Friday, May 11, 2018

Northern triangle anti-corruption efforts under siege (May 11, 2018)

News Briefs

Northern Triangle Corruption
  • Attorney general and anti-corruption efforts are perhaps the most feared opponents of the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. But though important headway has been made in fighting impunity -- particularly in Guatemala -- the politicians are pushing back as hard as they can, reports the Economist. In Guatemala President Jimmy Morales is seeking to discredit the U.N. backed anti-impunity commission. While in Honduras the international commission aimed at fighting corruption has been basically defanged. While El Salvador's attorney general has shown important signs of political independence, five supreme court justices are up for replacement in July, and Congress will likely try to select more docile judges. 

  • Guatemala's government asked its Swedish and Venezuelan counterparts to withdraw their ambassadors. Guatemala accused them of interference in the country's internal affairs and asked Sweden and Venezuela to replace them, reports El Periódico. Guatemalan foreign minister Sandra Jovel said the decision was not related to the CICIG, ascribing the issue to insults from Swedish ambassador Anders Kompass, who in January spoke of Guatemala's corrupt society, reports Reuters. (El Periódico puts the quote in context, in which he speaks of the need for broad institutional change in order to root out corruption.) Sweden is a significant backer of the CICIG, and Kompass is a well-known diplomat and human rights defender, notes the Associated Press(See Monday's post on the embattled CICIG in Guatemala.) In the case of Venezuela, it's not clear why Ambassador Elena Alicia Salcedo has aroused authorities anger, though El Periódico notes she held meetings with a rural workers' rights organization of civil society, Codeca. Guatemala may also be angling diplomatically to curry favor with the U.S. -- earlier this year Guatemala decided to join the U.S. in moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem. 
  • Guatemalan lawmakers are also analyzing a bill that would retaliate against organizations of civil society, many of which have defended the CICIG and denounced corruption cases uncomfortable for the government. The so-called Ley de ONG would grant Morales power to determine what organizations are permitted to operate and which must be shut down, a super-power often seen in authoritarian governments, notes Nómada.
  • The U.S. administration's decision last week to terminate a provisional residency program for 57,000 Hondurans, many of whom have lived lawfully in the country for nearly two decades, flies in the face of strategies aimed at stemming illegal migration, argue diplomats John Feeley and James Nealon in the Washington Post. U.S. aid has aimed to reduce violence and corruption in the country, they write, and forcing these migrants to return to a country ill-equipped to receive them will only undermine those efforts.
  • Regarding TPS, the onus is on the U.S. Congress to find a path to citizenship for the long-term residents, argues White House chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly in an interview with NPR. He also defended the policy of separating migrant families who cross the border illegally: "Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. ... But they're also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society. They're overwhelmingly rural people. In the countries they come from, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm. They don't speak English; obviously that's a big thing. ... They don't integrate well; they don't have skills. They're not bad people. They're coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws. ..." (See Wednesday's briefs.)
  • Conservative politicians in Honduras continue to make headway. A lawmaker with the ruling Partido Nacional proposed a bill yesterday that would bring bible studies to public schools, reports Criterio.
  • Earlier this week Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno celebrated his first year in office by asking his entire cabinet to resign, reports EFE. He will conduct a review of each minister's performance before determining a new cabinet, said government authorities.
  • A book by María McFarland, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance and former Human Rights Watch researcher, focuses on the brave struggles of three Colombians to investigate and expose paramilitary crimes. There Are No Dead Here: A Story of Murder and Denial in Colombia is aimed at pushing Colombian prosecutors to continue investigating the paramilitaries, along with their enablers, reports Americas Quarterly.
  • OjoPúblico reports on secret documents detailing how more than $2.2 billion linked to suspected criminal activity entered Peru’s financial system through clients with alleged links to organized crime and fiscal evasion. (InSight Crime has the English translation.)
  • Over the past decade Peru has been successful at reducing poverty, but has recently suffered an increase in the poverty rate, a situation requiring multi-dimensional public policy -- a tough commodity in the midst of the political turmoil afflicting the country, according to the Economist.
  • At Americas Quarterly, Simon Tegel outlines the recent history of Peru's fractured political left.

  • A 35-year-old social activist is angling to become Brazil's youngest president in October. Though Guilherme Boulos stands almost no chance of actually winning, he has been anointed a successor of sorts to jailed former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a favorite for the upcoming election, though he will likely be blocked from running. Boulos is the leader of the MST, the homeless workers movement, and is increasingly touted as the new hope for the country's left, reports the Guardian.
  • It has been nearly two months since Rio de Janeiro councillor Marielle Franco and her driver, Anderson Gomes, were assassinated, but there is widespread pessimism regarding headway in the case. The case faces structural hurdles, reports Americas Quarterly, citing Igarapé Institute's Robert Muggah. The Intercept has an in-depth series on the evidence linking the killing to paramilitary militias, military police, and a city councillor. InSight Crime reviews media reports of evidence, and links between militias and politics in Rio.
  • Meet Brazil's luxury cattle, with lab refined genetics aimed at improving profitability and performance. But the political and environmental implications are significant, reports the Guardian.

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