Tuesday, January 26, 2016

U.N. Security Council approves observers for FARC disarmament (Jan. 26, 2016)

The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the establishment of an international mission of observers to verify the disarmament of FARC fighters in Colombia.

The 15 member countries approved a British-drafted resolution, agreeing to establish a year-long mission soon after the final peace pact is signed between the rebels and the Colombian government. (See Jan. 19th's post.) 

The unarmed members, who would come from Latin American and Caribbean countries, would monitor a bilateral cease-fire and the end of hostilities, including the laying down of weaponry, reports the Wall Street Journal.
It's "a step that diplomats and politicians hailed as pivotal in ensuring a permanent end to Colombia's civil conflict,"  according to the WSJ.

The terms of the disarmament are still under negotiation. The FARC reportedly wants 63 demobilization sites for its 17,000 fighters, while the government has proposed 30, notes the Los Angeles Times.

The piece cites WOLA's Adam Isacson who says President Juan Manuel Santos is likely to ask the U.S. Congress for $1.5 billion in aid over the accord's first three years

Last week the peace delegations of the Colombian government and the FARC reiterated their intent to reach a final agreement in Havana and announced a series of decisions to facilitate reaching an agreement to end the conflict, explains Virginia Bouvier at Colombia Calls. The talks have shifted into high gear, and the parties will focus on reaching a pact by the self-imposed March 23 deadline.

The new "turbo" style negotiations will involve an executive committee formed by representatives from each side, explains La Silla Vacía's Juanita León. She goes into detail regarding the new negotiating system, but also notes that the most recent communication is silent regarding the March 23 deadline, and argues that it's a cover for a potential failure to reach it.

Yet, a final peace deal would have to be approved by Colombian voters. Recent polls show a majority of Colombians are skeptical about terms of a peace deal, which would include amnesty and post-conflict political roles for the rebels, reports the Los Angeles Times.

News Briefs

  • Haiti's president, Michel Martelly is now determined to leave office as scheduled on Feb. 7, despite the postponement of elections to choose his successor, meaning an interim government will take power, reports Reuters. Politicians are starting to agree on an exit to the crisis that has strained the country's democratic institutions. A runoff vote that was scheduled for last Sunday will likely be held in upcoming months, reports the Associated Press.   (See yesterday's post.)
  • Cuba's tourism industry is already under strain from a record number of visitors last year -- up 17.4 percent from 2014. Experts worry that the infrastructure will not be able to absorb the added strain of regular U.S. commercial flights and ferry services, reports Reuters.
  • Several Latin American countries, including Colombia, Jamaica and Ecuador, are recommending women postpone pregnancy because of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which is believed to cause fetal malformations. El Salvador has taken the most drastic approach, recommending women avoid pregnancies for the next two years. The recommendation is unprecedented in scope, but has little information on how authorities expect the population to carry it out, reports the New York Times. And women's rights activists say the recommendation is naive, as women in the region often have little choice regarding pregnancy. They point to lack of sexual education, contraceptives and a high prevalence of pregnancies from rape, reports Reuters. El Salvador has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Latin America, with girls aged 10 to 19 accounting for about a third of all pregnancies. (See Friday's and yesterday's briefs on the subject of abortion and Zika.)
  • Meanwhile, health officials in Brazil are seeking to quell tourist and Olympian athletes' fears regarding Zika. State officials promise daily inspections, if necessary, during the upcoming mega event and could fumigate Olympic sites before events, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • The Plagues of Latin America? It's not a great season in the region. Droughts (in BrazilVenezuela, and Colombia, for example), mosquito-borne illnesses (see Zika above), floods (in Argentina) and, now a locust invasion brewing in northern Argentina's dry forests. Authorities are desperately scrambling to contain what threatens to be the worst locust plague in half a century, reports the New York Times.

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