Tuesday, June 16, 2015

OAS briefs: Almagro's reform and rights of older persons

The OAS General Assembly is meeting in Washington this week. Some briefs from the 45th General Assembly:

  • Incoming OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro received the support of the General Assembly to launch "modernization" of the organization. The process will begin with a complete restructuring of the General Secretariat, which will go through a review, elimination and creation of secretariats. One of the new secretariats will be dedicated to human rights, according to EFE.
  • Almagro faces important strategic challenges in revitalizing the continental institution, says Rubén M. Perina in ABC Color. The institution's credibility and relevance have been questioned in light of messy management of funds and weakness in defense of democratic institutions in member states, argues the Georgetown professor. 
  • Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Costa Rica, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic signed a new OAS convention on the rights of older persons. It is a first in terms of creating a binding instrument for the rights of people above 60, and the countries hope to create a world precedent, reportsEFE. The convention promotes, protects and ensures the acknowledgement and full enjoyment, in equal conditions, of all human rights and fundamental liberties of older people so that they can be fully included, integrate and participate in the community, according to MercoPress.
  • Venezuela insisted yesterday that the U.S. eliminate sanctions implemented in March against government officials. Venezuela's Viceminister for North America, Alejandro Fleming noted that high government officials from both countries met this weekend in Haiti (see yesterday's news briefs). The U.S. State Department said the meeting had been "positive and productive," reports EFE.
  • The assembly approved a resolution in support of elections scheduled for later this year in Guatemala, in light of the political crisis the country is undergoing, rocked by corruption scandals that involve high government officials and have led to several high profile resignations, including the country's VP. The text proposed by Argentina rejects any threat to the constitutional order and expresses support of the government and people of Guatemala, according to EFE.
  • The OAS will select four new judges out of five candidates for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights today. Argentine criminal law expert and former Supreme Court judge Raúl Zaffaroni  has a good chance of being chosen, reports the Buenos Aires Herald. However, he has been the target of smear campaign attempting to link him to Argentina's 1976-1983 civil-military dictatorship, reports Página 12.
News Briefs
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos defended the ongoing peace process with the FARC, saying in Oslo that the answer to the 50 year conflict with the guerrilla rebels is not war, though he defended the use of force as a complement to negotiations, reports EFE. In the past month since the FARC lifted it's unilateral cease-fire attacks have been on the rise, though the Havana talks continue. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Russia and the U.S. are competing to partner with Brazil's commercial satellite plan, the latest in their rivalry for allies in the region, reports Reuters
  • Uruguayan President Tabaré Vasquez met with opposition leaders to work on a joint strategy against soccer violence, the day after 42 fans and four cops were injured at the Uruguay Championship final, reports EFE.
  • Chile's Congress will pass strict measures to fight conflicts of interest and influence peddling related to campaign financing, after corruption allegations have shaken public confidence, reports Reuters.
  • Three years after the "Curuguaty Massacre" in Paraguay, a shootout that killed 11 rural farmworkers and six police officers, justice for victims continues to be delayed. The trial, slated for next week, has been postponed till July the trial supposedly due to a lack of available courtrooms. Defense lawyers called for the case to be moved to the Asuncion Palace of Justice, reports TeleSur. The confrontation between 300 armed police officers and 50 rural workers who had occupied Marina Kue in the Curuguaty district was blamed on then President Fernando Lugo who was impeached for failing to maintain "social harmony." The move, characterized as a "parliamentary coup" by Lugo was rejected by South American governments and led to Paraguay's suspension from the Mercosur trade block. Thirteen men are charged regarding the policemen's deaths, and have been imprisoned or under house arrest for three years. But relatives of the victims say the government is not investigating the deaths of rural workers or the massacre itself, reports EFE.
  • Paraguayan authorities are cracking down on pirated merchandise, long a staple of Ciudad del Este's economy, looking to spur legitimate growth. Paraguay is Latin America's fastest growing economies, with a GDP that increased nearly 5 percent a year between 2003 and 2013, reports the AP
  • Angola, Argelia, Iran and Nigeria are interested in mixing their light crude oils with Venezuela's heavier oil in order to obtain better prices for their products, the president of Venezuelan PDVSA announced yesterday.The product would compete with U.S. and Canadian oil, reportsReuters.
  • A businessman laundered up to $100 million for Colombian drug trafficking groups by selling funds to Venezuelan companies desperate for dollars, according to U.S. prosecutors. Martin Lustgarten Acherman -- who has dual Venezuelan and Austrian citizenship -- was arrested in Florida in April. InSight Crime points to the case as another way that Venezuela's strict currency control system is used by criminal opportunists.
  • Thousands of legal agricultural worker have been stranded at the U.S.-Mexico border because of a computer glitch. The Wall Street Journal reports that the workers are overdue for berry harvesting on U.S. farms, costing California agriculture $500,000 to $1 million for each day of delay.
  • The circumstances in which Mexican police are permitted to use deadly force are not clear, reports InSight Crime. The 40,000 strong force does not have a publicly available manual defining acceptable measures for officers. A shootout between police officers and alleged gang members led to 42 deaths last month (see May 22nd's post). "According to witnesses and security officials, police officers -- including those in helicopters -- shot at the aggressors, who were hidden in two buildings. It is impossible to publicly verify if this type of action is permitted, because there is no such official document to consult," explains InSight Crime.
  • Mexico might be losing about 3 percent potential economic growth due to crime and violence, according to a Financial Times study on security risk. El Daily Post covers the story.
  • Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa "temporarily" backed off an inheritance tax reform in an attempt to calm opposition led street protests, reports Reuters.
  • "Women’s rights advocates ... see a continuum between the deadly violence and supposedly harmless everyday sexism," argues Uki Goñi in a New York Times Op-Ed on the fight against femicide in Argentina. (See June 4th's post.)  There is a link between the horrific crimes against women that grab national headlines and a culture of machismo that glorifies "compliments" hurled at women on the street, he says. But lawmakers are stepping up to the plate. In a piece I wrote for City Lab last week examines attempts to penalize street harassment of women.

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