Monday, March 20, 2017

U.N. could pull out of Haiti (March 20, 2017)

It's time for the 13-year U.N. peacekeeping operation in Haiti to draw to a close, according to a new report by Secretary General António Guterres to the U.N. Security Council. The 2,300 blue-helmet soldiers should undergo a staggered withdrawal by Oct. 15, according to a 37-page report obtained by the Miami Herald.

The phasing out should come with a final six month extension of MINUSTAH, whose mandate expires April 15, according to Guterres' report. A smaller mission, focused on policing and supporting the country's judiciary, should eventually replace it.

The last time the U.N. attempted to transition out of Haiti, an armed revolt forced the deployment of more than 6,000 troops, notes the Herald.

The report comes as a U.N. initiative to raise $400 million to combat a cholera epidemic brought to the country by peacekeepers is failing to gain traction among member states. Just six of 193 countries have donated a total of $2 million so far, though Canada and Japan have provided additional sources of anti-cholera funding for Haiti, reports the New York Times.

The New Approach announced by former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon amounted to a rare acceptance of responsibility from the organization, and includes  material assistance and support” for victims.

It is possible that Guerres could attempt to finance the approach through a mandatory dues assessment, though its not clear if he will pursue this. Diplomats point to donor fatigue and uncertainty over how the funds will be used, according to the NYT.

Both MINUSTAH and the cholera fund challenges are coming as the U.S. is considering cutting foreign aid. The U.S. is both a leading source of Haitian foreign aid and U.N. financing.

News Briefs
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  • Double-speak is more prevalent than ever in Venezuela, where government assurances of a well-functioning state contrast with an increasing body of evidence of rampant human rights abuses, argues Alberto Barrera Tyszka in a New York Times Español op-ed. He points to allegations of extrajudicial executions by the security forces running the Operaciones de Liberación Humanista del Pueblo, and inhumane conditions in prisons (see above). The international community must decide which of these two countries (realities) to commit to, he argues. "They can be, with their silence, complicit with an elite that controls power. Or they can actively support those who suffer the consequences of power. There are fewer and fewer nuances. Either they are with the pompous Venezuela that declares in Geneva, or with the urgent Venezuela that appears in the subtitles."
  • U.S. President Donald Trump discussed the Venezuela situation in phone conversations with his Brazilian and Chilean counterparts this weekend, reports EFE.
  • Brazil's newest corporate corruption scandal involves an inquiry into two of the country's two food-processing giants, JBS and BRF, where employees are accused of bribing federal inspectors to ignore the adulteration or expiration of processed foods, reports the New York Times. Brazil's Federal Police, which conducted raids on the companies on Friday, says the payments were channeled to President Michel Temer's PMDB. Affected products could include exports with salmonella, and serving expired meats to Brazilian schoolchildren, according to authorities. Thirty-six people were arrested in the initial operations, reports O Globo. The meatpacking inquiry has affected shares of the companies involved, as well as Brazil's benchmark Ibovespa stocks index, reports the Wall Street Journal. Agricultural Ministry officials said most of the tainted meat was probably in the Brazilian market, but said they had insufficient information to guide consumers in avoiding tainted food. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of chicken meat and the meat sector relies heavily on exports, according to the WSJ. The probe has been dubbed Carne Fraca, which translates as "The Flesh is Weak," a reference to public officials' moral fragility, according to the Financial Times.
  • Media alarm over "Janot's List" last week -- the requests from Brazil's attorney general to the Supreme Court to investigate 83 politicians -- has not impacted markets much, likely because precedent indicates the follow-through will be extremely slow, reports the Financial Times. (See last Thursday's post.)
  • Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa announced that presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso is under legal investigation for alleged illegal activities involving offshore companies, reports TeleSUR. Last week Página 12 reported that Lasso is associated to 49 offshore companies and that his fortune increased from $1 million to $31 million thanks to financial speculations between 1999 and 2002.
  • Mexico and the U.S. "have developed an extraordinary level of collaboration in addressing terrorist threats and capturing dangerous criminals." But that cooperation is threatened by the deterioration in bilateral relations since U.S President Donald Trump took office earlier this year, reports the Washington Post.
  • Mexico's government urged national companies to follow their consciences and avoid tendering bids to construct Trump's proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, reports the Financial Times. Not that foreign companies have much of a chance, given "Buy American" preferences specified in the tender.
  • Mexican journalist Ricardo Monlui Cabrera was shot dead infront of his family in Veracruz on Sunday, reports AFP. The state is considered one of the most dangerous in the country for journalists.
  • Sure Trump is inspiring a wave of Mexican nationalism, but millions of Mexicans are addicted to U.S. consumer goods, a cultural fact of relevance, argues Antonio Ortuño in El País. The essay is sure to resonate with anybody familiar with many facets of small-scale smuggling of US. goods among Latin America's upper middle class.
  • U.S. withdrawal from free trade initiatives, namely the TPP, is not stopping other countries from seeking trade deals, rather it is pushing Latin America into China's arms, argues Andrés Oppenheimer in a Miami Herald opinion piece. Last week's meeting between TPP countries and China in Chile is an example of how "even traditionally pro-American countries like Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico are making contingency plans to build new alliances in light of Trump's withdrawal from key world agreements," he writes. (See last Tuesday's post.)
  • Leaving gangs is possible in El Salvador, though it depends on the organization's agreement and has to be constantly negotiated with the overwhelming power of the gang structures in the country, according to a new study from FIU and Fundacion Nacional para el Desarrollo (FUNDE). The study is based on a survey of 1,196 respondents with record of gang membership and 32 in-depth interviews. More specifically the study found that short-term desistance from maras "depends on the individual and active commitment of gang members to abandon gang life and stop partaking in violent activities, " as well as "the tacit or explicit consent of the leaders of the gang organization."
  • The trial of Bolivian President Evo Morales' ex-girlfriend, who has been jailed for a year on charges of being part of a criminal conspiracy that used the offices of the Ministry of the Presidency to make deals with business leaders in exchange for bribes, reports EFE.
  • Guyana's new-found oil wealth -- thanks to ExxonMobil discoveries -- have heightened tensions with Venezuela, reports the Financial Times.
  • Leftist outsider candidate Alejandro Guillier is riding a wave of discontent with establishment politicians in Chile that has the first-time senator within reach of Nueva Mayoría's candidacy in November's elections. Though polls put him just behind conservative candidate, former president Sebastián Piñera, the former news anchor is calling for increased spending on health, education and pensions; improved access to abortions; greater autonomy and authority for local government; wider recognition of indigenous rights, reports the Guardian.
  • A new book details the travails of British expat Stephen Purvis in Cuban jail, where he landed after years of private investment projects on the island. Along with a growing number of foreigners, he was caught up in a series of arrests after Raúl Castro took over the presidency, reports the Guardian
  • Argentina's biggest union announced a one-day general strike for April 6, increasing pressure on the Macri administration, reports Reuters.
  • A poll published this weekend shows disapproval of Argentine President Mauricio Macri exceeded his approval for the first time since taking office over a year ago, reports Reuters.
  • A recent International Peace Institute report looks at the negotiation process between the Colombian government and the FARC -- concluding that a limited agenda, geographic removal of talks from Colombia, and strategic use of the international community were key in the talks' success.

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