Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Guatemalan spring threatened by entrenched corruption (Dec. 20, 2016)

A new report by Guatemalan La Hora suggests that former President Otto Pérez Molina and former VP Roxana Baldetti continue to control criminal structures from behind bars. Analysts consulted by La Hora compare the ex politician' reach to that of the mob and that structures in question, like those of criminal organizations, have the capacity for reorganization. If so, it's another reason to lament the short reach of the "Guatemalan Spring," reports InSight Crime

"The cases of Pérez Molina and Baldetti also illustrate how efforts to tackle criminal structures in Guatemala may have simply led to their re-accommodation rather than their dissolution. As long as corrupt structures maintain power within state institutions, there are worries that Guatemala's recent achievements against impunity -- largely spearheaded by the United Nations-backed Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala -- will not result in long-term improvements to the status quo," according to InSight. 

CICIG head Iván Velásquez recently referred to the fragility of advances, and the need for justice reforms to ensure their continuity, reported InSight last month. 

(See last Tuesday's briefs on Congressional pushback against vital justice reforms.)

News Briefs
  • Nómada reports on rumors that Guatemalan businessmen lobbied in Washington against ambassador Ted Robinson's work in support of the CICIG and against corruption. While the Guatemalan ambassador in DC categorically denied that this was their goal, she confirmed that the group, which included some of the country's biggest players, attempted to meet with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and succeeded in meeting with Mario Díaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's staffers.
  • Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski met with right-wing opposition leader Keiko Fujimori at the behest of Catholic Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani. They prayed together and promised to cooperate for the good of the country, a week after Fujimori's party, which holds a Congressional majority, ousted PPK's education minister. (See last Thursday's briefs.) It was their first meeting since they faced off in a June election in which PPK narrowly beat Fujimori. But the peace overture toward's Fujimori and the religious leader's intervention angered some of the leftists who rallied behind him in the election, reports Reuters.
  • The differences between PPK and Fujimori come down to rule of law against authoritarian, corrupt maneuvering argues Alberto Vergara in a New York Times español op-ed. Though they share an economic world view, Fujimori's party will continue to sabotage efforts by the administration to reform key areas of government, he writes, criticizing the government's weak response to the education minister's ouster.
  • New York Times editorial cautions U.S. president-elect Donald Trump from "getting drawn into a war of words with [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro. Venezuela’s flailing leader would happily use any excuse to claim foreign intervention to justify even greater repression of his people."
  • The withdrawal of Venezuela's 100 bolivar bill -- which caused currency chaos, and provoked looting and rioting over the weekend -- was justified by the government as a measure to tackle criminal gangs. (See yesterday's post and Friday's post.) But past experience shows that move, and the related border closure with Colombia and Brazil, will actually strengthen criminal smuggling operations, according to InSight Crime.
  • Crowds gathered yesterday outside the few Ciudad Bolivar supermarkets that survived the weekend's looting, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's post.) Venezuela's borders with Colombia and Brazil will remain closed through Jan. 2.
  • Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen announced a visit to Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador next month. But China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, has called on the U.S. to not permit her to transit through the U.S. en route, reports Reuters. Taiwanese media has speculated that she would try to meet with Trump in a U.S. transit stop.
  • A meeting between Mexican businessman Carlos Slim and Trump left the telecoms billionaire with a a very good vibe for Mexico," according to Slim's spokesman. The two met in Mar-a-Lago at Trump's behest, reports Reuters. Trump called the encounter "a lovely dinner with a wonderful man." The meeting follows a history of hostility: Trump accused Slim of orchestrating a media conspiracy against his election campaign, while Slim once scrapped a TV deal with Trump, saying he was a racist, reports the Guardian.
  • Head of Honduran NGO Asociación para una Sociedad más Justa (ASJ), Carlos Hernández, called on U.S. legislators to maintain bilateral cooperation with Honduras on security and justice issues, despite differences the incoming U.S. administration might have with its predecessor, reports La Tribuna. Hernández, who travelled with Omar Rivera of the special commission to purge and transform the national police, met with U.S. legislators on a trip to Washington last week. In it's seven months of operation, the commission has evaluated 2,237 members of the force, and separated 67 percent of the cases, of which 364 were officers. This month alone 419 officers were separated and last week another member of the commission survived an assassination attempt in Tegucigalpa, reports InSight Crime. (See Friday's briefs.) Commission members have become targets particularly for their focus on police top brass, according to InSight.
  • A new WOLA report on Mexico's human rights and security situation comes to the sad conclusion that widespread abuses continued unabated in 2016. "The past decade in Mexico—marked by the start of the "war on drugs"—has been fraught with alarming levels of violence and crime and a dramatic increase in human rights violations by Mexican security forces. As 2016 comes to a close, it’s clear that this year has been no different: homicide numbers are on the rise and the government has been unwilling or unable to curtail the impunity that prevails for human rights violations ..." The situation is indeed dire: in the first ten months of this year, there were an average of 56 homicides reported per day. And other violent crime rates also remain high. More than 186,000 people have been killed during the ten years of the "war on drugs." The report examines: police reform and militarization of public security; criminal justice system reform; torture; disappearances; extrajudicial executions and excessive use of force; attacks against human rights defenders and journalists; and the suggestion that future U.S.-Mexico relations prioritize rule of law.
  • Chile's role as a drug trafficking transit nation has increased in recent years, reports InSight Crime.
  • Puerto Rico will run out of money to pay public employees by February, said the U.S. territory's governor-elect, reports the Associated Press.
  • Cuban rum and cigar sales are booming, and appear to be the tourist souvenir of choice following easing of U.S. regulations regarding their purchase, reports the Miami Herald. (See Oct. 24's briefs.)
  • InSight Crime has an interesting review of a new book that looks at the political ambitions of organized crime.  Hidden Power: The Strategic Logic of Organized Crime, by Australian strategist James Cockayne looks at the wide range of political strategies employed by criminal organizations around the world. He cites the Zetas cartel in Mexico as an attempted example to carve out criminal autonomy in a region.

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