Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Guatemala's gov't at crossroads (Oct. 2, 2018)

Guatemala's public ministry ratified its charges against President Jimmy Morales in relation to alleged illicit campaign financing. Prosecutors from the public ministry spoke to a Congressional commission charged with evaluating whether Morales' immunity from prosecution should be lifted to allow the investigation to continue. The commission will receive a total of 44 people, and is expected to make a recommendation by Oct. 25. (La Hora and El Periódico)

In the meantime, experts say the government has run out of options with regards to the barring of International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) head Iván Velásquez. The Constitutional Court rejected three appeals from the government, leaving officials with the decision to either allow Velásquez back into Guatemala or be in contempt of court. (La Hora)

The Guatemalan army will obey the constitutional court, a Ministry of Defence spokesman told Al Jazeera over the weekend.

There's been a lot of debate regarding U.S. acquiescence to Morales' attack against the CICIG -- analysts have pointed to Guatemala's support for the Trump administration's Jerusalem policy, or a strategy to counter China's growing influence in Central America. But it might also be due to the fact that Morales and U.S. President Donald Trump have a lot in common, argues Anthony W. Fontes at the AULA blog.

Separately, an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hearing on the CICIG's role in Guatemala will be private at the government's request. (La Hora)

News Briefs

  • Militarization of public security in Mexico has been disastrous, writes Human Rights Watch's Daniel Wilkinson in El Universal. The War on Drugs has not only failed in terms of human rights and public security results, but also has had a corrosive effect on rule of law, he writes in an article that forms part of a series on the lost opportunities of the Peña Nieto administration. The Law of Internal Security, which codifies army participation in internal security, will only worsen the tendency he warns.
  • Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador was critical of the NAFTA agreement while campaigning. But his transition team hailed the new trilateral agreement between Mexico, the U.S., and Canada as a boon for the country's economy. The three countries' presidents have 60 days to sign the new deal, which means the process will close before AMLO's Dec. 1 inauguration, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Today is the 50th anniversary of the Mexico City Tlatelolco massacre -- the bloody government repression of a student protest movement, that is credited with launching the country's long transition to democracy, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's briefs for other commentary.)
  • AMLO presented a radical government decentralization plan, which would move the headquarters of up to 31 government agencies out of Mexico City to spread civil service job opportunities to smaller cities. The plan could lead to an exodus of 2.7 million people from the overcrowded capital, and ease pollution and water shortages. It has been welcomed by localities that would benefit from the investment needed to make the move, but has raised concern among civil servants unwilling to upend their lives and the potential costs for government. (Guardian)
  • Private prisons house up to 70 percent of immigrant detainees in the U.S. -- though studies have shown that they are generally more violent than government institutions and not more cost-efficient. (New York Times)
  • Venezuelan migrants are overwhelming local shelters and humanitarian organizations in the region. "... The sight of Venezuelans camped in parks and abandoned lots is increasingly common along the Venezuelan migrant trail, which stretches from Colombia, across Ecuador and into Peru," reports the Miami Herald.
  • Venezuela's state-oil company Pdvsa is in dire straights, and could be further imperiled by the potential loss of it's U.S. subsidiary, Citgo. (New York Times)
El Salvador
  • U.S. policy towards El Salvador has mainly focused on pushing military, police, and mass incarceration responses to the country's criminal gangs. However parts of the U.S. federal government have recognized the failure of mano dura policies in Central America and have quietly supported prevention and engagement programs. (The Intercept and Factum)
  • Complacent private sector support for corrupt and violent regimes in Central America are one of the region's top problems when it comes to strengthening democracy, argues Javier Gutiérrez at Global Americans.
  • Crime and security are one of Brazilian voters' primary concerns heading into Sunday's general election. And the results could have a major impact on how the country shapes policy in the midst of record breaking homicide levels. Front-runner, far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro espouses a repressive reaction to crime, while Workers' Party candidate Fernando Haddad focuses more on human rights and crime prevention, reports InSight Crime. (See yesterday's post on the election.)
  • Colombian authorities seized assets from a dissident FARC group, showing how emergent ex-FARC mafia networks fund themselves with criminal enterprises such as drug trafficking and illegal mining, as well as "leftovers from the FARC’s historic insurgency." (InSight Crime)
  • A new report by WOLA and TNI outlines some legal reform possibilities that would permit countries to regulate cannabis internationally between like minded nations.
  • U.S. authorities dismantled a transnational drug trafficking organization that used the U.S. postal service to smuggle wholesale quantities of cocaine, heroin and marijuana to Puerto Rico. (InSight Crime)
  • The arrest of Argentine soccer hooligan group members (barra bravas) in relation to an international drug smuggling ring with Colombian ties demonstrates strengthening criminal cooperation between the two countries. (InSight Crime)
  • Cubans increasingly travel abroad to Mexico to obtain products to sell on the island's black market. (Miami Herald)
  • The first ever biotech joint venture between a U.S. company and Cuba aims to bring Cuban developed cancer drugs to the U.S. (Miami Herald)
  • Confused over what happened to those diplomats in Cuba? So is everybody else. The Miami Herald sums up the case so far.
  • A report published by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) reveals that between 1999 and 2017, 79% of prisoners in Haiti were detained without a sentence. (Haiti Libre)
  • Haiti's new government has been set up for failure, argues Francois Pierre-Louis in an interview with World Politics Review.

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