May 15, 2006
Prison gangs launched a coordinated series of uprisings in the state of Sao Paulo on Friday, and over eighty people have been killed so far, mostly guards and policemen. Gang members who had previously been released from prison robbed bus passengers, threw Molotov cocktails into banks, and fired machine guns at police stations. The uprising was in reaction to the transfer of the leaders of the "First Capital Command" prison gang in a special high-security prison, in a desperate attempt to isolate them from the rest of the inmates so as to regain control over the prisons. The gangs control the lucrative narcotics trade and are behind the rising crime wave in Brazil. See BBC. There were similar but smaller scale uprisings in Brazilian prisons last December and in November 2003. The growing frequency of such actions across Latin America raises the unsettling possibility that it may be part of a transnational phenomenon.
Rene Preval, a close ally of deposed president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was finally sworn in as the duly elected constitutional president of Haiti on Sunday. Unfortunately, the occasion was marred by a riot at the nearby national penitentiary in Port au Prince. The problem in Haiti is that only ten percent of inmates have even been convicted, because there is such a severe shortage of judges and legal personnel. Fixing that situation will be one of Preval's highest priorities. See CNN.com. There is no question that the political movement he leads (on behalf of Aristide) is supported by a majority of Haitians. There is much doubt, however, that Preval or other leaders are ready or willing to build bridges to the opposition and learn how to govern Haiti under pluralistic precepts of respecting minority rights. Perhaps they will learn something from Aristide's failure in his second term.
UPDATE: The Haiti page has been updated.
The Mexican president telephoned his American counterpart to "express concern" about the possible militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border. Both men agreed that a comprehensive reform on immigration is needed, but of course that could mean almost anything. There is still almost no acknowledgment in Mexico that most of the problem stems from their own government's failure to reform the Mexican economic system, which is why its people seek opportunities abroad. See El Universal (in English).