Friday, December 18, 2009
The headline around the major American papers this morning is the Mexican military raid of a Cuernavaca apartment which took the life of one of that country’s most notorious drug lords. Arturo Beltrán Leyva was killed Wednesday when nearly 400 members of Mexico’s special forces surrounded the apartment complex where Beltrán Leyva was staying. On Thursday, Mexican President, Felipe Calderon, called the military action “a convincing blow” to the country’s drug cartels, but he also noted that retaliatory acts could follow. Seven others also were killed in the operation, six accused of being cartel hit men, and one a Mexican sailor involved in the raid. The New York Times writes that Mr. Beltrán Leyva’s militia, the Fuerzas Armadas de Arturo (an ally of the Zetas), is “considered one of Mexico’s most ruthless” drug gangs. Since September, the group had been carrying out brutal attacks against rival cartels, “dumping decapitated heads and tortured bodies across two Mexican states, leaving notes from ‘el jefe de jefes,’ the boss of bosses.”
There is some debate among analysts whether or not strikes like Wednesday’s are the most effective way of fighting the power of drug cartels in Mexico. José Luis Piñeiro, a researcher at the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico City is quoted in the Times report: “You cut off one and another one emerges, but the government believes that this tactic of dismembering cartels is effective.” Guillermo Zepeda, a security expert with the Cidac research group disagrees. “By getting the most visible leaders, you send the message that you are ending the impunity of the big capos,” he tells the paper. “I think that these surgical strikes are the ones that are really worth the trouble.”
The LA Times, meanwhile, emphasizes the point alluded to by Mr. Calderon Thursday: violence is likely to only increase after the attack. Even Mexico’s new Attorney General, Arturo Chavez, recognized that much. “The weakening of any cartel can be seen as an opportunity by another that is fighting for territory," Chavez said Thursday. “If they see [their rival] as weak, they will probably try to step up their actions to advance.” And the Wall Street Journal notes that the killing of Mr. Beltrán Leyva is unlikely to stem illegal drug flows in any real way. “Intelligence experts say the raid against Mr. Beltrán Leyva is less likely to dent Mexico's trade in illegal drugs -- estimated at $20 billion annually,” the paper reports.
In a quick round-up of other Mexico-related stories this morning:
· The AP reports on a new study by the Mexican Human Rights Commission which says more than 5000 Mexican migrants have died in deserts, rivers, and mountains while attempting to reach the U.S. since 1994.
· And the New York Times reports on U.S. customs and border patrol officials who are apparently increasingly being corrupted by Mexican smugglers.
The daily dose of Honduras news begins with multiple reports on violence, drugs, and human rights issues. In Time, Ioan Grillo examines the murder of Honduran drug czar Julian Aristides Gonzalez—a case which complicates further where the lines can be drawn between violence stemming from the June coup and that stemming from the drug trade. The magazine leads with the following words:
“Gonzalez's murder last month is the latest sign that drug-related violence has intensified across Latin America, wreaking havoc from Mexico to Peru. And Honduras — a strategic transit point for U.S.-bound cocaine — has become ensnared in the vicious turf wars among Mexican trafficking cartels and those among Colombian producers. The turmoil in Honduras also reflects the impact of the U.S. drug war on the region's political divisions. Hours before his death, Gonzalez gave a news conference in which he accused the leftist Venezuelan government of turning a blind eye to Colombian guerrillas moving cocaine into Central America.”
In these Times has a report on the ongoing coup-related human rights abuses in the country. “On December 11, the decapitated body of Corrales Garcia was found about 50 kilometers east of the capital of Tegucigalpa,” Jeremy Kryt writes. Garcia detained by police on December 5 and had not been seen since. The piece also highlights the case of Walter Trochoz, whose murder has been reported on the last two days here. Speaking with the magazine, Amnesty International’s lead investigator in a recent fact-finding mission to the country, Javier Zuniga says: “We can see the consequences of the coup on the population, their physical integrity, and their liberty. People have witnessed the killing and wounding of their compatriots. They’ve seen others arrested, detained, and accused of crimes of opinion.”
Via Quotha, El Tiempo reports on the gruesome murder of a transvestite, left along the highway near San Pedro Sula. And El Tiempo also reports on the murder of another Honduran journalist’s child (along with a taxi driver), the second this week. This time the father of the victim worked public relations for the military.
And more on Honduras’s attempt to remove itself from ALBA as the congressional leaders of the National Party say they will support the move put forward by de facto leader, Roberto Micheletti. The action came as ALBA held its recent summit in Havana. For more on that, see an opinion at Global Post, which compares the demise of the FTAA with the rise of ALBA over the last decade plus. And El Nuevo Diario has a bit on popular Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes’ decision to reject entering ALBA last week.
In other news,
· The Miami Herald writes about the recent detention of the USAID contractor in Cuba—a detention the State Dept. said was in violation of Vienna Convention on Consular Relations Thursday. Frances Robles writes “…the latest arrest puts agencies contracted by the U.S. government to promote democracy in Cuba under increased pressure to provide security training and illustrates the lengths the Cuban government is willing to go to stall the programs.” More opinion on the matter by Tom Garofalo at Havana Note. He writes:
“If you are the Obama Department of State, you have to ask yourself if sprinkling a few cell phones and laptops around Cuba was really worth the effort -- not to mention the safety and well being of a civilian contractor who may not have had any idea what he was getting himself into. Yes, cell phone penetration in Cuba is the lowest in the western hemisphere. And yes, Cuba has harassed and imprisoned democracy advocates. To conclude that therefore the best course of action for USAID or the Department of State is to work on increasing the number of cell phones and laptops in Cuba is like adding two and two and getting five. It's like looking at Cuba but seeing Poland, circa 1981.”
· In the LA Times, a fascinating piece about how Brazil has decided to revive its space program by launching a satellite next year. According to the paper, Brazilian officials say the decision isn’t just about becoming a global power. Rather, “it's part of a far-reaching defense plan to ward off potential plunderers of its immense natural resources.” “In the coming era of scarcity, we're going to have to defend what we've got with our claws, our feet and our weapons,” a consultant to the Defense Ministry tells the LAT. “The challenges could come from neighbors, they could come from the U.S., they could come from China -- all allies now, but potential competitors in the future.”
· The Nation has a new piece on the re-election of Evo Morales two weeks ago. Journalist Benjamin Dangl reports for the magazine, noting that the landslide victory and 2/3 super majority that the MAS won in the Bolivian Congress will lead to an agenda that includes more land reform, expansion of indigenous rights and participation in government, and a fight against corruption. But, says Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network,
“The Morales government will face significant obstacles in its efforts to apply its ambitious agenda. As an umbrella for social movements, unions and other interest groups with diverse and often conflicting demands, the MAS government will be under considerable pressure from its supporters to make key concessions denied for decades, and sometimes even centuries. There is no guarantee that these groups will give blanket support to MAS legal proposals.”
Thursday, December 17, 2009
In the eyes of the global community, Chile may be on the cusp of entering the so-called “developed world,” becoming the first Latin American country to shed its “developing world” status. The Washington Post’s Juan Forero has a report this morning, noting that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a “club of rich nations that includes the United States, Japan and several European countries,” formally invited Chile to join the group this week. The last such transition for any country occurred over one decade ago, when South Korea and Ireland made the jump. According to the director of poverty reduction and economic management at the World Bank, Marcelo Giugale, Chile’s “well on its way to becoming a developed country, and it's not just because we see numbers that look very promising. I think there are more profound transformations happening in Chilean society that point to a very promising developed country very soon.” Not only has the country experienced fast economic growth, the Post notes, but poverty has been reduced to a regional low of 14% (down from 45%) since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship. Andres Oppenheimer also writes on the matter this morning, adding that extreme poverty sits at just 3% in Chile today. The columnist argues that the “national consensus to support stability” which emerged after Pinochet is a major factor in explaining Chilean success over the last two decades.
While many of the privatizations that the dictator implemented remain in place, Forero adds that significant social programs have been added over the last 20 years as well. “Chile has accelerated spending on education and day care. Forty percent of youths now go on to universities or other institutions beyond high school, authorities say, and 70 percent of those are the first in their families to do so.” Chile also created a rainy day fund with the profits retained from soaring copper prices in the 1990s, allowing the country to implement a major stimulus program when the financial crisis spread this year. Analysts now say Chile's economy will contract this year but will grow 4.5 percent in 2010.
That said, problems remain. Manuel Riesco, an economist with the Center for National Studies of Alternative Development, a left-leaning think tank in Chile, says the economic liberalization benefited big companies and foreign firms which have allowed for historical inequities to persist. And many in the Chilean middle class feel the Chilean miracle has passed them by, citing increases in drug trafficking and other social problems among the worries they have about the future.
In other news,
From Honduras, a quick round-up. The de facto government of Roberto Micheletti announced Tuesday night that it will be asking Congress to pull Honduras out of ALBA. I’m somewhat surprised this is the first time Micheletti has made the call but analysts are interpreting the move as one last effort by Micheletti to separate his country from the left-leaning governments of the region before handing power to Pepe Lobo in late January. For his part, Pepe Lobo said Wednesday that he hopes Micheletti will “reflect” more on the possibility of resigning before January 27 so as to secure the support of the international community for his new government.
On human rights abuses, the Guardian’s Rory Carroll writes that abductions and murders continue, despite the Nov. 29 election of Lobo. Carroll notes the murder of gay activist and anti-coup leader, Walter Trochoz, reported yesterday, as well as the murder of 16-year-old Catherine Nicolle Rodriguez, who was shot this week by two men on a motorcycle while she traveled in her mother’s car. Coincidentally or not, Rodriguez is the daughter of Carol Cabrera, a TV presenter and outspoken supporter of the de facto government. (There are contradicting reports about whether or not Cabrera was in the car at the time, but Micheletti used the killing to denounce what he called the “sicarios of the Resistencia”). “We are very concerned that the recent election in Honduras appears to have done nothing to protect political activists,” says Jasmine Huggins, Latin America policy officer for the UK advocacy group Christian Aid.
And on the still disputed Nov. 29 elections themselves, AFP reports that Costa Rican President Oscar Arias made yet another call on the international community to recognize the election’s results. Arias also insisted that Micheletti step down, something the coup regime leader unequivocally rejected earlier this week. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, meanwhile, has a new report detailing all the questions that still remain about the actual results of the Nov. 29 vote, including a still unclear vision of actual voter turnout. COHA writes:
“The lack of impartial international observers, the undeniable human rights abuses that took place during the campaigning period and election, as well as the TSE’s apparent fabrication of high voter turnout figures for strategic political purposes, all evidence that the Honduran elections were something significantly less than free, fair, or transparent.”
Three Colombia-related pieces to highlight this morning. Reuters reports this morning that the country’s two largest guerrilla groups, the ELN and the FARC, may soon join forces against the Colombian state “after years of being pushed onto the defensive by the U.S.-backed security policies of President Alvaro Uribe.” In a surprise statement yesterday, leaders from the two groups threatened to unite with “force and belligerence” in their fight against the conservative government of Mr. Uribe. Some analysts say the unification may end up being solely symbolic, however. “Their command and control capabilities have been seriously damaged and even if they were to join forces, they could not mount a threat to the security advances that Uribe has made,” argues Mauricio Romero, an analyst at the Bogota’s Javeriana University.
In Foreign Policy, Adam Isacson writes about “Integrated Action” programs in Colombia, most ambitiously launched in the La Macarena region south of the country’s capital, Bogota. Isacson writes: “Integrated Action scored some important initial successes. By mid-2008, the Army had quickly cleared guerrillas from most town centers. A massive eradication campaign sharply reduced the zone's coca crop. The region's small town centers saw quick-impact projects such as road-building, school repairs, and military ‘health brigades.’” But, he goes on, in 2009, the “counteroffensive in the zone's rural areas has made road travel unadvisable, leaving the relatively secure towns as islands in a sea of guerrilla influence. Ambushes, bombings, land-mine deaths, and forced recruitment (especially of minors) have increased.” And Colombia’s civilian government has yet to show up, as promised they would.
And in Time, news about a new report from a commission set up by the Ecuadorian government to investigate the 2007 cross-border attack on FARC guerrillas. The magazine writes that the findings indicate some of the government’s top officials had ties with the FARC rebels killed in a Colombian strike nearly two years ago. The independent commission’s coordinator, Francisco Huerta, said the report raises worries that Ecuador is “becoming a narco-democracy.”
Fujimori Trial in Peru
At WOLA, a new report from Jo-Marie Burt on the ongoing judicial appeal of former president Alberto Fujimori, found guilty of human rights crimes in April and sentenced to a maximum 25 years in prison. Burt writes: “To date, the trial of Alberto Fujimori has been an exemplary process. The international community should remain vigilant to ensure that it concludes in the same manner.” A final decision on the Fujimori’s appeal is expected by the end of the year, although the judges have until mid-January to issue their ruling. For more on the trial, see Burt’s International Journal of Transnational Justice article “Guilty as Charged.”
UN Critical of Chavez’s Moves Against Independent Judiciary
Three independent United Nations human rights experts have called for the immediate and unconditional release of a Venezuelan judge arrested after she ordered the release of a prisoner held for almost three years without trial. Judge María Lourdes Afiuni was arrested by intelligence police officers this week after ordering the conditional release pending trial of Eligio Cedeño, whose detention was declared arbitrary in September by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, citing violations of the right to fair trial. In their public statement, the UN officials said:
“We are particularly troubled about allegations that President Hugo Chávez attacked both Mr. Cedeño and Judge Afiuni, calling them ‘bandidos’ [bandits] and accusing Judge Afiuni of corruption.”
Drug War in Mexico
Finally this morning, news in the Wall Street Journal about the killing of one of Mexico’s most notorious drug barons. According to the Mexican government, navy sailors carried out an operation to kill Arturo Beltrán Leyva in the city of Cuernavaca on Wednesday. And the LA Times reports on an astoundingly bloody week in Tijuana where more than 45 individuals have been killed since Saturday, signaling the end of a nearly yearlong truce between rival crime bosses in the city.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
After meeting with Pepe Lobo on Monday Roberto Micheletti, leader of the coup regime in Honduras, was in the news yesterday to make an announcement. “Though the world wants it, I will not resign,” Micheletti declared on HRN radio Wednesday. The intransigent de facto president added that his term in office was constitutionally granted to him.
“I was elected by the Congress and the only one who can remove me from this position is the National Congress itself…The Congress made an historic decision and I believe that from that moment Zelaya should understand that he doesn’t have the option of returning to power, even if our friends, our neighbors, or the world want him back, in this country he’s not coming back to power.” (my translation).
The national human rights commissioner, Ramon Custodio, went so far as to say that if Mr. Micheletti were to resign he would be the one committing a “crime against the public order.”
And more translation of Micheletti’s words at Honduras Coup 2009:
“Even when the world asks me, even when the countries that have been intransigent watching us with hate, without justification, even so I will not do it. And what does it matter, some days, when we have practically six months of leading on these topics? What does it matter to the international community that I might stay another day, another two days? I don't see what could be the interest of the other countries of the world that I have to leave one day, two days, seven days, eleven days before January 27. What's the sense of that?”
Also on Honduras this morning, numbers from the recently released Latinobarometro survey for 2009 show very high disapproval of the way Micheletti has handled the crisis, as well as strong disapproval of the coup, in general. From CNN, 65% of Hondurans disapprove of Roberto Micheletti’s handling of the crisis (48% - Disapproval of Manuel Zelaya’s leadership before coup). And 58% of Hondurans disapprove of the coup itself. Interestingly, 24 percent of respondents in the other Latin American countries approved of the coup, the survey found while the countries where respondents felt a coup was most likely are notably all governed by left-leaning presidents. 36% of Ecuadorians, 34% of Brazilians and 30% Venezuelans said a coup was possible in their country.
Finally, the AP reports on the murder of gay activist and prominent anti-coup leader, Walter Trochoz, who was killed as he walked down the street in Tegucigalpa. Previously, on Dec. 4, Trochez was briefly kidnapped by four masked men who beat him up and threatened to kill him because of his participation in the anti-coup movement. This according to the International Observatory on the Human Rights Situation.
In other news this morning,
- The LA Times reports on defense contractors in Colombia who are flying crop dusters over coca fields and dropping herbicides under the auspices of Plan Colombia. The paper writes:
“Although the amount of coca produced in Colombia declined by 28% last year from 2007, according to United Nations figures, the effectiveness of the eradication program is under intense scrutiny in the United States, and funding has recently been curtailed. The flyboys, most of whom come from Texas or the Midwest, have dusted more than 3.2 million acres of coca in the last 14 years, some of it under a program that was launched five years before Plan Colombia got underway.”
At Plan Colombia and Beyond, Adam Isacson posts the letter (mentioned a couple of weeks ago) that was recently sent by 53 House members to Sec. of State Clinton, calling for major changes in U.S. Colombia policy.
And in the Washington Post yesterday, an editorial calls on Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to rule out changing the constitution so that he might run for a third term. Per usual, the editorial is largely about Hugo Chavez.
“This systematic erosion of political institutions and the rule of law is one of the ways in which Mr. Chávez and his followers threaten to drag Latin America back to its bad old days of caudillos and coups. Nations that have tried to leave that history behind have an obligation to establish a clear alternative model based on rule by the people, not a series of strongmen. That is why it is so important that the man who in many ways embodies the alternative to Chavismo, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, firmly commit himself against seeking a third term in next year's presidential election.”
- Via Mercury Rising, America’s Quarterly writes that the supervisor of presidential security in Guatemala was murdered this week in a coordinated attack in Guatemala City. The security agent was specifically in charge of protecting President Alvaro Colom’s own children. AQ: “The attack is the latest in a series of incidents involving the Secretariat for Administration and Security (SAAS). In September, the director of SAAS was detained on espionage charges following the discovery of covert audio and video recording equipment in the president’s offices and residence. It also follows a series of death threats against the president received by the agency, which were issued by the Mexico-based Golfo drug cartel.” Guatemala will end 2009 with more murders than in 2008.
- In the Wall Street Journal, news that Mexican President Felipe Calderon has proposed major political reforms that would establish a second-round vote for presidential elections, cut the number of seats in Congress and allow federal lawmakers and local officials to be re-elected. In an attempt to end political gridlock, the WSJ writes, “The president's bill takes aim at an enduring political taboo here: re-election.” But the proposals must pass the Mexican Congress currently controlled by the PRI. While many agreed that the reforms are badly needed, most analysts say they are unlikely to pass.
Also on Mexico, the Inter-American Human Rights Court condemned Mexico Tuesday for not investigating the 1974 disappearance of a left wing guerrilla sympathizer. According to the AP, “the decision marked the first time an international court has ruled against Mexico in a human rights case stemming from the conflict with leftist guerrilla groups in the 1970s.”
Mexico also received 5 helicopter from the U.S. Tuesday, part of the $1.4 billion Merida Initiative.
· And at NACLA, Katherine Hoyt has a piece about a recent study sponsored by the Nicaragua Network that examined the Ortega government’s anti-poverty programs. Their investigations look at ALBA-supported projects in particular, and Hoyt writes:
“Based on our sample of visits, we felt the government's anti-poverty programs were making a difference, but it was necessary to travel outside the capital to see and feel that difference. Zero Hunger may not be a national development plan but it is a policy to bring an important sector of the population out of deep poverty. On the question of the policies of free education and health care, we found mostly praise although there was concern that the problem of class size could substantially affect the quality of education that children were receiving. In short, the polarization that we found was disheartening, but we found less polarization once we left Managua.”
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Recently confirmed U.S. Ass’t. Sec. of State Arturo Valenzuela kicked off his first visit to the region with a stopover in Brazil Monday, trying to patch up a relationship that has looked to be on thin ice in recent weeks. Valenzuela, reports AFP, held meetings not with foreign minister Celso Amorim, however, but with Lula’s closest foreign policy advisor, Marco Aurelio Garcia. The two sought to “clear the air,” in Mr. Garcia’s words. Among the specific topics touched upon: Iran, Honduras, and the increased US military presence in Colombia.
On Iran, Garcia said Brazil believed Iran “had a positive role to play” in achieving MidEast peace and told Valenzuela that Brazil will continue to support the country’s right to a nuclear energy program, so long as it abides by IAEA norms and was purely civilian in nature. As AFP reporting points out, the discussion came after Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s warning to Latin American countries that deepening relations with Iran could come with unspecificed “consequences.” But Mr. Garcia said he did not believe Ms. Clinton’s words were a warning for Brazil. “If that was the message, it was mistaken,” he said Monday. For more on Iran in Latin America, conservative WSJ columnist Bret Stephens attacks close Venezuela-Iran relations and argues, if my history is correct, that a possible replay of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis is on the horizon.
On Honduras, Garcia said he and Mr. Valenzuela found two points of common ground. First, there was agreement that Roberto Micheletti must step down as leader of the Central American country and second, Mel Zelaya must be granted safe passage out of the Brazilian Embassy where he continues to reside under threat of arrest if he exits. Reuters quotes Garcia: “We coincide in something: for the Brazilian and the U.S. governments the election is insufficient to normalize democracy.” The Brazilian added the differences between the two governments on Honduras were “small.” According to Garcia, the U.S. and Brazil would also establish a “consulting mechanism” for permanent dialogue to discuss their differences on next steps in Honduras. For more analysis, see RNS at Honduras Coup 2009 who remains skeptical that the U.S. and Brazil are on the same page.
And, finally, on Colombia, Garcia called the new U.S. presence at multiple Colombian bases “not a positive factor in the region.” He went on to urge the U.S. to talk directly with those most concerned with the Colombian bases issue. For his part, Mr. Valenzuela offered few remarks to the press after the meeting, simply stating that: “What impresses me is how much we are in agreement on basic fundamentals in our relationship.” Valenzuela travels on to Uruguay, Argentina, and Paraguay to finish off his MERCOSUR tour.
With other news from Honduras this morning, ex Honduran president Ricardo Maduro Joest said over the weekend that he believes both parties to the ongoing crisis should be given political amnesty when all is said and done. The AP reports that Pepe Lobo, speaking Monday, said he is willing to meet with Mel Zelaya anywhere, anytime to help end the crisis—including inside the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa. The two were supposed to meet in the DR Monday, but the coup regime blocked a Zelaya exit with various conditions. A similar situation arose last week when Mexico attempted to offer Zelaya a new home. Also Monday, El Tiempo reports the beginning of the “Great National Dialogue” in Honduras, headed by Pepe Lobo. At the “Dialogue” kick-off, Lobo called for the creation of a reconciliation government between now and his inauguration in late January. Notably absent from the talks, however, were any Zelaya supporters. And finally, CIP’s Americas Program director, Laura Carlsen, writes in The Nation on Nov. 29 elections. Carlsen was in Tegucigalpa for the vote as part of a women’s human rights delegation. She concludes:
“The US State Department insists on the formation of a national unity government and a truth commission to repair the rifts in Honduras. But by recognizing the coup-run elections, it has hardened the regime's position and made a mess of mediation efforts to end the coup. The Obama administration now has both the continuing Honduran crisis and a divided hemisphere on its hands, with no solution in sight.”
In other News:
More Chilean Election Analysis
More analysis of the first round of voting in Chile. The LA Times says the popularity of current President Michelle Bachelet did not translate to success for her coalition’s candidate, Eduardo Frei. While most Chileans support the social programs that Ms. Bachelet has extended (extension of pensions to an additional 2 million Chileans, including, for the first time, homemakers; the consolidation of universal healthcare; and the quadrupling of government-run day-care centers, among them), there is dissatisfaction with the Chilean education system, as well as the economy, the paper reports. “The country's blistering, export-driven growth jag of the 1990s has run out of steam, and Pinera's campaign promise of a more entrepreneurial approach resonated with voters.” The billionaire part owner of LAN Chile, the country’s most recognized airline, also has said he will make industrialization of Chile's economy a major goal. In an interview with Spain’s El País Pinera says he has no plans of being the “guardian of the past but rather the builder of the future” if elected in round 2. And at the blog Monkey Cage, Greg Weeks picks up on significant changes in the Chilean legislature after Sunday’s vote. Forty five of the 120 deputies elected are first-timers, he notes, and many come from the Chilean Right.
Climate Change’s Effect on Bolivia
With climate change meetings ongoing in Denmark (and with Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez set to address the meetings shortly), the New York Times reports on the impact of global warming in Bolivia, where now disappearing glaciers have long provided water and electricity to parts of the country. Astonishingly, the paper writes the following:
“If the water problems are not solved, El Alto, a poor sister city of La Paz, could perhaps be the first large urban casualty of climate change. A World Bank report concluded last year that climate change would eliminate many glaciers in the Andes within 20 years, threatening the existence of nearly 100 million people.”
Military Trials in Argentina, Threats against Kirchner
Spain’s El País reports on the beginning of a new military trial in Argentina that puts 19 former state security officials before a judge for tortures and killings committed at the infamous Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada (ESMA). The paper writes that this will be the first “mega trial” for those involved in activities at ESMA, and it brings together the cases of 85 victims, three of whom were founding members of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo.
In a somewhat related piece, El País also has a story today on bizarre threats against the life of President Cristina Kirchner, intercepted by radio as she traveled by helicopter Monday. Voices were heard on the helicopter’s military radio saying “Kill the women, Kill the Fish,” says the paper. Some suspect that the threats may be related to the beginning of the trial of the 19 officials involved in crimes at ESMA.
Venezuelan Judge Jailed
And the AP reports on debate in Venezuela after a judge who freed a high-profile banker now finds herself in jail. President Hugo Chavez condemned the judge, Maria Afiuni, as a “criminal” for commuting the sentence of the banker. “It's unacceptable pressure being put on the judicial branch by the executive branch,” Alberto Arteaga Sanchez, a criminal law professor at Venezuela's Central University, said Monday. “It’s a case that demonstrates the weakness of Venezuela's democratic system.” Others say the decision by Mr. Chavez illustrates the breakdown of the rule of law and separation of powers. For their part, Chavez supporters defended the move, saying the case is symptomatic of a “judicial branch that still remains in the hands of mafias to a great extent.”
Monday, December 14, 2009
With 98 percent of votes tallied, Chilean billionaire Sebastian Pinera, no. 701 on Forbes list of the world’s richest men, has been declared the winner of first round voting in Chile. The candidate of the Chilean center-right “Alianza” coalition appears to have captured 44 percent of the vote, writes the New York Times this morning. That’s 14 percentage points ahead of the governing Concertación’s candidate, former president Eduardo Frei. In a distant third was independent upstart candidate, Marco Enriquez-Ominami, with 20%. However, since Mr. Pinera was unable to capture an outright majority in round one, voters will head back to the polls on Jan. 17 to decide between Pinera and Frei. Pinera’s most emphasized campaign promises have been to spend more on public security and crackdown on drug trafficking within the country while Mr. Frei has said he seeks to continue the popular social programs that the outgoing government of the very popular Michelle Bachelet has implemented.
With a bit of analysis on the elections, the Times also adds that Sunday’s results may signal the “beginning of the end of the two-party electoral system left by the dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet in the late 1980s,” a system that has made it extremely difficult for independent candidates.” According to political analysis Marta Lagos, “There is a demand for diversity in Chilean politics. Polls show that 60 percent of the people in Chile say that none of the candidates represent their ideas well. There is a real questioning here of what is democracy.” As an earlier weekend report by the Times’ Alexi Barrionuevo pointed out, Chile’s youth, in particular, have grown increasingly apathetic regarding politics. Only 9% of voting age youth were even registered for Sunday’s vote. “Chile’s youth today see political discourse as the language of their parents, not as their language,” said Juan Eduardo Faúndez, the director of the National Youth Institute. “These are the children of democracy, and they have other options and other demands of Chilean society, and of the political class.”
For other pieces analyzing Chile, see Time’s Tim Padgett who examines the Chilean Right. “This election,” says political analyst Guillermo Holzmann, “is an opportunity to see that a center-right exists in Chile,” while Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue notes that Pinera has not said he will cut social programs if elected, perhaps showing the evolution of a Chilean Right once characterized by its neoliberal tendencies. And Time’s Jonathan Franklin who looks at the struggle of Mapuche Indians, locked in a struggle with the Chilean government over centuries-old claim to land they say was taken from them by the Spaniards and then the Chilean state.
With the latest from Honduras…
Pepe Lobo and Mel Zelaya agreed to meet over the weekend, in the Dominican Republic for what would have been the first face-to-face dialogue (BBC reported the meeting was to occur Monday, with Zelaya arriving in Santo Domingo on Sunday and Lobo Monday morning) between the two men since Lobo was elected in the disputed elections of Nov. 29. Dominican President, Leonel Fernandez, the apparent broker of the deal, told EFE Saturday that, “We hope that with this decision there won’t be any difficulty in allowing President Zelaya to leave Honduras and that no “condition” nor “obstacle” will be set up by the de facto regime for his trip.” Fernandez went on to add that he hoped the conversation between Lobo and Zelaya would help “overcome the crisis” that lingers on in Honduras.
But (once again), not so fast. By Sunday the meeting was off. RNS/RAJ post this communiqué from the Dominican government, indicate the de facto regime still wants conditions on any sort of exit that Mr. Zelaya makes out of the Brazilian Embassy:
"The willingness to begin dialogue this week was reiterated by President Fernandez, as much as by Zelaya and the candidate elect, but the de facto government insists on conditioning Zelaya's leaving the Brazilian Embassy as political asylum."
Further, the de facto regime, via its foreign ministry spokesperson, went on Sunday to say that it would grant Zelaya safe passage out of the country in the form of “territorial political asylum” but that exit could only be to a non-Central American country. Again RNS/RAJ note that, “under the Caracas Convention of 1954, someone seeking territorial asylum cannot involve themselves in confrontations with the government in their home country. This would remove Zelaya as a ‘threat’ to the de facto government and let them get their propaganda out.” Peru’s Alan Garcia, meanwhile, has said (and La Tribuna reports) it’s time for Lobo to enter the Brazilian Embassy itself to talk with Mr. Zelaya, to at least “give the impression that they both know how to have a dialogue.” Garcia also condemned “conditionality” on Zelaya’s exit.
Frances Robles in the Miami Herald writes this weekend on human rights abuses in Honduras in one of the most thorough accounts of such abuses I’ve seen in mainstream press in some time.
“As Zelaya approaches his sixth month of banishment, human-rights organizations here and abroad say Honduras has experienced a serious deterioration of civil rights in a country where death squads and extrajudicial killings already were commonplace.
Resistance members say they have been subjected to a campaign by police, the military and paramilitaries to execute their leaders and members. Human-rights activists have documented the deaths of 26 members who have been stabbed or shot across the country.
Activists say more than 3,000 people have been illegally detained, 450 beaten, and 114 now are political prisoners since the June coup.”
The paper quotes respected rights activist Berta Oliva of COFADEH:
“I don't know what people think can be done when there is a state policy to do nothing.”
And Paolo Carroza, a professor at Notre Dame and member of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission’s summer delegation to Honduras on whether or not deaths are “politically motivated”:
“We have been dealing for years with violence against defenders of human rights. My presumption is, yeah, some are politically motivated, because that has been a pattern in Honduras for a long time, not just since the coup.”
Finally, the blog Mercury Rising picks up an interesting piece in Honduras’s El Tiempo which recently reported that 248 officials in the military have been promoted under Micheletti’s watch.
In other news,
· During the State Dept’s Latin America briefing on Friday, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton raised eyebrows when she addressed Latin America’s growing relations with Iran, with notable aggressiveness.
“If people want to flirt with Iran, they should take a look at what the consequences might well be for them. And we hope that they will think twice.”
As Greg Weeks notes, threatening Latin American countries who deviate from U.S. MidEast policy never worked out so well for President Obama’s predecessor.
· The Washington Post has a piece on how Mexican drug traffickers have siphoned off some $1 billion in Mexican oil and then resold the liquid gold in the U.S. The paper writes:
“Drug traffickers employing high-tech drills, miles of rubber hose and a fleet of stolen tanker trucks have siphoned more than $1 billion worth of oil from Mexico's pipelines over the past two years, in a vast and audacious conspiracy that is bleeding the national treasury, according to U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials and the state-run oil company.”
The new information shows the continuing evolution of Mexican cartels, says the WP, which points out that much of the oil theft can be traced to the powerful Zetas group in Veracruz and Tamaulipas, working with former PEMEX officials. Also, an interesting NYT piece on the extravagant, retrofitted cars that drug lords drive in Mexico
· The BBC reports on proposed media regulations in Ecuador that are coming under heat from opponents of President Rafael Correa. Debate over the proposed legislation has been delayed because of the intense criticism being leveled by journalists and some civil society groups who call the proposal a “Gag Law.” According to the BBC, “One of the key and most contentious provisions of the bill would mean only people who have a journalism degree would be able to work in the media. The legislation also seeks to create a watchdog that would supervise the media and their content and would be able to sanction and even shut down an outlet in case of repeat offences.”
· The NYT reports on the detention of a U.S. contractor in Cuba for distributing computers and cell phones, apparently “on behalf of the Obama administration.” “[T]he contractor’s covert conduct — which included entering Cuba on a tourist visa without proper documents — raised questions about whether Mr. Obama would fulfill his promise to break with the confrontational tactics that Washington has employed toward Havana for five decades.” According to the Lexington Institute’s Phil Peters “President Obama’s been different in some areas. But most of his policy remains the Bush policy, and this is just another example of that.”
Friday, December 11, 2009
More news this morning detailing the breakdown of negotiations that would have allowed Mel Zelaya to leave Tegucigalpa for Mexico City on Wednesday. Reuters writes that Zelaya refused to sign a letter (available here) written by the de facto government, spelling out the terms of the deposed president’s exit. Namely, the conditions included Zelaya dropping his case for being reinstated. Speaking to Radio Globo yesterday, Zelaya elaborated further.
“There was a letter that they wanted me to sign, and I refused to sign it. It was to renounce the mandate which the people gave me to be president until Jan. 27.”
“I told them, ‘Don't waste your time sending your attorneys here because no one will receive them.’ I will not sign such papers.”
According to Miami Herald reporting, Mr. Zelaya also claimed that the decision to go to Mexico came out of discussions with “various presidents and governments,” adding that “the U.S. itself agreed” to his temporary relocation to Mexico. The U.S. Embassy in Honduras, however, rejected that claim on Thursday. State spokesman, PJ Crowley also addressed the matter in his daily press briefing. “[T]he decision as to whether President Zelaya decides to stay at the Brazilian Embassy or eventually accept the opportunity to move to another country, that's ultimately his decision.” For its part, Mexico has said it got involved in talks about giving Mr. Zelaya refuge at the ousted president’s request. And, judging by Mexican foreign minister Patricia Espinosa, the Mexican government was anything but happy about the conditions the coup regime were imposing on Zelaya’s exit. Quoted in the LA Times, Espinosa said: “The status with which a foreign national is admitted to a country is exclusively a decision of the country admitting him.”
Brazil’s foreign minister, Celso Amorim agreed was, arguing it was “unacceptable to impose conditions on Mr. Zelaya’s departure. Amorim also blamed the United States for being too tolerant of the de facto government, reports say. And this morning, the AP writes that Mr. Zelaya continues his search a new residence, outside the Embassy, telling Globo TV that he’ll be out by Jan. 27.
For more, RAJ/RNS, as usual, have an excellent short-round-up of all the happenings around the failed move:
“Why is this a roadblock? Porfirio Lobo was given homework by Oscar Arias and Ricardo Martinelli on Tuesday, which included getting Roberto Micheletti to step aside, since it will be fatal to Lobo's case for international recognition for Micheletti to be the one handing over power. Micheletti has more than once said he won't resign until and unless Zelaya also renounces as president. Stalemate.”
Finally, there seems to be frustration and irritation amongst coup backers regarding the continued presence of outside officials like Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias in negotiations. In La Tribuna’s “Minuto a Minuto” section, Micheletti advisor Rafael Pineda Ponce lashes out at Arias for continuing to involve himself in Honduran affairs, saying he should “dedicate himself to governing his own country well, and respect the his constitution.” The words come after Pepe Lobo met with Arias and Ricardo Martinelli of Panama earlier in the week and was convinced to continue implementing the “Tegucigalpa-San José Accord” and promote amnesty for all parties to the coup crisis. U.S. Ass’t. Sec. of State Arturo Valenzuela also spoke with foreign press recently, saying the U.S. is urging “Central American” solution to the on-going crisis.
In other news today,
Inter American Court of Human Rights Rules on 2001 Female Killings
In the LA Times, a report that the Inter American Court of Human Rights has ordered the Mexican government to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the families of three women killed in a wave of killings in Ciudad Juarez. The Court says Mexico violated human rights conventions by not properly investigating the 2001 killings which took the lives of some 350 women and girls. According to the LAT report, “Activists said that the 156-page decision strikes a blow for justice in a circumstance in which many of the dead were impoverished young factory workers.”
Venezuelan Drug Smuggling Case, Cemetery Vandalization
The Miami Herald has news on a USG investigation that has allegedly detailed a Venezuela drug smuggling operation that linked a powerful trafficker, accused of supplying weapons to the FARC, with a prominent Venezuelan businessman. The investigation centers around Walid Makled whose family owns Venezuela's leading airline, Aeropostal.
Also, in the New York Times, a report on a spike in grave robberies in the country. “Accompanying Venezuela’s soaring levels of murders and kidnappings, its cemeteries are the setting for a new kind of crime wave.” Apparently grave robbers are in search of human bones, “answering demand from some practitioners of a fast-growing transplanted Cuban religion called Palo that uses the bones in its ceremonies.” According to Venezuelan anthropologist and CUNY professor Fernando Coronil, “The cemetery has become an iconic emblem of our national tragedy. In our daily struggle to maintain a civil order against multiple transgressions against property and propriety, not even the dead can now rest in peace.”
Ecuador says US Aided 2008 FARC Attack
The Times also writes this morning that: “A report by Ecuador’s government said American military personnel stationed at an air base in Manta helped with intelligence to plan the 2008 attack by Colombian forces on an encampment of Colombian rebels in Ecuadorean territory.” No comment yet from the United States Embassy in Ecuador.
DOS LatAm Policy Fact Sheet, Latinobarometro.
DOS just released a “fact sheet” about its “partnership and shared responsibility” in the Western Hemisphere. With growing discontent about U.S. handling of the Honduras crisis, along with an increased military presence in Colombia, the timing of the release is somewhat interesting.
Don’t Finance Haitian Elections
And lastly, an opinion in the Miami Herald by Brian Concannon Jr. an OAS election observer and U.N. human rights officer in Haiti and currently the director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, and Ira Kurzban, U.S. legal counsel for the Haitian governments under presidents Préval and Aristide from 1991-2004. The two argue the U.S. should not support February/March legislative elections after Fanmi Lavalas candidates were removed from the election ballot. They write:
“If the Council does not change course, President Préval's allies may control Parliament, but Haiti's streets will be filled with angry protestors confronting U.N. troops and blaming the United States for supporting yet another undemocratic regime. Social unrest will stall development projects and scare investors.
Americans and Haitians deserve a better return on their money spent to stabilize and develop Haiti. The Obama administration can guarantee a better return by immediately cutting off all funding for the electoral charade and insisting that it will neither finance, nor recognize, elections that are not fair and inclusive.”
Thursday, December 10, 2009
A plan that would have allowed ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to leave the Brazilian Embassy for Mexico ran into some obstacles late Wednesday night. According to Mexican authorities, says the New York Times, stalled negotiations over Mr. Zelaya’s “safe passage” were the cause. Zelaya spoke with Mexican TV station, Televisa, after the agreement fell apart and said the de facto regime had placed “denigrating” conditions on his exit. Later the Mexican government said it was petitioning for Zelaya’s exit from the country as a “guest” rather than seeking “political asylum.” The AP has more with an updated report filed early this morning. “Honduran officials said the interim government agreed to let Zelaya go if he was willing to accept political asylum, but Zelaya said he would not accept a departure under those terms. Speaking to Radio Globo, Zelaya remarked: “I want to leave as a distinguished guest, not as political refugee like the interim government wants.”
The difference is more than semantic it seems since the status of “guest” in Mexico may allow Zelaya to continue his “political actions from abroad,” a right he insists he still has as the legitimate president of the country. And that appears to be exactly what the Micheletti regime refuses to accept.
“If the government of Mexico wishes to give him asylum (emphasis added), we will consider that petition as long as it fulfills all the requirements,” Micheletti’s interim interior minister Oscar Matute told CNN en Espanol late yesterday.
Micheletti foreign minister, Carlos Lopez Contreras went so far as to acknowledge that a plane had been sent from Mexico to pick up Zelaya but was diverted by the de facto regime to El Salvador after talks broke down.
“Honduras will only offer a safe-conduct pass to Zelaya to travel to another country as a political refugee, and not in any other way,” Lopez Contreras said Wednesday.
RAJ has more…including news that Zelaya played the guitar and sang on Radio Globo sometime either before or after he discussed the possibility of leaving for Mexico. La Tribuna reports Zelaya was planning to settle his family in Mexico City, meet with Felipe Calderon in the morning (today) and then head to Cuba for the upcoming ALBA Summit, scheduled for December 14. And the LA Times reports that Zelaya supporters amassed around the Brazilian Embassy after news leaked that Zelaya may be leaving the country. That, presumably, would explain the masked anti-riot police spotted moving metal barricades around the Embassy yesterday.
With more on Honduras, U.S. Sec. of State Hillary Clinton felt the need to make a statement about Honduras Wednesday—out of the blue and during a press conference with Ukraine’s foreign minister, of all people.
“Before I turn to the issues that the minister and I discussed and the shared objectives the United States and Ukraine are working toward, I’d like to say a few words about Honduras. President-elect Lobo has been meeting this week with President Arias of Costa Rica, President Martinelli of Panama, and has been in touch with other leaders throughout the hemisphere to advance regional cooperation with respect to Honduras.
Ever since the June 28 coup, the United States has remained dedicated both to our democratic principles and our determination to help Honduras find a pragmatic path to restore democratic and constitutional order. We condemned President Zelaya’s expulsion from Honduras as inconsistent with democratic principles and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and we have taken significant steps to signal our determination… We stand with the Honduran people and we will continue to work closely with others in the region who seek to determine the democratic way forward for Honduras.”
Later, press spokesman Ian Kelly, noted that Ms. Clinton had a conversation with Oscar Arias the day before, during Pepe Lobo’s visit to Costa Rica (EFE notes that Lobo’s visit to the DR has been cancelled, perhaps because of negotiations about Zelaya’s future back home). Kelly said the U.S. “supports other international efforts such as the efforts of the Costa Rican and Panamanian presidents,” presumably meaning their (unsuccessful) coaxing of other Latin American countries to recognize the Nov. 29 elections. Also, Kelly said Arturo Valenzuela may be paying a visit to MERCOSUR member countries next week. Notably, the bloc—which includes Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and associate member, Venezuela, said they do not recognize the Nov. 29 elections in a statement earlier this week.
Lastly, as Greg Weeks notes, there are new stamps in Honduras with the image of Roberto Micheletti. No further comment necessary.
In other news today…
Police Killings in Venezuela
Following earlier stories this week about police and military abuses in Mexico and Brazil, the Miami Herald reports this morning on “extrajudicial killings” committed by the Venezuelan police. More than 7,000 people were killed by uniformed members of the security forces between 2000 and 2007, according to figures from the public prosecutor's office. However, less than 3 percent of more than 6,000 suspects were actually sentenced. A new national police force has recently been launched by the Chavez government in an attempt to halt the country’s out of control murder rate. But human rights activists still have concerns.
“We have to give them the benefit of the doubt,” said Rocio San Miguel of the defense and human rights group Citizens' Control. “But the ideological element in the launch [of the National Police] is a very bad sign. And there is no mechanism for democratic supervision.”
Paraguayan President between Rock and Hard Place
The AP reports that President Fernando Lugo’s decision to send special forces to the north of the country to track down those responsible for the kidnapping of a wealthy ranch has him in a very tough spot. The opposition is calling for Mr. Lugo’s impeachment, given former his ties to members of the suspected group, the so-called “Paraguayan People’s Army.” And his base argues he has violated the rights of the landless poor by sending in police armed with U.S.-provided anti-terror equipment.
Frustration over Elections in Haiti
The AP also writes that opposition to President Rene Preval are threatening to disrupt upcoming legislative elections in Haiti, arguing the president is trying to stack the deck in his party’s favor. “Frustrations center on decisions by the nine-member, presidentially appointed provisional electoral council seen as giving an unfair advantage to Preval's newly created Unity party, which in just weeks has absorbed Cabinet ministers, the presidents of both parliamentary chambers and almost half the members of the lower house,” says the wire service.
New WOLA Report
The Washington Office on Latin America has a new report, “Development First,” arguing that alternative livelihoods must be established first for those currently involved in the harvesting of coca and opium, if eradication programs have any hope of succeeding.
Finally, and LA Times editorial comments on the startling revelation that Eduardo Frei was murdered by Pinochet agents in 1982:
“The desire to move on is natural, and in many ways Chile already has, with an independent judicial system, free elections and, quite possibly now, the peaceful transfer of power to the opposition. But the brutal past still haunts a scarred and divided society. Many crimes of the dictatorship were exposed but never punished; some, such as the killing of Frei Montalva, are just being revealed. Rather than drag Chile backward, though, this case and others like it are actually part of the nation's painful reckoning.”
And in the Miami Herald Andres Oppenheimer writes on new changes in U.S. anti-drug policy. He writes:
“Earlier this week, in a tacit admission that current U.S. anti-drug policies are not working, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to create an independent commission to review whether the U.S. anti-drug policies of the past three decades in Latin America are producing positive results.”
The columnist goes on to cite last winter’s Drugs and Democracy high commission report and argues that “Washington is on the verge of beginning a taboo-free discussion on its drug policies that was unthinkable a few years ago.”
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
HRW: 11,000 killed by Rio and Sao Paulo Police Since 2003
Police in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have killed more than 11,000 people since 2003, many of which could be considered “extrajudicial killings” This according to a new Human Rights Watch report released Tuesday. The report says most of the shootings have been identified as “resistance” killings—instances in which the police returned fire against those usually tied to drug gangs—but the real nature of such killings is frequently covered up. According to the New York Times report on the HRW findings, “police investigators routinely failed to conduct proper inquiries into deadly shootings by police officers, helping ensure that responsibility could not be established and that the guilty remained unpunished.” Daniel Wilkinson, HRW’s Deputy Americas Director, says “The problem with the current system and the reason these killings continue is that the criminal justice system relies entirely on police investigators to resolve these cases, and they don’t do it.”
With no current system of accountability, HRW suggests that public prosecutors’ offices in Rio and Sao Paulo be created as a special unit to focus on police resistance cases. The group also proposes that public security officials “establish and strictly enforce crime-scene protocols that deter officers from engaging in cover-up techniques, and that they prosecute officers who engage in such activities,” in the Times words.
In response to the report, the secretary of security in São Paulo noted that lethal force by the police in São Paulo is actually on the decline, having fallen by almost 50 percent since 2003. He also added that new training programs for police in the state are “yielding positive results.” The Washington Post adds that Rio’s top public security official stated in April that he could not simply dismiss officers suspected of rights violations. “We only have one way to do this and that is to develop proof that the officer has committed a crime.” There, new community policing program continues to be implemented as an alternative strategy for providing citizen security.
With the latest from Honduras, the Miami Herald writes that disputed president-elect Pepe Lobo met Tuesday with Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias and Panama’s Ricardo Martinelli. Of all the Central American heads of state, Arias and Martinelli are the only two who have recognized the Nov. 29 elections in Honduras. Speaking with reporters Arias remarked, “I have faith that the international community, especially the European Union and the majority of countries on this continent, little by little will recognize the [newly] elected government of Honduras. Honduras has suffered far too much.” Arias and Martinelli also called on Roberto Micheletti to step down from the presidency. For his part, Mr. Lobo’s also announced Tuesday that he will seek amnesty for all parties to the last months of crisis, following suggestions made by Mr. Arias.
Bloomberg reports that the MERCOSUR trade bloc—which includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, and most recently Venezuela—condemned Honduran elections as “illegitimate and illegal” during this week’s meetings in Montevideo. The group passed a resolution declaring “the grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms against the Honduran people are unacceptable.” And as speculation continued that Brazil might recognize the Nov. 29 election of Pepe Lobo, Brazil made its position crystal clear (again) earlier this week. “One thing is dealing with the fact that there were elections and another is recognizing the legitimacy of the elections,'' Lula’s spokesman told reporters Monday. “And for now, Brazil does not recognize that legitimacy. The president's position is clear. Brazil does not intend to recognize a government elected in a process that was organized by an illegitimate government.” Although I suppose the words “for now” will keep some speculation churning. More on this from RAJ at Honduras Coup 2009.
The OAS’s chief, José Miguel Insulza, meanwhile, has also declared that Honduras cannot be reintegrated into the Inter-American body until the country “reaches a true restoration of its democratic regime and the outcome of the coup of June 28 has been overcome.” Hinting at what exactly this might mean, Insulza said Pepe Lobo must:
“Bring to an end the persecution of José Manuel Zelaya, break clearly and publicly from what happened in these months, fully reestablish the respect for human rights and public liberties, and summon all democratic forces to a great National Accord.”
Speaking of the Nov. 29 elections specifically, Insulza went on:
“An election does not erase, on its own, the forced deposition of the constitutional President, his expulsion from the country and his seclusion, even today, under precarious conditions in the enclosed Embassy of a sister country.”
According to RAJ, Lobo has hinted that he may allow Zelaya to live in Honduras, without persecution or prosecution, after January 27. But, the president-elect has taken no actions to repudiate the June coup against the Zelaya government.
The AP adds that the State Dept. lifted its travel advisory for Honduras on Tuesday, saying “the improved security situation there has removed the immediate threat to the safety of U.S. citizens in the country.” [No update yet on State’s webpage]. In a separate piece, however, two gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed Honduras’s top anti-drug official in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday, suggesting problems of citizen security and drug trafficking still run deep.
And finally, two opinions. CIP’s Laura Carlsen, in Tegucigalpa for the Nov. 29 elections, writes at Foreign Policy in Focus:
“…Throughout the country, farmers, feminists, union members and citizens are more organized than ever before. The demand for the constitutional assembly to change one of the world's most obsolete constitutions is at the center of this new phase.
In the end, the Honduran political crisis cannot be resolved without a legal means to channel dissent and eliminate the gross injustices of Honduran society. A broad swathe of the population that rejects the "elections panacea" scenario is determined to fight for just that, and nothing less. They deserve the support of the U.S. government and the rest of the international community.”
And CIP President and former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador and Paraguay, Robert White, writes about how U.S. policy on Honduras has ended a brief U.S.-Latin American partnership.
“Lula, and other Latin American democratic leaders, understood that by "equal partnership" Obama meant a sharing of responsibility and joint action with other American states to safeguard the future of democracy in the hemisphere. Unfortunately, in the case of Honduras, our diplomats apparently did not get Obama's message.”
In Other News:
Venezuela and Colombia Ambassadors in FP
Foreign Policy today opens its pages to Bernardo Alvarez and Carolina Barco, ambassadors to the U.S. from Venezuela and Colombia, respectively. Each tells their side of the tense Venezuela-Colombia relationship.
7000 Killed in Mexico in 2009 alone
Mexico’s El Universal reports that 7000 have been killed just this year in Mexico’s still-bloody drug wars. Thirty-one individuals were killed on a single day (Monday) says the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute. More on Mexican military abuses in the now available Amnesty International report, as reported yesterday.
More on Chile and Eduardo Frei Murder
A judge in Chile announced yesterday that Eduardo Frei did not die of natural causes in 1982 but was rather poisoned by agents of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. “…we had always doubted and thought that something else had happened,” Carmen Frei, one of the former president's seven children, said in an interview Tuesday.
John Dinges is no stranger to political assassination in the Southern Cone, having written the definitive history of Plan Condor, The Condor Years. But even he was left nearly without words Tuesday, telling the Washington Post:
“I'm the last guy who is going to be shocked by the stuff Pinochet has done, and I'm shocked. This is probably the greatest crime of the military government, to kill a former president. This is like discovering that Nixon was involved in the Kennedy assassination.”
The LA Times has an editorial on Evo’s re-election landslide, noting that the MAS appears to have also secured the 2/3 super majority it sought in both houses of Congress. “Although Morales' populism has sometimes led to political clashes with the U.S. government, and we'd like to see more cooperation with the U.S. in fighting drug production, we congratulate Morales on his election to a second five-year term. He clearly has the support of his people,” writes the paper.
And for a bit of humor, IKN does some research on how long it took reporters of Bolivian elections to talk about Hugo Chavez in their coverage of Evo’s re-election. The winner (meaning the only one to not to mention Venezuela): Jonathan Levin of Bloomberg!