Thursday, September 16, 2021

Haitian prosecutor accuses PM (Sept. 15, 2021)

Haiti’s chief prosecutor said that there was evidence linking acting prime minister Ariel Henry to the September assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. He asked the investigating judge to charge Henry and prohibit him from leaving the country.

But Port-au-Prince prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude's authority to make such a request is unclear. The prime minister fired him the day before the request. According to Henry's office, Claude was discharged for “serious administrative infractions," days after the prosecutor asked Henry to appear for questioning over why he spoke with one of the main suspects in Moïse’s killing at his private residence on the day of the murder. (See Monday's post.)

Claude’s indictment request was dated Tuesday, the same day that he had asked Henry to appear before him to answer questions about why a key suspect in the killing — Joseph Felix Badio, a former justice government official and functionary in the government’s anti-corruption unit as of May — twice called Henry’s cell phone hours after the president was killed, reports the Miami Herald.

In any case, the prosecutor no longer had authority over the investigation, which is now in the hands of a judge, notes the New York Times. Further complicating matters is the country's lack of a president: Haitian law forbids judicial officials to prosecute senior civil servants without the authorization of the country’s leader — who is currently Henry.

The judge in the case, Garry Orelien, is required to investigate based on Claude’s request and has three months to determine whether the facts in the case justify any action. He would then issue an ordinance dictating what happens to the case, reports the Associated Press.

Moïse’s death provoked a three-way political battle that appears to be ongoing as various factions of Haitian society work either to hold onto power or to seize it, reports the Miami Herald. Experts identify ongoing power struggle between Henry and Moïse loyalists, as well as a political rift between Moïse and his predecessor, Michel Martelly, which has been maintained by supporters in the wake of the assassination.

Yesterday Senate head Joseph Lambert attempted to claim the presidency, but was prevented from swearing in by a gunfight that kept him out of the country's Parliament building. The international community, led by the United States government, warned the senator against taking over the presidency without broader national consent, reports NYT.

News Briefs

  • Climate could force 216 million people to migrate within their own countries by 2050, according to a new World Bank report. The bank estimates that by 2050, internal migrants due to climate change could hit 17 million in Latin America. (AFPReuters)
  • Relatives of political detainees in Nicaragua, permitted to visit for the first time in months, say prisoners are subject to isolation, daily interrogations, threats and hunger. (AFP)

  • Lesbia Alfaro reported that her son, anti-government protester Lesther Aleman, "can barely stand or walk" and has lost nine kilograms since his arrest on August 5. 

  • Feminist activist Tamara Davila is being held "in a cell without bars," and had no human contact since her arrest on June 12 until last week. 

  • Ana Maria Chamorro, said her brother, would-be presidential candidate Juan Sebastian Chamorro who was arrested on June 8, had lost more than 10 kilograms. "They interrogate him daily -- 87 days of interrogation and psychological torture," she continued. "They tell him things that are untrue: that his wife will be taken prisoner, that his property has been confiscated."

  • The Ortega regime's turn against writer and former ally Sergio Ramírez is the final evidence that the country's current dictatorship is more repressive than Somoza's, writes Mónica González in New York Times Español.
Regional Relations
  • Mexico will send COVID-19 vaccines to Nicaragua in September, a rare sign of international engagement with the administration of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, reports Reuters.
  • Venezuela's government will add Alex Saab, an ally jailed in Cape Verde awaiting extradition to the U.S. on money laundering charges, to the delegation negotiating an agreement with the political opposition in Mexico City. While the decision won't likely impact Saab's legal situation, the Maduro government’s decision to redouble its embrace of the fugitive is likely to hang over dialogue efforts, reports the Associated Press.

  • The move was absolutely unexpected, but last week Russia, which is accompanying Venezuela's government in the negotiations, had warned that Saab's extradition to the U.S. would threaten the accords, reports El País.
  • Brazilian lawmakers are considering revisions to the country’s anti-terror law, which would broaden security forces’ intelligence gathering mandate and categorizes “attacks” on infrastructure as terrorism. (Folha de S. PauloEstadao

  • Legal groups, including the national public prosecutors’ association, say the law would inaugurate a “permanent state of exception.” (Folha de S. Paulo)

  • This week the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet voiced concern that the bill “includes excessively vague and broad provisions which pose risks of abuse, particularly against social activists and human rights defenders.”

  • She also voiced concern over attacks against Indigenous groups by illegal miners in the Amazon and legal attempts to limit demarcation of Indigenous lands. (See yesterday's post.) 

  • Brazil's army has sprung into action with a two-month offensive against illegal goldminers and loggers in the Amazon, a move aimed at burnishing Bolsonaro's international image. But activists are skeptical the clampdown will have lasting impact, reports the Guardian.

  • Brazilian Senate leader Rodrigo Pacheco rejected President Jair Bolsonaro's temporary decree last week that banned social media companies from moderating content. He said he would not consider ratifying the decree, which he said does not comply with regulatory requirements and introduced legal uncertainty for tech companies, reports Reuters. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have removed several of Bolsonaro’s videos for including misinformation about Covid-19. He and his supporters have also spread messages warning that the 2022 election will be rigged. (See last Thursday's briefs.)
  • Chile's constituent convention ratified the bylaws proposed by transitory commissions to govern the writing of the country's new constitution, yesterday. One of the most debated rules requires a quorum of two-thirds of the delegates to approve constitutional articles. (La Tercera, EFE, see yesterday's Chile Constitutional Updates)

  • Indigenous communities living around Chile's Atacama salt flat have asked authorities to suspend lithium miner SQM's operating permits or sharply reduce its operations until it submits an environmental compliance plan acceptable to regulators, reports Reuters.

  • Fundación Interpreta has identified a process of "digital guerrilla warfare" against the CC, particularly its president Elisa Loncón, attacks which are launched from accounts that were also used to lobby against the creation of the convention itself, last year. (CIPER)

  • Chile will begin vaccinating children aged six and up against Covid-19. (El País)
I will be off tomorrow in observance of Yom Kippur, I'll be back Friday. Thank you. Latin America Daily Briefing


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