Friday, April 29, 2016

Commission to review Haiti's contested presidential elections (April 29, 2017)

Haiti is facing increasing political upheaval, after yet another postponed election deadline passed last weekend. (See Monday's briefs.) 

Yesterday, a five-member verification panel was installed by the interim government. The commission will determine whether the apparent winners of October's contested first round of presidential elections should remain in a much-delayed presidential run-off election, reports the Miami Herald. It has 30 days to evaluate balloting that was contested last year due to fraud allegations. A new election calendar is expected to be published next month.

The commission is aimed at restoring credibility to a very questioned process, according to Interim President Jocelerme Privert.

But the missed deadlines raise questions about the fate of the provisional government, which is supposed to hand over power to a newly elected government on May 14, reports the Miami Herald.

Things on the street are increasingly heated, with almost daily protests by former President Michel Martelly's PHTK party, and threats of opposition groups to counter those demonstrations by also taking to the streets, according to the Herald.  Partisans of rival political factions threw rocks at each other in front of Parliament and riot police dispersed demonstrators with rubber bullets, reports the Associated Press.

The U.S. State Department's special coordinator for Haiti, Kenneth Merten, arrived in Haiti yesterday, hoping to help resolve a political mess that has left an unfinished electoral cycle in limbo, reports the Associated Press. He is in talks with Haitian officials and international partners, though the U.S. said Merten is only there to assess the situation, avoiding language that would give the appearance of meddling, according to the AP. 

News Briefs
  • A large slope of trash in a Guatemala City garbage dump collapsed yesterday, killing at least five people, with up to 18 still missing, reports the Associated Press. The authorities said about 1,000 people, including garbage pickers known as "guajeros," worked in that area of the dump and had been asked to evacuate after an earlier slide, but some resisted.
  • Two men consultants hired by Republican primary contenders Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the U.S. formerly worked together advising Guatemalan presidential candidate Manuel Baldizón, whose platform included a call for public executions, reports the Guardian.
  • Seventy labor activists were murdered in Guatemala between 2004 and 2013, according the Network of Labor Rights Defenders, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune.
  • Venezuelan opposition leaders said that in one day they managed to collect five times the signatures needed to begin a referendum recall effort against President Nicolás Maduro, reports the Wall Street Journal. More than 600,000 people signed, triple the amount needed, reports the BBC. (See yesterday's and Wednesday's posts.) The signatures will be submitted to the National Electoral Council, which will then have 20 days to authenticate them and the accompanying fingerprints. If it does, the opposition must then collect nearly four million signatures in three days to trigger the actual recall vote. Experts warn that government obstructionism and bureaucratic foot dragging could make the process difficult, if not impossible, to actually carry out, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Venezuela's opposition led National Assembly ordered the dismissal of Food Minister Rodolfo Marco Torres over chronic shortages of staple goods yesterday, reports Reuters. The vote was held against him after he failed to show up in Congress to answer questions regarding the shortages, reports the Associated Press. Legislators used a constitutional censure vote to order that President Nicolás Maduro dismiss the minister. The government dismissed the move as symbolic, and also said it was invalid because of a recent court ruling on parliamentary procedures.
  • ELN rebels in Colombia released a former governor held captive more than two years earlier this month. But to free Patrocinio Sanchez Montes de Oca, whose health was suffering from a gallbladder infection, the guerrilla's required his older brother, Odin, in exchange, reports the Associated Press. The hostage switch came just after an announcement that the Colombian government would enter peace negotiations, and could endanger the process. (See March 31's post.) At the time of the announcement, Santos admonished the rebel group for kidnapping, which he said was incompatible with the peace talks.
  • Colombia's Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, the fourth country in Latin America to do so, reports the BBC.
  • A new program loosely modeled on the "birthright" model that pays for Jews from around the world to visit Israel is being created by young Cuban-Americans who hope to promote connections between the young exile community in the U.S. and their island counterparts, writes Ernesto Londoño in a New York Times op-ed. "Travelers will stay in Cuban homes, rather than hotels. Itineraries will be designed to link up people with similar professional interests in an effort to help the fledgling private sector."
  • British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is visiting Cuba, the first in his post to do so since before the Communist Revolution in 1959, reports the BBC
  • The Mexican attorney general said top crime fighters, including Tomas Zeron, head of the attorney general's criminal investigation agency, are under investigation over a key incident in the probe into the apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers in 2014, reports Reuters. The probe was triggered by a report from an IACHR-backed panel of independent experts who questioned he circumstances in which a charred bone fragment was discovered in a river. (See yesterday's and Wednesday's briefs and Tuesday and Monday's posts.)
  • Brazilian prosecutors filed charges against a political strategist who worked on President Dilma Rousseff's successful 2010 and 2014 campaigns. João Santana and his wife and partner in their consulting firm, Mônica Moura, were charged with corruption, conspiracy and money laundering for allegedly receiving $7.5 million in payments diverted from Petrobras, reports the Wall Street Journal. Prosecutors also filed money laundering charges against Marcelo Odebrecht, the former chief executive of Brazil's biggest construction company, Odebrecht SA, yesterday.
  • Brazilian photographer Mauricio Lima, who won this year's Pulitzer Prize for for Breaking News Photography for his work with the New York Times, devoted part of his acceptance speech to denouncing what he called a coup against Rousseff, spurred in part by anti-government bias in major media corporations, reports Glen Greenwald in The Intercept. "I would like to express my support for freedom of speech and democracy — which is exactly what’s not going on in Brazil at the moment," said Lima.
  • Zika virus-caused prenatal brain damage is far worst than past birth defects associated by microcephaly, reports the Wall Street Journal. New data shows that Zika eats away at the fetal brain, particularly the areas that control thought, vision and other basic functions.
  • Nacla has an interview with Mexican environmental activist Gustavo Castro Soto, the sole witness to Honduran activist Berta Cáceres' murder in March. On the subject of the "criminalization of human rights" in the region he discusses how free trade agreements potentially open up corporate lawsuits against governments which seek to protect the human rights of local communities. "This is such an important issue that few take into account. It is not just Berta, nor just COPINH, but all the social movements in Honduras, and in the region, which face this threat."
  • Argentina's Central Bank aims to implement an inflation-targeting system in September, with the goal of reducing annual inflation to 5 percent by the end of 2019, reports the Wall Street Journal. President Mauricio Macri's new administration said it won't publish inflation indices till June, but estimates from Buenos Aires and the province of San Luis, said prices rose 37 percent on the year in March.

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