Thursday, June 9, 2016

Nicaragua's Supreme Court splinters opposition in threat to democracy (June 9, 2016)

The Supreme Court in Nicaragua released a ruling Wednesday that splintered the ranks of the main opposition party, Prensa Latina reports. The ruling resolved a dispute between four factions of the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) that arose after internal elections in 2011 and has continued in the courts ever since. The Supreme Court's ruling effectively returned power to the faction that won in 2011, now headed by Pedro Reyes Vallejos, and unseated the PLI's current leader, Eduardo Montealegre, Yahoo News Reports.

Nicaraguans go to the polls in presidential elections in November, when President Daniel Ortega will seek a third consecutive presidential term, after passing a law in 2014 that scrapped a previous two-term limit. Many have interpreted yesterday's Supreme Court ruling as an attempt by Ortega and his Sandinista party allies to hurt the opposition before the elections, according to El Confidencial. Montealegre has said he will still run for president, despite being stripped of PLI party leadership.

Leading businessmen came out in criticism of the ruling, reports La Prensa, which they said represented a threat to democracy. They also criticized the recent decision of Ortega's government not to permit international observers to monitor the upcoming election. In a June 4 speech before the National Sandinista Congress, Ortega said, "Observation is over. [The international monitors] can go back and observe how to bring order to their own countries," according to El Confidencial.

News Briefs
  • With 99.5% of votes counted, Peruvian presidential candidate Pedro Pablo Kuczynski leads Keiko Fujimori by a thin margin of 50.1% to 49.9%, reports the Associated Press. Most experts say it's mathematically impossible for Fujimori to make up the roughly 40,000-vote difference between her and her competitor, but she has not yet conceded victory. 
  • Chile's cabinet chief resigned yesterday after a series of policy disputes with other government officials, reports Reuters. The disagreements apparently had to do with labor policy and crime-fighting strategies, and they came as Chilean president Michelle Bachelet's popularity dropped to an all-time low of 24 percent in May, reflecting public anger over a stagnant economy and over a series of financial scandals.
  • The remains of Chilean president Eduardo Frei Montalva have been exhumed for a second time, the Latin American Herald Tribune reports. The exhumation is part of a renewed investigation into Montalva's death 34 years ago at a clinic in Santiago, ostensibly from an infection. However, many suspected he was poisoned for being part of the opposition to the regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Samples from Montalva's remains will be turned over to a Spanish pathologist, and tested with technology that didn't exist in 2004, when the ex-president was first exhumed to investigate the circumstances of his death.
  • Growing numbers of struggling Venezuelans are searching the trash for food, reports an Associated Press feature. A study by three leading Caracas universities found that 76 percent of Venezuelans are now under the poverty line, compared with 52 percent in 2014. In other news, the country's National Electoral Board has accepted 1.3 million signatures calling for the recall of President Nicolas Maduro, Al Jazeera reports. This is just the first step: Maduro's opponents must now verify the identity of at least 200,000 signatories and collect 4 million signatures to trigger a recall vote.
  • El Salvador's Supreme Court has drafted a resolution denying the extradition to Spain of four military officers implicated in the massacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter in 1989, El Faro reports. Salvadoran authorities arrested the officers in February after a tribunal in Spain requested their extradition (five of the priests were Spanish citizens). According to the El Faro article, the 15-member Supreme Court court is divided, though it is likely a majority will deny extradition.
  • Fifty-four Honduran human rights organizations released a report Monday alleging that a U.S.-backed 2009 coup resulted in government policies that have systematically violated the economic, cultural and social rights of Indigenous people, women, and farmers, while leaving activists like the murdered Berta Cáceres vulnerable to violence, TeleSur reports. The report was presented as an alternative to the official government report submitted to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which began its 58th session in Geneva on Monday, reports CommonDreams.
  • Reuters has a feature on the challenges Colombian FARC rebels face as they attempt to transition to politics after a peace deal. Polls show more than 90 percent of Colombians have a negative view of the FARC, though relations with civilians are shifting in some places, as FARC members seek quiet partnerships with human rights groups and local politicians. "They've gone from aggressive to somewhat tolerant, they've lowered their intensity," said the mayor of Toribio. "They talk about a future now.
  • Meanwhile, 51 U.S. Congressmen sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging support for talks between the Colombian government and the ELN, the second-largest rebel group, according to Colombia Reports. While President Juan Manuel Santos announced talks with the ELN in June 2014, he has not yet formalized the talks, demanding that the ELN end kidnapping practices they've used to run their organization for decades. The Congressmen, led by House Representatives Sam Farr, Jim McGovern, and Ruben Gallego, also called on the ELN to cease kidnappings and free detained and abducted prisoners.
  • El País has an interesting feature on evangelicals in Brazil, who make up 22% of the population but who don't always fit the stereotype when it comes to their social views -- as right-wing politicians are finding out. 
  • In a long and informative article, The Nation tackles the question, "Who is Responsible for Puerto Rico's Debt?" The article analyzes the contrasting positions taken by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and looks at the various competing actors on the ground in Puerto Rico as the country awaits the July 1 deadline, when it is expected to default on the payment of $800 million in general-obligation bonds. 

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