Major step forward in Colombian peace process (Dec. 16, 2015)
Colombian and FARC negotiators agreed on reparations for victims and the establishment of special tribunals to try former combatants, another major step forward in peace talks to end a fifty year conflict.
The partial agreement announced yesterday puts the talks on track to end by a March 23 deadline agreed on earlier this year, reports The Guardian.
The agreement fleshed out the details of the transitional justice system which had been agreed by both sides in September.
The deal offers an amnesty for all but the most serious crimes, according to the BBC. A truth commission will clarify what happened in the war and promises to search for thousands of missing people, identify their remains and return them. The accord also attempts to ensure those affected will not be victimized again.
Juanita León at Silla Vacía says the agreement has a lot of truth, a lot of reparation, but little justice. But notes that the issue was one of the most difficult in the entire negotiation, and the agreement now makes the peace process irreversible. Victims will have a lot more information than they have now, but in exchange will have little recourse to justice she writes.
The Miami Herald emphasizes reparations for the victims and says the deal might open the doors to a bilateral cease-fire in January.
The partial agreement was the result of 18 months of work in which victims of the rebels, government troops and rightwing paramilitary groups participated and offered proposals. Sixty victims of the conflict travelled to the Havana-based talks to give testimony.
And on Monday Colombia’s Congress approved a government-supported bill that seeks popular ratification of a pending peace deal with FARC rebels through a plebiscite, according to Colombia Reports. The bill received the support of nearly all parties -- including President Juan Manuel Santos' coalition, the opposition Conservative Party, the green Party and the Democratic Pole. The only party voting against the bill was former President Alvaro Uribe's conservative Democratic Center party.
Venezuela's governing socialist (PSUV) party launched a new grassroots assembly in the national legislature, a move critics say could be an attempt to undermine the incoming opposition led National Assembly. The first-ever "National Communal Parliament" was inaugurated yesterday, with the aim of giving revolutionary activists a mechanism to make decisions and manage resources, reports the Associated Press. National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello has also promised to rush the appointment of a dozen new Supreme Court justices, filling vacancies created by pro-government judges who retired early. The goal is to swear them into their 12-year-posts before the opposition National Assembly swears in, effectively packing the court ahead of the new political scenario, reports the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are preparing to charge high-ranking Venezuelan officials with trafficking cocaine to the U.S., reports the Wall Street Journal. General Nestor Reverol, who heads the powerful National Guard, and Edilberto Molina, a National Guard general and a former high-ranking official in the National Anti-Drug Office, will be charged with conspiracy to traffic cocaine from Venezuela to American shores. The indictment will mark the latest in a series of charges by United States prosecutors against powerful Venezuelans who the prosecutors say have assumed a large role in the narcotics trade, reports the New York Times.
A Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights post by Hugo Pérez Hernáiz discusses the politically charged debate over the role of the National Assembly official television channel and says its a hint of the battles to come in Venezuela as the opposition prepares to have a majority in the legislative body.
Yesterday Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced an inquiry into the 1.5 million null votes in the Dec. 6 parliamentary elections, welcomed evidence-backed complaints related to the latest election results, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune.
Mexican officials say they have found the remains of at least 19 bodies tossed into a canyon in Guerrero state. Eight were burned and another two were in pieces, but they are not believed to belong to the missing 43 teachers college students who disappeared in Iguala last year, reports the Associated Press.
Private Mexican oil and gas firms won nearly all of the contracts in a government auction of onshore fields in the third and final auction of exploratory blocks and discovered fields this year as part of the remake of a sector to create competition to former monopoly Petróleos Mexicanos, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri is moving fast to try to jump-start Argentina's economy and change his predecessor's policies, reports the Wall Street Journal. Yesterday he declared an energy emergency, secured a $500 million shale-oil investment and unleashed a backlash by bypassing the Senate to temporarily appoint two Supreme Court justices by decree. He's also beginning to overhaul the country's discredited statistics agency, eliminated most farm export taxes, cut personal income taxes and replaced the central bank president. He is expected to eliminate currency controls this week as well. The piece looks at some of the debates regarding that move and how to control inflation. (Latest update: La Nación reports that currency controls will be lifted later today.)
An Argentine prosecutor is seeking to reopen a case from earlier this year that accused former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and some of her top government officials of trying to shield former Iranian officials he suspected of planning a 1994 bombing of a Jewish center here in exchange for trade benefits, reports the New York Times. The case came to international prominence when the original prosecutor who made the accusation, Alberto Nisman, was found dead in his apartment. The case was dismissed earlier this year by an Argentine judge who concluded the allegations did not merit investigation. Subsequent court decisions found there was no crime on which to base an investigation.
A new Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) study focuses on human rights crimes against workers during Argentina's last dictatorship, and the participation of some owners, executives and managers of some prominent companies actively participated. "Business responsibility in crimes against humanity: The repression of workers during state terrorism," investigates 25 companies and identifies nearly 900 victims of state terrorism. The companies under study cut across sectors and regions of the country and include units of international corporations such as FIAT, Ford Motor Company and Mercedes-Benz and Argentine companies such as Acindar, Dálmine-Siderca, Ingenio Ledesma, Molinos Río de la Plata and La Veloz del Norte. Today almost all of these firms face judicial investigation or proceedings, at varying stages of progress.
More baseball diplomacy? A lineup of Cuban-born baseball stars, including some of the most famous defectors in recent memory, made a triumphant return to Havana as part of a Major League Baseball trip, reports the Associated Press. The players will participate in youth clinics, and execs are looking to bring games to Cuba. They also hope to make progress in one day creating a legal route for Cuban players to make their way to U.S. baseball.
Approval of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff remains low at 9 percent, down a percentage point since last month, reports the Wall Street Journal.
An Associated Press feature focuses on Guatemalan judge Miguel Angel Galvez, who who ordered detention for former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who faces a genocide trial in January, a move that attracted death threats, judicial complaints against him and bribery attempts.
A Reuters piece points to "Central America's hidden displacement" as one of the top five humanitarian crises of this year that were largely overlooked this year. Rampant gang violence, poverty and the lack of jobs push hundreds of people a month to leave the 'Northern Triangle' nations of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala and seek work and refuge in the United States and other Latin American countries.