Monday, June 13, 2011

Antanas Mockus Quits Colombia's Green Party

Former Colombian presidential candidate Antanas Mockus resigned from the Green Party last week, after Bogota mayoral candidate Enrique Peñalosa accepted a controversial campaign endorsement from ex-president Alvaro Uribe.

According to Colombia Reports, Uribe's support for Peñalosa has split the Green Party since it was first announced in early March, with Mockus being the most vocal about calling for Peñalosa to decline the endorsement. Speaking to El Espectador last Thursday, Mockus cited Uribe’s false positive and false demobilization scandals as evidence that his presidency came "at the expense of limits established in the constitution.”

In general it seems the jury is still out on whether Peñalosa’s decision to accept the endorsement will actually work to his advantage in October’s elections. According to a recent Gallup Colombia poll, Peñalosa is the favored candidate of the Bogota race in every situation, except when he is matched up against a hypothetical Uribe campaign, where he would lose by more than twice the votes. For this reason, it is not hard to see how the Peñalosa campaign could view Uribe’s endorsement as politically desirable.

Despite Uribe’s popularity, Mockus himself was seen as a kind of “anti-politician” who served as a symbol for alternative, more transparent governance. So while he may have gained the more traditional voters, the loss of Mockus’s supporters (who represent the Green Party’s base) could mean that Peñalosa ended up with only a minimal net increase of votes.

For his part, Peñalosa has defended his decision not to turn down Uribe’s support, saying that "the Greens have to be surrounded by many and achieve social consensus in order to make the country we want." Ultimately, the big question for the Bogota race is whether this bid to make the party more inclusive has backfired, instead casting Peñalosa as a careerist who has abandoned his party’s traditionally unorthodox approach to politicking.

Semana has two good pieces on this development. The first is a collection of various expert analyses on what Mockus’s departure means for his party’s future, as well as for the future of political dialogue in Colombia. Secondly, the Colombian magazine has a breakdown of the three main routes ahead of Mockus: launching his own campaign, allying himself with a different political movement, or devoting himself to changing the country’s political culture. Whatever his future holds, it looks as though it will still be in politics.

News Briefs
  • Meanwhile, Uribe himself will face a special commission on Thursday to defend against accusations that he ordered the illegal wiretapping of opposition politicians, human rights workers and judicial authorities. According to Colombia Reports, he has said he is ready to face the nation “with a sense of democracy and commitment." However, it remains to be seen if the commission has enough teeth to investigate him objectively. After three people have withdrawn from it due to intimidation and allegations of bias, the remaining three member of the investigation are tied to the infamous parapolitics scandal of 2006. CR’s Adriaan Alsema has more on this.
  • According to Mexico’s La Jornada, poet/activist Javier Sicilia’s caravan ended in the violent Ciudad Juarez on Friday with a massive rally. At the final event, Sicilia and other movement leaders have signed a statement demanding the end of the use of Mexican troops in the drug war, and an end to the U.S.-funded Mérida Initiative. As Patrick Corcoran over at Gancho points out, this is not the first recent demand of the protestors that seems slightly out of their reach. Previously, the group has also called for the removal of President Calderon's valued public safety secretary Genaro García Luna. On Sunday, AFP reported that Sicila crossed the border to El Paso, Texas, where he met with local civil society organizations to press them to press their government to do more about the violence in Mexico.
  • El Universal reports that two of the guns that were allegedly found in the possession of Jorge Hank Rhon, the ex-mayor of Tijuana, have been linked to homicides.
  • The U.S. has announced the appointment of a new ambassador to Mexico, Earl Anthony Wayne, who is now serving in Kabul. As the LA Times reports, increased skepticism of U.S. counternarctosic operations, as well as the WikiLeaks-fueled resignation of Wayne’s predecessor has made this a delicate moment in the U.S.-Mexico relationship.
  • It has been announced that President Barack Obama will officially visit Puerto Rico this Tuesday, making him the first U.S. president to do so in 50 years. Although Obama has previously expressed support for a referendum on statehood, it is unlikely that he will make that the central theme of his visit, due to the political risk involved. As the New York Times reports, the visit will come at a troubled time for the island, which as of April was suffering from 16.2 percent unemployment. The island has also been hit with a spiraling murder rate, much of which is due to
  • Peru’s El Comercio reports that Peruvian President-elect Ollanta Humala will continue his Latin American tour today in Uruguay, where he will meet with President José Mujica to talk about regional issues such as enhanced cooperation between Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations (CAN). So far, Humala has visited Brazil and Paraguay, and will continue on this week to Argentina and Chile. According to the AP, Humala’s spokesperson Aida Garcia has confirmed that he will visit the U.S., as well as France, before taking office.
  • Andrés Oppenheimer is the latest to compare Humala to Venzuela’s “narcissist-Leninist President Hugo Chàvez” in an op-ed in the Miami Herald. Like most analysts, he rejects the comparison  for now, but claims that a final answer to the question may rest on world oil prices, and on Chavez’s ability to use Venezuelan oil profits to support fellow leftists in the region. Interestingly, Oppenheimer doesn’t even make the usual Humala-Lula comparison. Instead, he describes him as a mix between former Ecuadoran president Lucio Gutierrez and El Salvador’s President Mauricio Funes.
  • Speaking of Chavez, the Venezuelan leader is recovering from surgery in Cuba for a “pelvic abscess,” according to the AP. This is the second injury in a month, following his injured knee that caused him to postpone his trip to Brazil, Ecuador and Cuba. El Pais reports that the two governments reportedly met to discuss the deepening of bilateral ties, specifically in the energy and telecommunications sectors.
  • On the tails of last week’s story about the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s attempt to push for a reduction in spending on democracy-building programs in Cuba, the Miami Herald reports that Freedom House has apparently given back a $1.7 million grant to USAID. The announcement comes after USAID asked for information about the identities and travel plans of the people involved in Freedom House’s Cuba program. Out of concern that the material might be leaked to Havana, the organization opted to give up on the grant instead.
  • The AP notes that ousted ex-President Manuel Zelaya met for two days with leaders of his supporters in the People's National Resistance Front (Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular -FNRP) to discuss what goals should be taken in order to meet their initial goal of convening a Constituent Assembly in Honduras. Apparently they have decided to reconvene on 26 June to discuss the possibility of creating an official political party to participate in the 2013 elections.
  • Latin American News Dispatch reports on Alabama’s new immigration law, which it calls “the nation’s toughest.” Not only does it require police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect is an undocumented immigrant, it also requires public schools to determine students’ immigration status and requires employers to use E-Verify to check potential employees’ immigration status. Because of the similarity of this law to Arizona’s SB 1070, it’s probably likely that the law will be challenged in court and have its implementation significantly altered, as was the case in Arizona. According to Mexico’s El Universal, the Mexican government has already condemned the law, saying it violates the human rights of Mexicans living and working legally in the country.