Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Monday Memo: Marches in Venezuela—Guatemalan Protests—Chilean Education Law—Transgender Inmates in Rio—Colombian Murder Trial

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Thousands Amass in Venezuela for Anti-Government Protest: Nearly 3,000 Venezuelan demonstrators clothed in white marched in Caracas on Saturday in the largest protest since last year’s surge of anti-government demonstrations. In a video filmed from his jail cell prior to the protests, former opposition Mayor Leopoldo López encouraged supporters to protest peacefully to demand the release of political prisoners, an end to censorship and a date for the nearing legislative elections. López and former Mayor Daniel Ceballos were both imprisoned in 2014 for mobilizing protests in 2014 that resulted in 43 deaths, and both men went on hunger strikes last week to protest their imprisonment. Protestors in Caracas spoke out against inflation, violent crimes and shortages, and smaller protests occurred in other cities across the country.

Guatemalans Call for President Resignation: Nearly 20,000 protestors from across Guatemala gathered in the capital on Saturday to call for the resignation of President Otto Pérez Molina over charges of corruption. Protestors converged in the Plaza de la Constitución for the sixth consecutive weekend after scandals in the government have prompted several government officials, including former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, to resign.  While Pérez Molina has not been accused of any crimes, his administration has been troubled by allegations of pervasive corruption. Presidential elections are set for September, and the president has vowed not to step down before completing his term.

Chilean President Enacts Education Inclusion Law: Chilean President Michelle Bachelet enacted the Ley de Inclusión Escolar (School Inclusion Law), which will end selective admissions and profit making for publically funded schools. Aside from primary and secondary public schools, private schools receiving federal money will also be affected by the new law. Bachelet has actively made an effort to address inequality and economic disparity across the country. As part of the planned educational reform, she stated that by 2018, 90 percent of students will have a free education, and promised to invest additional money for state schools. Chilean Minister of Education Nicolás Eyzaguirre said that the new law is one of the most important projects in Chile’s recent history. The law will take effect on January 1, 2016.

Rio de Janeiro’s Transgender Inmates Allowed to Choose Prisons: Nearly 700 transgender prisoners may benefit from the state of Rio de Janeiro’s new prison department policy that will allow transgender inmates to choose whether they will serve time at men’s or women’s prisons. The policy was approved last Friday with the support of Colonel Erir Ribeiro and Theresa Cosentino, the state’s prison system chief and head of social assistance and human rights, respectively. Brazilian LGBT organizations, including Rio without Homophobia, have been advocating for this policy since 2001. Claudio Nascimento, director of Rio Without Homophobia, stated, “this is progress for LGBT rights in the prisons. Over the past 30 years, there have been innumerable recorded cases of discrimination.”

Colombian General on Trial for Murder: On Monday, Colombia’s Supreme Court of Justice began the trial of retired police general and former intelligence director Miguel Maza Márquez over his alleged role in the 1989 murder of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento. Prosecutors accuse Maza of conspiring with drug traffickers and deliberately compromising Galán’s security detail before the popular candidate—who had taken a hard stance against corruption and drug cartels—was shot dead while addressing a crowd of hundreds. Maza, who previously headed Colombia’s now-defunct intelligence agency, the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (Administrative Department of Security), has called the accusations “ludicrous,” saying that he himself was the target of multiple assassination attempts by drug traffickers.

Tags: Leopoldo Lopez, LGBT Rights, Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento, Michelle Bachelet, Otto Perez Molina
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