Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Ayotzinapa student remain identified (July 8, 2020)

Forensic studies identified the remains of a student from the group of 43 who were kidnapped and forcibly disappeared in Ayotzinapa six years ago. The new study confirms the DNA of a bone fragment of Christian Alfonso Rodríguez Telumbre, only the second member of the group identified in the years since their high-profile disappearance.

The discovery is a definitive blow against the former administration's much discredited investigation of the case, a conclusive blow against what the Peña Nieto administration had dubbed the "historic truth," reports El País. The evidence "breaks the pact of impunity and silence that surrounded the case," said special prosecutor Omar Gómez Trejo in his announcement yesterday. (La Jornada)

The discovery was a victory for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who had promised to prioritize the investigations, according to the New York Times. In the past year, investigators have combed numerous sites looking for evidence, and have sought the arrests of more than 50 people in connection with the case. Many are former government officials who were involved in the investigation during Mr. Peña Nieto’s term; some have been accused of torture, forced disappearance and obstruction of justice.

The bone fragment was tested by the Institute of Genetics at the University of Innsbruck and the results were confirmed by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team. The leader of the new federal investigation team, said he traveled to Rodríguez’s home town Sunday to tell the family, reports the Associated Press.

AMLO hearts Trump

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador met with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington today, a meeting that has generated considerable controversy. Officially the trip marks  the start of a new free trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada -- a NAFTA redesign dubbed USMCA. However Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not attend, and the trip has proved to be controversial on a number of levels.

Critics have particularly latched onto the timing of AMLO's Washington trip, in the midst of the U.S. election campaign, and given his previous lack of travel. "For a leader who had not traveled abroad since his inauguration—skipping G20 and APEC summits and the U.N. General Assembly—and who’s probably one of the most intellectually incurious and disinterested Mexican presidents of the modern era when it comes to what happens around the globe, López Obrador could have certainly waited a few months more until after Nov. 3 to travel to Washington," said former Mexican ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan in today's Latin America Advisor.

In the U.S. Democrat Party leaders said the visit risks politicizing the U.S.-Mexico relationship, and distracts from the pandemic disaster. On the Mexican side of the border, critics are concerned that AMLO appears to be endorsing Trump's candidacy, despite the U.S. president's long track record of insulting Mexicans, reports the Washington Post.

Critics say AMLO's stance towards the U.S. has resulted in a lopsided relationship, particularly on issues of migration, in which Mexico has been forced to take on much of the burden of preventing people from crossing the border, reports the New York Times.

AMLO's friendliness towards Trump, while posited as real-politik, is a mistake, argues Enrique Krauze in a New York Times op-ed. Rather than pragmatism, the warmth between the two leaders "proves the anachronism of ideologies in our time," writes Krauze.

The reasoning for the trip is entirely economic, even though it runs against AMLO's own goals of fairer wealth distribution, argues CEPR Americas director Laura Carlsen, also in the Latin America Advisor. "With Mexico going deeper into recession and no possibility of a 1995-style, multibillion-dollar bailout, the trip is a dog whistle to international investors."

Not all analysts are negative, however. John M. Ackerman, editor in chief of the Mexican Law Review, celebrates the relationship between AMLO and Trump -- and the renewed NAFTA agreement -- as a triumph of reason over politics. "If Trump and López Obrador had fallen into the temptation of Twitter fights, political grandstanding and competitive one-upmanship, both the United States and Mexican economies would be on the brink." (Washington Post)

Viridiana Ríos, a Mexican political analyst, also emphasized the pragmatic logic behind the meeting, to the Guardian.“I don’t see why people think it’s kind of like a no-brainer that he shouldn’t go. It’s not a no-brainer at all,” she said. “We are talking about the most powerful man on Earth, Mexico’s most important trade partner. You want to be on good terms with that person.

And claims that "AMLO’s visit will have a significant effect on voter opinion on either side of the border are overblown," argues Genaro Lozano in Americas Quarterly.

More Mexico
  • With Covid-19 cases surging on both sides of the frontier, towns in northern Mexico are begging to limit travelers from the U.S., reports the Guardian. (See Monday's briefs, as well)
News Briefs

  • Latin America and the Caribbean now account for 50 percent of the Covid-19 cases in the hemisphere, and the number of registered cases continues to accelerate, the World Health Organization’s regional director Carissa Etienne said in her weekly report, yesterday. (Reuters
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced live on television, yesterday, that he has tested positive for Covid-19, reports the Guardian. Bolsonaro has insisted on downplaying the pandemic's importance, and measures aimed at limiting contagion, even as Brazil has the second highest number of deaths in the world. Bolsonaro said he was feeling “very well,” which he credited to having taken hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug he has endorsed but which studies show does not ward off the virus, reports the New York Times. The country's social media reaction to the news -- divided between messages of support to the president and others hoping he would fall ill -- show the extent to which coronavirus has become a part of the country's political polarization.
  • The Guardian put together a photo collection of Bolsonaro during the pandemic -- mostly flouting social distancing to mingle with supporters.
  • The infection of Brazil's president should reinforce the need to strengthen implementations of social distancing recommendations and the use of masks to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, said PAHO director for communicable diseases Marcos Espinal, yesterday. (Reuters)
  • Former football player Juninho Pernambucano spoke to the Guardian about the influence of social media in Bolsonaro's rise and ongoing popularity, and how police violence against black people in Brazil is tragically quotidian.
  • Efforts by some Brazilian localities to better manage the Covid-19 pandemic using the national public health care system show how local officials still have the power to strengthen Brazil's response to Covid-19 despite obstruction at the federal level, writes Catherine Osborne in Foreign Affairs. The piece looks at how the state of Piauí, deployed a strong contract tracing and remote care operation utilizing government primary care workers, and how states such as Pernambuco use the national health care surveillance system to publish street-level case maps, and how an all-volunteer scientific committee is advising governors from nine northeastern states. "...While the country’s lagging response to the global public health crisis has damaged its international reputation in the health-care field, Brazil remains home to strong local leaders who have arrested the slide. Their work suggests a national project afoot that may yet survive Bolsonaro."
  • Uneven data is a stumbling block for pandemic policy. In Brazil, in addition to lack of testing, favela advocates say there is not enough information on a neighborhood level in Rio de Janeiro, though nearly a quarter of the city’s population lives in some 1000 favela neighborhoods and their diverse characteristics put them at a much greater risk of contagion than other areas of the city. Catalytic Communities is working with local favela community organizations on a Covid-19 in Favelas Dashboard, launched today. The project builds on the initiatives of Voz das Comunidades, Redes da Maré and other community groups conducting local data counts.
  • The case of a domestic worker kept as a slave for twenty years in a Sao Paulo mansion has shocked Brazil, and draws attention to the ongoing issue of slave labor in the country, reports Reuters.
  • Venezuela’s pro-Maduro Supreme Court ordered the takeover of one of the country's most prominent opposition political parties, yesterday. The decision effectively ousts Popular Will founder Leopoldo López as the party's official leader, and replaces him with a lawmaker kicked out of the group last year due to allegations that he'd conspired with Maduro allies, reports the Associated Press. It is the latest in a series of judicial moves against Nicolás Maduro's political opposition, in this case it affects the party of National Assembly president Juan Guaidó.
  • Venezuela's Supreme Court is undermining Venezuelans’ rights to free and fair elections and freedom of association by appointing government supporters to leadership positions in three opposition parties and to the National Electoral Council, Human Rights Watch said, yesterday. (See last Wednesday's briefs and June 17's Venezuela Weekly.) “When a judiciary that answers to Maduro decapitates opposition political parties that represent dissenting voices, it undermines the rights of all Venezuelans, dispensing with even the pretense of a democratic process,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at HRW.
  • Bolivia's attorney general charged ousted president Evo Morales with terrorism on Monday. The accusations against Morales, who has been granted asylum in Argentina, related to allegations from 2019. It is the second time the interim government has sought Morales' detention, though the requests have not advanced internationally, notes AFP.
  • Morales said the interim-government's accusations form part of "systematic political persecution" against his MAS party, which is leading in polls ahead of a September presidential election redo in which Morales is not a candidate, reports Telesur.
  • Interim-president Jeannine Áñez announced the third Covid-19 infection among cabinet members on Sunday. (AFP)
  • A supposed corpse of a Covid-19 victim lay on a Cochabamba street for nearly 24 hours, a sign of how the funereal system in the area has collapsed in the midst of the pandemic, reports EFE. (See June 19's briefs.)
  • Nearly 100 U.S. Democratic lawmakers urged Trump's administration to press Colombia over attacks on rights activists and warned that US assistance should not contribute to surveillance, reports AFP. The lawmakers note that "Colombia is now the most dangerous country in the world for human rights defenders." They also voiced concern in the wake of reports that Colombian military intelligence has spied on activists and journalists, and said U.S. aid must not contribute to such activities.
Dominican Republic
  • Dominican electoral authorities confirmed Luis Abinader's victory in Sunday's general election. The opposition candidate will take office in August, ending 16-years of government by the Dominican Liberation Party, reports Reuters. (See Monday's post.)
  • U.S. prosecutors charged two sons of former Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli in connection with bribery and money laundering linked to Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht, reports Al Jazeera.
  • The IMF said yesterday that Argentina's latest debt offer to its creditors is "an important step" in the restructuring process, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Chile surpassed 300,000 coronavirus cases yesterday after reporting more than 2,400 new infections over the last 24 hours. The rates have been declining for three weeks, however, and authorities plan to continue easing its coronavirus lockdown, reports AFP.
  • "Shortsighted and cruel" U.S. asylum policies in recent years "have left thousands to suffer, stuck in limbo at our border," write Jill Biden and Julissa Reynoso in a Washington Post opinion piece. But a new rule proposed by the U.S. Trump administration could make the situation even worse, they write, arguing that the upcoming U.S. election is an opportunity to reverse current policies.



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