Friday, February 28, 2020

Salvadoran lawmakers pass amnesty law (Feb. 28, 2020)

Salvadoran lawmakers approved a controversial "reconciliation law" that would reduce the sentences for former war crimes committed during the civil war and commute perpetrators’ sentences for reasons of “health or age.” Critics -- including the United Nations, national and international human rights organizations -- say it is a whitewashed amnesty law. President Nayib Bukele has promised to veto the measure, which was passed by ARENA, the National Coalition Party, and the Christian Democratic Party, without the participation of the FMLN.

The measure contradicts the United Nations, international human rights treaties, and El Salvador's Constitutional Court. Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas director of Amnesty International, commented, “El Salvador’s Congress didn’t pass a law, they passed a pact of impunity.” 

The law, nominally focuses on historical memory and reparations for victims of the country's civil war. It creates, for example, a National Council for Reparation. But it also includes limitations for transitional justice -- such as giving investigators only a year to develop a case -- that bely the seriousness of the crimes and the decades that have passed.

News Briefs

  • More than 100 human rights defenders and 66 indigenous people were killed last year in Colombia, according to a new United Nations report that signals an alarming 50 percent increase in the number of women killed while working in communities and defending human rights. (ReutersDeutsche Welle)
  • President Iván Duque has faced frequent criticism from the international community, non-governmental organizations and human rights activists for not doing enough to stop the killings of so-called "social leaders," reports Reuters. In turn, this week, Duque said the U.N. failed to recognize advances in that area and social investment in regions suffering violence.
  • Colombia's government is preparing a labor and pension reform -- the news is significant because just rumors of such a move were among the triggers for massive protests that started in the country last November, reports Americas Quarterly.
  • There are signs that Venezuela's opposition and the Maduro government could be negotiating a deal to name a new electoral authority, write Geoff Ramsey and Dimitris Pantoulas in the Venezuela Weekly. This week members of a multi-party National Assembly committee tasked with naming a new National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the names of 10 civil society representatives that will join the committee in evaluating candidates for a new CNE. The advance is particularly notable as the preliminary legislative committee includes the Guaidó faction of the opposition, the breakaway Parra faction of the opposition, and members of the PSUV.
  • In response to recent attacks on human rights group PROVEA from Chavista officials, 150 domestic and international civil society organizations demanded the immediate termination of the acts of “criminalization, intimidation, harassment, disqualification, and aggression” that the Venezuelan state exercises against the civil society organizations in the country -- Venezuela Weekly.
  • It is increasingly unlikely that the U.S. will renew Chevron’s sanctions waiver to continue operations in Venezuela, reports Bloomberg.
  • Indian refiners plan to wind down Venezuelan oil purchases in April, in response to U.S. sanctions. (Reuters)
  • Guyana heads to the polls Monday, a general election with unusually high stakes ahead of an oil bonanza expected to transform the country, reports the Economist. Voting is expected to follow ethnic lines, as it has for decades, but high on the list of concerns is how oil riches will be spent.
  • Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei signed into law new rules that increase government oversight of non-profit groups operating in the country. The law, passed by lawmakers earlier this month, has been criticized internationally. The U.S. State Department warned that it could limit freedom of assembly and efforts to improve democratic governance, potentially contributing to increased migration to the United States, reports Reuters.
  • A statistical study by the the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Election Data and Science Lab, commissioned by CEPR, challenges allegations of fraud in Bolivia's controversial presidential election last year. OAS auditors claimed to have found evidence of fraud following a halt in the preliminary count — the nonbinding election-night results meant to track progress before the official count. The MIT study challenges the irregularities premise with the argument that there does not seem to be a statistically significant difference in the margin before and after the halt of the preliminary vote. (Washington Post, Al Jazeera)
  • Political turmoil in Bolivia could shut down the country's legal coca industry, and harken a return to drug war bloodshed, reports Vice News.
  • More than 6,000 people in almost 80 villages stretching across 5m acres of the Ecuadorian, Colombian and Peruvian Amazon have tanks collecting rainwater, a response to environmental contamination that has affected waterways in Ecuador's north-east Amazon. (Guardian)
  • The campaign period for and against a new constitution in Chile officially began this week. Citizens will vote in a plebiscite in two months, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Mexico desperately needs statecraft, instead, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador offers theater, according to the Economist.
  • The International Monetary Fund will send another mission to Argentina, next week, reports Reuters.
  • South America is conspicuously absent from global geopolitics -- a negative for all involved, writes Oliver Stuenkel at Americas Quarterly.
  • Can Bernie Sanders reinvent progressive foreign policy? - Foreign Policy
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 

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