Argentina passes pension reform (Dec. 19, 2017)
Argentina's Congress passed a pension reform bill early this morning, amid violent clashes between protesters and security forces, reports Reuters. The reform is a cornerstone in President Mauricio Macri's fiscal austerity program, aimed at attracting foreign investment.
The bill passed the Chamber of Deputies after an all-night debate session by a vote of 128-116. The Senate had approved it last month. Opposition lawmakers and labor unions, who say it will hurt retirees.
Demonstrators took to the streets yesterday, and security forces clashed with rock throwing protesters. The country’s main union called a 24-hour general strike in opposition to the new law. About 150 people were injured and about 60 were arrested in clashes between police and demonstrators yesterday, reports the Associated Press. Demonstrators threw stones, bottles, rocks and petrol bombs, while police in riot gear responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon, reports the BBC. (La Nación has pictures of the street battle.)
In the evening, pot banging protesters took to the streets outside Congress and in other major cities, reports Página 12.
Debate on the bill was suspended last week amid violent demonstrations.
In Cohete a la Luna Horacio Verbitsky analyzes the militarization of internal security, a critique that has implications for other countries in the region.
Impeachment proceedings against Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) have created a political crisis in a growing economy and international investment darling, according to the Wall Street Journal. An ouster "could usher in a period of instability less than 20 years after the last political upheaval, when then-President Alberto Fujimori was removed from office. While Mr. Kuczynski’s vice president, Martin Vizcarra, would replace the president in the event of impeachment, there are doubts about whether he would be able to govern until the end of the term in 2021 because of the weakness of the ruling party in Congress." (See yesterday's briefs.) His removal would be the first of a sitting president in relation to the Odebrecht scandal rocking the region, though Ecuadorian vice president Jorge Glas has been convicted in relation to receiving Odebrecht bribes. Current Brazilian President Michel Temer and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have also been accused of Odebrecht related corruption.
Within Chile, Piñera's election can be seen as "more a vote for continuity than radical change," for the Economist.
Americas Quarterly reports on a broad "and generally overlooked," generational change in Paraguay's politics and public debates. "Long written off as hopelessly conservative and stuck in the past, Paraguay is rarely mentioned in debates about the current political upheaval and renewal in Latin America." But "in several ways, a new generation of Paraguayans is beginning to change politics, though perhaps in a less dramatic fashion than elsewhere in Latin America," writes Oliver Stuenkel.
Another Americas Quarterly piece from last week has some analysis as to why Sunday's primary election for the ruling Colorado Party resulted in a voter rebuke of President Horacio Cartes. (See yesterday's briefs.)
The idea of unfair elections is hardly surprising for Hondurans, who largely mistrusted their elections even before this, reports the Washington Post based on data from the AmericasBarometer poll. Last year's poll, carried out by Vanderbilt University’s Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) found that trust was even lower among supporters of the newer anti-system parties.
The OAS call for new elections in Honduras (see yesterday's post) puts the U.S. administration in a difficult position, according to the New Yorker. "If the Trump Administration does accept the recommendations of the O.A.S., it would be nullifying the election of an ally ... In 2009, the U.S. looked the other way when a cadre of generals and right-wing politicians in Honduras launched a coup to overthrow a sitting President. Hernández was one of the plotters."
Already, opposition parties in Honduras have attacked the failure of the US to denounce the controversial declaration of President Juan Orlando Hernández as winner of a widely disputed election, reports CNN.
A New York Times op-ed by Silvio Carillo criticizes the U.S.'s acceptance of the much questioned elections in Honduras. (See yesterday's post.) "The story here isn’t the machinations President Hernández and his henchmen have used in this election. It’s the acceptance of those machinations by the State Department and the American Embassy in enabling Mr. Hernández to stay in power. This is the tyrannical regime that killed my aunt because she stood up for the rights of Honduran people — rights that include the most fundamental one we in the United States enjoy, the right to choose our elected leaders and hold them accountable," writes the nephew of assassinated Honduran activist Berta Cáceres. "That is what voters in Honduras were trying to do on Nov. 26. They voted and rejected Mr. Hernández, his cronies and some 80 years of destructive United States policy: the policy that arms and trains Honduran security forces who commit human rights abuses against their own people; the policy that accepts knowingly flawed crime statistics to help Honduras secure American assistance; and the policy that allows corrupt strongmen to enrich themselves and those around them."
Honduras' political crisis in the wake of an election condemned as irregular by the OAS is haunted by the ghost of dictatorship, according to Honduras Culture and Politics, which analyzes the historical context for the country's iron-clad constitutional clause against reelection. "#CariasQueHubieraHecho?" is appearing on social media, a reference to Tiburcio Carías Andino, who "first took supreme executive control of Honduras in 1924, during a period of substantial political conflict. In 1932, he ran for election and started an unprecedented period of 16 years in that office. The constitution in force at the time prohibited consecutive terms as President, so Carías Andino initiated the writing of a new constitution. This allowed him to stay in office, and consolidate executive control."
Sebastián Piñera's decisive win in Chile's presidential elections on Sunday consolidates the region's right-ward shift, eliminating "the left’s last hope of hanging on to power in one of the region’s economic and diplomatic heavyweights," reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's briefs.)
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is considering the case of 11 Mexican women who were sexually abused, tortured and jailed in the context of a police crackdown on a social protest movement in the town of San Salvador Atenco 11 years ago. The women are seeking accountability from officials they say ordered the crackdown, a group that includes President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was then governor of Mexico State. The case "has become emblematic of human rights violations by the police in Mexico," reports the New York Times.
Human Rights Watch criticized a recent judicial decision that put several former government officials in pretrial detention on charges of treason, and called for the detention of former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who is protected by parliamentary immunity. The indictment "points to no evidence that would seem to substantiate those charges," Human Rights Watch said in a statement today. "The new indictment fails to explain any clear need for pretrial detention. Under international human rights standards, pretrial detention should be used only as a means of last resort, often because other means are insufficient to guarantee a person’s appearance at trial, protect public safety, or safeguard the integrity of an ongoing investigation. The seriousness of an alleged offense is not in and of itself a legitimate reason for pretrial detention."
"The government of Colombia has issued seemingly contradictory statements regarding the amount of coca it aims to forcibly eradicate next year, while evidence from the eradication campaign this year has raised questions about the feasibility of this strategy," reports InSight Crime.
Venezuela's government accused the U.S. of trying to manipulate public opinion and politicize the trial of Josh Holt, a U.S. citizen detained on weapons charges in Venezuela since last year, reports the Miami Herald.
Vaccines, diagnostic kits and drugs developed by Cuba's Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology are exported to 51 countries -- but not the U.S. Scientists in the island's largest research center hope to change that, seeing an opportunity to help patients and generate needed revenue, reports the Miami Herald.