Friday, April 5, 2019

Guatemalan democracy under threat (April 5, 2019)

News Briefs

  • Legal persecution of Guatemalan presidential candidate Thelma Aldana is the latest step towards an authoritarian regime of cooptation, writes Martín Rodríguez Pellecer in a New York Times Español op-ed. Eliminating Aldana, a popular former attorney general is part of President Jimmy Morales' antidemocratic agenda, he writes, noting that the president already controls the Supreme Court, and apparently, the public ministry. The anti-corruption crusader can still appeal an electoral tribunal decision invalidating her candidacy (see Tuesday's briefs), but the challenges will limit her campaign time ahead of the June 16 vote.
  • Fourty-four Nobel Prize laureates in various disciplines have signed a letter expressing concern over what they call deteriorating conditions for democracy and human rights in Guatemala, reports the Associated Press. Signatories include Rigoberta Menchu, and call on Guatemalan authorities to safeguard peace and democracy.
  • The U.N. peacekeeping chief ratified the plan to end the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known as MINUJUSTH, in October. (Associated Press)
  • About 20,000 people have blocked the Pan-American Highway in Colombia, mostly in the state of Cauca, for over three weeks. They are demanding President Iván Duque engage in talks over systemic violence to indigenous communities, reports The New Republic.
  • Brazil's Lava Jato investigation is historic, but it's also brought to the fore difficulties in coordinating international corruption investigations in the region, Colombian Inspector General Fernando Carrillo told Americas Quarterly.
  • There is a real crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, but it's a humanitarian rather than a security crisis, write WOLA's Adriana Beltrán, Adam Isacson, and Maureen Meyer. Closing off the border doesn't make any sense for the new flow of migrant families, who are simply seeking to turn themselves in with U.S. authorities and could do so even if legal ports of entry are closed, they note. "Let’s get our minds around it: this is the new pattern, not a temporary surge or distortion."
  • Most migrant families at the U.S. border are seeking asylum -- which has changed the whole human trafficking industry, notes the Economist, which criticizes Trump's move to cut aid to Central American countries in retaliation for ongoing flows of migrants. (See Monday's post and Tuesday's.)
  • Trump backed off a threat to close the U.S. border with Mexico -- instead he said he'd give Mexico a year to stop illicit drug trafficking and respond first with auto tariffs before shutting down the border. (Politico)
Regional Relations
  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said other Latin American countries might join Colombia as a NATO partner, apparently ruling out U.S. President Donald Trump's recent suggestion that Brazil become a full-fledged member of the security alliance. (Reuters)
  • Trump's off the cuff attack on Colombian President Iván Duque spurred damage control among Republican lawmakers, reports the Miami Herald. Duque was reportedly "quite upset" by Trump's remarks. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • Colombia rejected a Russian warning against foreign military intervention in Venezuela, and affirmed support for a peaceful transition to democracy led by Venezuelans. (Reuters)
  • Military intervention in Venezuela could destabilize Colombia and endanger its peace process said Kristina Birke Daniels in an interview with International Politics and Society.
  • A group of former intelligence officers and other national security practitioners with many decades of experience -- Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity -- called on Trump to avoid "taking potentially catastrophic military action in response to civil unrest in Venezuela or Russian activities in the Western Hemisphere."
  • The multi-pronged U.S. strategy supporting "constitutional regime change" in Venezuela is not working so far, but what else can they do, argues the Economist, which advocates pushing more for negotiation.
  • The United States requested that the UN Security Council hold a meeting next week to discuss the worsening humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, reports AFP. (See yesterday's post.)
  • The U.S. sent more than two tons of sanitary kits destined for Venezuela to Curaçao, the first time the Caribbean island has been used as a humanitarian aid staging ground, reports EFE.
  • The blackouts that afflicted much of Venezuela in March also impacted oil output, reports Bloomberg.
  • Nafta 2.0 may prove an obstacle to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's promises of reform, writes Rebecca Watts in NACLA.
  • Mexico's ruling Morena party altered a labor bill to meet the renegotiated Nafta requirements after U.S. Democrats threatened to hold up the new deal, reports Bloomberg.
  • AMLO's demand that Spain apologize for conquistador era rights violations is a politically solid and fashionable request -- but it's still a mistake, argues the Economist. (See March 26's briefs.)
  • A journalist attacked every 16 hours in Mexico -- and 99 percent of the cases going unpunished, according to Article 19. (EFE)
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is appealing to the very same political horse-trading he denounced on the campaign trail, in order to pass a complicated pension reform bill, reports Reuters.
  • Brazilian police killed 11 people who were allegedly planning to blow up two ATM machines in São Paulo state. (Reuters)
  • Gunmakers gathered at a Rio de Janeiro fair, hoping to capitalize on the Bolsonaro administration's push to loosen ownership regulations. (Associated Press)
  • Brazilian Education Minister Ricardo Vélez says school textbook coverage of the 1964 military coup will be revised. "Brazilian history shows that what happened on 31 March 1964 was a sovereign decision by Brazilian society," he told Valor Económico. "There will be gradual changes so a fuller version of history can be redeemed," said Vélez. It's part of the Bolsonaro administration's ongoing defense of the military coup that inaugurated a 21 year dictatorship marked by human rights violations and censorship, report the BBC and the Guardian. (See yesterday's briefs and Monday's, among others.)
  • But what is happening in Brazil is actually part of a broader trend in Latin America -- conservative governments attacking and revising historical memory narratives about atrocities, argues Laurence Blair in the New Statesman. "... Museums are becoming a fulcrum in a culture war that is gripping the continent."
  • Paraguay's conservative shift has left the country's LGBT communities feeling increasingly isolated, reports Reuters.
  • Among the many drivers of migration: climate change. Rising temperatures and declining rainfall are killing crops and jeopardizing farmers’ survival in rural Honduras and pushing families to move to urban areas or out of the country, reports PBS.
  • Ecuadorean authorities denied rumors that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be imminently turned out of the country's London embassy. (CNBC)
  • A Canadian court ruled against an attempt to force Chevron Corp’s Canadian unit to pay a $9.5 billion judgment handed down in Ecuador agains the U.S. oil company. (Reuters)
  • Five years after Uruguay's pioneering cannabis reform, the BBC reports on the national experiment.
  • A new initiative at Peru’s national register, Reniec, seeks to register and catalogue names from the country’s 48 indigenous languages -- a shift from a long-standing tradition that forced indigenous parents to give children a "Christian" name for official documents. (Guardian)
  • Thousands of Argentine's rallied against the Macri administration's austerity measures, reports EFE.
  • Argentina's justice system is in the midst of a severe crisis of credibility. High profile corruption cases accuse leading political figures of wrongdoing, but allegations against judicial actors themselves undermine the cases -- all in the midst of a heated electoral year in which corruption scandals play a prominent role. In a New York Times Español op-ed that I wrote with Juan Pappier, of Human Rights Watch, we argue that an international commission of judicial experts could provide a much needed guarantee for a broken judicial system.

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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