Guatemala on the brink (Sept. 18, 2018)
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales defied an order from the country's highest court yesterday, refusing to allow the head of the U.N. anti-graft commission to return. The Constitutional Court reversed Morales' ban on the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) head Iván Velásquez on Sunday. (See yesterday's post.)
The government ratified the ban yesterday, leaving the ball in the court's court. The Morales administration argued their action is consistent with the Constitutional Court decision, which did not name Iván Velásquez, but rather said the commissioner must be allowed into Guatemala. It's not clear whether the ambiguity was accidental or with political intentionality. (El Periódico and Plaza Pública)
Justice Gloria Porras told the Associated Press that the ruling indeed refers to Velásquez.
The Morales administration not only challenged the court, but also the U.N. Secretary General, who officials essentially blamed for the crisis. The government requested that António Guterres send a new commissioner -- whose nomination should be agreed upon with the Guatemalan government. Guterres ratified Velásquez's continuity in the post after Morales banned him earlier this month. In a press conference yesterday Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel said the government sent a letter to Guterres notifying him that for Guatemala Velásquez was no longer the CICIG commissioner, and the decision is non-negotiable. She gave the U.N. 48 hours to name a new commission and asked the the organization refrain from making statements to the press in a manner that could generate confusion. (La Hora)
The Public Ministry said it will obey the court's instructions on how to proceed. Attorney General Consuelo Porras said the court must decide whether its decision has been disobeyed. Sunday's decision noted that not following the ruling was grounds for removal from office. (El Periódico and Plaza Pública)
The decision pushes Guatemala's rule of law to the breaking point, argue activists and government critics. (New York Times and Al Jazeera.) Should Congress ratify Morales' stance against the court the rupture will only broaden. U.S. support for the CICIG, traditionally strong, has been weak this time around. But the commission enjoys widespread support among Guatemalans, many of whom took to the streets last week in its defense.
The court decision also ordered the government to follow the commission's creating convention, which clearly puts the power to name the commissioner in the hands of the U.N. Secretary General, reports Nómada.
Several organizations of civil society immediately presented complaints in the Public Ministry against three government officials -- Jovel, Ministro de Gobernación Enrique Degenhart, and the procurador general Luis Donado -- accusing them of disobeying the Constitutional Court order.
At the heart of Morales' battle with the CICIG and Velásquez is probably the commission's accusation that he obtained illicit campaign financing in his 2015 presidential run and investigations into alleged corruption by members of his family. Morales, a political outsider, was propelled to office in 2015 by voter fury at the political establishment, after President Otto Pérez Molina resigned in the midst of a large graft scandal uncovered by the CICIG and the Public Ministry.
The last time Guatemala faced a constitutional crisis of this kind was in 1993, when then-president Jorge Serrano Elías attempted a self-coup, but defeated by popular outcry and army support for the Constitutional Court which ruled against Serrano's self-declaration of dictatorship.
The long-awaited trial against Berta Cáceres' alleged killers was postponed yesterday after lawyers for her family accused the judges of of abuse of authority and cover up, reports the Guardian. The announcement was made before a packed courthouse, and should be determined within 72 hours. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Peru's main opposition party, Popular Force, condemned President Martín Vizcarra's high stakes request for congress to hold a vote of confidence over his proposed anti-graft reforms. Should the opposition-led congress force out Vizcarra's cabinet, he could retaliate by dissolving congress and calling new legislative elections, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
The worst fear of the 2016 FARC peace deal was that the thousands of guerrilla fighters granted amnesty would pick up arms again. That has already happened, reports the New York Times from a dissident guerrilla camp north of Medellín. The piece cites InSight Crime, which estimates that nearly 40 percent of the pre-peace deal FARC fighters have joined dissident ranks. Lack of protection from criminal organizations, which rushed to fill the power void left by the FARC has been a major incentive for fighters returning to arms.
Venezuela's economic crisis, reaching ever more crushing proportions, is hardly an accident of nature. Rather it is an intentional design by the government aimed at quashing dissent in a population more focused on basic survival than contesting its leadership, argues Javier Corrales in a New York Times Español op-ed.
Nicaragua's Ortega administration called for the resignation of OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro after he refused to rule out a military option as a resolution to the Venezuelan crisis. (La Prensa)
A new book by Fabián Medina Sánchez about Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega focuses on his years in prison under the Somoza dictatorship, and analyzes how they created the leader who has ruthlessly repressed protesters and dissent over the past few months. (Confidencial)
#AMLOVE: Poor income distribution, widespread government corruption, and a state unable to protect citizens from violence propelled more than half of Mexico's voters to choose Andrés Manuel López Obrador for president, argues Jorge Ramos in a New York Times op-ed. His challenge will be convincing them that democracy can improve the country.
Four years after the 43 Ayotzinapa students were forcibly disappeared, the most conclusive evidence available shows the federal officials were somehow involved and that a massively corrupt investigation sought to close the case before they could be implicated. NACLA reviews a book by journalist Anabel Hernández on the issue, A Massacre in Mexico: The True Story Behind the Missing 43 Students.
NIMBY: Guadalajara locals were not amused when the local government left a trailer full of decomposing corpses in a suburb of the city, after the Jalisco State morgue was overwhelmed by victims of violence. (Guardian)
A video posted by the German embassy in Brazil has revealed deep voter polarization ahead of upcoming presidential elections. The video explains German efforts to learn from the country's holocaust and provoked extreme reactions on the embassy Facebook page, reports Reuters.
"A façade of normalcy, with everything rotted inside:" the latest Rio de Janeiro National Museum fire metaphor, this time coming from the New Yorker.
An Argentine judge indicted former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner yesterday. Judge Claudio Bonadio charged her with heading a broad corruption network involving bribes from construction companies in exchange for public works contracts -- the so-called "cuadernos de las coimas" case. Other officials from her government as well as leading businessmen were also charged. Fernández is a member of the Argentine senate, which shields her from arrest, but not prosecution. Fernández testified before a different judge in a different corruption case this morning, and maintains her innocence against all the corruption accusations. She enjoys broad public support and is a potential contender in next year's presidential race. (Reuters, Associated Press, Perfíl, and La Nación)
Bonadio had recently ordered raids on Fernández's properties, this weekend she denounced the investigation seized mementos of emotional value, and destroyed walls of her home in their search for illegal cash. (La Nación)
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi is set to visit the Dominican Republic, Guyana and Suriname later this week. (EFE)
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