Thursday, September 8, 2016

Peña Nieto suffers more Trump backlash (Sept. 8, 2016)

Mexican finance minister Luis Videgaray stepped down yesterday, apparently in relation to the wildly unpopular meeting between President Enrique Peña Nieto and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Vidigaray is a close ally of Peña Nieto and championed the idea of the meeting, which backfired on the already unpopular Mexican leader, reports the New York Times. He had urged the move as an attempt to calm nervous markets, reports the Guardian(See last Thursday's post and Friday's briefs.) 

Peña Nieto has been attempting to contain anger over the meeting, with a television interview, newspaper column and town-hall style meeting with citizens. But discontent is growing, and an anti-Peña Nieto demonstration has been called for Sept. 15.

Vidigaray's exit is a serious blow for Peña Nieto, notes the Wall Street Journal. The former investment banker is considered the power behind the throne -- he earned the nickname "the Viceroy" --  and was considered a leading candidate for the ruling PRI party's presidential nomination for the 2018 election, reports the Financial Times

José Antonio Meade inherited the portfolio, and has the immediate task of presenting a 2017 budget to Congress that slashes government spending in an attempt to rein in public debt in the midst of oil revenue declines, reports the Wall Street Journal separately.

In yesterday's presidential debate, Trump seemed to make the odd assertion that an angered public and the Mexican cabinet shakeup were part of his objectives when he visited Peña Nieto. "I let them know where the United States stands. I mean, we've been badly hurt by Mexico, both on the border and with taking all of our jobs or a big percentage of our jobs. And if you look at what happened, look at the aftermath today, where the people that arranged the trip in Mexico have been forced out of government. That's how well we did.

The Washington Post dissects the claim: it's not at all clear that Trump did present his stance on issues like who would pay for a border wall between the two countries. And the piece asks a the key question: why would Trump's goal be to undermine the Mexican government?

News Briefs
  • Opponents to the Colombia-FARC peace deal -- which must be approved by voters on Oct. 2 before it can be implemented -- say the question posed in the plebiscite is misleading. They've appealed to the Colombian constitutional court to block the vote, saying the question doesn't even mention the FARC, and just asks voters whether they support a "lasting and stable peace." Though opinion polls give the "yes" vote a narrow margin of victory, the government is doubling down on the campaign. President Juan Manuel Santos has asked his entire Cabinet to fan out across the country to carry out what he calls a "pedagogy for peace," explaining the accord to the public, reports the Associated Press.
  • Campaign efforts must focus on delinking the peace agreement from the government's performance, and rebutting charges that the transitional justice aspects amount to an amnesty for FARC war crimes, argues a new International Crisis Group report on Colombia's final steps towards peace. But, assuming the plebiscite successfully passes, "the next six to nine months pose major tests that, unless dealt with effectively, threaten to derail the agreement, narrow its impact on guerrilla combatants or fail to prevent the chronic reproduction of violence in the outback," according to the report. The ceasefire and FARC laying down of arms will be heavily dependent on combatants real and perceived safety. "Local vendettas against guerrillas, unhappiness of some FARC fronts with parts of the agreement and moves by other illegal armed groups to seize former FARC-controlled territory, coca fields and illicit businesses pose acute risks to a delicate transition."
  • A group of Medellín LGBT activists who have endured a years long campaign of harassment, intimidation and violence from paramilitary groups will be recognized among the official war victims registry in Colombia, reports NBC. "In an eight-page report, the country's Victims Unit acknowledged a grave violation of the group's collective rights to "security, free association, and organizational autonomy." The report was unequivocal: They were targeted by the paramilitaries because they were LGBTQ activists."
  • Honduran journalist Ariel Armando D’Vicente Jarquín was sentenced to three years in prison for defamation for reporting on a former police chief, reports the Knight Center's Journalism in the America's blog. Jarquín says he is the victim of judicial retaliation for investigative work into local power struggles, including drug trafficking, reports Confidencial, based on information from Comité por la Libre Expresión (C-Libre). "Honduran prosecutors should cease pursuing criminal defamation charges against journalists, and lawmakers should swiftly repeal laws allowing for such prosecutions," said the Committee to Protect Journalists.
  • Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles said an armed pro-government gang surrounded an airport in Margarita Island after he landed there and prevented him from leaving, reports Reuters.
  • A potential U.S. Department of Homeland Security move to phase out private detention centers used for undocumented migrants could affect the country's ability to enforce immigration laws, say federal immigration agents. "There are more than 180 migrant detention centers in the United States, ranging from Pennsylvania to California, housing more than 33,000 people per day. Almost three-quarters of those detained are housed in centers that are run by or in conjunction with private contractors," reports Reuters.
  • Regular commercial flights between Cuba and the U.S. are now official, but it will be a while before service perks like "advance check-in" hit the island, reports the Wall Street Journal. Nonetheless, U.S. airlines say they have had good experiences with Cuban employees and airports so far.
  • A U.K. deportation flight to Jamaica scheduled for today would forcibly remove dozens of people who have spent most of their lives in the U.K. -- most of them have British children, reports the Guardian. Activists accuse government authorities of acting quickly to avoid legal challenges and to fill up spaces on the flight.
  • Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra said the government is willing to take a more conciliatory stance on the contested Falkland Islands. Argentina would be willing to resume direct flights and a joint UK-Argentinian exploration of hydrocarbons around the islands, reports the Guardian. Malcorra said she seeks to end a period of confrontation with the U.K on the issue, though Argentina’s claim to the Falklands/Islas Malvinas is implanted in its constitution. The diplomatic maneuver comes as she is seeking to become the next U.N. Secretary General, and hopes to avoid a U.K. veto.
  • Uruguay is seeking another country to take in a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, who is threatening to starve himself to death if he is not allowed to reunite with his family, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday's briefs.)

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