Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Salvadoran street gang operations in San Salvador -- InSight Crime (Oct. 6, 2020)

News Briefs

El Salvador
  • The notorious Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 street gangs have steadily tightened their grip on almost all aspects of life in San Salvador's historic center, according to a new report by InSight Crime based on a two-year investigation. The gangs have leveraged their stranglehold on the historic center to expand their power in El Salvador. (See also Univisión and Latin America Risk Report's coverage of the investigation.)
  • The first article in the InSight Crime series details how President Nayib Bukele cut deals with gangs when he was mayor of San Salvador: "the gangs would not get money; they would get political and economic favors. In return, the gangs would help Bukele’s political career."
  • The second article in InSight Crime's series details how the gangs operating in San Salvador's historic center have evolved from predators of market vendors to become their partners, and are now angling to take over the lucrative marketplace.
  • Murders of Colombian grassroots activists are increasing at an alarming rate, and the government has yet to properly diagnose the socio-economic ills that underpin these attacks. The killers seek to sabotage the country’s 2016 peace agreement and the rural economic reform it promised, according to a new report by the International Crisis Group. The report advocates that the Colombian government step up prosecution of these crimes while pushing to improve social conditions in the countryside.
  • Colombia is having its own George Floyd moment, a national debate on police violence after a man was beaten to death by police in Bogotá and the lethal repression of ensuing protests, reports the Washington Post
  • Former commanders from Colombia's FARC rebel group have claimed responsibility for six murders, including that of conservative politician Alvaro Gomez Hurtado. Hurtado's shooting in 1995 was widely thought to be the work of his political rivals. But in a letter to a special court for peace, the JEP, the FARC said it was behind the hit, reports Deutsche Welle.
  • Colombia’s Supreme Court said a judge has the authority to rule on the future of a house arrest order against former president Álvaro Uribe, who is being held in a witness tampering case. (Reuters)
  • A protester was killed yesterday in Haiti, as a group of students demonstrated against the killing of another protester last week. Protesters blame both deaths on the police, reports the Associated Press.
  • The U.N. envoy for Haiti warned the country is experiencing increasing violence and “is once again struggling to avert the precipice of instability.” She signaled out gangs challenging the authority of the state and political divisions blocking movement toward legislative elections. (AFP)
  • Haitian organizations are demanding compensation from the United Nations for 800.000 victims of cholera and victims of sexual exploitation related to U.N. peacekeepers. (Telesur)
  • Guatemala's hardline response to a caravan of Honduran migrants this weekend is an unprecedented response by a Central American government, reports Vice News. (See yesterday's post.) It shows both adaptation of Mexico's strategy of rounding up exhausted migrants, and how Covid-19 travel restrictions can be used to crack down on people fleeing their homes.
  • Mexican lawmakers will vote today on whether to divert $3 billion from public trusts to other government priorities, such as the country's Covid-19 response. Affected programs could include disaster relief, protection for journalists, and climate change projects. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has argued the move will improve transparency and root out corruption, but critics counter that there is little clarity on how trusts will be eliminated and their funds used, reports the Guardian.
  • AMLO declared an end to the war against the country's drug cartels, but he has not replaced it with a viable strategy to counter the country's high rates of criminal violence. The National Guard, as it is currently functioning, doesn't seem to respond to a well-defined strategy, writes Edna Jaime of México Evalúa in El Financiero.
  • AMLO is determined to pay off Mexico's water debt to the U.S., despite staunch opposition by local farmers, out of fear of retaliatory tariffs, according to the Border Report.
  • Maybe it's time for the U.S. to get some electoral lessons from Latin America, writes Todd A. Eisenstadt at the Aula Blog. "The chaos, isolation, and economic pain caused by COVID‑19 make Latin America’s democracy lessons even more pressing for the United States."
  • International efforts to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro “have worked,” according to Admiral Craig Faller, head of the U.S. Southern Command, but not “fast enough for the Venezuelan people." (Mercopress)
  • A London appeals court overturned a ruling on $1.8 billion in Venezuelan gold stored in the Bank of England. The new decision favors Nicolás Maduro's embattled government. A British commercial court will now be required to re-examine the issue. (Guardian)
  • Twelve hours after Tropical Storm Delta formed yesterday morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center declared it had rapidly intensified to hurricane strength in the western Caribbean. (Washington Post)
  • Honduras remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for environmental activists. The case of the Guapinol community, on the country’s north coast, which has become militarized in an effort to defend the river that supplies it, is the latest example, reports the Guardian
  • Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro said he hopes to appoint an evangelical minister to the supreme court next year, reports Reuters.
  • Brazil's economy is set to shrink by 5.8 percent in 2020, the International Monetary Fund said Monday, revising up an earlier forecast but warning the country faced "exceptionally high" risks. (AFP)
  • Argentina has the world’s highest rate of positive COVID-19 tests, according to Oxford-linked tracker Our World In Data, with nearly six out of 10 yielding an infection, a reflection of low testing levels and loose enforcement of lockdown rules, reports Reuters.
  • An IMF mission team will arrive in Argentina today, and President Alberto Fernández said he hoped to reach an agreement with the IMF to refinance its US$44-billion credit line "as soon as possible." (Buenos Aires Times)
Costa Rica
  • Decoy turtle eggs with transmitters -- dubbed InvestEggators -- have helped conservationists in Costa Rica track illegal sea turtle egg trafficking, 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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