Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Haitian police officers killed by dissident group (March 23, 2021)

Two Haitian policemen were killed in Port-au-Prince yesterday by disgruntled officers who are members of a group known as Fantom 509 that has organized violent protests in recent days. The United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti called the killings “fratricidal violence”  and said local authorities should prioritize the cohesion of Haiti National Police, reports the Associated Press. Last week, Fantom 509 members stormed several police stations and freed jailed colleagues accused of participating in an alleged coup against embattled President Jovenel Moïse. The group is also demanding the recovery of the bodies of four police officers killed in a recent raid. (See Friday's briefs.)

The police raid into Village de Dieu, was authorized by President Jovenel Moïse in order for the police to be seen by the international community as clearing out the gangs, according to Amy Wilentz in The Nation. But the shantytown is controlled by G9, a consortium of street gangs who support the president and often have done him favors, she reports. (See this InSight Crime piece from last year for more on the G9.)"Right now, all of Haiti has been kidnapped by a small cabal of bloodthirsty, money-hungry, and immoral leaders of all kinds: politicians, officers of the law, businessmen, and gang leaders. The country’s being held hostage."

More Haiti
  • The Belize Football Federation has expressed its "disappointment and disgust" after a bus taking the national team to their hotel in Haiti was held up by an armed gang, yesterday. (BBC)
News Briefs

  • Immigration advocates called on the U.S. to end deportations to Haiti and offer a new Temporary Protected Status designation for Haitians living in the U.S., a move that would provide immigration protection for thousands of people, reports the Miami Herald. Advocates say Haiti's severe political, economic and humanitarian crisis, made worse by a rise in gang-driven violence, makes the country unsafe to return to. Since February 1, there have been at least 21 ICE charter flights returning no fewer than 1,200 expelled Haitians to Port-au-Prince.
  • Migrant families attempting to enter the U.S. through the border with Mexico face mixed U.S. policies: migrant families and individuals are being expelled to Mexico under a Trump-era coronavirus public health order, even as thousands of other migrant families have been released into the U.S. in recent weeks pending the outcome of their immigration cases, reports Reuters.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden has taken a more humanitarian approach to immigration than his predecessor, but a surge in migrant numbers has pushed the new administration to fall back on a Trump administration tactic: outsourcing immigration enforcement to Mexico, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • The Biden administration will send two senior officials -- Roberta Jacobson and Juan González -- to Mexico and Guatemala to discuss policies to manage migration and also to address its root causes in the region, reports the Guardian.
  • Two major drug lords in a New York trial have made detailed accusations linking Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández to criminal organizations. Their testimonies not only implicate Hernández, but also his vice president, the army, the police and his two predecessors in office, Porfirio Lobo Sosa and Manuel Zelaya, all of whom stand accused of turning a blind eye to the drug trade in exchange for bribes. "It is yet another hurricane to hit a country already at breaking point," reports El País. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Criminal investigations and fears of fraud loom over this year’s presidential election, reports Americas Quarterly, with a profile of the main candidates. Honduras' recent electoral history indicates free and fair elections are far from guaranteed, and allegations against JOH and allies mean the ruling National Party has a strong interest in staying in power. But an opposition alliance could prosper at the ballot box, according to AQ.
  • U.S. prosecutors identified Hernández more than 50 times in the March 16 sentencing submission of the Fuentes Ramírez trial, accusing JOH of prolonged involvement with prominent drug traffickers who contributed to his campaigns in exchange for protection and immunity. It is a distinct break with tradition, reports InSight Crime, as U.S. prosecutors usually avoid naming sitting presidents in criminal cases.
  • Hundreds of Brazilian business leaders and economists criticized the country's coronavirus policies. Without naming President Jair Bolsonaro, they upbraided "the country’s highest political leadership" for ignoring science, encouraging crowds, hyping unproven treatments and "flirting with the anti-vaccine movement," reports Reuters. The letter, published in newspapers and signed by former central bank chiefs and some of Brazil’s richest bankers, underscored a growing revolt by business leaders against Bolsonaro. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • Bolsonaro maintained his anti-lockdown stance in a speech yesterday, reports Reuters separately.
Regional Relations
  • Two Venezuelan soldiers died over the weekend in clashes with “irregular Colombian armed groups” near the border in southwestern Apure state, according to Venezuela's defense ministry. (Reuters)
El Salvador
  • InSight Crime reports on how an MS-13 clique took a cocaine corridor in El Salvador, "a subtle transfer of power could have seismic consequences in the underworld."
  • A would-be mayoral candidate in Mexico's Oaxaca state, Ivonne Gallegos Carreño, was gunned down this weekend. She is the latest in a spate of politician killings ahead of June's midterm elections: 18 pre-candidates have been killed so far. They were killed before they opened formal campaigns, reports the Associated Press.
  • Anti-government protests in Paraguay were spurred by President Mario Abdo Benítez's handing of the coronavirus pandemic and medical supply shortages, but beyond that, protestors are pushing back against 70 years of (nearly uninterrupted) government by the right-wing Colorado Party, including the 35-year Stroessner dictatorship, according to NACLA. Protesters say the Colorado Party's rule has resulted in deep inequalities, endemic corruption, and inefficient institutions. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • Chile is expanding coronavirus quarantines in the midst of the country's most severe wave of the virus yet. President Sebastian Piéera unveiled emergency spending measures worth $6 billion, reports Bloomberg.
  • Ricardo González Gutiérrez, the beloved Mexican clown known as Cepillín who was watched by generations of children throughout Latin America, died earlier this month at 75 -- New York Times.

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