leading up to and including the August 31 deployment in Guatemala City. "They were donated by the United States to combat drug trafficking on the borders and they were used [August 31] to intimidate CICIG, violating everything the agreement says," said Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman Jordán Rodas.
- Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said that Russia will invest more than $5 billion in boosting Venezuelan oil production and additional investments for mining gold and diamonds, as well as providing about 600 tons of wheat next year. The announcements come after a meeting this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but some analysts are skeptical the investments will come through, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday's briefs.)
- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on the Honduran government to revoke a dam concession on indigenous lands, a project that was opposed by environmentalist Berta Cáceres who was killed in 2016. Commission president Margarette May Macaulay said the concession to DESA was legally invalid because it did not respect the will of indigenous communities who consider the river sacred, reports AFP. (See Nov. 30's post on the trial against Cáceres' murderers, who include former DESA executives.)
- There are signs that "horrific and endemic" violence in Central America's Northern Triangle countries is decreasing -- homicides have gone down drastically in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, reports the Economist.
- Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno said he has received assurances from the U.K. that Julian Assange will not be extradited to any country where he could face the death penalty. That guarantee should be sufficient to allow the WikiLeaks founder to leave Ecuador's London embassy, where he has lived under asylum since mid-2012. (Guardian and Associated Press)
- Deforestation of Brazil's Amazon increased by 50 percent between August and October, over the same period in 2017. The period represents the final part of this year's presidential campaign, in which anti-environmental protection candidate Jair Bolsonaro was ascendant and eventually won, reports the Washington Post. And it's only expected to get worst when he actually takes office.
- Thousands of Argentine women protested on Wednesday, following the acquittal of two men accused of sexually abusing and killing Lucía Pérez in 2016. The 16-year-old's death helped propel the Ni Una Menos movement at the time, and now activists are incensed at a judicial decision that found the extreme sexual violence inflicted on Pérez was "consensual." (TIME and Página 12)
- Argentina's Supreme Court determined that a controversial law aimed at reducing pre-trial detentions cannot be applied to crimes against humanity, reports Página 12. The decision comes over a year and a half after another Supreme Court ruling incited widespread anger when it applied the so-called 2x1 Law to a man convicted of torture and kidnappings during the last military dictatorship, reducing his sentence from 13 to 9 years. Protests pushed lawmakers to immediately pass a law prohibiting this application. (See HRW's country report for 2017, the post for May 10, 2017, and briefs for May 11, 2017.)
- New regulations in Cuba seem likely to harm the island's nascent private sector, reports the Economist.
- A young generation of Cubans is leaving behind the old divisions between pro and anti revolutionaries -- they now dream of traveling rather than emigrating, and must confront the challenges of growing economic opportunity and inequality, writes Ruth Behar in a New York Times op-ed.
- Nearly a hundred years after the massacre of banana workers in Colombia, an often forgotten episode catapulted to fame by Gabriel García Márquez's portrayal of the killing and coverup in One Hundred Years of Solitude, Colombian workers still struggle for the right to protest and dignified working conditions, writes Nicolás Pernett in a New York Times Español op-ed.
- The constant protests in Colombia since President Iván Duque took office in August spell out trouble for the government, but may be an excellent sign for the country's democracy, argues Fabio Andres Diaz in the Conversation.
- Drug traffickers are now using mules who swallow cash in order to move profits as well as drugs. Colombian authorities often swallow up to 120 pellets of cash, adding up to about $40,000 a person. (Guardian)
- Want to binge this weekend with a little less guilt? Check out InSight Crime's piece on the lessons to be gleaned from Netfix's latest season of "Narcos."
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...