Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Brazilian lawmakers expected to shield Temer from corruption charges (Oct. 18, 2017)

The Constitution and Justice Committee of Brazil's Chamber of Deputies is debating charges against President Michel Temer. El País has live coverage of the debate. He was accused by the outgoing attorney general of heading a criminal organization and obstructing justice. (See Sept. 15's post.) Though lawmakers are expected to reject the charges, speeches yesterday were predominantly negative, reports Folha de S. Paulo

Temer will likely be protected from facing the charges by the deputies, "but trust in Brazil’s political leaders has been drastically undermined.That lack of trust is feeding support for an authoritarian solution to the crisis – which could have serious consequences in next year’s presidential elections," according to the Guardian.

Temer won the last Congressional vote over whether he should face charges of corruption with an open handed distribution of funds for local projects. This time critics are pointing to other maneuvering.

A change in how Brazil's government defines modern-day slavery could affect its ability to protect workers, reports the Guardian. Advocates said the move was a "social regression" aimed at currying support with the agri-business lobby ahead of this week's Congressional vote on whether Temer should face corruption charges.

Temer is also considering appointing a new chief for BNDES, one that would satisfy Congressional Speaker Rodrigo Maia's desire for more influence in the state development bank, reports Reuters.

News Briefs
  • Honduran politicians are increasingly concerned regarding the testimony of self-confessed drug trafficker Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga in a New York courtroom. The former leader of the Cachiros drug trafficking group who confessed to being responsible for nearly 80 murders struck a deal with US authorities to obtain judicial leniency in exchange for providing information on corrupt officials. But lest the accusations be used against a the ruling party, a current Honduran presidential advisor has argued that organized crime has "permeated society in general and funneled money, placed deputies, placed judges, various offices, within the attorney general's office and everywhere," affecting politicians across the spectrum, reports InSight Crime.
  • Guatemala's foreign ministry announced it was granting U.N. corruption commission head Iván Velásquez a visa. This is a reversal after authorities announced they were denying the CICIG chief a visa due to irregularities in his application, reports EFE. The determinations come in the midst of a political tug-of-war between the CICIG and President Jimmy Morales, who has attempted to oust the corruption commission that has accused him of accepting illicit campaign financing.
  • U.S. lawmakers seek to revoke visas for Guatemalan politicians accused of corruption, reports El PeriódicoThe Magnitsky Act, used to impose sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin's allies, could also enable sanctions against anti-CICIG politicians reports Nómada.
  • Ecuadoran President Lenín Moreno has chosen to ask citizens to ratify or reject a Constitutional amendment permitting indefinite presidential reelection, introduced by his predecessor. The referendum amounts to a political parricide of the current president against his former mentor, argues Felipe Burbano in a New York Times Español op-ed. The schism between the two lies in vastly different styles of governance. Moreno has been critical of his predecessor's messianic attitudes, lack of transparency, inefficient implementation of public policy and handling of the economy. Correa loyalists say it is a rupture with the widely recognized social and economic advances of the past decade. Moreno's open and alliance oriented governance style is also viewed as a betrayal, he writes.
  • Haitian police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters marching on the capital Port-au-Prince. The demonstrations are part of a growing anger at the 2017-2018 budget seen as unfairly taxing the country's poorest, reports AFP.
  • The U.N.'s MINUSTAH mission in Haiti officially ended this week. Igarapé Institute published a special report with perspectives from the Brazilian participation in the stabilization mission and insights for future missions.
  • InSight Crime field research points to a higher number of FARC guerrilla dissidents than those officially recognized by the Colombian government -- possibly double. Issues related to the implementation of last year's peace deal could be pushing those numbers up. 
  • Nearly three months after the young Argentine activist Santiago Maldonado disappeared in a violently repressed protest, a cadaver appeared in a nearby river in southern Argentina. The case has been a rallying cry for human rights organizations who accuse the government of protecting security forces in the case. The Mapuche indigenous tribe involved in the land protests say the body was planted there and that it hadn't turned up in recent searches of the area, reports La Nación. The Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (EAAF) was called in to help identify the body, and Página 12 has a profile of the group that applied forensic anthropology to identify the remains of the disappeared in Argentina's last dictatorship. 
  • Five days ahead of much contested midterm elections, Argentine judges are seeking the detention of a key ally of former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Judges said Julio De Vido, former planning minister for Kirchner and current lawmaker, should be jailed because of the risk of him fleeing or interfering with a case of alleged fraud, reports Reuters.
  • Jailed Argentine social activist Milagro Sala was transferred suddenly from house arrest back to jail this weekend, contradicting an order from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, reports Página 12.
  • "Gender ideology," a phrase used by LGBTQ rights opponents around the region, has now been banned in Paraguayan schools. Education Minister Enrique Riera said the government recognizes "traditional values" and the "traditional family," consisting of "father, mother and children." Advocates say the move will lead to discrimination against women and LGBTQ people, reports NBC News.
  • The United States, Canada and Mexico said they will extend NAFTA renegotiation talks into next year, citing "significant conceptual gaps" in reaching a revised agreement. The talks had been slated to end this year, ahead of key elections in the three countries, and could spell out a slow demise for the 1994 free trade agreement, according to the New York Times.
  • Prototypes of Trump's proposed border wall are going up in San Diego this month. So far half a dozen would be migrants have managed to pass the existing fence and found themselves in the middle of the project that aims to be "impenetrable." The site chosen is somewhat ironic, notes the Washington Post, as "San Diego has long demonstrated the weakness of walls. Nowhere is more famous for its sophisticated border tunnels than this industrial sprawl."
  • Trump's hostility towards the country's closest neighbors in the region counter the U.S.'s best interests, argues Richard Feinberg in Americas Quarterly. "Rather than making America great again, Trump’s postures against our near abroad threaten to damage our national interests. ... Our geopolitical competitors must be confounded – and intrigued – by Washington’s own dismemberment of a strategic asset.  We shall see how nations such as China, Russia and Venezuela, and the unseen forces of global chaos, take advantage of the U.S.’s unforced errors in its hemisphere."
  • However, though Trump's LatAm policies are infuriating, they will not provoke a unified regional response, giving the impression of acquiescence, argues Nicolás Comini at Aula Blog."Internally, the left and right may agree that Trump is harming their interests, but their reasons are different and prescriptions for dealing with it are far apart.  On a regional basis as well, the current context accelerates the atomization of the region – and threatens to expand the bargaining power of the great powers of the United States, China, Germany, or Israel.  Although China is making inroads, in the end the United States has, and will retain, the greatest influence in Latin America – and the lack of efficient regional decision-making will prolong that situation.  Latin American fragmentation will create an image of acquiescence – and President Trump will think he is not doing so badly in the region."
  • An oil spill off of Trinidad and Tobago's coast this weekend is an important warning that Guyana must create better oil spill response legislation, according to Kaieteur News.
  • The legacy of Che Guevara and his anti-imperialist struggle has been of massive impact in Latin America, and has pushed the left away from democratic solutions, an archaism that should be corrected, argues the Economist.

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