Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Chile leaves behind total abortion ban (Aug. 22, 2017)

Chile's Constitutional Court approved a law permitting abortions in limited circumstances, yesterday. The bill -- which permits termination of pregnancy in cases of rape, risk to woman's life, or fetal inviability -- passed Congress earlier this month after two years of debate. It in fact reinstates a right Chilean women lost 28 years ago, towards the end of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship, notes the New York Times

Groups in favor and against the law demonstrated for the four days the court considered the case. Judges voted six to four to dismiss two requests for review that argued the bill would violate the constitutional guarantee of "protection of the unborn."

Though the measure had ample public support -- 70 percent of Chileans favored decriminalization -- "the opposition was formidable," according to Giselle Carino, CEO of International Planned Parenthood Federation’s Western Hemisphere Region. "The margins for passage in the Senate, a bicameral commission, and the Constitutional tribunal were razor thin. A well-funded, well-organized opposition fought tooth and nail against this bill every step of the way—and they have vowed to continue to challenge abortion rights."

The main opponents of lifting the total abortion ban came from Chile Vamos (Let’s Go Chile), a coalition of right-leaning parties, including National Renewal, the party of presidential front-runner Sebastián Piñera, noted the Economist earlier this month.

The passage of the law, backed by President Michelle Bachelet, takes Chile out of a small club of countries that prohibit abortion in all circumstances -- leaving HondurasEl SalvadorNicaraguaDominican Republic, Malta, and The Vatican, according to the BBC.

News Briefs
  • El Salvador is suffering a "hidden tragedy" due to gang-related violence, said U.N. Special Rapporteur Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, who examines the human rights of internally displaced persons. She emphasized that  that gangs dominate people through threats, intimidation and "a culture of violence." "The problem is more significant and widespread than the Government is currently accepting," she added. "The Government needs to acknowledge the full extent of internal displacement and act to tackle it and the gang violence which is driving it."
  • Testimony from five different people -- three former Odebrecht execs and two Brazilian publicity gurus -- detail how the Brazilian construction giant funneled $3 million into the 2008 presidential election campaign of Mauricio Funes in El Salvador, reports El Faro. The testimony given to Brazilian prosecutors links former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to the participation of publicists  Joao Santana y Mónica Moura in the successful campaign. Santana and Moura have been convicted in Brazil of money laundering.
  • A U.S. judge has ruled in favor of extraditing a suspect in the killing of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador in 1989 to Spain for trail, reports the BBC. Col Inocente Orlando Montano was the deputy minister of public security when the priests were shot dead along with their housekeeper and her 16-year-old daughter on 16 November 1989 by an elite unit of the Salvadorean army.
  • Testimony by a former gang member in El Salvador's "Truce Trial" has raised a series of questions about the legitimacy of the country's 2014 elections, the role of the country's main political parties' leadership in the vote buying allegations, as well as why the country's chief prosecutors aren't pursuing allegations involving the participation of the state and Salvadoran political elites in a criminal enterprise, reports InSight Crime. (See Aug. 14's post.)
  • A potential $200 million IDB loan to Guatemala to implement fiscal and migratory controls at border crossings with Mexico would work with the country's Defense Ministry, a potential rights red flag, warns Kelsey Alford-Jones, Senior Campaigner for the People, Land and Resources Program at the Center for International Environmental Law. "The IDB project involved activities that fall outside the mandate of the Defense Ministry, an issue that would raise concern in any country. Yet in Guatemala, these concerns are exacerbated by the recent legacy of intense state-sponsored violence and the nation’s ongoing struggle to define a clear – and appropriately limited – role for the military. For example, fiscal controls fall explicitly within mandate of a different agency, and empowering the military by giving it control of the program budget would expand its duties unnecessarily."
  • Ecuadorean politics are marked by the schism between current President Lenín Moreno and his predecessor, Rafael Correa. Though they form part of the same Alianza País movement, they have split since Moreno assumed the presidency this year. Earlier this month, Moreno suspended Correa ally, vice president Jorge Glas, who is accused of Odebrecht corruption.  (See Aug. 7's briefs.) Correa accused his sucessor  of betrayal. "The political and economic transition Lenín Moreno is carrying out has obliged him to fight with his predecessor," argues Raúl Aldaz in Nueva Sociedad. "The proof that slowly "appears" about cases where there were suspicions of corruption are opportune for Moreno: they get closer each time to Glas and could help him get rid of a heavy load and lend him legitimacy to open spaces of dialogue with other sectors outside of AP. His objective is not only to create legislative majorities, but also to chanel other demands and contain the social backlash to some of his reforms."
  • Venezuelan star conductor Gustavo Dudamel's U.S. tour with the Venezuela's National Youth Orchestra has been cancelled. Dudamel spoke out against the government in recent months, including a New York Times op-ed in July, reports the BBC.
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Venezuela’s former chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega is being “protected” in Colombia and will receive asylum if she asks for it, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday's post.)
  • U.S. VP Mike Pence will visit with Venezuelan exiles in Miami tomorrow, capping off a LatAm trip that was largely focused on the Venezuelan crisis, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Violence is rising across Brazil, but is particularly impacting the country's north, reports InSight Crime. Pernambuco, Ceará and Rio Grande do Norte respectively witnessed a 38 percent, 32 percent and 26 percent rise in murders compared to last year. This is due to a broken truce between the country's most violent gangs, which has pushed up drug violence. Experts also point to cuts in social programs. 
  • Chile's government rejected a billion-dollar mining project because it would disrupt sea life, including endangered penguins, reports the BBC.
  • A grassroots environmental movement has carried out a coral restoration effort in Belize that is hailed as a striking success reports the Guardian. Coral cover has risen from 10% to 17.5% since 2006 – much healthier than many other reefs.

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