Jamaican Leaders in Support of Colonial Anti-Sodomy Law

05 March 2009

Jamaican Leaders in Support of Colonial Anti-Sodomy Law

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding has announced his support for the anti-sodomy law that has been on the books since British colonial rule, over 145 years. Golding’s decision flies in the face of international pressures from human rights organizations calling for the repeal of the sodomy act. He stated to Parliament: “We are not going to yield to the pressure, whether that pressure comes from individual organizations, individuals, whether that pressure comes from foreign governments or groups of countries, to liberalize the law as it relates to buggery.” Fellow member of Parliament Ernest Smith took the anti-gay sentiment one step further, suggesting life sentences for homosexuality and the prosecution of LGBT rights groups in Jamaica under the country’s law “against conspiring to corrupt public morals.”

The law banning gay sex dates back to British colonial rule, a colonizing country that has since abolished the law and urged former colonies to do the same. Under the current law, gay sex is punishable by up to seven years in prison. The law itself is buttressed by government inaction and refusal to prosecute for hate crimes and violence directed at the gay community in Jamaica. More than thirty gay men have been murdered since 1997, with only a select few cases being brought to trial. Human Rights Watch has cited Jamaica as having the worst record of any country in the Western hemisphere in its treatment of gays and lesbians. HRW has noted that victims of violence are reluctant to appeal to police for protection because the police themselves have been known to harass and attack men perceived to be homosexual. The police are also known to actively support violence and fail to investigate complaints of abuse.

Golding has also been criticized for his refusal to allow gays in his Cabinet.

For more information, please see:

Miami Herald – Jamaica Leader Vows to Keep Anti-Sodomy Law – 4 March 2009

MSN News – Jamaica PM Vows to Maintain Anti-Sodomy Law Regardless of Criticism from International Groups – 4 March 2009

365 Gay – Jamaica PM Stands Firm on Sodomy Law – 4 March 2009

Human Rights Watch – Hated to Death – 15 November 2004

Prison Deaths Result from Inadequate Treatment of Mentally Ill Inmates

04 March 2009

Prison Deaths Result from Inadequate Treatment of Mentally Ill Inmates

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

OTTAWA, Canada – The Correctional Service of Canada broke its own regulations by holding a troubled inmate in solitary confinement for most of the year she spent in federal prisons before she killed herself.

In a critical report, Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers detailed how repeated bureaucratic failures contributed to the death of a teen who choked herself in her cell in 2007. Guards confused about response policy waited about 25 minutes to call for medical help after they noticed she was choking. They did not immediately check the teen’s vital signs or offer first aid after finally cutting the material from her neck.

The story is one that continues a disturbing and a well-documented pattern of deaths in custody which are the result of under-resources and disjointed correctional and mental-health-care system. The torment of mentally ill inmates who only get sicker behind bars is a growing problem that a buckling corrections system can’t handle.

The correctional service is assessing patients earlier, directing more resources to treatment and training staff better, but many of those changes are new, and it is unclear how well they’re working.  Prisons need to work federal and provincial health and justice and corrections officials to come up with a national strategy.

The health system’s failure to cope with the mentally ill has led to many ending up in jail.
Activists have argued that it is harder for mentally ill individuals who are sent to jails to get into the treatment facilities they really need, and that what is really needed are programs to ensure mentally ill people who break the law are diverted to treatment, rather than prisons.  Correctional facilities are not the facilities to deliver mental-health care. The government needs to ensure the mentally ill don’t get into those facilities in the first place.

For more information, please see:

National Post – System-wide failures led to Ontario teen’s prison suicide: report – 3 March 2009

The Canadian Press – Teen’s prison death ‘entirely preventable’: watchdog – 3 March 2009

The Globe and Mail – Instructed to curtail crushing red tape, guards watched girl die in her cell – 3 March 2009

The Globe and Mail – Systemic failures led to teen’s prison death: report – 3 March 2009

Freed Detainee Tells About Torture by U.S.

By Gabrielle Meury
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
LONDON, U.K.- Binyam Mohamed, a former British resident, arrived in London on Monday after his release from Guantanamo Bay. Mohamed is the first Guantanamo detainee to be released during the Obama administration. Mohamed is a native of Ethiopia who immigrated to Britain in 1994, was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002 and turned over to U.S. authorities a few months later. American officials accused him of traveling to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban, which he has repeatedly denied. He was initially charged with plotting to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in the United States and later with conspiring with members of al-Qaeda to murder and commit terrorism. All of the charges were eventually dropped.  The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been petitioning the U.S. government for Mohamed’s return since August 2007.
Mohamed stated, “It is still difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways — all orchestrated by the United States government.” Mohamed also stated that U.S. officials flew him to Morocco and that he was tortured there for 18 months. He said he was beaten and had his penis cut with a razor. He said he was then transferred to a CIA-run site in Afghanistan and was beaten there regularly before being moved to Guantanamo in September 2004.
U.S. officials have never acknowledged taking Mohamed to Morocco; Moroccan officials deny having held him. U.S. officials have also repeatedly denied torturing terrorism suspects.
Also in contention is the Pentagon’s recent review of conditions at Guantanamo. The Pentagon found that “all detainees are well protected from violence.” Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, the vice chief of naval operations, led a 13-day investigation at the military prison, interviewing staff and detainees and conducting announced and unannounced inspections round the clock. Human rights and civil liberties groups challenged Walsh’s findings. They have said that solitary confinement has led to the deterioration of the physical and psychological health of detainees, some of whom are force-fed because they are on hunger strikes.
A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, the only organization with unfettered access to the prisoners, said the group supports the recommendations for increased socialization for all detainees but disagreed with Walsh’s conclusion that force-feeding is in compliance with the Geneva Conventions.
For more information, please see:
Washington Post- Freed detainee in U.K. tells of abuse by U.S.- 24 February 2009
Associated Press- Former Guatanamo detainee enjoying freedom in UK- 24 February 2009
BBC News-  Release Binyam torture data– 24 February 2009

Vestiges of Slavery Alive in the Caribbean

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

POINTE-A-PITRE, Guadeloupe – The Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe have seen turmoil in the past month due to protests over extremely low wages and high living costs. The weeks long protests are in response to the pervasive level of inequality in the economy of the islands with just one percent of the population, known as the bekes (the primarily white, elite slaveholder descendants), owning most of the industries and sources of economic clout in the islands. Many demonstrators, mostly afro-Caribbeans, believe that their current dire circumstances are a manifestation of the legacy of racism and slavery on the French colony islands.

France dispatched 450 riot police to tame the protests that have been characterized by gunfire, looting, arson, and the death of longtime activist and union member Jacques Bino, who was shot and killed in a housing project in Point-a-Pitre. Three police officers were also reported injured, one of whom was shot in the eye. Protest leader Domota said the violence was prompted by the police, who have been accused of harassing protestors with racist insults.

The social and economic disparities between the two groups runs deep according to recent statistics, with an unemployment rate of 23 percent and a poverty rate of 12 percent, compared to 8 percent and 6 percent, respectively, on the overseas mainland of France.

Serge Romana, president of an association commemorating the abolition of slavery in the French territories, has said that French President Nicholas Sarkozy “must absolutely abolish all traces of neocolonialism and vestiges of slavery in the overseas regions.” This call for respect and equality has barriers in systemic processes, however, as beke Jean-Luc de Laguarigue has said: “Tensions have festered over generations because France and its islands have not explored the painful past…The protests are not a call for war, but for dignity.” He noted there was no known slavery museum in France and the subject is pretty much taboo in the educational system.

On Sarkozy’s part, he promised a $250 monthly raise for low-income workers and a lowering of prices on 100 products by 20 percent. Protest leaders and government officials are currently negotiating for lower housing, gasoline, water and electricity costs.

For more information, please see:

Houston Chronicle – Unrest in France’s Carribbean Islands Claims 1 – 18 February 2009

Associated Press – Unrest in Carribbean Has Roots in Slavery Past – 22 February 2009

Star Tribune –  On Martinique and Guadeloupe, Anger Over Soaring Living Costs Has Roots in Past Slavery – 22 February 2009

United States’ Lax Gun Laws Play Major Role in Mexico Violence

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Guns and ammunition going to Mexico from the United States has been fueling a war between drug cartels and law enforcement — a war that left thousands dead last year.

More than 5,000 people were murdered in Mexico last year alone, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and 95 percent of the weapons recovered from those killings were traced back to the U.S. This is because it’s easier to buy guns in the U.S. and smuggle them across the border than it is to get them in Mexico.

Guns are coming to Mexico from all over the U.S. The weapons and ammunition are being bought mostly from licensed dealers. Any adult with a valid ID and no criminal record can buy as many as he or she wants.

Another part of the problem is that the United States does not enforce a ban on importing assault weapons. The ban was implemented under the administrations of President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton, and the U.S. government can enforce it under provisions of the 1968 Gun Control Act.  Many such guns are later smuggled south to arm Mexico’s ruthless drug cartels. The guns come to the United States from Europe and other places, and they make their way down to Mexico.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, has quietly abandoned the ban in recent years. The ATF declined to comment.  Mexico has long demanded that the U.S. do more to stop the flow of weapons south.

For more information, please see:

NPR – Guns From U.S. Play Key Role In Mexican Violence – 20 February 2009

Forth Worth Star Telegram – U.S. lawmakers want ban on importing assault weapons enforced – 19 February 2009

Associated Press – Lawmakers: US must enforce assault-gun import ban – 18 February 2009

Mass Strikes Over Living Conditions in El Salvador’s Prisons

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – Fourteen of El Salvador’s nineteen prisons are now embroiled in mass protests over prisoner living conditions. Inmates have refused to return to their cells, take part in workshops and other activities, allow prisoners to enter or leave the facilities, or allow visitors or medical personnel in. Prisoners are demanding better living conditions before they cooperate with authorities, who are currently on standby in case intervention is needed to restore order.

The protests began on Saturday with eleven prisons and had spread to fourteen by Monday. El Salvador’s prison system is notorious for being massively overcrowded and affording very minimal rights and protections for the prisoner population, which is currently numbered at 20,000 in a prison system that was built to house only 8,000 people. The government has been called upon consistently in the past to address the mass imprisonment of El Salvadorans.

Prisons director Gilbert Caceres blamed the uprisings on inmates who were being manipulated by gangs involved in organized crime.

For more information, please see:

The Earth Times Mass Protests in El Salvador Prisons – 16 February 2009

Radio Netherlands Worldwide – Unrest in El Salvador’s Overcrowded Prisons – 16 February 2009

Mexican Border Towns Protest Federal Troops Violence

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MONTERREY, Mexico – Hundreds of people in Mexico have blocked key crossings into the US in protests against army deployment and operations to fight drug traffickers.  Traffic was brought to a halt on a number of bridges in several border towns in northern Mexico.  The protesters accused the army of abuse against civilians. The protesters blocked bridges in Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa. Government officials claimed drug gangs, which paid people to do so, had organized the blockades and the protests.

Police chased protesters away with water cannons.  The protesters chanted “Soldiers out!” and “Stop abuse by the Federal Preventative Police!” The demonstrators also shut roads in the industrial city of Monterrey.

Mexico’s President Calderon has sent 45,000 troops and federal police across Mexico to fight drug gangs since late 2006. According to Mexican officials, more than 5,400 people were killed in drug-related violence last year.  In some parts of the country, the army has taken over the role of the police, which have often proved easily corrupted when bribed or threatened by the gangs.

Many of the protesters said border towns had become more dangerous since President Felipe Calderon sent the army in. On Tuesday, for example, ten people died and fifteen were wounded in a gun battle between federal troops and a drug hitmen in Reynosa. Human rights activists say there are legitimate complaints about reported abuses by the troops, including alleged cases in which army patrols have fired on civilians at checkpoints. Calderon, however, has Washington’s support for using the army. Bloodshed across the Mexican border has prompted some experts in recent months to issue dire warnings about Mexico’s future stability and the potential security risks to the United States.

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Mexicans block US border in anti-army protest – 18 February 2009

BBC News – Marchers block Mexico-US border – 18 February 2009

Reuters – Mexicans protest army campaign against drug cartels – 18 February 2009

Pelosi says U.S. Won’t Press Allies on Guatanamo Inmates

By Gabrielle Meury
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

ROME, Italy-
U.S. President Barack Obama is not expected to ask Washington’s allies to host inmates from Guantanamo prison unless they have citizens detained there, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday.Obama has ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, closed within a year, but the fate of the prisoners there remains a big question, particularly those who cannot return to their own countries.

Obama had been expected to ask EU states to take in some of the roughly 245 remaining detainees.
“I don’t think we’ll see a situation where the president will be asking countries to accept people unless it happens to be the country of origin,” Pelosi told reporters during a trip to Italy. “And then it’s up to the country’s discretion as to whether they would accept them or not.”

President George W. Bush’s administration failed to persuade its allies, in particular those in the 27-nation EU, to take in inmates who were unable to return to their home country and who the United States did not want to accept either. They included Chinese Muslim Uighurs who Washington said cannot return to China because they would face persecution, together with Libyans, Uzbeks and Algerians also seen at risk.

Pelosi recalled that Obama ordered a review process to look at the nature of the detention of Guantanamo inmates, some of whom have been held for years without trial. “President Obama has said that he will have a review of every situation, every person, at Guantanamo to establish the facts of why they are there,” she said.”When that is determined, there will be some resolution of what to do with these people, some going back to their country of origin.”

The Pentagon says some 520 detainees have been released from Guantanamo since 2002. About 60 others have been declared eligible for transfer or release but remain at the prison pending discussions with other governments. “One thing is for sure: Guantanamo will be closed and the president intends to do it correctly,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi said that the US administration is committed to a “new era of cooperation” with its allies
She added: “We have to make a judgement. … And I mean we, Italy, the European Union, the United States, NATO — all of us — as to what is in our national security interests, and we have to make a commitment that is commensurate with that but which is not … impossible to achieve.”

For more information, please see:
AFP- Pelosi pledges ‘new era of cooperation’ between US, allies-16 February 2009

International Herald Tribune- Pelosi says U.S. won’t press allies on Guantanamo inmates– 16 February 2009

AP- Officials say Italy will not take Gitmo inmates– 16 February 2009

Guatemala’s Child Malnutrition Rate Approaches Fifty Percent

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – A study released on Thursday in Guatemala City indicates that 45.6 percent of Guatemalan children suffer from chronic malnutrition. The lack of adequate nutrition has led to a significantly lower physical growth rate than the average established by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The national census determined that children between the ages of eight and nine were most affected by malnutrition with girls being disproportionately affected; for instance, Guatemalan girls are, on average, eight to twelve centimeters shorter than the average set by the WHO.

The effects of malnutrition are intensified within the Indigenous provinces of Solola and Totonicapan where the study found that 49.7 percent of children suffer from malnutrition and one in every sixteen will die before reaching the age of five. An earlier study by the Catholic Relief Services attributed the high malnutrition rate to the thirty year civil war and decades of political policies that have excluded Mayan Indigenous people from accessing basic services such as health care and education. Juan Aguilar, head of the presidency’s Food Security Secretariat, added that the high malnutrition rate among children was a result of inadequate food, high levels of poverty, and a dearth of basic services.

For more information, please see:

Relief Web – Breaking Malnutrition’s Cycle in Guatemala – 25 January 2009

Baltimore Sun – Viewpoint: School Lunches Can Nourish Hope – 26 January 2009

Latin American Herald Tribune – Nearly Half of Guatemala’s Children Suffer from Malnutrition – 15 February 2009

Free Trade Agreement Between Canada and Colombia Risks Making Human Rights Situation Worse

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

OTTAWA, Canada – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe signed a free trade agreement on November 21, 2008. Earlier this year in a study of the proposed Canada/Colombia trade deal, the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade called on the government to ensure that an independent human rights impact assessment be carried out and that the results of that assessment be dealt with before the free trade deal is signed, ratified or implemented.

Amnesty International and  the Canadian Council for International Co-operation are  concerned that Prime Minister Harper has ignored this recommendation and decided to proceed without due diligence with regard to human rights.

Past human rights violations in Colombia have included the use of excessive force by state security forces against a mobilization of Indigenous people expressing opposition to free trade agreements and other policies they believe impact negatively on their rights.

Also, threats and attacks against land rights activists, particularly in areas of economic interest have taken place throughout 2008. There has also been an increase of threats and attacks on trade unionists – more than 40 people have been killed this year.

President Uribe and other senior officials have continuously demonized trade unions, indigenous organizations and other groups that are speaking out about violations of human rights, suggesting links with guerrillas. Such statements have led to threats and violence, including killings.  Following the release of critical reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in October, President Uribe publicly accused AI of “fanaticism” and “dogmatism” and the Americas Director of Human Rights Watch of being a “supporter” and an “accomplice” of FARC guerrillas. President Uribe has also demonized members of the Supreme Court investigating links between politicians from the ruling coalition and paramilitaries.

Going ahead with the Canada/Colombia free trade deal without meaningful action to address these concerns risks making the human rights situation much worse.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International Canada – Public Statement Signing Free Trade Pact with Colombia Presents Grave Human Rights Concerns – 24 November 2008

Reuters – Canada and Colombia Sign Free-Trade Agreement – 22 November 2008

Ottawa Citizen – Canada and Colobia Sign Free-Trade Pact – 22 November 2008

President Ortega Accused by International Community of Undemocratic Practices in Nicaraguan Elections

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – President Daniel Ortega has been accused of ‘undermining democracy’ in the recent mayoral elections held in Nicaragua amid allegations of fraud after refusing to allow international and local observers at the election polls.

Ortega’s party, the Sandinistas, were awarded 105 of the 146 mayoral seats in the November 9 elections, earning 19 more seats in the national government with the Liberal Constitution Party taking 37 seats and other parties winning the remaining 4. Opposition leaders claim to have lost as many as 50 seats because of corruption, and have demanded a recount of the votes as retribution: “We demand the total revision of all the electoral ballots and the voting acts in the country, with the presence of credible national and international observers,” said Liberal party boss and convict Arnoldo Aleman.

Representatives in the United States have also voiced concerns about the electoral fraud allegations. Republican U.S. congressmen Frank Wolf and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have sent letters to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an organization providing poor countries with funding, calling for the suspension of $175 million in aid “until it is adequately demonstrated that the Nicaraguan government is committed to demonstrating progress in ruling justly, investing in people and economic freedom.” European countries are also considering suspending aid to Nicaragua.

Ortega has stated that the proposed new elections and a voter recount is “illegal,” according to the Associated Press.

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – Sandinista Fervor Turns Sour for Former Comrades of Nicaragua’s President – 23 November 2008

The Wall Street Journal – Election Fraud in Nicaragua – 24 November 2008

Finding Dulcinea – Nicaraguan Elections Marred by Corruption Dispute and Violence – 25 November 2008

U.S. Court of Appeals to Hear Arguments for Release of Uighurs

By Gabrielle Meury
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, U.S. – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was scheduled to hear arguments Monday from the Bush administration and lawyers for the detainees. The case comes as President-elect Barack Obama is pledging to quickly shut down the facility.

Last month U.S. District Judge Richard Urbina ordered the immediate release of 17 Uighurs, Turkic Muslims, into the United States because they were no longer considered enemy combatants. He criticized the Bush administration for a detention that “crossed the constitutional threshold into infinitum.” The Bush administration sued to block Urbina’s order, citing security concerns over weapons training the Uighurs received at camps in Afghanistan.  The administration claims that they cannot find another country to accept them. Solicitor General Gregory Garre wrote in court filings this past week, “This appeal raises questions of diplomatic relations and national security that are for the political branches, not the judiciary, to resolve.”

The same three-judge panel that agreed to temporarily halt the Uighurs’ release in late October will hear oral arguments on Monday. The one Democrat on the panel, Judge Judith W. Rogers, wrote a dissent arguing for the Uighurs’ immediate release. She believes that the government could point to no evidence of dangerousness. The U.N. is aligned with Judge Rogers, stating “It is our view that the United States is under international law obliged immediately to release the Uighur detainees of Guantanamo.”

The Bush administration maintains that detainees should stay at Guantanamo, as 20 percent of the 250 remaining prisoners fear torture or persecution if they return to their home countries.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press- Court to hear case of Uighurs held at Guantanamo– 24 November 2008

CBC- U.S. Appeal court to hear case of Chinese Muslims held at Guantanamo– 24 November 2008

Boston Globe- Court mulls early release of Uighurs from Gitmo– 24 November 2008

Federal Judge Releases Five Guantanamo Prisoners

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, U.S. – A federal judge on Thursday ordered the release of five Algerian detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.  The cases largely hinged on the definition of an enemy combatant, which was argued to include al-Qaida or Taliban supporters who directly assisted in hostile acts against the U.S. or its allies.

The government’s evidence linking the five detainees to al-Qaida was found to be not credible as it came from a single, unidentified source. Therefore, the five detainees could not be held indefinitely as enemy combatants, and should be released immediately.

There was a sixth detainee that was not released because there was sufficient reason to believe he was close to an al-Qaida operative and had sought to help others travel to Afghanistan to join the terrorists’ fight against the United States and its allies.  Much of the evidence against the detainees is classified and was not discussed in open trial or the detainees themselves.

The Justice Department claimed the six men were caught and detained before they could join a global jihad.

One of the men to be released is Lakhdar Boumediene, whose landmark Supreme Court case last summer gave Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment. The government initially detained the five men on suspicion of plotting to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo in October 2001. They were transferred to Guantanamo in January 2002.

The Bosnian government already has agreed to take back the detainees, all of whom immigrated to Bosnia from Algeria before they were captured in 2001.

The cases of more than 200 additional Guantanamo detainees are still pending.

For more information, please see:

Washington Post – Another Falsehood Exposed -21 November 2008

Yahoo News – Judge orders release of 5 terror suspects at Gitmo – 21 November 2008

NY Times – Judge Declares Five Detainees Held Illegally – 20 November 2008

Protests Against Ortega Elections Continue in Nicaragua

By Karla E General

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – The protests sparked by the 146 mayoral elections on November 9 continue to rage across Nicaragua. The opposition is taking to the streets and demanding a full recount to be overseen by impartial international and local observers. Supporters of the Sandinista government have responded by patrolling the capital of Managua with clubs and rocks to deter the opposition from mobilizing.

“This election has everything to do with whether Nicaragua remains a democratic nation or not,” said Francisco Aguirre, a former Nicaraguan ambassador to the United States and an opposition leader. “Until now, since 1990, Nicaragua has held open elections. Now something is rotten in the state of Nicaragua. They say we don’t want the gringos to sort it out for us. Okay. The Europeans then. Or Latin American observers. But they didn’t want anyone looking into this mess, because it stinks.”

The Sandinistas say the opposition is making a stink because its candidates were spanked at the polls. Bayardo Arce, a former top Sandinista commander said the elections were clean and the opposition “is just making a lot of noise…If the Sandinistas become successful entrepreneurs, it is because we are thieves. If we win an election, it is because of fraud. But we reject that.”

Preliminary results show the Sandinistas winning 106 of 146 municipalities.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – Violence After Nicaragua Poll – 20 November 2008

Los Angeles Times – Voter Fraud Allegations Directed at Nicaragua’s Sandinistas – 20 November 2008

Washington Post – Democracy in Nicaragua in Peril, Ortega Critics Say – 20 November 2008

Mexico’s Interpol Liaison Arrested for Leaking Information

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – A senior Mexican police official who worked as Mexico’s Interpol liaison was arrested Tuesday in relation to an investigation involving information leaks from top law enforcement authorities to the nation’s drug cartels. Ricardo Gutiérrez Vargas was director for International Police Affairs and Interpol at the Federal Investigative Agency.  Vargas was one of the highest-ranking law enforcement officials in Mexico. However, Vargas was placed under house arrest pending the outcome of the investigation.

The authorities say that Vargas allegedly leaked information to the Beltran Leyva brothers, leaders of a powerful drug cartel, in exchange for large sums of money.

Interpol combats terrorism, money laundering and drug trafficking. Vargas could have had access to reams of sensitive intelligence gathered by Mexican and international law enforcement.  Interpol is dispatching a team of General Secretariats to Mexico. The purpose of their mission is to meet with relevant Mexican authorities in order to establish allegations of improper use of Interpol’s systems by any Mexican law enforcement official.

In the last year, about 4,000 people have died in the drug wars. Mexican President Felipe Calderón has made confronting the cartels a centerpiece of his administration.

The cartel’s penetration Interpol is an indication of the level of corruption within the Mexican law enforcement. The United States recently committed $400 million to aid in that battle, but many U.S. law enforcement officials remain wary of their Mexican counterparts, fearing that shared information flows quickly to cartel leaders.

For more information, please see:

Interpol – Interpol headquarters to deploy team to ensure compliance with INTERPOL rules and regulations by Mexican law enforcement officials – 19 November 2008

Latin American Herald Tribune – Interpol Mexico Chief Arrested in “Operation Clean-Up” – 19 November 2008

Washington Post – Mexico’s Police Liaison for Interpol Is Arrested in Drug Probe – 19 November 2008