On Sept. 6 Bukele announced the creation of the International Commission Against Impunity in El Salvador (CICIES) by via presidential decree, nominally fulfilling a campaign promise to create an institution modeled on the recently disbanded U.N. anti-impunity commission in Guatemala. (Reuters)
But details of how the new OAS backed commission will work are still scarce. What Bukele presented is technically a cooperation agreement with the OAS for technical assistance to improve investigations by executive branch agencies in El Salvador, reports Revista Factum. Critics say Bukele is spinning a letter of intent as a full on agreement, but that the specifics won't be determined for months.
The focus on the executive branch, rather than a body that could carry out investigations with the independent Attorney General's office, means the pact doesn't need legislative approval, but "could limit investigators’ willingness to pursue potential cases tied to the administration," writes Charles Call in Americas Quarterly. But, without a legislative mandate, the body's ability to act independently and collaborate with public prosecutors is severely limited, he writes.
Experts have said United Nations participation in the CICIES could strengthen the incipient commission's mandate. The United Nations said last week that it will send an “interdisciplinary technical assessment mission” to evaluate support, reports Reuters.
More El Salvador
- El Salvador has deployed nearly a 1,000 troops to its border with Guatemala, a new patrol force that forms part of a cooperation agreement with the U.S. aimed at combatting irregular migration and transnational crime, reports Univisión. (See Aug. 30's briefs.)
- But the new enforcement agency is more about preventing migrants -- from El Salvador and elsewhere -- from leaving the country than it is about protecting El Salvador’s borders, write Nelson Rauda and John Washington in The Nation.
- Bukele has not yet ordered the military to release archives related to human rights crimes and war crimes committed during El Salvador's civil war, despite ongoing demands by social movements seeking truth and justice. (EFE)
- Hundreds of Honduran police officers clashed with about 1,000 protesters in a Tegucigalpa protest organized by the political opposition on Sunday. The march occurred in parallel to the official commemoration of Central America's Independence anniversary. Protesters demanded the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernández, who was presided over an official parade at the national stadium nearby, reports the BBC. Police responded to the manifestation with tear gas and water jets from a tank, while protesters counterattacked with stones, according to AFP. Protesters regrouped and attended a speech given by former president Manuel Zelaya, which was later also attacked by police, reports Criterio. (Photos by Luis Menéndez who was hit on the head by a tear gas canister while covering the protests.)
- A small group of Venezuelan opposition parties agreed to enter negotiations with the Maduro administration, the first significant schism within opposition leader Juan Guaidó's coalition since he declared himself interim president in January, reports the Associated Press. The division bodes ill for already foundering international negotiation efforts, according to WOLA's Geoff Ramsey.
- As part of the agreement, Venezuela's ruling Socialist Party will reclaim its seats in the opposition dominated National Assembly, after a three-year boycott, reports the New York Times. The move by President Nicolás Maduro's party could threaten congressional independence, but also undermines the platform opposition leader Juan Guaidó has used to position himself as the country's legitimate interim leader on an international stage. The deal between Maduro and the dissident opposition parties promises reform the electoral council and release some political prisoners. But the return of pro-government lawmakers could pave the way for early legislative elections say critics.
- As of today, government lawmakers did not rejoin the National Assembly, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
- Maduro's government has quietly and cautiously begun implementing free-market policies to tame hyperinflation and counter Venezuela's massive economic crisis, according to the Wall Street Journal. The measures, along with dollar remittances from the four million Venezuelans who have fled the country, are having a slight impact.
- A WOLA-Woodrow Wilson center event featured leading members of Venezuelan civil society discussing pathways out of the crisis: Luz Mely Reyes of Efecto Cocuyo, Feliciano Reyna of Acción Solidaria, Marino Alvarado of PROVEA, Beatriz Borges of CEPAZ, Alfredo Romero of Foro Penal. OSF's Pedro Abramovay moderated the discussion and David Smilde and Cindy Arnson gave opening statements. (Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights
- "Illegal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is driven largely by criminal networks that have the logistical capacity to coordinate large-scale extraction, processing, and sale of timber, while deploying armed men to protect their interests," according to a new Human Rights Watch report. The illegal mafias threaten, attack, and even kill the environmental defenders who attempt to counter illegal logging, with little defense from the state. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has shown little interest in defending the rainforest, instead he has scaled back enforcement of environmental laws, weakened federal environmental agencies, and harshly criticized organizations and individuals working to preserve the rainforest. His words and actions have effectively given a green light to the criminal networks involved in illegal logging, according to environmental officials and local residents. However, the problem of violence by loggers in the Amazon predates the Bolsonaro administration notes the report. More than 300 people have been killed during the last decade in the context of conflicts over the use of land and resources in the Amazon. (See the Guardian's coverage of the report.)
- All fires in the Amazon are human related, reports National Geographic, in a piece that looks at how ancient indigenous tribes used fire to create agricultural land, but on a vastly different scale than the blazes affecting the rainforest today.
- U.S. national security advisor John Bolton's abrupt departure from the Trump administration last week is unlikely to change the U.S.'s policy objectives in Latin America, though it may lead to swings between harder and softer tactics, writes Fulton Armstrong. U.S. President Donald Trump appears to lack interest in Latin America, and has largely ceded Venezuela and Cuba issues to Senator Marco Rubio who leads a group of White House operators. Indeed, the main focus of U.S. policy towards the region seems to be appeasing southern Florida voters, writes Armstrong at the AULA blog.
- It's hard to understate the impact of electoral concerns on foreign policy: There are more than two hundred thousand Venezuelans in Florida, and many Latin Americans in Florida see the Venezuelan government as the nexus of the region’s worst problems, reports the New Yorker.
- Last week the U.S. State Department announced that Michael Kozak is the new acting head of the Western Hemisphere department. He is considered a staunch human rights defender, reports the Associated Press.
- Colombian President Iván Duque announced increased protection for political candidates running in October’s local and regional elections after the murders of seven aspirants, reports Reuters.
- Mexican prosecutors will target a former attorney general and his top aides in their probe into the handling of the investigation into 43 students from Ayotzinapa who disappeared in Iguala in 2014. The attorney general's office said prosecutors would seek to hold officials accountable for the widely criticized investigation into the apparent abduction and killing of the students, reports Reuters.
- Families of the victims were angered by the recent decision to release 24 local police officers arrested in connection with the case. A judge said they had been tortured into confessing and there was insufficient evidence to continue to hold them, reports the BBC. A government official criticized the decision as an example of judicial rot, and noted that half of the people detained in relation to the case have been released, reports Animal Político. Earlier this month Gildardo López Astudillo, an alleged member of a local criminal gang was also released.
- Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador proposed a bill to Congress that would grant amnesty to people serving jail time for lesser offenses, including abortion and possession of small amounts of drugs, reports Reuters.
- In the short-term, the China-U.S. trade war seems to have brought some benefits to Latin America -- an increase in Chinese demand for primary products from the region, as well as recent news of production transfers from China to Mexico. But the negative effects of the trade war will likely outweigh the gains, warns Otaviano Canuto in Americas Quarterly.
- NGO's say protests against new mining projects in Latin America are increasingly being quashed -- Deutsche Welle.
- Bolivia is dramatically ramping up lithium production, reports AFP.
- It's cool to be anti-Macri in Argentina, a cultural phenomenon that has contributed to the president's expected loss in October's general elections. Americas Quarterly reports how a cohort of young public figures have used popular culture and social media to mobilize opposition to the government among youth.
- A failure in Central America’s electrical grid left millions of people without power for hours in at least four countries yesterday, reports the Associated Press.
- An installation in front of Colombia's Congress displays 300 sets of shoes and calls on viewers to put themselves in the place of Venezuelan migrants. The "Derecho a no obedecer" movement put together the display in order to combat xenophobia ahead of local elections to be held in October, reports AFP.
- A wall built 30 years ago divides shantytowns in Lima from the capital's richest neighborhoods -- a physical barrier that isolates the city's poor, and an example of how barriers are increasingly used to forcefully separate populations, reports the Atlantic.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...