Guatemala's Congress to decide whether Pérez Molina should face trial (August 31, 2015)
Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina steadfastly refuses to resign, no matter how many thousands of Guatemalan's crowd the plazas demanding his ouster and despite the ever mounting pile of evidence linking him to outrageous corruption scandals.
A Guatemalan congressional committee on Saturday recommended that President Otto Perez be stripped of immunity from prosecution over his suspected involvement in a customs racket, paving the way for a full vote in Congress, reports Reuters. If Congress votes to lift his immunity, the Supreme Court then turns the matter to prosecutors, who would then able to bring charges against him in court.
The next 48 hours will be critical for Guatemalan history. Between today and tomorrow Congress will vote on the immunity issue.
Congress's president Luis Rabbe told the Associated Press yesterday that party leaders would meet on Monday to set the legislature's agenda. By law, 24 hours must pass between then and the session, so lawmakers should vote on the issue on Tuesday, he said.
But Pérez Molina is cornered and everything indicates that he's losing the support of his last remaining political allies, Líder and the PP, reports Nómada.
To strip Pérez Molina of immunity will require two thirds of Congress's 158 votes. How Líder -- the party of Manuel Baldizón, the front-runner for next week's presidential elections -- votes is critical. Baldizón has not publicly supported stripping Pérez Molina's immunity because he's scared that if Pérez Molina is sent to pre-trial detention on Wednesday, the Sept 6 elections could be jeopardized, according to the Nómada piece. But he is wavering and Pérez Molina is losing congressional support.
El Periodico has a piece on Pérez Molina's busy attempts to drum up support.
As Pérez Molina has had to replace a significant portion of his cabinet, the telecommunications sector -- specifically magnate Mario López, Central America's richest man -- has been benefitted, reports Plaza Pública. The spots occupied by the new minister of economy and a presidential commissioner for competitiveness were previously occupied by the business association CACIF, which earlier this month called for Pérez Molina to resign. (See last Monday's post.) The support for Mario López, who acts independently of the leading business association, is evidence of a deal that might even include the lucrative 4G monopoly reports Nómada.
Colombia is to offer citizenship to Venezuelan relatives of Colombians who have been deported from Venezuela, reports the BBC. Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin said that the government wanted to help those Venezuelans married to Colombians who wanted to move to Colombia. "We're going to give them Colombian citizenship, we want families to live together, not to break them apart."
Brazilian news magazine Epoca has accused former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of acting as lobbyist in Cuba for Brazil's largest engineering firm Odebrecht, which built the container terminal at the Cuban port of Mariel, reports Reuters. The magazine cited Brazilian diplomatic cables about visits to Cuba by Lula after he had left office. A spokesman for the Lula Institute said Lula's activities were normal and that the ex-president did nothing illegal. The head of Brazil's state run development bank, BNDES, Luciano Coutinho, testified before a congressional panel investigating BNDES transactions in search of possible connections with a massive corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras. He denied that former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva ever sought to influence lending decisions, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune. And the passions Lula inspires are not to be dismissed. In a rather bizarre indicator,AFP reports that a 12 meter high blow up "Lula" in jail garb -- a rallying point for right-wing demonstrators against President Dilma Rousseff's government -- was stabbed by a Workers' Party supporter. The drama surrounding the incident is indicative of the polarization in Brazil, according to the piece.
Reuters also has a piece on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's new ally, Senate president Renan Calheiros. "... many believe Calheiros, who prosecutors have said is one of 32 politicians under investigation, is only cozying up to Rousseff in the hopes he can avoid prosecution," reports the piece.
Rolls-Royce is cooperating with the Brazilian investigation into Petrobras bribery, reports The Guardian. The company confirmed that it was now cooperating with investigators after being asked about its relationship with a businessman facing various investigations connected to the scandal.
The Associated Press reports on concerns about the Venezuelan government's crime-fighting initiative launched in July, Operation Liberate the People. It has already seen police shoot and kill more than 80 suspected criminals, according to an AP tally based on officials' statements to the media. There have been no reports of police injuries or deaths during the blitzkrieg-style operations aimed at taking back neighborhoods over-run by gangs.
An 8-year-old girl with epilepsy could become Mexico's legal user of marijuana, reports theWashington Post. Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that the Mexican government could not prevent the girl's parents from importing cannabidiol (CBD) from the U.S. to treat her seizures. The experimental treatment has used on American children, but in Mexico public opinion remains staunchly against legalization, according to the piece.
The first polls in Argentina since primaries earlier this month showed Daniel Scioli, of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's Frente para la Victoria party, is still leading, but not enough to avoid a runoff with with more business-friendly Mauricio Macri, current mayor of Buenos Aires. Scioli is favored by nearly 40 percent of voters ahead of the Oct 25 election. Though he says he will maintain Kirchner's economic policies, he supports a more pro-market approach, reportsReuters.
Heroin addition is soaring in the U.S., leading Mexican opium production to skyrocket: it increased by an estimated 50 percent last year alone. The New York Times reports on the impoverished Guerrero communities benefiting from the boom, especially their children who are taken out of school to help in the lucrative harvests.
The Inter-American Dialogue's Latin America Advisor looks at a Peruvian legislative decree from last month that requires telecommunications companies to grant police warrantless access to geolocation and other call data from cellphones in real time and requires companies to store that data for three years, a measure the government has said is necessary to fight organized crime in the country, adding that a warrant must retroactively be obtained to use that data in court. Is the new measure necessary to fight crime and corruption, or does it go too far and undermine parts of Peru's 2011 law that established protections for personal data, it asks.
Tropical Storm Erika caused flooding and mudslides that killed at least 20 people and left more than 50 missing on Dominica, reports Reuters. But the storm was losing its punch as it drenched Haiti and the Dominican Republic early Saturday, reports the Wall Street Journal.