Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Colombia's court punts abortion (March 3, 2020)

Colombia's constitutional court declined to broadly legalize abortion yesterday -- but also refused to totally prohibit abortions. Women's rights advocates had hoped the judges would permit women to freely terminate pregnancies in the 16 weeks after conception. Instead six of the court’s nine judges voted not to rule on the case brought by an anti-choice activist who sought a total ban. (See yesterday's briefs.)

This non-decision kept in place a 2006 ruling made by the court, which allows for a woman to have an abortion in three circumstances: when her life is at stake, when a fetus has serious health problems and when her pregnancy resulted from rape, reports the New York Times. Yesterday's move was a partial victory for conservatives, but also reassured pro-choicers that current rights will remain protected, reports the Wall Street Journal. It's also important to note that the non-decision leaves the door open for a legalization debate moving forward, according to La Silla Vacía.

The case was brought forward by an anti-abortion activist, who sought a total ban, but one judge floated the possibility of total legalization in response to testimony from a Bogotá official who outlined how poor women are consistently stymied in accessing even the limited abortions currently permitted.

Abortion laws are largely prohibitive in Latin America, and increasingly strong women's rights activists in the region are pushing to loosen restrictions. The focus this year now shifts to Argentina, where President Alberto Fernández has promised to send an abortion legalization bill to Congress, next week, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See yesterday's briefs.)

News Briefs

  • Haitian President Jovenel Moïse named a new prime minister, Joute Joseph, formerly the interim minister of the economy and finance. Haiti has been in political crisis for a year, since prime minister Jean-Henry Ceant resigned in March, 2019. Since then Moïse has named three prime ministers, but none have been approved by lawmakers, limiting the government's ability to function, reports AFP.
  • The government shutdown has had significant economic repercussions, further increasing Haitian poverty in what was already the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, where around two-thirds of adults are estimated to be unemployed or underemployed, reports Reuters
  • Deteriorating human rights are a significant issue in Haiti, according to a February U.N. report. "The troubling situation includes widening malnutrition, kidnappings for ransom, rapes, and gang violence," writes Sir Ronald Sanders in a call for greater Caricom and international reaction. (Jamaica Observer)
  • Guyanese electoral authorities said voting yesterday was mostly peaceful, though there was tension in Mon Repos Village after rumors that some people tried to vote illegally. Results aren't expected until later this week, an issue that affects voter trust in the results, warned the Head of the Organization of American States (OAS) observer mission, Bruce Golding. (AFP, see yesterday's briefs.)
El Salvador
  • The fallout from 9F -- when El Salvador's president briefly led a military occupation of the National Assembly -- has taken the sheen off President Nayib Bukele's image as a cool outsider, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • Eat your avocado toast in peace, or at least, without believing that a boycott will hurt cartels, writes Ioan Grillo in a New York Times op-ed. "When industrious growers are shaken down by gangsters it is crazy to hit them in their wallets again. We need to pressure Mexican security forces to stop extortion, not punish businesses."
  • Two new polls show a small but statistically significant drop in Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s approval rating over the past month, according to the Latin American Risk Report. Though AMLO’s approval rating remains above 60 percent, it has has fallen over the past year, particularly in the past two months, pushed by persistent violence and an economic slump, reports Reuters.
  • Mexican lawmakers are bogged down over how to regulate marijuana ahead of an April 30 judicial deadline to legalize all forms of cannabis, writes Nacho Lozano in the Post Opinión.
More Colombia
  • Colombia must resume controversial aerial fumigation of illicit coca crops, U.S. President Donald Trump told his Colombian counterpart, Iván Duque. Actually what he said was: "Well, you're going to have to spray. If you don't spray, you're not going to get rid of them. So you have to spray, with regard to the drugs in Colombia." (BBC
  • Earlier this year, the Colombian government said it planned to eradicate 130,000 hectares of coca this year, using techniques that will possibly include the spraying of herbicides from aircraft. (See Feb. 11's briefs.) But even with new protections in place aimed at curbing excesses, "aerial herbicide spraying is a counter-drug strategy that carries few benefits—none of them long-lasting—and several serious risks and harms," according to WOLA's Adam Isacson. (See Feb. 12's briefs.)
  • Colombia needs international support -- funds and resources -- to deal with the Venezuelan refugee crisis, one of the gravest humanitarian challenges in recent times, argues Duque in the Post Opinión.
  • Bogotá mayor Claudia López outlined her priorities, which will focus spending on social programs rather than the extensive transit infrastructure favored by her predecessor, reports La Silla Vacía.
  • Former Bolivian president Evo Morales is confident his MAS party will win May's re-run election, but fears electoral fraud or a coup in response to the results, reports Reuters.
  • Chile has a new femicide law that expands the definition of gender-based homicide. But President Sebastián Piñera came under fire for suggesting that female victims of violence were partly to blame. "Sometimes it's not just men's desire to abuse, but also the women's position to be abused," Pinera said, while announcing the new law alongside his wife Cecilia Morel and Women's Minister, Isabel Pla. (Deutsche Welle) Como dirían Las Tesis: "Y la culpa no era mía, ni donde estaba, ni cómo vestía."
  • More than 180 children in Chile have been held in preventive detention – some for up to four months – for their participation in the wave of social unrest which have rocked the country since October, reports the Guardian.
  • Latin America could turn the migration crisis into economic opportunity, argues former Panamanian vice president Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado in Americas Quarterly.
  • A group of several hundred displaced Nicaraguan farmers are eking out a living in Costa Rica's rural north, a fraction of the approximately 75,000 Nicaraguans who have sought asylum in Costa Rica since Nicaragua plunged into a political crisis nearly two years ago, reports the Associated Press.
  • Nicaraguans buried the poet, priest revolutionary, Ernesto Cardenas, who died at 95 years of age. (AFP) He exemplified "two traits essential to Nicaraguan identity," writes Gioconda Belli in El País, "the spirit of fighting for a loved country, and love of poetry." (See also the Washington Post obit.)
  • For the great Bajan poet Kamau Brathwaite, who died earlier this month, "the key to understanding the Caribbean was to accept and study its orality: the way people spoke among themselves, local music, non-Christian religious rituals," explains Gabrielle Bellot in the New York Review of Books. "For Brathwaite, it was impossible to understand contemporary Caribbean—and, for that matter, African-American—culture without examining these African traditions, which had been transmitted across the Atlantic and transformed during the bloody centuries of the European slave trade." (Personal confession: when I grow up I want to be somebody who reads the NYRB regularly.)

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

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