Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Nicaraguan gov't frees political prisoners, passes self-amnesty law (June 11, 2019)

Nicaragua's government freed 50 political prisoners yesterday, under the aegis of a controversial new amnesty law. Two journalists detained in December, Miguel Mora was the director and Lucía Pineda Ubau the spokeswoman for the 100% Noticias television channel, were released this morning. (Guardian)

That means there are still 182 political prisoners ahead of the June 18 deadline to release all political detainees. Many are some of the most visible faces and leadership of last year's anti-government protests, and more than a dozen are in maximum security or solitary confinement, reports Confidencial. About 500 political prisoners have been freed from jail since February, but most are under some form of house arrest or parole, leaving them legally vulnerable.

This weekend pro-Ortega lawmakers passed an amnesty bill that allows for the release of people detained in relation to anti-government protests -- but also grants blanket immunity to police and paramilitary fighters who participated in repression last year and committed grave human rights violations. It also bans freed political prisoners from launching further anti-government protests, reports Reuters. The ruling Sandinista bloc characterized last year's protests as a "failed coup d'etat" and said the law aims at reconciliation, reports the Associated Press.

Human rights activists and a coalition of more than 70 opposition groups in Nicaragua strongly rejected the new law, which was passed the day after it was submitted by President Daniel Ortega. The law implies that no one is responsible for the deaths that occurred last year in the violent repression of anti-government protests, reports Al Jazeera. The Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (Cenidh) said the law is effectively a "self-amnesty" and is illegal under international law. (Confidencial)

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in a statement on Friday that the law “could impede the processing of potentially responsible persons for grave violations of human rights” committed during the protests.

More from Nicaragua
  • Released prisoners detail abusive conditions in Nicaraguan jails. (Confidencial)

Honduras protests continue

Honduran teachers and health workers protested yesterday -- part of ongoing demonstrations over the past month against reforms they say could lead to privatization and massive layoffs, report La Prensa and El Heraldo.

President Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH) threatened to repress protests that engage in vandalism or turn violent, reports Criterio. On Sunday Honduran security secretary said police would not be fooled and will not be tolerant, reports C-Libre. The response was characterized as "militarization" by human rights organization COPINHCofadeh considered the official communication about potential repression to be a threat.

Protesters are demanding dialogue with the government to strengthen the education and public health sectors, as well as the immediate halt of repression and investigation into security forces actions against demonstrators over the past month, reports TeleSUR. The government backtracked on the reform bills, but protesters demand that a dialogue process be internationally mediated and broadcast live from a deteriorated public hospital, reports La Prensa. (See last Wednesday's briefs, and last Tuesday's post.)

In response to the government's refusal to meet their conditions, the Plataforma por la Defensa de la Salud y la Educación, announced an "alternative dialogue" that will be conducted next week without government participation. (Criterio) In the meantime protests are slated to continue today. (Tiempo)

Nacla report delves into the controversy and how it's reignited calls for the president’s resignation. Protesters have also been spurred by recent revelations linking JOH to U.S. drug trafficking investigations, reports Criterio. (See May 31's briefs.)

News Briefs

  • Tensions escalated amid ongoing anti-corruption protests in Haiti. Demonstrators are demanding President Jovenel Moïse's resignation.  (See yesterday's briefs.) Port-au-Prince demonstrators barricaded roads, set tires on fire, and attacked a radio station. Late last night a well-known radio journalist was killed. Several of the attacks in recent days have singled out journalists, reports the Miami Herald. Protest organizers called for a national strike today, reports Voice of America. Much of the capital was paralyzed by a strike call yesterday as well, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Protests are focused on misused funds from a Venezuelan subsidized oil program meant to finance development policies. But the case of the Port-au-Prince Delmas viaduct demonstrates "just how difficult it will be to ensure justice and accountability in Haiti – and abroad," according to a CEPR report. "It’s not just the Haitian government that may be reticent about following the money. The implications of the Petrocaribe scandal in Haiti are vast and extend far beyond the country’s own borders and its own political class."
  • Armed gangs have essentially taken over Haiti's Artibonite Valley, an unintended consequence of tariff decisions 30 years ago that destroyed local agricultural economy, reports Bloomberg.
  • There were “serious problems with the culture, morale and behaviour” of Oxfam staff in Haiti. A new damning investigation by the Charity Commission found that Oxfam failed to disclose allegations of child abuse, reports the Guardian.
  • Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard said yesterday that no secret immigration deal existed between his country and the United States, reports the New York Times. This directly contradicted U.S. President Donald Trump’s claim on Twitter that a “fully signed and documented” agreement would soon be revealed. (See yesterday's post.)
  • The outlook is bad for Guatemalan's ahead of Sunday's presidential election -- anti-corruption crusader Thelma Aldana has been kept out of the running by a court order, which threatens the country's ongoing efforts to route out entrenched corruption. Social pressure -- through activism and mobilization -- is the only way to protect Guatemala's U.N. backed international anti-impunity commission, whose mission will otherwise end in September, writes Alvaro Montenegro in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Colombia’s House of Representatives is debating a measure to censure the country’s defense minister, in the wake of revelations that army commanders were ordered to boost kill rates. (New York Times)
El Salvador
  • El Salvador's new -- young -- president, Nayib Bukele, is using Twitter for many of his first moves, including firing relatives of his predecessor, Salvador Sánchez Céren, reports Reuters.

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

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