Morales announces immediate termination of CICIG (Jan. 8, 2019)
Guatemala's constitutional crisis deepened rapidly yesterday when the government gave international anti-corruption prosecutors 24 hours to leave the country. President Jimmy Morales accused the U.N. backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) of putting the country's security at risk. Foreign minister Sandra Jovel met with U.N. Secretary General António Guterres yesterday and accused the CICIG of meddling in Guatemala's internal affairs. (Nómada and New York Times)
The move comes a day after Guatemalan migrations officials attempted to block reentry to the country of a Colombian national CICIG investigator and were forced to back down by a Constitutional Court order backed by public ministry arrests. (See yesterday's post.) This all takes place within a series of escalating attacks by the Morales administration against the CICIG, which since August, 2017, has been consistently protected by the CC, Guatemala's highest court.
Guterres "strongly" rejected the summary termination of the CICIG, and said he expected Guatemala to fulfill its obligations under the agreement with the U.N. that established the CICIG a decade ago. The U.S. did not immediately comment, part of an ongoing trend in the face of Morales' onslaught, a change from previous administrations' strong defense of the CICIG.
Yesterday Morales also asked the public ministry to investigate alleged wrongdoing in the CICIG and accused the Constitutional Court magistrates of meddling in areas outside of their jurisdictions, reports El Periódico.
Morales' decision to summarily end the CICIG's mandate was immediately challenged legally. Acción Ciudadana requested a judicial stay on the order terminating the CICIG agreement, and asked for the removal of Morales and Jovel, based on their failure to recognize CC decisions. (El Periódico) And lawyer Alfonso Carrillo also requested a stay in which he noted the conflicts of interest Morales and many lawmakers have when it comes to the CICIG, which is investigating their alleged wrongdoing. (Prensa Libre)
Additionally several experts question whether Morales can even terminate the mandate in this fashion, reports Prensa Libre.
Morales' efforts to undermine the popular anti-corruption commission date to investigations into alleged illicit financing in his 2015 presidential campaign, as well as investigations of alleged graft by family members. He took the unusual step of making yesterday's announcement flanked by family members of those accused of corruption by the CICIG in the past decade, notes Nómada. The Bitkov family -- which became the focal point of an anti-CICIG campaign in the U.S. last year, alleging links between the commission and Russian interests -- spoke after Morales, reports La Hora. (See post for April 27, 2018.) Another notable participant was Francisco Valdés Paiz, accused in the 2009 murder of Rodrigo Rosenberg. The family of former government minister Carlos Vielmann, in preventive detention on accusations of torture and summary execution, also spoke. (See briefs for Oct. 29, 2018.)
Morales' efforts have the support of Guatemala's most powerful business lobby, the CACIF, which yesterday backed the president's allegations that CICIG investigations have been marked by grave procedural flaws, reports La Hora. A group of lawmakers is analyzing measures that could undermine the CC, such as combining it with the Supreme Court, reports El Periódico.
U.S. lawmakers Senator Patrick Leahy, Representative Eliot L. Engel, Representative Norma Torres, and Representative James McGovern came out in defense of the CICIG and against efforts to undermine the fight against corruption in Guatemala. (La Hora and La Hora)
(See also Reuters, Wall Street Journal, and Associated Press)
Three hundred journalists and press freedom advocates called on Nicaragua's government to respect freedom of expression and free journalists Miguel Mora y Lucía Pineda Ubau who have been detained since Dec. 21. (Confidencial)
Bolivian President Evo Morales lamented the rise of intolerance in the region, which he linked to the U.S. administration's xenophobia. He was responding to a Brazilian lawmaker of President Jair Bolsonaro's party who said those who like indigenous communities should go to Bolivia which is governed by an "Indian." (Guardian)
Bolsonaro's first steps after taking office last week included transferring responsibility for certification of indigenous lands to the ministry of agriculture, which has historically favored industrial interests over conservation, reports the New York Times.
Brazil's swing to the right under Bolsonaro was even quicker and more pronounced than expected: in just a few days he "eradicated the country’s Labor Ministry, ordered monitoring of nongovernment and international organizations, undermined indigenous rights and excluded the LGBT community from explicit protection by the Human Rights Ministry," reports the Washington Post.
Pension reform remains a major challenge for Brazil's newest government, which lacks Congressional support to unilaterally pass reform, notes the Wall Street Journal.
But three-quarters of Brazilians believe the new president is on the right track, and optimism has jumped drastically in the months since Bolsonaro was elected, reports the Economist.
Most Venezuelans desperately want President Nicolás Maduro out -- but they also oppose foreign military intervention to achieve that objective, writes David Smilde at the Conversation. Many also voiced opposition to ongoing talks with the government, which have proved fruitless in the past. However, they do support "a negotiated settlement to remove President Maduro from power," demonstrating the necessity for diplomacy in resolving Venezuela's crushing crisis.(See yesterday's post.)
Latin American countries have not done enough to oppose Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro -- but the region's commitment to democracy requires overriding its principle of nonintervention argue Benjamin Gedan and Fernando Cutz in a Washington Post opinion piece. (See yesterday's post.)
Reports show a third of Venezuelans eat only one meal a day, and that the economy has shrunk 50 percent since Maduro assumed office six years ago. (Miami Herald)
Oil income has complicated Guyana politics headed into presidential and legislative elections in coming months, reports the Economist. And Venezuela is attempting to take advantage of the disarray to reassert old claims to Guyana's oil-rich waters.
Cuba's communist system shows no signs of collapse, but a debate over whether to democratize or maintain dictatorship is in full swing -- though outsiders might be hard pressed to understand the rhetoric, writes Jon Lee Anderson in a New York Times Español op-ed, part of the Revolución 60 series commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Cuban revolution this year.
The Cuban revolution synthesized a generation's desire for autonomy -- anti-imperialism. But the Cuban dichotomy is now about authoritarianism or democracy, wrote Sergio Ramírez in an earlier piece in the series.
Cuba could have a new constitution in February, which would create the position of a prime minister and weaken the president's post, reports the Miami Herald.
The U.S.'s policy of metering asylum application appointments at the border is pushing many migrants into the hands of human smugglers, reports the New York Times.
About a third of the people deported from the U.S. last year, about 60,000 by October, were sent through Tamaulipas in Mexico, an area so dangerous that Mexican officials and advocates say the practise is a violation of deportees' human rights. (Washington Post)
Deforestation favors organized crime in Colombia, reports InSight Crime.
Hardline security policies continue to attract politicians and voters in the midst of Latin America's homicide epidemic, despite evidence that they only worsen violence. But alternative policies from around the region show more promising results, reports World Politics Review.
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!)