Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Salvadoran rape victim acquitted of homicide charges (Aug. 20, 2019)

A Salvadoran judge acquitted a young woman accused of homicide after giving birth to a stillborn baby. The decision was hailed as a victory for women's rights in a country known for draconian anti-abortion laws where women often serve long prison sentences after suffering obstetric complications. 

Yesterday's case was a retrial. The defendant, Evelyn Beatriz Hernández, now 21, was raped by a gang member when she was 18, and did not know she was pregnant. At 32 weeks she gave birth in a latrine and passed out. She had served 33 months of a 30-year prison sentence when her conviction was overturned in February for lack of evidence. 

Abortion is completely prohibited in El Salvador and carries an eight-year prison penalty. But prosecutors often accuse women of homicide or manslaughter in cases where they have suffered obstetric complications. Advocates say impoverished women with poor access to health care are particularly affected by the cruel interpretation of the law. About 20 such women remain in jail. In recent months five women have been released from jail, though Hernández is the first to be declared innocent. In March the government questioned the severity of the laws, but a push to loosen the blanket prohibition failed to pass Congress.

News Briefs

  • The Associated Press and Axios reported that U.S. officials are in communication with the Venezuelan government's second most powerful official, Diosdado Cabello who is accused of drug trafficking. The outlets say that Cabello would be open to betraying President Nicolás Maduro. On Monday Cabello said he was open to meeting with anybody, but only with Maduro's approval, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • Some analysts cast doubt on the account of a plot between Cabello and the U.S. If true, some experts said that the talks were either a sign of U.S. naïveté or lack of options in the fight against Maduro. Including Cabello in a post-Maduro scenario would be controversial given the extent of crimes he is accused of, and several analysts cast doubt on his utility as a negotiation counter-part. (Miami Herald and Guardian)
  • Maduro had expressed willingness to hold early presidential elections in exchange for the U.S. lifting  of economic sanctions, in Norway-mediated talks with the opposition, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Opposition leader Juan Guaidó confirmed that members of his negotiation team are in the U.S., but did not give details about their agenda. (Efecto Cocuyo)
  • Over a hundred NGOs said the U.N. humanitarian response plan for Venezuela was "weak," and vastly underestimates the level of need in the country, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • Eight months into Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right tenure, there is growing discomfort over the president’s inability – or refusal – to mind his mouth, and the impact this is having on Brazil’s place in the world, according to the Guardian.
  • Lethal police force accounts for 38 percent of homicides in Rio de Janeiro. Most of these deaths occur during major police operations in favelas, which use armored vehicles, helicopters and snipers. Often the victims are unarmed civilians, writes Maurício Santoro in a New York Times Español op-ed. The tragedy is the result of misguided public policies that seek to stop violence with violence he writes.
More from El Salvador
  • Military and police use of lethal force increased dramatically in recent years in El Salvador. In 2011 less than one percent of homicides were caused by security forces, by 2017 use of lethal force by security agents increased to 10.27 percent of the country's homicides. (La Prensa Gráfica)
  • There are currently 40,000 migrants waiting in Mexico for their turn to apply for asylum in the U.S. (Miami Herald)
  • Decades of U.S. foreign policy have contributed significantly to the political instability, entrenched corruption, and violence that are pushing Central Americans to migrate out of the region, writes Rebecca Gordon in The Nation.
  • Several Colombian ministries, including defense, along with the National Police say the government needs to do more to protect social leaders before upcoming elections, reports Telesur.
  • The newly launched Latin American Center for Investigative Journalism (CLIP) seeks to use collaborative techniques to explain phenomena that cross borders in the region such as large-scale corruption and illegal or abusive practices. It was founded by five journalists from the region with impressive track-records:  Marina Walker Guevara, deputy director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ); Emiliana García, director of La Voz de Guanacaste in Costa Rica; María Teresa Ronderos, former director of the Open Society Foundation’s Program on Independent Journalism; Giannina Segnini, director of the Master of Science Data Journalism Program at Columbia University; and Natalia Viana, director of Brazil’s Agência Pública. (Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas)
The Faith Transnationals
  • CLIP investigation, with 15 investigative outlets from the region, looks at how a group of U.S. fundamentalist evangelical leaders with ties to the Trump administration have promoted Christian fundamentalist policies and legislation in the highest circles of political power in Latin America.
  • Nómada piece that forms part of the same investigation documents how Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales leveraged his country's support for Israel and Trump (moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem) in order to undermine the CICIG.
  • Guatemalan president-elect Alejandro Giammattei will likely be a continuation of current President Jimmy Morales' trajectory, with grim implications for the country's struggle against entrenched corruption, reports El Faro. Critics are calling him "Jimmyttei." The president-elect has promised to maintain one of the Morales administration's most controversial cabinet members -- Enrique Degenhart -- and will appoint key Morales allies to positions of power.
  • Argentine President Mauricio Macri has sought to portray market turbulence as a reaction to the possible return of his predecessor in government, former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. But voters blame the incumbent for ruinous economic policies, writes Mark Weisbrot in a New York Times op-ed.
  • Markets are concerned about front-runner Alberto Fernández, who was virtually unknown outside of political circles a few months ago. Fernández has sought to portray a moderate profile, and promised not to repeat mistakes of the past, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Soothing markets will be primordial to forestall greater economic calamity in Argentina. And Fernández would do well to look at the historical precedent of how then-president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva sought to assuage investor panic ahead of the 2002 election, writes Arturo Porzecanski in Americas Quarterly. Lula assured voters and markets of his commitment to sound fiscal and monetary policies and the rule of law. After his election, he put a market-friendly and popular mayor in charge of his transition team and had him reassure lenders and investors, both in Brazil and abroad.
  • One of the biggest surprises in Argentina's fairly earth-shattering primaries earlier this month was the landslide victory of Axel Kicillof, now a favorite to win governorship of the Buenos Aires province. The province concentrates nearly 38 percent of the country's population, and also a fair share of its knottier social problems, writes José Natanson in a New York Times Español op-ed. The economist has spent three years criss-crossing the province in a car with several aides, an unparalleled grassroots campaign. Kicillof, a youthful former member of Cristina Fernández de Kichner's cabinet, has become the face of a renewed progressive Peronism, argues Natanson.
  • Hundreds of Peruvian women marched against gender violence in Lima on Saturday, a demonstration organized by the Ni Una Menos collective. (Deutsche Welle)
  • Dogs are quickly becoming Brazil's most destructive predator. The problem is not just national, but global -- dogs are wreaking environmental havoc and attacking vulnerable species. (Washington Post)

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

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