Wednesday, December 20, 2017

JOH declares himself president-elect, calls for dialogue (Dec. 20, 2017)

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH) -- declared this week the winner of last months presidential election -- called for dialogue and an end to violence, reports La Prensa. The vote count has been heavily questioned by international observer missions, and the OAS called for fresh elections this week, saying the results announced could not be trusted. (See Monday's post.)

Violently repressed protests on Monday after the results were announced led to three deaths, reports TeleSUR. At least 17 people had already died in election related protests since the election nearly a month ago. U.N. and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights experts condemned the post-election violence, and called on authorities to investigate the deaths.
Honduran opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla agreed to enter into talks with JOH. Nasralla has been calling for new elections, in line with the OAS recommendation, but agreed to dialogue with the president, reports the BBC.
Nasralla has called on the international community not to recognize Hernández as the election's winner. Though the U.S. has not officially done so yet, the State Department said in a statement on Monday that "the United States notes that Honduras’ Supreme Electoral Tribunal has declared incumbent president Juan Orlando Hernández the winner" of the election.

The Mexican government yesterday congratulated JOH on his win, reports La Prensa. Mexico's statement is an important support for Hernández, who declared himself president-elect yesterday, notes Reuters.

However, several U.S. lawmakers have thrown their weight behind the OAS call for new elections, reports the New York Times.

U.S. silence on the matter is highly problematic, argues Inter-American Dialogue president Michael Shifter in Foreign Affairs. "Although it may be tempting for Washington to try to sweep the problems of democratic legitimacy and corruption under the rug, given its partnership with Honduras in fighting drug trafficking and illegal immigration, doing so would be a mistake. The experience of Honduras over the past eight years offers a cautionary tale for Washington: Unless Honduras' democratic legitimacy is restored, the country will continue to struggle to alleviate the many symptoms of its broken system."

News Briefs
  • Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski will have an hour to defend himself in Congress tomorrow, where opposition parties say they have enough votes to oust him by the weekend, reports the New York Times. (See Monday's and yesterday's briefs.)  Some analysts say impeachment proceedings against  parallel the ouster of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on minor charges. Other point to a widening ripple effect of Odebrecht corruption revelations, reports the Guardian. Odebrecht represents a turning point for Latin American voters who have traditionally accepted a degree of corruption as inevitable, according to the  PPK , reports NYT. But, also like the Rousseff impeachment, it also showcases the difficulty facing many of the region's corruption investigations: "how to oust politicians in governments where few judging them are considered any more clean — and in some cases far less so," according to the NYT. The result has been use of corruption charges for political purposes, Jo-Marie Burt told NYT.
  • Chile's runoff election on Sunday finished in a surprisingly strong win by former president Sebastián Piñera. Though the results appear to ratify the country's regional reputation for being boring, it's the second time this year Chilean voters have defied polls and experts in a surprise result, writes Patricio Fernández in a New York Times Español op-ed. "Everything indicates that communication between political and cultural elites and those who they pretend to represent is spoiled," he writes "The result is an unheard-of ideological disorder."
  • Mexican journalist Gumaro Pérez Aguilando was shot while attending his son's Christmas pageant in school yesterday. He is the twelfth media worker killed this year, reports the Guardian. Mexico and Syria are the world's most murderous countries for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders.
  • "Intense gang warfare continues to plague El Salvador, undeterred by successive governments’ heavy-handed and militarised repression policies," according to a new Crisis Group report. "More investment in holistic violence prevention strategies and economic alternatives to criminal violence are necessary if the country's chronic insecurity crisis is to be alleviated."
  • Opposition dysfunction in Venezuela, as well as another failed round of dialogue, may have contributed to analyst fatigue, writes David Smilde at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, noting "a dearth of realistic and detailed analysis of Venezuela’s current process of negotiation in the international media and blogosphere." He highlights several interesting pieces that came out in Venezuelan media this week however. "Negotiations have been put on hold until January, but these analyses will continue to be relevant in the coming weeks and months."
  • Mexico's presidential election next year could get very dirty, warns Bloomberg. Leftist Andres Manuel López Obrador has an 11-percentage point lead ahead according to a poll taken last week, reports Reuters. The Parametria poll found that 31 percent of those asked who they would vote for if the election were today would choose Lopez Obrador, followed by former Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade, seeking nomination for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), on 20 percent.
  • Brazilian President Michel Temer's approval rating is going up -- doubling to 6 percent in a new poll published this week, reports Reuters. Analysts say the increase reflects an improved economy.
  • Rio de Janeiro's police broke up a drug-smuggling ring that used luggage labels of innocent travelers in the city's international airports to send cocaine abroad. Twenty-seven people were arrested, including airline and airport staff, one foreigner, and an official from the Brazilian tax office, police said. The scheme involved duplicating luggage labels for domestic travelers -- subject to less scrutiny -- in order to get suitcases full of cocaine into restricted areas, where they were then loaded onto international flights, reports the Guardian.
  • Widespread opposition to the Argentine government's pension overhaul plan has called into question President Mauricio Macri's ability to follow through with ambitious, investor-friendly reforms, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's post.) Clashes between protesters and security forces as Congress debated and ultimately approved the bill, left 141 people injured, including 88 police officers, and led to the detention of 70 people in Buenos Aires. At least 28 journalists were injured covering the protest. A survey by the polling company Ricardo Rouvier and Associates showed that two out of three Argentines rejected the overhaul, which the opposition has characterized as an austerity move.
  • In a New York Times op-ed former Argentine foreign minister Héctor Timerman (my father) denies the charges of treason that an Argentine judge has used to put him in pre-trial detention. (See yesterday's briefs for Human Rights Watch's criticism of the case and the use of pre-trial detention against former government officials.)
  • At least 12 people died yesterday when a bus carrying cruise ship passengers to Mayan ruins in eastern Mexico flipped over on a highway, reports the Associated Press.

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