Santos wins prize, oxygen for peace process (Oct. 7, 2016)
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is the surprise recipient of this years Nobel Peace Prize. He had been touted as a potential winner for his efforts to end the fifty decade Colombian conflict with FARC guerrillas. But voters rejected the pact last weekend, leaving that legacy (and the country) in limbo for now.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee recognized Santos “for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end.” And supporters of the deal are hoping the international recognition breathes new life into efforts to refloat the pact, reports the New York Times.
The Committee made clear that its decision was taken after the referendum vote, and that they took into account Santos' reaction -- which is to push forward in salvaging peace, notes La Silla Vacía's Juanita León. The Committee also emphasized that the award is not intended to undermine the Colombian voters' will, because it interprets the vote as a rejection of the specific pact, not the peace process itself.
In some ways the support will concretely help, she notes. It will for example help protect the bilateral cease-fire, at least until the Dec. awards ceremony. But more crucially, "it raises the stature of the President and puts pressure on Santos, Álvaro Uribe and the FARC to act nobly at this moment and try to seek an acceptable formula to save the peace process," wrote León this morning. Semana too, hails a "breath of fresh air," from the Nobel committee.
"Even fierce critics of the accords seemed to think the prize might help the country move forward after Sunday’s polarizing vote," notes the Wall Street Journal.
This morning the Havana negotiating teams announced that, in light of the plebiscite results, they will seek to listen to objections to the accord and seek a rapid solution to the current state of limbo. Both sides confirmed a commitment to the bilateral cease-fire, and asked the U.N. Mission to monitor and verify the situation, reports Semana.
FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño congratulated Santos earlier today on Twitter, and saluted the efforts of Norway, Cuba, Venezuela, and Chile in the peace process. He had been touted as a potential prize winner along with Santos, reports Reuters. Though, given the broad FARC rejection by Colombians, perhaps its better for the process that he was left out by the committee, which refused to comment on the exclusion.
It could be a blow against Uribe's sudden control of the peace process. This week he was catapulted by the plebiscite results into a dominant position, that he aims to use to renegotiate the transitional justice aspects of the deal, as well as the political eligibility of FARC leadership, reports the Guardian. Though this morning Uribe's congratulations to Santos emphasized his continued desire to change the accords.
In line with Uribe's stance, Human Rights Watch, which also opposed the accords in their current form, urged Santos to forge ahead with a pact that changes the transitional justice clause of the agreement. In order to guarantee meaningful justice to victims a revamped pact must establish places of confinement where war criminals can serve out sentences, commanding officers must be criminally accountable for human rights crimes committed by their troops, and war criminals must be prohibited from holding office while serving out their sentences.
But these changes "will be fiendishly difficult to achieve," notes The Economist. "It took four years of formal negotiations in Havana (and nearly two years of talks about talks before that) to arrive at the 297-page accord. It deals with issues ranging from rural development and the drug trade to demobilisation, disarmament and punishment for perpetrators of war crimes. The changes Mr. Uribe demands are to points on which agreement was hardest to reach. Government negotiators tried for a year to get the FARC to consent to jail time for war criminals; they flatly refused."
But, perhaps the differences between the two camps' vision on transitional justice is not as vast as it might seem, urged Rodrigo Uprimny earlier this week. He cited an earlier piece (before the plebiscite, a lifetime ago) in which he points out that far from amnesty, those who confess to wartime abuses will effectively have their liberty restricted for up to eight years while they carry out community service tasks that include reparation work such as anti-mining efforts. At the time he asked if Colombians could not contemplate "in the name of peace, that it be sufficient (and even better) that they serve for an equal time an alternative sanction, that well executed is significant, rigorous and might even be socially useful?"
Perhaps the silver-lining, if there is one in terms of peace, is that the split vote has drawn together the polarized sides of the plebiscite campaign, argues Diego García Sayan in El País. Semana also notes the "political miracles" of the plebiscite result, bringing together politicians who hadn't met in years.
In the meantime Santos' strategy against his arch-enemy Uribe's dominance appears to be watering down his dominance of the no-camp by meeting with other groups who opposed the accord, such as evangelical Christian leaders, reports La Silla Vacía.
While outside observers focused mostly on the pact itself -- and how different sectors of the population felt about the FARC vs potential peace dividends -- opposition to the peace accord within Colombia was far more complex. Antagonism from religious leaders toward the LGBT population was actually a key issue behind the deals defeat say some. A critical moment of the "no" victory on Sunday came in an apparently unrelated August march against the country’s openly gay education minister, Gina Parody, explains Americas Quarterly. The controversy was over a draft of a sexual education handbook that opponents saw as pushing unconventional gender perspectives. Uribe, the face of the "no" campaign, opposed Parody. A few weeks later, Santos appointed her to lead the "yes" campaign, solidifying a vision that the accords carried a Trojan Horse "gender ideology" agenda.
Alma Guillermoprieto in the New York Review of Books (the piece is an excellent look at the general post-plebiscite situation) also writes about the varied perspectives of those who found themselves voting against the accord: "many people I spoke to over the course of the last few months feel terrified of the profound changes in their world, one in which FARC killers could run for public office, people with threateningly different forms of sexuality can feel free to hold hands in public and even marry, as they now can in Colombia, and long-haired potheads are the legal equal of law-abiding, hard-working citizens. Still others, friends of mine, were willing to vote No because they despise a president they see as a fatuous toff."
Death count in Haiti rising, questions of how to manage disaster relief
News of Hurricane Matthew's impact on Haiti -- already touted as the worst humanitarian disaster since the 2010 earthquake -- is looking increasingly dire. (See Wednesday's post and yesterday's briefs.) The official death toll is rising rapidly -- it was at 478 this morning -- as information trickles in from remote areas where rescuers are finding bodies, reports Reuters. Many expect the number to continue to increase.
According to the United Nations, more than one million people have been affected by the storm in Haiti — and at least a third of them will require humanitarian assistance. At least 20,000 homes were destroyed and up to 27,000 Haitians are in shelters, according to aid groups.
Until yesterday the hardest hit southern part of the country remained disconnected until yesterday -- both physically inaccessible due to flooding and collapsed bridges, as well as in terms of communications, with severed phone lines. Such infrastructure issues add to the humanitarian challenges Haiti faces, notes the New York Times.
Cholera -- introduced by U.N. peacekeepers after the earthquake -- is a major fear.
As the extent of the humanitarian disaster becomes more clear, the question of what role international aid groups should play is coming to the fore. The Haitian government -- under a de-facto interim administration -- has limited resources and ability to respond. But the experience of the 2010 earthquake, when aid groups "practically usurped the role of the government," remains fresh, according to the NYT. (Over the past couple of years there's been a lot of critiques of management of aid to Haiti -- Pro Publica and NPR investigation found that the American Red Cross failed to really do anything on the ground with the $500 million raised after The government has said it plans to lead coordination of donations of water, food and money this time around.
"A great problem in Haiti is a lack of investment – not humanitarian funds – and that is evident in the aftermath of Matthew," writes Jocelyn McCalla in the Guardian. "Neither Haitian authorities nor their international allies have invested much in response capacity. The international community’s lack of trust and confidence in Haitian authorities leads to reliance on international NGOs. This results in a piecemeal approach to addressing Haiti’s serious shortcomings."
An interesting piece by Mark Schuller at Common Dreams notes some of the lessons of humanitarian aftershocks have been, including more support for Haitian-led initiatives, demand more accountability of foreign agency groups and and explicit partnerships with local groups. To reinforce local capacity -- Haitian expertise -- and to focus development initiatives.
But, in the heat of the moment aid is needed, and fast. Call out to readers: what's an ethical global citizen to do?
The fifteen member United Nations Security Council formally recommended António Guterres, to be the organization's next Secretary General. The former Portuguese prime minister is expected to be ratified by the General Assembly next week, reports the New York Times. The decision is a blow to those who had hoped for a female secretary general. Guterres has promised to be mindful of gender parity in his appointments, but hasn't outlined a broader gender agenda.
The U.S. administration wants to restore aid to Mexico that was cut last year due to human rights concerns -- though there is no evidence of real improvement, reports the Los Angeles Times. (See yesterday's briefs on the NYTimes editorial criticizing the U.S. stance.)
"Previously, we thought that the offshore world was a shadowy, but minor, part of our economic system. What we learned from the Panama Papers is that it is the economic system," said Luke Harding, a former Moscow correspondent for The Guardian of his work on the four-hundred journalist team delving into the leaked documents about tax evasion. “The economic system is, basically, that the rich and the powerful exited long ago from the messy business of paying tax ... They don’t pay tax anymore, and they haven’t paid tax for quite a long time. We pay tax, but they don’t pay tax. The burden of taxation has moved inexorably away from multinational companies and rich people to ordinary people," he said. A New York Review of Books piece on a slew of books on the game-changing leak is full of juicy revelations -- and a second article promises to look at the impact of the information.
Brazilian President Michel Temer won a congressional victory yesterday: a lower house committee approved a constitutional amendment that would limit the growth of federal spending to the rate of inflation. The unprecedented measure, which still needs to pass through both chambers of congress with a three-fifths majority, is aimed at closing the country's budget gap, reports Reuters. The administration expects a swift passage of the measure, according to the Wall Street Journal. (See Wednesday's briefs.)
Argentine Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo human rights groups celebrated the recovery of another "disappeared grandchild," the son of two leftist militants disappeared in the country's last military dictatorship, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune.