Thursday, July 12, 2018

Colombia's Gulf Clan to surrender imminently (July 12, 2018)

On Monday Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos signed a law that will allow organized crime gangs to turn themselves in and receive reduced sentences. Santos said the "Gulf Clan," also known as the Urabeños, Clan Usuga and Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia, will hand themselves in as a result of this law, possibly by this weekend. (RCN and Bloomberg)

The so-called "Ley de Sometimiento" is in line with what Gulf Clan leader Daíro Usuga (aka Otoniel) called for in a video released in September of last year, and lawyers working with the gang are completing the documentation required for surrender, said Cali Archbishop Darío Monsalve who has acted as a facilitator in the process. (El Espectador

The law passed by Congress last month targets criminal organizations that evolved from paramilitary organizations -- BACRIM -- considered the greatest threat to Colombian security since the FARC demobilized. The law won't give the gangs political recognition, like the FARC obtained, but allows members to halve their sentences if they surrender themselves collectively. Groups must list membership, give evidence against members, divulge assets and details of criminal operations.(Reuters and InSight Crime

However the law might come too late to help in light of the BACRIM's increasing fragmentation, according to InSight Crime, which questions how many of Otoniel's followers will actually turn themselves in if he does.

Other Colombia news
  • Nearing the end of his term, Santos granted an interview with France 24, in which he said "post-truths were applied" to FARC peace deal.
  • A new Colombian law aims to finance and strengthen opposition parties. (La Silla Vacía)
  • Colombian President-elect Ivan Duque on Wednesday named Alberto Carrasquilla as his finance minister. Carrasquilla held the same post under former President Álvaro Uribe. (Reuters)
  • At least 16,000 people have been displaced from their homes by armed conflict -- between rebel groups and with the military -- in the border region between Colombia and Venezuela, the United Nations said. (AFP)
News Briefs

  • Venezuela’s economy contracted 12 percent in the first three months of this year compared with the same quarter last year, according to the opposition led National Assembly. (Reuters)
  • Chronicle of an election un-foretold: the Due Process of Law Foundation reports on the surprise reelection of Honduran attorney general Oscar Chinchilla last month, concluding the appointment "was the product of an ad hoc legislative procedure that violates the law, the Constitution, international law, and, above all, the credibility of the institution charged with criminal prosecution in the country." (See July 2's post.)
  • Brazilian attorney general Raquel Dodge ordered an investigation into the actions of appeals judge Rogerio Favreto, whose order to free former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Sunday caused legal chaos. Dodge said there was evidence that when he acted professionally, he did so "motivated by personal feelings and interests," reports AFP. (See Monday's post.)
  • "Militias," Rio de Janeiro paramilitary organizations have quietly taken control over vast swathes of the city's western suburbs over the past couple of decades. They claim to be acting against criminals and drug dealers, but quickly impose their own extortion rackets, explains the Guardian. They have operated largely in the shadows, and murder those who disobey or talk about them too much, but have come to prominence after the murder of city councilor Marielle Franco in March. (See March 15's post.)
  • Brazilian prosecutors say GE's LatAm chief executive took part in a medical equipment price-fixing scheme while at the conglomerate. He was one of 20 people jailed last week in what prosecutors say was an arrangement among multinational companies Philips, Johnson & Johnson, and several others to bribe government health officials, in return for help in inflating prices for an array of medical gear. (Reuters)
El Salvador
  • El Salvador's government said a Supreme Court ruling forcing President Salvador Sánchez Cerén to testify in a 1979 abduction case was politically motivated, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Salvadoran legislators have a Sunday deadline to choose four new magistrates for the Constitutional Court, a key decision in terms of strengthening national institutions, said WOLA in a press release calling on the National Assembly to leave aside political considerations in the selection.
  • U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres joined the chorus of international concern over ongoing violent repression of protests in Nicaragua, reports Reuters. (See Tuesday's post.)
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights put the total death toll since protests started in April at 264 yesterday, and more than 1,800 injured. (AFP)
  • The Washington Post editorial board compares the Nicaraguan repression to that exercised by the Venezuelan government against anti-government protesters, and calls on regional governments to help avoid a civil war. 
  • U.S. homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen met with the foreign ministers of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and discussed the separated families and reunification effort. Up to 3,000 children are waiting to be reunited with their parents amid U.S. bureaucratic chaos. (Guardian)
  • An Honduran asylum seeker in the U.S. is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the federal government over the forced separation of families at the border. (Guardian)
  • President-elect Andres Manuel López Obrador said he'll cancel a pending purchase by Mexico's navy of eight armed helicopters from the U.S. government, and example of the cost-cutting he intends to effect. (Associated Press)
  • While Miami Herald columnist Andrés Oppenheimer doesn't actually believe AMLO will turn follow Turkey's authoritarian path, he can't help but draw parallels between the Mexican president-elect and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. (See July 4's post for a sampling of the debate over who AMLO should be compared to.)
  • Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra will seek to reform the judiciary in response to reports of influence-peddling and other misconduct. (EFE)
  • Panamanian prosecutors demanded a 21-year sentence for spying against ex-President Ricardo Martinelli during an indictment hearing yesterday. (AFP)
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has joined a U.S. task force investigating "sonic incidents" that affected U.S. diplomats in Cuba. Authorities have been unable to clarify the cause of the incidents that caused headaches, hearing loss, and other mysterious ailments in more than 25 diplomats and their relatives. The episode led the Trump administration to withdraw personnel from Havana and contributed to reversing the thaw in relations with the island, report McClatchy DC.
  • The daughter-in-law of former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet was found guilty of tax evasion and could face four years imprisonment. The investigation into Natalia Compagnon lasted years and dented the reputation of Bachelet, affecting her attempts at reform. (Reuters)
  • We tend to lump together the off-shore banking universe, but in reality "in reality, they are distinctive and highly specialised predators in the financial shark tank," explains a Guardian piece on the Caribbean island of Nevis -- which "specialises in letting its clients create corporations with greater anonymity than almost anywhere else on earth."

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...