Friday, September 25, 2020

Trujillo refused to apologize (Sept. 25, 2020)

 Colombian Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo refused to apologize for police excesses against protesters last November, as ordered by the country's Supreme Court. Trujillo argued yesterday that appropriate apologies had been made earlier this month (before the Supreme Court ruling and in reference to separate cases of police violence). His stance was rejected by victims of violence and opposition politicians who called for his resignation. (El Espectador, EFE, EFE)

The government's refusal to embrace the spirit of the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in defense of the right to protest came as yet another incident of security force violence rocked the country: a soldier carrying out control duties killed Juliana Giraldo, a trans woman travelling with her husband and two others by car in the Cauca region. (EFE, El Tiempo, Semana)Protesters this week in Colombia have been galvanized by cases of police violence -- particularly the killing of Javier Ordóñez in Bogotá and the death of 13 demonstrators in ensuing protests. (See yesterday's post and Tuesday's.)

Analysts said the government's response is angled at galvanizing the Duque administration's conservative electoral base, as part of a growing battle with the judiciary in response to the detention of former president Álvaro Uribe, current President Iván Duque's mentor. (La Silla Vacía)

More Colombia
  • The prosecutor in Giraldo's death is investigating whether the killing was gender related -- El Espectador. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) called on Colombian authorities to carry out the investigation with due diligence, reports Caracol.
News Briefs

El Salvador
  • President Nayib Bukele announced a money laundering investigation against independent newspaper El Faro in a nationally televised address last night. Much of the two hour speech was dedicated to discrediting media outlets that have published critical investigations about the government. (El Faro)
  • The environment for media outlets investigating the Bukele administration has been hostile for the past year -- a fact noted with concern internationally. (See Sept. 10's post and briefs, for example.) Journalists have filed three times as many reports about threatening behavior toward them in Bukele’s first year as president as they did during the last year of his predecessor’s term, reports Vice News.
  • A group of U.S. Republican senators voiced concern over El Salvador's "slow but sure departure from the rule of law and norms of democracy." (El Faro)
  • A recent report on alleged links between Bukele and a massive Venezuelan money laundering scheme add to a growing list of "suspicions surrounding Bukele, including the alleged corruption of administration officials during the pandemic, possible deals with the MS13 gang in exchange for electoral support and calls for attention regarding his flouting of freedom of expression, among others," reports InSight Crime. (See Sept. 14's briefs.)
  • A woman sentenced to 30 years in jail in relation to an obstetric emergency that resulted in a stillbirth has been released from jail in El Salvador. Cindy Erazo was granted conditional freedom on Wednesday after six years in jail. She is one of dozens of women have been convicted for manslaughter, homicide and aggravated homicide after having miscarriages, stillbirths and other obstetric emergencies since El Salvador introduced a total ban on abortion in 1998, reports the Guardian.
  • A Spanish court has convicted one perpetrator of the 1989 murder of Jesuit priests—but El Salvador itself is a long way from mounting a credible prosecution, reports The Nation.
  • Misinformation has become a massive threat to democracy, and it has found a perfect vehicle for dissemination in Whatsapp, writes Pedro Abramovay in Piaui. "Closed debate in WhatsApp groups makes it almost impossible to have a real exchange of ideas or a fair competition between candidates through public debate. The election becomes an effort to consolidate identities that can mobilize these groups, often based on disinformation and attacks that cannot be defended by the other party."
  • As of September 24, Latin America and the Caribbean remains the most affected region in the world by COVID-19 – home to over 8.85 million infections and eleven of the fifteen countries with the world’s highest death rates -- Atlantic Center's Aviso LatAm
  • The International Monetary Fund foresees a “partial and uneven” recovery in Latin America after the Covid-19 crisis, and it anticipates that countries will take years to stabilize economically. (AFP)
  • Sargeant Marine Inc., a major U.S. asphalt company agreed to pay $16.6 million in fines while pleading guilty to U.S. federal charges that it paid millions in bribes to officials in Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela for almost a decade to win lucrative contracts, reports the Associated Press.
  • A bill proposed by Nicaragua's ruling Sandinista party would categorize some citizens as "foreign agents," a move that would suspend their political rights and allow the confiscation of their goods and patrimonial rights, reports Confidencial.
  • The European Union has sent a mission to Venezuela in the run-up to parliamentary election scheduled for December. The country's political opposition is divided over whether to participate in the election, which are widely viewed as being neither free nor fair. The EU said it has received an invitation to observe the elections in Venezuela in December, but said President Nicolas Maduro’s government so far has not met “minimum conditions” to allow it to do so, reports Reuters.
  • Brazil's Pantanal, the world's largest wetland region, is suffering its worst wildfires in recent decades -- the unprecedented disaster results, in part, from the combination of climate change and human activity, reports EFE.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's popularity is higher than ever -- the number of Brazilians that rate his government as great or good has risen to 40% from 29% in December, according to the latest Ibope poll. (Reuters)
  • Rio de Janeiro's carnival parade will be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the city's samba schools. It's the first time the event has been cancelled in a 100 years. (Al Jazeera, Guardian)
  • The German carmaker Volkswagen has agreed to pay millions in compensation to former employees in Brazil who were persecuted during the country’s military dictatorship, reports the Guardian.
  • Bolivian interim president Jeanine Áñez criticized Argentina's government for harboring former Bolivian president Evo Morales, who she accuses of conspiring to foment unrest in her country in her recorded speech at this week's U.N. General Assembly. (Bloomberg, Infobae)
  • Áñez is out of the running for October's presidential elections, but survivors of human rights violations -- including killings of protesters by security forces -- committed under her government fear there won't be justice. (VICE News)
  • Mexico's homicide rate dropped slightly last year, but remains at historically high levels. The country registered 36,476 homicides in 2019, 209 fewer than in 2018. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said conservative protesters demanding his resignation are welcome to camp out outside his offices. AMLO himself led numerous protest encampments in his decades as an opposition leader, notes the Associated Press.
  • He has been far less welcoming of agricultural protesters in Chihuahua state, who are pitted against security forces over water supplies. AMLO is determined to meet Mexico's obligations to divert water to the U.S., even as farmers suffer severe water shortages, reports the Guardian.
  • "The pressure of public opinion was decisive in the failure of the attempt to remove Vizcarra from power" last week, Carlos Basombrío told the Wilson Center's Weekly Asado.
  • Nearly one third of Peru's gold exports are illegally sourced, according to a Reuters report on illicit mining causing environmental havoc in the country's Amazon.
  • Ecuador judicial authorities ordered the immediate detention of former president Rafael Correa, who lives in Belgium, following the confirmation of a corruption sentence. (Infobae)
  • The International Monetary Fund is engaged in a “very fluid and constructive dialogue” with Argentine authorities and is working on plans for a staff-level visit in early October, reports Reuters.



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