Friday, December 16, 2011

Mexico Apologizes for Rights Abuses, but Justice Seems Far Off

Yesterday the Mexican government admitted its negligence in failing to protect the rights of a young indigenous woman who was raped and tortured by a group of soldiers in Guerrero state in February of 2002. As El Universal and the AP note, Interior Minister Alejandro Poire delivered the official apology in compliance with a 2010 Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling which ordered Mexico to apologize and have civilian prosecutors investigate both the case of Rosendo and that of another women who was raped by security forces in 2002.  

According to Rosendo’s testimony, she was washing clothes alone in a river in southern Guerrero when eight soldiers approached her and asked her about the whereabouts of a suspected member of the Revolutionary Popular Army EPR), a small guerrilla organization that operates in the area. When she responded that she didn’t know the suspect, two soldiers tortured and raped her.

This is the second time in two months that Mexico has officially accepted responsibility for failing to protect and investigate wrongs committed against its citizens in the past decade.  On November 7, officials offered a similar apology to the relatives of three women who were killed in Ciudad Juarez in 2001.

But while this may at first glance seem like an illustration of progress in the state of human rights in the country, Mexico still has a long way to go.  A Human Rights Watch report published in November alleged widespread human rights abuses committed by the military and police, documenting 170 cases of torture, 39 “disappearances,” and 24 extrajudicial killings since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006.

As the Center for International Policy’s America Program blog notes, activists in Mexico are especially vulnerable. In just the past three weeks, at least three human rights defenders have been attacked, apparently as retribution for their work.

News Briefs

·         Mexico’s Proceso reports that police have found five bodies buried at the headquarters of a student group in Guadalajara. Authorities identified three of the bodies as high school students who went missing last week after accusing the Federation of Guadalajara Students of extorting their efforts at selling snacks on the edge of the local university campus. The Associated Press provides an interesting analysis of the incident, which it calls a “rare glimpse into the rough-and-tumble student organizations.”

·         The AP reports on the rising violence in Guatemala by offering a rather odd profile of Guatemala City. The wire agency portrays the Central American capital as a place where “motorists hide behind tinted windows, while security guards wielding shotguns stand outside banks and grocery stores. Hair stylists work behind barred doors. Even crowded buses, with passengers often hanging from the windows, carry guards.” However, anyone familiar with a major Latin American city knows that such sights are not exclusive to Guatemala.

·         For a more in-depth look at the security situation in Guatemala, the Central American Business Intelligence Black Box blog has an analysis (in Spanish) of homicides in the Alta Verapaz Department, where a “state of siege” was declared in order to combat the increasing incursion of Mexican drug trafficking groups. According to government homicide statistics, the state of siege significantly reduced murders in the area.

·         Honduran President Porfirio Lobo issued some strongly-worded criticism of the US on Wednesday over American authorities’ insistence on investigating the murders of journalists in the country.  According to La Prensa, he argued that if the US wants these cases investigated, then it should provide the resources for an investigative team. Lobo has also threatened to pull Honduras out of the US Millenium Challenge Corporation if the aid agency does not certify Honduras on those grounds.

·         Just over two weeks after his capture, Venezuelan officials have extradited former Colombian drug kingpin Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, alias "Valenciano," to the US. The incident is a rare case of coordination between Venezuelan and US justice officials, and was likely mostly orchestrated by Colombia.

·         NPR’s All Things Considered takes a look at internet access in Cuba, where even six months after the installation of an underwater fiber-optic cable connecting the island nation to Venezuela was installed, few people have access to the web.

·         In other Cuba news, National Journal reported yesterday that Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have agreed to remove language from a spending package which would effectively reinstate the Bush-era rules limiting travel to the island. Havana Note has more on what this means for the future of US-Cuba relations.

·         Hugo Moyano, head of the Argentine General Labor Confederation and a former staunch political ally of President Cristina Fernandez, is fast converting into one of her biggest critics. Blasting Fernandez for not being union friendly, Moyano announced yesterday that he is resigning his post within her Frente Para la Victoria party as interim president in the province of Buenos Aires.

·         The latest issue of the Economist is out today, and features an in-depth analysis of Fernandez’s presidency. According to the publication, economic uncertainty will ensure that her next term will be far more difficult. The magazine also profiles President Ollanta Humala’s recent government “reshuffle” in Peru.

·         Chilean student leader Camila Vallejo, who has become known internationally as the face of the country’s education reform protests, has been voted the “Chilean of the year.” In a poll conducted by Radio Cooperativa, Imaginaccion consultancy firm and Federico Santa Maria Technical University, Vallejo beat the next most popular candidate, President Sebastián Piñera, by fifteen percentage points.