Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Haiti finally swears in new president (Feb. 7, 2017)

Businessman Jovene Moïse was sworn inas Haiti's president this morning, concluding a two year election cycle and year-long interim government. He has promised to focus efforts on rural development, reports the Associated Press. He plans to stimulate the textile industry and provide duty-free preferences for certain light manufactured goods in order to create thousands of jobs, according to Reuters.

The inauguration was boycotted by four senators and several deputies, who asked for a money laundering investigation against Moïse be resolved before he assumed office, reports the Miami Herald. (See Jan. 27's briefs.)

News Briefs
  • Mexico's government rejected the U.S. "offer" of troops to combat crime in the country, noting that the national consitution does not permit the operation of foreign military on national soil, reports Animal Político. "The answer is no, overwhelming, resounding" said the presidential spokesman. (See last Thursday's post.)
  • While the international focus right now is on the physical barrier Trump keeps threatening to build on the U.S.-Mexico border, a virtual wall made up of intense police vigilance, drug cartels, human smugglers, and a healthy deportation policy are turning back thousands of migrants at Mexico's southern border with Guatemala, reports El País. Migrants setting off across Mexico fear the violence of assault, extortion and rape, often at police hands, say experts.
  • Former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos called for Latin American unity in the face of Trump's bluster in an interview with El País. But Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, also in an interview with El País, said the region is following Mexico's stance and seeking dialogue. (See Friday's briefs for more opinions on regional unity -- or lack thereof -- towards U.S. bullying.)
  • Brazilian President Michel Temer nominated his justice minister, a close ally, to the Supreme Court yesterday, reports the BBC. Alexandre de Moraes replaces Teori Zavaski who died in a plane crash last month. Critics have called for a less politically sensitive nominee as the highest court prepares to rule in a major corruption scandal implicating members of the administration. He is seen as an ideologue, and not the "technocratic" profile Temer had promised, reports EFE. The nomination must be ratified by the Senate, where Temer has ample support.
  • The military is notably absent from the pension austerity reform being pushed by the Temer administration. Though they were originally included in the pension reform bill, the government seeks to avoid backlash that could threaten the project, according to Bloomberg.
  • A police strike in the city of Vitoria, in the eastern state of Espirito Santo, has led to a vast increase in murders since Saturday, and Brazil's government is deploying 200 federal officers to the locale, reports the BBC.
  • Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has turned to the OAS -- an organization he strongly criticized last year -- to legitimize his government's democratic process. Ortega won his third consecutive term last year, amid allegations that he used executive power to quash opposition parties and is governing in an increasingly autocratic fashion. A new agreement with the OAS, published last month and due for ratification in a "memorandum of understanding later this month" would start a process of strengthening the country's electoral institutionality, but is criticized by opponents as a whitewashing of the regime, reports El País.
  • Colombia's second largest guerrilla group, the ELN, released a soldier held hostage, yesterday, ahead of peace talks set to begin today in Ecuador, reports the BBC. Negotiations were meant to begin last year, but were delayed by the group's refusal to release a high-profile political hostage, who was set free last week.
  • About 300 FARC fighters are expected to defy the peace agreement set in motion late last year, that's about five percent of the fighting force that will be considered at risk for recruitment for criminal organizations, reports Reuters.
  • "Illegal drugs are a matter of national security, but the war against them cannot be won by armed forces and law enforcement agencies alone. Throwing more soldiers and police at the drug users is not just a waste of money but also can actually make the problem worse. Locking up nonviolent offenders and drug users almost always backfires, instead strengthening organized crime," writes former Colombian President César Gaviria in a New York Times op-ed. "Trust me, I learned the hard way."
  • The U.S. granted El Salvador $98 million this week, part of funds approved by Congress in 2015 to combat lawlessness and corruption and diminish the flow of migrants heading towards the U.S., reports Reuters
  • Peru's attorney general said he'll seek the arrest of former President Alejandro Toledo on charges of laundering of assets and influence trafficking, reports the Associated Press. Authorities opened an investigation into Toledo yesterday to look into suspicions that the former president took $20 million in bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht SA. (See yesterday's briefs.) 
  • Severe drought in Peru has given way to devastating rainfalls, provoking at least 20 deaths in recent weeks, reports Reuters.
  • Before leaving office last month, Obama suspended a provision of the Helms Burton act that allows former owners of expropriated commercial property in Cuba to sue foreign companies. It's never come into play because each U.S. president since Clinton has suspended the clause every six months. It will be six months before it comes up for Trump to decide whether to continue suspending it, explains the Miami Herald.
  • The neighborhood of María Auxiliadora in Cochabamba, Bolivia, has sought to create a safe-haven for women, with rules including no alcohol and no gender-based attacks, reports the Guardian.
  • Land access for women is critical for tackling inequality and creating a lasting peace in Guatemala, said Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu, according to Reuters.
  • Corruption in Mexico is so ubiquitous that a new Mexico City tour shows tourists local monuments to graft, reports the Associated Press. The "Corruptour" takes participants to ten places in the capital associated with high-profile corruption scandals, reports Animal Político. (InSight Crime has the English translation.)
  • The World Wildlife Fund on Monday called for a complete ban on fishing in the habitat of the vaquita porpoise, reports the Associated Press. The group is opposed to a plan by Mexican authorities to catch the few dozen remaining vaquitas for their protection in pens. (See TKTK's briefs.) The WWF called for an immediate and total ban on fisheries within the vaquita habitat, but such a move would be costly for Mexico and difficult to enforce.

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