Friday, March 23, 2018

Peru in political crisis (March 23, 2018)

Peruvian first vice president Martín Vizcarra is set to assume office today, after Pedro Pablo Kuczynski offered his resignation on Wednesday amid growing allegations of wrongdoing. Last night Congress was debating whether to accept PPK's resignation, but suspended the debate until this morning, when Vizcarra will be sworn in, reports La República.

In a new twist this morning, a leaked version of the congressional resolution accepting the resignation calls Kuczynski a traitor to his country. PPK said he would not accept such a resolution and would retire his letter of resignation and face impeachment proceedings instead, reports La Mula.

Vizcarra assumes in the midst of a wider political crisis -- nearly half of the electorate supports calling early elections. About 3,000 people marched outside the Congress in Lima yesterday evening, demanding general elections, reports La Mula

Several parties yesterday called for government focused on unity and targeting corruption, and transitioning to an early election. Fuerza Popular, the main opposition party that is also responsible for undermining PPK's ability to govern, was initially opposed to the call for an early election, reports La República. Vizcarra has received assurances from opposition lawmakers that he will be allowed to govern, reports Reuters.

During yesterday's session, many lawmakers rejected the terms of PPK's resignation, saying he had not apologized to the country nor admitted his role in the political crisis, reports La Mula.

Peruvian anti-graft prosecutors sought to bar PPK from leaving the country yesterday, reports Reuters. He will lose presidential immunity later today.

The Odebrecht scandal has impacted most major Peruvian figures, and some analysts are starting to compare its impact to that in Brazil, reports the Washington Post.

Videos released this week purportedly showing PPK supporters buying votes against an impeachment motion pushed the teetering government over the edge. The videos implicate Kenji Fujimori, and were taken by a supporter of his sister Keiko Fujimori, leader of the dominant Fuerza Popular party. "For many Peruvians, the surreptitious recording brought back painful memories of the corruption and blackmail techniques used by the Fujimori regime two decades ago," notes the WP.

But the crisis also shows the fragility of Peru's democracy say some analysts. Over the past 19 months of the Kuczynski administration, Congress either fired or forced the resignation of three ministers and at one point it fired the entire cabinet, and lawmakers tried to fire the attorney general and four judges of the Constitutional Court, reports the New York Times. Lawmakers twice accepted impeachment motions against Kuczynski.

News Briefs
  • Uruguay's groundbreaking cannabis legalization and its experiences implementing regulation could hold valuable lessons for other jurisdictions evaluating how to regulate cannabis, according to a  new WOLA-Brookings Institution report. The report "examines the conditions that led Uruguay’s government to pass its cannabis law in 2013, studies its progress so far, and identifies areas that policymakers should consider addressing in order to maximize the law’s potential benefits." It particularly recommends that Uruguay consider measures to help cannabis businesses have access to financial institutions and that authorities may need to tinker with rules regarding how consumers can access cannabis, and increase legal points of sale. The reports authors, John Hudak, Geoff Ramsey, and John Walsh also note the need for substantial training for medical and law enforcement sectors, "particularly regarding the aims and expected benefits of cannabis regulation, how to broaden access to medical cannabis, and the new enforcement rules under the law."
  • A fourteen-year-old Paraguayan rape victim died giving birth. Abortion is prohibited unless the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. A 37-year-old man who raped and impregnated the girl was arrested yesterday, reports the Guardian.
  • In recent years Venezuela's president, Nicolás Maduro, has moved away from his initial system of consensus with close Chavista allies, and angling for increased hegemony and independence from old ruling structures, writes Dimitri Pantoulas at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. The piece traces the new generation of Maduro's high command, and the emerging divisions among Chavistas. He marks that "a new political era may be starting" in the country, though the moment is characterized by volatility and instability.
  • The U.S., Canada, and the European Union have all implemented targeted sanctions against certain Venezuelan officials. At Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, Geoff Ramsey compiles information on who exactly has been targeted and looks at some of the broader ramifications. The policy has some of the benefits of multilateral sanctions, though, the fact that they are not coordinated between countries can also make it difficult for other country's to ramp up the pressure on targeted officials. Nonetheless, the discrepancies could also be a strong-point, argues Ramsey. And though the sanctions have little impact on those targeted, who continue to participate in the government, they could have a deterrent effect on other officials who seek to avoid joining the list. "However, a simple look at the timeline of the country’s trajectory since then shows the sanctions have not been effective at modifying the Maduro government’s behavior. This is not to say that sanctions are not restricting where targeted officials’ can travel or invest, or potentially serving as a signal to those who have not yet been named. But it is clear that the deterioration of Venezuelan democracy has continued despite the rollout of targeted sanctions. Indeed, further research could show these sanctions may have even contributed to this deterioration." His analysis also points to some interesting gaps in the officials targeted by U.S. sanctions, including PSUV leader Diosdado Cabello, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, and Jorge and Delcy Rodríguez. "All are significant powerbrokers in Maduro’s inner circle. The fact that the United States has avoided sanctioning them ... may be an implicit recognition of targeted sanctions’ ability to bind officials to the Maduro government rather than encourage a split. This, then, raises the question of the other ways in which the U.S. government may be reaching out to them, and what messages it may be communicating."
  • U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he will meet with counterparts from the European Union, Canada, the U.K. and many Latin American countries in Washington in April to coordinate efforts to tighten economic pressure on Venezuela, reports Bloomberg.
  • The Miss Venezuela beauty pageant has been suspended as the organization investigates allegations that contestants benefited from government corruption, reports the BBC.
  • The International Labour Organization launched a commission of inquiry on Wednesday into complaints that Venezuela is violating standards including freedom of association and workers' rights to organize, reports Reuters.
  • International activists, writers, journalists, film-makers, politicians and actors have called for an independent commission to investigate the murder of Rio de Janeiro council-woman Marielle Franco, reports the Guardian. In an open letter they say "she vehemently challenged the impunity surrounding extrajudicial killings of Black youth by security forces," and that her "activism earned her many powerful enemies."
  • BBC investigation has found that fake social media accounts and blogs were used to back the candidacy of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil during the 2010 election campaign.
  • A Brazilian federal appeals court will make a final ruling next week on a corruption conviction of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, potentially sending the popular leader to jail, reports Reuters.
  • Ecuadorean authorities say the a faction of the Colombian ELN guerrillas is responsible for an attack that killed three soldiers, reports the Associated Press.
  • The Miami Herald has a critical analysis of the Cuban electoral system, a single party list for National Assembly members who will soon choose a new president, likely Miguel Díaz Canel.
  • Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico will be among several allies exempt from steel and aluminium tariffs to be implemented by the U.S., reports the BBC.
  • A tiny humanoid mummy found in Chile's Atacama dessert was so malformed that it fueled theories of alien life-forms. Instead, DNA analysis has revealed it to be the remains of a baby girl, who was likely stillborn or died soon after birth, reports the Guardian.

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