Thursday, October 9, 2014

¡Vivos los Queremos! Mexico Reacts to Missing Students

While Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has vowed that his government will pursue those responsible for the disappearance of 43 students in Iguala, Mexico, public outrage over the case has only grown since his promise.  

Yesterday, thousands of people marched in cities across the country in solidarity with the students, with the largest demonstrations being held in Mexico City and the Guerrero state capital of Chilpancingo. News site Animal Politico has some in-depth coverage of the DF protest, which was led by relatives of the disappeared carrying pictures of the victims, and attended by around 15,000 people according to official estimates.

The gravity of the Iguala disappearances has also earned a nod from the country’s guerrilla army turned social movement, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). A statement released by newly-christened Zapatista spokesman Subcomandante Moises announced plans for a “silent march” to be held in honor of the victims yesterday.

Leading daily El Universal reports that international civil society groups have joined with local human rights NGOs to call for justice in the case.  

Meanwhile, more details have emerged which cast suspicion on both authorities’ handling of the case and inaction in the face of repeated displays of corruption and abuse by the Iguala government.

Animal Politico notes that family members of the 43 students have accused the government of impeding the work of Argentine forensic specialists tasked with analyzing the DNA of remains in the recently-discovered mass grave in Guerrero. Investigators with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), the relatives say, have not been permitted by federal prosecutors to access the grave so far.

As McClatchy’s Tim Johnson notes, the recent speculation over the at-large Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca’s criminal links is not new. Ever since he took office in 2012, Abarca has faced accusations of abuse of power and drug ties, and a number of his most vocal critics have been kidnapped and killed. Today’s New York Times also features an in-depth look at rampant corruption in Iguala, revealing how the Guerreros Unidos criminal organization’s control “went all the way from collecting hefty parking fines to extracting extortion payments from businesses — with the endorsement of, if not leadership from, City Hall.”

News Briefs
  • The party that backed defeated Brazilian presidential candidate Marina Silva, the Brazilian Socialist Party, has confirmed that it will be supporting Aecio Neves in the second round, O Globo reports. According to Reuters, Silva herself is expected to announce her support for Neves later today. However, sources close to Silva have told O Globo that she will neither endorse Neves nor Rousseff, but rather stick to her campaign message of a “change” from traditional politics. The center-right candidate has also earned the endorsement of Green Party candidate Eduardo Jorge, which has surprised some analysts considering Jorge’s radically different views on drug policy and women’s’ rights (Jorge made waves for proposing to legalize drugs and abortion on the campaign). The left-wing PSOL, meanwhile, has announced that it will remain “neutral” in the second round, though its candidate Luciana Genro has called on supporters to abstain from voting for Neves, as Folha notes.
  • The Wall Street Journal profiles the newly-selected head of Venezuela’s opposition MUD coalition, Jesús “Chuo” Torrealba. Having been raised in slums across Caracas as the son of communist union leaders, Torrealba appears uniquely well-positioned to boost the MUD’s image among the Chavista base. He plans to launch a new outreach strategy aimed at poorer Venezuelans later this month.
  • The AP reports that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has called for a full investigation into a Tuesday shootout between police and an armed Chavista collective in Caracas that left the head of a leading collective dead. The deaths followed an 8-hour standoff triggered by a police raid on a building occupied by the group. Authorities have not revealed the reason for the operation, but deny that it was related to the death of a left-wing congressman last week.
  • Jailed Venezuelan opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez’s continued confinement has attracted the attention of the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. According to Ultimas Noticias the Working Group has released a statement calling for Lopez’s release, saying he appears to have been imprisoned “on the basis of discrimination towards his political choices and opinions.” And in other human rights news, Venezuelan human rights group PROVEA has announced that Maduro has finally issued a decree launching a National Human Rights Council. But while its creation was a key opposition demand during the wave of protests earlier this year, the fact that it will be headed by Vice President Jorge Arreaza seriously limits its independence and credibility.
  • Uruguayan pollster Factum, the only firm that has been polling a likely runoff between Frente Amplio candidate Tabare Vazquez and the National Party’s Luis Lacalle Pou over the past eight months, has published its latest survey. As La Republica reports, it shows little change over the past month, with both candidates statistically tied with 48% for Vazquez and 47% for LacallePou.
  • After coming under heavy fire from the opposition for his agreement to accept former Guantanamo detainees from the U.S., El Pais reports that Uruguayan President Jose Mujica has backed off the promise, saying he will have to “see what the incoming government thinks, and all that.”
  • Guatemala’s Constitutional Court still has not taken up any of the various legal challenges presented recently to the country’s corrupt judicial nomination process. Meanwhile, El Periodico reports that an Appellate Court judge who spoke out in support of the recent resignation of her colleague Claudia Escobar Mejia over judicial corruption is now facing reprisal, with higher judges ordering a review of her courtroom. According to Prensa Libre, a bill presented two years ago by transparency advocates to reform the judicial nomination process remains shelved, with no signs of passing anytime soon.