Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Colombia - FARC bilateral ceasefire agreement to be announced tomorrow (July 22, 2016)

Colombia could finally agree to roadmap for a bilateral ceasefire with the rebel FARC group as early as this week, President Juan Manuel Santos said yesterday. Such an accord would be a crucial building block for a final peace deal. 

The agreement was confirmed this morning by government spokespeople, reports El Espectador.

The two sides will also announce agreement on three other key issues on Thursday --- a timetable and conditions for the guerrilla fighter demobilization concentration areas, a system for laying down of arms, and safety guarantees for unarmed fighters -- according to Silla Vacía. Details will be announced Thursday, according to the Miami Herald.

El Tiempo reports that Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín and former minister Álvaro Leyva went to Havana this weekend to negotiate a roadmap to a definitive peace agreement.

According to the Associated Press, Santos is expected to travel to Havana, where the negotiations have taken place over the past three and a half years. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon could also be present. The U.N. has been tasked with monitoring an eventual ceasefire.

El Espectador says Thursday's announcement will also be attended Cuban President Raúl Castro, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and five other Latin American heads of state. Chilean Michele Bachelet will be there, as will Norway's foreign minister. Cuba and Norway are guarantors of the talks, while Venezuela and Chile are observers, explains the Miami Herald.

AP sources say the ceasefire between the two sides likely would not start immediately, but would begin when the final deal is reached.

Santos said he hopes for a final deal by July 20, Colombia's independence day, though the FARC leadership rejects set deadlines. It's the first time possible deadlines have been publicized since the two sides missed a March 23 deadline for a final agreement, notes El País.

Silla Vacía's piece has a great review of what has already been agreed on in the peace negotiations, and what is left. The piece notes that most of the major issues have some level of agreement, but flags the implementation aspect as lacking in substance so far.

The issue of political participation for FARC members remains in disagreement, notes El Espectador.

A warning to Colombian's whose patience for the peace negotiation is wearing thin: Santos said this week that taxes would have to be increased should a peace accord not be successful, reports Reuters.

News Briefs
  • Senior U.S. diplomat Thomas Shannon went to Caracas yesterday to meet with Venezuelan officials and foster dialogue between the two hostile governments, reports the Associated Press. Citizens are verifying their signatures on a recall referendum petition this week, the latest step in the byzantine process the political opposition is pushing as an a legal ouster for President Nicolás Maduro.
  • The Guardian has a briefing on the ongoing Venezuela crisis, reviewing the food and basic necessities shortages as well as the recall referendum process.
  • CICIG investigations into Guatemala's conservative Partido Patriota is leading to backlash from the establishment media -- associated with Partido Patriota partners, of course, according to Nómada.  
  • Peruvian president-elect Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) won this month's runoff election against Keiko Fujimori by an extremely narrow margin, that reflected an ad-hoc coalition against his opponent, argues Carlos Basombrío at the Wilson Center. But now many people who united behind him say they will oppose his government, and PPK faces a difficult governance scenario in which Fujimori has a large congressional majority. He must forge popularity, but through reforms in areas that have wide societal consensus, argues Basombrío: "the fight against crime, the reform of the political system, the improvement of state capacity--to make it more efficient and closer to closer to the population—and meaningful and effective efforts to combat corruption."
  • NACLA piece analyzes the unlikely coalition against Fujimori, and how the revitalized left must now contend with the new president's neoliberal economic agenda.
  • Armed and masked men, claiming to represent native Mapuche tribes, have been sabotaging logging sites, creating about $13.5 million in damages so far this year, according to Reuters. Authorities say that the groups behind the attacks want an autonomous Mapuche state, while the groups say the logging industries forest plantations have harmed the ecosystem and made agriculture difficult.
  • Jailed Brazilian exec, Marcelo Odebrecht, said he will admit personally overseeing illegal campaign donations for Dilma Rousseff's 2010 and 2014 presidential campaigns, reports the Guardian.
  • Brazil's acting President Michel Temer agreed to transfer $849.0 million to bail out the Rio de Janeiro state government from a financial crisis that threatens the continuity of basic public services ahead of the upcoming Olympics games, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Olympics curse? Animal lovers and rights groups have expressed anger after a jaguar used in an Olympic torch event this week was shot and killed after escaping her enclosure, reports the New York Times.
  • And the Australian Olympics team called for heightened security after a Paralympic champion was robbed at gunpoint while training in the host city, reports the Guardian.
  • The mosquito-borne Zika virus hit Haiti, but appears to be having little impact there. The reasons are unclear, but could point to relate to a lack of information in a country with little medical infrastructure, according to the Washington Post.

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