Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Guatemalan femicide law used as corruption shield (April 9, 2019)

Guatemalan presidential candidate Sandra Torres developed a novel strategy of defense from an illicit campaign financing investigation led by the country's head anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval. Torres successfully petitioned a judge to protect her from Sandoval and another male prosecutor under a Guatemalan femicide law. The court order prohibits the prosecutors from coming near Torres, who has emphasized to the press that she is the single mother of four. The order also prohibits the prosecutors from publicly referring to Torres. 

The prosecutors are appealing the decision and Acción Ciudadana presented a disciplinary complaint about the judge who granted the protection. Both pointed out that the case does not comply with the Femicide Law, which seeks to protect women from gender-related abuse from people in positions of power over them. The CICIG came out in support of the prosecutors' investigation against Torres and criticized the incorrect use of femicide protections. Analysts concur that the use of the femicide law is incorrect and delegitimizes a much needed legal norm. (El PeriódicoNómadaEl Periódico again, La HoraNómada again, CICIGLa HoraPublinews)

Torres actually forms part of a trend among Guatemalan female politicians, who have deployed the femicide law for political means -- including former vice president Roxana Baldetti who denounced a newspaper editor who published corruption accusations against her, reports La República.

Guatemala has a high rate of femicides, and impunity for gender violence crimes, despite the laws aimed at protecting women -- making political abuse of the norms even more unconscionable, argues María Aguilar in El Periódico.
Torres also presented criminal charges against the prosecutors, also under the aegis of the femicide law. (Nómada

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro -- after a meeting with Torres -- made a call for Guatemala's electoral tribunal to work free from external pressures, including the CICIG. CICIG Commissioner Iván Velásquez questioned the allegation strongly. In a letter he pointed to the central role illicit electoral financing plays in support of the criminal organizations known as "Illegal Clandestine Security Apparatuses" -- Cuerpos Ilegales y Aparatos Clandestinos de Seguridad – CIACS. (Prensa LibreEl Periódico)

(See last Thursday's briefs on threats against Sandoval and questions regarding the timing of the illicit financing accusations against Torres, which came after her candidacy conferred her with immunity against prosecution.)

News Briefs

More from Guatemala
  • In recent years victims of human rights atrocities and their families hoped to achieve justice for civil war era crimes in Guatemala. But an overt amnesty bill in Congress (though not currently up for vote) or what Jo-Marie Burt calls a "backdoor amnesty bill" could let high level perpetrators of human rights crimes -- including massacres -- off the hook, writes Maggie Jones in the Washington Post. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Haitian President Jovenel Moïse nominated the acting prime minister, Jean Michel Lapin, to lead the government. If lawmakers approve Lapin, he will be Moïse's third prime minister in two years, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Nicaragua's government said it was ready to continue talks with the opposition, yesterday. Negotiations broke down last week, and the civil society opposition has accused Daniel Ortega's government of unwillingness to negotiate. The opposition has demanded international guarantors to enforce agreements, release of political prisoners, and early elections. (AFP, see last Thursday's briefs and yesterday's.) 
  • Ortega has sought to stretch out negotiations as a stalling tactic, advised by Cuban consultants, according to Inter-American Dialogue's Manuel Orozco. (Confidencial)
  • The Red Cross has compiled a list of 230 political prisoners, between the opposition Alianza Cívica list and the governments. The government claims another 53 people identified as political prisoners by the opposition are in fact common criminals. And another 40 political prisoners are being processed by the Red Cross. The Alianza Cívica has identified a total of 779 political prisoners, about 200 of whom have been released to home detention, reports Confidencial. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • The Alianza Cívica proposed a transitional justice system to try the perpetrators of violence against protesters over the past year. (Confidencial)
El Salvador
  • Salvadoran police said they arrested 117 members of the MS-13 street gang. Police chief Howard Cotto said those arrested came from 11 separate MS-13 cells operating against businesses in downtown San Salvador, reports AFP.
  • Extreme poverty, violence, and impunity are the main push factors for Central American migration to the U.S. -- but of course every person's story is different, writes Anthony W. Fontes in the Conversation.
  • More on how climate change in Guatemala is also pushing migration to the U.S. -- WJCT. (See yesterday's post.)
  • If the 2000's were Latin America's commodity boom decade, then the 2010's may well be known as the hangover, "a painful period in which Latin America struggled to recover from the excesses and unrealistic expectations of the previous decade," argues Brian Winter at Americas Quarterly. The solutions are not glamorous he writes -- more investment, and tackling:  inefficient government bureaucracy, corruption, tax rates, policy instability and the quality of infrastructure.
  • The U.S. military is concerned over China's increased influence in Venezuela. "In an interview with Foreign Policy, Adm. Craig Faller, the four-star military officer who heads U.S. Southern Command, pointed to a Chinese disinformation campaign designed to blame the United States for the blackouts that devastated Venezuela in recent weeks."
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said the country is working with the U.S. to sow dissent within the Venezuelan army. (Reuters)
  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to the Venezuela border in Colombia, Cucuta, to highlight the plight of refugees there, reports AFP.
  • The European Union led International Contact Group for Venezuela must speed up its work said Spanish prime minister Josep Borrel yesterday. The group was established in February with the goal of organizing early elections within 90 days. (AFP)
  • Among the Maduro administration's many targets: comedians, reports the New York Times.
  • The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights will provide guidance and technical assistance in the Ayotzinapa case under an agreement signed yesterday with the Mexican government, reports EFE.
  • Armed groups had planned to attack Colombian President Iván Duque at a scheduled meeting with indigenous community leaders today, said the Colombian attorney general Nestor Martínez. Martinez said armed groups have infiltrated a social and indigenous movement protesting lack of development investment in the country's Cauca region. The government reached a deal to invest more than $250 million in indigenous communities and end a monthlong road blockade, reports Reuters.
  • Martínez wrote to the International Criminal Court defending the government's track record prosecuting a wave of human rights defenders killings -- 265 social activists have been killed since January 2016, and perpetrators have been identified in over half those cases, he said. (El Tiempo)
  • Colombia's chamber of deputies resoundingly rejected Duque's request to modify the transitional justice system established by the FARC peace deal. The 2016 peace deal is part of the Colombian constitution and requires a two-thirds majority for modifications, reports Reuters.
  • Ecuador removed an official from its London embassy who was reportedly close to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, reports the Associated Press. Ecuador's foreign ministry continues to deny rumors that Assange will be expelled from the embassy imminently, reports EFE. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro faces record-low polling just  a hundred days into his mandate -- 30 percent of respondents in a new poll qualified his government as "bad" or "terrible," reports Bloomberg.
  • Bolsonaro is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to his Middle East policies. His Evangelical constituents are holding him to a promise for better relations with Israel, including moving the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem. But that has antagonized Brazil's trade partners in the Arab League—leading buyers of Brazilian halal meat. (Foreign Policy)
  • Ten Brazilian soldiers have been arrested after firing more than 80 bullets into a car carrying a family. They killed the driver, and wounded two more people. They had apparently confused the white car with another that had been stolen, reports the Guardian. Antônio Costa, president of Rio da Paz said Bolsonaro's discourse has encouraged security force violence against citizens.
  • Bolsonaro sacked his far-right education minister Ricardo Vélez, who wanted to whitewash textbooks teaching about the 1964 military coup. But his replacement doesn't seem to be much better. Abraham Weintraub is an economist with a long financial sector track record, who last year argued that crack was deliberately introduced in Brazil as part of a communist plot. (Guardian)
  • Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been in jail on a corruption sentence for a year now -- with 25 years left to serve. He keeps to a strict exercise and reading routine in order to keep his spirits up, reports EFE.
  • On Sunday massive demonstrations in favor and against Lula marked the one year anniversary of his detention. (EFE)
  • Argentina's October presidential elections will be defined by former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's decision to run again or not. If she does, she could hand the victory to current President Mauricio Macri -- but if she doesn't a third option candidate, not yet defined, could take the lead. Marcelo J. García analyzes the game of three dimensional chess in the BA Times.
  • The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team has been working for 35 years to identify victims of Argentina's military dictatorship. It has recovered the bodies of more than 1,400 disappeared people and identified 795 of them -- an ongoing process, reports the Associated Press.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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