Friday, October 14, 2016

Colombia-FARC cease-fire extended, Uribe sends proposals (Oct. 14, 2016)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos extended the bilateral cease-fire with the FARC through the end of the year, as the negotiating teams scramble to put together a new agreement after voters rejected a proposed pact.

The extension of the cease-fire, which had already been assured through the end of the month, is a gesture towards activists who have mobilized in favor of peace in recent weeks, Santos said, according to Reuters. The cease-fire can be extended indefinitely, but Santos said he hoped a new deal would be in place by December.

The announcement comes the day after former President Álvaro Uribe's party sent a list of demands to be incorporated into the pact. The main opponents to the rejected agreement toned down their hardline demands, reports the Wall Street Journal. The proposals actually leave significant portions of the agreement intact, and do not read as potential FARC deal breakers, according to the Washington Post.

The proposals would scrap a special tribunal that would have dispensed justice to FARC fighters and military officers accused of war crimes, and would ban leaders accused of serious crimes from holding political office. But the proposals retain guaranteed congressional seats for a FARC political party and does not require jail time for leaders convicted of serious crimes.

Specifically, the Democratic Center proposal would replace the special tribunals created by the rejected pact with a transitional justice system within Colombia's ordinary justice infrastructure, explains InSight Crime. The new proposals also would exclude drug trafficking from the list of pardonable crimes, which would prevent many FARC members from receiving amnesty and thus exclude them from political office.

"The technical tone of most of these proposals is a relief," Adam Isacson of WOLA told the WP. "Most of it is pretty moderate and not fundamentally changing the accord."

Uribe must step up to the plate and either support a form of the current peace agreement or contribute to finding an acceptable better one -- but in any case must stop thwarting efforts to end the conflict, argues a New York Times editorial

It is a moment of pressure onUribe, noted Inter-American Dialogue head Michel Shifter to the WSJ. "People might say, 'This was a lost opportunity and Uribe is to blame' ... If Uribe was helpful, he could claim credit for a final deal and that would be a win for him."

Very interesting piece in la Silla Vacía on an interview with FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño -- on how he's committed to a peace accord, and how his attitude is humanizing him in the eyes of opponents to the pact.

News Briefs
  • A group of Haitians yesterday protested against the death of a motorcyclist they blamed on U.N. peacekeepers -- saying he was hit by a convoy, reports Reuters. The incident comes as tensions are running high in communities who say they are not receiving aid after the destruction of Hurricane Matthew ten days ago. (See yesterday's post.) Armed peacekeepers are accompanying convoys carrying supplies for communities affected by the storm.
  • All this just as relief efforts entered a more advanced stage yesterday and began reaching more isolated communities, reports the Associated Press.
  • On concerns over misuse of disaster relief funds after the 2010 earthquake, a USAID official notes the need for immediate supplies right now on the ground, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
  • For now international agencies are mostly concerned with the potential for a surge in cholera, already there have been at least 200 suspected cases, reports the Guardian.
  • In the wake of yet another natural disaster of intense proportions in Haiti, a piece in the Conversation by Jude Mary Cénat explores the issue of widespread post-traumatic stress disorder in the population, and difficulties in providing victims with psychological support.
  • Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández said authorities were investigating a drug cartel plan to assassinate him and the U.S. ambassador to the country, reports Reuters.
  • U.S. and Honduran intelligence officers are investigating 35 public officials -- including mayors, active military officers and police -- for ties to criminal organizations, reports InSight Crime.
  • There's evidence that the various Salvadoran branches of the MS-13 street gang attempted to pool resources to create an elite unit in response to a government crackdown on criminal organizations this year, reports InSight Crime.
  • Great piece in the Conversation, on the difference between official commitment to human rights and actual practices in Mexico. The compliance gap is likely caused by a combination of domestic factors, such as poor institutional capacities, and a failure on the part of international commitments and pressure to generate behavioral changes on the ground, writes Alejandro Anaya Muñoz in a review of his research on the subject.
  • Interesting coverage of urban issues ahead of the Habitat III conference coming up next week in Quito. A Reuters piece focuses on Ciudad Neza, a former slum outside of Mexico City that shows how informal settlements can be supported and upgraded into flourishing suburbs: the urbanization of the future.
  • Travelers returning from Cuba to the U.S. can now bring back unlimited rum and cigars for personal use, reports the Guardian. Let the party begin!
  • Cute animal story of the week: an elephant sanctuary in Brazil where animals retiring from zoos and circuses can live out their lives with room to roam and veterinary care, reports the Associated Press.

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