So, as every Friday, our Syria Solidarity NYC group held its vigil in Union Square to bear witness against the ongoing savage bombardment of Ghouta. But what a scene it was last evening... First, there was a big protest going on against Israel's massacres along the Gaza Strip's border. Now, those standing for Ghouta and Gaza should be natural allies, but there was little interaction between our little protest and their much larger one.
The reasons for this bear some examination...
Amnesty International is calling for a full investigation into the killing of Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco. A human rights defender known for her outspokenness against police brutality, Franco, 38, was shot dead in an ambush on her vehicle March 14, in what appears to be a targeted assassination. Amnesty's Brazil director, Jurema Werneck, cited the shooting as "yet another example of the dangers that human rights defenders face in Brazil," and stated that the "Brazilian authorities must ensure a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into this tragic killing."
Brazilian federal police on Dec. 28 announced the arrest of José González Valencia, one of the top leaders of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG)—the criminal machine that in recent years has risen to challenge the Sinaloa Cartel for control of Mexico's narco trade. Valencia, known as "Chepa" or "El Camarón" (The Shrimp), was arrested at Aquiraz, a resort near the coastal city of Fortaleza, where he was spending the Christmas holidays with his family. Authorities said Valencia had been living in Bolivia for two years after fleeing Mexico, and had entered Brazil as a tourist on a Bolivian passport.
For the second year in a row, Brazil has witnessed a deadly prison riot on the first day of the year. A death toll of nine is reported from the central state of Goias. One inmate was decapitated. The violence began New Year's Day afternoon at the rural penitentiary in the outskirts of the state capital, Goiania. Rival criminal factions clashed, broke the barriers of the compound and escaped, by the BBC News account.
Back in September, Brazilian army troops were deployed to quell fighting between rival drug gangs in Rocinha, the most notoriously violent of Rio de Janiero's favelas—the informal urban settlements in the north of the city, virtually abandoned by the government for anything other than militarized anti-drug operations. On Dec. 6, authorities announced the apprehension of the fugitive gang leader who was said be behind that wave of violence but eluded capture at the time. Rogerio Avelino da Silva AKA "Rogerio 157" was detained in Arara, another favela.
Protests are breaking out in Lima following the Christmas eve "humanitarian pardon" of Peru's imprisoned ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK). The supposedly ailing Fujimori has been transferred from prison to a private clinic in Lima's Pueblo Libre district, where protesters are gathering, to be dispersed by police tear-gas. Demonstrators have also filled central Lima's Plaza San Martín. Angry protests have lkewise broken out in Cuzco, Arequipa, Chiclayo and other cities. The pardon came three days after PPK survived a congressional vote on removing him from office over his embroilment in the Odebrecht scandal. A right-wing bloc led by the dictator's son Kenji Fujimori abstained from the vote rather than following the majority of his own Fuerza Popular opposition party, led by his older sister Keiko Fujimori, in voting to remove PPK. Kenji's defection was critical in Congress failing to win the 87 votes necessary to sack PPK.
Members of the Gavião, Gamella, Krenyê and Tremembé indigenous peoples on Nov. 22 blocked the main road through São Luís, capital of Brazil's Maranhão state, to press demands for long-delayed demarcation of their ancestral lands. The action, which halted traffic on the artery for several hours, came as some 100 indigenous activists had been camping for three weeks outside the São Luís headquarters of the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), which also houses the office of the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI). Last week, FUNAI announced creation of a working group to demarcate many of the lands in question, but protesters are keeping up the pressure, and also demanding social services for their villages, such as healthcare and education. Quilombola (Afro-Brazilian) community leaders are participating in the indigenous encampment in solidarity.
Brazil's ongoing favela wars have taken a dramatic turn for the bloody—prompting the government to send military troops into Rio de Janiero's notorious Rocinha. This is the most violent of the city's sprawling favelas—informal urban settlements virtually abandoned by the government for anything other than militarized anti-drug operations. The army on Sept. 22 deployed nearly 1,000 troops in Rocinha, responding to a request from the Rio state government, Defense Minister Raul Jungmann told local TV. Rio Times reports that the violence in Rocinha is the deadliest since the launch of a "pacification" program in 2011 to push warring narco-gangs out of the city's favelas.