Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What will AMLO do? (July 11, 2018)

Though there's a long way to go before Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador takes office in December, there are already hints about how the landslide electoral winner will govern.

AMLO's incoming chief of staff said as much as 40 percent of the country is hostage to chronic violence and insecurity. “Veracruz is paralyzed. Tamaulipas, paralyzed; Michoacán, paralyzed. Guerrero, paralyzed,” Alfonso Romo told a group of business leaders on Monday. Future public security chief, Alfonso Durazo, said plans to reduce violence included raising police salaries, eradicating corruption, considering the decriminalisation of marijuana and an amnesty for low-level criminals, and placing a greater emphasis on crime prevention. (Guardian)

Durazo said the new administration will seek to be an ally of "good cops" and will seek to improve their socioeconomic conditions. (Animal Político)

Economically AMLO has sought to sooth markets and business leaders, promising pension reform and pursuing a budget surplus -- though how he will finance his ambitious social programs remains unclear. Observers are also wary about how he will implement anti-corruption promises that formed a corner-stone of his campaign. (Americas Quarterly)

There has been much handwringing regarding AMLO's promise to return Mexico to a policy of non-intervention in foreign affairs -- and the potential implications for regional pressure on Venezuela's government to transition back to democracy. (See yesterday's briefs.) But AMLO's stance is merely a return to Mexico's longstanding Estrada Doctrine, argues Geoff Ramsey at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, and doesn't preclude an important diplomatic role in regional issues. "AMLO’s promise to return to this principle may also mean that Mexico could work for such a solution to the situation in Venezuela in a more independent manner. ... Instead, the Mexican government could shift towards a strategy of engagement, offering itself as a “good cop” to the Lima Group’s “bad cop” routine, and perhaps try to push for meaningful negotiations to overcome the failure of the Dominican Republic talks. This does not guarantee the success of any future talks, but it at least could create a dynamic where there is some room for creative thinking among Latin American governments in addressing Venezuela’s crisis."

AMLO will be meeting with U.S. officials including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Friday. He said he will use the opportunity to discuss regional anti-poverty programs and will seek to push improved well-being for Mexicans and Central Americans as a deterrent to migration. (Bloomberg) However, his future foreign relations minister has assured the press that the wall will NOT be on the agenda. (Animal Político)

Another addition to the literature on what (if any) kind of a populist AMLO might be: the Washington Post analyzes reports that Trump has called him "Juan Trump," apparently considering him a south-of-the-border version of himself.

News Briefs

  • In the meantime, U.S. officials hope to take advantage of outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto's lame-duck period to enter a deal that would require potential asylum applicants crossing through Mexico to apply for protection there rather than continuing to the U.S. The “safe third country agreement,” could drastically curtail migratory flows across the U.S.-Mexican border, but could expose Central Americans to further violence and strain Mexico's already overloaded capacity to attend applications. (Washington Post)
  • Despite the end of forced family separation, migrants and asylum seekers still face significant obstacles in entering the U.S. and remaining together. (Washington Post)
  • The U.S. Trump administration is working to undermine the international anti-corruption mission in Guatemala, as thanks to the Central American country for moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem, reports McClatchy DC. Supposed proposed changes to the U.N. backed CICIG have alarmed supporters and include: changing the body’s mandate to more narrowly redefine corruption, increasing reporting requirements for donors, limiting terms of the commissioner and appointing a deputy commissioner which Guatemala would help select. The U.S. is the CICIG's largest individual donor, and has been key in supporting the anti-graft commission, which has been increasingly under fire from Guatemala's political establishment, including President Jimmy Morales who has been the target of its investigations.
  • What's next for Guatemala's former head prosecutor Thelma Aldana? Possibly a presidential run next year, reports Americas Quarterly. Aldana told AQ she'd be open to run, though she lack funding and a political party. That being said, she stepped down in May as the country's most popular public official, and the possibility comes as Guatemala's political system is in flux, with the establishment under attack for entrenched corruption.
  • Venezuela's crisis is of a magnitude that can no longer be solved by financial markets or multi-lateral lenders such as the IMF. Rather the country would now have to solicit international donations (humanitarian aid) to finance the urgent importations of medicines, food, and primary goods necessary to revert its broad crisis, argue Ricardo Hausmann, Miguel Ángel Santos and Douglas Barrios in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Haiti's government was well aware of the inflammatory potential of fuel price hikes that caused days of rioting since last Friday, but proceeded anyway in an attempt to reduce its budget deficit, reports the Miami Herald. The unrest that claimed at least three lives and destroyed businesses in Port-au-Prince pushed business leaders to demand Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafont's resignation, ahead of a no-confidence vote on the government scheduled in Haiti's Chamber of Deputies on Saturday. (See yesterday's and Monday's briefs.)
El Salvador
  • Former San Salvador mayor Nayib Bukele negotiated with gangs, gave them power over certain concessions, and distributed money ahead of elections according to an El Faro report from two weeks ago. The report details the various methods of negotiation reportedly employed by the Bukele administration, noting that dealing with the city's de facto powers was also a choice that allowed governability. Unlike mere electoral pacts, these were quotidian negotiations regarding day-to-day management of the city. The report demonstrates the ongoing reality of gang control in El Salvador that obligates local politicians to pact with criminal organizations, while denouncing the negotiations in public, notes InSight Crime.
  • El Salvador's highest court has ordered President Salvador Sánchez Cerén to testify in the case of a South African ambassador to the country who was kidnapped and later killed. (BBC)
  • Colombian general Henry Torres appeared before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), a transitional justice system created by the FARC peace deal. He denied responsibility for two murders he was charged with, but apologized to victims for the harm done. (Colombia Reports)
  • The alleged arrest of a FARC dissident commander highlights the dangers of partial implementation of the 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and the guerrilla group, according to InSight Crime
  • A Brazilian court has received 146 habeas corpus requests on behalf of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva after Sunday's dramatic legal wrangling over whether he should be freed from prison where he is serving a corruption conviction sentence, reports the Associated Press. (See Monday's post.)
  • Brazil's most powerful gang, the First Capital Command (PCC), has long operated on the Paraguayan border. But as it struggles with competitors, such as the Red Command, it must deploy increasingly sophisticated strategies in its transnational activities, reports InSight Crime.
  • Geopolitical divisions in the West are an opportunity for the BRICS to exert stronger influence on the world stage, argues Oliver Stuenkel in Americas Quarterly
  • Ecuador’s highest court upheld a $9.5 billionn damages award against oil giant Chevron yesterday, over decades of pollution that harmed indigenous people. But the decision largely symbolic because Chevron now owns no assets in Ecuador. (AFP)
  • Steven Donziger, the lawyer who originally won the 2011 judgement against Chevron, was suspended from practicing law in New York by a state appeals court, yesterday. A U.S. judge said Donziger and his legal team used bribery, coercion and fraud to obtain the judgment. (Reuters)
  • A sixteen month freeze on new private restaurants and home-stays will end in December. The government will implement new regulations tightening tax compliance and preventing wealth accumulation. (Associated Press)
  • Meet South America's newest superfood: lucuma! (Bloomberg)

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