Thursday, August 24, 2017

International support for CICIG's Velásquez (Aug. 24, 2017)

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales is seeking to oust the head of the U.N. International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Iván Velásquez. (See yesterday's briefs.) Sources say he planned to ask U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, reports Reuters. The two are scheduled to meet tomorrow, and government officials have said ousting Velásquez is not on the agenda, reports El Periódico.

Already, Public Minister Thelma Aldana has threatened to resign if this occurs.

Reports of the request have been rejected internationally and by rights organizations. Canada, Sweden, U.K. and the E.U. have voiced support for Velásquez, reports El Periódico. Nobel peace prize laureate and business leaders have also spoken in favor of Velásquez. "#IvánSeQueda" is trending on Twitter.

 The move would be a major blow to accountability there, Human Rights Watch said yesterday. "Seeking the commissioner’s removal would be a blatant betrayal by President Morales of his past commitment to support the anti-corruption agency," said Daniel Wilkinson, HRW's managing director for the Americas. "Given that his own son and brother are facing prosecution by the commission, it would also represent an egregious interference in the judicial process by the president."

It would be "political suicide," according to Nómada (InSight Crime translation), which reports that Morales himself might be the target of a CICIG investigation into his campaign financing activities from the second round of the 2015 election. "Nómada’s sources confirm, the MP and CICIG are investigating the finances of then-presidential candidate Jimmy Morales and his party. Three of the sources say they were related to the cooptation case and other corruption probes. ... The political moment recalls the months between December 2014 and April 2015, when then-President Otto Pérez Molina hesitated to support the CICIG, which came closer to the presidential office with each investigation, eventually leading to his resignation and arrest."

News Briefs
  • Factum's investigation into a police execution squad in El Salvador includes extensive Whatsapp chats, in which over 40 police officers participate, from many branches of the National Civil Police. Their discussions demonstrate a normalization of extrajudicial executions within the police force, explained, co-director César Castro Fagoaga to El Faro. The chats show officers discussing how to set up false crime scenes disguising executions as confrontations with gang members. "These platforms also form an organization that facilitates killings via an informal intelligence system. They also warn and guide each other when a homicide scene from a false confrontation is badly set up," explains Factum. (InSight Crime translation.)
  • Ousted Venezuelan chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega accused President Nicolás Maduro of profiting from the nation’s hunger crisis. She spoke in Brazil at an international meeting of attorneys general, and said she had evidence linking Maduro to the ownership of Mexican company that provides products to Venezuela’s state-sponsored food-distribution program. She also said Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht had paid Diosdado Cabello, a powerful Venezuelan government leader, $100 million in bribes, reports the Miami Herald. "I am going to give [evidence] to authorities in different countries — the United States, Colombia, Spain — so they can investigate," she said. "In Venezuela, there is no justice. It’s impossible to investigate any act of corruption or drug trafficking." She said that international courts need to review the cases because the "rule of law has been dismantled" in Venezuela.
  • Magistrates who have fled Venezuela, where they are accused of treason after being named by the opposition-led National Assembly, seek to create a spate of international lawsuits against the government for human rights violations, reports Efecto Cocuyo. Thirty-three judges are affected -- about a dozen have left the country, and others have taken refuge in embassies in Caracas. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • The Trump administration is considering further sanctions against the Venezuelan government (see yesterday's briefs). Applying such sanctions successfully would require the U.S. to act multilaterally and gradually in order to affect the government more than the general population, argues Francisco Monaldi in a New York Times Español op-ed. Carried out in a way that clearly states how they will be executed and also lifted, "... the sanctions could motivate moderate actors within the coalition government and impulse a resolution of the political crisis, though there is no guarantee of it." However, "if they are applied arbitrarily, unilaterally and extensively, they could devastate the population, hinder the democratic transition and increase the geopolitical influence of Russia and China in Latin America," he warns.
  • The National Constituent Assembly (ANC) is continuing attacks against prominent opposition members -- a member has said he would seek to remove legislator Freddy Guevara's parliamentary immunity, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
  • At least 10 people died in a boat sinking in the Brazilian state of Pará, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted a precautionary measure for the protection of the rights of the Argentine activist, Santiago Maldonado who disappeared three weeks ago, reports TeleSUR. The international organism urged the government  to take the necessary measures to locate Maldonado, who was last seen in a violent repression of an indigenous protest, reports Página 12.
  • Trump's rhetoric about Mexico doesn't seem to be improving, but Mexicans are learning to shrug it off. The latest: his threat to scrap NAFTA, made at a Phoenix rally. Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray brushed off Trump's comments as simply a negotiating tactic that should not surprise or frighten Mexico, reports the Washington Post.

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