Monday, May 10, 2021

Clashes in Cali (May 10, 2021)

 At least ten members of an Indigenous minga --- a collective act of protest -- in the Colombian city of Cali were wounded in a face-off with armed civilians who shot at them, yesterday.   (CaracolSemanaLa Silla Vacía)  Protests, and repression by security forces, have been ongoing in Colombia for 13 days, but the latest escalation of clashes in Cali, between civilian groups, is a crisis within a crisis demonstrates a power vacuum, according to La Silla Vacía. President Iván Duque has resisted calls to visit the newest epicenter of tension, where protesters have been angered by deadly police violence, while other civilian groups have sought to forcefully counter demonstrations.

The scenes of urban violence, which also involve at least 4,000 security forces at this point, could be a harbinger of the worst-case scenario in Colombia, as Cali combines many of the issues underlying the unrest: illegal criminal groups, poverty, victims of of conflict, and Venezuelan migrants. (La Silla Vacía) Yesterday's episodes in Cali could push a new round of national protests, according to La Silla Vacía.

Duque and leaders of the Comité de Paro, the coalition of social organizations that called for last week's protests, today. Reports indicate they might be accompanied by representatives of the U.N. and the Colombian Episcopal Conference. (Semana)  

Nearly two weeks of unrest, sparked by a protest against a tax reform, has unleashed a wave of demonstrations and brutal repression many Colombians believed to have left behind, writes Javier Zamudio in a New York Times Español guest essay.

At least 47 people have been killed in protests, 39 of whom were victims of police violence, and more than 500 people have been declared missing after being detained by security forces, according to Temblores and Indepaz.


AMLO questions U.S. aid to NGO

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador accused the United States of undue interference in the country’s internal affairs. He said the country sent a diplomatic note to the U.S. over aid given to Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI), a national NGO which the president has accused of seeking to undermine his government.  (El País)

AMLO has also recently accused the press freedom organization Article 19, whose work was cited in the U.S. state department’s annual human rights report on Mexico, of attacking Mexico's sovereignty. (Aristegui Noticias)

Article 19 responded that AMLO has sought to deflect attention from his government's failure to protect activists and journalists. Aggressions against the press increased by 13.6 percent in 2020 – Amlo’s second year in office, according to the organization. AMLO's attempt to restrict international financing of organizations of civil society is a blow against freedom of association and defense of human rights, said Artículo 19 in a statement. (Forbes Mexico)

Critics pointed out Amlo’s own interior ministry recently signed an agreement with USAid on human rights issues, while MCCI published investigations into graft before Amlo successfully ran for election in 2018, reports the Guardian.

It is not the first time Mexico's AMLO administration has focused on MCCI's financing, but the organization has previously emphasized that its funding is licit.

AMLO's accusations came shortly before a virtual meeting Friday with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.

News Briefs

Regional Relations
  • The U.S. and Mexico have a shared interest in addressing the root causes that push Central Americans to migrate, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said in a video call with AMLO on Friday. Harris said violence, corruption and impunity are among the prime issues to address, and called for the U.S. and Mexico to provide immediate relief in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. "Most people don't want to leave home and when they do it is often because they are fleeing some harm or they are forced to leave because there are no opportunities," she said. (ReutersWashington Post)
  • Harris faces a delicate diplomatic dance: the very leaders she must engage with are part of the problem. "Experts say the battle against corruption that is critical to success in Central America comes down to a grim choice of partners who rank from bad to worse," reports Foreign Policy.
  • Even as the U.S. has put Central American governance, particularly corruption, at the center of its discourse, in recent weeks political leaders in El Salvador and Guatemala have forced out several senior judges known for their independence and anti-corruption zeal. The issue highlights the complications for Washington's diplomatic agenda in the region, and, in part, could respond to pushback on the part of Northern Triangle entrenched elites, Geoff Thale, president of the Washington Office on Latin America, told the Washington Post.
  • Beyond politically polarized simplifications of migration issues, "the reality along the border is far more complicated than many would allow," reports the New Yorker. "At the heart of the debate around immigration in the Rio Grande Valley is a question of whether it’s best for the United States to let its southern neighbor deal with the problem."
More Mexico
  • The mayor of a town in the Mexican state of Oaxaca and two officials in her administration have been arrested over the disappearance of an anti-corruption activist who went missing after a protest outside the local town hall, reports the Guardian.
El Salvador
  • El Salvador's National Assembly -- in which the ruling political coalition holds a significant majority -- approved a decree that grants the health ministry to directly purchase pandemic related supplies and services. The decree permits such purchases retroactively, despite a constitutional prohibition, according to Salud con Lupa.
  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández announced the expansion of existing food aid schemes for the country's poorest, with some four million children set to benefit as inclusion age is expanded from six to fourteen years, reports the Buenos Aires Times. Inflation in the first quarter of 2021 reached almost 13 percent and the hikes show no sign of slowing down, with 42 percent of Argentina’s 45-million population now considered poor.
  • Brazil's vaccination plan, released earlier this year, prioritized people in what it called situations of “elevated social vulnerability,” including Indigenous people, quilombo residents, the homeless and the incarcerated. But the government is struggling to keep that commitment in the midst of a sluggish vaccine rollout, reports the Washington Post.
  • The town of Serrano -- population 45,000 -- has become a unique experiment in Brazil: 98 percent of eligible adults have been vaccinated against Covid-19. Coronavirus cases and deaths plunged and life has started to return to normal, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Brazil "is a prime example of how populist governance in one country can threaten the whole world," according to Uri Friedman at the Atlantic
  • To Infinity (and Beyond): The Latin American and Caribbean Space Agency, or ALCE, is a regional space agency that will seek to unite resources­—budgetary, human, and technological. It will be led by Mexico and Argentina; Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Paraguay will also be involved, and although Colombia and Peru won’t be actively participating for the moment, they will be part of the group as observers. The move is an opportunity for technological independence in the region, and the chance to develop technology-based industries that could transform national economies, reports Slate.
  • Mother's Day was born as a pacifist protest -- it's time to recover that history of activism and dedicate the day to obtaining the policies and rights women need: from plans to end obstetric violence, to family leave, to abortion, argues Jazmina Barrera in a New York Times Español guest essay.

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

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