Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Increasing concern over police violence (Oct. 14, 2020)

Police violence is increasingly an issue in the region, and has been made more relevant due to coronavirus quarantines and social unrest -- cases of violence against civilians in Chile, Colombia and Mexico have spurred protests and calls for reform, reports Deutsche Welle.


Mounting accusations of human rights violations by Chile's Carabineros, have fueled calls for a deep reform of the country's national police force, ahead of the one year anniversary of civic unrest last year, and an upcoming vote on whether to reform the country's constitution. The Carabineros face 8,500 allegations of human rights abuses in the past year, including cases of torture against detainees in the midst of last year's massive anti-government protests. The government has stood by the force, and insisted that abuses amount to individual excesses. 

But a new report by Amnesty International concluded that violations occurred because commanders did not take all necessary measures to prevent them. “Those in strategic command of the national police allowed acts of torture and ill-treatment to be committed against demonstrators because they considered them to be a necessary evil in order to disperse the crowds at all costs,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International. (Reuters, Guardian)


New regulations proposed by Colombian President Iván Duque would severely limit protesters' right to demonstrate. The new rules would require protesters to register and consolidate police control under the national government and the Ministry of Defense, stripping city governments of police oversight, reports Vice News.

News Briefs

  • The lifting of extensions on U.S. sanctions that allow the importation of diesel to Venezuela could exacerbate the impact of the humanitarian crisis and deepen human suffering on the ground, warned 28 Venezuelan and regional civil society organizations, including WOLA and PROVEA, this weekend. In Venezuela, diesel imports are the primary source of fuel for the generation of electricity and for the transportation of basic goods including food, medicine, and humanitarian aid.
  • Luís Almagro's March re-election as OAS secretary general last March "will prolong the cold war climate that has settled over Latin America these past few years," argues former Ecuadorean foreign minister Guillaume Long in Le Mond Diplomatique. "If the organization was seeking to reinvent itself and win legitimacy as a defender of democracy, its bet failed. Under the leadership of Almagro, the OAS has once again become synonymous with the ‘Monroe Doctrine’"
  • The U.S. Trump administration selected Josh Hodges to be the top official focusing on the Americas at the National Security Council, reports Politico. He is characterized as a protege of Mauricio Claver-Carone, whose post he would fill.
  • This year, roughly a quarter of the vast Pantanal wetland in Brazil, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, has burned in wildfires worsened by climate change, reports the New York Times. Fires occur naturally in the Pantanal, and are also used by ranchers to clear land for agriculture -- a drought this year made those fires blaze out of control. NASA analysis found that at least 22 percent of the Pantanal in Brazil has burned since January, with the worst fires, in August and September, blazing for two months straight. Scientists are scrambling to determine an estimate of animals killed in the fires. While large mammals and birds have suffered casualties, many were able to run or fly away. It appears that reptiles, amphibians and small mammals have fared the worst. Now, biologists are braced for the next wave of deaths from starvation; first the herbivores, left without vegetation, and then the carnivores, left without the herbivores.
  • Activists, lawmakers, non-profit organizations, and scientific institutions in Argentina, moved by intense fires in the country's Paraná delta wetlands this year, are advocating for a law to protect forested areas against the fires, which have been linked to speculative business interests. So far this year, hotspots were detected in more than 175,000 hectares in 13 of Argentina’s 23 provinces, according to data from NASA's Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS). These figures surpass records from previous decades, reports Nacla.
  • Argentina’s government is not going to devalue the peso, President Alberto Fernandez said yesterday amid widespread speculation on the issue, reports Bloomberg.
More Colombia
  • Former indigenous governor Fredy Güetio Zambrano and his wife were assassinated in Colombia's Cauca department. (Canal 1)
El Salvador
  • Media investigations have played a major role in uncovering high level corruption in El Salvador over the past decade. Over the past year, journalists have reported significant allegations involving the current administration of President Nayib Bukele, who has responded with "ever more strident attacks on the press, coupled with his willingness to employ tools of the state such as financial audits and suggestions of the existence of criminal investigations," warns Tim Muth at El Salvador Perspectives. The piece delves into the multi-faceted attacks against the press that "have sounded alarm bells inside and outside El Salvador."
  • Mexican farmers ambushed soldiers and seized La Boquilla Dam, an increasingly tense standoff with the national government over water payments to the U.S. that demonstrates a kind of conflict over scarce natural resources that will be heightened by climate change. (New York Times)
  • Mexico's governing Morena party's internal weaknesses are undermining President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's administration, reports the Associated Press.
  • Mexico signed agreements with three companies to buy as many as 91 million doses of eventual Covid-19 vaccines, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Haitian President Jovenel MoÏse asked the country's justice and police departments to investigate circumstances surrounding the death earlier this month of a university student, allegedly at the hands of police. He also called on protesters to remain calm, after ensuing demonstrations last week. (Voice of America)
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always.


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