Thursday, June 16, 2016

Haiti rudderless again (June 16, 2016)

The Haitian interim president's 120-day mandate ended on Tuesday evening, and lawmakers failed to reach an agreement over who is in charge now. The country is now in a state of constitutional disarray that indicates a deeply divided political class, reports the Miami Herald

Interim-president Jocelerme Privert is now a de facto leader and nobody is really sure who is in charge, reports the Washington Post. There is a standoff between Privert's supporters, who say he must remain in office until lawmakers vote him out, and his opponents who say his term is clearly over. The Haiti Sentinel describes a "war of press communications and interpretations has since ensued on whether Haiti is headless or not."

The United Nations and and the other members of the international community in Haiti represented in the "Core Group" (the Ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, the United States and the European Union, and the Special Representative of the Organization of American States) have expressed concern over an "institutional vacuum" in the country. They called on the National Assembly to take action and reach a solution to return to the constitutional order.

Foreign donors are impatient, but wary of further destabilizing the country, according to the Washington Post piece.

The debacle is complicated -- Haiti held elections for the first time in four years last year, but the results have been contested and a special verification commission recommended a rerun of the presidential election held last October. Last week the Provisional Electoral Council said that would occur in October of this year with results by early 2017, explains the Miami Herald piece. The commission said various irregularities meant last October's ballot could not be considered legitimate, reports the BBC.

But some lawmakers are angered about the proposed timetable, as well as the commission's recommendation that the races of 39 deputies and three senators be revisited.

Yesterday Privert and his cabinet spoke at the National Assembly, reviewing his 120 days in power and highlighting achievements such as a renewed Provisional Electoral Council and the formation of a consensus government, reports Haiti Libre.

News Briefs
  • A new Amnesty International report on migration and statelessness in Haiti and the Dominican Republic was released yesterday, a year after the Dominican Republic ended a moratorium on deportations of undocumented migrants. (See post for June 17, 2015.) “Where are We Going to Live?” Migration and Statelessness in Haiti and the Dominican Republic reveals the reckless way in which the two governments are handling the deportation, expulsion and “spontaneous” return of tens of thousands of people from the Dominican Republic to Haiti following an 18-month long regularization plan for undocumented foreigners living in the Dominican Republic, says Amnesty.
  • Nicaragua's opposition has announced that it will not participate in November's presidential race, leaving incumbent Daniel Ortega as the sole candidate, reports El País. The decision comes on the heels of a controversial Supreme Court decision that annulled the candidacy of opposition leader Luis Callejas. (See last Thursday's post.) 
  • Brazil's acting President Michel Temer has been implicated in the sprawling Petrobras corruption investigation by plea bargain testimony released yesterday, reports the Wall Street Journal. He allegedly asked a Petrobras official to arrange illegal campaign contributions to his PMDB party in 2012, according to information released yesterday by Brazil's Supreme Court. It's the first time Temer has been directly implicated in Operation Car Wash, as the investigation is called.
  • Plea bargain testimony has also implicated former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and supporters fear he could soon be put on trial for allegedly playing  a central role in the corruption scheme at Petrobras, reports The Guardian.
  • Challenges to Temer's legitimacy, in the midst of the country's political chaos, mean "a distracted political class focused less on governance than survival," argues a Council on Foreign Relations blog post.
  • Several studies over the past year have focused on the a surge in the police use of excessive force in Rio de Janeiro state in recent years, and the majority of victims are young black men from favelas and marginalized areas. The police committed more than 1 in every 6 of Rio de Janeiro's homicides between 2010 and 2013. And 4 out of 5 of those who are slain overall were under 29 years old — and of African descent. (See post for Nov. 4, 2015.) In April, Amnesty International denounced that Rio de Janeiro favela residents are "living in terror" after 11 people were killed in police shootings in the past month. (See April 28's briefs.) Now residents of the city's infamous Cidade de Deus community say they consider themselves safer than black residents of the United States, reports the Global Post.
  • An indigenous activist was killed and six more were wounded in an attack on their camp in the country's southwest by armed farmers, reports Reuters. The group was pushing to have the government recognize their rights to ancestral land claims, and were attacked by about 70 farmers riding motorcycles, trucks and a tractor.
  • Mexico's Senate approved an anticorruption bill yesterday that would force public servants to disclose tax returns, assets and economic interests, a measure based on a proposal signed by over 600,000 citizens, reports the Wall Street Journal. Though the bill did not go as far as citizen groups had hoped, government accountability organizations heralded its passage as a step in the right direction.
  • Mexico City smog levels were famously high in the late 80s, and were pushed down by a series of measures including incentives to buy cleaner cars, elimination of lead in gasoline and pushing industry out of the city. But pollution fell off the public radar, and has crept back up to record levels this year: the city has only registered 20 days this year in which particulates and ozone levels have been below the government upper limit for acceptability, reports the New York Times.
  • U.S. authorities handed over drug lord Hector "El Guero" Palma, one of the founders of the Sinaloa Cartel, to Mexico, where he was transported to a maximum security prison to face trial in two murder cases, reports the Associated Press. He was a former partner of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, and served prison time in the U.S. for over a decade on cocaine distribution charges, reports Reuters. He received early release for good behavior, notes The Guardian. The prompt detention averted fears that Palma would go free upon return to Mexico, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • The Mexican government says at least 24 more members of the combative CNTE teachers union have outstanding arrest warrants. The group accuses the Mexican government of deliberately targeting its leaders in order to silence critics of a controversial education reform, reports TeleSur.
  • Argentina's government has started releasing inflation figures again -- the polemic statistics have been suspended since President Mauricio Macri assumed at the end of last year, amid accusations that his predecessor had tampered with the numbers to improve her economic track record, reports the Wall Street Journal. According to the national statistics institute, prices increased by about 4 percent in May over the last month.
  • New studies on Zika and pregnancy in Colombia could indicate that women who contract the disease in the third trimester of pregnancy do not face a major risk of their babies developing fetal malformations associated with the disease, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Angry protests and lootings have left five dead, at least 30  injured and 200 arrested in Venezuela, reports the Los Angeles Times. Mass looting this week in Cumaná has the the coastal city under de facto curfew reports The Guardian
  • Grave robbery is one of the latest issues in increasingly lawless Venezuela, according to the Associated Press. Vandals have desecrated the tomb of Romulo Gallegos, a former president and beloved novelist.
  • American bank Stonegate began offering Mastercards yesterday that can be used in Cuba, opening up a new era of spending for American tourists, reports the Miami Herald.
  • U.S. hardware will be used to create a conservation facility for Hemingway artifacts in Cuba, reports the Associated Press.

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