Monday, September 14, 2020

Impeachment hearings to begin against Vizcarra (Sept. 14, 2020)

 Peru's Congress voted to begin impeachment hearings against President Martín Vizcarra on Friday. He is accused of obstruction of justice after the release last week of audio recordings that appear to show the Vizcarra instructing officials to lie about an influence-peddling scandal. 

Vizcarra has been pitted against Peru's congress, where lawmakers have pushed back against the president's signature attempts to pass anti-corruption measures and change the country’s judicial and political system. Lawmakers will need to muster 87 votes to oust Vizcarra. On Friday 65 lawmakers in the 130-member body voted to start proceedings against the president.

Vizcarra said the audio recordings had been manipulated, and denied they constituted anything illegal, much less grounds for impeachment, reports the New York Times

The allegations specifically relate to Vizcarra's alleged efforts to obstruct a probe into nearly $50,000 in government contracts handed to a little-known singer, Richard Cisneros, also known as Richard Swing. In one recording, Vizcarra acknowledges having two meetings with the singer and appears to instruct his staff to downplay the meetings, reports Al Jazeera.

The political storm comes as Peru battles one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks globally amid its deepest recession in decades, notes Reuters. Vizcarra has vowed not to resign. 

Vizcarra took office two years ago after former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s resignation over allegations of corruption. A year ago, Vizcarra faced down a previous attempt to impeach him for incapacity and dissolved Congress. (See post for Oct. 1, 2019.)

More Peru
  • Environmental activist Roberto Carlos Pacheco Villanueva was killed in Peru's Madre de Diós department. His body was found by his father, a well-known environmental leader in the Tambopata reserve. Both had been threatened in the past for their opposition to illegal mining, reports La República.
News Briefs

  • Colombia is experiencing a surge in mass violence -- dozens of massacres this year -- leading experts to point to a potential humanitarian crisis in the making. (See Aug. 27's briefs.) The attacks in the countryside are widely considered to be an ugly byproduct of the 2016 peace deal with the FARC, reports the New York Times. Armed groups -- new and old -- moved into territories previously controlled by the FARC and are fighting over territory to control coca production, drug routes, illegal mining and human trafficking. 
  • Colombia's National Indigenous Organization (ONIC) denounced the murder of indigenous leader Oliverio Conejo and his daughter Emy Yaqueline in the Totoro municipality, Cauca department, on Friday. (Telesur)
  • Mauricio Claver-Carone was elected president of the Inter-American Development Bank on Saturday. (AFP) He became the first U.S. citizen to lead the organization, in an election process that caused rifts within the region. (See Friday's post.) Experts are concerned that Claver-Carone, a close ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, could steer the IDB agenda in line with U.S. foreign policy priorities for Latin America, reports Devex.
  • Large scale protests -- stilled by the coronavirus pandemic -- might be returning in full swing in several countries in the region, predicts James Bosworth in the Latin America Risk Report. While protests, like last week's in Colombia, always have specific national triggers and demands, "it’s also true that protests correlate within the region. The basic conditions that lead to protests (weak economies, anger at structural inequalities) are similar in much of the region."
  • Latin America accounts for eight of the 12 countries suffering the most coronavirus deaths per capita. Pre-existing conditions -- high rates of urbanization, inequality and poverty, along with multi-generational households and porous borders -- have combined with lack of comprehensive testing and contact-tracing policies, reports the Washington Post.
El Salvador
  • A new report by IBI Consultants details links between Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and Alba Petróleos, the subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PdVSA). Payments from an Alba subsidiary to Bukele have been previously documented (see post for Sept. 18, 2019), but the new report adds allegations that the group maintains active influence within the Bukele administration. It is an indication, according to author Douglas Farah, of "the complexities of eradicating corrupt structures once they have become entrenched in government." (See also Nuevo Heraldo.)
  • Guyana vice president Bharrat Jagdeo said the Barbados-based Regional Security System (RSS) is scheduled to visit Guyana to help in the probe of the recent murders and racial unrest that occurred in sections of the country,reports CMC. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • The two Black teenagers who were hacked to death last weekend were memorialised in emotional ceremonies over the weekend, reports Stabroek News.
  • A WWII era water-sharing treaty between the U.S. and Mexico is facing increasingly violent opposition in drought-parched Chihuahua state, where protesters have seized control of a major dam, reports the Washington Post. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • Carlos Gomez Arrieta, who oversaw the Mexican Federal Ministerial Police in 2014, when 43 Ayotzinapa teacher's college students were abducted and apparently massacred, turned himself in to authorities on Friday. He is accused of torturing suspects during an investigation into the disappearance. (Reuters)
  • A group of Black Brazilian lawyers created AqualtuneLab, a collective that will monitor the impact of new facial recognition technologies in public security programs. (Folha de S. Paulo)
  • A Paraguayan raid that killed two young girls last week, and a possible retaliatory kidnapping by the Paraguayan People’s Army, have suddenly raised the stakes of a yearslong conflict between the Paraguayan government and the Marxist guerrilla group, reports the New York Times.
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always. 

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