Tuesday, September 29, 2020

International Safe Abortion Day (Sept. 29, 2020)

Yesterday was the International Safe Abortion Day. The day has roots in a regional campaign for the decriminalization of abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to Ms. Magazine. Across the globe, the pandemic has made it harder for women and girls to access reproductive services, as clinics close and barriers to medical care rise. The United Nations warned that millions of unintended pregnancies could result, with some 47 million women potentially cut off from modern contraception. (Washington Post) The region's already bleak situation regarding reproductive rights has been exacerbated by the pandemic, which has limited access to contraceptives and medical care. (Amnesty International)

  • Women demanding that Mexico legalize abortion nationwide clashed with police in Mexico City, yesterday. (Voice of America
  • Activists in Argentina rallied (virtually) to pressure President Alberto Fernández to keep his campaign promise to legalize abortion. Campaigners have abstained from pushing Fernández on the issue in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but six months in, pressure is building, reports the Guardian.
  • In Colombia, protesters gathered on Sunday in front of the Palace of Justice in Bogota, where the Constitutional Court is located, to demand that abortion be legalized in Colombia. The demonstration, in which some 50 women participated, took place 11 days after 91 social organizations and 134 activists filed a lawsuit before the Constitutional Court to eliminate the crime of abortion from the Penal Code for “violating the fundamental rights of women and of health personnel.” (EFE)
Ayotzinapa anniversary, arrest warrants for police and soldiers

Saturday marked the sixth anniversary of the abduction of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers' college. Mexican authorities issued 25 arrest warrants for people accused of planning and carrying out the crime, including police and soldiers. It is the first time members of the military and police have been targeted in the investigation over the 2014 case that is emblematic of the country's forced disappearances and the government's failure to address them. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador marked the anniversary by apologizing to their parents on behalf of the government. The mass abduction “was a matter of state” because police and military personnel were involved in the crime, so the state “has to repair the damage and clarify what happened,” the president said on Saturday. Family members of the victims have long accused Mexican authorities, including the military, of complicity in the students’ disappearance. (EFE, Reuters, Associated Press)

A new report uncovered yet more negligence in Mexico's handling of the Ayotzinapa case. The report alleged that authorities in Mexico failed to send bone fragments found in connection to the Ayotzinapa investigation for analysis or further investigate the area where they were found, reports InSight Crime, "taking the scale of negligence in the government’s handling of the case to new levels."

News Briefs

El Salvador
  • The sentencing of former Salvadoran colonel Inocente Orlando Montano to 133 years in prison by a Spanish court earlier this month in relation to the massacre of eight people at Central American University in 1989 is raising calls once again for El Salvador to deal with the emblematic case, reports the Associated Press.
  • A huge Chinese fishing armada moving from the Galapagos towards Peru has become a diplomatic flashpoint between the U.S. and China. The U.S. embassy in Lima warned on Twitter that that “more than 300 Chinese-flagged vessels with a record of changing boat names and deactivating GPS trackers” were heading towards Peru. While China's embassy retorted that the fleet follows international and Peruvian laws, and expressed "hope the Peruvian public won’t be fooled by false information." The online spat put Peruvian authorities in an uncomfortable position, reports the Guardian.
  • Bolivia's exiled former president Evo Morales looms large over the country's upcoming presidential election. His MAS party candidate Luis Arce is ahead in polls, but could struggle to win in an eventual second round against a united opposition. The campaign shows a country divided mainly along ethnic, regional and socioeconomic lines, reports the Associated Press.
  • Money laundering has allowed Venezuelan "elites to drain the country of its wealth, turning it into a hellscape of hyperinflation, malnutrition and rampant violence despite vast oil reserves," reports the Miami Herald, based on data from the FinCEN Files.
  • A recent U.N. report on human rights violations in Venezuela "is an alarming snapshot of the reality of brutal repression" in the country, writes Geoff Ramsey at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. "The Fact-Finding Mission’s report is important not only because of the specific cases its authors were able to document, but also because it explicitly establishes a link between these crimes and high-level officials." 
Regional Relations
  • The U.S. Trump administration accused the European Union of undermining its efforts to isolate Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, after the E.U. sent a pre-electoral mission to Caracas last week. The spat demonstrates an increasing divide between the U.S. and the E.U. over how to approach Venezuela. As currently organized, December's legislative elections do not meet minimum democratic conditions, but the E.U. has been in talks with Maduro’s government and dissenting members of the opposition on a way forward, reports the Washington Post.
  • The two person mission appears to be part of Venezuelan opposition politician Henrique Capriles' push to seek an improvement in electoral conditions, an approach rejected by Juan Guaidó's opposition coalition, reports the Venezuela Weekly. E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell and Capriles have suggested that elections would have to be postponed to meet minimum democratic conditions, a timeframe Maduro rejects as unconstitutional.
  • A key informant in a case against Venezuelan Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami has been accused of lying to his U.S. law enforcement handlers. The development strengthens the Venezuelan Maduro government's long-standing claims that the U.S. is resorting to trumped up charges against officials to support its ultimate goal of regime change in Venezuela, reports the Associated Press.
  • American rap star and third-party U.S. presidential candidate Kanye West visited Haiti last week. (Voice of America)
  • Covid-19 is threatening the ancient Yanomami tribe in Brazil's Amazon. Yanomami health authorities say a majority of those got the virus in the jungle, showing the pandemic has invaded forest communities where modern health care is inadequate, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • The Brazilian city of Manaus reimposed Covid-19 restrictions, in the midst of an increase of coronavirus cases that may discredit theories that the area had achieved collective immunity, reports Reuters.
  • Lawmakers from Nicaragua's ruling Sandinista party proposed a new "cybercrimes" bill that would make disseminating "information that threatens the national security" punishable up to four years in prison. The proposed legislation sparked condemnation from journalism organizations and opposition activists. (Reuters)
  • Reporters without Borders and PEN International asked Nicaraguan lawmakers to reject a law that would make many press workers "foreign agents." The law proposed by Nicaragua's Ortega administration would target people working for foreign media, but also local media outlets and organizations of civil society that receive international funding. The bill would require anyone who receives funding from abroad to register with the Ministry of the Interior and explain the destination of the money. Critics say it is aimed at silencing independent voices ahead of next year's elections.
  • A large migration in Central America has been taking place under most people’s radar: from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, reports the New Humanitarian.
  • Chile announced a strengthening of border patrol in the country's north, aimed at dismantling human trafficking rings, reports Reuters. (See Sept. 15's briefs.)
More Mexico
  • Frente Amplio's Carolina Cosse won Montevideo's mayoral seat in Uruguay's local elections this Sunday. About 85 percent of voters participated in the elections marked by the coronavirus pandemic context, reports Deutsche Welle.
  • Argentines are sensitive to cases of forced disappearances -- a response to the trauma of the country's last military dictatorship -- but are less reactive to the frequent cases of police violence that violate human rights in the county, I write in a New York Times Español op-ed. Human rights organizations, including CELS, warn of a structural problem of violence committed by security forces, that particularly targets poor populations and indigenous communities.
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always. 

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