Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Rousseff-Temer ticket on trial (June 7, 2017)

Brazil's top electoral court resumed deliberations on a landmark case that could nullify the winning 2014 presidential ticket, and potentially oust President Michel Temer who won the vice presidency that year. (See yesterday's briefs.) The judges are looking into alleged illicit campaign financing for the Rousseff-Temer ticket. Sessions will continue today and tomorrow, reports the BBC. The Superior Electoral Tribunal, or TSE, is believed to have enough evidence that the 2014 presidential ticket benefited from illicit funding, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The most straightforward scenario would be a vote finding that the campaign received illegal donations, annulling the election, and ousting Temer. He would be the second president ousted in just over a year and a half. But alternatives include finding only former President Dilma Rousseff guilty. Any of the justices could also suspend the trial in order to study the case, potentially delaying a ruling. An immediate decision could come tomorrow, but it is most likely to be delayed, according to the Guardian.

A verdict against Temer is unlikely, according to the Guardian, which says the tribunal head, Gilmar Mendes,  is close to Temer – and is himself accused to conspiring to pervert the course of the Car Wash investigation.

Temer could appeal a guilty ruling to the Supreme Court, and would remain in office while appealing. But reversal would be unlikely, according to the WSJ. Three of the TSE justices sit on the Supreme Court, which is unlikely to reverse the electoral court's decision. A guilty verdict would give Congress 30 days to choose Temer's successor, though there is also increasing popular pressure for new elections.

Recordings two weeks ago appear to have implicated Temer in bribes -- though the allegations have no direct bearing on the case, judges will be making their decision in the midst of political turmoil and anger over corruption, according to the BBC. Justices will likely seek to ease the country's political crisis, the question is whether that means ousting Temer or keeping him in the presidency, reports the Wall Street Journal.

A recent poll commissioned by the Central Worker's Union and conducted by Vox Populi Institute revealed that former Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva of the leftist Workers' Party would win free, democratic elections if they were held today, reports TeleSUR. Last month a DataFolha poll showed him winning in a first round with 30 percent. (See May 2's briefs.)

Corruption everywhere: police arrested five people suspected of overcharging during the construction of a football stadium ahead of the 2014 World Cup, including former tourism minister Henrique Eduardo Alves, reports the BBC. He served under Rousseff and Temer, and is considered a close ally of the current president.

News Briefs
  • Colombia's government promised strikers in Buenaventura 1.5 billion pesos of investment in order to lift a three week civil strike in the port city, reports Semana. Buenaventura's largely Afro-Colombian communities declared a general strike on 16 May in protest at the government’s continuing failure to respond to their demands for economic, social and cultural rights, including health, drinking water and education. The promised funds will be used to guarantee water services, a new hospital, and a sewer system, among other public works, reports el Heraldo. A ten year development plan will also be submitted to Congress. El Espectador has more details on the funding from the national government and how it will be used.  Last week Amnesty International criticized the government's use of "excessive use of force against protestors taking part in the general strike in Buenaventura." Reports last week indicated that the security forces have detained around 80 people and injured more than a dozen. And a video from an Afro-Colombian activist asking the government to "stop killing Black people" went viral, reports In These Times. A Huffington Post column compares coverage of Venezuela's protests with that of the Buenaventura protests.
  • The U.S. denounced Venezuela's government for repressing protests and called for free elections, reports Reuters. "This is an economic, political and humanitarian crisis that demands the world's attention," Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told a U.S.-hosted panel of Venezuelan activists and experts held on the sidelines of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
  • Venezuela's opposition leaders say security forces have assaulted and robbed protesters, reports Reuters. They are basing themselves on two videos circulating in social media, and yesterday filed a complaint with the state prosecutors’ office against the police and the National Guard in relation to the alleged robberies.
  • Venezuelan authorities detained at least 14 army officers on suspicion of "rebellion" and "treason" in the first week of protests against the government, reports Reuters. The report is based on documents that "emerged after allegations by Venezuelan opposition leaders that a purge is underway within the military to quash dissent over the handling of massive demonstrations against the socialist government since early April."
  • Argenis Chávez, brother of the late Hugo Chávez, was sworn in as Barinas state governor in Venezuela, reports the BBC. He took over from the governor who stepped down citing health reasons. The state has been affected by the anti-government protests rocking the country.
  • Venezuela is attempting to resell at a deep discount $5 billion of bonds it originally issued in December, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Salvadorans also have a Temporary Protected Status program in the U.S. that currently shields about 190,000 migrants, reports the Associated Press. El Salvador's foreign minister said yesterday that he hopes for a more permanent solution than the program, which requires renewal every 18 months. (See May 23's briefs on the Haitian Temporary Protected Status program's potential termination.)
  • The Haiti Tech Summit kicked off today, and aims to turn the poverty stricken nation into an innovation hub, according to the Miami Herald. The event will bring in about 100 speakers representing Google, Facebook, Uber and Airbnb, and covering topics including launching a startup, the importance of smart cities and branding.
  • A prison riot in Mexico has left at least four people dead and six others wounded in Tamaulipas, reports the BBC.
  • Argentina heads to midterm elections in October -- and speculation is rife whether former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will compete for a Senate seat representing the Buenos Aires province, reports Americas Quarterly. She's been coy about her intentions, though in a recent prime-time interview she said she'd run if it's in her party's best interests. A bit more insider baseball, but the question now appears to be how she will avoid a primary election with a challenger, her former Minister of Interior and Transportation, Florencio Randazzo, report La Nación and Página 12. Analysts say a primary between the two could significantly hurt the party's chances challenging the governing Cambiemos coalition, see for example this Página 12 piece. 
  • Mexico agreed to demands from the United States to cut exports of refined sugar. But the American sugar industry says the agreement contained a loophole that would allow Mexico to continue what it called unfair trade practices, reports the New York Times.

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