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Welcome to March and to Another News Brief!

A lawsuit against Donald Trump, postponed elections in Venezuela, and a devastating bus crash in Peru. Read on to learn more.

President Michel Temer signed an emergency decree on February 16 ordering the military to take over public security in Rio de Janeiro. This measure marks the first federal intervention in a state since the end of the military dictatorship in 1988, and is set to last until the end of the year. The decree was signed days after the end of Carnaval, which saw mass robberies, store lootings, and shootouts between drug gangs and police. Rio de Janeiro has struggled to pay the salaries of its police since the 2016 Olympic Games, and violence worsened in 2017 with 6,731 violent deaths in the state, or 40 per 100,000 residents. Public security will be a significant factor is the upcoming presidential elections, and many saw this decree as a political method for Temer to increase his approval ratings. However, the President announced Friday that he will not run in the October elections.

El Salvador
After spending nearly 11 years in prison for “aggravated homicide,” Teodora del Carmen Vásquez was freed after the Supreme Court ruled her case had insufficient evidence that she acted to end her pregnancy. Abortion is illegal in El Salvador under all circumstances, and when women suffer from stillbirths or miscarriages, they are often suspected of having abortions, which is penalized by up to 50 years in prison. Teodora had been sentenced to 30 years in prison, and was released early for what the Supreme Court called “powerful reasons of justice” and “equity.” While Teodora’s release signifies a sign of hope for other women imprisoned for abortion, there remains at least 27 women in jails throughout El Salvador.

Following claims to sexual misconduct by charity staff following the 2010 earthquake, Haiti has suspended Oxfam GB operations in Haiti. Oxfam’s chief executive offered his “humblest apologies” to the Haitian government as the company released its findings from an investigation into the behavior of relief workers in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. The investigation came after 26 claims of recent and historical sexual misconduct by staff around the world. In 2011, 7 Oxfam staff members resigned following previous investigations into staff hiring prostitutes while working overseas. The scandal emerges just after UN peacekeepers left Haiti late last year. The UN peacekeeper presence in Haiti was marred by a cholera outbreak and at least 134 peacekeepers involved in sexual abuse scandals.

Just after the state of Oaxaca was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, a military helicopter surveying the damage emergency landed in the village of Santiago Jamiltepec, killing 14 people on the ground. The helicopter was carrying Mexico’s Interior Minister and the Governor of Oaxaca, but neither of them were injured. The earthquake left many towns throughout Oaxaca without power, and the helicopter had circled the village, stirring up dirt, just before it crashed on top of vans carrying earthquake survivors. Outside of this accident, no one was killed by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake.

Following a heated phone call last weekend, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto called off his planned US visit, which was set to take place in the next couple of weeks. The two leaders argued over the funding of Trump’s proposed border wall between the two countries. After Trump refused to publicly recognize Mexico’s refusal to pay for the wall, “the two leaders agreed now was not the immediate right time for a visit but that they would have their teams continue to talk and work together.” This US visit would have been Peña Nieto’s first US visit since Trump’s inauguration.

Last week, a passenger bus drove off a cliff of Peru’s Pan-American Highway, killing 44 people and injuring 20 others. This crash is the second this year, with the first one occurring in January and killing 51 people. Following the January crash, the government banned busses on the infamous stretch of road known as “Devil’s Curve.” Last week’s accident occurred in a different location along the highway, which is narrow with single lanes on both sides along most of the route. Authorities investigating the crash claimed it was the driver’s fault, but many argue this claim as most of the road is curvy without guardrails and there has been little government response despite the numerous accidents that occur.

Despite recently being pardoned from a 25-year jail sentence, the Supreme Court ruled last week that former president Alberto Fujimori can be tried for his role in a 1992 massacre. The 1992 massacre included the kidnapping, torturing, and killing of 6 farmers by a paramilitary group, under orders from higher command. Fujimori’s December pardon was given on health grounds, but the court declared health does not apply to this case.

United States
Haitian and Salvadoran immigrants living in the US under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump, arguing that his decision to end their TPS was based on racism and discrimination. The lawsuit aims to block the administration from ending the TPS program that allows thousands of people from countries with environmental and humanitarian crisis to live in the US. The suit is supported by racist comments Trump has made when referring to African and Latino immigrants. In January, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund sued to reverse the end of humanitarian protections for Haitian immigrants, arguing the decision is “irrational and discriminatory” and influenced by Trump’s “public hostility towards immigrants of color.” As of now, Salvadoran immigrants have until Sept 9, 2019 to leave the country or be deported, and Haitian immigrants have until July 22, 2019.

Venezuela’s government announced on Thursday that it will postpone the upcoming presidential elections until May 20. The original election date was scheduled for April 22. The government also announced on Thursday it will allow international observers to participate. However, these efforts have done little to ease critics who are calling for an electoral boycott. The main coalition of opposition groups remains that it will boycott the election, and many election observers and international bodies have rejected the election. President Nicolás Maduro is running for another 6-year term, and will only be challenged by a few minor opposition parties. Experts maintain that four to six months notice are required for elections to be observed legitimately.

A precarious road in Peru. Image: Flickr.
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