Palace of Justice of Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia
This Week in Latin America

Colombia legalizes medically-assisted suicide

May 16, 2022 By Staff

COLOMBIA: Colombia’s constitutional court legalized medically-assisted suicide in a ruling Wednesday, making it the first country in Latin America to do so. 

Along with euthanasia, legalized in Colombia in 1997, the mechanism increases access to a dignified death for individuals suffering from a terminal disease, serious injury, or extreme physical or psychological pain. Euthanasia involves medical staff, while medically-assisted suicide is carried out by the patient and accompanied by a medical professional.

Previously in Colombia, medically-assisted suicide could result in a 32 to a 108-month prison sentence for individuals who induced or aided the patient. The decision came after a right-to-die group, DescLAB, filed a lawsuit before the court. Colombia joins Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Canada, Australia, Spain, Germany, and some states in the United States in permitting the mechanism. 

SOUTHERN CONE

CHILE: Reporter Francisca Sandoval died on Thursday from a gunshot wound she sustained while covering International Workers’ Day demonstrations in Santiago on May 1. Sandoval is the first journalist to be killed while on duty in Chile since the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

The primary suspect is a street vendor who fired into a crowd of protestors, some of whom were involved in acts of looting and violence, according to local media reports. The vendor has been charged with murder and carrying an illegal firearm.

Photographs showing street vendors involved in shooting at demonstrators speaking with police officers have provoked accusations of complicity by the Carabineros, Chile’s military police. On May 2, the government announced an internal investigation into the accusations.

PARAGUAY: A Paraguayan prosecutor known for high-profile investigations into organized crime and drug trafficking was shot dead on Tuesday while on his honeymoon in Colombia. Two men arrived on jet skis at a beach on an island south of Cartagena to carry out the suspected hit on prosecutor Marcelo Pecci. Neither Pecci’s wife nor bodyguard was injured in the attack.

A Paraguayan police official stated that it took less than 15 minutes for the assailants to rent the jet skis, carry out the attack, and return the vehicles before escaping. Given the nature of Pecci’s investigations, authorities believe that a transnational crime organization was behind Pecci’s murder.

Paraguayan investigators are assisting Colombian authorities in the investigations, as are U.S. drug and federal agents.

ANDES

VENEZUELA: The Venezuelan government on Wednesday announced plans to sell 5% to 10% stakes in a number of state-run companies in order to promote private investment. The shares are meant to go on sale on Monday, although the government has not provided information on prices or where the shares will be listed.

President Nicolás Maduro made the announcement at a televised event, saying capital was needed for technology and new markets. 

Under former President Hugo Chavéz, the Venezuelan government nationalized some 1,200 companies across a number of sectors, including oil and natural gas, telecommunications, and electricity. 

Economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and other countries have exacerbated an economic crisis triggered by a drop in global oil prices in 2014.

CARIBBEAN 

HAITI/PUERTO RICO: Eleven Haitian women drowned this week after a boat carrying migrants capsized near an island off the western coast of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 38 migrants – 36 Haitians and two citizens of the Dominican Republic. One of those rescued was arrested on charges of human smuggling.  Dozens more are believed missing.

Rescue efforts began on Thursday when a U.S. border patrol helicopter spotted migrants clinging to a boat on the open seas. Survivors were taken to Puerto Rico; at least eight required attention in local hospitals.

There has been a surge of Haitian emigration in recent months, as increasing gang violence and kidnappings, particularly in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, have caused many to flee.

PUERTO RICO: Gov. Pedro Pierluisi on Thursday rejected a budget proposed by the U.S.-appointed financial control board for the island. In a recorded address, Pierluisi stated that he would submit his own proposal on Friday for the Legislature’s consideration. 

The Financial Oversight and Management Board (referred to as “la Junta” in Puerto Rico) has twice rejected budgets submitted by the governor for the upcoming financial year. The Board’s proposal reduced government spending by $100 million compared to Pierluisi’s second proposal. The governor argued that the Board’s budget underestimated the territory’s projected income.

According to the controversial Obama-era PROMESA Law, which established the auditing body in 2016 to oversee the restructuring of Puerto Rico’s debt, the Board has final approval over the territory’s budgets.

CENTRAL AMERICA

COSTA RICA: One month after several ransomware attacks targeted public institutions, Costa Rica on Wednesday declared a state of emergency.  President Rodrigo Chaves has not decided who will lead the National Emergency Commission but said they would respond immediately to the crisis. 

Last week, the United States offered up to $10 million for information on the leaders of the hacker group.  The Russian-speaking hacker group, Conti, claimed responsibility for the attack. The U.S. State Department said in a statement that the Conti hacker group was responsible for hundreds of cyberattacks in the past two years. 

GUATEMALA: Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez, who last week ruled that nine police and military officers will stand trial for alleged crimes during the country’s civil war, said Wednesday that death threats against him increased since he announced his decision. The men on trial were high-ranking officers arrested last year for alleged crimes ranging from forced disappearances, torture, and killings that occurred between 1983 and 1986. 

The judge suspected that the leader of the far-right Foundation Against Terrorism, Ricardo Rafael Méndez Ruíz, made some of the threats.  The U.S. and European governments have noted that Guatemala’s justice system has been deteriorating. 

Several Guatemalan officials who worked on corruption cases have fled into exile. 

NORTH AMERICA

MEXICO: A union arrived at an agreement with a General Motors assembly plant in northern Mexico to establish an increase in salary and benefits for workers. The Independent Union of Auto Industry Workers said in a statement that the new contract improves all labor conditions and that the union will have a better representation for workers. 

The union won a vote in February to remove the old-guard, pro-company Confederation of Mexican Workers, which long ruled over the plant. The U.S. filed a complaint last year under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade pact after the old-guard interfered with votes

The new contract met objectives placed by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade pact.

MEXICO/US: To challenge the Biden administration, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Tuesday that he would not attend next month’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles unless all Latin American countries received invitations. 

The President had recently announced that he would attend the summit, but because the U.S. did not extend invitations to Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba, Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard will represent Mexico at the summit

Obrador joins Bolivian president, Luis Arce, and several Caribbean nations that also expressed the same sentiments against the U.S. if they decide to exclude some of the countries.