Tuesday, July 2, 2019

U.N. calls for impartial investigation of Acosta's death (July 2, 2019)

The wife of Rafael Acosta -- a Venezuelan navy captain who died in government custody -- asked for the United Nations to investigate the death, which his lawyers say was caused by torture, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's post.) His remains still have not been returned to the family, reports Efecto Cocuyo

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Monday said she was "shocked" Acosta’s death and called for an independent and transparent investigation, including an autopsy meeting international standards. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Venezuelan authorities Monday to quickly launch an independent investigation into the death, reports the Associated Press.

Two Bolivarian Guard members have been accused of homicide in the case, a strategy that aims to disguise human rights violations as common crimes, denounced Foro Penal. (Efecto Cocuyo)

News Briefs

More Venezuela
  • The Associated Press reported that negotiations between Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the political opposition headed by Juan Guaidó were set to continue this week, building on earlier Oslo meetings. But the talks, to be held in Barbados, were suspended as a result of Acosta's death.
  • As many as 8 million Venezuelans are expected to have fled their country by the end of next year, according to OAS figures released Friday. These are already higher than recent predictions, and the new report emphasized a lack of international engagement with the issue, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Opposition lawmaker Juan Requesens, who has been in detention for nearly a year, was formally accused of attempted homicide against President Nicolás Maduro yesterday. He was imprisoned in August of last year, along with 16 others, accused of participating in the same alleged plot. His family said he has been tortured during his detention. (Efecto Cocuyo)
  • Buzzfeed piece by Karla Zabludovsky delves into the case of an expropriated hacienda, where the former landowner lives in a house built by Nelson Rockefeller, and state-laborers try to cultivate the land under increasingly hostile circumstances. Both are essentially hostage to Venezuela's crisis and endemic corruption, she writes.
  • The OAS General Assembly passed a motion that gives Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega 75 days to resume dialogue with the opposition and permit entry to international human rights organisms. The motion also demands press and protest freedom, and an electoral reform leading to early elections. (Confidencial) Should the government fail to comply, the OAS will apply the democratic charter, which could involve sanctions and, ultimately, expelling Nicaragua from the OAS. Government critics say the delay is unacceptable -- that 83 people are still political detainees, and that released political prisoners are hostage to home detentions. (AFP)
  • Nonetheless, the motion supports the ongoing civil struggle against Ortega, said Juan Sebastián Chamorro, an opposition Alianza Cívica representative. (Confidencial)
  • International pressure succeeded (to a point) in forcing Nicaragua's government to release political prisoners, argues the Washington Post in an editorial (that ignores the 83 detainees the government claims are common criminals). 
  • The European Union should increase pressure on the Nicaraguan government to curb human rights violations by police and other officials in the wake of anti-government protests, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and foreign ministers.
  • Guatemalan authorities requested an international arrest warrant against former attorney general Thelma Aldana, who is accused of hiring irregularities during her tenure. (TeleSUR)
  • Six months into Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's government, the leader is frustrated by persistent pushback from Congress and the Supreme Court, reports the Financial Times.
  • Revelations that Brazil's most recognized anti-corruption judge -- and current Justice Minister -- Sergio Moro may have colluded with prosecutors against former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva threaten the politicians imprisonment and the legacy of the Lava Jato corruption investigation, reports the Huffington Post.
  • Guardian investigation exposes how Brazil's huge beef sector threatens the Amazon -- and the cattle industry openly flouts environmental protections and sanctions. And demand is fueled by global trade. A new study by Stockholm NGO Trase traces how the international demand for beef is driving deforestation, up to 5,800 sq km of forest are being felled in the Amazon and other areas annually to be converted into pasture used for cattle farming.
  • A new European Union-Mercosur trade deal will be extremely beneficial to Brazil's beef trade -- but devastating to the rainforest, particularly in light of evidence of systemic rule breaking by the industry, writes Jonathan Watts in the Guardian. (See yesterday's briefs on the trade deal.) 
  • Agribusiness is worth more than a fifth of Brazil’s GDP, and the country is the worlds largest beef exporter. Another Guardian piece looks at the power wielded by beef industry leaders.
  • Mexico's controversial new National Guard officially deployed Sunday, though members have already been working in some parts of the country.  Al Jazeera recaps on how the force is composed of members of other security forces, how it proposes to tackle ever-increasing violence, and why human rights organizations are concerned. 
  • President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ratified support for the new force, saying he'd like to disband the army and put national security in the hands of the National Guard. (Reuters)
  • The National Guard was also deployed in Mexico City, to tackle rising homicide rates, reports the New York Times. The government has assured critics that the new security force is a civilian agency -- but it was presented Sunday t Mexico City’s military parade grounds, under the command of an active military officer. Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has also taken steps to strengthen the city's local police force -- raising salaries and increasing hires.
  • Community police -- vigilante groups -- often with ties to drug cartels, are contributing to rising violence in Mexico's south -- Guardian photo essay.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the country's "maquila" assembly plants are offering to give 40,000 jobs to Central American migrants. The move comes as increasing numbers of migrants find themselves in Mexico for an undetermined amount of time, as the U.S. clamps down on asylum applications, reports the Associated Press.
  • In the weeks since Mexico agreed to clamp down on migration in order to avoid U.S. tariffs, conditions in the country's detention centers and shelters have deteriorated dramatically, reports the Washington Post.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump may have made a border wall his own personal quixotic quest -- but he is building on a long history of policies aimed at criminalizing migration, fence building, and militarizing U.S. borders. In Building Walls: Excluding Latin People in the United States, Ernesto Castañeda and Maura Fennelly trace the building of symbolic and physical walls between white Americans and Latin people. (AULA Blog)
  • Colombia's coca cultivation dropped marginally last year -- from 209,000 hectares in 2017 to 208,000 hectares in 2018, according to new estimates from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). It's not much, but its the first drop registered in Colombia’s cocaine production since 2012, reports InSight Crime.
  • A Colombian case against a World Bank officer throws a spotlight on the international organization's role in advising governments during the graft-ridden infrastructure boom of the past decade, reports the Associated Press.
  • Ten years after the U.S. supported coup in Honduras, poverty and crime are pushing migration to the U.S, reports The Nation.
  • Bolivia is a relative island of economic stability in South America, but experts say the Evo Morales' model is increasingly challenged by rising debt, shrinking reserves and devaluing currencies in its main trade partners, reports the Associated Press.
  • A Nasdaq article lists Guyana at the top of the world's fastest growing economies, thanks to mega oil discoveries and production set to hit close to 1 million barrels per day by the mid-2020s. (Oil Now) But GDP doesn't address more comprehensive concerns of prosperity and wellbeing for an emerging oil producing economy, argues economist Bobby Gossai Jr. (Oil Now)
Costa Rica
  • Costa Rican education minister Edgar Mora resigned yesterday, after an uproar against LGBTQ policies, including gender-neutral bathrooms. Its a sign that the cultural polarization that dominated last year's election remains strong, reports Reuters. Protesters included members of the Pentecostal Christian-aligned opposition party, as well as transportation and education groups.
  • Uruguay’s conservative opposition has posted a big win in presidential primaries on Sunday. The Uruguayan system allows voters to choose internal party candidates and also a party preference: 41.6 percent chose the conservative Partido Nacional, while 23.6 percent opted for the ruling Frente Amplio coalition. Former Montevideo mayor Daniel Martínez won the bid for the Frente Amplio candidacy, while Senator Luis Lacalle Pou will head the Partido Nacional ticket. (Reuters)
  • Americas Quarterly has a profile on the three main candidates ahead of the Oct. 27 election.
  • Panama’s new President Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo swore in yesterday -- promising to tackle corruption and economic inequality, reports Reuters.

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

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