Thursday, October 8, 2020

Colombian rights defenders targeted (Oct. 8, 2020)

News Briefs

  • Human rights defenders in Colombia are, more than ever, targets of violence -- and the coronavirus epidemic has put  them even more at risk, as armed groups fight to control territories and impose draconian restrictions on local communities. Further, the government has reduced protections for activists, even as it has  authorized activities that increase the risk to communities, such as the extraction of natural resources, police operations and the forced eradication of illicit crops, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
  • At least 223 social leaders – community activists defending human, environmental, and land rights – have been murdered this year, according to local watchdog Indepaz. More 66 massacres – which local authorities count as single acts of killing that leave three or more dead – have been committed this year, according to Indepaz, with 263 people killed. (Guardian)
  • Twenty rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, called on the government of Trinidad and Tobago to stop deporting Venezuelans. The letter notes recent cases of deportation of dozens of Venezuelans, who were returned to "the grave human rights and humanitarian emergency that they were fleeing. The deportation of asylum seekers runs counter to the basic international law principle of non-refoulment."
  • Dishonest social media campaigns are a global issue, and many private and government actors are routinely using disinformation campaigns to influence elections. In Latin America, such tactics have already become a go-to strategy for many right-wing movements and governments, reports CEPR, building on revelations from a recent Facebook whistleblower memo. (See Sept. 16's post.)
  • Many Latin American countries have joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative, including Panama. As Mexico considers whether to join, some countries in the region face pressure from the Trump administration not to get too close to China, reports PRI.
  • The World Health Organization is concerned about spikes in Covid-19 cases spikes in countries that had managed outbreaks effectively, such as Cuba and Jamaica, and 11 Caribbean states that have moved from moderate to intense transmission. (Reuters)
  • Brazil passed the 5 million confirmed Covid-19 cases mark yesterday, as it approached 150,000 deaths in the second most deadly coronavirus outbreak outside the United States, reports Reuters. Public health experts are concerned about a second wave.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says he has ended the country’s biggest-ever corruption probe, “Operation Car Wash,” as there is “no more corruption in the government." His comments were met with laughter and applause by dozens of executives and officials at the event, according to Al Jazeera.
  • More than 20 percent of indigenous lands in Amazon countries are overlapped by mining concessions and illegal mining, according to a new report by the World Resources Institute. Rising gold prices during the coronavirus pandemic have exacerbated the problem and spurred wildcat miners into the Amazon. In Brazil illegal mining has also increased since Bolsonaro took office nearly two years ago, after promising to legalize their work. (Guardian)
  • Instituto Escolhas has proposed requiring financial institutions to certify legal origins for gold that enters markets, a move aimed at reducing illicit mining in Brazil. (Folha de S. Paulo)
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador appears to believe that the country's environment should only be protected when that doesn't conflict with the country's economic interests, according to Viri Ríos. But the government's short-term focus is incorrect, she argues in the New York Times Español, as environmental destruction will come at a high cost for the economy and will particularly affect the country's poorest. 
  • Tens of thousands of residents and holidaymakers were evacuated and sought refuge in emergency shelters yesterday as Hurricane Delta, a category 2 storm, made landfall on the coast of north-eastern Mexico. The storm had weakened in the hours before striking Cancún. It knocked out power, felling trees, shattering windows and causing scattered flooding in cities and towns along the Caribbean coast, but there were no reported deaths. (Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post)
Central America
  • Human Rights Watch criticized Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala for failing to stop violence against LGBT people in a new report. (Reuters)
Costa Rica
  • Twenty-five police officers were injured in Costa Rica yesterday, amid ongoing protests against the government for seeking economic relief from the International Monetary Fund. The demonstrators are pushing President Carlos Alvarado to rule out any deal with the IMF. He already withdrew the government's initial proposal to secure a $1.75 billion loan from the IMF in exchange for austerity measures including tax hikes. (Reuters)
  • Argentina's governing Frente de Todos party has a female majority in its Chamber of Deputies bloc, the first time more than half of a party's lawmakers are women. (Página 12) The achievement itself is embellished by a measure of poetic justice. Anthropologist and feminist activist Alcira Figueroa swore in yesterday in replacement of a lawmaker who resigned after fondling his girlfriend's breasts on camera during a live Chamber of Deputies session. (See last Friday's briefs.)
Critter Corner
  • Migration before people: Paleontologists hypothesize about why ancient mammals mostly migrated from North America to South, with fewer creatures making the north-bound journey. (New York Times)
  • A disoriented two-tonne elephant seal wandered through the coastal town of Puerto Cisnes in Chile. The massive creature was assisted back into the sea by dozens of neighbours, police and naval officers who used black tarpaulins to drive it towards the water, reports the Guardian.
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always.


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