Wednesday, August 17, 2016

News briefs - Details on Colombia's peace accord plebiscite (Aug. 17, 2016)

News Briefs
  • A dozen armed men posing as police officers ransacked the home of prominent Guatemalan human rights lawyer Ramón Cadena Rámila on Monday morning. Cadena, who is the Central America director of the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, played a central role in high profile human rights cases. It's the latest episode in a rash of intimidation against legal officials in the country since 14 military officers were accused in January of crimes against humanity during Guatemala's civil war, according to the Guardian. (See Jan. 7's post.)
  • Colombia's Constitutional Court published it's full decision on the plebiscite on the peace accord with the FARC last Friday. La Silla Vacía proudly says it read 220 of the 337 pages and gives the highlights. A notable point is that citizens cannot be asked to vote for or against peace itself, rather whether they support the specific agreement (yet to be signed) between the government and the FARC. The court specified that the question put to citizens must be framed in a straightforward manner. In addition, the court marked that using the plebiscite to campaign for specific political parties is inadmissible. A successful "yes" vote would obligate President Juan Manuel Santos to implement the accord, while a "no" vote would prohibit him from advancing this specific agreement, though he would be free to propose new agreements for popular referendum.
  • Chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle warned that those who believe voting against the accords is a way to reopen the negotiation are making a mistake, and that a negative vote would leave the country imprisoned in the past, reports Deutsche Welle.
  • The debate in Colombia over the peace accords is missing the point, argues Álvaro Sierra Restrepo in an El Tiempo column. The "No" camp has imposed an agenda centered on whether or not FARC leadership faces jail time and whether or not they can participate in politics, he says. (See Aug. 9's post.) But the peace accords include on four points that could transform Colombia, argues Restrepo: land distribution, economic and technical support for peasants; broadening of democracy to include movements excluded by traditional parties and electoral machinery; implementation of a rational drug policy; and truth and reparation for victims. 
  • Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff made a last-ditch appeal to Senators ahead of an impeachment trial next week. In a letter she read live on Facebook, she promised to hold new elections if she is not ousted, and maintained her characterization of the movement against her as a "coup," reports the New York Times.
  • Brazilian media has reported that a Supreme Court Justice has ruled that prosecutors can pursue an investigation into whether Rousseff sought to shield her predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from prosecution by naming him to a cabinet post earlier this year, according to Reuters. In June Justice Teori Zavascki barred the use of wiretaps showing the two discussing the cabinet appointment and an investigation into corruption at Petrobras.
  • The international network responsible for linking national human rights agencies with the United Nations -- the International Coordinating Committee -- has doubled down on criticisms of Venezuela's Ombudsman's Office from last year. While the Venezuelan agency has not yet been downgraded to a "B" level as the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) has recommended, the latest report notes violations the Ombudsman's Office has failed to speak out against, including rough detention conditions of opposition activists, reports of alleged torture and the deportation of Colombian citizens last year, explains Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights.
  • Drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán's son, himself a Sinaloa cartel operative, was one of six men kidnapped by armed men in Puerto Vallarta on Monday, possibly a move by rival Jalisco New Generation Cartel, according to authorities. It could be in retaliation for action the Sinaloa Cartel has taken against Jalisco New Generation, reports the New York Times. The move is raising alarms over a potential rise in violence, according to the Associated Press.
  • Mexico's hippy paradise Tulum is undergoing a series of violent, but possibly legal, evictions of business owners, reports the New York Times. The orders rest on apparently shaky land-titling that has left properties open to competing claims. But those who have been evicted say "they are being robbed of their beachfront property through an elaborate system of fraud involving forged land deeds, fake contracts and violations of due process, facilitated by corrupt government officials and judges. The paucity of public records, the business owners say, has made defending their property claims even more difficult."
  • Brazilian authorities have mobilized a massive security operative to ensure relative safety during the Rio Olympics, but the question remains what will happen once all the foreign visitors leave. There has been a lot of attention paid to armed robberies of some Olympic athletes, but it's a danger faced every day by city residents: there were 10,000 robberies in May, when assaults and street robberies jumped by 42 percent, reports the New York Times. And the Olympics have actually increased bloodshed in favelas like the Complexo do Alemão, says Julita Lemgruber, the director of the Center for Studies on Public Security and Citizenship in the piece.

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