Friday, May 7, 2021

25 dead in Rio police favela raid (May 7, 2021)

 At least 25 people were killed in a violent police operative in Rio de Janeiro's Jacarezinho favela yesterday -- activists say the raid, carried out by 200 heavily armed civil police officers, is the city's deadliest ever. "Even in a city long accustomed to extraordinary police violence, where authorities frequently wage warlike operations inside neighborhoods under the control of criminal organizations, the death toll was shocking," reports the Washington Post. Photos and videos show corpses, bloodied people and homes, grenade explosions.(Globo)

A police officer was killed yesterday, and officials say all the other deaths are of suspected gang members. Experts are doubtful: Bruno Soares, a researcher from Rio’s Centre for Studies on Public Security and Citizenship, who was in the favela when the operation took place, said that it was unlikely that all the people killed in the operation were criminals.  Joel Luiz Costa, a lawyer from Jacarezinho, said he saw evidence that residents had been executed yesterday. Two passengers on the metro were hit by stray bullets. (Al Jazeera)

Police said the operation targeted the Comando Vermelho gang suspected of recruiting children and teenagers for drug trafficking, robberies, assaults and murders. But residents and human rights activists accused the police of using excessive force and questioned why the operation was launched at all, given a Supreme Court ban on law enforcement raids in the city during the pandemic, reports the New York Times.

"It’s completely unacceptable that security forces keep committing grave human rights violations such as those that occurred in Jacarezinho today against residents of the favelas, who are mostly Black and live in poverty," said Jurema Werneck, executive director of Amnesty International Brazil.

The episode is yet another example of violence by security forces against favela inhabitants in Rio de Janeiro. “The slaughter in Jacarezinho is a typical example of the barbarities that happen in favelas in Rio,” Talíria Petrone, a federal lawmaker from Rio de Janeiro, said in a statement. “It’s the state doing the minimum to guarantee rights and doing the maximum to repress and kill.”

Human Rights Watch called for a proper investigation, and noted that it has conducted a number of surveys that reveal serious flaws in investigating deaths caused by police in Rio. 

The United Nations has voiced alarm over the episode and called for an independent investigation, reports AFP. The U.N. human rights office said it had received “worrying” reports that police did not take steps to preserve evidence of the crime scene, “which could hinder investigations into the tragic outcome of this lethal operation”.

Police apparently entered inhabitants' homes to carry out the raid, which can only be done with a warrant, and transported fatal victims in police vehicles, complicating forensic investigation, reports El País.

News Briefs

  • As many as 37 protesters killed across the country over the past 10 days of protests in Colombia, and hundreds wounded as the government brutally cracks down on people nationwide demonstrating against poverty and inequality. (See yesterday's post.) Experts say the crisis demonstrates the government's disconnect from the population's economic distress, as well as a long-term need to reform a police force known for human rights abuses, reports the Guardian. Last year protests were galvanized by the killing of Javier Órdoñez by Bogotá police. (See post for Sept. 22, 2020)
  • Human Rights Watch denounced that security forces used arms, such as vehicle mounted multiple cartridge projectors against civilians, calling it a "dangerous and indiscriminate weapon."
  • Driven by U.S. pressure, militarized immigration enforcement continues in southern Mexico, reports Sandra Cuffe in The Intercept. It’s not just migrants and asylum-seekers transiting the country who are the targets of militarized immigration operations, but also people seeking asylum in southern Mexico.
  • "The U.S. supports a comprehensive, negotiated solution to the crisis in Venezuela that addresses all aspects of the conditions necessary for free and fair elections. It’s up to Venezuelans to decide whether the new National Electoral Council contributes to this end," Tweeted Julie Chung, Assistant Secretary in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. (See Wednesday's post)
  • Foro Cívico, a broad civil society coalition made up of NGOs, academic organizations, faith groups, and human rights organizations, described the new CNE as “a first step towards the difficult recovery of democratic institutions in Venezuela.” (WOLA)
  • The new electoral council, with opposition representatives, is a notable achievement of the Foro Cívico civil society coalition, writes Geoff Ramsey of WOLA, and "underscores the growing importance of mobilized, independent civil society."
  • Venezuela is having a #MeToo wave, a painful landslide of online denunciation by victims of rape, abuse and sexual harassment over the past few days, reports El País. The domino effect started with the former lead singer of the rock band and accusations have been made against a slew of prominent figures, including poet Willy McKey admitted to statutory rape and committed suicide.
  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro received a samurai sword as a gift from actor Steven Seagal, who was visiting as a representative of Russia, reports Reuters.
  • Seemingly legitimate modeling agencies in Venezuela are repeatedly being linked to cases of human trafficking, reports InSight Crime.
El Salvador
  • Foreign diplomats in El Salvador have criticised President Nayib Bukele for broadcasting on national television a purportedly private meeting they held with the president, saying the broadcast came as a surprise, reports Reuters. (See Monday's post.)
  • The international community and civil society are concerned about Bukele's move against judiciary independence, the latest in a string of anti-institutional moves since taking office, but "the combination of concrete results and a relentless, crowd-pleasing social media presence has helped" Bukele's approval ratings stay sky high, writes Frida Ghitis in World Politics Review.
  • A tragic subway accident that killed at least 24 people this week in Mexico City threatens to impact Mexico's leading leftwing politicians -- both of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's potential scions, Marcelo Ebrard (former Mexico City mayor) and Claudia Sheinbaum (current Mexico City mayor). A credible investigation is necessary not just because it's the right thing to do, but also the only way to salvage Mexico's left, according to Guillermo Osorno in a New York Times Español guest essay.
  • Ecuador and Chevron have been locked in a legal deathmatch for 28 years, over an oil pollution case -- but the years of international litigation, including the ongoing detention in New York of lawyer Steven Donzinger, have overshadowed the original plaintiffs, natives of the forested northeast of Ecuador, who say their drinking water and quality of life remain damaged by oil drilling, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • The European Union announced that it would neither finance the organization of a June referendum in Haiti nor send observers for this election, deeming the process insufficiently transparent and democratic in a country plagued by insecurity and political instability. (AFP)
More Brazil
  • Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva traveled to Brasília for the first time since his corruption conviction was annulled, and met with politicians, including several allies of President Jair Bolsonaro. (Folha de S. Paulo)
  • In Argentina, the debate over when to send kids back to school has gone all the way to the Supreme Court, further polarizing a country reeling from a second wave and the worst inflation in 18 months -- the Americas Quarterly podcast talks with Eduardo Levy Yeyati.
  • Brazil, Colombia and Peru have all deployed troops to stop environmental crimes in the Amazon, but the most recent military operations in these countries seemingly have not made a measurable difference, reports InSight Crime, which explores why militarized attempts to stop deforestation in the Amazon so often fail.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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