Friday, April 15, 2022

Witnesses question Colombian military narrative (April 15, 2022)

News Briefs


  • Puerto Leguizamó resident testimony questions the official narrative of the March 28 Colombian military operation in Putomayo in which 11 civilians were killed. Witnesses interviewed by Colombia+20, Vorágine and Revista Cambio say the military identified themselves as guerrillas to attack a supposed group of the Comandos de la Frontera. In addition, that the men were dressed in black and that the bodies of the victims were moved by military personnel and were in their custody for several hours. (El Espectador, see Wednesday's briefs)

  • InSight Crime has a three-chapter series on the sexual violence committed by Hernán Giraldo, a paramilitary leader that operated in the north of Colombia. While he was jailed in the United States, Giraldo started to speak about the hundreds of rapes he committed in Santa Marta’s Sierra Nevada region. The series looks at how two women who suffered from his abuse are trying to rebuild their lives.
  • The full threat posed to Mexico's biodiversity by both Mexican and Chinese organized crime networks has been revealed in a new Brookings Institution report, which shows how unsustainable quantities of Mexico's marine and terrestrial wildlife are being poached. InSight Crime breaks down key takeaways from the report.

  • The Mexican government's erratic approach to saving the vaquita marina porpoise in the sea off the northwestern state of Baja California has only furthered the critical threat illegal fishing poses for the species, reports InSight Crime.

  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's energy reform plan -- unusually scheduled for an Easter Sunday vote in Congress --is "so controversial it may lead to the biggest conflict yet between Mexico and the United States under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the trade pact enacted in 2020," writes Catherine Osborn in the Latin America Brief.

  • López Obrador’s flirtation with Russia risks worsening US-Mexican relations, warns Arturo Sarukhan in the Brookings Institution's Order from Chaos blog.

  • Mexico's next presidential election will hinge on middle-class voters hit hard by inflation, lack of economic growth and COVID-19, writes Vanessa Rubio in Americas Quarterly.

  • AMLO won last weekend's presidential recall referendum by a landslide -- in four states governed by his Morena party there were atypically high results, reports Animal Político. (See Monday's post.)
  • A Mexican woman attempting to climb the U.S. border wall in eastern Arizona died after her leg became trapped in a climbing harness and she was left hanging upside down, reports the Guardian.
El Salvador
  • Though mano dura security policies have been a constant feature of El Salvador security policy since the early 2000s, the recent measures adopted by the Bukele administration have taken these tactics to another level, according to InSight Crime. (See Wednesday's post.)
  • Almost ninety per cent of adults over the age of sixty in Venezuela live below the poverty line, according to human rights organization Convite. Eight hundred thousand of them spend their days alone, with little to no family support. "They represent a forgotten generation in Venezuela—a country where close to twenty per cent of the population has fled abroad in the past six years," reports the New Yorker.

  • Things Are Never So Bad That They Can’t Get Worse: Inside the Collapse of Venezuela, a new book by journalist William Neuman, investigates how the country with the largest oil reserves in the world fell into a protracted crisis -- Americas Quarterly

  • Venezuela's Maduro’s government is increasingly forcing private internet service providers, which dominate the mobile phone market, to carry out press censorship by blocking Venezuela’s few remaining independent news websites, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists.
  • The Bank of England owned 599 slaves in colonial Grenada during the 1770s, according to research commissioned by the institution in the wake of Black Lives Matter. It has been part of a reassessment of historical links to slavery and imperialism by institutions ranging from many of the UK’s big high street banks to Lloyd’s of London and the brewer Greene King, as well as the National Trust and English Heritage, reports the Guardian.
  • Argentine lawmaker Javier Milei, with his mop of unruly hair and ostentatious political incorrectness, seems like an unlikely answer to the country's seemingly perpetual crisis. But the libertarian economist is challenging the country’s established political coalitions ahead of next year’s presidential election, I write in the Wilson Center's Weekly Asado blog. While unlikely to win, his popularity points to growing dissatisfaction with political elites, and suggests the anti-establishment currents coursing through the region might finally be coming for Argentina’s political class.

  • "A casual observer might be surprised by the rise of libertarian ideas in a country long associated with Peronism and economic regulation. But the very bulk of the Argentine state makes it an easy target for libertarian critique," writes Nick Burns in Americas Quarterly.  "Consecutive administrations from both sides of Argentina’s political aisle have now failed to resolve the country’s economic dysfunction," explaining "why many Argentines want a third option and find compelling Milei’s denunciations of the country’s 'political caste'"

  • The Milei effect reflects "frustration in light of years of economic decline and a history of impoverishment, which challenges traditional party loyalties," Shila Vilker, director of political consultancy Trespuntozero, told me. "We start to see extreme options, with anti-system, anti-political, radical characteristics." But while polling stats indicate Milei could be a kingmaker in a presidential runoff between the country's two main political coalitions in 2023, "Milei’s voters are also difficult to predict; their uniting factor is a rejection of current politicians, so it’s not clear how they would react in a presidential second round in which Milei is out of the running," she cautions. (Weekly Asado)
  • Political disenchantment is a regional issue, writes Mac Magolis in the Washington Post. In Latin America, touted among the most democratic regions, support for liberal democracy has fallen to its lowest level in three decades, according to a new study by V-Dem Institute, a politics think tank.

  • Catholicism is in swift decline in a rapidly secularizing Latin America, although there are growing numbers of evangelicals, reports the Economist.

  • The three countries of Latin America’s so-called lithium triangle—Chile, Bolivia and Argentina—all have leftist leaders who want their governments and citizens to benefit more from the extraction of their countries’ natural resources. It looks like an opportunity for the creation of an OPEC-style price-setting cartel for lithium. But key differences between the oil and lithium industries make this a far-fetched prospect, writes Thomas Graham in World Politics Review.
  • Bolivian startup Quantum Motors makes tiny electric vehicles, and aspires to bring super cheap electric mobility to the Latin American masses -- Rest of World

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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