Monday, July 1, 2019

Navy captain dies in Venezuelan custody, evidence of torture (July 1, 2019)

Venezuelan Navy captain Rafael Acosta died in custody, a week after his arrest on charges of treason. His lawyer said there was evidence that Acosta was tortured in custody -- he arrived at a military tribunal on Friday struggling to speak or move, showed visible signs of beatings, and kept repeating the word “help” to his legal team, reports the New York Times

He was one of half a dozen former and active officers who have been detained in the past week over allegations of plotting to overthrow Nicolás Maduro's government. (See last Thursday's post.) Acosta was one of several members of the country's security forces arrested while U.N. Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet was visiting Caracas a week an a half ago. (See last Monday's post.) His wife said he was seized by members of Venezuela's intelligence service and the military's counterintelligence agency on the afternoon of 21 June in Guarenas, 40 km away from Caracas, reports the BBC.

The case sparked national and international outrage. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó has denounced the death as murder, and promised to take the case to international tribunals. He reiterated calls for Venezuela's military to help oust Maduro, reports the Associated Press. Former intelligence agency chief, Manuel Figuera, also called on the country's armed forces to remove illegitimate forces from power, in a letter in which he accuses government "butchers" of killing Acosta. (Efecto Cocuyo)

The Acosta death will be added to an International Criminal Court file against Maduro, said Guaidó representatives. (Efecto Cocuyo)

The US State Department condemned "the killing and torture of" Acosta who "died while in the custody of Maduro's thugs and their Cuban advisers". The Lima Group called Capt Acosta's death an "assassination." The European union said Capt Acosta's death was "another stark illustration of the arbitrary nature of the judicial system in the country and of the lack of guarantees and rights for those under detention"France and Germany joined calls to investigate the death.

Last year, Fernando Albán, a opposition councillor, died while in the custody of Venezuela intelligence service SEBIN. The government claimed his death was a suicide. (See post for Oct. 9, 2018)

Bachelet's full report based on the recent trip is expected Friday, July 5. The opposition has called for protests on that day.

More from Venezuela
  • "Nicolasito" Maduro, the Venezuelan leader's son, is the latest recipient of U.S. sanctions aimed at isolating the Venezuelan administration. (Guardian) The action against Maduro's son cites his involvement in Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Foro Penal denounced the detention of human rights lawyer Antonia Turbay. (Efecto Cocuyo)
News Briefs

  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security projects that arrests of migrants along the southern border will fall 25 percent this month. The expected reduction is related to Mexico's crackdown on Central American migration, and the U.S. program that requires asylum seekers to wait outside U.S. territory for their immigration court hearings, reports the Washington Post.
  • The U.S. Trump administration's crackdown on migration has drastically increased wait times for would be asylum seekers, who wait on the Mexican side of the border for an appointment with U.S. authorities. The U.S. calls the policy "metering," in which a certain number of people are granted appointments each day. Migrants know the system as "La Lista," and nobody knows the why and wherefore of the numbers assigned and what wait times it might implicate for asylum seekers, reports the Guardian.
  • Deaths of unidentified people, as desperate migrants attempt to cross the border irregularly, are also on the rise, reports the Guardian.
  • The photo of drowned migrant Oscar Martínez and his young daughter has already become iconic in the migration debate. Martínez's family in El Salvador begged him not to make the dangerous trek north, but he was pushed by economic duress, a major push factor in Central American migration, reports the New York Times.
  • Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele said his country bears responsibility for the economic and violent conditions that pushed the Martínez family -- and thousands more -- to flee El Salvador. “People don’t flee their homes because they want to. People flee their homes because they feel they have to,” he said. (Washington Post)
  • "How many times must a child wash up on a shoreline or collapse in the desert before the very force of our collective grief and rage throws the Earth right off its axis – or at the very least, shatters the policies that support such suffering and death?" writes Debbie Weingarten in the Guardian.
  • The world is in the midst of the worst refugee crisis since World War II, but has lost the will to deal with the calamity, writes Stewart M. Patrick in World Politics Review.
  • A year after Andrés Manuel López Obrador won Mexico's presidency by a landslide, he is still on the campaign trail, and remains wildly popular, reports the Guardian. Yet, many of his policies -- government austerity, conciliatory gestures towards U.S. demands, and deploying the army for international security -- run directly contrary to his original promises.
  • A freak summer hailstorm buried some Guadalajara neighborhoods in two meters of ice pellets Sunday. (AFPWashington Post)
Dominican Republic
  • Dominican Republic authorities say they arrested the man who ordered the shooting of baseball player David Ortiz. The suspect is allegedly linked to Mexico's Gulf Cartel, reports the Associated Press.
  • A wave of anti-corruption sentiment kicked most lawmakers out of Congress in Panama's last election. Corruption investigations by Mary Triny Zea, a reporter from newspaper La Prensa, were behind the historic push, reports Americas Quarterly.
  • The Amazon's developmental potential is celebrated by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, but experts say the rainforest is on the verge of an environmental crisis, reports the Washington Post.
  • The high profile prison break of an important Italian mob boss is further undermining Uruguay's reputation for safety and lack of corruption, reports InSight Crime. (See last Tuesday's briefs on Rocco Morabito's escape.)
  • Argentine authorities seized more than 2,500 fire arms in a massive bust Friday. Investigators found anti-tank land mines, artillery rounds and hundreds of rifles in a network of houses, reports the New York Times. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • High profile corruption cases -- and accusations of mismanagement -- have led some to call for an Argentine version of Guatemala's international anti-impunity commission, the CICIG. Such commissions are only as effective as their host countries allow them to be, warns InSight Crime.
  • Argentina's election has gone from a polarized battle among opposite visions, to one in which both leading candidates have allied with old political foes to try to capture a broader swathe of the electorate, argues Sylvia Colombo in a New York Times Español op-ed. It's like a reverse "que se vayan todos." It is unlikely to lead to good policies in the midst of a growing crisis, but it will make for a good political show, she writes.
  • The European Union reached an agreement with the South American Mercosur trade bloc on Friday. The negotiation took 20 years, and Argentine and Brazilian leaders touted it as an important victory for free trade in the region, reports the New York Times. Under the agreement, tariffs worth billions of dollars will be eliminated in the two regions, which together represent a quarter of global gross domestic product.
  • China's is expanding its influence in the region not only through economic cooperation, but also, increasingly via soft-power programs aimed at increasing exchange between Latin America and China, reports Gonzalo Fiore Viani at Nodal.

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

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