Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Attack against Colombian Goldman recipient showcases violence against activists (May 7, 2019)

Francia Márquez, one of Colombia’s most-prominent grassroots activists, was attacked by gunmen in the southern town of Santander de Quilichao. Márquez, who won last year's Goldman Environmental Prize for her work fighting illegal gold mining by armed groups in her Afro-Colombian community, survived the attack, reports the Associated Press

Nonetheless, the attack highlights the dangers faced by activists in a country where one is killed, on average, every two days, notes Reuters.

Márquez was at an event that gathered 16 other major Afro-Colombian leaders. One receive a Whatsapp threat yesterday warning that Saturday's attack -- which involved a grenade and crossfire with security agents -- was just the beginning, reports La Silla Vacía.

Separately, social conflict has become a hallmark of the Duque administration, particularly in Colombia's Cauca region. President Iván Duque has criminalized protesters though and likened them to guerrillas, reports Nueva Sociedad.

News Briefs

  • Costa Rican president Carlos Alvarado inaugurated the third meeting of the International Contact Group (ICG) on Venezuela last night, reports the Tico Times. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, attended, as did representatives from 11 European and Latin American nations.
  • Cuba is reportedly willing to participate in negotiating an exit to the Venezuelan crisis, but would require President Nicolás Maduro to participate, reports Bloomberg. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Ending Maduro's regime "is a necessary condition to overcome the crisis," but "it will not automatically stabilize the country politically and economically, even if the international community is patient enough to provide massive aid to Venezuela for years," warns Oliver Stuenkel in Americas Quarterly. Among a slew of other problems, a new government would have to balance a strong popular desire for justice against Chavista violations, while, it would, at the same time, depend on armed forces that will be disinclined to allow investigations into the past. 
  • Five people were killed in last week's attempted uprising against the Maduro government in Venezuela, said Foro Penal -- and 82 were detained or disappeared last week. (Efecto Cocuyo)
  • U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is set to offer new incentives to Venezuela’s military to turn against President Nicolás Maduro, according to Reuters. (See yesterday's post.)
  • The narrative, particularly in mainstream media, that Maduro's government is crumbling, is inaccurate and based on misleading material, argues Michael Fox in The Nation.
  • Venezuela’s central bank has begun using piles of cash rather than electronic transfer to sell foreign exchange to local banks, reports Reuters.
  • Panama's president-elect Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo, said the United States should pay more attention to Central America or risk losing ground to China in the region, reports Reuters.
  • Cortizo won Sunday's presidential election by an unexpectedly close margin. (See yesterday's post.) The campaign was marked by anti-establishment fervor: A grassroots anti-corruption campaign with the twitter hashtag #NoALaReleeccion,  may have had an impact, with voters throwing out more than 20 of the 49 incumbents who had sought to retain their seats, reports Bloomberg.
  • Brazilian police shot dead eight people in one of Rio de Janeiro's biggest slums, just days after a report showing a record number of police killings in this year's first quarter, reports AFP. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Rio de Janeiro state governor, Wilson Witzel, tweeted a video from a helicopter while observing a police operation in which shots were reportedly fired by the forces, reports the Guardian.
  • The key witness in a case of U.S. drug agency agents accused of wrongdoing in Haiti has been extradited to the U.S., where he faces of conspiring to distribute cocaine and heroin, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Reporting on Central American gangs often focuses on the big picture -- but a New York Times report looks at the turf war in a small neighborhood of San Pedro Sula, a glimpse of street gang strife in great detail.
  • Argentine President Mauricio Macri wants to calm volatile markets ahead of this year's presidential election with a "basic consensus" to be accorded with opponents, including former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, reports Reuters.
  • Mexican demonstrators held the first major protest against President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Sunday -- several thousand people marched in Mexico city demanding his resignation, reports Reuters.
  • Nonetheless, five months after his swearing-in, his approval ratings range between 60 and 86 percent, reports the BBC
  • Mexican will launch a criminal probe into Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht SA within 60 days, said the country's attorney general. (Reuters) The case against Odebrecht graft in Mexico has been stalled, particularly compared with other countries in the region such as Peru, notes Proceso. (See post for Oct. 23, 2017.)
Regional Relations
  • Mexico is not willing to accept a stronger labor enforcement mechanism in the new North American trade pact, and will not reopen negotiations on the agreement, a top official told Politico. Mexican lawmakers just approved a landmark labor reform law required by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. (See April 30's briefs.)
  • Latin American militaries are enjoying a boom of power unseen since the Cold War -- but strengthening their peace-time role is breaking down " hard-won safeguards against repeating the abuses of the past," write Brett J. Kyle & Andrew G. Reiter in NACLA
  • Militarization of public security in recent decades has made Latin America the most lethal region in the world, writes Aram Barra in Este País. "Faced with the regional violence crisis, new political leaders don't seem to understand the magnitude and complexity of the problem. Few Latin American politicians are talking about effective gun and munitions control, more intelligent drug policies, or truly combatting corruption -- all issues with more violence reduction impact than military presence on the streets.

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