Monday, January 29, 2018

JOH sworn in among protests (Jan. 29, 2018)

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was sworn in for his second term on Saturday. Outside the Tegucigalpa national stadium ceremony, security forces threw tear gas at thousands demonstrators protesting irregularities in the November presidential election, reports the New York Times.

The unrest is a sign of the difficulties JOH will face as he embarks on a new term, reports the Wall Street Journal. While supporters laud results based policies targeting poverty and violence, critics say the leader is a classic strongman who is undermining the country's institutions.

JOH starts his second term questioned by rights groups, which tallied as many as 22 killings by security forces in protests after the elections. Media reports say at least 30 people were killed.

And critics also point to efforts in Congress to eviscerate anti-corruption investigations carried out by prosecutors with an OAS backed international commission. (See last Thursday's post.) The OAS was one of the most vocal opponents of the election results.

Though almost nobody is convinced of the validity of the election results, the protest movement against JOH is fizzling, according to the Economist. And there are rumors that the de-facto opposition leader, former President Manuel Zelaya, has a backroom deal with JOH in order to pave the way for his own presidential run in 2021.

Much of the focus on irregularities has been regarding how the votes were tallied. But heavy spending on rural social programs may have also made a significant difference in favor of JOH, reports Univisión. Critics say that assistance, which has made inroads in poverty, is heavily politicized, and there are reports of vote buying.

Those worried about term limits however, can relax. JOH promises he won't go for a third term.

News Briefs
  • A wave of bombing in Colombia killed seven police officers and wounded dozens, reports the New York Times. Police stations were targeted in three attacks along the Caribbean coast on Saturday. The motives remain unclear, though police sources speculated it could be payback from criminal organizations.
  • Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski met with lawmaker Kenji Fujimori months before pardoning his father, former authoritarian leader Alberto Fujimori, who was serving a sentence for human rights violations. "After a ceremony at the ornate presidential palace where he grew up, Kenji asked Kuczynski to free his ailing father from prison and offered him political support in Congress in return," reports Reuters.
  • Venezuela's opposition said it will return to negotiations with the government, reports the Associated Press.
  • Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's corruption conviction, upheld by an appeals court last week, is portrayed as justice by his opponents and a politically motivated judicial face by his supporters. Neither is quite right, according to Rubens Glezer, writing in the Conversation. "As a Brazilian constitutional law professor and Supreme Court researcher, I see Lula’s trials as a marquee example of Brazil’s flawed and inconsistent justice system. It confirms that Brazilian judges are on a moral quest to “cleanse” politics – and they’re willing to bend the law to do it."
  • In Bolivia, President Evo Morales is determined to run again for office, despite constitutional term limits, a situation that echoes increasingly unstable politics in democracies around the region, according to the New York Times.
  • The middle class is generally seen as a stability factor in democracies, but the example of Chile's recent presidential election shows how that can be misleading, according to the Economist. "In today’s Latin America, the new middle classes’ main demand is for better services, from higher education to health care and policing. But that doesn’t necessarily imply public services, or a big state and support for the left."
  • Leftist presidential frontrunner in Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, says NAFTA's renegotiation should wait for July's election, reports Reuters.
  • Bogotá authorities enacted a ban on men riding as pillion passengers on the backs of motorcycles, a policy aimed at reducing robberies which increased by 60 percent last year. Riders protesting on Friday clashed with police, and motorcyclists claim they are being unfairly stigmatized. The policy emulates one in Medellín, banning male passengers during the day, credited with with reducing motorcycle homicides, reports the Guardian. As the Bogotá ban only affects male passengers, there is some concern that women will be drawn into street crime.
  • China played a prominent role in Davos last week, including efforts to increase economic influence in Latin America, reports the New York Times
  • Mexico's tourism secretary has proposed legalizing marijuana in two of the country's tourism heavy states, but the plan butts up against limitations in the country's penal code and health law, reports El País.
  • Brazil's state-run technology company, Serpro, hopes to use blockchain technology to limit corruption, reports Reuters.
  • Rio de Janeiro's homeless population is booming -- in 2016 15,000 people were registered with the government, though advocates say the real number is likely much higher. The ritzy neighborhood of Copacabana has become a focal point, with residents taking poorly to their new sidewalk neighbors, reports the Washington Post.
  • The U.S. nominee for ambassador to Chile, Andrew Gellert, has close financial ties to Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law, reports Bloomberg.
  • Trump's border wall is always looming in the horizon of U.S. migration policy, but in San Diego where prototypes have actually been erected, immigration advocates say the real danger for migrants is Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and efforts made to detain undocumented people. Just across the Mexican border in Tijuana, advocates agree that the wall itself is pretty irrelevant, reports the Guardian.

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