The Xpat Weekly: The Five Most Important Stories in Latin America This Week

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1. Mexico: Violence Against Journalists Skyrocketed During Mandate of President Enrique Pena Nieto

If you defend investigative journalism as one of the pillars of a democracy, Mexico may not be the place for you. Every 22 hours, one Mexican journalist is a victim of aggression. In 2015 alone, 397 journalists were victims of violence and seven of them were murdered. Such dire facts were released yesterday in a study by “Article 19”, a Mexican think tank. Since the day President Pena Nieto was sworn in, more than 1,073 violent acts towards journalists were documented. The number marked an increase of 22% from the year before, but an alarming growth of nearly 60% when compared with the mandate of his predecessor.

Who is responsible for such aggressions? Almost half of them were committed by state officials. This report reinforces the belief that the government is the main perpetrator of extrajudicial killings, rampant corruption, abuse of authority and torture.

The report concluded: “Today in Mexico, fear is installed in all media newsrooms. It is impossible to make responsible and honest journalism in this climate of fear. Impunity reminds us that this fear, deeply grounded in Mexico, seeks to terrorize anyone who intends to exercise freedom of expression”.


2. Brazil: More than Three Million People Rallied Demanding Presidential Impeachment

Facing a possible indictment, former president Lula da Silva sought for political immunity. On Wednesday, his former protege and current President Dilma Rousseff appointed Lula as her new chief of staff. Suddenly, the leak of one of their phone conversations implied Lula’s appointment was made for him to avoid prosecution. A judge then ordered Lula’s appointment to be null. But Rousseff officially nominated Lula in a ceremony. The situation now remains unclear.

On the same day, protestors rallied on the streets of Brasilia, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilian police report that more than three million people have staged rallies across the country. Congress is now being pressured to accelerate the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff.

The current crisis has aggravated after Dilma’s refusal to resign. This week she said: “If there is no reason to do so, I will not step down”. After such defiant statement, the protests will continue.


3. Cuba: Over 300 Dissidents Arrested This Month Before Obama’s Visit

There’s excitement in Cuba for the visit of President Barack Obama. Nevertheless, Cuban dissidents intensified their activities to promote their cause before Obama’s arrival. Last Sunday, 30 Cubans dressed in white attire demonstrated in a park holding a banner that read: “Obama, Cuba has a dream: Cuba without Castros”. This manifestation was not isolated but expanded across various neighborhoods. Only this month, more than 300 hundred protestors have been arrested.

Yet, Cuban authorities now have a different approach. The state no longer puts dissidents in prison. Now they get briefly interrogated before being released. However, some dissidents claimed having been mistreated. The Cuban police gave them a warning: if any disturbance arises during Obama’s stay, they will get in trouble.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in Cuba on Sunday. The next day, Obama will have a state dinner hosted by President Raul Castro. The visit is intended to normalize ties between Cuba and the United States. Talks about the easing of restrictions on trade, business and travel will be held. Afterward, President Obama will deliver a speech in the Gran Teatro of Havana, before an audience of 1,000 people.

The Wall Street Journal

4. Venezuela: Bodies of Missing Gold Miners Are Found

In the Venezuelan jungle bordering Guyana, illegal miners regularly perform excavations searching for gold. On March 4, however, a group of 21 miners went missing. Their relatives petitioned the authorities to conduct an investigation. On Wednesday 15, local authorities announced that the bodies of 17 people had been rescued. The miners had been machined gunned, and their dismembered bodies buried in “Nuevo Callao”.

The investigations hinted that the miners were killed by a gang. Apparently, various gangs had been taking control of that lawless mining region, hoping to profit from the gold digging. According to a witness, gang members approached the miners once the latter found a lucrative gold deposit. After the miners refused to give up their gold, they were brutally machined gunned.

Authorities issued an order of arrest for the leader of the gang, a man named Jamilton Ulloa Suarez, also known as “The Mole”.

The Guardian

5. Peru: Young Citizens Demonstrated Against Presidential Candidate Keiko Fujimori

The irregularities in the Presidential race continue. After two candidates were disqualified, one for a technicality and the other for vote buying, another event ensued. Last week, candidate Keiko Fujimori was accused of influencing voters by giving away money. Fujimori’s party organized a dancing competition in which Keiko was seen handing envelopes full of cash. The candidate rejected the charges inferring the money was awarded to the winners of the contest.

People are skeptical because vote buying in Peru has long precedence. In past elections, Keiko’s father, former dictator Alberto Fujimori, not only bought but also blackmailed communities in order to gain more votes. The public cried out for the Electoral Board to disqualify Keiko Fujimori. After the Board’ initial reluctance, thousands of young Peruvians protested in Centro de Lima. They criticized the Board’s favoritism towards Fujimori, suggesting there will be an electoral fraud. Carrying signs that said, “No to Keiko, ever again”, “Fujimori, never again”, the demonstrators requested people not to vote for her.

Keiko Fujimori’ support has dipped from 32% to 29%, but she is still leading the polls. Election day is on April 9.


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