Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Castillo's uphill battle (July 28, 2021)

Pedro Castillo will become Peru's president today -- an abrupt rise from rural origins to the country's leadership. Castillo's victory was an unexpected electoral outcome that responds to Peruvians' disillusionment with the political establishment, and also demonstrates the country's deep polarization, which in turn will be one of the incoming government's greatest challenges.

An opposition-led alliance won a vote on Monday to lead Peru’s Congress, a significant setback for the incoming Castillo administration's plans to redraft the constitution and increase mining taxes. Centrist legislator María del Carmen Alva from the Popular Action party will preside over a fractured Congress, where no single party has a majority. A list of candidates proposed by Castillo’s Free Peru party was rejected over procedural issues.

Alva won with support from the right-wing Popular Force party of Keiko Fujimori, who narrowly lost the election to Castillo.

U.S. suspends cooperation with Guatemala attorney general

The U.S. suspended cooperation with Guatemala's Public Ministry, in response to the attorney general's ouster of a top anti-corruption prosecutor last week. (See Monday's post, explainer at Quorum.)

The U.S. State Department said that the decision by Guatemala Attorney General Consuelo Porras to fire Juan Francisco Sandoval, the special prosecutor against impunity, “fits a pattern of behavior that indicates a lack of commitment to the rule of law and independent, judicial, and prosecutorial processes.” (Associated Press)

The United States was a vocal supporter of Sandoval's work, which included investigating and litigating cases against former officials, presidents and business leaders in Guatemala, reports Reuters. The United Nations also voiced concern over Sandoval's ouster, reports Quorum.

Sandoval's dismissal is part of a series of attacks on Guatemala's anti-corruption system, carried out by the current Giammattei administration, that of the previous government, and lawmakers. "I am the victim of a criminalization campaign that has accelerated since 2016 and grew stronger with the CICIG’s departure," Sandoval told El Faro in an interview after fleeing the country on Friday.

Calls are growing in Guatemala for Porra's dismissal, and there are growing calls for a national strike tomorrow, reports Quorum.

News Briefs

  • Mexicans will vote on Sunday in the country’s first national referendum to decide whether past presidents should be judged for their alleged misdeeds. But the “popular consultation” has been designed to fail, as it is unlikely to obtain the 40 percent participation required for the result to be legally binding, argues Denise Dresser in Americas Quarterly. "AMLO hopes to garner political points for promoting popular participation while seeking political cover for his refusal to truly investigate Peña Nieto and the military’s top ranks."
  • "Victims’ right to justice cannot legally be put to a popular vote," notes WOLA in a recent analysis. "Still, a “yes” result, even if not binding, would generate broad expectations for López Obrador to uphold his commitment to take into account the will of the voters."
  • The referendum ignores the elephant in the room, the country's "overwhelming impunity," writes Arturo Angel in New York Times Español. The vast majority of crimes committed in Mexico, 92 percent according to official statistics, are not ever resolved.

  • The U.S. Biden administration unveiled an outline of its full strategy on immigration yesterday. The 21-point plan is being criticized from both ends of the political spectrum -- activists and advocacy groups object to a new push for expedited removals, while Republicans decry the increase in migrants at the southern border, reports The Hill.
  • A record number of child migrants have arrived alone at the U.S. border this year --the Conversation tracks what happens to them from entry until they turn 18.
Regional Relations
  • Colombian President Iván Duque urged the United States to declare Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism for allegedly shielding dissident fighters thought to be behind an attack on his helicopter last month. Duque has on numerous occasions accused Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro of harboring FARC dissidents and ELN fighters in his country — claims Caracas denies. (AFP)
  • Ecuador revoked the citizenship of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who is currently in a British prison. Ecuadorian authorities cited unpaid fees and problems in Assange's naturalisation papers, reports the Associated Press.
  • The arrest of an Evangelical pastor in relation to Haitian President Jovenel Moïse's assassination has sparked a dangerous backlash against Haiti’s Protestant preachers, who were among Moïse's most vocal opponents, reports the Washington Post.
  • London’s court of appeal agreed to reopen a $7 billionn lawsuit by 200,000 claimants against Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP, reviving a case over the Fundão tailings dam rupture behind Brazil’s worst environmental disaster. The lawsuit is the latest battle to establish whether multinationals can be held liable for the conduct of overseas subsidiaries on their home turf, reports Reuters.
  • Brazil's Supreme Court is expected to rule, next month, in two landmark cases that could significantly impact Indigenous people’s rights and the protection of demarcated lands -- Latin America Risk Report.
  • Residents of one of Caracas' Cota 905 neighborhood are caught in the crossfire between gang and police violence, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Latin America -- particularly Chile and Uruguay, have become massive testing grounds for China's Sinovac coronavirus vaccine. The results have been initially suboptimal, though other factors, such as accelerated reopening, have also impacted infection rates, reports the Wilson Center's Weekly Asado.
  • As Mexico’s reservoirs run dry, the fishermen, farmers and ranchers stuck on the drying lake beds wonder how they will survive -- Al Jazeera.
  • A lagoon in Argentina's southern Patagonia region has turned bright pink, a phenomenon experts and activists blame on pollution by a chemical used to preserve prawns for export, reports AFP.
  • The 2,300-year-old archaeological ruin Chankillo, the oldest solar observatory in the Americas, has been awarded Unesco world heritage status and dubbed "a masterpiece of human creative genius." The site lies in a desert valley in northern Peru and features 13 stone towers built in 250 to 200 BC that functioned as a calendar by marking the rising and setting arcs of the sun, reports the Guardian.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...


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