People's Stories Democracy

View previous stories

As Mexico’s election day approaches, over 100 politicians have been brutally murdered
by Madeleine Ngo
Vox News
June 2018
Mexico’s election season is underway — and dozens of candidates have been brutally killed by unknown assailants in an apparent attempt to control the country’s political future.
Since September, 113 politicians, including 43 candidates running for office, have been killed, according to Etellekt, a Mexican political consulting agency. And earlier this month, three female political candidates were shot dead in just 24 hours.
They include people like Pamela Terán, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, who was running for municipal council in Juchitán. She was killed on June 2 while leaving a restaurant in Oaxaca; her father and a photographer were also killed.
Last Friday in Piedras Negras, congressional candidate Fernando Purón was shot in the back of the head while taking a selfie with a supporter following a debate with his rivals. Purón had also been an advocate for organized crime reform.
The wave of violence precedes Mexico’s presidential election, which is set to take place on July 1. But Mexicans will also head to the polls to elect more than 100 members of the country’s Senate and 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies, Mexico’s house of representatives. It’s set to be the largest election in the country‘s history, with reportedly more than 3,400 seats open at the local and state level.
But since the violence began in September, hundreds of candidates have pulled out of races out of fear of being targeted. The uptick in violence indicates how risky it is to run for public office in a country known for its endemic corruption and high rate of crime. And it shows no sign of abating.
Last year, Mexico saw the highest number of homicides in the country’s history, with 29,168 total homicides according to preliminary government data.
“It’s very likely that the number of homicides [in 2017] is actually around 32,000,” José Antonio Polo, director of the public safety watchdog Common Cause, told NPR. “So the bad news isn’t that the current number is the highest ever — it’s likely to get even higher.”
The frontrunner in the upcoming presidential elections is Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He’s running for the recently formed, left-wing Morena party and has promised to advocate for reform against the country’s widespread corruption; polls show he’s been in the lead for months.
López Obrador’s three rivals include conservative candidate Ricardo Anaya; a member of the governing PRI party, José Antonio Meade; and independent Jaime Rodríguez. All four are reportedly not fans of US President Donald Trump; at the third and final presidential debate earlier this month, the candidates called for a strong relationship with the US but also made it clear that they would stand up to Trump’s aggressive bullying tactics.
Though the upcoming presidential election might be getting the most attention, it’s actually quite rare for high-profile presidential candidates to be targeted and murdered, said Eric Olson, the deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Latin American program.
Olson told me that most organized crime groups in Mexico target candidates at the local level, so people running for lower-profile positions are at greater risk.
“Presidential candidates are vulnerable, but they’re surrounded by people and there’s constant attention, so only in the most extreme and unusual situations would a criminal organization go after a presidential candidate. They’re more concerned about local authorities,” Olson continued.
So far, BuzzFeed News has reported that more than 600 people have pulled out of races.
But if López Obrador secures the presidential seat in July and manages to carry out his political promises, Mexicans could potentially see wide-sweeping reforms.
“No one should be worried if I use the word ‘radical,’” López Obrador said at a rally in Jiutepec. “I use radical in the sense of coming from root. Because I want to uproot corruption and injustice.”
* Global Peace Index 2018: Measuring peace in a complex world. The world is less peaceful today than at any time in the last decade:

Visit the related web page

The American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion
by Philip Alston
Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
June 2018
(Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, on his mission to the United States of America in December 2017 - Extract)
The United States is a land of stark contrasts. It is one of the world’s wealthiest societies, a global leader in many areas, and a land of unsurpassed technological and other forms of innovation. Its corporations are global trendsetters, its civil society is vibrant and sophisticated and its higher education system leads the world. But its immense wealth and expertise stand in shocking contrast with the conditions in which vast numbers of its citizens live. About 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty.
It has the highest youth poverty rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the highest infant mortality rates among comparable OECD States. Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, eradicable tropical diseases are increasingly prevalent, and it has the world’s highest incarceration rate, one of the lowest levels of voter registrations in among OECD countries and the highest obesity levels in the developed world.
The United States has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries. The $1.5 trillion in tax cuts in December 2017 overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality. The consequences of neglecting poverty and promoting inequality are clear. The United States has one of the highest poverty and inequality levels among the OECD countries, and the Stanford Center on Inequality and Poverty ranks it 18th out of 21 wealthy countries in terms of labour markets, poverty rates, safety nets, wealth inequality and economic mobility. But in 2018 the United States had over 25 per cent of the world’s 2,208 billionaires.
There is thus a dramatic contrast between the immense wealth of the few and the squalor and deprivation in which vast numbers of Americans exist. For almost five decades the overall policy response has been neglectful at best, but the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.
The visit of the Special Rapporteur coincided with the dramatic change of direction in relevant United States policies. The new policies: (a) provide unprecedentedly high tax breaks and financial windfalls to the very wealthy and the largest corporations; (b) pay for these partly by reducing welfare benefits for the poor; (c) undertake a radical programme of financial, environmental, health and safety deregulation that eliminates protections mainly benefiting the middle classes and the poor; (d) seek to add over 20 million poor and middle class persons to the ranks of those without health insurance; (e) restrict eligibility for many welfare benefits while increasing the obstacles required to be overcome by those eligible; (f) dramatically increase spending on defence, while rejecting requested improvements in key veterans’benefits; (g) do not provide adequate additional funding to address an opioid crisis that is decimating parts of the country; and (h) make no effort to tackle the structural racism that keeps a large percentage of non-Whites in poverty and near poverty.
In a 2017 report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) captured the situation even before the impact of these aggressively regressive redistributive policies had been felt, stating that the United States economy “is delivering better living standards for only the few”, and that “household incomes are stagnating for a large share of the population, job opportunities are deteriorating, prospects for upward mobility are waning, and economic gains are increasingly accruing to those that are already wealthy”.
The share of the top 1 per cent of the population in the United States has grown steadily in recent years. In 2016 they owned 38.6 per cent of total wealth. In relation to both wealth and income the share of the bottom 90 per cent has fallen in most of the past 25 years.
The tax reform will worsen this situation and ensure that the United States remains the most unequal society in the developed world. The planned dramatic cuts in welfare will essentially shred crucial dimensions of a safety net that is already full of holes.
Since economic and political power reinforce one another, the political system will be even more vulnerable to capture by wealthy elites. This situation bodes ill not only for the poor and middle class in America, but for society as a whole, with high poverty levels “creating disparities in the education system, hampering human capital formation and eating into future productivity”.
There are also global consequences. The tax cuts will fuel a global race to the bottom, thus further reducing the revenues needed by Governments to ensure basic social protection and meet their human rights obligations. And the United States remains a model whose policies other countries seek to emulate.
Defenders of the status quo point to the United States as the land of opportunity and the place where the American dream can come true because the poorest can aspire to the ranks of the richest. But today’s reality is very different. The United States now has one of the lowest rates of intergenerational social mobility of any of the rich countries. Zip codes, which are usually reliable proxies for race and wealth, are tragically reliable predictors of a child’s future employment and income prospects.
High child and youth poverty rates perpetuate the intergenerational transmission of poverty very effectively, and ensure that the American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion. The equality of opportunity, which is so prized in theory, is in practice a myth, especially for minorities and women, but also for many middle-class White workers.
* Access the full report via the link below:
24 May 2018
Japan: Benefit cuts threaten social protection of the poor, UN rights experts warn. (OHCHR)
UN human rights experts* are urging the Government of Japan to review a series of planned benefit cuts which threaten the minimum social protection for the poor, particularly those with disabilities, single parents and their children, and older people living in poverty.
The warning follows a decision by the Japanese Government in December last year to cut the level of benefits for low-income households by up to five percent over the next three years. The austerity measures will hit two-thirds of households currently receiving State assistance.
“In an affluent, developed country like Japan, these measures reflect a conscious political decision which directly undermines the rights of the poor to live with dignity,” said the experts.
“Even in times of austerity, Japan is under an obligation to ensure a basic level of social protection for all without discrimination. Austerity measures of this nature, adopted without careful consideration of their impact on the human rights of the poor, are in violation of Japan’s international obligations,” they added.
The cuts follow similar budget reductions in 2013 and the experts say the decision by the Japanese Government to base them on the spending pattern of the bottom 10 percent of low-income households is questionable.
“The minimum living costs determined on this basis do not embody an adequate standard of living as required by international human rights law. By reducing benefits based on this flawed methodology, Japan is condemning more and more people to living in poverty,” the experts emphasised.
“Old age poverty and social exclusion will lead, as often is the case, to enormous suffering in silence. If these policies are left uncorrected, they will hurt those who are most vulnerable to poverty – notably, older women, female heads of households, and women with disabilities,” the experts stressed.
“People with disabilities will be hit hardest, amid reports of rising involuntary institutionalisation and suicides because of the increased financial burden. The benefit cuts effectively deprive persons with disabilities to exercise their right to live independently within their community, guaranteed under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” the experts said.
The experts are calling on the Government to conduct a full human rights assessment of the cuts which are due to be brought in October this year, and adopt necessary measures to mitigate their negative impact in compliance with their international obligations.
The experts also noted that the Government is currently considering amendments to the Public Assistance Act, which may potentially have the effect of restricting the right to health care of those on social welfare on an equal basis with non-recipients. “Differential access to medicines based on one’s social status amounts to discrimination prohibited by international human rights law. We strongly urge the Government to carefully reconsider the amendments,” said the experts.
The experts have contacted the Government to express their concerns.
* The UN experts: Mr. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Mr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights; Ms. Catalina Devandas, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; and Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons.

Visit the related web page

View more stories

Submit a Story Search by keyword and country Guestbook