Thursday, September 20, 2018

CC backs Velásquez (Sept. 20, 2018)

Guatemala's constitutional court confirmed yesterday that International Commission Against Impunity head Iván Velásquez can enter the country. It instructed the government officials, including President Jimmy Morales and Ministro de Gobernación Enrique Degenhart to stop giving orders impeding the CICIG head from reentering Guatemala. Unlike a unanimous decision earlier this week, that called for the CICIG head to be allowed into Guatemala without naming Velásquez, yesterday's resolution was supported by three of the court's five judges, report El Periódico and La Hora. (See Monday's and Tuesday's posts.)

El Periódico reviews all of the laws broken by the Guatemalan government's insistence on barring Velásquez.
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres ratified support for Velásquez, but told the Guatemalan government he will instruct him to name a deputy, reports Reuters. (See Tuesday's post.)

Earlier this week the Guatemalan government gave Guterres 48 hours to propose new names to head the CICIG -- refusal could be used as an argument that dialogue mechanisms have been exhausted, according to Nómade.
  • A powerful business lobby, the Cámaras Agrícolas, Comerciales, Industriales y Financieras (CACIF) invested $135,000 in Washington lobby -- Nómada reports that undercutting the CICIG was one of their aims.
  • Jimmy ¡nos saliste caro!: University students called a march against Morales and in favor of the CICIG today (El Periódico and La Hora)
  • "For many Guatemalans, the government’s actions hark back to the violent military rule during the country’s 36-year civil war that ended in 1996," writes Sandra Cuffe in World Politics Review.
  • Guatemala's vice minister of security said an undercover police agent spying on journalists at Sunday's Constitutional Court announcement was there at the court's request -- but the CC denied asking for anything more than usual security measures, reports El Periódico. (See Monday's post.)
News Briefs

  • Peru's intransigent, opposition-dominated congress handed President Martín Vizcarra a victory yesterday, ratifying his cabinet. The move commits lawmakers to pass Vizcarra's judicial and political reforms by Oct. 4. The vote of confidence was in response to a high-stakes gamble on Vizcarra's part: a negative vote would have forced him to dismiss his cabinet and retaliate by dissolving Congress and calling new legislative elections, reports Reuters. (See Sept. 12's briefs.)
  • An exodus of Latin American experts in the U.S. State Department and the White House has left the region's diplomats without interlocutors in Washington, reports McClatchy DC.
  • Latin America accounts for nearly a third of murders in the world, and lethal violence has grown steadily for nearly two decades. The IADB estimates crime costs the region $115 billion and $261 billion, is comparable to the total regional spending on infrastructure, or the income of the poorest third of Latin Americans, reports the Wall Street Journal in an in-depth piece looking at the latest data and reports on the issue. Needless to say, it's a major factor in pushing migration in the region.
  • Though the U.S. administration has tried to cast migrants as perpetrators of crime, they are most often pushed to leave their homes because they are victims of violence, writes Stephanie Leutert in a New York Times op-ed.
  • The U.N. named former Guatemalan vice president Eduardo Stein as joint special representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants. "He will work to promote dialogue and consensus necessary for the humanitarian response, including access to territory, refugee protection, legal stay arrangements and the identification of solutions for Venezuelan refugees and migrants." Colombia is among the most affected countries by the Venezuelan exodus, and sent its foreign minister to Geneva this week to request help from the U.N. (Associated PressAFPUNHCR)
  • Securing the Colombian border from the thousands of Venezuelans who cross on illegal paths is nearly impossible, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • The OAS named exiled Venezuelan David Smolansky, a former mayor who fled last year, to head a working group studying the exodus. Naming a well-known opposition leader to such a post is yet another demonstration of the frayed relations between the OAS and Venezuela, according to the Miami Herald. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • Uruguay's government officially condemned OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro's openness to a military solution in Venezuela. Almagro was formerly Uruguay's foreign minister. (Telesur)
  • Significantly, Colombia was among the two Lima Group countries that did not condemn Almagro's statements. Colombia's foreign minister said it was due to lack of consensus in terms, though the country rejects a military solution. In part the lack of consensus in terms may be due to discussion of U.S.-Colombia discussion of collaboration in the face of hypothetical Venezuelan aggression, explains David Smilde in the Venezuela Weekly.
  • Smilde also covers a back-and-forth between Almagro and Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco regarding whether international law allows for military intervention only after a genocide or in order to prevent one.

  • A social media videos of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro dining on steak prepared by a celebrity chef while enjoying a cigar have caused international fury. (See them here.) At a time when Venezuelan's are enduring widespread food and medicine shortages, the images of Maduro in a luxury Istanbul restaurant were condemned by opponents, including U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. (Associated Press) For the New York Times, "The virtual uproar seemed to encapsulate something about this bizarre era’s intersection of politics and pop culture."
  • Living with hyperinflation -- as the Venezuelans do -- can produce two types of myopic behaviors: short-term thinking and ultraconservatism, writes Rodrigo Zeidan, an economist reflecting on his memories of Brazil's hypeinflationary bout in the early 1990's. "When prices go up more than 10 percent each month, if you don't spend the money in your pocket, you lose it," he writes in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • No joking matter: two Venezuelan firefighters face a 20-year prison sentence after a video in which they address a donkey as Maduro went viral. (El País)
  • Colombia's coca production jumped 17 percent in 2017, according to the latest UNODC figures. The same report estimates that enough coca was grown to produce 1,379 tonnes of cocaine – up 31 percent on 2016. Though the exact numbers of hectares producing coca are disputed each year -- with varying statistics provided by the UNODC, the U.S. State Department, and the Colombian government -- they have been on an upward trend in recent years in relation to the FARC peace deal and conflicts regarding eradication techniques. (Guardian)
  • The transitional peace system created by the 2016 peace deal with the FARC has prioritized cases of extrajudicial killings by the military falsely presented as combat deaths -- the so-called "false positives." But advocates and families of the victims fear that hundreds of soldiers convicted by ordinary courts will get out of jail in exchange for information. Human Rights Watch has indicated "ambiguities and loopholes" in the implementing legislation of the JEP "could allow senior officers responsible for 'false positive' killings to escape meaningful justice." (Al Jazeera)
  • The U.S. administration is planning a high-level international event featuring President Donald Trump, ahead of the U.N. General Assembly meeting next week. The catch? Countries have to sign on to "a controversial, nonnegotiable action plan, according to documents obtained by The Intercept."
  • The Mexican National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) accused military troops and police of committing two extrajudicial killings while confronting presumed fuel thieves in the central state of Puebla in May 2017. (Reuters)
  • A year after a 7.1 earthquake struck Mexico, killing 369 people, the remains of a school where 19 children and seven adults died, serve as a stark reminder "of the very human cost of bypassing construction codes," according to the New York Times.
  • More on the strange 10-day road trip of a trailer filled with cadavers that didn't fit in the overflowing Jalisco State morgue, from the New York Times. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
  • Workers' Party presidential candidate Fernando Haddad -- polling second this week -- has until Oct. 7 to convince Brazilians to vote for him. Lack of recognition among nearly a third of the electorate is one of his main obstacles in transferring support from his mentor, jailed former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. (Guardian)
  • The Brazilian Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) unanimously accepted Haddad’s request to use Lula’s image in his campaign. (Telesur)
  • The latest Datafolha poll shows a 2 point jump for far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, up to 28 percent. Haddad and leftist Ciro Gomes are statistically tied at 13 percent according to the poll released today. (Reuters)
  • An innovative program in Rio de Janeiro aims to to use art to change the way the police relate to each other as well as the way they interact with and perceive the public. (Guardian)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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