Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Santos: Colombia peace deal is 'bulletproof' (June 27, 2018)

In an interview with the Associated Press, Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos said he would encourage his successor, Ivan Duque, to focus on "other campaign" promises besides changing the fundamental terms of Colombia's peace deal. 

"He shouldn’t wear himself out on something that was already negotiated, that’s working and that everyone agrees is in the country’s best interests," Santos said, adding that when he steps down from the presidency on August 7, he plans to stay out of Colombia's polarized political debates.

Santos described Duque, a former aide, as "smart and with sound judgment." 

The AP noted that Duque will have a hard time changing the fundamentals of Colombia's peace accords so as to force the demobilized FARC guerrillas to accept a tougher deal: Colombia's Constitutional Court has ruled that the terms are binding for the next three administrations. 

Vocal support for the peace deal from international organizations could also arguably act as a deterrent on Duque's coalition. Whether or not that actually works remains to be seen: yesterday the United Nations issued a statement encouraging Colombia's Congress to finally approve the country's transitional justice system, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Justicia Especial Para la Paz, JEP).

The JEP has been blocked by Duque's allies in Congress, who say they will only approve the special peace tribunals if they undergo certain reforms first—including one that would essentially give special treatment to members of the military who have confessed to crimes. 

El Pais reports that Duque's political coalition in Congress rejected the UN's plea that Colombia move forward with the peace tribunals. 

Other Colombia news briefs 
  • Colombia will use herbicide-spraying drones to eradicate coca crops, following a White House report that asserted Colombia had experienced "a record growth in cocaine production" (Reuters). Santos said that the coca-spraying drones would "simulate ground, not aerial, fumigation," thereby limiting the negative health effects associated with the herbicide.  
  • Asides from creating a "perverse incentive" for Colombia farmers to grow more coca crops, the peace deal may have had another inadvertent effect: after the FARC withdrew from forested territory they have controlled for decades, land speculators rushed in. Consequently, last year Colombia saw a worrying jump in forest degradation, satellite data shows. (AP)
Regional
  • Vice President Mike Pence is in Ecuador today and arrives in Guatemala tomorrow as part of his Latin America tour. Speaking on Central America immigration, he said, "If you can't come legally, don’t come at all." (Reuters)

Mexico
  • "Citizens who could once be counted on to vote conservatively now appear ready to flip," reports the New York Times from Aguascalientes, one of Mexico's most prosperous cities.
  • Polls show there are unlikely to be any big surprises come Sunday's presidential elections. (El Pais
  • The defense team of Sinaloa Cartel leader "Chapo" Guzman is preparing to argue that he was not, in fact, the head of the drug trafficking organization. (New York Times)

Central America

  • Just before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrives Thursday to Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales said that he has formally petitioned the U.S. government to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Guatemalans—a humanitarian program in which the U.S. suspends deportations to a country affected by war or natural disasters, and allows those granted protection to live and work in the U.S. (AP
  • Legislation introduced by Democrats in Congress provides "the basis for a more humane and sensible policy" towards Central American migrantsarriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, argues Adriana Beltr√°n for the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). The Central America Family Protection and Reunification Act (CAFPRA) "recognizes the need to address the conditions of violence, corruption, and impunity driving Central Americans to flee in search of safety," and has been co-sponsored by more than 50 Members of Congress so far. 
  • The United Nations once again expressed concern over problems with Honduras' attorney general selection process, citing a lack of transparency over how candidates were selected. (Criterio
  • Illegal police executions have been widely documented in El Salvador, which makes the recent conviction of four police officers for the crime a positive, albeit small step forward. (InSight Crime)
  • Mongabay profiles how the Afro-indigenous Garifuna group in Honduras is making use of radio to protect their culture and ancestral lands. 
Caribbean
  • The Dominican Republic said it will train 32 prosecutors to focus on human trafficking (EFE). The country has a poor record in securing convictions in human trafficking cases, or investigating officials complicit in forced labor or sex trafficking rings, according to the U.S. State Department. 
Southern Cone
  • As Paraguay President Horacio Cortes—barred from re-election to the presidency— won a Senate seat in the country's April elections, he had previously signaled that he was going to resign the presidency early so that he could be sworn into Congress on July 1. (His successor, Alicia Pucheta, is supposed to take office in August). However, Cortes was unable to get the Congressional support that would have allowed him to take up his Senate seat in time. (AP
  • Argentina's Senate will debate a bill liberalizing abortion laws on August 8. (Clarin)
Andes
  • Peru's Attorney General has initiated an investigation against three Members of Congress, including Kenji Fujimori, who were suspended earlier this month due to corruption allegations (Telesur). They are accused of attempting to buy votes to prevent ex-President Kuczynski's impeachment. Kuczynski is believed to have illegally pardoned disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori in exchange for Kenji Fujimori's breaking with the ranks and abstaining from voting on an impeachment attempt against Kuczynski in December 2017. 
  • Peru will no longer castrate those convicted of sexually assaulting minors younger than 14; instead, they may face life sentences. (EFE)
Venezuela 
  • Amid the release of dozens of imprisoned political activists in Venezuela, the opposition is now demanding the release of 152 "military political prisoners" (Efecto Cocuyo). As previously noted by Marco Aponte in The Conversation, the country has offered clemency to non-military political prisoners while seemingly cracking down on "potential troublemakers" in the military. 
  • A delegation of the European Union's legislative body is currently touring Venezuelan migrant camps along the country's borders with Brazil and Colombia, which could yet herald a European Union commitment to increase aid to Venezuelans who've fled abroad. (EFE)
Other
  • Argentina scraped by into the next round of the World Cup, and football legend Diego Maradona was.... pretty emotional about it.
  • Mexico football fever could further drive the expansion of training academies like this one profiled by the New York Times
Elyssa Pachico

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