Thursday, July 9, 2020

What's behind El Salvador's decreased homicides? - Crisis Group Report (July 9, 2020)

News Briefs

El Salvador
  • Homicide rates in El Salvador have dropped dramatically over the past year, coinciding with President Nayib Bukele's time in office. Public approval chalks the drop up to Bukele's "iron fist" security policies, but "the reasons for success might lie in quiet, informal understandings between gangs and the government," according to a new report by the International Crisis Group. The Bukele administration's Territorial Control Plan is most likely not the sole driver behind the murder decrease. "Instead, in large part, gangs appear to have themselves decided to scale back their use of lethal violence. Unassailable control over communities, declining gang rivalry and increasingly autonomous gang leadership outside jails may explain this decision more than the Territorial Control Plan," according to the report. "Yet other government policies might have played a role: numerous analysts and local activists ascribe the gangs’ move to an informal understanding between them and the authorities, who have allegedly ordered security forces to dial back their clashes with these groups."
  • Over 600 Covid-19 protocol burials were carried out in El Salvador by June 19, a number that far outstrips the official Covid-19 death toll at the time, which was 86. The data comes from a health ministry memo reported on by El Faro, and corroborated by a public information request. Though government officials had admitted likely undercounting, as occurs in all countries, El Faro notes the data gives an indication of the scope of the pandemic's impact in El Salvador.
Central America
  • A new study by the Halo Trust found a significant link between small arms and lethal violence in the Northern Triangle. Between 2013 and 2018, 80 percent of all violent killings were committed with a firearm, nonetheless, the regions' governments have generally treated arms control as a separate issue from broader security plans, according to researcher Sofía Martínez Fernández.
Trinidad and Tobago
  • Trinidad and Tobago police authorities are responding to public anger about police killings, in the wake of the shooting of three men last month, and reports that the number of people killed by police in the country has increased by 86 percent this year. The Trinidad & Tobago Guardian reports that of the 43 people killed by police this year, the majority are black.
  • The deaths of Noel Diamond, Joel Jacobs, and Israel Clinton appear to be extrajudicial killings, according to the Caribbean Centre for Human Rights (CCHR). The June 30 killings sparked protests about police brutality and compared the cases to George Floyd's killing. (Global Voices, Loop)
  • Trinidad's police commissioner called for the suspension of the officers involved in the shooting and is also set to order 1,000 body cameras for police officers to wear while they work, reports the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is using his Covid-19 diagnosis as an opportunity to tout hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug that researchers say does not help with the disease. The New York Times reports that Bolsonaro is actively projecting images of resilience and vigor, in keeping with his narrative that the novel coronavirus is not a significant threat for healthy people -- despite the epidemic's impact in Brazil.
  • Youth is no guarantee of survival, and many Brazilians are hurt by the president's attitude in the midst of the pandemic, notes the Guardian -- 3,500 Brazilians under the age of 40 have already died from Covid-19.
  • Facebook removed dozens of accounts linked to supporters or employees of Bolsonaro as part of an investigation into the spread of false news online, reports the Associated Press. Facebook said in a statement that 73 Facebook and Instagram accounts, 14 pages and one group had been removed. Brazilian courts have been investigating the spread of false news in connection with Bolsonaro.
Regional Relations
  • U.S. President Donald Trump lauded his Mexican counterpart, Andres Manuel López Obrador in a joint Washington appearance, yesterday. The relationship between the United States and Mexico “has never been closer,” even though “a little while ago, people were betting against that," Trump said. Trump spoke in positive tones about Mexican citizens of the United States, in a marked contrast to his hostile tone toward undocumented immigrants from the country, New York Times. (See yesterday's post.)
  • The Caribbean Court of Justice ruled that Guyana should abide by the results of a recount of the March 2 general election, a victory for the opposition candidate Irfaan Ali. The ruling also raises questions about the actions of Guyana's electoral authorities, after a report deemed over 115,000 votes invalid. The court said it was also inconsistent with the constitution for the Chief Election Officer (CEO) or the Guyana Election Commission (GECOM) to disenfranchise thousands of electors in a seemingly non transparent and arbitrary manner, reports Staebroek News. (See also this piece in Stabroek.)
  • Nonetheless, incumbent President David Granger yesterday maintained that there was “massive” fraud in the March 2nd elections, reports Stabroek News. The ruling by the CCJ sets up a showdown at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), according to News Room Guyana.
  • The U.S. called on GECOM to declare the winner of the March 2 elections using the recount figures, reports Kaieteur News.
  • Civil society groups in Venezuela marked the country's independence day with calls for a national agreement as a way out of the country's prolonged political crisis. (Venezuela Weekly)
  • Venezuela's poverty rates are the highest in Latin America, according to a new National Survey of Living Conditions (ENCOVI), conducted by researchers at Andres Bello Catholic University (UCAB), which found that 64.8 percent of Venezuelan households experienced "multidimensional poverty" in 2019 -- Al Jazeera.
  • Iran and Venezuela are being pushed closer together by U.S. military and economic pressure, reports Newsweek.
  • Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra said a reform passed by Congress that strips the president, ministers and lawmakers of immunity, is actually a smokescreen that maintains immunity. Vizcarra promised a referendum on ending parliamentary immunity alongside presidential and parliamentary elections in 2021, reports AFP.
  • Peruvian human rights activist and indigenous leader Santiago Manuin, 63, died of Covid-19 in a hospital in the Amazonas region coastal city of Chiclayo after struggling to find adequate health care, reports the New York Times.
  • Ecuadorean vice president Otto Sonnenholzner resigned Tuesday, possibly an indication that he is preparing for a presidential run in February's election, reports the Associated Press. Sonnenholzner has become one of Ecuador’s most visible politicians since leading a task force that helped control a severe outbreak of the new coronavirus in Guayaquil.
  • Colombia’s national lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus will be extended by just over two weeks until Aug. 1, reports Reuters.
  • Colombia's government offered dissident rebels and members of illegal armed groups an option to surrender, though the decree does not encompass members of the ELN guerrilla force, reports the Associated Press.
  • Argentina posted a daily record of 3,604 confirmed cases of COVID-19 yesterday, Argentina's death toll from the pandemic stands at 1,694, reports Reuters.
  • The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates that the current tax evasion reaches US$325 billion in Latin America, which slows down the region's development - Telesur.



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