Lula ordered to turn himself in, defiant (April 6, 2018)
Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva vowed to defy an order to voluntarily turn himself in to authorities to begin a 12-year prison sentence for corruption. There are reports that he will address followers at four-o-clock.
But sources close to the popular leader say he will wait until the last minute to turn himself in before a five-o-clock deadline imposed by Judge Sergio Moro, reports El País. The Financial Times reports that debate in Lula's inner circle remains regarding whether he will turn himself in or not. He's holed up in the metalworkers’ union headquarters in São Bernardo do Campo, an industrial city outside São Paulo, with growing groups of supporters. He might turn himself in to police in S. Paulo instead of Curitiba, where Moro ordered him to present himself by five, reports the BBC.
Federal police said they would not send agents into the union headquarters, fearing a confrontation with supporters, report Folha de S. Paulo.
Moro emitted a warrant yesterday, hours after the Supreme Court rejected a request by Lula to remain free while he appeals his conviction, reports the New York Times. The speed with which Moro issued the warrant surprised legal observers who said there were technicalities that would not be sorted out until next week, reports the Associated Press.
This morning Brazil's top appeals court rejected a third-party request to keep him out of prison until all appeals have been exhausted. But Lula's lawyers were awaiting a last-minute ruling on new habeas corpus request, reportsReuters. Lula’s defense team issued a note saying they had filed a request to the UN human rights committee requesting interim measures to block the arrest warrant, alleging bias and the violation of the right to presumption of innocence, reports the Guardian.
The Workers' Party has indicated they will consider Lula a political prisoner if he is detained. They also promised to continue his presidential campaign from behind bars. Polls predict Lula would win by a landslide in October's presidential election, reports the Washington Post. He will likely be disqualified from running due to his corruption conviction, giving strength to his closest rival, right-wing firebrand Jair Bolsonaro.
Lula supporters are also pushing the Supreme Court to consider a constitutional challenge to a 2016 ruling that defendants can be jailed if their conviction is upheld on a first appeal, reports El País separately.
The world has never been so peaceful, but homicide rates have been climbing. They are highest in Latin America, but also increasing in in parts of southern Africa, the Middle East and Asia, reports the Economist in its cover story by Sarah Maslin. Latin America, where the issue is most pressing, has developed innovative policy solutions to address it. "The good news is that you do not have to solve all the complex social causes of murder to begin to cut the murder rate. Colombia’s innovative mayors helped create a virtuous cycle in which the police caught and punished murderers, and citizens concluded that the police were there to help them and that the streets were safer. Busier streets discouraged murder and other violent crime. Once the virtuous cycle starts to turn, the entire criminal-justice ecosystem can grow stronger." A second piece focuses more on successful policies in Latin American cities aimed at reducing homicides. Experts in the region, such as José Miguel Cruz and Robert Muggah point to the importance of data, and hotspot policing. "An international campaign called “Instinct for Life” has laid out six principles for reducing murders in Latin America by 50% over the next decade. It stresses both prevention and intervention—and in both cases it sees data as central, whether as a way of revealing what needs to be done or recording the extent to which an intervention has or has not worked. Even without state-of-the-art technology, the campaign says, police could make much better use of the information they already collect."
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (finally!) delivered a strong rebuke to his U.S. counterpart. In an address to the nation yesterday, Peña Nieto said Mexico was a willing partner for cooperation, but rejected "negative rhetoric." He noted that all four leading presidential candidates had condemned U.S. President Donald Trump's recent accusations that Mexico is not acting to stop illegal immigration, and said he supported those remarks. "If your recent statements are the result of frustration due to domestic policy issues, [due] to your laws or to your Congress, it is to them that you should turn to, not to Mexicans," said Peña Nieto to Trump. The response is all the more notable given Peña Nieto's stoic acceptance of Trump's verbal lashings over the past two years, reports the Washington Post.
The New York Times editorial board also criticized the White House's "foolish plan to deploy troops along the Mexican border. ... Like so many of the president’s decisions, the one to put troops on the border seems impulsive, spiteful and politically motivated."
Trump's inaugural trip to Latin America comes next week, amid escalating trade fights and vitriolic rhetoric on immigration, reports the Associated Press. Despite all the sources of friction, Trump plans to use his platform at the Summit of the Americas to urge Latin American leaders to look to the U.S., not China, reports Reuters.
Colombia's peace process is being watched by insurgent groups around the world, but the transition is proving perilous. One of the main dangers of a failed peace process is that the 13,000 former FARC fighters could "slip back into violence and make much of the country ungovernable," writes WOLA's director for defense oversight Adam Isacson in a New York Times op-ed. "An ungovernable Colombia would be a disaster for United States interests, because an unstable ally — Latin America’s third-most-populous country — could produce more cocaine, scare investors and export more organized crime." Avoiding this requires supporting the former fighters, a task complicated by U.S. limitations on providing aid to former FARC members, he writes. "Peace processes are fragile, but they can and do work. Negotiated agreements save years of bloodshed and are an honorable endeavor. Past experience offers rich lessons for reintegrating ex-combatants. Colombia and its friends must heed these lessons and prove the skeptics wrong."
Peace has been bloody for social activists in Colombia. Nearly 300 social leaders and community organizers have been killed since the peace accords with the FARC were signed in late 2016 -- eight last month alone. This even as the overall homicide rate in Colombia is at an all time low. "The crimes do not seem to be racially motivated. Rather, they appear to be political crimes, a retaliation against the country’s 2016 peace process," explain researchers Magda Jiménez and Fabio Andres Diaz in the Conversation. "Evidence from both Colombian and international researchers suggests that the killings are a response to the Colombian government’s attempt to assert control over areas once overrun by organized crime." In fact, most of the activists killed come from coca-growing areas, where criminal organizations are threatened by crop-substitution programs.
On the subject, the Economist piece at the beginning of the briefing also cites Fundación Ideas para la Paz's María Victoria Llorente, who notes the pressing need for the government to create opportunities for former FARC fighters, coca cultivators and young people in order to resist organized crime groups expanding into former FARC territory.
Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco's assassination has struck fear among Brazilian activists, and contributed to further fraying the country's social fabric. "We are unquestionably before what Manuel Castells named a new social morphology. Flexible, fluid, and ready to seize opportunities connecting grassroots groups and the establishment. But sometimes, before great tragedies, we freeze, write OSF's Manoela Miklos and Heloisa Griggs in Open Democracy. They call on civil society to stand up to the new nationalist and religious movements. "Are we ready to follow the light that Marielle will always represent, showing us the way?"
U.S. congressman Pete Sessions quietly visited Venezuela this week and met with President Nicolas Maduro, reports the Associated Press. The Texas Republican apparently travelled at the invitation of the Venezuelan government, but there were no further details about his agenda there.
At least 70 children of the Waro indigenous tribe have died from an outbreak of measles in a remote jungle region of eastern Venezuela, reports the AFP.
Venezuela and Panama have been sparring over the past few days. Panama put President Nicolas Maduro on a list of Venezuelan officials as being at "high risk" for laundering money, reports the Associated Press. Venezuela retaliated by a temporary ban for a group of Panamanian businesses and leaders -- including Copa, one of the last airlines still operating in the country. Panama responded yesterday by recalling its ambassador.
Peruvian anti-corruption prosecutors raided the homes of former Lima mayor Susana Villarán and her former municipal manager, reports IDL Reporteros, as part of an ongoing investigation into Odebrecht bribes.
Permission for Chilean clinics to deny abortion services on moral grounds will make it harder for women and girls whose lives are in danger to access legal abortions, reports Reuters.
The Chilean government said it believes the number of of foreigners living in the country is over a million, double previous estimates. Some 300,000 of them would be living in the country illegally, reports the AFP.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is evaluating the creation of a “guarantee fund” to attract investments to Latin America, reports Reuters. The fund would serve as a form of insurance for investors in private and public projects in the region, said Luis Moreno, the bank’s president. The move comes as many infrastructure projects in the region are on hold and struggling with financing in the wake of the Odebrecht scandal.