Presidential frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto may have to face down more accusations that he has a poor record of defending women’s rights, after a judge ruled that authorities should consider ruling a state of alert in Mexico State, due to the rising number of femicides registered there.
The Associated Press reports that a women’s rights organization has recorded more than 1,000 killings of women since Peña became governor in 2006. The state attorney general’s office has also observed the trend, CNN Mexico reports, registering a 106 percent rise in femicides during the five-year period, with 97 female killings registered in 2005, compared with 200 in 2010.
Peña Nieto has said that the campaign to declare a state of alert is “just happening during an election year.” His administration has been dogged by accusations of failing to properly investigate the femicides for nearly a year now. In 2011 he took moves to counter the criticism, announcing the creation of a special office of the District Attorney’s, dedicated solely to investigating crimes against women.
But women’s activists say that Mexico State must declare a formal state of alert, in order to free up resources for a wider investigation of the violence.
"Authorities in Mexico State don't investigate and instead blame the victims for their own deaths, or in many cases say they committed suicide, without doing a proper investigation," one spokeswoman for women’s rights told the AP.
According to NGO the National Citizens' Femicide Observatory, Mexico State experienced a higher increase in female killings during Peña’s term than that seen in Ciudad Juarez during a similar time period in the 1990s. According to the organization’s most recent report, during the first half of 2009, authorities followed up on just 33 of the 89 femicides registered in Mexico State.
- The Mexican government issued a formal apology to Ines Fernandez, one of two indigenous woman raped by the military in 2002, and who later took their case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the AP notes. The court ruled in 2010 that the government had to apologize and investigate the incident in civilian rather than military courts. It is unclear why Fernandez was issued an apology now, three months after the government apologized to the other indigenous woman, Valentina Cantu, who was assaulted. The case casts a shadow on the human rights record of the Mexican military, which, as CNN reports, is set to begin joint training exercises with US forces in June.
- BBC reports that Brazil now has the sixth-largest economy in the world, larger than the UK. The news agency also has a feature on Brazilian immigrants choosing to go back to their home country, in light of the booming economy. The Guardian has another colorful take, examining Rio de Janeiro’s booming real estate industry, describing the city as “one giant construction site with luxury condominiums, shopping centres and office blocks springing up across town and cranes dotting the horizon.” With its new economic muscle, Mercopress reports that Brazil is set to review its foreign policy in order to “ensure” the country’s growing global influence, the Foreign Affairs minister said.
- The Texas Department of Public Safety issued an alert discouraging travel to Mexico, reports Reuters. Unlike the most recent US State Department travel warning, which offered specific information on a city-by-city and state-by-state basis, the Texas warning made no distinction between different areas of the country. The more nuanced wording in the US State Department warning was arguably a concession to Mexico’s tourism lobby, fearful of a drop of US tourists during the Spring Break travel season. The Mexican Embassy strongly criticized the Texas travel alert, even though, as blogger Greg Weeks points out, the US State Department travel warning is “still pretty dire” and “not a lot better than the Texas version,” just more detailed.
- The AP reports on a trucker’s strike in Sao Paulo, in protest of the city’s support of new traffic laws that would restrict their driving. Tanker drivers have stopped delivering fuel to gas stations, pushing the city into a desperate shortage. The union strike is one of the many to affect Brazil in recent months, following an aggressive campaign by construction workers in Rio de Janeiro for higher wages, as well as the much-publicized police strike seen in several cities just before Carnaval.
- La Silla Vacia has an interesting critique of kidnapping statistics in Colombia, in light of the FARC’s recent announcement that they would stop kidnapping and release all political hostages. The website notes that the two most high-profile NGOs that track kidnapping trends, Pais Libre and La Nueva Esperanza, keep dramatically different statistics. Both organizations say there are hundreds of kidnap victims, compared to the official count kept by the Defense Ministry, which counts just 38.
- Americas Quarterly with a look at rising crime levels in El Alto, Bolivia, under new scrutiny following the death of a local radio journalist, reportedly strangled to death during a street assault.
- Blog Honduras Culture and Politics with some analysis on why the Honduran government has taken little action to reform the police, despite months of rhetoric promising change.
- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with its latest critique on human rights abuses in Colombia, stating that an activist is threatened every one and a half days. From EFE.
- The AP reports that a Venezuelan judge has upheld the $2 million fine against Globovision, a news station associated with the opposition, and which the government accused of “inciting panic” after suggesting that Venezuelan armed forces were massacring inmates during a prison riot.
- President Hugo Chavez offered an optimistic update on his health and said that he plans to meet with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos today in Havana, the AP reports.
- Contralinea with a long piece reviewing mass breakouts from Mexico’s prisons, noting that neither local nor federal government agencies actually keep a count of prison escapes. The magazine observes that during President Calderon’s time in office, the prison population grew from 210,540 inmates to 231,510, many of them jailed because of alleged links to organized crime. As a result of the prison population boom, 211 of Mexico’s 419 prisons are now at over capacity.
- Vice President Joseph Biden continued his tour of Central America, stopping in Honduras yesterday and affirming US support for the region's battle against organized crime, the AP reports.