Friday, July 5, 2019

Systemic human rights abuses in Venezuela - United Nations (July 5, 2019)

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet issued a harshly critical report on Venezuela yesterday -- detailing horrific human rights crimes carried out systemically by security forces over the past 18  months. (See yesterday's post.) The report comes as the public and international community is reeling from the death by torture of a navy captain in government custody. 

Venezuela's government swiftly condemned Bachelet's report, which comes after a three day fact-finding mission last month and hundreds of interviews. Authorities say navy captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo was killed by a small group of rogue intelligence officers. Leaked official autopsies indicate significant trauma.

Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco lauded the U.N. report's spotlight on abuses, on Twitter, but lamented that it fell short of urging the United Nations to set up a commission of inquiry. The report instead calls for the government to set up an independent investigation -- which is impossible under current circumstances, HRW senior researcher Tamara Taraciuk Broner explained to NYT. 

Bachelet presented the report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva this morning, where she urged the international community to stop Venezuela's crisis from prolonging. (Efecto Cocuyo) Venezuelan lawmaker Miguel Pizarro said today that Peru will lead an international commission to investigate and determine responsibility for the violations detailed in the U.N. report. (Efecto Cocuyo) Earlier this week Peru's foreign ministry invited China, Russia, Cuba, the United States and dozens of other countries to Lima on Aug. 6 to discuss the political crisis in Venezuela. (Reuters)

More from Venezuela
  • Opposition leader Juan Guaidó said the Norway mediated negotiation efforts are currently "frozen," but is an instrument of pressure to be implemented if it can effect political change, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • The Venezuela Weekly has the low-down on the postponed negotiations. "It is common in acute conflicts for negotiations to be suspended by one side because of the actions or violence of the other side, but resume further down the road as the context evolves," write David Smilde and Dimitris Pantoulas.
  • Russia reaffirmed its commitment to Venezuela's government, including carrying out ongoing military cooperation activities, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
Mexico's police rebel against National Guard

Days after Mexico's government deployed the National Guard around the country, federal police officers are protesting the government decision to incorporate them into the new security force that combines police, with navy and army troops. For two days several hundred police officers have barricaded themselves in a Mexico City command center. Other officers blocked a major highway between the capital and the northern city of Pachuca, reports the Washington Post. They say the government plan entails pay and benefits cuts, and voice concernabout serving under military commanders, reports the New York Times. In addition, they are opposed to National Guard deployments they say will take them away from their families, under poor conditions, reports Animal Político.

The government responded forcefully: blaming the political opposition, corrupt federal police and outside players. (Associated Press) President Andrés Manuel López Obrador suggested many of the protesters are officers who can’t pass vetting or physical exams. He said the force had become “rotten” and “perverted” and “from top to bottom, the rule was irresponsibility and corruption,” reports the Associated Press

In a meeting yesterday government negotiators told police there is no going back: the federal police force will be dissolved within 18 months. They offered to calculate compensation for those officers unwilling to transfer to the National Guard. Authorities deny that the transfer will entail pay cuts. (Animal Político)

Police from around the country have been gathering at the Mexico City command center in order to present take compulsory tests to enter the National Guard, but they complain that infrastructure to house them is non-existent and red-tape is rife. Officers are sleeping in a sports stadium or cracking into official vehicles to pass the night, reports Animal Político.

The standoff could cause problems for the National Guard at a politically sensitive moment. Mexico is cracking down on migrants attempting to reach the U.S. -- part of an agreement aimed at averting a tariff threat from the U.S. Trump administration. The National Guard is a key part of the crackdown proposal.

News Briefs

  • Former Rio de Janeiro governor Sergio Cabral testified that as many as nine International Olympic Committee members were paid off to bring the Summer Games to Rio in 2016. Cabral, who is serving a 200-year prison sentence for fraud and corruption, described a $2 million bribery scheme he claimed was masterminded by powerful figures in the world of international sports, reports the New York Times.
  • Norway has expressed alarm over accelerating destruction of the Amazon and concern for the future of a Brazilian rainforest protection fund it has given $1.2 billion to in the last decade, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs on deforestation rates.)
  • The government's pension reform bill passed a key commission vote yesterday, fueling bets that the lower chamber of congress might pass the Bolsonaro administration's signature policy before winter recess later this month, reports Bloomberg.
  • Colombian hospitals say they cannot cope with the growing number of Venezuelan migrants seeking services, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Unusually cold temperatures have teamed up lethally with rising indigency rates in Argentina -- after the death of a person sleeping on the streets in Buenos Aires this week, sports clubs around the country opened their doors as temporary homeless shelters, reports Página 12.

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

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