Tuesday, May 12, 2020

AMLO calls in the troops (May 12, 2020)

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ratified the armed forces' role in civilian policing in Mexico yesterday, with a decree that authorizes them to take on public security tasks through 2024. The move is a turnaround for AMLO, who campaigned on the promise to return the military to the barracks. Mexico's armed forces have been accused of significant human rights violations in the years since they have been deployed for public security in the midst of the country's war on drugs.

A constitutional reform last year that created a National Guard permitted the president to use the armed forces in “extraordinary” circumstances, as long as they are subordinate to and supervised by civilian authorities. But organizations of civil society warn that the move doesn't respect controls aimed at limiting military intervention in public safety, reports Animal Político. The decree enables military to carry out 12 tasks that include general crime prevention.

Yesterday's decree doesn't say much about what makes the current circumstances "extraordinary" and does not say anything about the outside supervision of soldiers, reports the Associated Press. Nonetheless, the Covid-19 crisis likely underlies the move. AMLO's administration has embraced the military since assuming office in December 2018, according to El País, but has come to rely on them even more during the current health crisis. The tasks delegated to the armed forces are not just security oriented, but include distribution of medication and transfer of cash for social programs. The decree ratifies a de facto dependence on the military, reports the Guardian. And also recognizes difficulties with the National Guard and plans for state police.

The move could, in fact, undermine efforts to strengthen the National Guard, because it could create a perverse incentive for the army to stop sending soldiers to join the new force, Alejandro Hope told the AP. (It's worth noting that the National Guard itself was criticized for creating a militarized internal security force.)

(See also Reuters)

More Mexico
  • Mexico is doubling down on state oil -- at a time when oil companies around the world are cutting back, Pemex is expanding, reports the Wall Street Journal.
News Briefs

  • The vast majority of Guatemalan's deported on an April 13 flight from the U.S. have tested positive for Covid-19 -- 71 out of 79 passengers, according to Guatemalan health authorities. The U.S. has since started testing people before deporting them, but authorities reported that one deportee who had been certified as negative tested positive after arriving in Guatemala, last week. (Associated Press)
  • U.S. immigration authorities did not deport five detainees back to Haiti yesterday who had tested positive for the deadly COVID-19 respiratory disease, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday's briefs.) In total, Haiti only has 111 available beds at four hotels to quarantine individuals who are infected or suspected of being infected with COVID-19. Rather than using them for the general population, however, they’ve been forced to use them for detainees since last month. Haitian death squad leader Emmanuel “Toto” Constant was also supposed to be deported yesterday, but wasn't after controversy erupted in Haiti. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • Security forces clashed with protesters demanding economic reopening and elections in Bolivia's Cochabamba province. Demonstrators said they needed to work, and oppose the ongoing coronavirus quarantine. Police used tear gas and rocks were thrown in response, reports La Razón. (See also Nodal.)
  • Two of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó's U.S. based advisors resigned yesterday in the fallout from a failed "invasion attempt." Juan José Rendon and Sergio Vergara, who had signed an agreement for a mission to kidnap Nicolás Maduro with U.S. military veteran Jordan Goudreau, resigned yesterday, reports the Associated Press.
  • Nearly half the1.8 million Venezuelans living in Colombia have lost the ability to earn income during the country's coronavirus quarantine, which has exacerbated pre-existing lack of resources and difficulties with socio-economic reinsertion, according to a new report by El Espectador.
  • In the midst of an intensifying political crisis, "the specter of the armed forces is looming larger over public life than at any time since the fall of the military dictatorship in 1985" in Brazil, reports the Washington Post.
  • Brazil's "Casa da Mulher Brasileira" program is a promising model for domestic violence response, a 24-hour center for violence survivors with an all-female team of police officers, a specialist team from the department of justice, family court representatives, a community patrol assisting women at risk, social workers, psychologists, a creche and temporary accommodation with a kitchen. But the government has been slow to rollout more and the Bolsonaro administration has not used funds allocated for this purpose, reports the Guardian.
  • Brazil's neighbors are increasingly concerned about how the country's coronavirus contagion could undermine their own efforts to contain the disease. Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez said more than half of Paraguay's 563 cases were people who had entered from Brazil. (BBC)
  • The Wall Street Journal profiles an Ecuadorean businessman who poured his acumen into a grim task: organizing and tallying the bodies of Covid-19 fatalities in Guayaquil.
  • Lima is a city of migrants -- and the coronavirus shutdown has left many without work and pushed them to leave, a walking exodus of reverse migration, reports The Nation.
  • Panama announced plans to begin a phased reopening this week of its economy, including e-commerce, mechanical workshops and fishing -- Reuters.
  • Argentina is engaged in a delicate tango of debt renegotiation with creditors -- but though both sides are playing hardball, nobody wins if the country winds up in (yet another) sovereign debt default, argues Marcelo García in a New York Times Español op-ed. International creditors, the IMF and the Argentine government itself would all benefit from a successful negotiation, even if each loses a little -- nobody can save themselves alone, as Argentine President Alberto Fernández has said about the coronavirus pandemic.
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... And in these times of coronavirus, when we're all feeling a little isolated, feel especially free to reach out and share.


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