Wednesday, January 24, 2018

MACCIH denounces impunity pact (Jan. 24, 2018)

The Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) denounced that a new budget law will severely curtail advances against impunity in the country. The changes aim to take investigations regarding misuse of public funds out of the hands of the MACCIH and the public ministry, reports La Prensa

Spokesman Juan Jímenez Mayor said today that the reform will stop investigations against high level officials involved in these crimes, as well as let convicted former officials off the hook, reports El Heraldo.

Jímenez said more than 60 deputies and former deputies are under investigation, including Mauricio Olivia, the president of Honduras' Congress, according to La Tribuna.

Congress rejected MACCIH's statements, saying the reform promotes transparency, reports La Prensa.

The reform comes in the wake of strong international questioning of presidential election results last year, which gave President Juan Orlando Hernández a second term. MACCIH depends on the OAS, which called for new elections in Honduras.

A coalition of non-partisan electoral observation groups proposed inclusive dialogue in order to resolve the post-electoral crisis in the country. La Coalición de Observación Electoral no Partidaria, Observación N-26 also analyzed three potential scenarios moving forward, reports Criterio. They range from a negotiated transition government, to a national integration government composed of all political parties, to a purely partisan government led by the ruling Partido Nacional Party. 

Members of the Partido National to the top positions in the Honduran Congress yesterday, amid opposition protests, reports EFE.

Venezuelan presidential elections to be held in upcoming months

Venezuelans will vote for president before the end of April, announced the government yesterday. Though the country is in the midst of a protracted economic and political crisis, the government is rushing to hold the vote in order to take advantage of dissent within the political opposition, according to the Wall Street Journal. Legally the elections could be held anytime this year.

In fact, the opposition in torn between denouncing the process and fielding a unity candidate. Many of the most popular opposition leaders are out of the running, notes Reuters. This includes Leopoldo López, Henrique Capriles, and Antonio Ledezma who have been imprisoned, banned from running for office, and forced into exile, respectively.

It is not yet clear whether President Nicolás Maduro will run for another term, though some party loyalists yesterday said he'd be the official candidate.

The former speaker of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup, said the decision to call an early vote was in retaliation against recent European Union sanctions against senior government officials, reports the BBC.

Thirteen countries in the region, including Brazil and Canada, slammed the decision to hold elections immediately, arguing that the “decision makes it impossible to hold democratic, transparent and credible presidential elections, in accordance with international standards."

The announcement complicates political negotiations between the government and members of an opposition coalition, being held in the Dominican Republic, according to the WSJ. Part of the opposition demands in the talks involve ensuring free and fair elections, observed by international monitors. Mexico said it would withdraw from its mediation role in negotiations, as elections were called without previous agreement between parties.

Growing Chinese trade influence in Lat Am

This week China  and CELAC ministers met in Santiago. China invited Latin American and Caribbean countries to join its “One Belt, One Road” initiative on Monday. The initiative aims at deepening cooperation between China and developing countries, and is part of a Beijing push to increase influence in the region, traditionally more oriented towards the U.S., reports Reuters

A new ECLAC report was also made public at the meeting. Trade between China and Latin America surged 22-fold between 2000-2013, totaling $266 billion last year, reports EFE.

News Briefs
  • Those looking struggling to remember who is who in the presidential races across the region will appreciate Americas Quarterly's round-up of frontrunners from Costa Rica to Venezuela.
  • The fight against corrupt political elites will be a unifying theme across the region in this super-electoral year, though in each country the candidates espousing the vision are radically different argues Americas Quarterly, which features Brazilian arch-conservative Jair Bolsonaro and Mexican leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador on the newest issue's cover. "It’s hard to believe that, in the era of Donald Trump and Brexit, anyone could be complacent about the appeal of nationalists who promise to “drain the swamp.” But Latin American establishments are running out of time. Without change, the region’s political landscape may well look radically different a year from now," writes editor-in-chief Brian Winter.
  • For those who feel that dictatorship apologist Bolsonaro is a freak phenomenon, Winter warns that he could well win. And while Bolsonaro is part of a world-wide trend that includes Trump, he is "above all a Brazilian phenomenon, a product of not only the country’s severe economic, institutional and criminal crises since 2014, but also of its successes in the decade prior," he writes in a separate Americas Quarterly piece. The piece delves into the Bolsonaro family's political success, and reviews patriarch Jair's history of controversies. 
  • Supporters of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva gathered in Puerto Alegre today ahead of an appeals court decision regarding a criminal conviction that could prevent him from retaking the presidency this year, reports the Washington Post. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Ahead of this year's presidential elections in Colombia, Juanita León analyzes the playing field in La Silla Vacía. The battle for candidates to be associated with the ideological "center" will be key, she writes, as is convincing voters that candidates represent "change." Legislative elections in March will likely realign the coalition playing field she warns. The left is entering the campaign very divided, with five separate candidates, while Uribismo is united.
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced a new electoral intelligence unit, aimed at evaluating risks and vulnerability's in the country's presidential and congressional elections this year, reports El Espectador. Santos referenced "cyberattacks" carried out during the 2016 plebiscite regarding the peace process, and rumors of potential interference from abroad. He emphasized that attacks are not only against voting systems, but also false information aimed at scaring citizens or generate distrust, reports El Universal.
  • At least seven people were murdered over the weekend in Colombia’s Antioquia province, where the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group and the Clan del Golfo gang operate, reports EFE.
  • Chilean president-elect Sebastián Piñera announced a hardline cabinet, with politicians closely aligned to the authoritarian government of dictator Augusto Pinochet, reports the Guardian. The ministerial frontline will be dominated by men in their 60s, and just seven of the 23 ministries will be headed by women. Both the incoming ministers of health and women and gender equality were vocal opponents of landmark legislation last year permitting abortion in limited circumstances, suggesting a potential reversal.
  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been revived, albeit without the U.S. The 11 remaining countries, including Canada and Chile will likely sign an amended agreement in early March, reports the Guardian.
  • The U.S. government should recognize its historical role in fomenting El Salvador's civil war, and contemplate that responsibility in outlining immigrant policies, argues Raymond Bonner in the Atlantic.
  • A Peruvian Health Ministry report from 2015 found a remote indigenous tribe is suffering from a mercury epidemic, reports the Guardian. The report found that a significant portion of the Nahua population living in an Amazon reserve suffer from high levels of mercury, and exhorts authorities to investigate the Camisea gas extraction development as a potential source of the contamination.
  • Yellow fever is on the rise in São Paulo and has already caused 70 deaths, reports the Associated Press. Last week the World Health Organization recommended that travelers to the state be vaccinated for the disease.

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