Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Guatemala faces constitutional crisis (Sept. 11, 2018)

Guatemala's Constitutional Court holds the cards in the latest round of the battle between President Jimmy Morales and Guatemala's U.N. anti-graft commission. At least eight appeals have been lodged against his barring of CICIG head Iván Velásquez last week, three of which appeal to a Constitutional Court decision last year protecting Velásquez's work. (El Periódico)

The issue puts Guatemala on the brink of a constitutional crisis, with a potential court decision forcing Morales to either backtrack or disobey a judicial ruling. Already constitutionalists say his unilateral decision to prohibit Velásquez from entering Guatemala is contrary to last year's Constitutional Court decision. Constitutionalist Gabriel Orellana calls it a coup administered by dropper. (El Periódico)

Late to the issue? InSight Crime recaps the Morales-CICIG battle.

U.S. support has played a key factor in strengthening the CICIG until now, and it's tepid response (see Friday's post) is now empowering Morales' onslaught against the anti-graft commission, reports the New York Times. Advocates fear the weak show of support will also reduce popular support for the CICIG, which has proved key in strengthening its work in recent years. 

Yesterday U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres ratified support for the CICIG in a U.N. Security Council meeting, calling it an example for other countries. (La República)

The majority of Guatemalans support the CICIG, which is one of the most trusted institutions in the country. Social pressure will prove key in this standoff, wrote Martín Rodríguez Pellecer in a recent New York Times Español op-ed. And some voices are proposing a plebiscite on whether the commission's mandate should be extended.

Various groups held protests yesterday -- thousands of members of indigenous communities blocked sections of the Panamerican highway. (Al Jazeera) And more demonstrations planned for throughout the week. Today the Constitutional Court ordered the Morales administration to guarantee the right to protest, in response to a request from the country's human rights prosecutor. (EFE)

Without the CICIG, land rights activists will face more persecution in Guatemala, write  Rony Morales and
Michael Taylor in the Washington Post.

News Briefs

  • A high level security cooperation conference between the U.S., Mexican and Central American officials was called of Friday, a sign of growing diplomatic tensions, reports the Washington Post. (See yesterday's briefs.) Though the Trump administration has been supportive of the Morales government in Guatemala, U.S. lawmakers have been critical of his onslaught agains the CICIG.
  • The Trump administration called on members of the U.N. Security Council to sanction Venezuelan officials. (McClatchy)
  • Brazil's presidential race was already unique, with the voter favorite campaigning from a jail cell. But its downright esoteric now, with the other poll leader now campaigning from a hospital bed, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See yesterday's briefs.) Indeed, Brazilian politics is increasingly a subgenre of crime fiction, writes Alberto Barrera Tyszka in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is serving a jail sentence for corruption, is expected to step aside today, reports Reuters. The Workers' Party has a deadline for today to name his replacement, former mayor Fernando Haddad. (AFP)
  • Brazil's ruralista congressional bloc is steadily dismantling rainforest and human rights protections in the Amazon, aided by extractivist industries. But their power ultimately derives from international consumers and financiers, according to a new report by Amazon Watch.
  • Mexico's incoming administration and organizations of civil society presented a bill to reform the office of the national prosecutor: Ley Orgánica de la Fiscalía General de la República. The key innovation of the bill would be to guarantee prosecutorial immunity. It was presented in Mexico's senate yesterday and would create four specialized sub-prosecutor's offices, as well as an internal security plan to which the attorney general would be held accountable. (Animal Político)
  • U.S. intelligence agencies suspect Russia could be behind the mysterious "sonic attacks" that that affected diplomats posted in Cuba and China, reports Axios. Some experts now believe that microwave strikes are responsible for the symptoms suffered by victims. (See Sept. 3's briefs.)
  • Barriers blocking migrants from crossing the Morocco-Spain border at Ceuta and Melilla are a symbol of the failure of walls, writes David Jiménez in a New York Times Español op-ed that draws parallels with U.S. policy.
  • Ariel Dorfman compares polarization in Chile before the 1973 coup and the U.S. now. "Chile provides a blueprint, warning us that democracy can be subverted only if large multitudes stand by and look away while it is corroded and demolished," he writes in the Guardian.
  • Traffic to cross the U.S.-Mexico border at Tijuana gives street vendors a unique venue -- Guardian photo-essay.
  • It can be hard for residents of São Paulo’s poorest peripheries to find transportation -- public services are scarce and they can't afford cars. Taxi companies and ride hailing apps shy away from the areas, but one company founded by Brasilândia locals is seeking to capitalize on the market, reports the Guardian.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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