Thursday, June 5, 2014

2,600 Disappeared Since Mexico's Peña Nieto Took Office

After Mexican Interior Minister Miguel announced a drastic reduction in the country's officially-recognized number of disappeared last month, the figure has come under intense scrutiny. A new special by Animal Politico adds to this skepticism, finding that his math simply doesn't add up.

Ever since the government announced the existence of a database of some 26,000 disappeared individuals in February 2013, officials have been scaling back this figure. In December, the Peña Nieto administration presented a pared-down version of the list that had allegedly been "purged" of double records, unverified cases and recovered victims (both alive and deceased). It contained roughly 19,000 names. 

According to Osorio Chong's statement last month, however, the official tally of those who remained missing since disappearing under the previous administration had been cut to 13,000.  In addition to these, the interior minister claimed that 3,000 had disappeared since Peña Nieto took office in December 2012. Since then, he said, officials had located half of the total 16,000, bringing the current number of those who have been disappeared and not located to just 8,000.

But as Animal Politico points out, this number was 60 percent less than the total shown on the online public registry of disappeared at the time (though it has since been taken down to be updated). Also complicating matters is the fact that Osorio Chong gave differing figures in separate remarks to lawmakers. Even still, starting with the original total of 26,000, and following the minister's own figures, the news site finds that the current total of disappeared would actually be far lower, at just shy of 5,000. Clearly, the administration is using fuzzy math. 

What Animal Politico could ascertain, however, is that official figures indicate that 2,618 people have been reported as disappeared in the first ten months of the Peña Nieto administration (December 2012 to September 2013). 

The investigation is available here, and is worth reading in full. It also includes a demographic and geographic breakdown of those missing under Peña Nieto, with a map noting that the majority of victims in central Mexico appear to be women, while those disappeared in the violent hotspots along the border are mostly men.

News Briefs
  • Although the Caracas court hearing charges against jailed Venezuelan opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez was expected to issue a ruling yesterday evening on whether he will remain in custody as the trial against him moves forward, the ruling was delayed until 3:00 am this morning.  As El Universal reports, Judge Adriana Lopez postponed her decision to allow public prosecutors to amend their statement, before ultimately ruling that the charges against Lopez should move forward, and that he should stay behind bars during his trial.
  • Another prominent member of the Venezuelan opposition, Maria Corina Machado, is being pursued in the country’s justice system as well. One week after officials accused her of plotting with U.S. officials to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro, the public prosecutors’ office has announced that it has opened up an investigation into Machado and three other opposition figures. According to El Nacional, they have been called to testify in court next Monday.
  • In a HuffPo column published on Monday by Mack McLarty, the former chief of staff and “Special Envoy for the Americas” under President Bill Clinton voices his opposition to sanctioning Venezuelan officials. A more effective way of strengthening dialogue and reconciliation in the country, he argues, would be to work with Brazil, Colombia and other regional players to establish a unified approach to promoting talks with the opposition. Even more controversially, McLarty recommends that Washington “challenge Maduro to restore normal diplomatic relations.” If Caracas declines, he suggests appointing a special envoy to the country in a bid to raise the profile of US engagement.
  • Diario Hoy has an analysis of the IACHR reform proposal submitted by Ecuador at the OAS General Assembly yesterday. According an anonymous diplomatic source cited by the paper, Ecuador agreed to table debate over its resolution at the request of the delegations from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.
  • After coming in fourth place in Colombia’s first round presidential election, left-wing presidential candidate Clara Lopez has endorsed President Juan Manuel Santos’ reelection bid, El Espectador reports. In a speech yesterday, Lopez cast her position in a dramatic light, saying that the future of the country was at play and that only a vote for Santos could “guarantee peace democratically.”
  • Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s recent dinner and interview with various foreign correspondents has made headlines largely for her rejection of criticism of the World Cup (see the New York Times, the BBC and Reuters), but the AFP highlights her remarks on neighboring Uruguay’s pioneering marijuana law. In remarks to reporters, Rousseff praised Uruguay’s Jose Mujica as “ahead of his time,” but said that legalizing marijuana “doesn’t fit” in Brazil. In her country, she said, the focus is “not legalizing, but combatting, helping with the treatment of addicts and prevention.”
  • A new report by Brazil’s National Justice Council (CNJ) sheds light on the gravity of the country’s prison overcrowding problem. The CNJ found that Brazil’s prison population has increased by some twenty thousand inmates since 2012 to 567,655, a figure that is 37 percent over capacity. As O Globo points out, the total means Brazil has the fourth largest prison population in the world, and third largest if those under house arrest are included.
  • There is still a week to go before the World Cup kicks off in Brazil, but many social movements country are already protesting the event. O Globo reports some 4,000 members of the Homeless Workers Movement marched in São Paulo in protest of spending on the Cup, calling for the construction of more public housing. And the Wall Street Journal notes that a strike by subway workers in the city today is likely to shut down its metro system, the latest in a series of large-scale strikes in World Cup host cities.
  • The New York Times looks at the reasons behind the current surge in unaccompanied child migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border, which the U.S. government administration identified Monday as a humanitarian crisis. While some suggest that the rise in child migrants is fueled by the growing perception that U.S. officials are more lenient towards undocumented minors than adults -- immigrants, lawyers and officials confirmed the prevalence of this view to the NYT --the Obama administration is pointing to violence in insecurity in Central America as its main cause.
  • The Miami Herald reports on the newest civil society effort in Cuba to alter the island’s constitution, the first since the widely-publicized Varela Project failed in 2002. According to the paper, opposition groups held a series of roundtable discussions on whether and how to amend the current constitution last weekend, an event which organizers say brought together some 2,400 people. The Herald notes that the effort mirrors a parallel study of constitutional reform proposals by a government commission.