Today in Latin America
Top Story — With no official figure released for the death toll in Mexico’s drug war for the last six months, the country’s news media are beginning to speculate that the number may have already surpassed 40,000.
The government released its last figure of 34,600 drug war-related killings in January.
Since then, Mexico has experienced a slew of violence related to the drug war, including the discovery of over 300 corpses in mass graves in the northern city of Durango. A number of Mexican media outlets believe the death toll from the drug war, launched by current President Felipe Calderón in 2006, has topped 40,000.
The federal government says it will come up with a figure soon, but did not give specifics. “At some point, the appropriate update will be made,” Mexican federal security spokesman Alejandro Poiré said.
The news comes just as some of the Americas’ top policy thinkers stepped up criticism against the global war on drugs.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy presented a report Thursday in New York recommending a strategy based on decriminalization and an emphasis on reducing drug use through public health measures.
“Stop the war on drugs and let’s be more constructive in trying to reduce consumption,” said former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
The Commission also includes former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and author Carlos Fuentes.
While the report criticizes a drug policy based on prosecuting users, it does recommend using the security forces to break up drug cartels like those that plague Mexico.
In related news, Mexico celebrated the “Day of the Federal Police” on Thursday, an official holiday recently decreed by Mexican President Felipe Calderón, according to El Universal.
“It’s indispensable for our society to have, as is vociferously and justly demanded, police that we can trust,” Calderón said at Thursday’s ceremony.
He accused previous administrations of allowing the police to fall prey to corruption, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch
- As Peru prepares for its runoff presidential election on June 5, the race is still too close to call. Get to know conservative candidate Keiko Fujimori in this interview by Paul Alonso, translated by the Latin America News Dispatch. (If you missed it, also check out Paul’s interview with Fujimori’s adversary — leftwing nationalist Ollanta Humala.)
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- Civil rights groups Thursday filed a federal class action lawsuit that challenges Georgia’s tough new immigration law.
- A former prison official was shot to death outside his home in Chihuahua city, the capital of the northern Mexican state of the same name.
- Mexican President Felipe Calderón urged Mexicans to stop smoking earlier this week and announced a number of campaigns to try to keep young people from becoming smokers.
- An international aid group says clinics in one section of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince have seen a sharp rise in cholera, with more than 300 new cases per day.
- Cuban President Raúl Castro turned 80 today and vows to rejuvenate the country’s aging leadership and sagging economy.
- El Salvador’s President Mauricio Funes announced that the country will allow citizens living abroad to vote in the 2014 presidential election.
- Canada granted a gay, Nicaraguan artist permanent resident status after reviewing his application requesting he be allowed to stay in the country on humanitarian grounds.
- A Salvadoran man pleaded guilty to transporting more than 37 pounds of cocaine after being stopped by police in Mississippi.
- Ecuador’s oil minister said Thursday that OPEC countries could decide next week to increase output quotas if they see the global oil market under-supplied.
- At least 20 people were killed and more than a dozen others injured after a bus flipped over on a highway in southern Peru.
- Venezuela faces a soaring public debt as the government struggles to keep pre-election promises to the citizens amid rising state expenditure and declining oil exports.
- Another activist in the Brazilian Amazon was killed by gunmen in Pará on Thursday, one week after three activists and a witness were shot to death.
- Paraguayan police arrested 61 soccer hooligans on Thursday for public disorder and theft.
- Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi was punched while leaving a restaurant in Rosario, Argentina.
Image: Gobierno Federal @ Flickr.