Friday, May 27, 2016

Santos defends peace plebiscite (May 27, 2016)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos asked the Constitutional Court, yesterday, to authorize a referendum he is proposing on an eventual peace deal with FARC guerrilla group, reports EFE.

"For peace, for our social rule of law, for the victims, for the future of Colombia, for the potential hope of finally living in a normal country, without war, I respectfully ask" that the Statutory Peace Referendum Law be declared constitutional, he said.

Though Santos technically has the power to sign an agreement without submitting it to referendum, his government has been adamant about taking this step, reports Silla Vacía.

Santos noted that a yes vote would give the agreement popular legitimacy. (See  May 12's briefs and May 13's post.) The Constitutional Court must approve a law passed last year that would allow for a plebiscite on the peace deal, reports AFP.

Santos' high profile defense of the referendum lays to rest rumors that his government was seeking a judicial scuppering of the referendum in order to avoid losing at the ballot box, according to Silla Vacía.

Peace negotiators in Havana said yesterday that they will be in "permanent session" in order to finalize a deal as soon as possible, notes EFE.

The EU will contribute a new 575 million dollar package to support the transition to peace, reports AFP.

News Briefs
  • The Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN) has kidnapped three reporters in Norte de Santander, along the Venezuelan border. (See Wednesday's briefs.) Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said yesterday that the ELN was "responsible for the disappearance" of the three journalists, but avoided calling the events kidnappings, reports Reuters. Salud Hernández-Mora, a well known reporter in Colombia, is known for her defense of kidnapping victims, according to Silla Vacía. She is known for her strong stances against the Havana peace negotiations with the FARC and against President Juan Manuel Santos' administration.
  • As if the situation wasn't complicated enough, a farmworkers strike scheduled to start Saturday could complicate the manhunt in the Catacumbo region, reports Silla Vacía.
  • Panama's  Supreme Court is seeking the extradition of former President Ricardo Martinelli from the United States on charges related to illegal wiretaps against dozens of opponents while in office, reports the Associated Press.
  • Venezuela's OAS ambassador said yesterday that the country's government faces a "distorted" campaign aimed at justifying political intervention, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Though these cases are high profile, Silla Vacía visits the case of a disappeared community organizer whose disappearance four months ago hasn't been cleared up yet.
  • Student protesters in Chile demanding the government accelerate reforms that would provide universal free university education clashed with police yesterday, reports the BBC. The government said demonstrators refused to take an alternative route suggested by police and threw stones at security agents, while the students say they were brutally attacked.
  • Peruvian right-wing presidential contender Keiko Fujimori has a strong lead over her opponent heading into the last week before a run-off election, reports AFP. She has 46 percent of the vote and her rival, center-right economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, 38.9 percent, according to a poll released yesterday.
  • El Salvador's Congress approved a bond issuance of $152 million to finance a series of measures aimed at tackling endemic gang violence, reports Reuters.
  • A time of tense issues between Mexico and the U.S., a new high profile ambassador takes the post in Mexico DF this week. Roberta Jacobson is expected to engage the Mexican government on issues of human rights and security, reports the Associated Press.
  • Authorities in Central America are clamping down on migrant routes. Earlier this month, Colombia became the latest, closing its border with Panama and stranding hundreds of Cubans seeking to reach the U.S., reports the Guardian.
  • Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra is running for the post of U.N. Secretary General, but her chances could be hurt by her stance against Venezuela in the OAS, reports Andrés Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald.
  • Argentine President Mauricio Macri is part of what Graciela Monteagudo characterizes at the "third wave of neoliberalism" in a NACLA piece. So why hasn't his austerity oriented administration sparked massive outcries? She points to "an enhanced welfare system that keeps the most vulnerable barely afloat, the shifting alliances of governors and legislators, and Macri's ability to negotiate with at least some unions and community leaders" as well as a disarticulation of social movements that she says occurred under the Kirchner governments. 
  • "The slow rollback of South America’s "pink tide" is laying bare the endemic corruption that was hidden beneath the economic success once enjoyed by the region's progressive governments," argues Uki Goñi in the Guardian.
  • Brazil's government plans to lift limits on foreign ownership of agricultural land. Secretary of Investment Moreira Franco called the restriction, aimed at limiting foreign control of large tracts of arable land, "nonsense," reports Reuters.
  • In an odd twist, even for Brazil, Acting President Michel Temer is battling rumors that he is a devil worshiper, and asked prominent evangelical pastors for help, reports the Washington Post.
  • Brazilian police are searching for more than 30 men suspected of participating in a gang rape of a 16-year-old in Rio de Janeiro, reports the Associated Press.
  • The Guardian has a piece on the environmental mess that is Guayaquil's river delta.
  • It's too hot for suits in Cuba, so people seeking a classy look in their ID photos digitally add formal wear to the picture, reports the Associated Press.
  • Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, this year's Pritzker Prize winner, says Latin America's slums should be inspiration for new housing. He rejects romanticization of favelas, but says they highlight human resilience and the instinctive capacity for home-building, reports the New York Times.
Note: There will be no briefing May 30-June 2. Sarah Maslin will be putting together the briefing June 3-15.

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