Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Colombia's new deal will be sent to congress, despite opposition rejection (Nov. 23, 2016)

The new deal between the Colombian government and the FARC will be signed tomorrow, reports La Silla Vacía. The accord will then be fast-tracked in Congress, where legislators will vote on whether to approve it on Tuesday. The move reflects a desire for a speedy implementation, and technically legislators will be asked to respond to a motion, not a bill.

The signing will be far more subdued than the symbolically charged event that celebrated the conclusion of the original deal, which was attended by local and international dignitaries to great fanfare, notes the Guardian.

The signing occurs despite a rejection by opposition groups after a marathon meeting Monday evening. (See yesterday's briefs.) Opposition groups say the modifications don't go far enough in punishing rebels for human rights abuses, reports the BBC. Former President Álvaro Uribe says the changes are largely cosmetic.

The new agreement modifies one narrowly rejected by voters last month, which was the result of four years of negotiations between the two parties. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this week, Santos defended the new deal, saying it incorporated significant demands made by Colombians. The FARC will be required to declare and deliver all of its assets to repair and restore victims, for example. And more precisely defines the transitional justice system to be used for war crimes.

(Semana has a point by point analysis of the changes.)

Criminal groups are increasingly moving into vacated FARC territory. The issue has been noted by top Colombian officials and international rights groups, which have dubbed them "neo-paramilitary groups," reports InSight Crime. The issue was expected in advance of a peace accord, as FARC movements to pre-concentration areas leave power vacuums in communities where the state was largely absent. But the problematic start to the peace accord has made the problem worst, according to InSight. It has delayed the implementation of rural development programs that would help displace illegal economies in those areas. "It is becoming increasingly clear that criminal groups are expanding to absorb the FARC's illegal economies and territorial control."

Increasingly, social organization leadership has become the target of homicides, spurring fear of a return to the assassinations of thousands of left-wing Union Patriótica party members in the 80's and 90's, reports the Miami Herald. Since January, 70 leaders have been targeted and murdered, mostly rural organizers, land-rights advocates and people who have campaigned in favor of the peace deal. Yesterday Santos ordered stepped-up protection for community leaders and called the attacks against them "dramatic evidence" of the risks of not "implementing the peace deal."

La Silla Vacía reports that there have been at least 20 deaths since the August bilateral ceasefire of regional social leaders, social organizations, leaders of displaced groups, and human rights associations.

On Monday the FARC asked Santos to respond to the killings, saying some 200 people have been killed "under a complete cloak of impunity" and "a new genocide is now underway against social leaders and peasants," reports EFE.
News Briefs
  • Security forces continued to clash with protesters in Haiti yesterday, two days after presidential elections were held. (See yesterday's briefs.) Police used tear gas to disperse supporters of presidential candidate Maryse Narcisse in Port-au-Prince yesterday, reports Reuters.
  • Videos of high level Salvadoran officials discussing deals with street gang leaders were published by InSight Crime, El Faro and Revista Factum earlier this year. (See for example Oct. 31's briefs, and May 9's post.) The implications have been important for the FLMN Sánchez Cerén government, which promised to distance itself from the previous administration's truce approach with the gangs, now deeply unpopular among citizens. But not only are the videos a blow to the government's credibility, InSight's sources say the talks may have been used to gather information on the gangs that is now being used in a violent crackdown. 
  • Sky-high gang violence in El Salvador -- an average of about 18 murders per day -- is creating a humanitarian crisis, writes Celia Medrano for Open Society Foundations' "Voices." And its creating a wave of migration to other countries, as well as a high rate of internally displaced people in the country. Medrano, chief program officer at Cristosal, says the Salvadoran government does not officially recognized forced displacement by violence. "Durable solutions for displaced persons require a broad, long-term vision based on institutional coordination with active participation from affected communities, state authorities, and the victims themselves. Forced displacement and migration must be addressed with a human rights–based approach to the development and implementation of security policies," she writes.
  • In the Conversation, Adriana Éstevez argues that the wave of Central American and Mexican migrants fleeing their countries is spurred not only by violence, but also policies aimed at clearing population from areas with rich natural resources. "This isn’t a conspiracy theory, and this hypothesis is not mine alone. Data indicates that in resource-rich countries, the concurrence of forced displacement with criminal, misogynistic and political violence cannot be a coincidence. ... This “necropolitics” - the politics of death – is the violent core of what scholar Bobby Banerjee defines as necrocapitalism, that is, profit-driven deaths."
  • There are signs of increased demand for "coyotes," human smugglers, in Honduras in the wake of the Trump election in the U.S. The reports suggest the election is already having an impact on organized crime and migration patterns in the region, according to InSight Crime. (See yesterday's and Monday's briefs.)
  • CICIG commissioner Iván Velásquez has been penally denounced by a right-wing group accusing him of involvement in the death of a former finance minister -- who supposedly died in a suicide -- reports Prensa Libre. (See Sept. 23's post on a malicious wave of litigation against human rights advocates seeking justice for civil war crimes, brought forth by the Foundation against Terrorism.
  • Jamaican police commit hundreds of summary executions each year, according to Amnesty International. A new report out today says officers have created a culture of fear that allows them to cover-up evidence of police killings, reports the Guardian. "Information gathered … points to a strong likelihood of the existence of individual police officers or even units tasked with carrying out extrajudicial executions on the orders of some governmental authorities or with its complicity or acquiescence."
  • Latin America's right-ward swing from the "pink tide" governments of the past decade might be better characterized as a tun towards hypercorrection of the messy policies of the era, argues Javier Corrales in a New York Times op-ed. While there is some room for optimism, he fears the current lot of leaders in the region will repeat the mistakes of the past because "the politics of hypercorrection, regardless of what policies are adopted, are prone to overreach. Fixating on huge crises prompts politicians to go overboard, become too improvisational and ignore other issues." He traces the pendular swings of the past decades, from decentralizing, democratic transition governments, to neoliberal economics, to the last period of leftist leaders intent on tackling inequality with state expansion. "And now it’s time for post-left presidents. An encore performance of overcompensation and neglect is in the works." Rather than focusing on rolling back the state, he urges governments to focus on rule of law, and strengthening courts. And he cautions that "hypercorrection comes from crises and is prone to crises."
  • Latin America faces significant challenges in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also good opportunities for achieving climate goals, argue Lisa Viscidi and Rebecca O'Connor in a New York Times Español op-ed. Most countries in the region, including the biggest emitters, Brazil and Mexico, signed the Paris Accord, but only Costa Rica is on track with reductions. But many of the region's commitments are dependent on financial assistance and technology transfers, issues which will be addressed at the upcoming Marrakesh meeting, they writes.
  • Latin America's burgeoning prison population is clearly exemplified by Brazil, where preventative detention and arrests for possession of small amounts of drugs have created a prison crisis, argues Elizabeth Leeds at WOLA. Temer's new administration has said it will prioritize "law and order" initiatives over a more multi-disciplinary approach favored by the previous government. Leeds calls for civil society organizations to defend meager advances and oppose jail privatization, which would provide economic incentives for further overcrowding.
  • Evidence presented in the so-called "narco nephews" case suggests the complicity of high level Venezuelan officials in the drug trade, reports InSight Crime. Last week the nephews of first lady Cilia Flores were convicted of conspiring to smuggle 800 kilos of cocaine to the U.S. in a New York court. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • An Associated Press feature looks at how the families of disappeared people in Iguala have gathered to provide each other with moral support and press authorities to help them find their missing family members.
  • Brazilian authorities are preparing for a long-term battle with Zika virus public health problems as previously undetected brain damage begins to surface in apparently unaffected babies, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • At least four people have already died in Panama from Hurricane Otto, and Costa Rica and Nicaragua are under threat, reports the BBC.
  • Schools will end the year two weeks early in several Bolivian regions due to the severe and prolonged drought the country is enduring, reports the BBC. (See yesterday's briefs.)

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