The News Roundup is a regular section of the blog, featuring news articles from various sources around the web, with the goal of providing an overview of the weekly conversation about the countries where MCC works in the region. Quotes in italics are drawn directly from sources and do not necessarily reflect the position of MCC.

Can Hip Hop Help Stop Gang Violence in Latin America?

In Brazil, where one of the few systematic evaluations was conducted, the study determined that cultural approaches, such as those centered on hip hop, can be effective at changing youth behavior under specific conditions; for instance, when young people are already interested in the activities being offered to them and those activities are paired with dialogue and education about the social issues contributing to local violence and crime. Hip hop is and could continue to be a powerful preventive tool in the fight against violence and crime, if included as part of broader, comprehensive security strategies. As such, violence prevention experts say that these programs should receive more investment and evaluation.

Is Mexico actually the world’s second most murderous nation?

Amid the bloodshed, though, there is hope. On May 28, hundreds of indigenous representatives came together at the National Indigenous Congress to nominate María de Jesus Patricio Martínez as their independent candidate for Mexico’s upcoming 2018 presidential election. Patricio Martínez is a Nahua woman and a traditional healer. “Our participation in politics,” she said, “does not seek votes [but rather] pursues life.” Before representatives of the Mayas, Yaquis, Zoques and other indigenous peoples, Patricio Martínez called for healing, resistance and renewal. The time has come to work for “reconstituting our peoples, who have been beaten for many years,” she said. In Mexico, as in Comala, survival is the ultimate political challenge. But, alas, the Peña Nieto government does not dare to embrace it.

Mexico’s Native Crops Hold Key to Food Security, Ecologist Says

José Sarukhán Kermez, who helped set up Mexico’s pioneering National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO), said that analyzing the genetic variability of traditional crops, and supporting the family farmers who grow most of the world’s food offered an alternative to industrial agriculture. “We don’t need to manipulate hugely the genetic characteristics of these [crops] … because that biodiversity is there — you have to just select and use it with the knowledge of the people who have been doing that for thousands of years,” said Sarukhán, CONABIO’s national coordinator, in a telephone interview.

Miami Conference Signals Further Militarization of US Policy in Central America

In turn, the militarization of US foreign policy can be expected to further shift the balance of political power in Central America toward those nations’ militaries. Civilian governments are weak and fragile and, as the 2009 coup in Honduras showed, still threatened by economic and military elites. This will likely only exacerbate the root causes of increased violence, devastation, and migration that have plagued a region where what is needed are stronger civilian governments, not ever more powerful militaries.  Nor is the presence of Mexico a necessarily helpful part of the upcoming security conference. The US has enlisted Mexico to act on its behalf, clamping down on migrants coming from the southern border with Guatemala to block them before they reach the Rio Grande. At a previous security conference in April, the Guatemalan defense minister reportedly announced that SOUTHCOM would begin joint operations with Mexican and Guatemalan forces on its northern border in the coming months. The Colombian government will also be present this week. As with Mexico, the Pentagon is increasingly relying on the Colombian military to train allied military and police forces throughout the region. In effect, the US it outsourcing its security cooperation to Colombia and Mexico, two countries whose militaries have been implicated in more human rights abuses than any other country’s in the hemisphere.

Miami summit an opportunity to rethink Central America

Finally, the U.S. needs to reconcile itself to the notion that its own security depends on a prosperous and stable Central America and Mexico. Simply walling itself off from these problems, some of which are of our own making, won’t make the U.S. safer. Instead, the U.S. will be better, safer, and stronger if we adopt a long-term policy of working with Central Americans to root out corruption, recover government institutions, and restore the social fabric that has been seriously tattered by decades of conflict, violence, and exclusion. This will involve enormous sacrifice from the governments and people of Central America, but it also requires dedication, patience, and generosity on the part of the U.S. The outcome of the Miami meeting should be to strengthen this framework rather than narrow it to a simple counternarcotic, counter-terrorism strategy that ignores the subtleties of a region of vital national importance to the United States.

An Alliance for Insecurity

“Militarized approaches to law enforcement put Central American citizens at risk and do not build sustainable approaches,” the groups write, noting that “Community leaders who have defended their lands against the development of infrastructure or extractive projects are at risk in this region; Guatemala and Honduras rank among the most dangerous countries in the world for environmental defenders. An approach focusing on large-scale private sector investment also sidelines the importance of supporting small farmers and community-based initiatives for sustainable development which are crucial to families’ livelihoods in rural areas.” Although Trump’s plans for Central America do not represent a dramatic departure from those of his predecessor, they are a dangerous escalation of enduring strategies that privilege the movement of capital and commodities over human beings.

A Brutal Expulsion in Guatemala Shows How Neoliberalism Gets Greenwashed

Not just in the Petén, but throughout Guatemala—as in Honduras, especially in the Aguán Valleyland conflicts and evictions related to drugs, mining, biofuels, dams, and ranching are widespread and growing increasingly violent. The assault on Laguna Larga is just the first of what is expected to be a series of expulsions. La Mestiza, another Petén community, is scheduled for eviction by the army on June 14.

A possible future for Haiti

Mr Moïse agrees that a weak state is the main explanation for Haiti’s 200-year-old poverty trap. To correct that, he says, Haiti needs political stability first of all. He wants to leave the country’s “democratic apprenticeship” behind by enacting constitutional reforms to hold more elections at the same time. Currently, presidents, senators and lower-house deputies are elected on different cycles. Perhaps more contentiously, Mr Moïse would replace the cumbersome semi-presidential system, which includes a prime minister, with a purely presidential one. He has plans to reform the civil service; he would replace ageing bureaucrats with energetic younger ones and set up a new training school. He is trying to improve the business climate, for example with legislation to cut the number of days needed to start a company from 97 to 30 and to allow employers to extend the work day by using shift labourers.

U.N. pushes to finance Haiti’s cholera cleanup with leftover peacekeeping dollars

Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom, who represents cholera victims in U.S. courts, agreed: “The U.N. is breaking its promises to Haiti not because of a shortage of money, but a shortage of political will.” She criticized the U.S. specifically. “The Trump administration holds itself out as a champion for U.N. accountability, but when it’s time to act, the U.S.’s only contribution is obstruction. Governments who truly believe in an accountable U.N. must stand up to the U.S.’ inhumane approach.” A consequence of the funding shortage is that the U.N. also lacks the money to compensate the more than 800,000 who have been sickened by cholera and more than 9,000 killed by it, and their families and communities. Of the $400 million the U.N. has asked for, only 3 percent or about $2.7 million has been raised, with most of it already spent.

Protests in Colombia and South Africa reveal link between inequality and popular uprisings

If Colombia or South Africa fail to discern the ways in which inequality is driving citizens to protest and effectively respond to that discontent (as Colombia promised to do in Buenaventura), confidence in state institutions and the state itself will decrease. That’s a recipe for more protest and, potentially, an escalation of violence. History reminds us that groups denied adequate, institutionalised democratic participation can come to see the state as illegitimate, leading to revolt. The Syrian civil war came in the wake of protests against the Assad regime’s failure to provide water. Prevalent inequality also damages trust and social cohesion, making unified national progress nearly impossible. If South Africa hopes to maintain its belief in a post-racial society, and if Colombia is to actually achieve reconciliation, it’s time to start truly tackling inequality.

Colombia’s constitutional court grants rights to the Atrato River and orders the government to clean up its waters

The unusual case is a big win for environmental conservation, according to Ximena González, one of Tierra Digna’s lawyers. “It’s a symbolic ruling, not only for the environment but also it is the first time that the Constitutional Court welcomed a new framework of rights, called biocultural rights,” González said. “Here, the direct and narrow relation between biodiversity and culture is pointed out. This relation is indispensable and moreover essential for ethnic communities, especially in Chocó.” Many people in Chocó depend on the Atrato River. According to González, this is why the recognition of the river’s degradation and the court’s emphasis of the right to water and basic living conditions is a big step forward, especially for future public policies with an ecocentric approach to human rights. The court’s ruling makes it clear that the river has rights.

The open veins of Bolivia’s lithium powering the world

It is obvious the managers of the state-owned company are in a hurry. The market for lithium carbonate could easily triple in the next five years. The price of the white powder is surging, lithium is still the most efficient battery component by far. It fuels not only our mobile phones and laptops but also gaming consoles, solar panels, robots and electric vehicles. A critical observer might note that production in the pilot plant is proceeding at a rather laid-back pace. This is a state project,” Parra explains. “Everything is directed from La Paz. We are moving slowly, but there is no other way … The extraction process here in Salar de Uyuni is much more complicated than, say, in neighbouring Argentina or Chile. In those countries, the salt lakes are located on lower altitudes with a much drier climate. And the lithium there is ‘trapped’ under considerably less magnesium and potassium.” Yet in the next few weeks, the Bolivian Parliament is set to create a special state-owned firm for evaporative resources, or lithium production. It will be able to sign contracts with both domestic and foreign private companies.

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