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Guatemala CICIG battle has broader regional implications (Sept. 14, 2018)
Guatemala awaits a court ruling regarding President Jimmy Morales' decision to bar the U.N. anti-graft commission head from entering the country nearly two weeks ago. (See Tuesday's post.)The country is on a knife-edge as it awaits a decision on 8 separate appeals made to the Constitutional Court, challenging Morales' onslaught against International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) head Iván Velásquez.
But the implications of the current battle between Morales and Velásquez are relevant for the rest of the region, with countries from Mexico to Argentina reeling from massive corruption scandals, according to the Guardian.
The showdown in Guatemala, with protesters defending the CICIG on one side, and lawmakers moving to weaken judicial power over corruption cases. The Guardian notes that one in five lawmakers is under criminal investigation, and Morales has said he'll disobey court rulings he considers "illegal." (See Sept. 6's post.)
The entire conflict has had military overtones, leading critics to compare Morales's moves with those of previous dictatorships in the country. Morales' initial announcement against the CICIC two weeks ago was made flanked by uniformed officers, and accompanied by the deployment of U.S. donated army jeeps around the CICIG headquarters. This week two-thousand police officers were deployed around Congress, along with dozens of Kaibiles troops. The deployment led human rights prosecutor Jordan Roda to skip an Independence Day congressional session Wednesday. (El Periódico, La Hora, Nómade and Wednesday's post.)
Nómada's Martín Rodríguez Pellecer explains the "coup in slow motion" that is occurring in Guatemala. And the Economist reviews the conflict and disarms Guatemalan officials' allegations that the CICIG forms a sort of "parallel state" within the country.
Attorney General Consuelo Porras has been silent on the issue. This week she formally asked the CICIG who would be leading the commission in Velásquez's absence. Nómada emphasizes the significance of the question, given that U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres ratified Velásquez in the post immediately after Morales barred him from reentering Guatemala.
Morales is not expected to meet with Guterres in next week's General Assembly inaugural session, reports El Periódico. Guatemala's foreign ministry said it sought to meet with Guterres before the announcements against the CICIG and were rebuffed.
The U.S. weak show of support for the CICIG, and ongoing support of Morales, is likely due to diplomatic concerns regarding Chinese influence in the region -- Guatemala is one of only 17 countries that formally recognizes Taiwan over China, according to the Los Angeles Times. (See last Friday's post.)
In the meantime, the CICIG's work continues: yesterday six people were detained in the second phase of the Transurbano corruption investigation led by the CICIG with the Public Ministry. (La Hora and El Periódico)
And as the Economist notes: Guatemala will have a presidential election next June, before the CICIG mandate ends, and could be the commission's best chance at survival.
Former Salvadoran president Antonio Saca was sentenced to ten years of jail this week. He is the first former head of state to be imprisoned, but the relatively light sentence makes the moment bittersweet, according to InSight Crime. (See yesterday's post.)
El Salvador's attorney general Douglas Melendez is investigating the alleged diversion of some $10 million in funds donated by Taiwan. The money was allegedly diverted from the Foreign Ministry to the political campaign of the ruling FMLN party. (Associated Press)
El Salvador's youth have abandoned rural areas, leaving an aging population of agricultural producers, reports Al Jazeera.
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro said Venezuela's crisis, which is pushing hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to flee their country, is "immoral" and "created by the indolence of a government." (Miami Herald)
Correction: In yesterday's briefing I mistakenly misidentified David Smilde's stance: speaking with WBEZ World View, he suggested the U.S. should not seek a leadership role in addressing the Venezuela crisis, and that other countries in the region should develop a “group of friends” approach, including shuttle diplomacy.
Most of the region is opposed to U.S. support for a military coup in Venezuela, with good reason, as it has little chance of a quick, bloodless restoration of democracy. (See Monday's post.) But the choice facing Latin America is stark, argues the Economist: if it cannot marshal a negotiated exit for President Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela's neighbors will have to live with the consequences of the country's implosion.
An Andorran judge charged 28 people, including 14 former Venezuelan officials, with money laundering offenses over a kickbacks-for-contracts scheme that diverted $2 billion from Pdvsa between 2007 and 2012. (Associated Press)
China said it would help Venezuela in any way it can, but did not mention new funds. (Reuters)
Hyper-inflation is a term often bandied about, but hard to understand for those who aren't living through the gut-wrenching chaos it causes for those trying to live their lives in it. The Economist has an article on a better way of understanding the numbers: currency half-life.
Mexico's incoming government rejected a Trump administration proposal to help fund speedier deportation of undocumented Central American migrants. (See yesterday's briefs.) The outgoing Peña Nieto administration however said it was still evaluating the U.S. proposal to use $20m in foreign assistance funds would be used for the removal of 17,000 migrants from Mexico via flights or bus trips back to Central America, reports the Guardian.
Thousands of Mexican students marched yesterday to protest violence -- after students from a UNAM affiliated high school were attacked by a gang earlier this month. The demonstration was held on the 50th anniversary of the 1968 student protest known as the "March of Silence," and many of yesterday's protesters covered their mouths in reference to that episode, and the subsequent Tlatelolco massacre, in which police killed 300 protesters that same year. (Associated Press and NACLA)
More from Guatemala
Guatemalan Pacific coast communities increasingly resort to breaking up unauthorized dams, a practice known as "liberating rivers," writes Simon Granovsky-Larsen in the Conversation.
Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra's decisive push for judicial reform has surprised some observers, reports Americas Quarterly. He is attempting to get the opposition-dominated Congress to approve a referendum on judicial reform before the end of the year. (See Wednesday's briefs.)
Colombia's largest remaining guerrilla force, the ELN, is far smaller than the now disbanded FARC. But with peace talks faltering -- and no clear roadmap for their success -- it might prove harder to defeat militarily, explains the Economist, noting its isolated urban cells and restricted leadership.
The U.N. Security Council asked the Colombian government and the FARC “to renew momentum” in implementing their historic 2016 cease-fire agreement that ended more than half a century of conflict. (Associated Press)
Critics are revolted by far-right wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro's incendiary rhetoric against minorities. But many of his supporters shrug off the offensive comments and focus on the simple solutions he seems to offer, reports the Guardian.
Six months after Rio de Janeiro councilor Marielle Franco was murdered, her killers are still free, writes her mother Marinete da Silva in TIME.
Among the thousands of artifacts lost in the Rio de Janeiro National Museum fire earlier this month, were unique indigenous artifacts, including relics from tribes considered extinct. Activists compare it to another genocide of indigenous peoples. (New York Times)
A former Honduran police officer on trial in the U.S. is accused of committing murder for the Cachiros drug gang and safeguarding their narcotics shipments, reports InSight Crime.
Chilean lawmakers passed a law this week that allows transgender people over 14 years of age to change their name and gender in official records. The gender identity law was the object of a five year battle, and activists called its passage "historic," reports the Associated Press.
Chile's foreign minister is visiting China. (EFE)
There are 821 million people suffering from malnutrition in the world according to the latest U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimate. In Latin America there are about 32,300,000 writes Martín Caparrós in a New York Times Español op-ed.