Thursday, June 7, 2018

Consulta Popular Anticorrupción in Colombia (June 7, 2018)

Colombia's Senate unanimously approved an anti-corruption referendum which will ask citizens to determine among seven measures aimed at reducing graft, reports EFE. They will be asked about reducing lawmakers' salaries, holding public audiences for citizens to determine and audit public spending, making public sworn declarations and conflict of interest for elected officials, and terminating contracts with people convicted of corruption, among others, explains Notimérica.

Critics have pointed out that many of the points are covered by existing laws and regulations. But anti-corruption crusaders hope the referendum will strengthen implementation of the measures, which are often watered down with loopholes or exceptions, reports Silla Vacía

A minimum of 12 million people must vote in favor of the measures for them to take effect, but the project's lead, Senator Claudia López, hopes to get at least 15 million to participate, reports El Tiempo. She points to anti-corruption as an issue that transcends party politics.

The measure was led by López, of the Partido Verde, and supported by 4 million citizen signatures, reports El Espectador.

The vote will likely take place in September, reports RCN.

Colombia elections
  • A major takeaway from the Colombian presidential election last month is a shift "... from the stable traditional parties and the conservative side of the spectrum to less durable alliances and bureaucratic pacts," writes Julian Silva at the AULA blog. "Candidates focused on social issues, such as education and redistribution, are opposing these traditional structures."
  • The FARC has not officially backed a candidate for the second round presidential election, but the former guerrilla group's leadership has nodded towards Gustavo Petro, invoking the candidate that will back the implementation of the peace accords, reports la Silla Vacía.
  • And those concerned that likely winner Iván Duque will be a puppet of Álvaro Uribe shouldn't be, because the right-wing candidate already espouses the former president's central visions, argues Juanita León in Silla Vacía.
News Briefs

  • Venezuela's government released dozens political prisoners from detention last week, but onerous restrictions mean it's hardly a full scale liberation -- and more than half weren't political prisoners at all, according to local NGO Foro Penal cited in El País. (See Monday's post.)
  • In the midst of Nicaragua's upheaval, the student-led anti-government movement is a bright spot, argues Tim Rogers in the Atlantic. He sketches out the roots of the upheaval, noting that while the country appeared relatively successful until recently, "democracy and rule of law died here a long time ago." El País also emphasizes the role of students in leading the uprising. Representatives of the student movement are in Washington to ask for the Trump administration's support against the Ortega government, reports McClatchy DC. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Business leaders, long allies of the Ortega administration, are now pushing for early elections, reports El País in an interview with Cosep's leadership. (See last Thursday's post.)
  • Guardian editorial offers little hope for a way out of Nicaragua's crisis. "Even if agreement for an early election could be reached, rigorous monitoring by international observers would be required to ensure it was fair – and the opposition is in disarray."
  • The region is well into an electoral marathon year, but is hard pressed by a combination of declining trust in elections and loss of effectivity of traditional electoral monitors such as the OAS or the U.N. writes Christopher Sabatini in a New York Times op-ed. He particularly emphasizes the situation of Mexico and Brazil, both voting this year, where lack of trust in electoral systems is stark. "Legitimate monitors must be invited into Latin American countries. Candidates and governments, including the United States, should pledge ahead of balloting to respect the judgments of these groups."
  • A new poll puts right-wing firebrand Jair Bolsonaro in the lead ahead of October's presidential elections, with 25 percent, followed by leftist Ciro Gomes with 12 percent, reports Reuters. The data points to a polarized election, support for centrist Gerardo Alckmin is at 7 percent. Voter favorite, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is likely out of the running due to a corruption conviction.
  • But not all is as grim as the recent truckers' strike and calls for military intervention would indicate, argues Oliver Stuenkel in Americas Quarterly. (See last Friday's briefs.) He points to advances in corruption cases and the increasing participation of young people in politics. (See Monday's briefs.)
Disaster relief
  • Reconstruction in the wake of the hurricanes that devastated parts of the Caribbean last year is urgent, and enhances corruption that increases the costs of rebuilding even more than previously estimated write Juliet S. Sorensen and Elise Meyer in the Conversation. They also point to how better disaster preparedness "would minimize opportunities for the kinds of chaos-related corruption we documented across the Caribbean."
  • At least 99 people have died and about 200 remain unaccounted for in the eruption of Guatemala's Fuego volcano. Critics are now focusing on the national disaster response agency (Conred), saying it failed to heed advance warnings, reports the BBCNómada has a play by play of the disaster, and how the Conred assured volcano area inhabitants that evacuation would be unnecessary.
  • Recent attacks on the Guatemala's international anti-corruption commission -- the CICIG -- seem scripted in the Cold War: Kremlin thwarts foreign justice in order to further its interests. But in reality "the U.N.-sponsored anti-corruption body, set up in 2006 to investigate high-level corruption, has been maliciously attacked by groups seeking to degrade its mission," write Estuardo Porras Zadik and Pedro Pablo Marroquín Pérez in a Washington Post opinion piece.
El Salvador
  • A new unit of El Salvador's attorney general's office will focus on combatting femicides, which are at a record rate in what is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women, reports the Guardian.
  • Mexican retaliatory tariffs against the U.S. are designed to hit Republican strongholds ahead of mid-term elections in November, reports the BBC. The tariffs on around $3 billion worth of American pork, steel, cheese and other goods were in response to the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum levies announced last week, reports the New York Times. The new trade war will likely further complicate already foundering NAFTA renegotiation talks. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • Cuba launched what is likely to be a gradual constitutional reform process that will ratify the economic changes in recent years, reports the BBC. Presidential term limits and gay marriage are also on the table.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump appointed a Cuba hardliner to head Radio and TV Martí, the U.S.-funded broadcast network that counters Cuba’s state-run media, reports Politico. It's a win Senator Marco Rubio who recommended former Miami mayor Tomás Regalado for the post and is influential in the administration's Lat Am policy.
  • Google is close to reaching an agreement with Cuba to expand internet access there, reports the Miami Herald.
  • The U.N. General Assembly elected Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces as its next president on Tuesday. She defeated Honduras’ U.N. Ambassador Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake to become the fourth woman to lead the 193-member world body, reports the Associated Press.
  • Thousands of Chileans marched to denounce sexual harassment and sexist behaviors in schools and universities, the latest in a string of protests since April, when allegations of sexual abuse by members of faculty and students first surfaced at a number of Chilean universities, reports the BBC

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