Peru is in the midst of an intense political crisis after President Martín Vizcarra suspended Congress yesterday, to which lawmakers responded by suspending Vizcarra and swearing in Vice President Mercedes Aráoz as acting leader.
Vizcarra moved against lawmakers after they refused to consider his proposal for early parliamentary elections, in the midst of a political stalemate that has paralyzed the government and popular anti-corruption proposals. Instead of responding to his request for a confidence vote, lawmakers moved ahead with controversial vote to replace almost all the members of the Constitutional Tribunal, reports the Associated Press. In a televised address, Vizcarra accused the opposition-led Congress of obstructing the government’s anticorruption reforms and trying to stack the country’s top court, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Under Peruvian law, the president can to shut down congress if lawmakers reject two confidence votes. Congress rejected a previous vote of confidence during the administration of Vizcarra's predecessor, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski who resigned in the wake of corruption allegations. Nonetheless, though lawmakers said yesterday's move amounted to a coup d'etat.
A majority of lawmakers (86 out of 130) immediately moved to temporarily suspend Vizcarra, though the government counters that the vote is void as it occurred after Congress was officially closed. (Reuters and BBC)
Vizcarra has popular support for the move however. And yesterday leadership of the armed forces and national police said in a brief statement that they backed Peru’s constitutional order by supporting the president, reports the Wall Street Journal.
La República said the lawmakers were acting unconstitutionally, and that, though painful, a new chapter of democracy was opening. "With this decision, the democratic struggle against corruption has hit a high point of no return."
However, though Vizcarra has the power to call for a confidence vote the ability comes from a Fujimori-era constitution, which is a poor precedent, notes the Latin America Risk Report. Indeed, Vizcarra’s argument that the dissolution was necessary to protect the country’s democracy harkens to Alberto Fujimori's justification for dissolving Congress in 1992, reports the New York Times. And the fact that procedure hasn't been followed to the letter could also harm Vizcarra's cause, say experts.
- Violent protests continued on Port-Au-Prince yesterday -- Haitian police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators, and some accounts say officers used live ammunition. A Haitian journalist was wounded by gunfire yesterday, as police used live ammunition to disperse anti-government protesters in Port-au-Prince yesterday. Four people have been killed in clashes over the past several days, and this was the second journalist shot in a week. Opposition leaders have called on supporters to maintain barricades and protests until Moïse -- who hasn't been seen since last week -- steps down. And foreign diplomats met with opposition representatives yesterday and pushed them to accept a recent government offer to talk. (Reuters, Miami Herald, see yesterday's post.)
- Fuel shortages are at the heart of upheaval that has affected Haiti for over a year now -- with opponents demanding President Jovenel Moïse's resignation after he sought to reduce gas subsidies in keeping with IMF directives, according to NACLA. The crisis has been particularly acute in recent weeks. "Since September 16, the capital of Port-au-Prince has been mostly “locked down”—in Creole, the saying is lòk—with schools, banks, and businesses mostly closed." (See yesterday's post.)
- Victims of Haiti's 2010 cholera outbreak have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hold the United Nations accountable for the thousands of deaths the disease caused. At stake is a broader question over whether the world body is answerable in domestic courts for the harm it causes people it is there to serve. The UN has admitted that cholera was introduced to Haiti by peacekeepers in 2010, but has rejected compensation requests and insists it has immunity, reports the Guardian.
- Colombia's military intelligence and counter intelligence chief was ousted after a dossier purporting to show secret guerrilla locations in Venezuela was shown to contain older press photos of camps in Colombia, reports El País. (See yesterday's briefs.) Nonetheless, Colombia's government stood by the report’s conclusions earlier yesterday, saying that Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro is indeed harboring Colombian guerrilla groups, reports Reuters.
- Colombia's campaign season -- ahead of regional elections to be held on Oct. 27 -- has been particularly lethal: Since the political race officially began, seven candidates have been murdered around the country. Criminal groups seeking territorial control of drug routes are likely behind the violence, and candidates who support the FARC peace process and coca eradication or substitution are most in danger. Additionally, women's rights organizations now believe that gender dynamics are shaping attacks on female candidates. Irina Cuesta, a researcher at think tank Fundación Ideas para la Paz, told the Guardian: “Our research has found that when women leaders are attacked, it’s through threats to their family members, sexual violence, and generalised warnings against the work they do. The contents of the threats are openly sexist and question [women’s] political processes more generally.”
- Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said the government is ready to resume negotiations with foreign investors on about $60 billion of defaulted debt, reports Bloomberg.
- Honduran journalist Sandra Maribel Sánchez said a man put a gun to her head as she arrived home in her car on Sept. 26. He fled when another car approached. The director of Radio Progreso, where Sánchez works, characterized the incident as an attempted kidnapping or murder. Sánchez has previously received death threats, reports the Knight Center.
- The Spanish defense and private security company that was charged with protecting London's Ecuadorian embassy while it sheltered WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, spied on the cyberactivist for the U.S. intelligence service, according to El País.
- Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva rejected exercising his right to semi-open prison conditions after spending a year and a half in a cell, reports the Associated Press. In an open letter he said he wants to leave imprisonment with a decision of Brazil’s top court on his case. "I want you to know that I won’t accept bargaining with my rights and my freedom." (See yesterday's briefs.)
- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro recommended a book by a notorious military dictatorship era torturer in a chat with students. The book he suggests their "leftist" teacher read was written by Col Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, who was convicted in 2008 for kidnap and torture during the dictatorship. Bolsonaro has praised Ustra in the past -- he dedicated his vote to impeach Dilma Rousseff in 2016 to Ustra's memory -- and Ustra has become a cult hero for some in Brazil's far right, reports the Guardian.
- The Latin American turn towards the right has not gone precisely as predicted -- and upcoming general elections in Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia will likely increase diplomatic instability in the region, predicts Carlos Malamud at the AULA blog. Regional integration initiatives mostly remain ideologically aligned, limiting their ability to bridge deep splits in Latin America, he argues.
- The gig economy is making huge inroads in Latin America -- abetted by youth unemployment and high levels of inequality. But companies such as UberEats, Rappi and Glovo are consolidating a worrisome trend of increasing labor precarity that affects workers rights and public coffers, argues Francisco Coll Morales at Post Opinión.
- Corruption and organized crime pose nearly insurmountable obstacles for Mexican entrepreneurs, part of the uneven playing field that has produced a country with more than a dozen billionaires and no real middle class, reports Forbes. And the lack of successful mid-sized companies has left most people seeking work in Mexico's informal sector, where nine out of every ten businesses in the country operate.
- Avocados are increasingly relevant for Mexico's illicit economy: Four competing drug cartels are extorting producers in Michoacán, reports InSight Crime.
- Argentine poverty rates rose to 35.4 percent in the first half of this year, according to the national statistics bureau's latest numbers. Around 15.8 million Argentines are now considered poor, a rise of 1.5 million people in six months. (BA Times)
- Argentine economic officials insist the country has met the goals it agreed on with the International Monetary Fund to receive a next loan disbursement of $5.4 billion, but the IMF seems to have put the payment on hold ahead of October's general elections, reports Bloomberg.
- Argentina's rural sector is worried about the expected return of a Peronist government after the elections. But front-runner Alberto Fernández has indicated a desire to work with agriculture groups, and said they are fundamental to kick-starting the stalled economy, reports the Wall Street Journal.
- Chilean authorities granted permission for a Dutch American textiles magnate to use heavy machinery to excavate a site he believes to contain buried pirate treasure, on a remote Pacific Island. But archaeologists and environmentalists are up in arms over the decision, which they say will affect a national park that is also a Unesco biosphere reserve. (Guardian)
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