Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Bolivia's interim gov't persecuted opponents -- CIDH report (Aug. 18, 2021)

Bolivia's interim government persecuted opponents with “systematic torture” and “summary executions” by security forces in the tumultuous aftermath of the 2019 ouster of then-president Evo Morales, according to a new report by an expert group commissioned by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The report was presented yesterday in La Paz in an event attended by the current president, Luís Arce, who apologized to the victims of the interim government. (Europa Press)

At least 37 people were killed in the aftermath of Morales' ouster, according to the report, which unequivocally labels as massacres the killings of 22 people by security forces at Senkata and Sacaba. The report also found that at least some of the killings were summary executions, and found no evidence backing security forces' claims that excessive force was justified by risk of explosion at the Senkata gas plant. (AFP)

The scathing 471-page report is the most comprehensive yet to examine the events surrounding the disputed 2019 presidential vote. While the independent group of experts stops short of saying Morales was ousted by a coup, the report does question the legitimacy of Jeanine Áñez’s ascent to power in 2019, reports the Associated Press.

News Briefs

  • Peruvian foreign minister Héctor Bejar resigned after footage emerged in which he suggested that the Shining Path had received support from the U.S. CIA. The departure is likely to add to political tension in Peru. President Pedro Castillo will need to appoint a new foreign minister before the end of the month, when the opposition-led Congress will vote whether to accept or reject the cabinet, reports Reuters.
  • Haitian officials raised the confirmed death toll from Saturday’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake to 1,941, with more than 9,900 injured and 30,000 people left homeless. Tropical Depression Grace lashed Haiti with heavy rain yesterday, further complicating rescue efforts and medical assistance. (Guardian)
  • The United States Geological Service reported at least 150 mudslides and rockslides near L’Asile following Grace, reports the Miami Herald.
  • The sharp increases in the tolls were not unexpected, and pointed to the slow effort to recover victims, reports the New York Times.
  • The U.S. Biden administration is no longer calling for elections in Haiti to be held this year as it assesses the political repercussions of the earthquake, reports McClatchy.
  • ExxonMobil’s huge new Guyana project faces charges of a disregard for safety from experts who claim the company has failed to adequately prepare for possible disaster, according to an investigation by the Guardian and Floodlight. "Experts claim that Exxon in Guyana appears to be taking advantage of an unprepared government ... allowing the company to skirt necessary oversight. Worse, they also believe the company’s safety plans are inadequate and dangerous."
  • Latin America is pushing forward with Covid-19 vaccinations. As supply problems are slowly overcome, the region's progress "is built on two factors that have gotten little attention: In many countries, people are eager to get vaccinated and largely trust vaccines, more so than in many richer countries," reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Pope Francis has urged people to get vaccinated against Covid-19, describing doing so as “an act of love”. (Guardian)
  • Cuba's vaunted health system is reeling from Covid-19. Cuba has turned to the military to provide oxygen amid a surge of the coronavirus, after the country's main oxygen plant broke down this weekend, reports Reuters.
  • This weekend, nearly two dozen young physicians and medical students took to social media to declare "that doctors are not to blame for the collapse of the public health system," pushing back against government assertions that poor service is the issue. Their move was daring in light of the government's recent crackdowns on dissent, reports the New York Times.
  • Cuba's government updated laws to criminally process residents who express dissident views on social media. (Cuba Cute)
  • Nicaragua cancelled operating permits for six NGOs from the United States and Europe on Monday, in the midst of ongoing international criticism about the Ortega government's arrest of dozens of critics. (AFP)
  • Nicaragua's list of eligible voters lost 750,000 people since the 2017 elections, leading some experts to believe that the government might be seeking to hide abstention in the November presidential election later this year. (Confidencial)
  • Latin America's democratic left should vehemently denounce abuses and violations of human rights in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. Regional leaders often fall back on loosely ideological alliances, but it's time to exit the Cold War trenches, I argue in a New York Times Español guest essay. Such an approach is not only morally correct, but would strengthen efforts to implement multilateral regional diplomacy and support democratic transitions in those countries and weaken failed policies of sanctions and embargo.
  • "Black Brazilians are increasingly arguing not only that the police are too trigger-happy but also that their violence is sometimes racially motivated," reports the Economist. Eight out of ten Brazilians killed by police are Black. Police killings tripled between 2013 and 2020 and now represent around a third of all homicides in some states, according to data compiled by the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety. 
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s disapproval rating rose to the highest level of his term, according to a new  XP/Ipespe poll that showed 54% of Brazilians rate Bolsonaro as “bad or terrible,” up from 52% in July. (Bloomberg
  • A Brazilian Senate committee leading an inquiry into Bolsonaro's handling of the coronavirus pandemic reconfirmed the suspicion that Bolsonaro used false data to claim that the number of Covid-19 deaths had been “inflated” by governors and mayors, reports EFE.
  • Negotiations between Venezuela's government and opposition are a matter of life and death for Venezuelans, writes Luz Mely Reyes in the Post Opinión. "Venezuela is not a country formally at war, but it is not a country at peace either. A devastated nation whose inhabitants do everything humanly possible to subsist in the midst of the vulnerability caused by the many dangers that threaten it.
  • Freed Venezuelan opposition leader Freddy Guevara said he is willing to participate in incipient political negotiations with Maduro's government, but is still waiting for opposition parties to decide on the issue, reports Reuters. (See Monday's post.)
  • "Colombia does not have a seat at the negotiation table and as such is unlikely to play a fundamental role in the negotiation processes. However, it is the country in the region with the most interest in seeing a resolution to the Venezuelan crisis as it will continue to face the greatest economic and social ramifications as a direct neighbor," notes the Colombia Risk Report.
  • Venezuelan journalist María Laura Chang notes the paucity of women at the table in negotiations between Venezuela's Maduro government and the opposition -- an absence that belies the positive impact women have had on other negotiations, such as Colombia's peace agreement with the FARC. (Distintas Latitudes)
  • "A major Thai asphalt company has been implicated for money laundering in a criminal complaint against a Miami businessman accused of violating U.S. sanctions for doing maintenance work on Venezuela’s fleet of Russian fighter jets," reports the Associated Press.
  • Colombia's mass protests earlier this year have spurred local community organizing, as several groups of demonstrators  have formed popular assemblies to demand change in their communities, reports Nacla.
  • A group of Rohingya people denounced brutal crimes committed by Myanmar security forces in an Argentine appeals court hearing yesterday. The court is considering invoking the principle of "universal jurisdiction" to bring a case against Myanmar's leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity. Six women testified virtually from a Bangladesh refugee camp, in a case that could create an important precedent for future universal jurisdiction cases. (EFEAFPTRIAL
  • Amnesty International notes that "in some cases the exercise of universal jurisdiction is not a faculty, but an obligation under international law," and called the hearing "historic."
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing

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