Activist killings imperil Colombian peace process (May 3, 2017)
A United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights report found that 41 activists have been murdered in Colombia so far this year, a significant increase that accompanies the FARC demobilization process, report EFE and TeleSUR.
The office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in Colombia reported that 60 leading rights defenders were killed in 2016, up from the 41 it had documented in 2015. Somos Defensores reported 80 killings in 2016 and 63 in 2015. Most of the victims had not received threats and were not under government protection.
Experts say the killings are a major threat to the peace process, reported El Espectador, earlier this year.
The homicides appear to be concentrated in areas abandoned by FARC fighters as part of the peace process, said U.N. commissioner Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein on Monday. Most of the killings appear to be committed by paramilitary successor groups.
Colombia's Interior Ministry says 14 of the killings correspond to human rights defenders, and another 10 are under investigation, minimizing the scope of the issue identified by the U.N.
Last week, Human Rights Watch called on the Colombian government to " redouble its efforts to protect rights defenders and community activists and to investigate killings of activists in the country."
The commissioner also drew attention to attacks on journalists and rights defenders in Mexico (see below), Brazil, Venezuela and Honduras, reports EFE separately.
Mexico's deadly press environment
Filiberto Alvarez was killed last weekend in Morelos, the fifth journalist murdered so far this year in Mexico, reports TeleSUR.
A new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists found that "Mexico’s press is caught in a deadly cycle of violence and impunity, with journalists in Veracruz state at particular risk of kidnap and murder. Despite authorities appointing a special prosecutor to investigate crimes against freedom of expression and establishing a protection mechanism for journalists, a lack of political will to end impunity exposes Mexico as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists."
Impunity for those crimes is entrenched in the system, notes InSight Crime. " Mexico's political culture is a major provocateur of hostility towards the media. The co-existence of old attitudes alongside new laws within the country's justice institutions can be two opposing forces."
In fact, harassment from politicians is a major complaint, alongside threats from organized crime, reported the Guardian earlier this week. (See Monday's briefs.)
Last year 11 journalists were victims of homicide, and over 100 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2006. Only Syria and Afghanistan surpassed Mexico in the number of journalists killed in 2016 and Article 19, a nonprofit that advocates for media protections in Mexico, recorded 426 threats or attacks against the press last year, including beatings and torture. (See Monday's briefs.)
Mexico has become the third-deadliest country in the world for journalists, leading many publications across the nation to avoid controversial topics, or to shut down entirely, reports the Los Angeles Times in a piece focusing on the work of Zeta, a Tijuana weekly that practices "suicide journalism."
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is an international darling -- picking up a Nobel Peace prize last year and named to Time Magazine’s 2017 list of 100 Most Influential People. But his popularity at home is low, only slightly higher than the reviled FARC, reports McClatchy DC. Later this month Santos will visit Washington DC, angling to obtain the $450 million promised by the Obama administration in support of the peace deal.
War is generally considered to be about armed factions, but the long-running Colombian conflict has also had an important economic facet. Yet, because of the structure of the Special Peace Jurisdiction -- transitional justice tribunals set up by the peace accord signed last year -- it is unlikely that business leaders will be taken to task for their involvement in paramilitary violence, explains la Silla Vacía.
Mexican authorities arrested Dámaso López, a Sinaloa Cartel leader who was once Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán's righthand man, but is now believed to be in a power struggle with Guzmán's sons, reports the Guardian. "El Licenciado" was arrested yesterday in Mexico City. Some analysts say his arrest could increase violent infighting between factions, which has pushed up Sinaloa's homicide rate in recent months. Mexico's attorney general informed that the arrest prevented an alliance between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, reports Animal Político.
A growing network of returned Mexican migrants aims to help deported people adjust to a country they have not lived in for years - a task that has grown more urgent as the U.S. government threatens a wave of deportations, reports The Nation
Protests in Venezuela will continue until "Venezuelans definitively defeat the dictatorship and start the path towards national reconstruction," promise a group of young opposition leaders in a New York Times Español op-ed. They demand "the restitution of the functions of the National Assembly that were usurped by the judiciary; freedom for all political prisoners; and the opening of a humanitarian channel for food and medicines to enter the country. The constitution guarantees the right to all these demands," they write.
Poorer neighborhoods in Venezuela are joining in a wave of unrest -- though they are not necessarily supporting the anti-government cause, they are demonstrating anger, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's and Monday's briefs and last Thursday's post.)
The Trump administration is threatening to slap more sanctions on Venezuelan officials over President Nicolas Maduro's push to rewrite the constitution, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's post.)
Brazil and Argentina criticized President Nicolás Maduro's proposal to convene a constituent assembly, branding the move a "coup d'état," reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's post.)
Uruguay officially opened up a registry for citizens and residents who wish to purchase marijuana in pharmacies -- the final phase of implementation of a landmark 2013 law legalizing cannabis, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Union protests and striking unpopularity could hinder a key pension reform bill Brazilian President Michel Temer is attempting to push through Congress this week, reports Bloomberg. (See Monday's post.)
Hundreds of prison system workers occupied Brazil's justice ministry yesterday, in protest of the pension reform bill, reports Reuters.
An outbreak of yellow fever in Brazil has killed about 240 people so far, raising specters of a virus that caused widespread deaths before mass vaccination programs in the 1940s. Authorities are warning people not to kill monkeys, who are dying in even greater numbers from the disease and can give health officials valuable information for fighting the mosquito-transmitted virus, reports the New York Times.
João Doria, São Paulo's reality TV star mayor who is increasingly seen as a 2018 presidential hopeful, aims to create the world's biggest "green corridor" down Avenida 23 de Maio, a congested ten-lane road in the city’s center, reports the Economist.
Cuba's exponential tourism growth rates are not necessarily bad news for the rest of the Caribbean, which could benefit from the increased influx, reports the Miami Herald.
Argentina will finally resume publishing a national consumer price index, a year and a half after the Macri administration promised to revamp the questioned national statistics agency, reports Reuters.
Recent advances in policies to combat gender violence in Nicaragua have been reversed over the past couple of years. "Despite a resurgence of feminist activism to demand state accountability for rampant femicide rates, like the Ni Una Menos campaign, over the past few years in Nicaragua, protections against gender-based violence have been diluted and undermined," writes Pamela J. Neumann in NACLA.
"An indigenous woman in Guatemala is more likely than all her fellow citizens to be sick, illiterate, poor and overwhelmed by too many unplanned children. That's if she's not dead already," reports Reuters.