Friday, April 18, 2014

Argentine Bill Seeks to Regulate Street Protests

Since the election of Nestor Kircher in 2003, the Argentine government has gained a reputation for engaging with social movements. But a new bill proposed by members of President Cristina Fernandez’s party has been characterized as an attempt to suppress lawful protests amid growing unrest in the country.

As Pagina 12 reports, on Wednesday a group of legislators belonging to Fernandez’s Front for Victory party (FPV) presented a bill which claims to “ensure and strengthen” the rights of protestors in the country, as well as those affected by demonstrations.  Its sponsors claim it would establish “precise rules of conduct” for public protests, as well as a standard protocol for police responses to unrest.

But the law has struck many in the country, including some traditional allies of the Fernandez government, as heavy-handed. The Buenos Aires-based Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), for instance, has expressed concern about the idea of drawing a line between legitimate and illegitimate demonstrations, calling it a “step back from the standards of social protest that were built during recent years.”

In reality the bill cannot be easily pigeonholed as an uncompromising attack on freedom of speech. Like similar U.S. laws, it would prevent demonstrators from blocking vehicular traffic. Specifically, it would require that protests allow at least one lane open, and -- most controversially -- to register with authorities at least 48 hours prior to the event. But still, as La Nacion notes, the FPV’s sponsorship of the law demonstrates a “profound change” for a government that has striven to be seen as an ally of mass mobilizations.

For critics of the Fernandez administration, the timing of the bill is no coincidence. As both El Pais and the Associated Press point out, the bill comes amid growing discontent with inflation and economic stagnation, and may be an attempt to brace for potentially escalating protests in the coming months.

News Briefs
  • While the recent capture of yet another kingpin in Mexico (this time the 2nd in command of the Beltran Leyva Organization, or BLO) shows that President Enrique Peña Nieto is largely continuing the security policies of his predecessor, InSight Crime’s Charlie Parkinson notes that it also discredits the theory that Peña Nieto favors the BLO over other criminal enterprises in the country.
  • A special system put in place to protect journalists in Mexico in 2012 has come under intense criticism from press freedom groups in the country, which claim that the system has failed to deliver. Only 130 reporters have been accepted into the program to date, and only about one-third of these have actually received help, the L.A. Times reports.  
  • IDL-Reporteros catches leading Peruvian daily El Comercio in the act of false reporting on the recent arrest of 28 members of a political movement calling for the release of imprisoned Shining Path members, known as the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movadef). The news site points out that the paper incorrectly reported rumors that Movadef members solicited funds to restart the Shining Path’s armed struggle, accusing El Comercio of either intentional deception or incompetence following the closure of its investigative reporting unit.
  • The top negotiator for the Colombian government in its talks with FARC rebels, Humberto De La Calle, has penned an op-ed for the Miami Herald in which he takes on some of the myths about the ongoing dialogue being spread by opponents of the peace process. In it, he takes on allegations that the country is being “sold” “behind its back,” as well as claims that crimes against humanity will go unpunished.
  • The Herald reports on the arrest of Cuban journalist Juliet Michelena Diaz, who was taken into custody after reporting on alleged police abuses in Havana earlier this month.  Reporters Without Borders has called on the government to release her, and others of Diaz’s independent Cuban Network of Community Communicators (CNCC) assert that she deserves  international recognition as a “prisoner of conscience.”
  • Earlier this week, the Brazilian government deployed troops to the northeastern city of Salvador in the wake of a police strike that led to looting and unrest, Folha reports. The Wall Street Journal notes that this is the second time that troops have been sent to the city to fill the gap, following a similar strike in 2012. Forrunately, police have agreed to call off the strike in response to concessions from state officials, according to O Globo.
  • Writing for The Guardian’s Global Development blog, Claire Provost offers a profile of the women that are challenging El Salvador’s strict anti-abortion laws, under which a woman can be charged with homicide for suffering a miscarriage.
  • In a new post for Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, David Smilde and Hugo Perez Hernaiz assess the status of talks between the government and opposition in the country. For now, they argue, it appears as though the dialogue is “drowning out the students and radicalized opposition base,” but this could change in the long run if the talks don not bear fruit for the opposition.
  • After declaring a state of emergency last week in areas near the southern Peruvian volcano of Ubinas, officials in the country have announced that they will be evacuating some 4,000 residents -- as well as their livestock -- from the area, RPP and the BBC report.
  • Vice reports on the Mapuche conflict in Chile, providing an in-depth look at the tense dynamic between indigenous activists and police in the south-central Araucania region.

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