Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Honduran court, lawmakers push back against MACCIH (March. 21, 2018)

The Honduran Supreme Court accepted a case challenging an OAS backed international anti-graft commission's legality. The case was presented earlier this month by a group of lawyers representing lawmakers accused of corruption by the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH). The Mission began work in 2016 and collaborates with the public ministry in corruption cases, reports La Prensa.

The MACCIH convoked an emergency meeting of supportive lawmakers for today in light of the judicial decision to accept the case, reports El Heraldo. Lawmakers were divided yesterday, with some saying potential MACCIH abuses should be investigated and others saying this is a death knell for the anti-impunity commission's efforts, reports Proceso Digital.

Also yesterday, Honduran lawmakers passed reforms to the asset forfeiture law, so that it would apply only to drug trafficking and not other corruption cases, reports El Heraldo. The reform is retroactive and could benefit former first lady Rosa Elena Bonilla, who was arrested on corruption allegations earlier this month, reports El Heraldo.

It's the continuation of an ongoing crisis with the OAS backed body in Honduras. In January lawmakers passed a bill limiting the MACCIH's ability to investigate misuse of public funds, the so-called "impunity pact." (See Jan. 24's post.) In February the MACCIH head, Juan Jímenez Mayor quit, citing lack of OAS support and obstacles placed by the Honduran government. (See Feb. 16's post.)

In Plaza Pública Alberto Pradilla analyzes the struggle against Guatemala and Honduras' international anti-corruption missions, signaling that in both cases entrenched elites are pushing back against potential danger in the midst of a graft-induced political crisis. In both countries as well the left-wing opposition is uncomfortable with the international nature of the commissions, but also supportive of their missions. However, he delves into the unique aspects behind Honduras' MACCIH crisis, noting the underlying issue of an illegitimate Congress after last year's questioned elections.

News Briefs
  • In Guatemala the U.N. backed anti-corruption commission said the government has removed 11 police investigators working with the CICIG, reports the Associated Press. Commission head Ivan Velasquez said the aim of their removal was "to affect the investigations" that have implicated high-level politicians and relatives. Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales also attempted to push out the international anti-impunity commission last year, but received strong pushback from citizens and the international community.
  • Members of Peru's biggest opposition party, Fuerza Popular, released videos that appear to show President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's supporters offering lawmakers public works projects in exchange for votes against an impeachment proceeding, reports Reuters. The snippets were released two days before the Congress is set to vote on whether to oust Kuczynski on allegations of corruption. The government denied wrongdoing and fired an official who appears in the recordings, apparently promising a lawmaker public work contracts. The snippets implicate Kenji Fujimori, brother of Popular Force leader Keiko Fujimori. It's unclear whether the recordings are recent -- or whether they might be in reference to a December ouster attempt in which Kenji Fujimori voted against impeachment, reports La República. Popular Force officials say the recordings are in reference to tomorrow's vote. 
  • Venezuelan opposition candidate Henri Falcón has promised to implement a $25 monthly subsidy to adults, and $10 for children, if he wins. The policy would be a compliment to his plan to dollarize the economy in an attempt to stem hyper-inflation, reports Reuters.
  • China is likely to approve favorable loan repayment terms to Venezuela, but not offer new loans, reports Reuters.
  • Mexican coalition party México al Frente accused the Peña Nieto administration and the ruling PRI party of using government institutions against its presidential candidate, Ricardo Anaya. The accusations were made in the OAS and ascribe the motive as Anaya's promise to target corruption if he wins the July election, reports Proceso. The attorney general's office responded that it is investigating Anaya for alleged money laundering completely without electoral considerations, reports Animal Político.
  • Front-runner Andrés Manuel López Obrador is benefitting from a "big tent" pitch, inviting a coalition of disparate politicians to join his Morena party. From the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in the center, the National Action Party (PAN) on the right and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and Citizens’ Movement on the left, defectors are steadily broadening MORENA’s base, reports Reuters. That policy has added to a sense that AMLO, a perennial candidate, might win this time. And that he is angling for a more consensual tact than in previous years.
  • A Mexican business association called on presidential candidates to stop attacking each other and debate seriously, reports Animal Político.
  • The Trump administration is seeking to limit the ability of Nafta countries to put warnings on junk food. The administration is championing industry demands in the Nafta renegotiation talks, a position that would also limit the U.S.'s ability to warn consumers about unhealthy food. Experts in Mexico are concerned it would be a significant obstacle in the national fight against obesity, reports the New York Times.
  • AMLO announced that if he wins office former World Trade Organization economist Jesus Seade would lead NAFTA negotiations, reports Reuters.
  • The U.S: will will provide $2.5 million in humanitarian aid for Venezuelan refugees who have fled to Colombia. The funds will go through USAID and will provide emergency food and health assistance, helping to buttress the Colombian government's efforts, reports McClatchy DC.
  • The U.S. State Department's annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, published this week, points to an ongoing struggle in the region with drug trafficking, which it ascribes to a variety of factors, including corruption. More than half of the countries the report includes as major drug producing or transit countries, as well as major sources of precursor chemicals, are located in Latin America, reports InSight Crime. The report particularly singles out Venezuela and Bolivia as the only countries worldwide that “failed demonstrably” in their anti-narcotics efforts in 2017.
  • Clashes between coca growers and Bolivian police intensified yesterday with a pitched battle outside the capital’s legal coca market, reports EFE.
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales said he wants to negotiate with Chile to gain access to the Pacific for his landlocked country, but that the neighbor to the south is unwilling to talk, reports the Associated Press.
  • The OECD should push Colombia to address the dire malnutrition suffered by the Wayuu, the country's largest indigenous group, writes Human Rights Watch researcher Juan Pappier in EuroNews.
  • Brazil's third-largest party, the PSDB, announced that São Paulo Geraldo Alckmin will be its presidential candidate for the October elections, reports Bloomberg. Recent polls placed him fourth in the running, though front-runner Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will likely be barred from the race.
  • Brazil's government announced a plan to vaccinate the entire population against yellow fever by April of next year, as the country grapples with its worst outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus in decades, reports the New York Times. The program's initial rollout will focus on São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia States.
  • Nicaragua claims to be the safest place in Latin America, with the lowest murder rate in Central America: 7 per 100,000. Officials ascribed their success to a "containment wall strategy," reports EFE.
  • The International Federation of Human Rights called for prosecution against human rights abusers from Haiti's Duvalier dictatorship. The human rights organizations said the issue is urgent, as only seven of the 17 people originally accused of abuses are still alive, reports AFP.
  • Reports of acts of hostility against LGBT people in Chile reached a fifteen year high in 2017, a 45 percent increase over the previous year, reports EFE.
  • Commissions in Argentina's lower chamber of Congress began debating a bill to legalize abortion in the first 14 weeks of gestation, reports Página 12. Lawmakers aim to have a full vote on the issue by the end of May.
  • The Guardian reports on the largely overlooked history of a short-lived Mapuche kingdom in Chile and Argentina -- with an ongoing government in exile in Europe.

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