Human rights defenders are routinely killed by armed groups across Colombia -- and the government is dragging its feet in carrying out policies to prevent them, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 127-page report, “Left Undefended: Killings of Rights Defenders in Colombia’s Remote Communities,” documents killings of human rights defenders in the country in the last five years, as well as serious shortcomings in government efforts to prevent them, protect defenders, and hold those responsible to account. Over 400 human rights defenders have been killed in Colombia since 2016, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Killings of human rights defenders have increased since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas demobilized as part of a 2016 peace accord with the government. Other armed groups, including several that emerged from the FARC, have stepped into the breach, fighting for control of territory, engaging in illegal activities, and using violence against civilians. Human Rights Watch documented killings in six of the areas that have been most affected.
While the peace accord included strategies for remedying problems that have kindled conflict for decades, the government has been slow to implement initiatives to strengthen authorities’ presence in rural areas, combat illegal economies and address the dearth of legitimate economic opportunities, according to the report. Left to act as quasi government officials, the leaders of Indigenous groups and other social organizations are put at increased risk as armed groups can target them. (Associated Press)
- Nicaragua has been undergoing a multidimensional crisis for three years -- now aggravated by the pandemic and last year's hurricane devastation. The country is heading towards general elections in November in a situation "marked by great social tension, the absence of full human rights guarantees, and weakness of the rule of law, which extends to electoral institutions," warns Alberto Brunori of the UN human rights office in the Post Opinión. (See Monday's briefs on Nicaraguan civil society and electoral conditions.)
- El Salvador's traditional political parties are seeking to oust President Nayib Bukele by declaring him mentally unfit. The proposal has the support of right wing Arena, leftist FMLN and the Christian Democrat Party. The three control 63 of the Legislative Assembly's 84 seats. The proposal comes ahead of legislative elections this month in which Bukele's party is widely expected to win a majority, reports the Associated Press.
- A year after Bukele's brief military take over of the Legislative Assembly (see yesterday's briefs), the authoritarian move has proved the government's rule, rather than en exception, according to an El Faro editorial.
- In the midst of Haiti's constitutional crisis -- over whether President Jovenel Moïse's term in office has ended -- the president's constitutional commission presented a draft of a new constitution citizens will vote on in an April referendum. "Among the proposed changes, the new magna carta eliminates the Senate, strengthens the presidency, mandates military service and programs all elections for every five years," notes the Miami Herald. Because Moïse unilaterally appointed members to an elections council and drafted a new constitution without any political consensus, experts say it would be a shaky foundation for future governments.
- Cuba has warned that rebels from Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) may be planning an attack in Bogotá, the Colombian defense minister said on Monday. (Reuters)
- A second wave of coronavirus infections has cast a spotlight on the lack of resources lashing the island’s hospitals, reports the Miami Herald.
- On Saturday, Cuba's government announced that Cubans will soon be able to seek employment or start businesses in most fields of work. It is a long-awaited and likely irreversible step towards massively expanding the island's private sector, according to CNN.
- Ecuador's electoral authorities still haven't declared a second place winner to compete in a presidential runoff vote in April. Environmental leader Yaku Pérez has a razor-thin lead over business-friendly candidate Guillermo Lasso: 19,72 percent to 19.59 percent. But the remaining untallied votes are from Guayas, where Pérez trails behind Lasso. Final results are expected today, reports El Comercio. (See Monday's post.)
- Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro is touting a miracle Covid-19 cure -- actually an extract of the herb thyme -- in order to mask the country's grim pandemic outlook: it will not obtain enough vaccines to achieve herd immunity until 2023, reports the Washington Post.
- Colombian businessman Alex Saab, detained in Cape Verde, is at the center of a battle between the U.S. -- which has ordered his detention on money laundering charges -- and Maduro, who said Saab represents the government internationally. Maduro's costly struggle to prevent Saab's extradition to the U.S. shows the government's true ideology, money, argues Alberto Barrera Tyszka in the New York Times Español.
- Cooperation on migration is emerging as a rare point of strength between Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden. Both men agree on the need for a long-term development plan for Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where most asylum seekers come, reports the Wall Street Journal.
- A new law proposed by AMLO's Morena party would regulate Twitter, Facebook and other social media companies, and open the companies to fines of up to $4.4 million for violating users’ right to free speech. The proposal would allow anyone whose account is blocked or canceled to appeal the decision. Press freedom advocates criticized the bill, reports the Associated Press.
- Mexico's coronavirus death rate has shot up -- experts say part of the reason is a widespread shortage of oxygen tanks, reports the New York Times.
- Brazilian biomedical institute Butantan plans to vaccinate a city’s entire adult population of about 30,000 people against Covid-19, to measure the impact on the infection rate, reports Reuters. The institute, run by São Paulo state's government, will carry out the mass vaccination study in Serrana with the CoronaVac shot.
- Ursula Bahillo was killed by her cop ex-boyfriend on Monday -- the 18-year-old became the year's 44th femicide victim in Argentina. She had recently reported her killers abusive behavior to authorities. Police in the Buenos Aires province fired rubber bullets against her family and friends who gathered to demand justice last night. (Infobae, Infobae, Infobae)
- Femicides by police officers are recurrent -- over the past decade there have been 48 women killed by members of the police force in Argentina, reports CELS.
- That the pandemic has exacerbated inequalities is agreed on, the question is how the human rights agenda must respond to the new situation, according to a new book by CELS, Post.
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