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Guatemala's fraught elections
June 1, 2023
Guatemala’s general elections on June 25, for president, legislators, and mayors, will take place in a context of deteriorating human, civil, and electoral rights, according to a new report by the Washington Office on Latin America, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch.
The final list of candidates for Guatemala’s presidential election, in just 24 days, remains unclear after judges separately eliminated three potential front-runner tickets from the ballot. (See Monday’s post.) Each of the three, businessman outsider Carlos Pineda, Pineda, Indigenous national leader Thelma Cabrera, and elite mutineer Roberto Arzú have denounced “electoral fraud” and called on supporters to symbolically cast empty “null” ballots in the presidential race, reports El Faro English.
This week’s report by the human rights groups denounces that Supreme Electoral Tribunal applied “differentiated, discretional and inconsistent criteria in the registration and blocking of candidates. ... While some candidates who are under investigation for corruption and drug trafficking have been able to run, other candidates that challenge the status quo have been blocked.”
Concerns include the possibility that authorities could suspend the elections, according to El Faro, and the situation puts “observation missions like the OAS, which first visited Guatemala on May 5, are in a bind as to whether to certify the results given that local civil society groups and the overseas diplomatic corps are already indicating a contamination of the process and the courts.”
“There is a generalized fear of retaliation among those who dare to speak out against the status quo,” in Guatemala, according to the WOLA, RFKHR, and HRW report. “This has undermined public support for local civil society groups and increased their vulnerability when denouncing corruption and human rights violations.”
There is little hope that the election will improve the situation of fear that “has led many journalists, lawyers and anti-corruption prosecutors to flee in recent years,” reports Americas Quarterly. “As a result, the exodus continues, amid the expectation that Guatemala’s justice system will continue to be weaponized against anyone who dares to address corruption and other entrenched problems.”
Those in power “don’t use death squads anymore simply because they have the justice system at their disposal to annihilate any opposition,” Juan Francisco Sandoval the exiled former head of Guatemala’s Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI) told AQ.
Guatemalan prosecutors asked a court to sentence journalist José Ruben Zamora to 40 years in jail. The editor of the now-defunct elPeriódico newspaper, which published investigations exposing corruption in the Giammattei administration, has been in jail for 10 months, in what media organizations say amounts to an attack on freedom of expression in a country clamping down on critics, reports AFP. (See May 16’s post.)
Zamora’s son, journalist José Carlos Zamora, told CNN that the family expects the court to convict his father on June 14.
A year after Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips were murdered in the Brazilian Amazon, the Guardian launched a year-long collaborative investigation coordinated by Forbidden Stories: the Bruno and Dom Project.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said the killings of the Indigenous defender and journalist “were one of the results of the encouragement of anarchy and environment crime and illegal mining in the Amazon.” Since taking office in January, Lula has vowed to initiate a new era of Amazon protection, though he faces strong opposition in Congress, reports the Guardian.
Brazil’s lower chamber of Congress approved a provisional measure establishing the structure Lula’s cabinet, yesterday, but curbed some powers the president had given the Environment Ministry, changes that will challenge the administration’s green agenda, reports Bloomberg.
“The rapid advance of organized crime groups in the Brazilian Amazon risks turning the region into a vast, conflict-stricken hinterland plagued by heavily armed ‘criminal insurgents’,” according to one of the project’s articles. (Guardian)
The battle to protect the Amazon rainforest and the Indigenous peoples who inhabit it has intensified in the past year, despite the deathly risks, reports the Guardian.
La Pista is Colombia’s largest informal migrant settlement: more than 13,000 people, many of whom have fled armed groups. Their stories “demonstrate how organized crime, as well as more visible political and economic factors, drive the region's biggest migration crisis,” reports InSight Crime.
The U.S. and Guatemala announced a six-month pilot program to facilitate legal entry to the U.S. and other countries, family reunifications and access to temporary work visas, reports Reuters.
Chile’s private health care companies, known as Isapres, are on the brink of collapse following a Supreme Court ruling last year that demanded they compensate clients for years of overcharges — the situation poses a political dilemma for the Boric administration, which does not want to appear lenient towards the companies, but must avoid overwhelming the public sector. (See today’s Chile Update.)
Chile’s Expert Commission finished a constitutional proposal on Friday. The 14 chapter draft will provide a template for the elected Constitutional Council, which is dominated by right-wing delegates, to create a new constitutional proposal to be voted on in December. The proposal defines Chile as “a social and democratic state governed by the rule of law.” (See today’s Chile Update.)
The passage of the new constitution in December is uncertain: 46 percent of respondents would vote against the proposal in December, according to the latest Cadem poll.
As the state of Mexico — Edomex — prepares for gubernatorial elections on Sunday, an journalist investigation revealed that the outgoing government of Alfredo del Mazo Maza issued at least 40 contracts involving at least 15 front and shell companies worth more than $300m. The work by the Guardian and Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) builds on that of Mexican reporter María Teresa Montaño Delgado, who was kidnapped while investigating suspicious contracts worth $300m awarded by the state of Mexico — part of an initiative by Forbidden Stories to continue the work of threatened and murdered journalists.
A fishing ban in a Mexican marine park did not reduce the fishing catch, according to a new study. The results disprove arguments by fishing companies that protecting marine areas leaves less fish available for people to eat, reports the Guardian.
Kidnapping charges have been dropped against José Luis Abarca, the former mayor of the Mexican town of Iguala, where 43 students were abducted and disappeared in 2014. (Associated Press)
Peruvian President Dina Boluarte authorized the entry into Peruvian territory of over a thousand U.S. soldiers, who will train the Armed Forces and the National Police, reports Telesur. (See also Infobae.)
Peru is battling its worst dengue outbreak on record. The crisis, which has pushed the government to forbid households from filling vases with water, is linked to increased rainfall and warmer temperatures from climate change, reports the Washington Post.