Police detain Amazon killings' mastermind
Jan. 24, 2023
Brazilian police say Rubens Villar Coelho, who allegedly runs an illegal fishing racket in the Javari valley region, ordered the murders of British journalist Dom Phillips and the Brazilian Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira last year. They said Coelho, whose nickname is Colômbia, sought to kill Pereira because he was helping Indigenous tribes combat illegal fishing and hunting, reports the New York Times.
Coelho was first arrested on separate charges last July – one month after the two men were murdered. He was released in October but was rearrested last month for breaking his bail terms, reports the Guardian. Three other men are currently in custody for the murders and stand accused of shooting Phillips and Pereira as they travelled down the Itaquaí River on the morning of 5 June 2022. The police said they have evidence that Villar Coelho provided the first two of those men with the ammunition that was used to commit the murder.
But activists are calling for a deeper investigation, to uncover the financiers of the area’s criminal economies. They say the murders must be understood as part of a broader context in a region rife with environmental crime and drug trafficking, possibly involving international cartels.
Gang violence and human rights violations in Haiti have reached a critical level, said U.N. Secretary General António Guterres. He insisted on the deployment of an international specialized armed force to Haiti and called on governments to consider halting deportations, reports the Associated Press.
The latest U.N. report on Haiti, which was scheduled to be heard this morning by the U.N. Security Council, paints a deteriorating situation, reports the Miami Herald. In the report, the secretary general acknowledges that the elections calendar remains uncertain, despite a promise by interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry that 2023 will be an electoral year.
Hundreds of Venezuelan public sector workers including teachers, nurses and retired police officers protested yesterday around the country, in demand of better salaries and pensions. (Efecto Cocuyo)
It is the third time peaceful demonstrations have been held this year in a context of growing inflation, reports Reuters.
Colombian Vice President Francia Márquez has called for international reparations for the historical damage wrought by the colonial slave system — and said the U.S. government should forigive the foreign debt of the nations hardest-hit by climate change. (Politico)
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro cancelled his trip to Buenos Aires, where CELAC leaders are holding a summit this week. Maduro blamed his absence "a risk of aggression" from "the neo-fascist right," but analysts note that he has carefully limited international trips since the U.S. put a $15 million bounty on his head in 2020. Argentine opposition politicians had called for Maduro’s arrest upon arrival. (El País, Buenos Aires Times)
Colombia and the ELN guerrilla group said they will resume peace talks in Mexico next month. The two sides have been at an impasse after the government declared a ceasefire that the rebel group rejected, reports Reuters.
The U.S. federal trial against Mexico’s former security chief, Genaro García Luna started yesterday in Brooklyn. Prosecutors accused García Luna of leading a double life, accepting millions of dollars in bribes to protect the Sinaloa Cartel, while he led Mexico’s efforts to combat drug trafficking. García Luna’s lawyers countered that he is innocent, and is being accused by cartel members seeking to lessen their own sentences. (New York Times, Guardian)
Investigators from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration uncovered evidence of García Luna’s secret alliance with violent drug traffickers more than a decade ago, months before he stepped down from office in 2012, but the case stalled for years, reports ProPublica.
U.S. authorities handed over a key suspect in the 2014 disappearance of 43 college students to Mexico. Alejandro Tenescalco was a police supervisor in the city of Iguala, where the students from a rural teachers college were abducted by municipal police, reports the Associated Press.
So-called specialty drugs, which treat rare and often serious diseases and can be wildly expensive, pose a challenge for public-health systems and insurers in Latin America, where million-dollar price tags will force difficult decisions on how to allocate limited budgets, reports the New York Times.
El Salvador is about to enter its eleventh month of a “state of exception” that suspends certain civil liberties as part of an unprecedented gang crackdown by the Bukele government. (NPR)
Despite human rights abuses, polling shows strong public approval of President Nayib Bukele’s heavy-handed policing, reports El Salvador Perspectives. Polls show that half the country’s voters would back Bukele in next year’s elections.
Ecuador's most remote regions are the new epicenters for illegal mining, reports InSight Crime.
An increase in the size of cocaine seizures in Jamaica suggests that the island is playing a stronger role in international drug trafficking, as cocaine production soars in Colombia, reports InSight Crime.