AMLO defends security policy, gunfight kills 21 in Coahuila (Dec. 2, 2019)
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador celebrated his first year in office yesterday -- amid clashes between security forces and cartel gunmen that killed at least 21 people in Coahuila state. Simultaneously, protesters in Mexico City demanded better security and justice in a country besieged by stubborn rates of violence.
Nonetheless, AMLO defended his security policy and blaming previous governments for militarized responses to organized crime that bely underlying social conditions that promote violence. AMLO pointed to a recent showdown between security forces and Sinaloa Cartel operatives in Culiacán -- in which the military backed down, ostensibly to avoid civilian bloodshed -- as an example of his government's paradigm shift in security strategies. (Animal Político)
But this weekend's two-day gunfight in Coahuila this weekend also showed the pitfalls of AMLO's strategy, which experts say emboldened cartels to go on the offensive. The attack in Villa Unión was believed to be carried out by the Cartel of the Northeast, an offshoot of the once-powerful Zetas. (El País, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post)
Several high-profile security incidents, including the Coahuila gunbattle, present AMLO's government with a significant challenge both locally and internationally. The massacre of nine members of the LeBarón family in November -- three women and six children -- has become emblematic of the country's violence problem, and several members of the prominent Mormon family participated in Sunday's march demanding better security. (Animal Político, Animal Político, New York Times, Washington Post)
This weekend, Mexican authorities detained several suspects implicated in the LeBarón massacre. The López Obrador administration is eager to show advances in the LaBarón massacre case, as well as to reject a U.S. proposal to designate drug cartels as terrorist organizations, a move many Mexicans fear could lead to U.S. military incursions on their territory. “We won’t accept any kind of intervention. We’re a free and sovereign country,” said AMLO yesterday.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr is expected to meet with Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard to discuss security issues later this week.
Despite poor economic indicators, AMLO retains significant popularity among Mexicans. In part this is because he has poured money into social programs, but also because he has slashed government salaries and focused on connecting with ordinary Mexicans, reports the New York Times. “The power of his leadership is that there is consistency in what he says and what he does,” México Evalúa director Edna Jaime told NYT.
AMLO's year in images at El País.
Mexico's governing Morena party is advancing against democratic checks on executive power, according to critics, who say a move to replace the head of Mexico’s election watchdog three years before his term ends is just the latest example. (Wall Street Journal)
A Surinamese court convicted the country’s president, Desi Bouterse, of murder for the execution of 15 opponents in 1982 following a coup. Opposition parties called for Bouterse to resign. Bouterse, who has dominated Suriname’s politics in recent decades, has denied the charges and can appeal the decision. (Reuters, Reuters)
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro falsely accused Hollywood start Leonardo DiCaprio of financing a recent spate of forest fires in the Amazon. Bolsonaro's spurious claims -- which were met with ridicule -- came in a week marked by the arrest of four volunteer fire fighters who police accused of intentionally setting fires in order to solicit aid donations. They were released on a judges orders, but critics point to a concerted government attempt to harass environmental activists, reports Reuters. (See also the Guardian.)
In a region beset by debates over how to define contemporary authoritarianism, the metaphor of a frog gradually boiled to death in a pot is pertinent, argues Open Society Foundations' Latin America Program director, Pedro Abramovay, in Piauí. Twenty-first century authoritarianism is a slow-creep, rather than the military tanks of yesteryear, he writes, criticizing the detention of the volunteer firefighters. It is fundamental that we not normalize what is not acceptable in a democracy, he argues. "There are no possible concessions on this issue."
DiCaprio rejected the accusations, and said he remains “committed to supporting the Brazilian indigenous communities, local governments, scientists, educators and general public who are working tirelessly to secure the Amazon for the future of all Brazilians.” (New York Times)
Representing the Bolsonaro administration at this week's United Nations climate change talks was never an easy proposition, but Brazilian technical negotiators are further hampered by a disconnect with the country's political leadership, reports Reuters.
Nine people were killed in a stampede during a São Paulo police operative at a massive funk event over the weekend. (El País)
U.S. President Donald Trump said he would reinstate tariffs on steel and aluminum from Brazil and Argentina, in retaliation for what he perceives as the artificial weakening the two countries' currencies, with negative consequences for U.S. agricultural sectors. The announcement surprised analysts who believed the Trump administration would dial-back its adversarial trade approach ahead next year's election campaign. (New York Times, Washington Post, El País)
Uruguayan president-elect Luis Lacalle Pou said the country's policy towards Venezuela has been an "embarrassment," and signaled a likely shift towards Guaidó. (Infobae, La Diaria)
The United Nations estimates that there will be 6.4 million Venezuelans outside of the country by the end of next year, which would make the exodus greater than that from Syria. (El País)
Hunger is among the many factors hollowing out Venezuela's educational system -- faintings in primary schools have become a commonplace occurrence, reports the New York Times.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó vowed to investigate media allegations that opposition lawmakers unduly advocated for a businessman linked to the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Guaidó said he suspected the legislators received illicit payments in exchange for writing the letters. Armando.info published the initial investigation, which implicates nine legislators from the First Justice, Popular Will and A New Time parties. (Reuters)
Guatemala’s human rights prosecutor indicted another former top military official for genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the country’s 36-year civil war. Luis Enrique Mendoza Garcia will be tried in March for his role in an operation in the early 1980s that killed at least 1,771 Maya Ixil and displaced thousands, reports Reuters.
Guatemalan president-elect Alejandro Giammattei's circle of trust includes dubious characters from the country's past who are inching back into the limelight, reports Nómada.
Sixteen opposition activists -- detained for taking water to a group of hunger-striking mothers of political detainees -- will be tried on Jan. 30 of 2020, determined a judge on Friday. Rights groups rejected the validity of the case, and say it is another example of harassment against anti-government activists. (Associated Press, Confidencial)
Social media videos document part of a police attack against a family of activists in León this weekend. The Reyes Alonso family was brutally beaten and attacked in retaliation for their protests against the government, reports Confidencial. (See also this piece in Confidencial.)
Opposition to Nicaragua's Ortega administration has forged an unlikely alliance between the country's Catholic Church leadership and feminists, reports La Prensa (vía Havana Times).
Rising temperatures across Asia and the Americas have contributed to multiple severe outbreaks of dengue fever globally over the past six months, making 2019 the worst year on record for the disease, reports the Guardian.
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