Nearly 62,000 people have been forcibly disappeared since the start of Mexico's war on drugs in 2006. The new toll released by authorities yesterday is far higher than previously estimated, and reflects the López Obrador administration's efforts to revise information from local prosecutors, reports the New York Times. Mexican officials said most disappearances have taken place in 10 different states in swaths of the country with a heavy presence of drug cartels. And some experts believe the true figure is even higher. Together with other new statistics, the data form part of a devastating security panorama for the Mexican government.
Since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office 13 months ago, authorities have discovered 873 clandestine burial sites from which 1,124 bodies were exhumed. In the same period of time, 9,164 disappearance reports were filed in Mexico, of which 5,184 still haven't been located, reports Animal Político.
The country's homicide rate reached new record rates last year -- more than 31,000 deaths in 2019 -- and raising questions about the efficacy of the López Obrador administration't approach to the perennial violence issue, reports the Guardian.
But the negative numbers also show how AMLO's government has placed more priority on the issue of the disappeared, after years of official indifference, reports the Washington Post. Under previous governments, there was “in some sense a denial of the magnitude of the problem,” said Maureen Meyer, WOLA's Mexico director. The announcement, she said, “is an important recognition we’ve seen from the López Obrador administration of the fact that Mexico has a huge crisis of disappeared people.”
More than three children are killed on average each day in Mexico due to violence, and nearly 10 percent of the country's femicide victims are underage. More than 30,000 youths have been forcefully recruited by organized crime. The Red por los Derechos de la Infancia en México (REDIM) accused the López Obrador administration of failing to develop policies targeting the problem, and of negatively impacting programs for minors with budget cuts. (Animal Político, La Jornada)
An attack by gunmen that targeted U.S. citizens -- a 13-year-old girl traveling by highway with her family was killed -- has again drawn attention to the country's drug cartels. (Guardian)
- Former public security secretary Genaro García Luna, accused of taking bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel, has declared himself guilty to U.S. authorities and is engaged in plea negotiations, reports Animal Político. García Luna is considered the architect of Mexico's war on drugs, and oversaw the creation of Mexico’s federal police during his tenure in Felipe Calderón's government. (See briefs for Dec. 11, 2019.)
- U.S. authorities plan to deport some Mexican asylum seekers to Guatemala, under what seems to be an expansion of an original July deal between Guatemala and the U.S to shift asylum seekers away from the U.S. The move is likely to generate backlash, reports the New York Times, as have all the third safe country style agreements the U.S. Trump administration has signed with Central American countries in recent months. The move comes as U.S. authorities seek to deal with an increase of Mexican migrants fleeing violence at home.
- Belen Fernández explores how the U.S. has undermined the very concept of "safe third countries," in an Al Jazeera opinion piece.
- Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's ham-fisted attempt to undermine opposition leader Juan Guaidó's claim to the interim-presidency "almost certainly backfired" and will strengthen the opposition's faltering unity, according to the Latin America Risk Report. (See yesterday's post.) Nonetheless, the move also provides cover for international actors increasingly impatient with Guaidó's challenge to Maduro, namely Russia.
- The United States “underestimated” Russia’s support for Maduro and is studying how to respond to Russian actions, according to the U.S. special envoy for Venezuela, Elliot Abrams. (Miami Herald)
- But Guaidó's failure over the past year to oust, or even significantly weaken Maduro's grip on power, is a significant blow to the U.S. Venezuela strategy, WOLA's Geoff Ramsey told the New York Times.
- Guaidó's supporters plan to retake the National Assembly chamber they were barred from Sunday, reports the Washington Post. Yesterday Guaidó announced that parliamentary debate would be held as usual, though it remains to be seen what happens with the competing National Assembly authorities elected by Maduro-loyalists on Sunday, reports Efecto Cocuyo. (See yesterday's post.)
- Legislative elections are supposed to be held in Venezuela this year, but have a low level of citizen support. Most citizens would prefer a combination of early presidential and legislative elections, in line with negotiations between Maduro and Guaidó mediated by Norway (the so-called Oslo-Mechanism), reports Efecto Cocuyo.
- The new OAS secretary general will be elected this March, and will take office in May. Current OAS head Luis Almagro is seeking reelection -- with the endorsement of the U.S. -- and will face-off against Peruvian Hugo de Zela Martínez and Ecuadorean María Fernanda Espinosa. Global Americans has more background on each candidate.
- Conservative Salvadoran opposition party Arena accompanied President Nayib Bukele's 2020 budget proposal, and granted the administration a series of spending and hiring concessions, reports El Faro.
- Latin America Reports looks at the largely forgotten deaths of two young men in Buenaventura, killed by security forces during protests last November in Colombia. Both of the deceased were shot in the back, according to an official.
- Comparing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to his U.S. counterpart doesn't take into account the fragility of Brazil's young democracy -- particularly given Bolsonaro's admiration for the military and people who committed torture during the country's last dictatorship, argues comedian Gregorio Duvivier in a New York Times op-ed.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...