Friday, December 22, 2017

PPK survives narrowly (Dec. 22, 2017)

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski narrowly survived an impeachment vote yesterday, when opponents in Congress failed to gather two-thirds majority in order to oust him. He was charged with "moral unfitness" in relation to revelations that a consulting firm he owned had accepted payments from scandal-plagued Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. (See yesterday's briefs.)

The opposition fell just eight votes short of ousting him yesterday, after an 11 hour debate. The ouster garnered 79 votes, of the 87 out of 130 needed to impeach. Twenty-one lawmakers abstained, including 10 from the Fujimorista Fuerza Popular party that led the charge against PPK. One of the abstaining lawmakers was Kenji Fujimori, younger brother of Fuerza Popular leader Keiko Fujimori, indicated a deepening schism between the offspring of former Peruvian leader Alberto Fujimori.

Analysts say Kuczynski's threat Wednesday that his two vice presidents would quit if he were impeached -- triggering new presidential and legislative elections -- likely influenced the final result, reports the Guardian. Lawmakers from some smaller parties that were considering supporting the impeachment pulled back in light of a potential crisis, according to the Wall Street Journal.

PPK was saved by negotiations with lawmakers that continued until the end of the debate, as well as the "sensation that it was a sort of coup by the Fujimoristas," according to La Tercera

PPK defended himself yesterday before lawmakers, saying he had been careless, but had not accepted a bribe or knowingly allowed conflict of interests. His lawyer also noted that avoiding impeachment does not mean the case will not be investigated, reports the New York Times

Nonetheless, he is politically weak, and will have to achieve alliances in an opposition dominated Congress, according to La Tercera. The political crisis is far from over, according La Mula. Kuczynski called for the start of a "new chapter" for Peru and for reconciliation.

The Washington Post said the result leaves PPK as somewhat of a lame-duck leader, less than a year and a half into his five-year mandate.

And Odebrecht revelations are also impacting on Fuerza Popular -- accused of receiving millions of dollars in illicit donations -- and Keiko Fujimori herself, under investigation for laundering $15 million. The impeachment efforts have come just as prosecutors are making headway in their investigations against Fujimori, notes the Post.

And the unequal pace with which alleged improprieties by PPK and Fujimori have been addressed also raise questions about the impartiality and fairness of the country's institutions, notes the Los Angeles Times.

News Briefs
  • The end of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet's mandate in March will close off a decade of women presidents in the region, reports Reuters. "Together with Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff and Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez, Bachelet embodied the major strides made by women across a region that has passed laws deterring rampant violence against women and set quotas for political participation that have given Latin American women a bigger share of parliamentary seats than in Europe. But now some worry that progress on women’s rights could stall." In particular, conservative groups in the region are tareting efforts to incorporate gender equality in school curricula, notes the piece.
  • A group of 20 U.S. Democratic lawmakers asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to support a fresh presidential election in Honduras, in light of irregularities detected by international monitors, reports the Associated Press. They also asked Tillerson to denounce "excessive use of force" by Honduran security forces handling the streets protests since last month's election. Nonetheless, U.S. authorities are leaning towards recognizing the results that give President Juan Orlando Hernánedez a second mandate, according to the AP. (See Wednesday's post.)
  • Honduras is not legally obligated to follow the OAS recommendation to hold a new election. (See Monday's post.) For the Christian Science Monitor, the post-electoral "confusion underscores the region's lack of trust in governing institutions, while raising questions about the role of election observers." The piece notes that such a strong denunciation of an election, to the point of calling it invalid is extremely rare in the region. "Over the past three decades, election monitoring has become a global norm, but in some ways that has diluted the power election monitors have in practice."
  • Corruption costs Mexico about 5 percent of its GDP each year, according to local nonprofit Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity. The group's work, including expose more than two-dozen alleged instances of high-profile corruption over the past two years, seem to have struck a nerve with government officials. The nonprofit's head, Claudio X. González, said they have been hit with intense government scrutiny as a result, and even intimidation, reports the Wall Street Journal. (The NYT had a similar story a few months ago, see Aug. 30's briefs.) The group's most explosive investigation focuses on at least $4 million of allegedly illegal campaign contributions by Odebrecht, in exchange for public works contracts.
  • Mexican leftist presidential frontrunner Andrés Manuel López Obrador polemically suggested an amnesty for drug cartel leaders in exchange for peace in the country. But it's not so easy, warns InSight Crime. His "proposal denotes a certain ignorance regarding criminal dynamics in Mexico. Large criminal organizations like the Knights Templar, Sinaloa Cartel, Zetas and the Familia Michoacana have fragmented after the death or arrest of their leaders. This prevents the possibility of negotiating with a single and clear figure. Moreover, any negotiations must also be seen as similar to those playing out in Colombia’s post-conflict peace process between the government and dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN). Mexican cartels could potentially respond like some factions of Colombia’s armed groups, which have shown independence, a resistance to abandon their lucrative criminal activities and a willingness to continue using violence to maintain territorial control and protect their criminal enterprises."
  • Colombia's government has given out conflicting versions of how many illicit coca crops it aims to eradicate next year, a sign of its "struggle to balance forcible eradication with voluntary crop substitution programs," reports InSight Crime. Reports this year indicate that voluntary substitution programs are not working as well as projected, and analysts point to U.S. pressure in favor of forced eradication.
  • China offered support for Venezuela, saying a country has a right to choose its development path, reports Reuters.
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed its concern over Argentina's "inadequate" and "disproportionate" use of force against protesters demonstrating against pension reform last week and this one, reports Página 12.
  • NAFTA negotiations are dragging on, and though the trade ties between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada are strong, they are starting to fray, argues Daniela Stevens at the AULA blog. Though Mexico and Canada prefer to maintain a form of NAFTA, they are also looking for trading partners beyond the U.S., she writes.
  • Brazilian pop sensation Anitta's "Vrai Malandra" video has critics and fans discussing inequality, racism, sexist abuse and cultural appropriation, reports the Guardian.
The Latin American Daily Briefing will be off from Dec. 25 until Jan. 2. Happy Holidays!

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