Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Colombia braces for strike today (May 12, 2021)

 Colombia is bracing for renewed protests today after talks between the government and strike organizers fizzled on Monday. Demonstrator demands have expanded to include a basic income, an end to police violence and the withdrawal of a long-debated health reform.

Colombian police have been widely criticized for deploying excessive force against protesters, fuelling further social unrest. (See yesterday's post.) The reported death toll from nearly two weeks of anti-government protests in Colombia is 41 civilians and one police officer.Colombia’s human rights ombudsman said 168 people had been reported missing during the protests. Local advocacy group Temblores says 40 protesters have allegedly been killed by police, while Human Rights Watch said it has received 46 credible reports of protest deaths and verified 13. (Reuters, Associated Press)

Major cities warned of a prolonged peak in Covid-19 cases due to demonstrations.

Severe clashes between police and protesters in many of Colombia's largest cities in recent weeks could severely impact security forces' ability to fight criminal groups in the future, warns InSight Crime. "The pattern of excessive force used by Colombian police ... has already undermined their legitimacy in carrying out operations against more severe threats to national security."

La Silla Vacía delves into the distribution of protesters deaths, and notes that there have been few in Bogotá and Medellin, though experts warn that there have still been abuses.

News Briefs

  • Coronavirus lockdowns in 2020 were particularly devastating for women, whose labor force participation dropped drastically in Argentina in the second semester of 2020, putting female employment at a level from 20 years ago. More than one million women left Argentina's workforce last year, and monoparental homes were more affected, according to a new report produced by the Economy Ministry with UNICEF that looks at the pandemic's impact on female-headed homes. Investments in the care economy are vital to reduce inequalities, according to the report. They have the effect of facilitating women's participation in the workforce, improving care for children, and have an economic multiplying effect that reduces poverty.
  • Argentina was ranked by the United Nations as having the highest number of gender-sensitive Covid-19 responses in the world -- the New York Times profiles three of the “activists” that are driving the country's feminist agenda: Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, the country’s first minister of Women, Genders and Diversity; Vilma Ibarra, the president’s top legal adviser who has the authority to write bills and decrees (she wrote the country’s landmark abortion bill); and Mercedes D’Alessandro, the country’s first national director of economy, equality and gender within the Economy Ministry, and the author of “Feminist Economics.”
  • "We understand that the work done by women at home, including care work, is a fundamental pillar of social life and the economy," D'Alessandro told NYT. "Often, when you use the word “worker,” you think about someone collecting a salary. But here, we look at a “worker” as someone who does work, even if it’s unpaid, to support her family."
  • Americas Quarterly's new issue looks at "The Case for Sustainable Development In The Amazon."
  • Maranhão state Governor Flávio Dino writes how Amazon local governments envision a win-win strategy that differs in many ways from the Bolsonaro administration's approach. "The region’s strategic resources stand to make it one of the planet’s wealthiest – if there is a thoughtful, planned and coordinated strategy."
  • The case of the pirarucu fish exemplifies many of the opportunities and challenges of sustainably exploiting Amazon natural resources, according to another piece. Politics, poor logistics and other challenges stand in the way of a product that could be a global sensation.
  • Law-abiding farmers strongly oppose illegal deforestation -- and "as a major economic force, we have a role to play in protecting the environment," argues Teresa Vendramini is president of the Brazilian Rural Society.
  • Afro-Brazilian communities have been historically overlooked in both the urban and rural Amazon. Along with racism, rural Black communities face environmental degradation inflicted by predatory approaches to development. Even so, their struggle — a fight for land rights and against discrimination — has become a powerful movement, writes Elza Fátima Rodrigues, an activist at the Center for the Study and Defense of Afro-Brazilians of Pará and the Network of Black Women.
  • Illegal miners inside a protected area in the Brazilian Amazon opened fire on a Yanomami indigenous community using automatic weapons, local leaders say. JThe half-hour shootout happened on Monday in the Palimiú community in Roraima state, near the border with Venezuela. (BBC)
  • Brazil suspended the vaccination of pregnant women with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 shot, after an expectant mother in Rio de Janeiro died from a stroke possibly related to the inoculation. (Reuters)
Regional Relations
  • The U.S. Biden administration has formally asked the Mexican government to investigate reports of “serious violations” of worker rights at a General Motors plant in central Mexico. It is the first use of an innovative labor rights provision in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which took effect last year, reports the Washington Post. (See yesterday's briefs.)
El Salvador
  • New measures passed by El Salvador's National Assembly make it impossible to scrutinize direct purchases related to the pandemic and shield officials from corruption allegations linked to acquiring COVID-19 supplies. (See Monday's briefs.) The move has heightened concerns that President Nayib Bukele plans to use his party’s dominance in congress to shelve corruption investigations that could hurt his administration, reports InSight Crime.
Dominican Republic
  • Operation Coral, a wide-ranging anti-corruption effort led by the Dominican Republic’s Specialized Office for the Pursuit of Administrative Corruption uncovered a scheme in which millions of dollars in state funds were allegedly laundered through a religious non-profit. Security officials, a pastor and others suspected in the scheme were placed in preventative detention this week, in a case that shows how minimal oversight of these faith groups makes them ideal vehicles for embezzlement, reports InSight Crime. (See April 30's Just Caribbean Updates.)
  • Dirty Gold: The Rise and Fall of an International Smuggling Ring, uncovers a smuggling operation rooted in Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia, and Miami as deep and as vile as the more well-known African blood diamond trade. The book is a stark warning that gold smuggling is not only being funded by drug cartels as yet another way to launder money. It is also destroying the environment and the lives of people involved in mining it. (Americas Quarterly)
  • Is populism part of Latin America's DNA, asks Loris Zanatta in a New York Times Español guest essay screed that paints many of the region's current and historic leaders as messianic charlatans. "Enough of the cult of poverty," he urges.
  • Casa del Teatro Memorias, a Tegucigalpa theater company that has made plays an essential part of the Honduran capital's city life -- New York Times.

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

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