Thursday, March 10, 2022

Guatemala increases abortion sentencing (March 10, 2022)

Guatemala's Congress marked International Women's Day on Tuesday by passing a law that punishes abortion with up to 25 years in prison. The sentence is among the most draconian in the region. It also imposes a sentence of up to 12 years for doctors who perform the procedure, among the most severe penalties in the region. Already Guatemala allows abortion only to save the life of the mother, but the new bill adds restrictions in those cases that will particularly affect rural women's ability to interrupt pregnancies.

The new measure -- dubbed the law for the protection of life and the family -- also prohibits same-sex marriage and teaching about sexual diversity in schools. It was unexpectedly approved by a large majority of lawmakers, and is expected to be signed into law by Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei within weeks.

Giammattei celebrated the measure yesterday, which Guatemala’s congress declared “Life and Family Day”: “This event is an invitation to unite as Guatemalans to protect life from conception until natural death.”

The new law bucks the regional trend which has been shifting towards greater recognition of reproductive rights in recent years. It is, in fact, somewhat of a reaction to abortion legalizations elsewhere. “I voted for it because of what has happened in other countries,” said Armando Castillo, a Guatemalan congressman who backed the measure. “The point of this is to set a trend, so that can never happen here.”

Guatemala’s human rights ombudsman, Jordan Rodas, said he would challenge it on human rights grounds. The law prohibits teaching children and young adults about sexual diversity and "gender ideology" and stipulates that no orientations other than heterosexuality are "normal."

Giammattei's shift even further to the right could be an attempt to shore up political support at a moment when he is facing an array of enormous political challenges at home, and rising tensions in his relationship with the United States as the government cracks down on corruption prosecutors.

News Briefs

  • Thousands of Brazilians -- led by Caetano Veloso -- gathered outside Congress yesterday to protest a set of bills they say threaten the Amazon rainforest by encouraging deforestation and industrial activity on protected Indigenous lands, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's briefs.)

  • Lawmakers in Brazil's lower chamber of Congress agreed that one of the bills, that would permit mining in Indigenous lands should first be analyzed by a task force. It will not be voted on before mid-April, reports the Associated Press. The response is a setback for President Jair Bolsonaro, who has pushed for the bill to pass quickly in response to potential fertilizer shortages related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This week his chief whip in the lower chamber had gathered enough signatures to speed up the bill, meaning it can be put to a full vote without committee hearings, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)

  • Access to land and housing in Brazil remains starkly determined by class and by race -- and socially induced environmental change makes marginalized communities ever more vulnerable to climatic disasters, reports Nacla.
Regional Relations
  • The U.S. Biden administration should leverage the country's unique relationship with Latin America and develop a foreign policy that focuses on its realities, opportunities, and challenges, without reducing the region to a Great Power competition arena, argues Dan Restrepo in Americas Quarterly. "To generate needed impact, President Biden will need to bring all elements of U.S. power and influence to bear," and the U.S. Treasury could play a key role in such a vision, he writes.

  • Pressure is building on the U.S. Biden administration to begin unwinding sanctions on Venezuela afterPresident Nicolas Maduro freed two American prisoners on Tuesday and promised to resume negotiations with his opponents, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's post and Monday's.)

  • Quiet negotiations that began last year between the Venezuelan government and the U.S. Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs laid groundwork for this weekend's high-level meeting between the two nations, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday's post and Monday's.)

  • U.S. President Joe Biden and Colombian President Iv├ín Duque are expected to discuss Venezuela when they meet at the White House today, days after Duque expressed some public concerns about secret negotiations between the United States and Venezuela, reports Reuters.
  • The U.S. Biden administration has maintained use of a public health provision -- Title 42 -- that has led to more than 1.4 million expulsions at the border, and thousands of people being denied their legal right to seek asylum since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. (Guardian)
  • The former head of Honduras’ national police, Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares (aka "El Tigre) who was sought by U.S. prosecutors on drug and weapons charges was arrested yesterday. Bonilla, who faced allegations of human rights abuses during his time in command, was detained in response to a U.S. extradition request, reports the Associated Press.
  • The Internet profoundly changed political dissidence in Cuba, writes William LeoGrande in World Politics Review. In recent years, Cubans with specific issues have found each other on social media, and followed up in person. "These new groups are distinct from more traditional dissident groups that contest the central ideology and legitimacy of Cuba’s political regime." The Cuban government's general strategy "has been to accommodate demands that do not challenge the system, while cracking down even harder on those that do."
  • Peru's Congress granted President Pedro Castillo’s cabinet a vote of confidence yesterday, just hours after opposition parties launched their second bid to impeach the leftist head of state since he took office last July. In a session that lasted more than nine hours, Prime Minister Anibal Torres and his team were approved by a vote of 64-58, reports EFE.
  • After long pushing failed belt-tightening policies, the International Monetary Fund has agreed to a deal that will allow Argentina's government to pursue a pro-growth strategy -- it's a potential game changer, argue Joseph Stiglitz and Mark Weisbrot in Project Syndicate
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing

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