The Economist helpfully reviews the timeline of the past 10 days of political upheaval -- which included the naming of Lula as Rousseff's chief of staff, the release by Moro of apparently incriminating conversations between the two that said appointment was intended to shield Lula from criminal investigation, and the suspension of his appointment by a Supreme Court judge.
El País makes the case that the entire investigation walks a fine line on the edge of judicial activism. More specifically, that the judge Sergio Moro, hero of the anti-Dilma protest movement, may have overstepped boundaries with recent actions such as forcing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to testify under police custody and releasing tapped phone conversations between him and President Dilma Rousseff.
(See Monday's post.)
Rousseff and Lula went on the offensive yesterday, making the case to foreign journalists that an impeachment process wending its way through Congress is a thinly veiled "institutional coup" and that persistent rumors of her resignation are intended to push her towards that option to avoid the "embarrassment" of illegally deposing her, reports El País.
"Why do they want me to resign?" Asked Brazil's first femal president in the interview. "Because I'm a woman, fragile. I am not fragile. That is not my life," she said, according to the New York Times. She said that investigators should leave no stone unturned in examining her actions.
Her chief of staff, Jaques Wagner, gave a two hour press conference to international media in which he emphasized the distorted media coverage of the ongoing political crisis. Sectors of the media are pushing an interpretation of events, he said, according to El País.
It's not just the local media: The Economist's cover this week gives a great example of the media perspective Wagner denounced. Rousseff is pictured and it's headlined "Time to Go." Interestingly, the magazine's editorial board discounts the legitimacy of the impeachment proceedings, which focus on unproven allegations that she used accounting trickery to hide the true size of the budget deficit in 2015. Instead, the magazine basically argues she should just resign, absent any fast evidence of criminal misconduct, such as obstructing the Petrobras investigation or attempting to shield Lula from prosecution.
Thousands of Brazilians marched in defense of Rousseff last night -- in São Paulo as many as 30,000 according to organizers, focussed on the headquarters of TV Globo, which Rousseff sympathizers accuse of being partisan and pushing for the president's ouster, reports the Associated Press.
In her interview yesterday, Rousseff pointed out that the cabinet appointment doesn't eliminate legal scrutiny of Lula, but moves it to the Supreme Court, notes the New York Times.
In the meantime, Lula is leading political maneuvering in the lower chamber of Congress to ward off the impeachment proceeding, reports Folha de S. Paulo.
While disenchantment in Brazil with Rousseff is high -- 68 percent of the country favors her impeachment -- the population seems no more enchanted with any of her possible successors, demonstrating the breadth of the political scandal that has implicated wide swathes of the political class.
- The Peruvian electoral court rejected allegations of vote buying against presidential front-runner Keiko Fujimori late Wednesday. (See yesterday's briefs.) El País has more details on the confusing ruling, which determined that her awarding of three cash envelopes to winners of a hip-hop contest are not in violation of electoral norms. And La Mula analyzes the law and her possible violation of it. Other candidates emphasized what they see as a double standard, after another candidate, César Acuña, was recently eliminated from the race under similar circumstances, notes La Mula. Former second-place candidate, Julio Guzmán, who was also eliminated, though for a technical procedural issue, said the ruling delegitimizes the eventual results of the April 10 vote and called for the entire process to be suspended. Protesters gathered outside the electoral board (JNE) offices yesterday, reports La Mula separately.
- Haitian senators unanimously approved Enex Jean-Charles as the new provisional prime minister. The former presidential advisor to three previous administrations must now be approved by the Chamber of Deputies in order to move forward with the caretaker government entrusted with carrying out much delayed presidential run-off elections, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday's briefs.)
- New York Times in Spanish has an interview with Salvadoran journalist Óscar Martínez on the subject of "A History of Violence," his new book that is just out in English. The book covers violence in Central America -- Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala -- categorized in three central themes: Loneliness (the absence of the state in the region), Madness (which grows in these societies due to the absence of the government) and Flight (the choice of the hundreds who every day choose to flee).
- Overcrowding and human rights violations in Central American jails are well documented issues. A Nicaraguan announcement that the government had released more than 8,000 prisoners on parole as a "humanitarian measure" over the last two years, introduced a potential new approach to the problem in the region, reports Foreign Affairs. "Given the realities of prison systems in Central America, Nicaragua's release of thousands of prisoners seems reasonable and perhaps even necessary."
- A recent OAS report critical problems withinHonduras' prisons, where the prevalence of gang violence and deplorable conditions suggest that the penal system does nothing to rehabilitate offenders, reports InSight Crime. InSight notes that the excessive use of pre-trial detention has clearly contributed to the chaos in the Honduran prison system.
- How will peace affect Colombia's spiking coca production? Negotiations aim at crop substitution, but if not government officials have agreed to ally with the FARC to eradicate the plant. In the meantime, experts fear the power vacuum created by demobilized FARC troops could be filled by illegal drug bands, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday's post.)
- Deaths from political violence unrelated to Colombia's decades-old armed conflict rose 35 percent last year to 105 cases, according to a study by the Bogota-based Conflict Analysis Resource Center, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune.
- Free love in the FARC? Not so fast, cautions a Washington Post piece that criticizes a New York Times visit to a guerrilla encampment. (See Tuesday's briefs.) The reality of gender relations within the left-wing revolutionary group is far more complicated, warns the Roxanne Krystalli, a researcher on gender, violence and transitional justice. She looks at how women fit in the group hierarchy -- where they gain prominence for being sexually involved with ranking commanders, face a glass ceiling of growth, and are reportedly forced into abortions and IUDs. "Stories reporting on the anthropology of everday life during conflict and within armed groups can illuminate the full range of members' experience -- or can erase their realities. For instance, while it's important to recognize that women and girls have been part of the FARC, those who tell their stories and who craft the peace must understand their complex and diverse motives and experiences."
- On the issue of challenging media narratives (as in Brazil, see above) a piece at the Council of Hemispheric Affairs criticizes the dominant international media coverage of Venezuela's ongoing economic crisis. The mainstream explanation is that price and currency controls have ed to stagnant production, soaring inflation and a burgeoning black market in U.S. dollars and consumer goods. The conclusion is that "socialism doesn't work," writes Peter Bolton. Yet this is only one of two competing narratives within Venezuela, the one espoused by the political opposition. The alternate explanation, that of economic war, "explains the crisis in terms of the economic and social dynamics at play outside policy and governmental action. It holds that business sectors friendly to the opposition are waging an aggressive and protracted campaign of economic sabotage to deliberately stir up social unrest to destabilize and discredit the governing Chavista bloc and in the ensuing chaos bring about an end to the PSUV government and the installation of a new one made up of opposition parties. The central pillars of the economic war thesis are that these hostile sectors have been engaging in acts such as hoarding and price speculation and have purposely generated scarcity in pursuit of calculated chaos." While these claims tend to be dismissed, Bolton makes the case that they deserve a more careful examination. "Taken in the context of this history of instigated pandemonium, the economic war thesis emerges as at least equally worthy of consideration as its major competitor."
- The daughter of slain Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres urged the U.S. to suspend military aid to her country, reports EFE.
- The once-forbidden Rolling Stones arrived in Havana yesterday, and will give a historic free concert there today. Foreign bands like the Stones used to be considered subversive and blocked from the radio by the revolutionary government. Cubans listened to their music in secret, passing records from hand to hand, reports the Associated Press. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans are expected to go to the concert. Street chatter centered on whether Obama's visit earlier this week or the rock legends' is a better metaphor for change, reports the Wall Street Journal.
- Media favorite rehashed: The flood of tourists to Cuba aiming to get there before it changes has now expanded to include Americans who are aiming to get there before the Americans, reports the New York Times. The stampede is leading to steep price increases and even some shortages.
- A group of 22 medical experts convened by Johns Hopkins University and The Lancet called for the decriminalization of all nonviolent drug use and possession, reports the Washington Post. Their report, which cites a growing scientific consensus on the failures of the global war on drugs, comes ahead of a special U.N. General Assembly Session on drugs to be held next month. (See March 14's post.)
- The Guardian reviews advances with Uruguay's legal pot market, as legal sales of cannabis in pharmacies are expected to start in the second half of this year. (See WOLA's recent report on the subject.)
- Donald Trump has had a new surge in popularity south of the border, albeit as a papier-mache "Judas" figure to be burnt ahead of the Easter holiday, reports the Guardian.
- Happy Friday: Politico makes the case that Trump tweets like Latin America's populist leaders.