Guatemala's Supreme Court ruled yesterday that lawmakers should determine whether President Jimmy Morales' immunity from prosecution should be lifted so that he can face charges of illegal campaign financing, reports the Associated Press. Prosecutors and the CICIG allege that about $825,000 in financing for Morales' 2015 presidential campaign was hidden and that other expenditures had no explainable source of funding.
Only two of 13 judges voted against the motion yesterday, reports El Periódico. The case now goes to a Congressional Investigation Committee.
Two-thirds of the 158 deputies would have to vote in favor of the motion for it to pass. Morales issued a statement yesterday saying he would respect the country's institutions and called on citizens to remain objective. (See last Wednesday's post.)
Morales FCN party will likely seek the support of the Movimiento Reformista party in order to avoid having his immunity lifted, reports Nómada, which reports on the various loyalties to shady characters in depth.
Judges rejected three other requests to prosecute the president, on charges of abuse of authority, obstruction of justice, and disobedience, all in reference to the attempted ouster of U.N. anti-corruption commission head Iván Velásquez.
The thwarted move must be sternly opposed by the U.N. and Washington, argues a New York Times editorial from yesterday. "The State Department and the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, were right to promptly criticize Mr. Morales’s attempt to expel Mr. Velásquez. The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, made clear that he was “shocked” by Mr. Morales’s action. Guatemala cannot afford to backslide, and Washington must help it stay the course."
Still wondering why Morales' figured the politically suicidal move against Velásquez would work? Nómada pieced together the play by play from insider sources.
- "... For me, as for so many other Venezuelans, political imprisonment has been the punishment for daring to dream of a democratic society, free of Communism and open to the global community," writes Venezuelan opposition leader Yon Goicoechea in a New York Times op-ed. "We just want what so many other people around the world take for granted: free elections, good governance, free expression, judicial independence, personal security and a modicum of economic liberty — something not even the Chinese Communist Party denies its citizens anymore." He tells about his ongoing imprisonment by Venezuela's secret police, though he's been cleared of any crimes. "This means that there are no active judicial proceedings against me — I’m simply being held hostage in violation of the Constitution. The United Nations, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have all described my detention as arbitrary and called for my release." He calls on the U.S. and the international community to stay firm against the Venezuelan government. "We in the Venezuelan opposition have three main challenges right now. The first is overcoming the humanitarian crisis caused by shortages of food and medicine. The second is restoring democracy through peaceful means and avoiding civil war. The third is opening our economy to the world.We aren’t asking anyone to solve our problems for us. We have taken responsibility for our country’s future. But Washington’s influence could either help us speed up the process or give some breathing room. The White House, together with the rest of the international community, has the capacity to pressure for negotiation and a peaceful transition to democracy. We are grateful for the support that the people of Europe, Latin and North America have shown; I only dare to ask for one more thing: resolve."
- Negotiators from the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group say they have agreed a temporary ceasefire with the Colombian government, reports the BBC.
- A DNA analysis eliminated a government theory on Argentine activist Santiago Maldonado's disappearance, strengthening the arguments of those who suspect security forces, reports Página 12. The Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) denounced increasing police repression of protests, saying the government was "escalating repression and criminalization of the right to protest," reports Página 12 separately.
- Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is rushing to pass landmark progressive legislation before her term ends next March -- last month her initiative to soften the country's total abortion ban was successful and she proposed extending marriage rights to gay couples. But though Chileans are pessimistic about her administration, and her ambitious reform agenda was not fully carried out, hindsight will show her to have been successful, argues Sylvia Colombo in a New York Times Español op-ed. "Her presidency will remain as symbol of a country that has already changed (the abortion law, for example, had 70 approval). With persistence and facing great difficulties, the first female president of Chile forged a path for Chileans that, despite future obstacles, makes turning back unthinkable. It will not be possible to stop this process as occurred when that started by Salvador Allende in 1973 was brutally interrupted."
- Brazilian Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles says the country's political upheaval is calming and he expects major (and unpopular) reforms to pass through Congress before the end of the year, reports the Wall Street Journal.
- Meirelles' confidence notwithstanding, the Operation Lava Jato investigation into political corruption resembles a telenovela with plot twists that continue to come close to President Michel Temer, reports the Miami Herald.
- Rio de Janeiro's terrifying violence levels include stray bullets which killed scores of people last year -- and are far more common in the city's poor north and west zones, home to many favela neighborhoods, writes Robert Muggah in the Conversation."Ambiguous defitions and under-counting mean that violence analysts like me don’t actually know whether crossfire killings are on the rise. But we do know this: Rio’s stray bullets are no accident – they’re the predictable outcome of a public security policy that privileges aggressive policing over prevention. Too often police in Rio are trained to shoot first and (maybe) ask questions later. When threatened, officers routinely fire off a disproportionate number of rounds – often at close range. And when trigger-happy cops wield powerful assault rifles, as Rio’s do, they can kill or injure people up to three kilometres away."