Tuesday, May 28, 2019

55 killed in Brazilian prisons (May 28, 2019)

At least 55 people (some reports say 57) were killed in violent clashes in Brazilian state of Amazonas prisons over the past few days. The deaths appear to be related to a power struggle within the powerful Northern Family gang.

On Sunday, 15 inmates were killed during a fight among inmates at Manaus’s Anísio Jobim prison complex, a notoriously violent penitentiary. Some inmates were reported to have been asphyxiated, and others were stabbed with sharpened toothbrushes. The outbreak spread to three other prisons in the same state yesterday, where at least 42-inmates died, most showed signs of asphyxia. 

Authorities said this morning they were were making plans to move inmates around the country's overcrowded prison system. Brazil has one of the world’s largest prison populations. More than 800,000 inmates are held in facilities with a combined capacity for half that number.

News Briefs

More from Brazil 
  • The pace of Amazon deforestation in Brazil increased 20% in the past nine months, compared the same period the previous year, reports the Associated Press.
  • New evidence links Colombian army head Gen. Nicacio Martínez Espinel to the alleged cover-up of civilian killings over a decade ago, reports the Associated Press. The so-called "false-positives" scandal involves up to 5,000 extrajudicial killings carried out in the mid-2000's by army troops pressured to inflate body counts, sometimes even passing off executed civilians as guerrilla fighters felled in combat. Earlier this year Human Rights Watch criticized Martínez Espinel's appointment, in relation to information linking him to false-positives investigations. The new allegations come in the midst of a scandal in which Martínez Espinel ordered military commanders to boost kill rates, in an episode many relate to the false-positives scandal and which some say already contributed to more extrajudicial killings. (See May 20's post.)
  • Health and education workers led demonstrations around Honduras yesterday, in protest of budget cuts. Anti-riot police dispersed protesters near the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa. (La PrensaNina LakhaniCNNAgencies) Similar demonstrations started a month ago, and were violently repressed, see April 30's post.
  • Former Honduran President Porfirio Lobo is being investigated on suspicion of involvement in laundering illegal drug money as part of a wider probe into his 2010-14 administration. The investigation by OAS backed Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) was spurred by Devis Leonel Rivera, a leader of the “Los Cachiros” drug cartel, who testified in a U.S. court that he had given money to Lobo’s 2010 election campaign. (Reuters)
  • Mexican authorities froze former state oil company head Emilio Lozoya's bank accounts, based on apparent illicit funds stemming from corruption. Lozoya has been mentioned, but not charged, in corruption scandals involving Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. (Associated Press and Milenio) Last week the government banned Lozoya and another former Pemex exec from holding public positions for 10 years. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised to alleviate medicine shortages at public hospitals, even if it means buying drugs abroad. Health authorities have complained about fiscal austerity that is affecting their work, but AMLO said the problems stem corporate responses to a government crackdown on overpricing. (Reuters)
  • Mexico’s environment minister has been forced to resign after causing a flight she was about to miss to be delayed by 38 minutes, reports the Guardian.
  • Children are among the most affected by Venezuela's humanitarian crisis, reports the Washington Post.
  • A wealthy Venezuelan businessman wanted in Florida for allegedly laundering billions of dollars for top Venezuelan government figures, Raúl Gorrín, played a key role in the failed April 30 opposition uprising, reports the Wall Street Journal. Gorrín reportedly offered release from U.S. travel and financial sanctions key government figures willing to turn on President Nicolás Maduro.
  • The European Union assigned Spanish-Uruguayan former banker and diplomat Enrique Iglesias to spearhead diplomatic efforts to end the Venezuela crisis, focused on calling new elections. (Reuters)
Central America
  • U.S. aid cuts to Central American countries will likely strengthen criminal organizations, according to InSight Crime. (See April 2's post.)
  • The case of four youths who died in a police chase in Buenos Aires province -- two 13-year-olds, one 14 and one 22 -- has raised hackles in Argentina about a national policy that broadens the definition of self-defense for police, based on the case of an officer who lethally shot a suspect who was fleeing. (Página 12) So far 13 people have been detained in the case, which police initially attempted to portray as a car crash. (Infobae)
  • Argentine authorities insist that cases of corruption in the federal police force are just examples of bad apples, but experts say there is necessarily collusion between security forces and criminal organizations for the latter to flourish, reports InSight Crime.
  • Chile is debating a euthanasia bill, a surprisingly liberal turn for a traditionally conservative country. The secular shift in social mores was preceded by a massive expansion in wealth, writes Carlos Peña in a New York Times Español op-ed.
Sweet Spot
  • A Mexican venture turns wasted corn cobs into xylitol, a sugar replacement. The project tackles two problems -- agricultural waste and Mexico's rampant obesity, reports the Guardian.

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

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