Friday, May 24, 2019

Salvadoran lawmakers postpone war crimes amnesty bill (May 24, 2019)

Salvadoran lawmakers postponed a controversial amnesty bill that would prohibit jail time for former military personnel and leftist guerrillas accused of atrocities during the country's long civil war. Lawmakers from the ruling FMLN party (with roots in the guerrilla movement during the war) and the conservative Arena party (which favors the military) are in a race against time to approve the measure. President-elect Nayib Bukele opposes the measure and could veto it if the law is not passed before he takes office on June 1. (Reuters)

Following an outcry from victims' and their families, rights groups, international diplomats, and the United Nations, a 12-member congressional commission voted to review two other proposals and consult with members of civil society, the armed forces and the Catholic Church next week. A new proposal could be voted on by Wednesday.

The so-called "National Reconciliation Law" seems directly aimed at stopping the a long-delayed court case against the alleged perpetrators of the 1981 El Mozote massacre, in which soldiers from an American-trained battalion slaughtered nearly 1,000 peasants, writes Raymond Bonner in the Atlantic. The trial was only able to get underway in 2017, after the Salvadoran Supreme Court struck down a 1992 amnesty law. (See post for July 14, 2016)

Indeed, the bill is a barely disguised attempt to revive the struck down amnesty law, argues El Faro in an editorial.

More from El Salvador
  • Salvadoran vice-president elect Felix Ulloa hinted that the country could reinstate diplomatic relations with Taiwan. (Taiwan News)

Nicaraguan opposition strike

An opposition-organized national strike yesterday in Nicaragua significantly impacted the country's activity yesterday, reports Confidencial. The opposition Alianza Cívica called the 24-hour strike in protest in order to pressure the Ortega administration into releasing hundreds of political prisoners. (See Tuesday's post and Wednesday's briefs.)

There was little traffic in Managua and other main cities yesterday, reports AFP. Some businesses and most supermarkets, except the biggest chains, remained closed, as well as schools and universities. Other stayed open in response to government threats of retaliatory sanctions. 

News Briefs

  • Norwegian officials invited representatives of both sides of Venezuela's legitimacy battle to a second round of talks in Oslo, that could take place next week. Bloomberg reports that despite scant advances in last week's discussions (see yesterday's post), the focus will remain on calling new elections in Venezuela.
  • Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro accused the U.S. of angling to destroy the country's food aid program. U.S. authorities are preparing anctions and criminal charges against Venezuelan officials and others suspected of using the food program to launder money for the Maduro government, reports Reuters.
  • Navy Adm. Craig Faller, head of U.S. Southern Command (Southcom), told The Hill this week that he views embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's influence in the region as a "significant threat" to democracy and stability.
  • A U.S.-made gun is more likely to murder a Mexican than an American, reports the Economist in a piece on how U.S. manufactured guns are flooding Latin America and boosting homicide rates in a violence-plagued region.
  • Hundreds of human-rights defenders have been killed in Colombia since the 2016 peace treaty with the FARC -- and afro-Colombians are a particular target, reports The Nation.
  • Colombian lawmakers from several political parties are working on a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana. (Colombia Reports)
  • Mexico's lower chamber of congress unanimously passed a bill regulating the use of force by the country's new National Guard, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's briefs on the measure.)
  • Former Pemex head Emilio Lozoya was barred from public office for ten years in relation to false wealth declarations. (Animal Político) Lozoya has been investigated in relation to Odebrecht bribes in exchange for public contracts in Mexico. (See post for Oct. 23, 2017)
  • A quiet U.S. visa program allows elderly Mexicans to visit their undocumented offspring living in the U.S. (Washington Post)
  • Brazil's highest court voted that sexual orientation and gender must be included Brazil’s anti-discrimination law. The measure would give LGBT people legal protection in the midst of a reported spike in attacks since President Jair Bolsonaro started climbing in the polls during last year's presidential campaign. (Washington Post)
  • Bolsonaro won congressional approval for his reorganization of the executive branch, which reduces ministries from 29 to 20. It was a crucial test for his leadership, and a loss would have threatened to derail his agenda, according to Reuters. However lawmakers rejected his proposal to put he Council for Financial Activities Control (COAF)under the control of Justice Minister Sergio Moro.
  • They also rejected Bolsonaro's move to put indigenous territorial claims under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture. (Reuters)
  • Brazilian conservatives are increasingly critical of Bolsonaro, who they believe is failing to effectively govern in his first few months in office. Just five months in, there are already whispers of impeachment, reports Bloomberg.
  • Incensed at the friendly fire, Bolsonaro called on die-hard supporters to march in his defense. Critics say the move ratifies a dangerous tendency towards polarization, reports the Guardian.
  • Brazilian military judges ruled soldiers accused of homicide and negligence in an April shooting should be released from detention while they await trial, reports the Associated Press.
  • Brazilian authorities are taking measures to keep violent soccer fan run gangs out of stadiums during the upcoming Copa América games. But the policies will have little impact on the criminal organizations' power, influence and reach, reports InSight Crime.
  • Rio de Janeiro grapples with how to represent its slavery past -- a tragic history that has often been glossed over in Brazil. (The Economist)
Central America
  • "Central America’s maras, or transnational gangs, are symptoms of societies suffering from legacies of Cold War-fueled atrocities and authoritarian rule, misguided law enforcement policies, and long-term entanglement with U.S. culture and foreign policy," writes Anthony Fontes at the Aula Blog.
  • Investigators say Nueva Concepción Mayor Otoniel Lima Recinos used his office to run a criminal enterprise that benefited a notorious drug trafficking group -- just one of a series of particularly egregious cases that mark Guatemalan politics in an election year. (InSight Crime/El Periódico)
  • What to expect from a potential Alberto Fernández presidency in Argentina? A return to the more pragmatic Kirchnerismo of the early 2000s, argues Bruno Binetti in Americas Quarterly.
  • Whatever the motive, former Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has struck a blow against noxious political polarization by (somewhat) stepping out of the electoral limelight, argues Marcelo García in a New York Times Español op-ed. (See last Monday's post.) 
  • Indeed, Cristina's feint towards the vice-presidency shifts the campaign focus towards the center, a potentially positive direction, according to the Economist.
  • This spring’s 13th Havana Biennial was chock-full of paintings and sculptures that subtly took aim at Cuban authority and society, according to Richard Feinberg in Americas Quarterly.
Words Matter
  • The Guardian has updated its style guide to better reflect environmental crises: "climate emergency, crisis or breakdown" instead of "climate change."
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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