Thursday, September 10, 2020

Bogotá police tasered man to death, violent protests ensue (Sept. 10, 2020)

 Seven people died in violent protests that broke out last night in Bogotá in response to a video of a man being tasered to death by police. Witnesses captured how two police officers pinned Javier Ordóñez to a sidewalk while he was tasered. The video, in which the victim and onlookers plead with the police to stop, went viral on social media and spurred outrage that spilled onto the streets, reports the Associated Press.

Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said five of those who died last night had been shot, and offered a reward for information leading to the capture of "the perpetrators of the murders." (BBC)

Dozens of police stations were vandalized and several buses were burned. Mayor Claudia López said that 46 of the city’s 153 streets had been “totally destroyed.” (New York Times) She also said that more than 100 police officers had also been hurt.

Ordónez, father of two, was a lawyer who was working as a taxi driver. The case has been compared to George Floyd's murder in the U.S. earlier this year, though in this case the issue is overzealous policing of the coronavirus quarantine Bogotá residents have been under for nearly six months. 

The hashtag #ColombiaLivesMatter is trending. A local organization of civil society, Temblores, has documented 162 cases of police abuse that resulted in at least 11 homicides. A police report leaked to the media documents 400 cases of police abuse in Colombia in recent months, reports the BBC.

Trujillo said the officers involved are under investigation and have been removed from their posts. López and Bogotá's prosecutor Francisco Barbosa condemned the episode as well. The police inspector general and Colombia's prosecutors office have assigned separate "elite" investigation groups to the case, reports El Tiempo.

Guatemalan official files criminal complaint against Plaza Pública

A high level Guatemalan official filed a criminal complaint against Plaza Pública, an online newspaper he accused of "harassing, threatening and extorting" his family. Miguel Martínez, a close ally of President Alejandro Giammattei, said he would take legal against against Plaza Pública and individual journalists. (Deutsche Welle, Prensa Libre)

This week, Plaza Pública published a report on alleged business links between Martínez and Giammattei, along with other members of the government.

Human rights ombudsperson, Jordán Rodas, reminded Martínez that public officials are subject to public scrutiny and exposure to public opinion. (La Hora)

Bukele undermines access to public information

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele enacted several modifications to the regulation of country's freedom of information act (Ley de Access de la Información Pública -- LAIP) that essentially make it more difficult to obtain public information from government institutions. Reforms passed by executive decree add steps for citizens petitioning to obtain information and strengthen the powers of presidency of the Institute of Access to Public Information (IAIP), which has been increasingly co-opted by the executive. Experts say the changes amount to executive overreach and are a disguised reform of the LAIP.

The new rules lengthen the process to demand information that has been withheld after an initial request. They also shift power within the IAIP from commissioners (which previously would rule in full plenary) to the president, and give more power to the government to declare information confidential. Another change loosens requirements for IAIP commissioners and makes it harder for their candidacy to be impugned, making it easier for the Executive to control the IAIP. (El Diario de HoyGato Encerrado)

Last week the Bukele administration moved up the election of the journalists' commissioner to the IAIP -- the vote was held a day early, without advance warning, and in secret, without external observers.  The Asociación de Periodistas de El Salvador (APES), which was excluded from participating, has asked for nullification of the proceedings. Experts say the move violated IAIP regulations about how to select candidates for the commissioner, and the results of the meeting have not been announced yet.

The composition of the IAIP has been controversial since last year, when Revista Factum reported that the IAIP had illegitimately shared information about information requesters with the executive branch. The then-president resigned subsequently. Other commissioners left in protest. In February the Bukele administration carried out another limited vote for a separate IAIP commissioner, and named a government ally to the post. (Revista FactumEl Faro)

News Briefs

More El Salvador
  • A group of U.S. Democrat lawmakers expressed deep concern regarding the Salvadoran government’s increased hostility toward independent and investigative media outlets in the country. "We are alarmed by recent attacks against El Faro, one of Central America’s top independent, investigative outlets …While disagreements between government officials and the media are bound to occur in any democracy, we believe that governments must always ensure full respect for press freedom,” the members wrote." (See last Friday's post and Monday's.)
More Guatemala
  • Guatemala should ensure that its human rights ombudsperson, Jordán Rodas, can continue his defense of sexual and reproductive rights without fear of prosecution or reprisal, Human Rights Watch said. Last month Guatemala’s Supreme Court ruled that Rodas had failed to comply with a 2017 decision that ordered his office to cease activities that support or promote abortion, present access to abortion as a right, or promote its legalization. The court ordered the Prosecutor’s Office to investigate whether Rodas is guilty of non-compliance with a judicial decision, a crime under Guatemalan law punishable with up to three years of prison.
  • Buenos Aires province police escalated protests over pay yesterday -- with a uniformed group gathering outside the presidential residence. President Alberto Fernández promised to respond to their demands for higher wages and more Covid-19 protective gear, but he also asked for a change in attitude, after days of increasingly tense protests. (Buenos Aires Times)
  • Extensive territory, water resources, and port access have made the southeastern state of Yucatán a major player in Mexico's pork industry, reports NACLA.
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always. 


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