Thursday, June 14, 2018

Major developments in CentAm corruption probes (June 14, 2018)

The past 24 hours saw two big breakthroughs in corruption cases in Honduras and Guatemala, respectively. 

In Guatemala, the country's top electoral authority announced they were initiating the process of canceling President Jimmy Morales' party, FCN-Nacion, following a request by Guatemala's Attorney General's Office and anti-impunity commission the CICIG. (Prensa Libre)

This follows findings by the Attorney General's Office and the CICIG—announced in late April just before Attorney General Thelma Aldana stepped down—that the majority of Guatemala's biggest businesses had illegally financed Morales' 2015 election campaign. (See the April 20, 2018 brief for more context).

What happens next? An arm of Guatemala's top electoral authority, known as the Citizens' Registry, is responsible for handling the process of canceling President Morales' party. elPeriodico notes that the current head of the Citizens' Registry is a well-known ally of the military elites who founded Morales' party. 

In Honduras, federal prosecutors and anti-corruption commission the MACCIH have accused 38 politicians, officials and private citizens of illegally funneling some $11.7 million in public funds to political parties, including President Juan Orlando Hernandez's 2013 election campaign (AP).

The funds were mostly diverted from Honduras' agricultural and finance ministries. The probe—dubbed the "Pandora" case—found that two major political parties in Honduras made use of the illicit funds, including Hernandez's party and the Liberal Party (a now-disbanded political party, FABER, also participated in the scheme). 

Southern Cone
  • Argentina's lower house of Congress votes today on its restrictive abortion laws. The proposed law would allow women to have abortions in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy; under current laws, women who do so can be imprisoned for up to four years (CNN). The Guardian speaks with several women affected by the restrictive laws, with one woman noting, "People in Argentina are starting to recognize the importance of sex education, but there’s still a lot of prejudice against abortion.” El Pais has a photo gallery of protestors demonstrating outside Argentina's Congress. 
  • Chilean police carried out raids in two cities targeting the Roman Catholic Church, in connection to a massive sex abuse and cover-up scandal. Chile has been experiencing one of the Catholic Church's biggest shake-ups ever as a result of clerical sexual abuse: last month all bishops offered to resign after a Vatican report found that Chile's church hierarchy systematically covered up and destroyed evidence of sex crimes against children (AP). (See January 17, 2018 brief for more context).
  • The Conversation looks at some of the legal questions involved in U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' ruling that those fleeing domestic violence are not eligible for asylum under U.S. law. "Sessions’ June 11 ruling specifically rejects the Obama-era notion that women abused in a such a context—places with pervasive violence against women, which the government cannot or will not control—have a “credible fear” of violence," the article states. 
  • In a Washington Post op-edMichele Brané of the Women's Refugee Commission argues that Sessions' ruling constitutes " a fundamental misunderstanding of domestic violence." Sessions' argument is that victims of domestic violence shouldn't qualify for asylum as they are victims of violence committed by private rather than state actors. "Persecution, particularly against women and children, is often hidden behind so-called private acts, such as domestic violence," Brané writes. "And perpetrators are routinely protected by the government or state agencies such as the police."

Central America

  • Dialogue between Nicaragua's government and the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua will reinitiate on Friday (EFE). Today's 24-hour business sector strike caused a run on gas stations and stores across the country, while government-aligned social media accounts have launched a campaign with hashtags like #ParoNoTrabajoSi, arguing that small business owners can't afford to stop working for a day (UPI). The strike comes amid more reports of human rights abuses allegedly ordered by the state: about two dozen protestors said they were attacked with sulfuric acid while demonstrating on Sunday night (Confidencial).
  • InSight Crime breaks down the significance of the ongoing corruption investigation into El Salvador's former President Mauricio Funes and his family, who stand accuse of "embezzling $351 million, an amount equivalent to nearly 1.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017." The "large sums of money ransacked from the coffers of the region’s smallest country makes it at least equally relevant" as other corruption scandals that have attracted attention in Guatemala and Honduras, writes Hector Silva Avalos
  • The Guardian examines the significance of the recent ruling in Guatemala's Molina Theissen case, in which five ex-military and intelligence officers were found guilty of involvement in the disappearance of 14-year-old Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, and the sexual torture of his sister Emma. The question now is whether the family will be able to find and identify Marco's remains, in a case that is emblematic of the thousands of victims who disappeared during Guatemala's brutal civil war and who remain missing. 

  • In The Conversation, global business professor at Saint Mary's College of California Marco Aponte Moreno argues that the release of political prisoners in Venezuela is meant to distract from the Maduro regime's crackdown on "potential troublemakers" in the Venezuelan military. "Military officers seem to be the regime’s current target," Aponte Moreno writes. "Close to 100 have been jailed on conspiracy charges since the beginning of the year."

  • Haiti's government said they are permanently banning British charitable organization Oxfam from operating in the country, following allegations that staff hired prostitutes during a relief mission after the devastating 2010 earthquake (Reuters). 
  • Bolivia's opposition is up in arms, because one of the Constitutional Court judges who ruled last year to allow elected officials to indefinitely seek re-election—paving the way for President Evo Morales' planned 2019 run, his fourth term in office—was appointed to a diplomatic post in Switzerland. (La Razon). 
  • Yesterday's announcement that the U.S., Mexico and Canada would co-host the 2026 World Cup is representative of how current tensions between the country may be a "short-term political reality." (New York Times). 

Elyssa Pachico

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