Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Honduran Resistance Movement Officially Creates Political Party

According to Honduras’s El Heraldo, the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP) has officially agreed to the creation of a new political party, which will participate in the 2013 presidential elections. At a rally in Tegucigalpa on Sunday, the ousted ex-president Manuel Zelaya  was joined by 1,500 delegates of the Honduran resistance movement, who  announced that the new party will be called the Broad Front of Popular Resistance (Frente Amplio de Resistencia Popular - FARP). Like the ruling left-wing coalition in Uruguay, the Broad Front will bring together an alliance of socialists, social democrats and liberals who hope to challenge the hegemony of the country’s two main political forces: the Liberal and National parties.

Zelaya, who was allowed to return to Honduras on June 28 after reaching an agreement in late May with current President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, said that the political party does not aim to replace the FNRP, only to fulfill its goals through electoral means. Among these is the establishment of a constitutional referendum, the very move that triggered Zelaya’s 2009 ouster.

President Lobo, for his part, said that as a “lover of democracy,” he applauded the move.

In the coming months, the Broad Front’s political aims may be hampered by the political diversity within its own ranks. As Bertha Caceres (leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) told Upside Down World in a recent interview, the extremely diverse membership of the Resistance sometimes makes the group’s decision making process fairly fractured.

In addition, the movement still faces a number of institutional challenges as well. As AP reports, the movement needs to pursue legal recognition as a political party, for which it needs to collect 46,000 petition signatures. Meanwhile, El Heraldo noted earlier this month that some in the pro-Zelaya faction of the Liberal party are seeking a candidate with the political profile necessary to defeat the ruling National party while also getting support from the Resistance. So far they seem to be setting their sights on ex-first lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, which would be a fairly controversial pick. According to La Tribuna, not everyone in the Liberal party is particularly comfortable with Zelaya’s agenda, and a substantial number have said they will not support the new party because of ideological differences.

News Briefs

·         The proposed FTA with Colombia seemed to hit a new roadblock on Monday, with the top Democract on the House Ways and Means Committee saying he will actively oppose the bill. Although Rep. Sander Levin (D, MI) has praised Colombia’s inclusion of labor protections in the FTA, he is demanding that it include assistance for unemployed workers in the U.S. who have lost their jobs because of overseas trade. According to Politico, the FTA could still be passed soon, as the Obama administration is attempting to broker a compromise on the labor protection measures.

·         InSight claims that Colombia’s ELN guerrillas are experiencing a resurgence in the country, thanks to an uptick in revenue from the drug trade as well as an increase in cooperation with the FARC. Meanwhile, Just the Facts highlights several Colombian journalists who argue that right-wing violence may be on the rise as well.

·         Venezuelan Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami announced on Saturday that counternarcotics officials in the country had orchestrated the biggest drug bust in the country so far this year, seizing five and a half tons of cocaine in the eastern state of Bolívar.

·         Venezuelan officials seem nowhere near ending the standoff between government forces and inmates at the El Rodeo prison complex, which has killed one inmate and two soldiers, while wounding at least 20 others. AP reports that the director of the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory, Humberto Prado, has called on the government to employ a conflict resolution specialist to mediate the conflict. Meanwhile officials have arrested the director and deputy of the prison, accusing them of drug and arms trafficking, El Universal reports.

·         As the crisis surrounding the unpopular Decree 743 unfolds in El Salvador, it seems that President Funes is losing support frombase. According to Elsalvador.com, his approval ratings are now at 41%, down from 83% in April. Voices from El Salvador recently wrote a comprehensive summary of the current political climate surrounding the decree, which requires the Supreme Court to make decisions unanimously instead of by majority vote.

·         More details have emerged about the recent kidnapping of several Central American migrants in southern Mexico. According to AP, a priest who runs a local migrant shelter has said at least 80 migrants were forcibly taken from a northbound train at gunpoint in Veracruz on Friday. As Mexico’s Vanguardia reports, diplomatic authorities from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have all asked the government to investigate the matter.

·         On Monday, gunmen burst into the police office in Santa Catarina - a suburb of Monterrey - and shot the police chief to death to death Monday, said El Universal.

·         Late last week, the hacker group known as LulzSec leaked several internal documents belonging to the Arizona state police. According to Reuters, the operation was subbed “Operacion Chinga La Migra,” in an apparent reference to the state’s infamous immigration laws. Interestingly, one of these documents reveals that U.S. authorities were informed of a party that Joaquin Guzman, alias “El Chapo,” was going to attend with other high-ranking Sinaloa Cartel members near the border in early January 2009. As InSight reports, the Arizona officials made no attempt to inform Mexican authorities about their discovery. Given Guzman’s extensive influence, however, this is hardly surprising.

·         Supporters of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo and members of his coalition are seeking to amend the country’s Constitution so that the President can seek re-election, AP reports. Currently, presidents in the country are limited to a single five-year term. As BBC Mundo points out, however, an amendment would have to go through Congress, which is largely controlled by Lugo’s political opponents.

·         In Brazil, a judge in Sao Paulo state has ruled that two men can legally convert their civil union into a full marriage, in a development that AP says is the nation's first gay marriage. Unfortunately, it is not yet clear whether the ruling sets a precedent in the country. If it does, Brazil would join Argentina and Mexico City in recognizing full marriage equality for gays and lesbians.

·         According to Reuters, Uruguay's President Jose Mujica has announced that he will revoke presidential decrees which granted amnesties to over 80 officials who allegedly committed human rights violations in the country’s dictatorship. The move comes after a failed attempt to repeal an amnesty law in May.

·         The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has published an analysis of Bolivia’s lithium deposits, which it says could transform the country into “the next Saudi Arabia.”

·         The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas reports on Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa’s recent targeting of media observation groups in the country, which he claims are receiving U.S. funding.

·         Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has finally selected her  running mate in the upcoming October elections. According to Mercopress, her choice of economic minister Amado Boudou is intended to court younger voters in Argentina