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Ecuadorean guards released
Sept. 4, 2023
Fifty prison guards and seven police officers were released after being held hostage in Ecuadorian penitentiaries for more than a day, the latest in the country’s escalating security crisis. Authorities said the 57 law enforcement officers, who were held in six different prisons, were safe, but did not offer details about how they were released, reports the Associated Press.
The hostage taking was the response of criminal groups to the relocation of various inmates and other measures taken by the country's corrections system, according to authorities.
Four car bombs and three explosive devices went off across the country in less than 48 hours, last week — though no injuries were reported, a bridge was damaged in the coastal province of El Oro. President Guillermo Lasso said these actions were also related to crackdowns against prison gangs. (Reuters)
“Ecuador is increasingly at the confluence of two global trades: bananas and cocaine,” as traffickers use containers filled with bananas to ship illicit drugs, reports the Associated Press, separately. “Drug traffickers’ infiltration of the industry that is responsible for about 30% of the world’s bananas has contributed to unprecedented violence across this once-peaceful nation.”
Ecuadorean presidential candidate Luisa González said she will wear a bulletproof vest while campaigning, following threats against her life. A presidential candidate was assassinated at a rally last month. (Reuters)
Libertarian Argentine VP candidate clashes with human rights groups
Human rights activists in Argentina are outraged by an event paying tribute to “victims of terrorism” organized today by Argentine far-right vice presidential candidate Victoria Villarruel. (Página 12)
“Villarruel’s position is based on a “dirty war” theory typically referred to as “the two demons.” The basic premise is that while the Argentine military committed abuses of power, it was acting to end political violence that left-wing guerrilla groups had initiated. Implicit in this argument is the idea that these were two equal and opposite forces, with the same capacity and willingness to torture, rape, and kill,” explains the Buenos Aires Herald.
Villarruel, libertarian Javier Milei’s running mate, has a long history of publicly defending military officers accused of crimes against humanity during the country’s last dictatorship that ended in 1983. She has led in groups that sought to provide moral support for people convicted of genocide. Human rights defenders accuse the groups of seeking to undermine efforts to bring perpetrators to justice, reports Página 12.
It’s hardly an issue of the past, denounced the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales — Milei has promised to put Villarruel in charge of the police and armed forces if he wins. Leftist lawmakers say Villaruel is paving the path for an eventual pardon for military officers who carried out a systematic plan to torture and execute civilians. (Perfíl)
“Villarruel has participated in the trials not as a lawyer but as a political and judicial lobbyist on behalf of genocidaires,” Guadalupe Godoy, a lawyer who represents the plaintiffs in crimes against humanity trials, told the Buenos Aires Herald. “She has even been a ‘context witness’ in several trials to explain her point of view,” which is not just denialism but “an active effort to preserve the impunity of those who carried out the genocide in our country.”
Next week is the fifty year anniversary of the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile: “The brutality with which an elected government was deposed inspired military takeovers across Latin America – but also galvanised the human rights movement and spotlighted the dark activities of the CIA,” reports the Guardian.
U.S. lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice of the country’s left, has called on the government to issue an apology to Latin American countries for decades of meddling in their affairs and causing instability in the region. “I believe that we owe Chile, and not just Chile but many aspects of that region, an apology,” Ocasio-Cortez told the Guardian. “I don’t think that apology indicates weakness; I think it indicates a desire to meet our hemispheric partners with respect.
I wrote about how broad-front electoral campaigns with a focus on defending democracy were successful against far-right presidential candidates in Brazil (2022) and Chile (2021) — but also how efforts against the right in Brazil only coalesced during Jair Bolsonaro’s disastrous presidency, in Le Monde Diplomatique Cono Sur.
Haiti’s struggling police force has lost 774 officers in the first six months of this year, “in the midst of a new escalation in violence that’s forcing thousands of Haitians to abandon their homes and leading to fears that all of Port-au-Prince will be under gang control in the coming days, reports the Miami Herald. The number represents a “staggering loss,” according to U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a report to the Security Council.
Despite the security crisis on the ground in Haiti, the U.S. Biden administration sent a deportation flight to Haiti, a day after the telling U.S. citizens to leave the country “as soon as possible.” (Miami Herald)
The New York Times obtained a trove of about 23,000 unpublished text messages, witness testimony and investigative files that shed light on the collusion between security forces and a Mexican gang that abducted and killed 43 students in Iguala in 2014. ”Just about every arm of government in that part of southern Mexico had been secretly working for the criminal group for months, putting the machinery of the state in the cartel’s hands and flattening any obstacle that got in its way.”
“Record numbers of migrant families streamed across the U.S.-Mexico border in August,” according to the Washington Post. Overall, the data show, border apprehensions have risen more than 30 percent for two consecutive months, after falling sharply in May and June.
There is growing speculation that former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro could be close to arrest , reports the Guardian, in response to “a tangle of criminal investigations and scandals involving luxury watches, phoney vaccination records, a four-star general, a computer hacker and a botched military coup.”
A new generation of Indigenous activist-journalists are helping chronicle an age-old battle against outside aggression in the Amazon, reports the Guardian.
“For centuries, non-Indigenous writers and reporters have flocked to the rainforest region to tell their version of that ancestral fight for survival. Now, a growing cohort of Indigenous communicators are telling their own stories, providing first-hand dispatches from some of the Amazon’s most inaccessible and under-reported corners.”