Colombian activist killed, one of eight in March (April 3, 2018)
Colombian social activist Maria Magdalena Cruz Rojas, who worked with coca cultivators and helped implement voluntary crop substitution programs, was killed outside of her home this weekend. She was killed by two hooded individuals who shot her while she talked with her husband and son, reports Al Jazeera. Rights group Coordinadora Nacional de Cultivadores de Coca (COCCAM) released a statement publicly denouncing her murder. Last week WOLA said it has registered a concerning number of assassinations, threats, and harassment against leaders. This month, WOLA registered 8 assassinations of social leaders or members of vulnerable ethnic communities in Colombia, bringing the total so far in 2018 to 29. The Colombian Ombudsmans office recently found that 282 human rights defenders were murdered between January 2016 to February 2018. And the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has urged the Colombian government to carry out urgent measure to protect defenders and investigate the killings.
Costa Rica's presidential election this weekend provided an unexpected victory for the center. However, the campaign between Sunday's winner, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, against his anti-gay marriage opponent Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz, exposed deep fractures in Costa Rican society, and require bridge-building moving forward, writes Brendan O'Boyle in Americas Quarterly. Alvarado will have to negotiate with a National Assembly dominated by opposition parties, including the evangelical National Restoration party.
In the Conversation Rachel Bowen also points to deep fractures in Costa Rican society, and argues that Costa Rica is "closer to the Central American average than ever before."
And InSight Crime argues the newly elect Alvarado lacks a coherent plan for tackling the country's rising rates of violence, related to the drug trade. Though the country had the highest rates of homicide on record last year, insecurity was not the dominant issue in the campaign, and the president-elect hasn't outlined how he will address the issue of organized crime.
U.S. President Donald Trump has called attention to a regular occurrence in recent years: Central American migrants traveling through Mexico in large groups in order to protect themselves from threats along the way to the U.S. and to draw attention to their plight. "Called “caravans,” most of the journeys, which date back at least five years, have moved forward with little fanfare, virtually unnoticed north of the border with the United States. But tweets by President Trump have suddenly turned the latest caravan into a major international incident and the most recent flash point in the politics of immigration in the United States," reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Colombian right-wing candidate Iván Duque could be good news for Latin America, argues Sylvia Colombo in a New York Times Español op-ed. Given the Venezuelan crisis, the region needs a strong counterpart to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, she writes.
Haiti's government is seeking foreign investment in mining, in hopes of providing the country with much needed revenue. But a bill that would reform mining legislation has no input from environmental and human rights organizations, and "the government lacks the resources and the will to defend the interests of ordinary citizens," writes Ellie Happel in a New York Times op-ed. "Metal mining in Haiti will bring profits to the few and more misery for the masses," she writes, advocating a path along the lines of El Salvador, which became the first country to completely ban mining last year.
In Ecuador some residents are also demanding an end to mining, as the government opens up new tracts of land to corporate extractivist industries, reports Truthout. "Caminantes, a national grassroots group that campaigns against mining, highlighted that 15 percent of Ecuador’s territory has been granted a mining permit. That amounts to 5 million acres, almost the size of the state of New Jersey."
Venezuelan authorities arrested five state police officials for their alleged involvement in a prison fire that killed 68 people in an overcrowded police station holding cell, reports Reuters.
Honduras' Radio Progreso run by the Catholic Order of Jesuits, provides independent reporting on human rights violations, police and military abuses and election fraud. Its role has become particularly important in the months since a contested vote that gave President Juan Orlando Hernández a second mandate, reports Al Jazeera.
A year after a Paraguayan activist was killed in a police raid, protesters drew attention to the lack of progress in the investigation, reports EFE. (See briefs for April 3, 2017.)
Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has an 18 point lead in July's election according to the latest poll published yesterday. He holds 38 percent of the vote, according to the poll by Parametria, published by Reuters. He is followed by Ricardo Anaya with 20 percent, and ruling-party candidate José Antonio Meade with 16 percent.
Officially the Mexican presidential campaigns launched this weekend, though the race has been heating up for months. Anaya's bid has been significantly hurt by an official investigation into potential corruption, that critics say is an unsubstantiated attack by the governing PRI party, reports the Los Angeles Times. But the case has hurt Anaya, whose platform heavily focuses on the issue of corruption.
Guatemala completed a gradual withdrawal of troops supporting policing tasks in areas with higher rates of criminal activity, reports AFP.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri backed a cabinet member under fire for keeping most of his personal $88 million fortune deposited abroad due to lack of faith in the national economy, reports the AFP. In addition to Energy Minister Juan José Aranguren, Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne, the head of the Federal Intelligence Agency Gustavo Arribas and Central Bank chief Federico Sturzenegger also said they kept most of their money outside the country.
The newly released Netflix series "The Mechanism" is causing serious controversy in Brazil. Loosely based on the Operation Car Wash investigation, critics say the series is unfairly inaccurate in its portrayal of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a favorite for October's presidential election, though he will likely be barred from running due to a corruption conviction. Critics also say the timing, in the midst of an electoral year is irresponsible, reports the New York Times.