Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Mexico's increasingly brazen cartel (July 14, 2020)

This could be Mexico's bloodiest year on record -- the number of homicides is higher than ever, but the issue is also the brazenness of attacks by the country's criminal organizations against everybody from soldiers to high-level government officials, according to the BBC.  "It appears that Mexico has arrived at a moment of reckoning, as the country’s elite look more closely at the new, more brazenly violent face of the country’s criminal underworld," reports the Washington Post.

The expanding Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, and its turf wars with other cartels, are responsible for a large measure of the violence. The cartel, which dominates the trade in fentanyl and methamphetamines, has become Mexico’s most powerful criminal organization, eclipsing the more famous Sinaloa Cartel, reports the Wall Street Journal. "More than any rival gang, the Jalisco cartel has made it a hallmark to attack Mexican security forces and public servants directly, making it the biggest danger to the country’s at times fragile stability, former and current security officials say."

Several Mexican officials, including the governor of the western state of Jalisco, Enrique Alfaro Ramírez, and the head of the country’s human rights commission, Rosario Piedra Ibarra, have said that they received death threats from the cartel, which last month attacked Mexico City's top security official, Omar García Harfuch.

A recent attack against Mexico City's police chief is symbolic, and shows how the CJNG "conflicts with other criminal groups across Mexico have led to increased violence against civilians, government forces and political actors," according to a Latin America Risk Report post from last week. James Bosworth notes the AMLO administration's failure to halt rising violence in other locations where the CJNG has expanded including Guanajuato. 

Once considered one of Mexico's most peaceful states, Guanajuato is increasingly among its most dangerous as the CJNG gradually extends its influence into new areas of the country. In Guanjuato, the CJNG is feuding with the Cártel de Santa Rosa de Lima -- this report by Connectas has more detail on that.

A sombre statistic this week highlights the long-term extent of Mexico's criminal violence problem: the country added more than 11,000 people to its official count of the disappeared, bringing the total during the past 14 years to more than 73,000, reports the Washington Post. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made the search for the disappeared a priority since taking office a year and a half ago. Since then, the National Search Commission, has overseen the construction of a sophisticated database of the disappeared and hired a team to comb through archives and appeal to state officials for information.

And this report by Al Jazeera shows how the CJNG violence interacts with local dynamics in other parts of the country, as in Oaxaca, where 15 indigenous activists opposed to mega development projects were recently killed.

News Briefs

  • Suriname's Congress elected opposition leader Chan Santokhi president, yesterday. The vote followed a first-round opposition victory in the May general elections. (See June 18's post.) Outgoing president Desi Bouterse now faces a 20-year jail sentence for his  role in the murder of 15 prominent political opponents following a 1980 military coup. Nonetheless, there is concern in Suriname that enforcing the sentence could provoke riots from Bouterse’s well-organized supporters, reports the New York Times.
  • Two military police officers in São Paulo are to face criminal charges after pictures were broadcast on TV showing one of them stepping on the neck of a black woman, reports the BBC.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's warm relationship with his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump has not led to tangible benefits for Brazil. "The resulting alignment with Washington borders on subservience – harming Brazil’s other strategic partnerships and strong foreign policy principles," write Laís Forti Thomaz and Tullo Vigevani at the Aula Blog. "Brazil is drifting away from Latin America, especially Argentina, as well as from the BRICS countries."
  • Bolsonaro has created Brazil's most militarized government since the country's return to democracy. His cabinet is packed with retired and active-duty generals, and the president has given more than 3,000 government jobs to soldiers, reports the Associated Press. But the military itself is pushing back against Bolsonaro's heavy reliance on the armed forces, a move some experts say is a way of undermining any presidential schemes to unconstitutionally assert Bolsonaro's dominance over other branches of government.
  • Brazil's government fired the general coordinator of the country's space agency Earth Observation Institute, which oversees rainforest deforestation monitoring, reports the Associated Press. Yesterday's move comes days after  the release of June deforestation data reflected a continued increase in degradation. (See yesterday's briefs.) Though it's not immediately clear if her removal is related to the data released, environmentalists say the timing is suspicious and harkens to a similar episode last year.
  • The recent killing of Cuban Hansel Hernández in Havana has distinct echoes of the George Floyd case in the U.S. -- with the added complications that Hernández was killed by a black police officer in the context of repression and racism by Cuba's socialist government, argues Carlos Manuel Álvarez in New York Times Español.
  • In the midst of Black Lives Matter, can Latin Americans reclaim "brown" as a term of pride for their skin color, asks Gabriela Wiener in a New York Times Español op-ed.
El Salvador
  • Bloody Twitter fights in El Salvador between champions and critics of President Nayib Bukele "could pre-empt reasoned discussion of how to keep tamping down violence," according to a new Crisis Group report, which found that both camps engage in artificial means to promote their cases on social media. "The result is to present Salvadorans with artificially polarised choices: reject Bukele, despite his apparent successes; or support him, and ignore the abuses committed by his government." (See yesterday's briefs, also.)
  • Burial plots are scarce in Santa Cruz, Bolivia's largest city, where morgues are struggling to keep up with Covid-19 victims, reports EFE.
  • Colombia's government is advancing to meet requirements demanded by the country's Constitutional Court to re-start aerial spraying with the herbicide glyphosate, reports Reuters. Colombia suspended spraying campaigns in 2015 following a recommendation by the World Health Organization, which warned glyphosate could potentially be cancerous and harmful for health and the environment.
  • Venezuelan military counterintelligence agents detained journalist Nicmer Evans last night in Caracas. The director of the news site Punto de Corte was accused of "inciting hatred," reports Efecto Cocuyo.  
  • The Washington Post delves into the enigmatic role of multimillionaire Franklin Durán in the failed Operation Gideon that aimed to oust Nicolás Maduro earlier this year.
Costa Rica
  • Costa Rica will begin negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a financial aid package to help offset Covid-19 pandemic's economic impact, reports Reuters.
  • Argentina's longtime political rifts are tearing apart a short-lived political truce, and have fanned tensions over the country's pandemic response as parts of the country remain in a lockdown that has lasted four months, reports the Guardian.
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always.



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