This Week in Conflict in the Americas… June 23rd-29th, 2011.

Special thanks to Michael Southcott for his submissions.

  • President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela spent nearly two weeks  recovering from surgery in Cuba after swelling in his pelvis and has been out of public sight since, causing much speculation  that he may be seriously ill since he was originally scheduled to return to Venezuela after a few days. On Friday, the incredibly public and loquacious leader posted for the first time on Twitter , but made no note about his health. State television reported on Saturday that the standoff  at the Rodeo prison complex was continuing into its second week, with at least 29 dead and many refusing to leave the prison until the National Guard were removed. On Monday, the opposition demanded information  from the government on Chavez’s health and bond prices rallied on speculation that he could be seriously ill. On Thursday, it was reported  that a regional summit that Chavez was to host scheduled for July 5th had been suspended, fueling more rumour and suspiscion that the President may be more ill than the government is admitting.
  • At least eight suspected drug traffickers were reportedly killed  during a raid in a slum area in Rio, Brazil between Wednesday and Thursday. Exchanges of gunfire are said to have lasted several hours, with police later discovering rifles, pistols and grenades.
  • The government of Mexico condemned the fatal shooting  of a Mexican man on Tuesday who was allegedly throwing stones at US agents across the Tijuana-San Diego fence. The Mexican foreign ministry called the shooting “disproportionate”.  An independent study  by the think tank Mexico Evalua said that a six-fold increase in security spending in the past five years has done little to stop the rising carjackings, kidnappings and other violent crimes within the country, suggesting that an alternate approach might be necessary.
  • On Friday, New York became the sixth and most populous US state to allow gay  marriage. State senators voted 33-29 to approve marriage equality legislation.  A new NPR report detailed that the US military spends an outrageous $20.2 billion  annually on air conditioning alone in Iraq and Afghanistan at great risk to the troops tasked with delivering it (more than 1,000 have died in fuel convoys), an amount that exceeds NASA’s budget, and the amount the G8 has pledged to help in Egypt and Tunisia. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan have so far cost  the US $3.7 trillion, and are expected to top $4.4 trillion; more than 224,000 people have died, 365,000 have been wounded and some 7.8 million have been displaced, according to a recent study by Brown University. Human Rights Watch called on the US  to suspend military assistance to countries that use child soldiers, including Burma/Myanmar, Chad, the DRC, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. On Tuesday, a US Senate panel approved a resolution  formally authorizing the continued participation of Americans in the NATO-led military intervention in Libya, though they banned the introduction of ground troops.
  • At least three people died in clashes between students and police over plans for  a new university in central Peru on Wednesday. On Saturday, at least five  people were killed and more than 30 injured in clashes between police and anti-mining demonstrators striking over a silver-mining contract given to a Canadian corporation. The demonstrators tried to take over a commercial airport, and occupied the runway  at the Juliaca airport in the Puno region. The government later revoked the contract. The President-elect announced that he wants to pass  a bill that would require the country to adhere to the UN treaty on indigenous peoples, while the mining ministry issued a rule over the weekend requiring companies to consult with the indigenous peoples before building new mines or oil projects.
  • President Jose Mujica, of Uruguay, has allowed  the courts to investigate human rights abuses that have been committed under previous military rule during their reign between 1973 and 1985. An estimated 200 people were kidnapped and murdered by military forces during that time period.
  • A court in Ecuador found six police  officers guilty of crimes against the security of the state, following the September protest that resulted in the President being forcibly detained. Sentencing will take place at a later date.
  • On Wednesday, a senior police officer in Columbia was killed  and three others injured by an explosive device in the north-west. FARC members are accused of burning two buses and a lorry and then detonating the explosives once police arrived.
  • A court in Guatemala has thrown out  the former first lady, Sadra Torres’ bid for the presidency, after she divorced her husband in an attempt to skirt a law that prevents family members of the President from taking power. The first round of elections is scheduled for September 11th.

 

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