Monday, June 18, 2018

A Duque presidency in Colombia (June 18, 2018)

The votes are in—so what does an Ivan Duque presidency mean for Colombia? 

First: a possible return to the use of herbicide spraying on coca crops. Duque has said he is open to reinitiating Colombia's fumigation program, halted in 2015 due to concerns that the spray causes cancer. Given threats by the Trump administration to decertify Colombia as an ally in the "drug war," this arguably puts greater pressure on Colombia to resume spraying and thus "show results." 

Second: Duque could derail Colombia's historic 2016 peace deal by moving slowly (or not at all) to implement key aspects of the accord. This includes (but is not limited to) support for the newly-created transitional justice system, the pledge not to extradite FARC leaders or prosecute them for war or drug trafficking crimes, and efforts to reintegrate demobilized guerrilla fighters. 

Adding to the urgency around the peace deal is the fact that—while last year was Colombia's least violent since the 1970s—violence related to the conflict again appears to be on the rise (Washington Post). And as some Members of Congress have pointed out, the tide of killings and threats against community leaders in ethnic communities also remains a major concern. 

As the Washington Post points out, President Santos' inability to get key aspects of the peace deal approved by Congress highlights the importance of having Colombia's executive branch proactively and aggressively support the peace deal.

Still, it seems highly unlikely that Duque can do away with the peace deal altogether: while Duque could "implement changes by decree or constitutional reform, he would likely encounter pushback against any major changes" to a peace deal which continues to receive widespread international support, says the Associated Press.

Third: another major question for the Duque presidency is whether will he govern as a pragmatist or will he only further deepen divisions in a polarized country. Duque emphasized "uniting the country" in his victory speech, notes La Silla Vacia, but his policy proposals—emphasizing a "marriage" between agro-industry and the rural poor, talk of "security" —were straight out of a traditional Uribista playbook. Nonetheless, the FARC political party have offered to meet with Duque (EFE).

While Duque's victory marks a major win for his mentor, former President Alvaro Uribe, this year's election also saw a leftist candidate receive the highest number of votes in Colombia's recent history. Gustavo Petro won nearly a third of the country's 32 departments, performing strongly in areas with large Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities. While the left-leaning candidates who lost the 2006 and 2010 elections earned 22 percent and 27.5 percent of the vote respectively, this year over 8 million Colombians—about 42 percent of voters—cast their ballots for a leftist candidate. This is a noteworthy political shift in a country where left-leaning candidates have typically been highly stigmatized, says the AP. 

History was made in other ways after Sunday's vote: Colombia will have its first female vice president. Additionally, despite several reports of voter fraud (Colombia Reports), it was the safest and most transparent election in decades, the government said (Miami Herald). There was violence reported in longtime conflict zones, however. (El Tiempo).

Central America
  • Dialogue continues in Nicaragua, with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expected to release an updated report on the human rights situation in the country possibly by the end of this week. While the government and the opposition said that they have agreed to a truce (BBC), grisly incidents of violence continue to be reported across the country, and there is no word yet on whether President Daniel Ortega has demonstrated further willingness to hold early elections, as has previously been reported. (Reuters)
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists documented an attack against a reporter for one of Nicaragua's biggest dailies, La Prensa. Various attacks—including the death of one journalist who was covering protests—and incidents of press censorship have been reported in Nicaragua since massive political unrest broke out in late April.
  • Guatemala has officially ended its search for potential survivors of the June 3 volcanic eruption (AP).
  • A Guatemalan political analyst and a former head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accused President Jimmy Morales of "abusing young girls." (elPeriodico
  • With Mexico seemingly intent on continuing to lean heavily on its military to fight organized crime—as seen with the passage of the Internal Security Law last December—this raises serious questions about human rights abuses (LA Times).
  • Jon Lee Anderson profiles leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (who will almost certainly win the July 1 elections) for the New Yorker
  • A Mexican court sentenced two members of the military to 19 years in prison for sexually assaulting indigenous activist Valentina Rosendo Cantú in 2002 (La Jornada). The case is arguably representative of the abuses that can result from deploying Mexico's military in a policing role. 
  • 17 people died after a stampede at a Venezuelan nightclub (New York Times).
  • Polio has not returned to the country, says the World Health Organization (CNN).
  • With Lula banned from running for office, Workers' Party presumptive nominee Ciro Gomes may pick a wealthy steel tycoon as his running mate, which could help him pick up more votes in Brazil's industrial south (Mercopress).
  • The BBC profiles presidential candidate and environmentalist Marina Silva. 
Southern Cone
  • The campaign for less repressive abortion laws in Argentina represents the fight between two visions for the country: a "secular and progressive" Argentina, vs. an "obscurantist" Argentina that is stuck in the past (New York Times En Español).
  • Last week, Peru's Congress approved a law that bans state advertising in private media. This undercuts a source of funding for independent outlets, many of which have produced critical reporting on the Fujimorista bloc that supported the law. (IPYS
  • The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that Peru must review the pardon granted to former dictator Alberto Fujimori last December, and do so by October 29 (Ojo Publico)  
  • Celebratory Mexicans caused a small earthquake after their national team beat Germany in the World Cup (New York Times). Peruvians have been similarly enthusiastic in terms of World Cup spirit, although by contrast, Brazilians are "strikingly blasé," reports the Times.
Elyssa Pachico

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