Thursday, January 23, 2014

Guatemalan Dictator Could Escape Justice; Tension in Michoacan; Paraguay Rejoins MERCOSUR

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen and NotiSur for January 22-24

Former Dictator Efraín Ríos Montt Could Escape Justice
Two recent developments in the complex web of legal maneuvering surrounding the trial of former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-1983) have made it even more unlikely that he will ever be imprisoned for human rights violations committed during Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict. The trial, set to resume in April 2014, was postponed again until January 2015, purportedly because of the court’s busy schedule. With survivors facing threats and harassment, their attorneys fear that, if the trial is resumed, more than half the witnesses will be unwilling to testify again. In addition, on Oct. 22, 2013, the Corte de Constitucionalidad (CC) instructed the Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ) to overturn its prior ruling that Ríos Montt could not seek amnesty. -Louisa Reynolds   Read More

Tensions Remain High in Michoacán State, as Self-Defense Groups Confront Drug Cartel
The ongoing violent dispute between self-defense militias and the drug-trafficking organization Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) in Michoacán state has escalated in recent weeks, and the presence of the Army and federal police appears to have worsened the situation. The Army insists that the self-defense militias are unnecessary and illegal and that the federal government will take charge of going after the Caballeros Templarios, an offshoot of La Familia de Michoacán, which once dominated the state. Local residents counter that self-defense groups, which have been formed in about one-third of the state, are necessary because federal authorities have been ineffective in eradicating the drug cartel, which continues to make life miserable for many residents. -Carlos Navarro   Read More

Chilean Rights Groups Applaud Demise Of Government-Backed 'Anti-Protest' Bill
Two days after losing last month’s presidential runoff, the Chilean right suffered a second stinging defeat, this time in the lower house of Congress, the Cámara de Diputados, which voted Dec. 17 to reject a controversial law-and-order bill known popularly as the Ley Hinzpeter. The bill--a key item in President Sebastián Piñera’s legislative agenda--was first presented in late 2011 by then Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter (now minister of defense). It was designed to give authorities added leverage in clamping down on street demonstrations. The bill’s demise (the Cámara voted 51-43 against it) added insult to injury for Piñera’s conservative Alianza coalition, whose faint hopes of retaining the presidency had been dashed less than 48 hours earlier by the dismal Election Day performance of its candidate, Evelyn Matthei, who earned less than 38% of the vote in the Dec. 15 runoff -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar   Read More

Polls Show Costa Rica’s Traditional Political Center Threatened from Left and Right
Since the five-week revolution of 1948--sparked by a congressional decision to annul a presidential election--when the present Second Republic was founded, bipartisanship has occupied the Costa Rican political stage, in the center--both center-right and center left. Through the years this evolved so that the two traditional players--the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana (PUSC) and the social democratic Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN)--became the two election options. But massive dissatisfaction with the PLN and the PUSC, held responsible for a deteriorating standard of living and a rising crime rate, has opened the door for candidacies from the far left and the far right. Voters are considering the two options even though they continue to view themselves as ideologically "centrists." -George Rodríguez   Read More

Paraguay’s Decision to Rejoin MERCOSUR Revitalizes Trade Bloc
In just two hours, Paraguay’s Congress produced a bit of news that immediately made major changes to the region’s political map. Following a Senate decision eight days earlier, Paraguayan deputies on a split vote Dec. 18 agreed to rejoin the Southern Cone Common Market (MERCOSUR), a trade association it helped create in 1991 along with Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay . Venezuela joined in 2012. Immediately after voting to rejoin MERCOSUR, Paraguay’s Congress also decided to recognize the democratic government in Caracas, re-establish diplomatic relations broken 18 months earlier, endorse Venezuela’s MERCOSUR membership, and lift a declaration declaring Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro persona non grata. Together these measures re-established the equilibrium broken on June 22, 2012, when the rightist Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (PLRA) and Partido Colorado (PC) toppled the constitutional government of President Fernando Lugo in a parliamentary coup d’état. -Andrés Gaudín    Read More

Deportations of Mexican Citizens Set to Break Record during U.S. President Barack Obama’s Administration
Undocumented Mexican immigrants in the US, uncertain whether Congress will finally consider immigration-reform legislation in 2014, are facing high deportations, including deportations of many men and women who have been in the US longer than 10 years. Immigrant-rights organizations say deportations of Mexicans have surged during the current administration, approaching a record of 2 million people since US President Barack Obama took office in 2008. The latest data from Mexico’s immigration agency (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM) indicates that 332,000 Mexican nationals were deported in 2013. And, as Mexicans fight to stay in the US, they are also making demands on the Mexican government—namely the right to make their votes count in Mexican elections. -Carlos Navarro   Read More

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