Homicide stats -- and the interesting headlines they invite -- are a perennial source of debate among the experts that produce and refute them. Last year it was all about the world's murder capital (disputed between San Salvador and Caracas). This week there's been some noise over a study that claimed murders in Mexico are second only to war-torn Syria, and experts who question why Mexico was singled out over the rest of the region's homicide hotspots. (See yesterday's briefs.)
The bickering may seem meaningless, but high quality data is central to solving the issue of Latin America's homicide epidemic, as the Igarapé Institute has argued on many occasions. The recently launched Instinto de Vida (Instinct for Life) campaign, aims to reduce homicide in seven Latin American countries by 50 percent over 10 years. The campaign, which is accompanied by more than 20 civil society groups and international organizations is promoting annual homicide reductions of 7.5 percent in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Venezuela - a reduction that would prevent the loss of 364,000 lives.
The project has particular emphasis on improving the quality and quantity of data regarding homicide, without which the targeted interventions that have proved most successful are impossible.
In Mexico, the México Sin Homicidios campaign is the local expression of Instinto de Vida -- and organizers note that the data does not meet minimum standards of trustworthiness, reports Animal Político.
Violence in Mexico has become normalized, even as a wave of homicides threatens to push the country's murder rate up to the 2011 record of post-revolution violence, writes México Evalúa's Edna Jaime in Vanguardia. The piece introduces México Sin Homicidios as a response to a lack of official planning and leadership. "It seems we are adrift. And that we tolerate it, " she writes.
Minutos de Silencio: Part of the awareness campaign the group launched last week includes a "digital protest," in which supporters are invited to record a minute of silence in honor of victims of violence and share it on social media.
In Brazil the campaign is showing the extent of homicide's impact: Thirty-five percent of Brazilians have had an acquaintance, friend or family member murdered, according Datafolha study carried out for the Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública as part of the campaign. Half of the respondents were either victims of violence or knew somebody who was. The study also shows a high incidence of police violence: 12 percent of Brazillians have lost a relative or friend to security force fire, a number that rises to 17 percent in the population aged 16-24, reports O Globo in a piece on the study. Most people interviewed believe the country has the highest murder rate in the world, notes Folha de S. Paulo.
- A Mexican who fought for victims of disappearances was fatally shot by gunmen who broke into her home this week. Miriam Elizabeth Rodríguez Martínez took up the cause of families of kidnapped children after her own daughter vanished in 2012 and appeared in an unmarked grave two years later. She was killed on Mothers Day, reports the New York Times. Rodríguez requested protection from authorities this year after a prison break that she feared may have resulted in the escape of suspects in her daughter’s killing, reports the Los Angeles Times.
- Mexico could turn to China as a trade partner to make up for U.S. losses if Trump tears up NAFTA, said officials. The statements come ahead of an upcoming visit to China and a day after Trump told the Economist that he wanted to get the U.S.-Mexico trade deficit down to about zero, reports Reuters.
- Venezuela's government sacked the health minister, just days after she released data showing a 30 percent increase in infant mortality and a 66 percent rise in maternal mortality last year, while malaria cases rose by 76 percent, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See Wednesday's briefs.)
- Between 90 and 120 people have been jailed by military courts in Venezuela since early April, according to the New York Times. The government is increasingly turning to military tribunals for cases related to protesters -- rights groups say its the first time civilians have been tried this way outside of wartime.
- Venezuela's political opposition is attempting to rally regional support to pressure Maduro's administration into implementing a "democratic agenda," reports Reuters.
- A Brazilian political consultant said Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro paid her $11m in cash to cover the costs of the 2012 re-election campaign of his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez. Monica Moura alleged most of the money was illegally provided by Brazilian companies, reports the Associated Press. At the time Maduro was Chávez' foreign minister.
- Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has used a corruption trial to launch his presidential bid for next year, reports EFE. Brazilians were captivated yesterday by a five hour questioning session with Judge Sergio Moro, which was broadcast national and further raised tensions between those who would like to see Lula back in office agains those who want him in jail, reports the Wall Street Journal. Lula was questioned on Wednesday in relation to corruption allegations -- if found guilty he would be barred from holding political office. But he struck a defiant tone in the session, insisting on his innocence and arguing that the charges are politically motivated.
- Brazil declared its Zika public health emergency to be over, a year and a half after a surge in the mosquito-borne virus caused panic around the world. The Health Ministry said mosquito eradication efforts have helped to dramatically reduce cases of Zika, reports the Associated Press. Cases in the first four months of the year have fallen by 95 percent over last year's, and the incidence of microcephaly caused by the virus have also fallen.
- The ELN said the Colombian government is unwilling to take on right wing militias, reports EFE.
- It's not all homicide in El Salvador. A recent piece in El Faro looks at some of the startling results of archeological digs in the midst of public space renovation works.