Thursday, November 2, 2017

Timochenko declares candidacy (Nov. 2, 2017)

Colombia's FARC -- former guerrillas and newly formed political party -- announced it's slate of candidates for next year's election. Including the candidacy of former guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londoño, known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, for president.

Though his chances of actually winning are minimal, the announcement is a bombshell in a country still skeptical of the terms of peace offered to the guerrillas, argues El Espectador in an editorial. The announcement has caused widespread anger, notes the Guardian.

Many of the candidates will likely face human rights trials in a transitional justice system that must be created under the terms of a peace treaty sign last year with the FARC. It's not clear how they would serve office if convicted. The Colombian attorney general said he will study if there are impediments to the candidacies.

But the candidacies should also be a call to action for Congress to advance with the creation of the so-called Special Jurisdictions for Peace (JEP), argues the High Commissioner for Peace in Semana. (The piece goes in depth on many of the political posturing regarding the stalled legislation, earlier this week the Senate couldn't hold a debate on the issue due to lack of quorum.)

Indeed, once implemented, JEP regulations could block those who committed atrocities from running, reports La Silla Vacía.

But the FARC candidacies were also lauded by some yesterday as a sign of advance towards peace, notes the Guardian. 

The former Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Colombianas are now the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force, maintaining their recognized acronym. They are guaranteed 10 seats in Congress through 2026, regardless of their electoral results. Their candidates include former guerrilla commanders Ivan Marquez, Pablo Catatumbo, Carlos Antonio Lozada and Victoria Sandino, reports Reuters.

The FARC remains unpopular in Colombia -- 79 percent of the population has a negative view of the former guerillas. Yet the percent of people who view them favorably has inched up from 12 to 17, and political parties are even more poorly viewed, with 89 percent unfavorable, notes La Silla Vacía in a great review of the potential ramifications of Timochenko's candidacy.

The new candidate plays into several scenarios. For example, last year opponents to the peace deal specifically mentioned the possibility of a FARC presidency as an eventuality to be avoided. And it makes leftist anti-system candidates like former Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro look positively mainstream, notes Juanita León. However, it would appear to mostly strengthen the right wing campaigning against so-called "castrochavismo." (Americas Quarterly analyzes the many potential candidates in a piece from before the Timochenko announcement.)

That being said, most Colombians will likely focus their vote on more "normal" problems, such as unemployment, education, corruption and infrastructure, according to Americas Quarterly, whose newest issue focuses on the challenges faced by post-peace Colombia.


International lawyers group said Cáceres' murder "is not an isolated incident."

The International Advisory Group of Experts (GAIPE) investigating the murder of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres released a scathing report of their findings. (See Monday's post.)

The GAIPE, created at the request of Cáceres' family and the indigenous group she founded, said Cáceres' murder "is not an isolated incident." The lawyers say there is evidence of actions by a private corporation seeking to develop a dam on indigenous lands -- opposed by Cáceres and the COPHINH movement she co-founded -- along with private security companies working for them, state officials and public security agencies "to violate the right to prior, free and informed consultations of the Lenca indigenous people. The strategy was to control, neutralize and eliminate any opposition. These actions included: The instrumentalization of communities to rupture their social fabric; smear campaigns, infiltrations, surveillance, threats, contract killing, sabotage of COPINH’s communication equipment; cooptation of justice officials and security forces, and strengthening of parallel structures to State security forces. 

"The Secretariat of Security of Honduras fulfilled two roles. On one hand, it deployed personnel and resources for the protection of the Agua Zarca Project facilities, influenced by its relations with DESA’s shareholders and executives. On the other hand, it failed to protect Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, despite the serious and imminent threat to her life and integrity. The information reviewed by GAIPE also demonstrates that DESA lacked sufficient capital to build the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project. The company appears to have used funds originating from the financial system to increase the levels of violence in the zone influence of the company and to systematically attack members of COPINH and Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, among others."

GAIPE accuses financial institutions, including the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), the Netherlands Development Finance Institution (FMO) and the Finnfund, of "willful negligence" in the case. "These entities, through repeated complaints and reports by international consultants, had prior knowledge of the strategies undertaken by DESA. Nevertheless, they failed to implement appropriate, effective and timely measures to guarantee respect for the human rights of indigenous communities affected by the Agua Zarca dam, much less to protect the life and integrity of Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores. Nor did they make sufficient efforts to ensure the appropriate criminal investigations." (Earlier this year all three institutions withdrew $44 million in loans for the project, see June 5's briefs.)

News Briefs
  • Ecuador's ruling Alianza País coalition has split into two factions -- supporters of current president Lenín Moreno and those supporting his predecessor Rafael Correa. The two sides are increasingly defined, but neither is willing to let go of a brand that has been electorally successful for several cycles, reports El País. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • The U.S. government renewed its defense of the trade embargo with Cuba in the annual U.N. General Assembly debate over a resolution condemning the policy. As usual, the U.S. and Israel were the lone countries voting against the resolution. Last year, for the first time, the U.S. had abstained from the vote, reports the New York Times. The Trump administration's vote against the resolution is part of a general hardening against relations with the island.
  • A lawsuit in London accuses a U.K. mining company of hiring security forces to mistreat activists protesting a copper mine in Peru in 2012. Two demonstrators died and others were left with serious injuries following the confrontations which lasted for several days in May of that year, reports the Guardian.
  • A Mexican politician aroused anger by distributing chickenwire to an indigenous community in order to "prevent people coming in and raping their girls." Iris Aguirre, a member of the Zacatecas state legislature, was dubbed Lady Trump by Twitter users last year, after she blamed Mexican migrants for the bad rep they have among Trump fans, reports the Guardian.
  • Venezuela's opposition lost last month's gubernatorial elections in most states. Bolivar State seems to be the only locality where electoral fraud can be proved. The Wall Street Journal reports on the evidence.
  • Venezuela's crisis has left the country's baseball league in crisis, as falling incomes, rising prices and fear of insecurity have halved attendance at games. The state-run oil company stepped in with a $10 million lifeline to save this year's season from cancellation, but critics say the funds could have been better used to alleviate other shortages, reports the Guardian.
  • A Miami court case is trying a U.S. operator of a Haitian orphanage, accused of sexually abusing minors in his care, reports the Miami Herald.
  • "Puerto Rico should be a cautionary tale for the mainland United States. The legal theories that have been applied to Puerto Rico also undergird the “emergency management” of cities like Detroit, Flint, and Atlantic City, where elected local governments have been suspended in favor of financial overseers tasked with imposing regimes of economic austerity," argues Simon Davis-Cohen in The Nation. "At the root of this antidemocratic approach is the idea that the elected government in any given crisis is to blame for the economic distress."
  • Argentina's president shuffled his cabinet this week. Among other changes, he named the head of Argentina's powerful farm lobby, the Sociedad Rural, to head the Agriculture Ministry, reports Reuters.
  • Mixing Spanish and English was traditionally viewed negatively -- but new creative writing and literature programs celebrate bilingualism, reports the New York Times.

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