Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Haiti's new army has heavy baggage (March 27, 2018)

Haiti has a new army is supposed to focus on protecting the country’s borders, responding to natural disasters, and civil engineering project. But the argument that the new armed forces will leave behind the human rights violations and anti-democratic actions of the one disbanded in 1995 is undermined by the appointment of leaders from the old army, reports the Miami Herald.

All six former soldiers appointed to head the Armed Forces of Haiti (FAD’H) once had their assets frozen by the U.S. as punishment for supporting the military coup that overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. And one, Col. Jean Robert Gabriel, was accused of masterminding the 1994 killing of thousands of Aristide supporters in a military-linked raid in the seaside shantytown of Raboteau in Gonaives, according to the Herald. He was convicted in a landmark human rights case, though conviction was later overturned during a 2006 interim government after Aristide was again ousted.

Another of the newly appointed leaders was a member of a committee to sought to cover up the massacre, and at least three of the officers appear to have held senior positions within the early-‘90s military coup regime, according to a CEPR report from earlier this week, that reviews the cases in depth.

News Briefs
  • Peruvian leaders are falling to corruption scandals, a big advance in the fight against graft. But the jailing of former presidents does not resolve the underlying problem of a political system shot through with illicit financing and improper contacts, argues Sonia Goldenberg in a New York Times op-ed. "A crucial issue is that the lack of control of illegal and foreign financing of presidential elections combined with extremely weak party structures have turned campaigns into an easy way for adventurous newcomers to become millionaires even before reaching power." Martín Vizcarra, a relatively unknown politician with an untarnished public record sworn in last week after former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned amid scandal, could hold the key to finally implementing anti-graft reform, she argues. "The one card the Mr. Vizcarra still holds is the widespread disillusionment with Peru’s Congress. If he can mobilize public opinion to support a new anticorruption campaign, he may force lawmakers to go along with it for fear of being exposed. Mr. Vizcarra is the accidental president, but the fact that he never aspired to this job may prove to be his strongest political weapon."
  • Confused by the Fujimori's popping up on all sides of the Peruvian political crisis? (See yesterday's post.) The Financial Times reports on the family feud of the century.
  • The United Nations will not provide electoral assistance to Venezuela in upcoming presidential elections, reports the Associated Press. Representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and independent candidate Henri Falcon traveled this month to U.N. headquarters seeking to persuade the body to send experts for the May 20 vote.
  • Venezuela's health care crisis claims lives each day, but the government has consistently treated the issue frivolously and insists on blaming an imperialist conspiracy for the shortages that have caused surges in mortality and previously controlled diseases. "Political frivolity should be a crime," argues Alberto Barrera Tyszka in a New York Times Español op-ed. "Maduro plays the lyre while Venezuela is devoured by diseases and epidemics. It's not only a national problem: with the enormous migratory movement, the issue begins to be a great concern for the region. The attitude of the Venezuelan government regarding the country's crisis is becoming an international emergency." He highlights the solidarity groups that have sprouted to try to fill the gaps in official policies and obtain medical supplies to distribute.
  • A Mexican marine and four alleged criminals died in different clashes in Mexico's Nuevo Laredo along the U.S. border over the weekend, reports Animal Político. Twelve members of the marines were wounded when they were ambushed while on patrol. A civilian family was apparently caught in crossfire, though the Navy denied the shots were fired from a helicopter it deployed on Sunday, reports EFE.
  • Eleven U.S. members of Congress expressed concern for the lack of progress in the Mexican government’s investigation into the illegal use of government-exclusive Pegasus spyware against prominent activists and journalists in Mexico, reports WOLA.
  • U.N. special rapporteur on human rights Michel Forst urged Mexican authorities to name an independent head prosecutor, with broad social backing and without ties to political parties, reports Animal Político.
  • Recent high-profile cases of criminal violence in Mexico's Jalisco state illustrate police involvement in criminal activity, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • Costa Rican presidential candidates closed off their campaign for the run-off election to be held next Sunday. Predictions over who will win remain inconclusive, reports AFP. Fabricio Alvarado from the conservative National Restoration Party will face-off against Carlos Alvarado from the governing Citizen Action Party. The first round of voting in February was dominated by the issue of gay marriage. (See Feb. 5's post.)
  • Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and former Colombian President Andrés Pastrana tweeted a fake document purporting to demonstrate Venezuelan intervention in elections in their respective countries, according to Verificado.mx.
  • A U.S. immigration court is expected to decide this week whether to deport a Guatemalan man living in Providence, accused of dozens of murders, rapes and kidnappings during Guatemala's civil war in the 1980s, reports the Rhode Island Public Radio.
  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro awarded Odebrecht almost $4 billion for public works in exchange for campaign donations, reports AFP based on a Estado.
  • Brazil's conservative congress is rushing a bill that would allow sugarcane production for ethanol fuel in the Amazon. The move has been criticized by environmentalists, business associations, and even the union of sugar cane producers. It will likely increase deforestation and make it harder for the country to meet it's Paris Climate Deal commitments, reports the Guardian.
  • Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff says a new Netflix series distorts reality and spreads lies about her and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. "The Mechanism," is loosely based Operation Car Wash. The release comes six months before Brazilians choose a new president. Lula is still polling first, though he might be in jail before the vote due to a corruption conviction. Rousseff said Netflix's series was using character assassination techniques, and compared the tactic to what she identifies as biases in mainstream Brazilian press, reports the BBC.
  • A Brazilian federal court on Monday rejected Lula’s appeal of its own earlier decision to sentence him to 12 years in prison for corruption. He will remain free until at least April 4, when Brazil’s Supreme Court is set to hear a motion that seeks to keep Lula out of prison until he has exhausted all appeals, reports EFE.
  • In a New York Times op-ed, Vanessa Barbara criticizes Brazilian left wing politicians' blaming of radical protesters as responsible for the country's turn to the right and defends the protests, though they did not achieve their stated objectives. "In 13 years of Workers’ Party rule, the traditional left missed many crucial opportunities to effectively change Brazil. Now they need someone else to blame for their losses. And the current scapegoat seems to be the protesters of the far left — those who dared to criticize the Workers’ Party’s decisions in the past."
  • A series of attacks on public buildings and vehicles over the weekend prompted Fortaleza police to escort public buses yesterday. The incidents could have been in retaliation for a move to block mobile phones in prisons or in relation to a war between rival gangs, reports the BBC.
  • Female sports journalists have launched an anti-harassment campaign with a simple demand: #DeixaElaTrabalhar, or "Let Her Do Her Job." They say they are exposed to everything from unwanted advances to violent threats as they work, reports the Guardian. The group of 52 reporters say they have been sent abusive messages and even rape threats online. On a promising(?) note, on the same day the campaign was launched a man was arrested in a Porto Alegre stadium after allegedly harassing a female reporter with sexist language. Television commentators were heard discussing the incident during the match and condemning the man's behaviour in reference to the new campaign, reports the BBC.

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