Honduras deadliest country for environmental activists (Feb. 1, 2017)
Honduras is the most dangerous country in the world for environmental defenders, according to a new report by watchdog Global Witness. "Nowhere are you more likely to be killed for standing up to companies that grab land and trash the environment than in Honduras."
A wave of violence against activists, many members of indigenous and rural communities opposing mega-projects on their territories, has killed at least 123 since the 2009 coup that deposed the country's president, reports the Guardian.
The report emphasizes that state authorities routinely failed to investigate or bring perpetrators to justice, notes Reuters.
The two year investigation carried out by Global Witness found that "projects at the heart of conflicts are linked to the country’s rich and powerful elites, among them members of the political class," and looks at "the back-door deals, bribes and lawbreaking used to impose projects and silence opposition." The organization also examines how U.S. funding supports Honduran security forces, "which are behind some of the worst attacks."
The report goes into specific allegations against prominent politicians and high powered business tycoons, notes the Guardian. These include allegations of conflict of interest Gladis Aurora López, leader of the ruling National party and vice-president of congress, whose husband controls the Los Encinos hydroelectric project where three activists were tortured and murdered, and two pregnant women were severely beaten, for example. López and her husband deny any wrongdoing.
Al Jazeera's coverage focuses on the intimidation of opponents to Los Encinos and another project controlled López's husband, La Aurora.
The report includes recommendations for the Honduran government to effectively protect activists, notes La Tribuna.
Yesterday was the deadline for Colombian FARC fighters to gather in special concentration zones. However the process is only partially complete, and there have been complaints that most of the 26 camps were unprepared to receive the 6,300 fighters demobilizing. But the guerrillas are moving towards their designated areas, in a logistical feat involving more than 450 pickup trucks, 120 cargo trucks, 100 buses, 80 boats, 10 tractors and 35 mules, reports the Miami Herald. And the government emphasizes that it is being carried out without serious incidents. However, experts continue to voice concern over criminal groups moving into rural FARC dominated areas, notes the piece. (See yesterday's briefs.)
And peace efforts could be undermined by a wave of violence against peace activists. Seventeen civil campaigners have been murdered in the two months since the peace accord with the FARC has been signed, reports AFP. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Bernard Aronson, the former U.S. administration's special envoy for the Colombian peace process, leaves the State Department at a delicate time, reports the Washington Post. There is no indication that the Trump administration plans to name a replacement, nor whether the new U.S. government will continue to support the Colombian peace process.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro gave hardliner VP Tareck El Aissami broad powers of decree, including the ability to determine ministries’ spending plans and expropriate private businesses. The move could mean potential succession planning, reports Bloomberg.
Trump's polemic new immigration policies have also stopped government program that allows Central American children to seek refugee status in the United States, reports the Los Angeles Times. Advocates say the order could have devastating consequences for children and their families in countries such as El Salvador and Honduras.
A new series focused on Hugo Chávez's rise in Venezuela is blocked in his homeland, though groups including free-speech group Entorno Público have been posting links to the series online and inviting viewers to "outsmart the censors," reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Turks and Caicos has so many women in top leadership positions -- from the premier, to the deputy governor, attorney general, chief justice, chief magistrate, director of public prosecutions and five of the seven permanent secretaries -- that the British territory's Gender Affairs Department is shifting its focus to helping high school boys achieve more, reports the BBC.
A new poll shows outsider leftist Alejandro Guillier is tied with conservative former president Sebastian Pinera to win this years presidential race in Chile, reports Reuters. It's a surprise in a race that had been expected to center around establishment favorites, according to the piece.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri is seeking union cooperation in a bid to lower labor costs and spur investment, reports Reuters. Because he lacks a congressional majority, he's had to seek allies across the aisle in order to implement market-friendly reforms over the past year. But this time the government is seeking the approval of the CGT, the country's biggest union, in order to avoid conflict. But unions in Argentina don't shy away from confrontation, notes the piece.
Macri backed off on a controversial measure that would have made a commemoration day for victims of the country's last dictatorship a moveable holiday, interfering with traditional marches held by human rights groups, reports Página 12. (See last Thursday's briefs.) But he has not spoken out against his government's head of customs, who this week denied that the 1976-1983 dictatorship, had a systemic plan to disappear people. Juan José Gómez Centurion said the issue has been overly politicized and that the number of victims was less than a third of the 30,000 generally accepted by human rights organizations, reports La Nación. (This is not a new perspective among Macri administration officials, and I wrote an op-ed last year about how the the government's erosion of this dark chapter in history is itself political.) Several members of the government and the ruling Cambiemos alliance spoke out against Gómez Centurion's statements, reports La Nación separately.
On Monday Macri toughened immigration laws by presidential decree, aimed at making it easier to deport foreigners who commit crimes or who are being investigated, reports the Associated Press. In an election year tough-on-crime approach, government officials have accused foreigners of participating in drug trafficking, but human rights groups have denounced that the move risks stigmatizing foreigners. (See last Friday's briefs.)
On the opposite side of the spectrum, outgoing Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa called on Latin American leaders to unite against Trump's migration policies, and called for "a regional stand to defend the main type of mobility, which is human mobility, the defense of human rights, reminding the United States that they have been a country of migrants," reports TeleSUR.
Rarely has expertise in Latin American politics seemed so directly relevant for U.S. analysis. Two pieces:
A phantom is haunting Latin America, that of corruption, writes the always colorful Martín Caparrós in a New York Times Español op-ed in which he looks at how public corruption -- hardly a new phenomenon -- has become a central topic across the region. It's centrality can be partially explained by its unequivocal nature, he writes. It is clearly illegal, and not up for debate, unlike, inequality, for example. But the obsessive belief that most of the evils of a country can be pinned on political corruption, is a seasonal phenomenon, he says. The resulting election of political outsiders seems logical, but tends to end in populism and poor politics -- instead the antidote should be "authentic politics, the discussion of ideas, the mobilization of citizens, the construction of mechanisms to improve everybody's lives."
An Atlantic piece by David Frum on the United States' potential slide towards autocracy under Trump notes that such a process occurring in Latin America would be easily labeled. "A president who plausibly owes his office at least in part to a clandestine intervention by a hostile foreign intelligence service? Who uses the bully pulpit to target individual critics? Who creates blind trusts that are not blind, invites his children to commingle private and public business, and somehow gets the unhappy members of his own political party either to endorse his choices or shrug them off? If this were happening in Honduras, we’d know what to call it. It’s happening here instead, and so we are baffled."
Brazil's government will propose legislation to lift restrictions on foreign ownership of airlines and agricultural land, reports Reuters.
Brazil's unemployment rate hit 12 percent at the end of 2016, the highest in recent years, reports Bloomberg.
Twenty kilometers and a social world away from Rio de Janeiro's internationally renowned beaches, a large sea-water filled artificial pond -- piscinão -- is a blue collar haven in Brazil's sticky summer, reports Reuters.