Guatemala amnesty law delayed (March 14, 2019)
A group of Guatemalan lawmakers walked out of a congressional session yesterday, effectively suspending a vote on a controversial amnesty law that would suspend thousands of investigations into human rights abuses committed during the country's long civil war, and free 30 former military officers convicted of crimes against humanity. The session had continued despite an Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling yesterday asking Guatemalan authorities to archive the initiative. The Court said the law would impair victim's right to justice and disobeys an earlier court ruling prohibiting this kind of amnesty. (La Hora, Plaza Pública, El Periódico)
Protesters gathered outside Congress with photographs of victims asking lawmakers to reject the amnesty bill. (See yesterday's briefs and Tuesday's.)
“The fight for justice in Guatemala has faced many obstacles over the years, but this amnesty for genocide might be the most brazen assault on the rule of law we’ve seen,” said Daniel Wilkinson, Americas managing director at Human Rights Watch. “If it approves this law, Congress will be violating Guatemala’s legal obligation to ensure justice for the worst atrocities and openly defying a binding order from the Inter-American Court.”
International critics of the initiative include the United Nations, the G-13, the Netherlands, Norway and the European Union. (El Periódico
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights' ruling yesterday also gave Guatemalan authorities one month to report on access to justice in 14 cases related to human rights violations from the civil war. (El Periódico)
More from Guatemala
Former attorney general Thelma Aldana's presidential candidacy is in question after authorities say her paperwork proving she is free of judicial cases is not in order. The Movimiento Semilla party said the move is politically motivated to eliminate her from the running. (El Periódico, La República, La Hora, and El Periódico)
There's been much debate over the massive electrical outage in Venezuela -- whether it is the fault of aged infrastructure with inadequate maintenance, or potential sabotage aimed at undermining Nicolás Maduro's government. Both are possible, though the former is far more likely according to most experts. (Guardian, Venezuela Weekly) In fact, it's somewhat surprising the grid hasn't failed massively before this, notes David Smilde.
A World Bank arbitration panel awarded ConocoPhillips over $8 billion in a dispute of an expropriation carried-out by Hugo Chávez -- approximately the same amount as Venezuela's total foreign reserves, writes Smilde in the Venezuela Weekly.
The United States is preparing to impose “very significant” Venezuela-related sanctions against financial institutions in the coming days, U.S. special envoy Elliott Abrams said earlier this week. (Reuters)
Several bills in the U.S. House of Representatives express a growing resistance by lawmakers to "the repeated, reckless threats of U.S. military intervention, which are roundly failing to advance a solution to Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis," according to WOLA. Indeed, threats of invasion only strengthen Maduro and critics of Venezuela's opposition. Instead WOLA recommends supporting the International Contact Group and large-scale humanitarian operations in Venezuela in cooperation with multilateral institutions such as the United Nations.
Washington's sanctions against Venezuela aim at regime change, but the coalition of countries backing the efforts are hardly disinterested argues Mark Weisbrot in The New Republic. In a similar vein, Jesse Jackson decries the Trump administration's policies towards Venezuela in the Chicago Sun Times: "Fomenting regime change — by a soft coup, by economic sabotage, by fostering a military revolt — is likely to lead to more violence and more suffering."
Venezuela's foreign minister said the U.S. and Colombia are responsible for the harm caused by illicit drugs in the region. Speaking before the U.N.'s Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna he suggested state collusion in the problem. (EFE)
Numerous representatives from Lima Group and European countries left the room in protest while he spoke. (EFE)
A week after shutting down due to lack of power, the Caracas Metro partially reopened, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
Venezuela has been hyperinflationary since 2016, a long run that has residents resorting to dollars and barter to get by, reports the Guardian.
A U.S. judge threw out a lawsuit that alleged bid-rigging by oil traders against Venezuela's state oil company, Pdvsa. (Wall Street Journal)
Weeks after seven security contractors -- several U.S. citizens -- were arrested driving in unmarked cars in Port-au-Prince with a cache of weapons, the episode remains shrouded in mystery. (See Feb. 22's briefs.) A new CEPR report reconstructs the available facts, linking a U.S. owned company, the Haitian Central Bank, businessment with close ties to the ruling party, and the U.S. governmetn: "The chain of events initiated by the detention revealed the weakness of the nation’s justice system and the precariousness of the current Haitian administration; it exposed the close ties between criminal networks and the ruling party; and casts doubt on the idea that this was a simple security operation gone wrong."
Reporters Without Borders asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the murders of 102 journalists in Mexico from 2012 to 2018. The organization called the killings a crime against humanity, reports AFP.
Masked gunmen kidnapped 19 migrants, believed to be from Central America, who were traveling through northern Mexico by bus last week. Their whereabouts are unknown, but it's not a unique incident -- 25 migrants were pulled off a bus in similar circumstances last month. The episodes highlight the dangers faced by migrants in Mexico, who are increasingly targets of organized crime groups that kidnap and extort them, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Negotiators of the 2016 peace deal between the FARC and the Colombian government warned that President Iván Duque's plan to reform the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) will seriously damage the accord. Delegates from the FARC and the government of former president Juan Manuel Santos sent a letter to UN chief Antonio Guterres expressing concern over the government's attempt to reform the transitional justice system that forms the agreement's backbone, reports AFP. (See Monday's briefs, and Tuesday's for Human Rights Watch's objections.)
Indigenous activist Alexánder Cunda was killed last week in Colombia's Cauca region -- the latest in ongoing attacks against social leaders that have claimed 20 lives so far this year. (Democracy Now)
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is under increasing pressure to explain his family's alleged links to Rio de Janeiro paramilitary groups. This week a photograph surfaced of Bolsonaro with a former police officer detained in relation to councillor Marielle Franco's killing last year. Police also confirmed that one of Bolsonaro’s sons had dated the daughter of the other murder suspect, reports the Guardian. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
Though two suspects of actually carrying out the murder were detained this week, activists say finding the intellectual authors of the crime is tantamount. "Finding out who ordered Marielle’s murder is key to the most important political cause of our time: stopping authoritarianism in Brazil," writes lawmaker David Miranda in the Guardian. "With that comes the possibility of a democratic movement which can help us overcome the current state of affairs."
At least 10 people died in a school shooting in São Paulo yesterday, raising concerns in the midst of a push to loosen Brazil's gun regulations, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See yesterday's briefs and the Guardian)
Prosecutors are investigating more than 100 high-risk dams in Brazil -- they say they doubt the legitimacy of safety audits carried out for mining companies in the wake of a deadly collapse in January. (Wall Street Journal)
Brazil's government plans to have a pension reform vote in the lower house of Congress by end of May. (Reuters)
Uruguayan President Tabaré Vásquez dismissed the country's army chief after he questioned how local courts have handled cases of military dictatorship era human rights abuses. (Associated Press)
Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno was elected on a progressive agenda, but then pivoted towards neoliberal economic policies that threaten to unravel the country's social gains, argues Timm Benjamin Schützhofer in NACLA.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...