Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Subway Bombing Puts Chile's Anti-Terror Law in Focus

Just as Chile is debating changes to its controversial anti-terrorism law, a bombing at a Santiago subway station that left 14 injured is sure to raise new questions about the application of the law.

Yesterday afternoon, a bomb blast rocked a food court inside the Escuela Militar metro station in the wealthy neighborhood of Las Condes. At least 14 were wounded by the bomb, though none of the injuries were fatal.

As Chilean news site The Clinic reports, authorities have not yet identified the group responsible, though officials suspect a militant anarchist groups is behind the attack. Interestingly, while they have not earned as much coverage in the international press, there have been more than 200 pipe bomb-style attacks in the country since 2005, according to El Mercurio. The AP claims nearly 30 bombs have gone off in Santiago this year alone.

Yesterday, Bachelet confirmed that her government will invoke the country’s much-criticized anti-terrorism law in response to yesterday’s bombing, La Nacion reports. The announcement comes at a time when Chile is studying the law in the wake of condemnation from UN human rights officials and a July ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which found that the law had been applied in a discriminatory fashion against Mapuche rights activists.

Since her return to office, President Michelle Bachelet has said that using the law to prosecute offenders in the Mapuche conflict during her first term was a mistake, and in March her interior minister said the administration would no longer apply the law to social conflicts. A special commission of lawyers has been tasked with assessing the law, and is set to present reform recommendations later this month.

It’s fairly clear that yesterday’s bombing is a more cut and dry example of terrorism than the violence associated with the Mapuche conflict. Still, the incident could hamper Chile’s efforts to rein in the application of its antiterrorism legislation under international norms.  

The bombing has provided an opening for Bachelet’s critics on the right to attack her for appearing inconsistent, which they have already seized on. According to El Mostrador, leaders of the conservative opposition yesterday released a statement calling on the president to act with “greater forcefulness” on security matters.

News Briefs
  • The Global Commission on Drug Policy, a panel of prominent politicians and activists, is releasing a new report this morning with updated recommendations for the international community. As the New York Times reports, the new publication goes beyond a 2011 recommendation to legalize cannabis, instead suggesting that countries decriminalize and regulate a range of illegal drugs, including cocaine and heroin. In remarks to the Wall Street Journal,  former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso placed the proposal in the context of growing opposition to the War on Drugs in Latin America.
  • With the odds of her reelection looking slimmer with the release of every new poll, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has begun to offer more drastic changes to her administration if she wins a second term. As Globo and the Wall Street Journal note, yesterday Rousseff claimed Finance Minister Guido Mantega had asked to leave her cabinet for “personal reasons,” though some interpret it as a bid to appeal to investors.
  • United Nations and Colombian National University authorities have announced the makeup of the second delegation of victims that will travel to Havana on Thursday to provide testimony to FARC and government negotiators. Among the names on the 12 delegates, according to Semana magazine, is the sister of popular comedian Jaime Garzón, who was killed by paramilitaries in 1999.
  • The Miami Herald reports that two were members of Operación Libertad, a Venezuelan opposition group, were deported last week to their home country from Colombia for violating the terms of their visa. Upon their return, they were arrested for failing to register with their government every 21 days, as stipulated under the terms of a 2010 court settlement. They are currently being detained in a state security facility in Caracas, according to El Nacional.
  • Over at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, David Smilde and Dimitris Pantoulas offer a smart analysis of President Nicolas Maduro’s recent cabinet “shakeup,” which did not bring the major changes that some analysts were expecting. The two argue that while the cabinet shuffle followed a certain logic according to Maduro’s immediate political interests, waiting until later this year to pass deeper economic reforms may ultimately end up costing him even greater political capital.  
  • Mexican news site Animal Politico has an in-depth look at the experience of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America, relating the story of two Salvadoran children whose parents paid coyotes to take them on the journey north, during which they were kidnapped and extorted by police officers in Mexico.
  • The AP has more on the curious story of an explosion heard by Managua residents on Saturday night, which Nicaraguan authorities have blamed on a falling meteor. But according to the news agency, astronomy experts are skeptical of this claim due to the lack of eyewitnesses reporting any flashes in the sky.
  • Edwin Chota, a Peruvian activist opposed to illegal logging on his community’s historic land, was found murdered yesterday along with three other indigenous Ashaninka leaders in the Ucayali region. Prior to his death, Chota was well-known for bringing international attention to the spread of illegal logging in the Peruvian Amazon (see the NYT, Guardian, and National Geographic).