Monday, September 7, 2020

Bukele denies reports of talks with MS-13 (Sept. 7, 2020)

 News Briefs

El Salvador
  • Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele denied a report that his government cut deals with the MS-13 street gang to lower homicides in exchange for jail privileges. (See Friday's post.) The allegations, reported last week, are highly sensitive in El Salvador, notes the Associated Press. The report by El Faro is based on a cache of government documents, including prison logs and prison intelligence reports, that show government officials have held ongoing negotiations with the MS-13 gang since June 2019. Attorney General Raúl Melara said his office would investigate the case. (Washington Post)
  • This year is on track to be El Salvador's least murderous in recent history, part of a sustained five year trend of reductions. The drop in homicides cannot all be ascribed to government concessions to gangs, nor hardline policies also carried out in jails against gangs, writes Roberto Valencia in the Post Opinión. In fact, he hypothesizes that dialogue between the government and the Maras is a result of the reduction in homicides, rather than a cause. However he warns that political polarization ahead of the 2021 elections and the Bukele administrations opacity, threaten to overshadow the significant gain in citizen security.
  • A Spanish trial may finally bring a measure of posthumous justice for the eight victims of one of El Salvador's most emblematic civil war atrocities: the murder of six Jesuit priests, a housekeeper and her 15-year-old daughter in 1989. Using proceedings brought under the principle of universal jurisdiction – which allows human rights crimes committed in one country to be investigated in another – former Salvadoran army Col Inocente Orlando Montano, who was also a security minister, has been on trial in Madrid, accused of involvement in the “decision, design and execution” of the murders, reports the Guardian.
  • Ten percent of Brazil's Pantanal wetlands have been burned this year, often by intentionally set fires exacerbated by unusually dry conditions in recent weeks. The resulting damage has been "unprecedented," reports the New York Times.
  • Brazil's government hasn't directed enough resources and attention to reducing deforestation, Vice President Hamilton Mourão, who heads the country’s Amazon task force, told the Wall Street Journal in an interview.
  • Coronavirus, lack of government interest in protection, and high prices have fueled a gold rush that is destroying Brazil's Amazon, reports the Washington Post.
  • Three months away from fraught legislative elections in Venezuela, the headlines are dominated by opposition infighting, laments Alberto Barrera Tyszka in the New York Times Español. (See last Thursday's post.) "It is hard enough to fight against a regime that has a totalitarian project and exerts violence and censorship without shame. But to carry out this struggle dispersed, in continuous conflict with natural allies, is a suicide plan for the opposition."
  • The United States on Friday blacklisted four individuals for what it said was their help for the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to prevent free and fair parliamentary elections in Venezuela in December, reports Reuters.
  • Facebook announced it had closed 55 accounts, 42 pages and 36 Instagram accounts linked to CLS Strategies, a U.S. communications firm, that targeted politics in Venezuela, Bolivia and Mexico. A report by the Stanford Internet Observatory links some of the accounts to support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó and Bolivia's interim president Jeannine Áñez. (Washington Post)
  • Millions of university students in Latin America are dropping their studies due to the pandemic, a stunning reversal of a historic expansion in attendance that promised to transform the region, reports the New York Times. The exodus threatens decades of achievement that helped move entire communities out of poverty.
  • Around the word, the coronavirus pandemic has pushed up rates of domestic abuse -- the data is particularly troubling in Latin America, reports the Washington Post.
  • Claudia Sheinbaum -- Mexico City's first elected woman and Jewish mayor -- walks a fine political line: she refrains from politically criticizing her mentor, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, but emphasizes a scientific approach to the pandemic. While the Covid-19 toll has been horrific — more than 11,000 have died — analysts say it could have been worse without the mayor’s interventions, reports the New York Times.
  • A new book, El Jefe: The Stalking of Chapo Guzmán, sheds new light on an international spying operation set up to apprehend Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín Guzmán, reports the Guardian.
  • Cristina Vásquez spent over a decade in prison for a murder she didn't commit -- she was freed in December by Argentina's Supreme Court with a ruling that emphasizes the constitutional presumption of innocence until proven guilty. She committed suicide two weeks ago, after spending most of her 38 years battling a false case that demonstrates the many failings of Argentina's judicial system. "For a great portion of the country's poor society, entering jail is much easier than exiting, even when you are innocent. The mere brush of a tentacle of judicial and punitive power provokes irreversible damage, long-term marks and resocialization is an unattainable horizon," writes María Florencia Alcaraz in the Post Opinión. "Getting out of jail was never easy: without any support or serious accompaniment by the state, it can transform into a new sentence. It's like learning to swim in a pool without water."
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always. 

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