teleSUR examines the crises and opportunities in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and offers criticial analysis of the growing protest movements and the potential for a democratic resurgence in Central America.
Guatemala is in upheaval: former vice president Roxana Baldetti is behind bars; President Otto Perez Molina is facing persistent calls to resign. Why is this all happening now? Here are five reasons.
A team of dogged investigators and prosecutors is on the cusp of an astonishing feat: bringing down President Otto Pérez Molina, who stands accused of having played a leading role in a huge kickback scheme. Authorities in Guatemala City arrested Mr. Pérez Molina’s former vice president, Roxana Baldetti, last Friday, and began to unveil an extensive dossier that has prompted public outrage and led to the resignation of at least 14 members of Mr. Pérez Molina’s cabinet. In a region where judicial institutions are notoriously weak, politicized and corrupt, the transformation of Guatemala’s rule of law sector is a rare success story. It began in 2007 after civil society groups persuaded the government to agree to let the United Nations establish the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, an independent investigative agency that works alongside the attorney general’s office.
“Guatemala is in the middle of one of its worst-ever institutional crises. It is also a historic moment of opportunity to start a real social and institutional transformation,” said Alvaro Pop, a leftwing deputy in congress. “My hope is that Thursday’s day of action will create enough pressure to make the president’s prosecution unavoidable.”
The money for aid to the Honduran police is part of an appropriation for fiscal year 2016 that the Obama administration has requested to fund the “Alliance for Prosperity.” The appropriation, of $1 billion, would fund aid to social welfare systems but also to the security services of the three northernmost countries of Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The Congressional letter, dated Wednesday August 19, addresses itself to the fact that President Hernandez has been pursuing a policy of militarizing the functions of the Honduran police, leading to multiple complaints of violations of human rights. Hernandez and his administration are also accused of massive corruption, and have been the target of hugedemonstrations, calling for his resignation since April.
The quantity of cocaine confiscated by Mexico‘s army during the first six months of 2015 — almost 2,800 kilos — is a more than 340 percent increase from how much was seized during the same period last year. Prior to this year, cocaine seizures by Mexico‘s army had been on the decline. The apparent drop in demand for cocaine in the United States and reduced coca cultivation in South America were the reasons given for the decline in seizures registered by Mexican authorities during 2013 and 2014. But the 2015 data shows a different story.
The court said the well-known Marasalvatrucha or MS-13 gang and any other gang that attempts to claim powers that belong to the state would be considered terrorists. It defined terrorism as the organized and systematic exercise of violence. The court’s declaration came as a denial to four attempts to declare the country’s Special Law Against Terrorist Acts unconstitutional. The court found that telephone wiretaps and the freezing of funds belonging to third parties tied to terrorist groups are constitutional, among other issues.
And while there is not yet a mass migration crisis at the border, the International Organization for Migration, which has been monitoring the camps’ emergence, is concerned about returning migrants getting stranded in remote locations such as Anse-à-Pitres and the impact it could have on the surrounding communities. “We are very concerned that a massive influx of people at the border may become the nucleus of new large informal settlements,” said Fabien Sambussy, IOM’s camp manager. “One of the solutions is to accompany them in their reintegration into host communities.” Even before the resumption of deportations, concerns were already deepening among migrant advocates of a humanitarian crisis along the porous 224-mile border.
More than 100 Colombians carrying their possessions on their shoulders waded knee-deep across a river back into their homeland, fleeing a Venezuelan crackdown on illegal migrants and smugglers that is generating an increasingly angry dispute between the South American neighbors. The dramatic scene came ahead of a meeting Wednesday between the nations’ foreign ministers to cool tensions that spiked after Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro closed a major border crossing last week, declared a state of emergency in six western cities and deported more than 1,000 Colombian migrants he blamed for rampant crime and widespread shortages.
“Venezuela’s problems are made in Venezuela, they’re not made in Colombia or other parts of the world,” Santos told a forum of former presidents from around the world. While about five million Colombians live in Venezuela, the security offensive has focused on a few towns near the border where Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro blames migrant gangs for rampant crime and smuggling that has caused widespread shortages. The crisis began a week ago when Maduro claimed armed paramilitaries linked to former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe shot and wounded three army officers on an anti-smuggling patrol.
Soon after the UN announced its survey, critics noted that the report focused on the coca leaf but omitted data on how much of the crop is being converted to cocaine. And without that data, the heralded fall in coca may be an optical illusion. “While voluntary reduction of coca shows that small farmers can play a role in national drug policies, the government doesn’t keep consistent data on the drug trade and cocaine production,” Bolivian economist Roberto Laserna, of Fundacion Milenio, told me. “They are controlling coca leaf, but indications are that trafficking and transport of the drug are increasing.”