Wednesday, April 13, 2022

El Salvador police pressure to meet arrest quotas (April 13, 2022)

A police union in El Salvador says some National Civilian Police commanders have been pressuring officers to meet daily arrest quotas as part of the government’s crackdown on street gangs, reports the Associated Press. More than 10,000 people have been arrested since the government instituted a state of emergency that suspends civil liberties after a sudden spike in gang homicides, according to statistics Tweeted yesterday by President Nayib Bukele.

Marvin Reyes, representative of the Salvadoran Police Workers Union, said the actions of some police officials would result in arbitrary arrests. He said commanders are telling officers to give “false statements” against some who have been arrested, but who have nothing to do with gangs. Some officers were threatened with transfers if they didn’t follow orders, he said.

Reports of arbitrary detentions of people who have no relationship to El Salvador's street gangs have been mounting on social networks, reports La Prensa Gráfica. Bukele has said about one percent of the detentions could be mistaken, in response to the mounting testimonies from the families of detained people.

Lawyers say the state of emergency violates detainees' right to defense by creating obstacles in obtaining information about cases. Additionally some lawyers have been threatened with detention as "facilitators" for gangs, in retaliation for defending alleged gang members, reports El Diario de Hoy.

On Monday U.S. State Department officials urged Bukele to defend civil liberties, including press freedom. In response Bukele lauded the former U.S. Trump administration's support for anti-gang measures and contrasted it with the approach of the current Biden administration. (AFP)

News Briefs

  • Corrupt state officials and organized crime factions are to blame for Mexico’s soaring number of enforced disappearances, according to a new report by the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances. Men remain the predominant victims, but increasingly children, adolescents and women are also targets. “Impunity in Mexico is a structural feature that favours the reproduction and cover-up of enforced disappearances and creates threats and anxiety to the victims, those defending and promoting their rights, public servants searching for the disappeared and investigating their cases, and society as a whole,” the UN committee said yesterday. (Guardian)
  • Colombian authorities are facing growing calls to investigate a botched army raid in which at least four civilians – including a 16-year old boy, a pregnant woman, and an Indigenous leader – were killed, reports the Guardian. Eleven people were killed in the May 28 raid. Witnesses and local journalists have said that the victims’ bodies and the scene of the killings appear to have been tampered with. (See last Friday's briefs.)
Regional Relations
  • Countries in Latin America came under particularly harsh criticism in the U.S. State Department’s annual report on human rights, reports the Los Angeles Times. Allies such as Mexico and adversaries including Nicaragua faced similar opprobrium. The report also noted that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has engaged in specious attacks on journalists, Indigenous leaders and environmentalists, in a country where the Amazon rainforest is being degraded by big-business agriculture.

  • Divisions within the U.S. Biden administration regarding discussions with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro have deepened since last month, reports the Miami Herald. A debate over whether to continue negotiations that could include sanctions relief allowing Venezuela to sell oil to the U.S. — and how to do so in a way that avoids controversy — has quietly persisted within the administration.

  • Harsh sentences against anti-government protesters in Cuba have deterred efforts for engagement from the U.S., Ric Herrero, the executive director of the Cuba Study Group, told NBC.
  • A new pension withdrawal in Chile was voted down by a congressional committee last night after a separate committee cleared a competing proposal submitted by President Gabriel Boric, reports Reuters. Boric’s government had opposed a new withdrawal of 10%, saying it would pump too much money into an economy already struggling with spiraling inflation. Instead, the government proposed a separate bill that would allow withdrawals only to pay off debts. This measure, the government says, would mitigate inflationary effects.
  • Peru's congress approved legislation that waives taxes for what it deems as essential foods, a bid to combat surging inflation that has spurred widespread protests, reports Reuters.

  • The long shadow of Alberto Fujimori continues to impact Peruvian politics, but there the current political threat is President Pedro Castillo's ineptitude, journalist Gustavo Gorriti told the BBC.
  • Jamaican foreign minister Kamina Johnson-Smith will challenge incumbent Patricia Scotland in the upcoming Commonwealth secretary general elections. The decision has sparked controversy within the Caribbean Community (Caricom), which had previously met to back Scotland’s bid for a second term, reports the Guardian. In a bid to heal the rift, it has now been agreed that a Caricom sub-group will interview the two candidates in a bid to reach a consensus, according to St Vincent and the Grenadines prime minister Ralph Gonsalves.
  • A U.S. Coast Guard cutter returned 89 people to Haiti, yesterday, who were stopped at sea days earlier aboard an overloaded sailboat off the southeastern coast of Cuba, reports the Miami Herald.

  • Refugee advocate Marleine Bastien contrasted U.S. treatment of Haitian migrants with that of Ukrainians in an interview with CBC.
  • Mexican truck drivers have blockaded bridges at the border with the United States for a second day to protest against an order by the Texas governor to increase safety inspections, which led to long wait times, reports Reuters.
  • Argentina’s annual inflation rate is galloping toward its fastest pace in three decades, even as internal rifts within the governing coalition raise questions about the Fernández administration's anti-inflation strategy under its $44 billion accord with the International Monetary Fund, according to Bloomberg.

  • Argentina's Neuquen province granted U.S. Chevron a new concession for shale exploitation in the Vaca Muerta formation, with a pilot stage investment of $78.7 million. (Reuters)
  • "The Great Movement" follows three friends in Bolivia as they struggle to survive in La Paz -- the drama lurches confusingly from verité drama to bonkers dance routines, according to the Guardian review.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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