Monday, February 6, 2017

FARC guerrillas concentrating -- attempting public relations (Feb. 6, 2017)

The concentration zones FARC fighters are gathering at to lay down arms are behind schedule, and many fighters are arriving to construction zones and incomplete infrastructure, reports the Wall Street Journal. The lack of preparation has many concerned that larger programs promised in the peace deal, will be implemented. But security concerns are more pressing -- social activists have been targets of a wave of violence that has killed more than 60 last year, and FARC fighters fear they'll be next once they're unarmed. And experts are concerned that organized crime groups will expand their territory as the FARC withdraws.

The new FARC settlements have caused mixed feelings in the towns where they're located, even where most of the population supported the peace accord, reports the New York Times, which profiles the town of La Paz, where 80 former fighters are living alongside residents who suffered the violence of five decades of conflict in Colombia.

The FARC intends to transition into a political party -- and the peace accord grants the guerirllas political eligibility and ten congressional seats in 2018. But the group's political survival will depend on convincing a population that deeply resents them for years of violence, reports InSight Crime. Nonetheless, their favorability rating in a recent poll rose from 6 percent to 18 percent. The soon-to-be former guerrilla group's greatest chance for survival lies in rural areas, according to InSight's analysis, "where their historical presence overlaps with widespread government disapproval. They offer easy access to locally elected positions of power such as city halls, assemblies, local action boards and even state houses."

La Silla Vacía reports on some additional coca-eradication related difficulties in Catacumbo.

News Briefs
  • Salvadoran "mano dura" policies against street gangs seem "to have become a shoot-to-kill policy under which anyone living in a gang-controlled neighbourhood risks falling victim to extrajudicial violence," reports the Guardian.
  • Peruvian prosecutors searched the home of former President Alejandro Toledo, part of an expanding investigation into bribes paid by Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht to public officials, reports the Wall Street Journal. Toledo has denied receiving bribes, saying the accusations are orchestrated by political opponents. President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who served as Toledo's finance minister and prime minister, said the former president betrayed his country and must return to Peru to face justice, reports Reuters. Kuczynski himself is the target of a separate investigation regarding a law he signed off on in 2006 that removed legal obstacles to highway contracts awarded to Odebrecht and other Brazilian companies. 
  • Argentine President Mauricio Macri announced measures last week making it easier to deport immigrants and restrict their entry -- prompting comparisons to Trump and sparking fierce debate in a country with a long history of immigration and a decade of favorable welcome policies to ensure migrant rights, reports the New York Times. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • Brazilian politics have swung abruptly to the right, since President Dilma Rousseff's ouster last year. But though current President Michel Temer has pushed a right-wing agenda on the country, he has not been embraced by citizens suspicious of the political elite implicated in wide-ranging corruption investigations, according to the Washington Post. The piece argues that the country is looking for a a right-wing, outsider, populist Trump-style leader to sweep in for the 2018 presidential elections. Early favorites include the new mayor of Sao Paulo, a business tycoon who starred on the Brazilian version of "Celebrity Apprentice." (See Jan. 26's briefs on João Doria's maverick governance style.)
  • Options are shrinking for Cubans caught in third countries en route to the U.S. when a policy granting them preferential migration status was suddenly terminated last month, reports the Miami Herald.
  • A U.S. Senate bill proposes lifting the ban on private financing of U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba, reports the Miami Herald.
  • A wave of patriotism is sweeping Mexico in the wake of Trump's hostility, reports the Los Angeles Times. "It’s not joyous or self-congratulatory. These expressions of patriotism appear defensive, uneasy and even mournful in tone, as Mexicans wait to see whether Trump’s threats will turn to action. In the meantime, many here are asking themselves what they can do to support their fellow citizens. The answers take many forms."
  • Among the many people, businesses and developments threatened by Trump's wall, is the Big Bend National Park, that spans the U.S. Mexico border. A barrier would threaten the reintroduction of wildlife species killed off over the past two centuries, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • Lawyers for Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán complain he is being subjected to overly harsh conditions in U.S. federal prison while awaiting trial, reports the Associated Press.
  • Washington Post piece explores the links between the Mexican village of Tonatico and the U.S. small-town Waukegan, Illinois -- two localities linked by extensive back and forth migration, and how Trump's hostility towards migrants and Mexico is playing out in both.
  • A Mexican cinema exec Cinepolis de Mexico – which is the fourth largest cinema chain in the world said Trump's policies might force him to import popcorn kernels from Argentina instead of the U.S., reports the Guardian.
  • The Guardian has a photo-essay on a Bolivian village's attempts to beat a crushing drought with water management.
  • A new book out by a Norwegian journalist details attempts by the U.S. to topple Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, based on Wikileaks revelations, reports TeleSUR.
  • An out-of-control cargo truck crashed into a bus on a highway outside Honduras' capital yesterday, killing 16 people and injuring 34, reports the Associated Press.

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