Monday, June 24, 2019

At least 26 people killed in La Saline massacre last year -- U.N. (June 24, 2019)

At least 26 people were killed in a gang-killing spree in November of last year that has been dubbed the La Saline massacre.  A United Nations investigation found that a local government official and several police officers were linked to the two-day reign of terror by armed gangs in a poor neighborhood in Port-Au-Prince. 

People were killed with guns, axes, and machetes, their bodies carted away in wheelbarrows. The youngest victim was ten months old, and the oldest 72, there were at least two instances of gang rape. Haitian human rights organizations put the death toll at 71 and counted 11 gang rapes. The UN criticized police inaction during the violence, which gave gang members time to dispose evidence. 


Bachelet wraps up Venezuela visit with call for political prisoner release

Bachelet wrapped up a three day visit to Venezuela with a call for the government to release all political prisoners, reports Bloomberg. She denounced practices of torture and extrajudicial executions, reports Efecto Cocuyo. Bachelet said she had appointed two delegates to stay behind to advise the government and monitor abuses, reports Deutsche Welle. Venezuela’s government also agreed to an evaluation of the national commission on torture prevention and another study of the obstacles to accessing the justice system. (Al Jazeera)

She said humanitarian conditions had deteriorated "extraordinarily" in the country, and asked the government for data to adequately evaluate and support economic and social rights, report Efecto Cocuyo. (Full statement at Efecto Cocuyo.)

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the U.N.'s Venezuela office to denounce human rights violations on Friday, as Bachelet was leaving. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for a massive protest on July 5, when Bachelet is expected to present the report of her findings, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
Foro Penal director Alfredo Romero called Bachelet's position "timid," reports Efecto Cocuyo. More than 700 people have been detained in Venezuela for political reasons, including 100 members of the military, according Foro Penal. (BBC)

As if to belie Bachelet's influence, Venezuelan authorities arrested six members of the country’s military and police forces over the weekend, reports Reuters. Several were violently detained by intelligence police officers while U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet was still in the country, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

More Venezuela
  • Guaidó announced plans aimed at incorporating exiled Venezuelan professionals into a post-Maduro scenario. (Efecto Cocuyo)
  • U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) commander Admiral Craig S. Faller wrote to Venezuela's armed forces to congratulate them on the anniversary of a 1821 military victory, and expressed hope that the two countries' militaries will soon work together to face common challenges in the region. (EFE)
  • If Maduro doesn't fall soon, the U.S. will have to decide what to do with its sanctions against Venezuela and its leadership, writes James Dobbins in Foreign Affairs, writing about zombie sanctions that continue even after they are unlikely to achieve their original purpose.
  • Plans for U.S. military intervention or rapid regime change seem increasingly unlikely. Instead U.S. officials are now pinning transition hopes on multilateral negotiations that may include Maduro allies such as Russia, China and Cuba, reports the Financial Times. Indeed, Cuba is likely to be key.
News Briefs

  • Speaking of sanctions, and Cuba: Stiffened U.S. sanctions are hitting Cuba's already fragile economy hard. Measures aimed at retaliating against Cuba's support of Venezuelan Nicolás Maduro are affecting everything from food supply chains, to tourism, to energy supplies, reports the Washington Post.
El Salvador
  • Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele is implementing a new gang crackdown. Last week he outlined a basic security policy that recycles previous government's failed strategies, criticizes InSight Crime. They include deploying security forces to regain control of gang territories in San Salvador and other cities. Investigation of gang finances and cracking down on jail corruption are other focuses. Last week, Bukele ruled out negotiations with the country's street gangs, and promised to strike at the criminal groups' finances, reports Reuters.
  • On Friday Bukele asked telephone companies to completely block cellphone signals inside the country’s prisons, a move aimed at limiting gang leader's from giving order from behind bars, reports the Associated Press
  • Colombian army leadership is cracking down on suspected whistleblowers. Semana reports that officers suspected of denouncing human rights violations and corruption -- in the wake of a New York Times report on orders to boost army kill rates -- are being harassed and threatened. (See May 20's post.)
  • About 30 high-ranking former FARC guerrilla leaders gathered on Friday to plan a response to the killing of at least 135 former fighters since the Nov. 2016 peace treaty, reports EFE. Last week former FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño called on Colombian President Iván Duque to stop the "systematic" killings of former guerrilla fighters. (See last Wednesday's briefs.)
  • The power vacuum created by the FARC demobilization has put social leaders at risk, reports EFE. At least 285 human rights defenders have been killed in Colombia since January 2016. (See last Wednesday's briefs for Human Rights Watch's take on ongoing violence against activists.)
  • A new ranking looks at Latin American countries's ability to fight corruption, rather than perceptions of corruption. The AS/COA "Capacity to Combat Corruption Index" puts Chile at the head of the regional pack: meaning it's the country in the index where corruption most likely to be uncovered, punished and deterred. It's followed by Brazil. Venezuela is at the bottom of the index, which looks at 14 key variables, including the independence of judicial institutions, the strength of investigative journalism, and the level of resources available for combating white-collar crime. (Americas Quarterly)
  • Honduran teachers and health sector workers vowed to continue protests against President Juan Orlando Hernández. (La Prensa) The protests have been ongoing for nearly two months, spurred by an attempt to reform public education and health, but have morphed into broader anti-government demonstrations. Last week Honduras' government deployed troops to quell unrest after anti-riot police joined strikers, in demand of better benefits. (See Friday's post.) At least three protesters have been killed and more than 20 wounded last week in the midst of increasing clashes. Demonstrations that include road blocks around the country are hitting the Honduran business sector hard, and protests will likely maintain their intensity in the lead up to the anniversary of the 2009 coup on Friday, reports Al Jazeera
  • Corruption and impunity, the focal point for many protesters calling for the president's resignation, are part of what is pushing migration to the U.S. -- though the Trump administration continues to back JOH, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Migration from Central America's Northern Triangle countries is essentially encouraged by those countries' government's lack of social investment, according to Bloomberg. In turn, migrants send significant amounts of remittances that form a central pillar of these countries' economies. "When all of these elements are stitched together and viewed holistically, it can appear as if the economic model these governments have adopted is one based on exporting people. That might be an over-simplification -- and it may not be the governments’ intent -- but it is the net effect of the policy mix, according to longtime observers of the region."
  • Over the weekend Mexican authorities strengthened efforts to detain migrants crossing the countries southern border, in an attempt to reduce flows towards the U.S. border, reports the Associated Press.
  • Mexican police might be implicated in the death of a Salvadoran migrant teen in Veracruz state earlier this month, a shooting episode that illustrates civil society concerns about using ill-prepared security forces for migration control, reports the New York Times.
  • Mexico's new labor reform gives union workers freedom to choose leadership for the first time -- but actually transforming the system will be slow work, reports the New York Times.
  • Brazil's Supreme Court is turning out to be a significant obstacle to President Jair Bolsonaro's conservative agenda, reports the Wall Street Journal. Magistrates will hear a petition to release former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from jail tomorrow, and is expected to suspend a presidential decree loosening gun ownership regulations later this week.
  • Whoever wins in Guatemala's August presidential run-off, the loser is the country's anti-corruption efforts, argues Due of Law Foundation board president Naomi Roht-Arriaza in the Conversation.
Dominican Republic
  • A spate of tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic has caused anxiety, but they are likely all normal, reports the Washington Post.
  • El Salvador and Honduras will face off on the football pitch this week -- the Los Angeles Times revisits the Football War that started in 1969 when the two countries' teams competed to enter the World Cup.
  • The Womens World Cup in France this month has put a new spotlight on female footballers in Latin America, considered a (blasphemous?) novelty by many. Women have, in fact, played football in Latin America for nearly as long as the menfolk have. They were rapidly excluded by the mid-20th century because of its growing importance to national, virile identity. Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America, which I reviewed in Americas Quarterly, gives historical perspective to back up feminists who argue that conquering the field is a strike against the machismo that underpins gender violence. Even when playing wasn’t illegal outright -- as it was for forty years in Brazil -- women were told they had the wrong physique for soccer, that the sport was too violent, or that it would turn them into lesbians. “The threat (futboleras) caused to notions of appropriate womanhood, to masculine hegemony, and to perceptions of women’s public health were too much to be ignored,” write authors Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel. Those who found a way to play regardless were, by definition, transgressors. Many still are.

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

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