ECUADOR: On Tuesday, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights began hearings for a 2002 case involving an Ecuadorian student who was sexually abused by school officials and later died by suicide. The case, filed in 2006 by the Center for Reproductive Rights, alleges the Ecuadorian government failed to hold the student Paola Guzmán’s abuser —a 65-year-old school deputy— accountable and thus facilitated the young girl’s death. When Guzman discovered she became pregnant from the assault, she reached out to her school’s doctor for help obtaining an abortion. The doctor allegedly only agreed to perform the abortion on the condition that she have sex with him.
At least 32 percent of girls in Ecuador under the age of 14 have reported sexual assault while at school. The IACHR’s jurisdiction ranges from Mexico to Chile, meaning the outcome of this case could set a new precedent for reproductive rights and women’s rights in Latin America. Many activists also believe the case will have “international repercussions.”
HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
ARGENTINA: The Chamber of Deputies proposed a bill yesterday to restructure the country’s public debt, which has reached $100 billion amid a national recession. The bill would grant the executive branch the power to restructure public securities and set nominal amounts under the International Monetary Fund. Economy Minister Martín Guzmán called the bill a “sustainable solution,” but leftist parties have protested the legislation. President Alberto Fernández said the bill is set to pass the lower house and will move to vote in the Senate next week.
PERU: Peruvian judge Victor Zuñiga ordered opposition leader Keiko Fujimori to 15 months of pre-trial detention money laundering tied to the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. She is accused of accepting more than $1 million in bribes. Fujimori was released in November after one year in custody. Fujimori’s father, Alberto Fujimori, the former President of Peru, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for human rights abuses. Their party retained power through the previous administration, but lost a majority in the most recent elections.
PUERTO RICO: The island’s government committed to relocating hundreds of families that have been displaced by the month-long onslaught of earthquakes within the next 60 days. Governor Wanda Vázquez’s administration estimated that over 1,600 homes were destroyed or damaged in the quakes, with at least 325 of those being completely destroyed. An estimated 4,600 people remain in shelters across the island per government figures. On Tuesday 20% of public schools resumed classes. Amid ongoing tremors, a new report by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that earthquakes will continue to be felt on the island on a daily basis for the next two to six months, with a five to ten percent chance of a magnitude 7.0 or greater earthquake in the next year.
EL SALVADOR/GUATEMALA: Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei invited the Salvadoran government to build a port in Guatemalan waters. The port would grant El Salvador “unprecedented” access to the Atlantic Ocean, given that the country only has a Pacific coast. Giammattei and his counterpart Nayib Bukele also announced that they will work to establish a security plan for the region as well as achieve freer movement of people across their borders, including through a tourism agreement that makes flights between the two countries count as local.
MEXICO: A local community leader of the El Rosario monarch butterfly reserve was found dead. Homero Gómez González went missing on January 14 in the municipality of Ocampo, Michoacán. He worked to preserve and manage the pine forests where the monarch butterflies overwinter. The authorities did not share information about the cause of death. It is suspected that illegal loggers may be behind the attack and 53 local police officers have given statements as part of the investigation.
MEXICO: Three inmates, one of whom was an operator for the Sinaloa cartel, escaped a Mexico City jail on Wednesday. Authorities report that guards, along with six to 10 workers at the jail, helped facilitate the escape. The three escapees faced deportation to the United States. The most familiar name among them was Victor Manuel Félix Beltrán, who had been designated by the U.S. Treasury in 2015 as a high-ranking trafficker with the Sinaloa cartel. Mexico City’s prosecutor’s office identified the two other inmates as Luis Fernando Meza González and Yael Osuna Navarro.
U.S.-MEXICO: President Donald Trump signed a rewrite to the North American Free Trade Agreement on Wednesday, assuring wealth and growth in America. NAFTA was one of Trump’s top campaign promises. After months of negotiations, trade experts predict that the impact will be modest. The new agreement, along with a “phase one” pact with China, plans to lessen trade tensions. The House voted 385-41 in favor of the bill and the margin in the Senate was 89-10. Some environmental groups have criticized the agreement for overlooking the urgency of global warming.