Friday, February 14, 2020

Controversial Guatemalan NGO law (Feb. 14, 2020)

Guatemalan lawmakers granted the executive branch the authority to shut them down non-governmental organizations if they are deemed disruptive, reports the Associated Press. The reform, passed late Tuesday, would regulate the formation, registration, finances and other aspects of NGOs’ activities. (See also Aristegui Noticias.)

One of the most criticized parts is related to funding and says “no donation or external financing may be used to carry out activities that disturb the public order in national territory.” Violators could be shut down immediately and their leadership subject to criminal or civil complaints.

It would also grant broad powers to the government to permanently suspend the activities of an NGO for reasons such as “disturbance of public order,” an ambiguous term whose interpretation could lead to the arbitrary closure of civil society organizations and worsening criminalization through the imposition of criminal sanctions against the human rights defenders that work in them, according to Amnesty International.

Human Rights Prosecutor Jordán Rodas recommended President Alejandro Giammattei veto the reform, and that the law appears to be in conflict with the constitution, particularly on matters such as freedom of association, protest and expression.

Acción Ciudadana, backed by other organizations of civil society, presented an injunction against the reform before the Constitutional Court. They argue that the legislation violates citizen rights and that there were irregularities in the legislative debate reports Prensa Libre. (Publinews has more details on the proceedings in the National Assembly on Tuesday.)

News Briefs

  • There's a lot of humor about U.S. President Donald Trump's wall, but in many ways he has succeeded in making Mexico a virtual wall against migrants says Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, in an interview with the New Yorker. "The Trump Administration has, in many ways, strong-armed several governments to get them to stop people from ever even making it to the southern border." The ultimate effects of these agreements remains unclear, and it's also uncertain what staying power the accords would have in a post-Trump scenario, he argues.
  • The U.S. Remain in Mexico policy has essentially created a giant refugee encampment in Matamorros, on the Mexican side of the border. (Al Jazeera)
  • Venezuela's Maduro government accused the Trump administration of causing suffering and death among millions of Venezuelans in the last several years, in a presentation to the International Criminal Court yesterday. “We believe that these unilateral, coercive measures are crimes against humanity,” Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said regarding punishing financial sanctions aimed at ousting Nicolás Maduro, reports the Associated Press.
  • Back home, opposition leader Juan Guaidó must struggle with a demoralized opposition and the Maduro government's policy of "slow strangulation," reports the New York Times: "cracking down on his movement enough to wear down its members, but without going so far as to spur the world to action."
Regional Relations
  • Mauricio Claver-Carone, the U.S. senior director of the NSC for Western Hemisphere Affairs, is being considered for the executive vice president's post at the Inter-American Development Bank, according to Bloomberg
  • The HuffPost has a scathing report on Claver-Carone this week, focused on his hardline influence on the Trump administration's LatAm policy, particularly with regards to Maduro: "for the last 16-plus months, Claver-Carone has enjoyed unrivaled influence over the president’s policies toward Venezuela — so much so that foreign ambassadors have complained privately about his dominance on this issue."
  • In the midst of the U.S. electoral campaign season, Latin American governments should ask themselves whether their dealings with the White House could be used in favor of Trump's reelection bid, writes Dan Restrepo in El País.
  • Ecuador hopes to persuade the U.S. to eliminate tariffs on exports of broccoli, artichokes, tuna and roses as part of its discussions on trade, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Colombia is on alert over an "armed ELN strike" that could start today, reports AFP. (See yesterday's briefs.) The illegal measure basically means that businesses in the guerrilla force's area of influence would be forced to strike or face retaliation. The government downplayed the threat, and said it was a desperate move on the part of the ELN, reports El Tiempo.
  • Colombia's National Strike Committee called for new protests in coming months after a meeting with the Duque administration failed to reach an agreement on demands that include implementation of the peace accord with the FARC and social security policies, reports Telesur. The first strike would be held next week.
  • Heavily armed gunmen stormed an Honduran courtroom yesterday and freed a senior MS-13 gang leader, who had just arrived for a trial hearing in the locality of El Progreso. At least four officers were killed and three others were wounded, reports the BBC.
Women's Rights
  • An international investigation by openDemocracy found that a global network of ‘crisis pregnancy centres’, backed by US anti-abortion groups linked to the Trump White House, targets vulnerable women with "disinformation, emotional manipulation and outright deceit." The investigation was carried out by undercover reporters in 18 countries, including Mexico and Argentina. "In Mexico City, staff at one centre wrongly said that a woman needs her partner’s or a relative’s consent for an abortion – and that no hospital would treat her for serious complications. In Argentina, a reporter who said she was a survivor of domestic abuse was told by staff at another centre: “Now, you’re a victim, but getting an abortion would make you part of that violence.”"
  • In Argentina, Agostina Mileo shares her account of the undercover investigation in Buenos Aires -- Infobae.
  • Latin American journalists are finding talented and creative ways to report despite social turmoil, financial woes, and repressive regimes. Tim Rogers writes on how free press advocates are "producing a unique blend of solutions and journalistic workarounds in different countries — everything from exile journalism about Nicaragua and English-language outreach in El Salvador to a new fake news observatory in Bolivia and paywalls in Chile." -- Nieman Reports

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


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