Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Funes granted asylum in Nicaragua (Sept. 7, 2016)

Former Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes was granted asylum in Nicaragua. The refuge request came just a few days after El Salvador's attorney general announced an investigation into five corruption cases against him, reports El Faro. The former president also has also been charged in an illicit enrichment case involving over $300,000. His family was also granted asylum, including two sons also charged with illicit enrichment.

They sought protection saying that their lives were in danger because of their “struggle for democracy, peace, justice and human rights,” reports the New York Times. Funes tweeted that he had evidence that “the extreme right” was planning to attack him, but that the judicial proceedings against him will continue and he will seek to prove his innocence.

But the asylum could discredit the proceedings against him, and specifically Attorney General Douglas Meléndez, Michael Allison, associate professor of political science at University of Scranton told the NYTimes.

Funes was already in Nicaragua at the end of last month, when the attorney general's office carried out a series of surprise raids on the businesses of Miguel Menéndez, better known as "Mecafé," in relation to a scheme of favors and loans to third parties through the state Banco Hipotecario. One of those loans benefited a company that then set up a Spa owned by Funes' partner and mother of his youngest son, according to El Faro.

In August, Funes, who is a prolific social media user, used Twitter to deny that he had requested asylum in Nicaragua, where he said he was for work purposes.

The asylum application was dated Sept. 1, which coincides with an order for the release of Funes' government-funded trips abroad while in office, notes the BBC.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center's Latin America director Cynthia J. Arnson told the NYTimes the move was bad for the regional struggle against impunity, but in keeping with Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega's "authoritarian tendencies."

News Briefs
  • IMF figures show that three successive Salvadoran governments since 2005 doctored GDP figures. The actual GDP is 14.4 percent lower than the official statistic, reports El Faro -- a difference of $3,722 million. That means the country's debt represents 72 percent of its GDP.
  • In the wake of former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's ouster last week, some leftist politicians are pointing to a backlash against female leadership. The incoming administration represents a return to a white, male dominated government, and is emboldening anti-feminist discourse. But others say that Rousseff was impeached not because she is a woman, but because of poor management and point to a growth in female candidates in local politics (though not at a national level) and new inroads in the judiciary, reports the New York Times.
  • An activist group in Brazil is seeking to impeach Supreme Court judge Ricardo Lewandowski, who presided over Rousseff's impeachment trial, for permitting a separate vote on her ouster and an eight-year ban on holding political office, reports the Financial Times. The decision has been decried as "impeachment with impunity," though it's unlikely the Supreme Court will overturn the Senate vote. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Drug smugglers seeking to avoid law enforcement have taken to shipping cocaine from Bolivia through Argentina, turning the peaceful country into an "international narcotics hub," reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Juan Gabriel Tokatlian criticizes Argentine President Mauricio Macri's newly announced "war on drugs" plan to tackle the country's narcotics problem. (See last Wednesday's briefs.) The security oriented project reiterates the failed plans of the past 20 years he says, and lacks details of the indicators that will be used to evaluate its success, he writes in Clarín. Among other issues, the project firmly securitizes the issue -- it will be coordinated by the Security Ministry. And fails to detail how it will financially dismantle the businesses, or tackle smugglers with police bodies implicated in protecting the industry.
  • Mexico's Supreme Court is set to hear a case challenging a Veracruz law that protects life from inception. If successful, it could lead to decriminalization of abortion in Mexico, where eight states passed "right to life" measures after Mexico City legalized abortion in 2008, reports the Associated Press.
  • Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's has received another setback from the U.S. presidential campaign: Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton said she will not visit Mexico before the November election, reports the New York Times. Peña Nieto was lambasted at home for meeting with Republican candidate Donald Trump last week. (See last Thursday's post and Friday's briefs.)
  • Nearly 27 thousand people are disappeared in Mexico, up until December of last year, according to new government figures, reports Animal Político.
  • The issue of child soldiers in the U.S.-Mexico area drug wars is under-explored. Yet about 30,000 minors have been involved, and thousands have been killed. The New Yorker reviews "Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico’s Most Dangerous Drug Cartel" by Dan Slater, that gives some insight to the children who wind up in the the service of drug cartels.
  • Nearly 50 million children around the world are refugees, and roughly 28 million, have fled violence and insecurity, according to a new UNICEF report. There are about 6.3 million child migrants in the Americas, and 80 percent live in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, reports the New York Times.
  • Colombia has 7 million internally displaced people, according to the U.N. More than Syria, Iraq and other war zones. If approved, the new peace deal with the FARC promises to help victims of displacement -- who often live in slums surrounding Colombian cities -- to recover their farms or receive new land, reports the Washington Post. But the process promises to be complicated, and many people don't trust the government's ability to protect them from other armed groups.
  • In an interview with the Miami Herald, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said the deal will be widely approved in the upcoming October plebiscite. He argues that the transitional justice accord, which will fighters who committed serious crimes alternatives to prison is not impunity, as their transgressions will be investigated, judged, condemned and punished. He also noted the efforts are being lauded by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.
  • Haiti's most polemic political candidate for October's upcoming elections may well be Guy Philippe. The senate candidate is revered in the rural Grand'Anse region of southern Haiti, but reviled by others for his leadership in the 2004 rebellion that overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, reports the Associated Press. He is also wanted on charges of drug trafficking by the U.S.
  • Journalists attempting to cover Venezuela's worsening general crisis are facing a government crackdown, in the midst of a wider clampdown on dissent, reports the Financial Times.
  • The latest victims of the Venezuelan crisis are pets, who owners are increasingly abandoning because they cannot feed them, reports the Associated Press.
  • Former Guatnamo Bay prisoner Abu Wa'el Dhiab was briefly hospitalized due to complications with a hunger strike he is carrying out. The Syrian native was resettled in Uruguay, but is demanding to be sent to another country where he can reunite with his family, reports the Associated Press. (See last Friday's briefs.)
  • Regional soccer body CONCACAF is investigating allegations by Salvadoran players that they were offered money to help Honduras in World Cup 2018 qualifying play, reports the Associated Press.

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