Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Colombian peace strategy could cause rift with the U.S. (Aug. 8, 2017)

Colombia's approach to increasing cocaine production in the context of the FARC peace deal implementation could lead to diplomatic problems with the U.S., warned a U.S. State Department official. William Brownfield said the main focus of coca reduction strategies according to the peace accord, crop substitution and rural development, are not currently supported by the U.S., due to legal obstacles with collaborating with the FARC, reports Insight Crime

"We are strongly encouraging the Colombian government to limit the number of voluntary eradication agreements they negotiate and sign to make implementation feasible," he said. "Voluntary eradication agreements must also have expiration dates so the security forces can forcibly eradicate in farms where coca growing communities fail to meet their obligations." 

Brownfield is rumored to be a potential appointee for Assistant Secretary of State (see last Thursday's briefs) ... 

The U.S. cannot collaborate because the FARC remains designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under several U.S. laws, explains  Ana Isabel Rodríguez Iglesias at Aula Blog. Such enmity could affect the implementation of peace, she argues. "...Weak support for the crop substitution program – coupled with the lack of long-term state presence to provide security and social services – will complicate the achievement of lasting peace in areas from which the FARC has withdrawn.  Multiple reports by Fundación Ideas para la Paz indicate that the FARC has encouraged families to embrace the plan, but U.S. allegations that the former guerrilla organization illicitly manipulates peasants for political advantage does not help to normalize the post-FARC reality in Colombia.  In the same vein, the Trump Administration’s criticism of people protesting forced coca eradication and its suggestion that police should confront protesters threaten to keep the process off balance."

FARC fighters who have laid down arms are getting bank accounts, many for the first time, reports the Economist

It's a small step in the many hurdles the government must jump in order to reintegrate -- or integrate for the first time -- former fighters who were recruited from poor rural families and have spent a lifetime fighting, argue Oliver Kaplan and Enzo Nussio in a New York Times op-ed from last week. "If past is prologue, estimates from Colombia’s previous armed group demobilizations portend a 15 percent to 20 percent recidivism rate over five years," they write. 

Based on their research, they recommend a three pronged approach to helping reduce recidivism among former fighters. "First, assistance must address individual needs, particularly in underdeveloped rural areas that have been neglected by the state. We found that education programs can help counter recidivism. ... Second, reintegration is a family affair. We found that having children and good relations with family members are anchors that keep ex-combatants on the right side of the law. ... Third, communities have a crucial role to play. ... We found that ex-combatants participate more and fare better in communities that have strong social ties. Support for communities and victims, for example, in the form of development assistance and nurturing of social organizations, can be an effective and fair, though indirect, path to aiding former fighters. Communities, for their part, can encourage local reconciliation and welcome them to join in meetings and activities, from soccer games to communal public works."

Coca-cultivators, traditionally a FARC social base, are planning to run candidates for Congress in Colombia next year, reports la Silla Vacía. The Coccam, la Coordinadora de Cultivadores de Coca, Amapola y Marihuana, is a social movement, which claims to gather 80,000 cultivators, proposes an alliance with other social movements. The group, which was created earlier this year, was not originally political, but rather proposed to become interlocutors with the FARC and the government on the issue of crop substitution programs.

News Briefs
  • The U.S. government is positioning Salvadoran street gang MS-13 as a national security threat in order to feed into a discourse against Latino migrants, argues Roberto Valenzuela in a New York Times Español op-ed. This is not to say that the cruelty and violence caused by the criminal group are to be underestimated, he writes, but uncomfortably echoes the launch of "mano dura" policies in El Salvador by politicians attempting to score points with the electorate. A policy that in a few short years made the Salvadoran gangs "mutate, radicalize and stop being a strict public security problem to become one of national security, to the point that today Mara Salvatrucha has the capacity to condition the speeches of the highest officials of the most powerful country."
  • The Economist has a piece arguing that the U.S. government's stance towards migrants is thwarting police efforts to combat MS-13 in U.S. communities.
  • Venezuela's government was attacked by hackers, who referred to the Maduro administration as a dictatorship and appeared to support the "Operation David" uprising this past weekend, reports the BBC. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Gestures of rebellion from Venezuela's military "have laid bare a split within the military that could ultimately determine the nation’s fate: a growing number of officers are openly breaking ranks with the president and taking up weapons," according to the New York Times. But an actual break will be hard, the government has taken steps to ensure loyalty, including increasing promotions to officer rank, promoting military top brass to key cabinet posts, and putting the military in charge of key patronage systems such as distribution of scarce food supplies and medicine. (See yesterday's post.)
  • "For anyone who’s been following the Trump administration’s foreign policy, the sudden concern for democracy and the rule of law is a little jarring, and the inconsistency has been widely noted," writes Joshua Keating at Slate on the U.S. government's focus on Venezuela. He analyzes potential reasons, that include little to lose by keeping the "Cuba caucus" happy by criticizing a regime with an increasingly terrible human rights record.
  • Indigenous communities in Peru's northern Amazon have been ravaged by the environmental damage wrought by successive international oil companies, reports the Guardian. "The impacts on the Achuar, Kichwa, Kukama, Quechua and Urarina indigenous peoples living in this region have been appalling: contaminated rivers, streams, lakes, lagoons, soils, gardens, game, fish, and all manner of related health problems, including epidemics, miscarriages, skin diseases, diarrhoea and deaths, according to reports. Rights have been trampled over and ignored, requests for land title blocked, protest criminalised, communities divided, forest and spiritual sites destroyed, 1,000s of outsiders brought in as labourers, confidence in government eroded, and economic dependency fostered. Enter alcoholism, prostitution, HIV-AIDS, suicide and often, when members of communities have found employment with the companies, poor working conditions." What's less clear is who will pay the estimated $1 billion to clean up the area ... 
  • Four former Peruvian presidents are in jail or fugitives from justice for human rights crimes or corruption. "A world record? Probably, but hardly one to celebrate," notes Sonia Goldenberg in a New York Times op-ed on how the aftershock of Brazil's Operation Car Wash investigation into corruption has implicated leaders in other countries. "Peru is not more corrupt than other Latin American states. Nor are its courts a model of fairness and efficiency. But as overwhelming evidence of bribes taken by presidents across the political spectrum is emerging from abroad, Peruvian judges are under extreme pressure to react. As a consequence, the country’s discredited justice system is, for a change, gaining some credibility and independence."
  • Brazilian President Michel Temer survived a vote last week over whether he should face trial on corruption charges, but he seems to lack support to pass a polemic pension reform law, reports Bloomberg.
  • Mexican police chief star Julián Leyzaola has been brought on as an advisor to help Cancún battle rising crime. But the cop credited with reducing homicides in Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana also has a track record littered with allegations of human rights violations and a reputation for using brutal, confrontational methods to achieve his goals, reports InSight Crime in a profile.
  • Gunmen killed three people and wounded two more at a popular Mexican tourist beach, San José del Cabo, reports the BBC.
  • Human trafficking in Mexico counts on collaboration between political and business powers with organized crime groups, according to a new report from the Belisario Domínguez Institute. The report points to increasing use of technology for recruitment to the 47 criminal groups involved in human trafficking. More than a third of the cities with the highest frequency of trafficking cases are located along the US-Mexico border, notes InSight Crime.
  • Paraguayan indigenous groups are angling to become a political party, reports TeleSUR.
  • Former Guatemalan high-ranking prison officials were aware of the danger to infamous inmate Byron Lima's life, and failed to protect him, making them guilty by omission, according to a press conference given last week by Attorney General Thelma Aldana and Iván Velázquez, the head of the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity. Their statements and arrests last week seem to indicate Lima was killed in an internal power struggle to control the prison. But InSight Crime posits that his powerful political enemies may have also played an intellectual role in the assassination. (See post for July 19, 2016.)
  • One prisoner died and five were injured in a clash involving some 50 inmates this weekend in Guatemala in the same Pavón prison, reports AFP.
  • Indigenous midwives in Bolivia are playing a key role in reducing infant mortality, reports the Associated Press. President Evo Morales' government has tapped into the strong cultural bond many women feel with traditional midwives, and is incorporating them into the formal health system.

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