Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Mexico's "forensic crisis" (Sept. 23, 2020)

 Mexico is in the throes of a "forensic crisis" -- nearly 39,000 corpses that passed through the country's morgues since 2006 were never identified. The problem has grown dramatically throughout the country's war on drugs, with a marked increase in recent years, according to a new report by Quinto Elemento Lab, based on freedom of information requests. (Aristegui Noticias, Guardian)

The report identifies about 1,000 of cases of "administrative disappearances" -- instances where authorities cannot specify what happened to corpses that entered their facilities.

In a country where thousands of families continue to search for disappeared loved ones, more than 27,000 corpses were buried without being identified, and morgues are saturated in many areas. About 289,000 people have been killed and another 70,000 disappeared since Mexico's governments launched an armed crackdown on the country's drug cartels. 

The report's authors put it in heartrending terms: "The paradox is that each day families of different geographies organize in collectives to go out and look for their disappeared relatives, often with pickaxes and shovels, digging with their own hands. Each year mothers of migrants roam Mexico looking for clues about their sons and daughters who never returned. Among those nearly 39,000 bodies held by the State could be the answer these families are missing. The State has them, but doesn't always have the will to return them home for a proper burial." (Diario Mx)

U.S. woos Guyana and Suriname

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Guyana and Suriname as part of a whirlwind tour last week, aimed at drumming up regional support for ousting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.  Caribbean nations neighboring Venezuela have been divided over the prolonged standoff between Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó, backed by the U.S. and a chunk of the international community. Many Caribbean countries have maintained ties with Maduro’s government.

Pompeo also pushed Suriname and Guyana to favor U.S. companies as partners over Chinese investment, particularly in relation to both countries’ oil sectors. which has invited both Suriname and Guyana into its enormous Belt and Road infrastructure-building initiative.

It’s the first time such a high-ranking U.S. official visited Guyana, a mark of the country’s increasing strategic importance due to oil and proximity to Venezuela.
(Miami HeraldKaieteurAssociated PressAFPGuyana Department of Public Information)

News Briefs

  • Amnesty International said in a new report published on Monday that authorities in Venezuela, El Salvador and Paraguay have held thousands of people in inadequate state-run quarantine centers, calling the use of those facilities a “form of repression.” (EFE)
  • Recent allegations of forced hysterectomies on migrant women in U.S. detention centers demonstrate the gender double jeopardy: women flee their homes in Central America, often due to gender violence, and are often victims of further violence in their attempt to find refuge elsewhere. (El Faro
  • Former Bolivian president Carlos Mesa has a shot of regaining the post in October's presidential election re-do. While MAS party candidate Luis Arce is leading in polls, Mesa could become a unity candidate in an eventual run-off. But there are many questions about where Mesa would try to take Bolivia, and how he would unite a country fragmented geographically, racially, economically and politically, reports Brendan O'Boyle in Americas Quarterly.
  • In the coronavirus context, patchy internet and poverty threaten to reduce the number of low-income youth that pursue higher education in Bolivia, reports Nacla.
More Mexico
  • Another Quinto Elemento Lab project documents what distance learning looks like in Mexico. (Washington Post)
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's plan to investigate and possibly prosecute his predecessors for corruption is popular -- but critics say the president's referendum proposal would not likely lead to prosecutions, and is mostly a political ploy. (Washington Post, and see last Wednesday's briefs.)
El Salvador
  • A Univisión report on girls in El Salvador driven to suicide in response to violence won an Emmy award this week. (Diario El Mundo)
  • El Salvador's military refuses to open up its archives on El Mozote -- and President Nayib Bukele, who promised justice for the victims of the emblematic massacre, has remained silent, reports El Faro.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro blamed indigenous people for rainforest fires in his United Nations General Assembly speech. He also lashed out at the media for spreading panic about the coronavirus pandemic, reports Reuters.
  • But Bolsonaro is under considerable pressure to temper his climate change skepticism and improve his environmental policies -- not just from activists, but also from bankers, business executives and agribusiness firms calling for a greener economy. (AFP)
  • Brazil's political polarization has spilled out into a "battle of the billboards" between Bolsonaristas and opponents, reports the Guardian.
Costa Rica
  • Costa Rica is providing satellite data on its fishing fleets, a move that buttresses efforts to stop illegal fishing in the area, reports InSight Crime.
  • Outgoing IDB head Luis Alberto Moreno warned that Latin America may be feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for years to come. Actions taken throughout the region to control not only the pandemic, but also “the spread of poverty [and] the spread of unemployment,” have “increased debt to households, to governments, and to businesses,” Moreno explained. But the pandemic has also spurred adaptation and presented new economic opportunities for the entire Western Hemisphere, Moreno argued at the Atlantic Council.
  • The U.N. General Assembly took place vía Zoom (essentially). The Guardian ranks world leaders' backdrops for their video addresses, and gives top marks to Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel who "chose to sit in front on a melange of striking palms and ferns (possibly fake?), which themselves are lit by green light."
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always. -- 



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