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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
In brief
Latinamerica Press
9/5/2016
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Latin America, Belize, Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua

Between January and July of this year, 25 journalists and press workers have been assassinated in Latin America: 10 in Mexico, another Mexican in the United States, five in Guatemala, four in Honduras, three in Brazil, one in El Salvador, and one in Venezuela, reported the Latin American Federation of Journalists (FELAP). According to FELAP, “impunity and impotence of those demanding justice characterize these assassinations that have been occurring for decades,” particularly in Mexico where most of the crimes have taken place. Since 1983, FELAP reported, the freedom of press and the freedom expression have 252 death victims, among them 220 journalists, eight press workers, 13 relatives, eight friends of media communicators and three casual victims, to which 26 victims of forced disappearance must be added.

The Supreme Court of Judicature (SCJ) of Belize declared unconstitutional the criminalization of relations between persons of the same sex punished by up to 10 years in prison. On Aug.10, the President of the SCJ, Kenneth Benjamin, determined that Section 53 of the Penal Code infringed upon the constitutional guarantees of equality, dignity and individual privacy. He ordered an amendment specifying that “the section does not apply to consenting sexual acts between adults of the same gender.” The appeal was made in 2010 by Caleb Orozco, Executive Director of the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), an organization dedicated to the defense of the rights of the LGBT population. The government headed by Prime Minister Dean Harrow announced on Aug. 17 that it would not appeal the decision.

On Aug. 24, the government of Chile officially created the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park with a surface area of 300,000 square kilometers (12 percent of its marine territory) that will protect the San Félix and San Ambrosio Islands, offshore from the northern region of Atacama, making it the largest of the American continent. Besides prohibiting fishing and other extractive activities, the marine park will protect a unique ecosystem without human impact where there are algae forests, populations of fish such as tuna and shark, deep water corals and lobsters, among other species endemic to the area. Also, the Council of Ministers for Ocean Policy was created by decree which will include the Ministers of the Economy, Defense and the Environment who will work to draft a policy of ocean conservation to be under their jurisdiction for the long-term.

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, confirmed on Aug. 8 the verdict of March 2014 of a lower court rejecting the payment of a fine up to US$9.5 billion imposed in Ecuador in 2011 by the Court of Nueva Loja (Lago Agrio), capital of the northeast province of Sucumbíos, to Chevron oil company, for environmental damages caused between 1964 and 1990 by Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron in 2001. The US court based its verdict on the false testimony of the former judge Alberto Guerra, who said that the plaintiffs had written the ruling of the judge Nicolás Zambrano, of the Court of Nueva Loja. With this verdict, Chevron wins the battle in the United States, where the fine will not be able to be collected, but similar demands against Chevron are being made in countries such as Canada, Argentina and Brazil, where this oil company has presence.

The electoral campaign was launched in Nicaragua on Aug. 20 as the country heads toward elections of Nov. 6 in which President Daniel Ortega will seek a third consecutive term. Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo, candidate for vice-president for the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), have about 70 percent of the voting intention due to the absence of an opposition that can dispute the elections to them. The National Coalition for Democracy, the strongest opposition block consisting of eight parties, withdrew from the electoral process in June after the Supreme Court stripped to the Independent Liberal Party of legal representation. The Group of 27, including the priest Ernesto Cardenal and the poet Gioconda Belli, called for the abstention of voters from what they call the “electoral farce.”


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