Military abuses alleged: Abuses by Mexican soldiers have surged since the government deployed the military to cities to fight drug cartels more than two years ago, Human Rights Watch charged this week. The U.S.-based rights group said soldiers were not being prosecuted, even when they were accused of rape, torture, and murder. “The dysfunctional Mexican military justice system routinely takes over the investigation of even the most egregious abuses,” the group said. Juárez officials said military patrols had been picking up drug addicts and suspected gang members and beating them to extract information about drug dealers. “The guarantee of public security has been totally broken,” said Gustavo de la Rosa, an official with the Chihuahua state human-rights commission. Mexico’s government disputed the charges, insisting it takes abuse allegations seriously.
Swine flu shutdown: Guatemala ordered all schools closed to prevent the spread of swine flu, after more than 100 people were diagnosed with the H1N1 virus in the past week. In two of the hardest-hit towns, all public gathering places were closed, including churches and movie theaters. While most of the new cases are mild, the government said it did not want to take any chances. The World Health Organization last week officially declared the flu strain to be a worldwide pandemic. “Further spread is considered inevitable,” said WHO Director General Margaret Chan.
No aid from U.S.: Nicaragua will turn to Venezuela for help now that the U.S. is withholding aid money, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said this week. The U.S., which late last year held up $62 million in foreign aid to protest fraudulent local elections in Nicaragua, said this week it was cutting the aid altogether. Ortega said he was disappointed in President Obama. “He expresses goodwill, but in practice, he has the same policies as President Reagan,” Ortega said. In the 1980s, Reagan funded the Contras, militants who fought against Ortega’s Sandinistas. Ortega said Venezuela had offered $50 million in aid to replace the American money.
San Ramón, Peru
Indians win: After months of protests by indigenous tribes, the Peruvian government has backed down on oil and gas exploration in the Amazon. The government agreed to ask the federal legislature to revoke the decrees, passed earlier this year, that call for drilling in the rain forest as a way to attract foreign investment. The government “will defend the Amazon from indiscriminate logging and will defend it against environmental contamination,” Cabinet chief Yehude Simon told the Indians. Peruvian Indian groups have been protesting the decrees for two months, blockading roads into the jungle. Clashes between protesters and police over the past few weeks have left at least 34 people dead.