Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Moreno rolls back civil society restrictions (Oct. 25, 2017)

Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno revoked decrees aimed at controlling organizations of civil society. On Monday he reversed his predecessor's Decreto número 16 y el número 739, which were used to dissolve environmental and educational NGO's, reports El Comercio

Moreno has sought to differentiate himself from his predecessor, who had a confrontational stance, and tweeted Monday that the changes were made in accordance with "national dialogue." Civil society organizations said the decrees endangered citizens' rights to free association. Moreno said he sought to eliminate bureaucratic hurdles and encourage civil and social organizations. 

The new regulations free organizations to participate in political events and social protests, notes El Comercio.

El Comercio separately reports on the cases of the UNE, which was dissolved last year under the decrees for allegedly failing to hew to its official statute. The largest teacher's union was also a strong government opponent, notes Extra. Fundación Pachamama was dissolved in 2013 for protests that the government considered threats to public order.

News Briefs
  • Moreno's party, the Alianza País has announced its opposition to a referendum the president has proposed to eliminate reforms passed by his predecessor, including unlimited presidential reelection. Moreno critics say the move is aimed at eliminating Rafael Correa from running again in future elections, reports TeleSUR. (See last Thursday's briefs for other views on Moreno's referendum.)
  • Human rights defenders and journalists in Honduras say they are confronting jail-time and violence, drastically restricting their capacity to work. The Latin America Working Group Education Fund points to legislation punishing social protest and reducing penalties for corruption as part of a worrisome trend, along with "rampant" and "largely unpunished" Murders of and attacks and threats against human rights defenders and journalists.
  • Mexican opposition senators blocked a ruling-PRI party attempt to schedule a fast-track secret vote to uphold a polemic ousting of an anticorruption prosecutor last week, reports the Associated Press. The Senate chairman ended yesterday's session after about two dozen senators from opposition parties demanded an open vote and refused to leave the podium. (See Monday's post.)
  • Prominent Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles threatened to pull out of the MUD coalition. It's the latest expression of deepening schisms in the opposition alliance in the wake of a surprising loss in recent regional elections, reports the New York Times. The decade-old coalition has always had internal divisions, but these have become exacerbated in the lead up to the elections -- which some parties wanted to boycott -- and in the aftermath, in which four opposition governors-elect broke ranks with the MUD stance and swore in before a controversial pro-government assembly. (See yesterday's post.) Luis Vicente León of Datanalisis told the NYT that it's the worst crisis faced by the opposition in 19 years, and it's just beginning. President Nicolás Maduro met yesterday with three of the newly sworn in opposition governors, a meeting he hailed as cordial and positive, reports EFE.
  • The much predicted Venezuelan default might be on the near horizon according to Bloomberg. On Friday, the government-run oil giant PDVSA owes $985 million and the following week another $1.2 billion. This coming as the country's foreign-currency reserves reached a 15 year-low.
  • A Venezuela opposition leader said the country's government allowed a $1.7 billion gold swap with Germany’s Deutsche Bank AG to lapse, weakening Venezuela's already crisis-struck balance sheet, reports Reuters.
  • Newsweek criticizes the U.N.'s foot-dragging in redressing the harms of a peacekeeper initiated cholera epidemic in Haiti. "People will continue to fall sick and die until the UN provides a comprehensive remedy for the travesty it caused. The UN’s refusal to right this wrong has caused incalculable damage to its reputation and mission at a time when the world is in particular need of strong multilateral leadership."
  • Longstanding criticisms of the now ended U.N. stabilization mission in Haiti are tainting reception of the new justice mission, reports Reuters. Opposition politicians are skeptical the new MINUJUSTH will succeed in its institutional support goals. (See last Friday's briefs.)
  • U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions named Salvadoran street gang MS-13 a priority target for law enforcement, reports InSight Crime. "What is not clear is how these measures could represent an effective step in the fight against the entry of drugs into the United States. The MS13 is not a major player in transnational drug trafficking and the US State Department, several research centers in Washington, police officers and even the DEA have all acknowledged this." (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Social gains in Brazil are eroding, and millions are falling back into poverty, reports the Associated Press. The World Bank estimates about 28.6 million Brazilians moved out of poverty between 2004 and 2014. But the bank estimates that from the start of 2016 to the end of this year, 2.5 million to 3.6 million will have fallen back below the poverty line of 140 Brazilian reais per month, about $44 at current exchange rates.
  • Brazilian President Michel Temer has again made policy and spending concessions in an attempt to buy congressional goodwill ahead of a vote today on whether he should face corruption charges, reports Reuters.
  • Amazonian indigenous groups in Brazil are increasingly under threat by mining interests. The Waiapi, who live in the Renca reserve the government has sought to open to mining and agriculture, have vowed to defend their territory and are terrified it will be taken from them, reports AFP.
  • The companions of a Spanish tourist killed by Rio de Janeiro police say they did not break through an official checkpoint, contradicting the military police's version of events, reports EFE. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • U.S. prosecutors obtained the confession of a Panamanian establishment scion in a controversial money laundering investigation. Nidal Waked Hatum admitted that he had fraudulently secured bank credit for one of his companies for the purchase of non-existent electronic appliances from two more of his companies. In exchange prosecutors dropped two other charges. Prosecutors said the transactions were used to move cash for drug traffickers in Panama, Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela, reports InSight Crime. The Waked family is accused of laundering money through real estate investments, financial vehicles, shell companies and property holdings. A decision to add Nidal and his father Abdul to the Narcotics Traffickers Kingpin list last year "ent shockwaves through Panama, where members of the Waked family are among the most powerful people in the country," according to InSight. 
  • The US Treasury Department lifted sanctions against two Panamanian newspapers owned by Abdul Waked after he transferred a controlling interest to a Panamanian foundation, reports EFE
  • A Panamanian Supreme Court judge will reportedly back anti-gay marriage legislation, according to the Washington Blade.
  • "María and Irma, 2017’s two most destructive hurricanes in the Caribbean basin, have exposed the trappings and inequalities of colonialism in the region. The hurricanes have blown away decades of legal and international maneuvers and ruses, local constitutions, and moves towards autonomy and integration and administrative reclassifications—leaving exposed a simple colonial truth," writes Angel “Monxo” López Santiago in NACLA.
  • Peruvian indigenous group the Shipibo-Konibo are fighting to secure housing titles in a Lima slum, two decades after they were displaced by guerrilla violence, reports Reuters. A massive fire last year destroyed more than 400 homes and Lima's mayor has promised to rebuild in the same location.
  • Transgender women in Uruguay tend to die young -- they are shunned socially and have difficulty accessing health services and work, reports Reuters.
  • Uruguay's hemp industry is quietly taking off, "in the shadow of its more sexy cousin, recreational marijuana," reports Bloomberg. Cultivation of the crop is set to triple next year.
  • Fifty years after his death, the cultural rebellions Che Guevara inspired as an icon are not the revolutions he would have desired. But the "existencial, cultural, generational and anti-war" rebellions he inspired formed the basis for the freedoms enjoyed by Western societies today, argues Jorge Castañeda in a New York Times Español op-ed.

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