Guatemala's court defends CICIG (Jan. 9, 2019)
Guatemala's Constitutional Court suspended President Jimmy Morales' unilateral decision to immediately terminate the U.N. backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. (See yesterday's post.) The court acted on five of eleven challenges presented by Acción Ciudadana, the Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos, and Helen Mack, among others. Four of the five judges voted to suspend the controversial decision, except for Judge Dina Ochoa, appointed by Morales. (El Periódico, Soy 502, and La Hora)
Morales is willing to push the country towards a constitutional crisis in his quest to oust the CICIG, a move that is widely viewed as an attempt to shield himself and Guatemala's powerful corrupt elite from investigation, report InSight Crime and the Guardian.
The U.S. embassy in Guatemala joined international criticism of Morales' decision, tweeting yesterday that the U.S. is concerned about the future of anti corruption efforts in Guatemala.
In the midst of the political crisis, Ministro de Gobernación Enrique Degenhart dismissed the head of the National Civil Police, replacing him with the adjunct director general. (Soy 502)
And the Procuraduria General de la Nación presented impeachment motions against CC judges before Guatemala's Supreme Court, accusing the magistrates of resolutions contrary to the constitution and abuse of power. (La Hora)
Protesters in favor and against the decision to terminate the CICIG demonstrated in Guatemala City yesterday, reports El Periódico.
More: Martín Rodríguez Pellecer analyzes the CACIF business lobby's hypocrisy the issue of corruption in Nómada. (See yesterday's post.)
Ceará on fire
Brazil's Ceará state remains the focal point of violent attacks on buses, public buildings and commerce ordered by prison gangs -- G1 counts 164 attacks over the past week, despite the deployment of 500 national guard troops. The governors of neighboring states Espírito Santo and Pará are also seeking federal security backup, reports Globo.
Officials believe the attacks are motivated by the state government's plan to change where prisoners are jailed, ending a long-term policy of separating inmates by gang affiliation, reports Reuters. The new state Penitentiary Administration secretary said the government must impose order in prisons. But tough discourse and federal forces are unlikely to dent the perennial problem of prison gang violence warn experts in Ponte. (See also BBC.) Several of the country's major prison gangs, including CV (Comando Vermelho) and the PCC (Primeiro Comando da Capital) dispute drug trafficking territory in Ceará, but have united in common cause against the new state policy, reports El País.
The violence has been most intense in the state capital of Fortaleza, which has been brought to a standstill, reports the Guardian.
Venezuelan intelligence and security forces have detained and tortured military personnel accused of plotting against the government, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch and Foro Penal. The groups analyzed cases involving a total of 32 people. "Some detainees were subjected to egregious abuses that amount to torture to force them to provide information about alleged conspiracies ... The abuses include brutal beatings, asphyxiation, cutting soles of their feet with a razor blade, electric shocks, food deprivation, forbidding them to go to the bathroom, and death threats. Several detainees did not have access to their families or lawyers for days. During their detention in prisons or military intelligence headquarters, they did not have access to adequate medical treatment." HRW emphasizes that these are not isolated cases of abuse, but part of a systemic practise by Venezuelan security forces.
The abuses against the military, a key element of the government's power base, demonstrate the challenges President Nicolás Maduro faces moving into his extremely contested second term tomorrow, reports the Miami Herald.
Maduro's second inauguration tomorrow, without having been chosen in a legitimate election, marks a real breaking point for Venezuelan democracy argues Provea. (See Monday's post.)
There is greater impatience internationally with Venezuela's leadership, though it is not clear what that means concretely, reports the Guardian.
The U.S. sanctioned seven prominent Venezuelans yesterday, including former National Treasurer Claudia Patricia Díaz and television mogul and businessman Raúl Gorrín -- all in relation to a corruption scheme based on the country's complicated multi-tiered currency exchange system. (Miami Herald)
Maduro is singularly unpopular (see yesterday's briefs), but so is the political opposition, notes the Washington Post.
Latin America's democratic institutions are increasingly under threat on multiple fronts: authoritarian governments in Venezuela and Nicaragua, Bolsonaro in Brazil, and an inward gazing government in Mexico, argues Jorge Castañeda in a New York Times op-ed. "The great absence, perhaps for better than for worse, is Washington. It will almost certainly not play a role in any of these potential or already burning crises ... But it surely will not lead the hemisphere away from these authoritarian temptations, nor toward greater collective responsibility."
The Mercosur trade bloc a memorandum to increase economic and commercial cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Commission, a sign of the group's interest in diversifying beyond the Western Hemisphere, writes Andrés Serbin at the AULA blog.
U.S. President Donald Trump insists that a $5.7 billion wall along the border with Mexico is the only solution to undocumented migration, which he called "a growing humanitarian and security crisis" yesterday. (Washington Post) Response to the perennial unilateral demand in Mexico was muted, reports the New York Times.
WOLA emphasized: "there is no security emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. What we do have at the border is a growing humanitarian crisis, as tens of thousands of Central American children and families come to the border each month seeking asylum."
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador launched his own plan to stimulate the economy on the Mexican side of the border, aimed in part at improving Mexico's economy and dissuade citizens from migrating in search of better opportunities, reports the Associated Press.
A major corruption investigation in Argentina has the opportunity to overcome accusations of partisanship if the judiciary advances against big fish who are accused -- major businessmen, relatives of President Mauricio Macri, as well as former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, argues Hugo Alconada Mon in a New York Times Español op-ed.
Peru's new attorney general criticized President Martín Vizcarra's proposal to revamp the prosecutor's office, warning that it would affect the institution's autonomy. Vizcarra proposed the legislation after the previous attorney general refused to step down following an outcry over his attempts to remove prosecutors from a corruption investigation last week. (Reuters)
Cartel operatives have become the dominant Hollywood bad guy, a leading genre that "associates Latino identity with inherent, pure evil again and again" writes Héctor Tobar in a New York Times op-ed.
Graciela Iturbide’s Photos of Mexico Make ‘Visible What, to Many, Is Invisible’ -- New York Times' Lens column.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... (I'm a bit behind so far in 2019, but I'll catch up over the next few days!)