Monday, April 26, 2021

Venezuelan security force abuse in Apure -- HRW (April 26, 2021)

 Venezuelan security forces have committed egregious abuses against local residents during a weeks-long operation against armed groups on the border with Colombia, according to a new Human Rights Watch report.

Venezuelan security forces opened the offensive in Apure state on March 21, 2021, with the alleged purpose of combating armed groups in Venezuela. The operation led to the execution of at least four peasants, arbitrary arrests, the prosecution of civilians in military courts, and torture of residents accused of collaborating with armed groups. The abuses follow a pattern similar to that of systematic abuses that have led to international inquiries into possible crimes against humanity in the country.

The conflict has highlighted the extent to which Colombian guerrillas have penetrated Venezuela, by some estimates, illegal armed groups now operate in more than half of Venezuela’s territory.

Venezuela’s economic collapse has so thoroughly gutted the country that members of Colombia's Marxist guerrilla group the ELN have embedded itself across large stretches of its territory, seizing upon the nation’s undoing to establish mini-states of their own. And many residents in the Venezuelan borderlands have welcomed the terrorist group for the kind of protection and basic services the state is failing to provide, reports the New York Times.

A January Human Rights Watch report detailed how armed groups use brutal violence to control peoples’ daily lives in the eastern Colombian province of Arauca and the neighboring Venezuelan state of Apure. (See Jan. 22's post.)

News Briefs

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro approved a 24 percent cut to the environment budget for 2021 from the previous year’s level. The move comes just one day after he promised to increase spending to fight deforestation at an international summit hosted by the U.S., reports Reuters. Bolsonaro vetoed a list of environmental budget provisions worth 240 million reais, including outlays for environmental enforcement. (See last Thursday's post.)
  • Bolsonaro said on Friday that if he were to order the military to take the streets and restore order, "the order will be followed," again raising questions about his politicization of the armed forces, reports Reuters.
  • An epidemic of abductions is compounding Haiti's political and economic crises. Kidnappings last year tripled to 234 cases compared to 2019 -- but real figures are likely much higher because many Haitians don't report abductions, fearing retribution from criminal gangs, reports Reuters.
  • At least 31 indigenous people were wounded in an attack on Caldono, in Colombia’s Caucaregion, after an illegal armed group opened fire on them while they destroyed coca crops. Indigenous governor Sandra Liliana Peña Chocue – who opposed coca crops in indigenous lands – was assassinated in the same region last week, reports Reuters.
  • Mexico is suffering “critical” failures in law enforcement and some of the worst levels of journalist killings outside a war zone, according to the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights. A new report by the commission highlighted lack of access to justice, weak police forces and the militarization of law enforcement. (Associated Press
El Salvador
  • Pacts between gangs and public officials to lower homicides in El Salvador are promoting the wider use of forced disappearances, showing how gangs are still using violence to maintain political and territorial control, according to a report by Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicación del Derecho (FESPAD). Carrying out forced disappearances serves a dual purpose for El Salvador’s gangs -- enforcement of territorial control and political capital, reports InSight Crime.
  • Peruvian presidential candidate Pedro Castillo pulled far ahead of his opponent, right-wing Keiko Fujimori in an opinion poll published this weekend by La República. The union leader is ahead in most parts of the country, and is predicted to obtain 41.5 percent, compared to Fujimori's 21.5 percent in the June runoff election. The race is closer in Lima, where another poll gives Fujimori 31 percent to Castillo's 29 percent, reports El País.
  • The poll suggests that Peru’s economic model is at the center of this election, according to Bloomberg.
  • A new report by the Atlantic Council identifies key factors shaping the region’s post-COVID-19 outlook -- health outcomes, societal agency, and Latin America and the Caribbean in the global landscape -- and and offers three plausible 2025 scenarios for the region: COVID’s Lasting Toll, Regionalisms on the Rise, and The Great Divide. 
  • Chile’s congress gave final approval to legislation permitting workers to withdraw as much as 10% of their retirement savings for the third time since the pandemic started. The bill's passage on Friday set up a showdown with President Sebastian Piñera that’s likely to compound political tensions, reports Bloomberg.
Costa Rica
  • Costa Rica's debt burden, approaching 70 per cent of gross domestic product, has proved unsustainable in the midst of a Covid-19 economic slump, forcing President Carlos Álvarado to deliver long overdue fiscal reforms and pursue an IMF loan, reports the Financial Times.
  • Argentina's government will inoculate some members of social organizations running soup kitchens against Covid-19, an effort to keep essential food assistance running in the midst of a deadly second wave of coronavirus contagion, reports La Nación.
  • Argentina has rolled out more gender-sensitive Covid-19-response measures than any other country, according to the U.N. That’s thanks partly to Mercedes D’Alessandro, the nation’s first director of economy, equality and gender, reports TIME magazine. The economic argument for better incorporating women into the economy is clear, but D'Alessandro argues there is also a moral component: after a year that has underscored how essential women’s labor is to the economy—from unpaid care work to frontline health care roles—she says governments owe it to women. “Without all the work that women did this year, there’d be no economy to rebuild.”
  • A political tug-o-war over in-person teaching in Argentina has Buenos Aires students hostage in a pyrrhic battle that is worsening the country's incipient governability crisis, Marcelo J. García and I argue in a New York Times Español op-ed. The dispute has little to do with actual education, but deepens political trenches that make it impossible to manage Argentina's pandemic and economic crises.

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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