Wednesday, July 11, 2012

'OAS Should Not Suspend Paraguay': Secretary General

Tuesday, Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Jose Insulza delivered his report on his visit to Paraguay, and said that he did not favor suspending the Southern Cone nation from the OAS in reaction to the fast-track trial which resulted in President Fernando Lugo’s impeachment two and a half weeks ago. Doing so would not contribute to the OAS’s objectives, Insulza added, acccording to Mercopress. Suspending Paraguay from the OAS would also have serious economic implications for the country and could put the current situation of relative political stability at risk, the Secretary General said. 

Insulza’s 10-page report was written on the basis of his visit to Paraguay between July 1 to 3. He warned that the OAS should wait before making any decisions until Lugo acts on his pledge to resort to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Most of Insulza’s recommendations involved looking ahead to Paraguay’s national elections in April 2013. The OAS should deploy a mission to observe the process leading up to the presidential and legislative elections, Insulza said.

His strongest criticisms were reserved for how quickly the impeachment process took place, stating, “the speed with which the impeachment was conducted was highly unfortunate and created an aura of illegitimacy.” Nevertheless, the process still technically followed constitutional procedure, he added.

According to the AP, the reaction from other OAS member states to Insulza’s address was mixed. Brazil’s OAS representative said that the institution risked sending the message that “a rupture in the democratic order is considered something trivial.” Venezuela’s representative complained that the OAS’s position was “lukewarm.” Meanwhile, Paraguay’s ambassador urged the institution to accept Insulza’s report.

The OAS’s reaction to Paraguay’s political crisis is in sharp contrast to Mercosur’s, which suspended Paraguay from the organization. But doing so without allowing Paraguay to make a case against its suspension, as mandated in Mercosur’s charter, drains legitimacy from South America’s leading trading bloc, argues Foreign Policy.  “By throwing Paraguay under the bus and extending a welcome mat to Venezuela, Mercosur has made a hash of its own rules on democracy and free trade,” the magazine argues.

The contrast between Mercosur and the OAS’s arguably restrained reaction to the Paraguay crisis points to the controversy over whether Lugo’s removal from power should be considered a “constitutional” coup or not. What is clear is that Insulza seems hesitant to encourage further moves that could increase Paraguay’s isolation from the region.

News Briefs
  • According to projections by Mexico’s national electoral authority, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and its primary coalition allies have not won majorities in any house of Congress, reports the AP
  • Analysis by Reuters examines the “identity crisis” faced by ruling party the National Action Party (PAN), which has now lost the presidency after 12 years in power. Eric Farnsworth of the Council of the Americas: "The fundamental question facing the PAN is whether they pursue an agenda no matter who gets credit for it or whether they pursue party building. It is difficult to do both.”
  • Fighting between guerrillas and the military in Colombia’s southwest Cauca department resulted in the displacement of over 300 people in one municipality during the weekend. The total number of displaced in the department over the past week may be as many as 1,500. Cauca is one of the few remaining departments where the FARC is carrying out an aggressive military campaign: one Cauca municipality may have seen as many as 50 attacks so far this year. La Silla Vacia argues that the Cauca crisis lends support to the argument that President Juan Manuel Santos is losing credibility on security issues, and that his pledge to send reinforcements to the area is akin to listening to “a broken record.” Verdad Abierta reports on efforts by Cauca indigenous communities to petition that both the FARC and the military withdraw from the territory. 
  • Non-profit the US Office on Colombia released the findings of a trip conducted in Colombia between November 28 and December 2 last year, arguing that while there has been “a positive change in discourse at the national level,” human rights defenders continue to face threats at alarming levels. 
  • Puerto Rico’s opposition leader asked that the governor of the Commonwealth declare a national emergency due to soaring crime rates. The island saw its deadliest year on record in 2011, with 1,136 homicides registered, many of them related to increased fighting between local gangs over the drug trade. 2012 has seen 491 homicides so far. 
  • President Hugo Chavez met with Venezuela’s bishops in an effort to improve government-Church relations, reports EFE. Tension between the Church and the Chavez administration reached a high point in 2010, when Chavez criticized the bishops’ selection of a cardinal who is strongly critical of state policies. Meanwhile, opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said he met with Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon during a visit just before Mexico’s elections. Capriles said the purpose of the visit was to observe the electoral transition process. 
  • Plans to open inspection booths that will monitor traffic heading from the US to Mexico via San Diego’s primary border crossing has raised concerns on the US side, reports EFE. The plans are meant to increase surveillance of traffic bound from the US to Mexico, but the increased inspections have sparked fears that travelers will face traffic jams, long waits, and pollution similar to that endured by those crossing from Mexico to the US. 
  • Brazilian weekly newsmagazine Veja reports on several leaked intelligence documents in Bolivia which describe the active involvement of several government officials in the drug trade. According to Veja, the documents describe a direct connection between Minister of the Presidency Juan Ramon Quintana and a Brazilian drug trafficker. Blog InterAmerican Security Watch has an English translation.
  • The AP profiles Mexican immigrants living in the US who are “citizens from nowhere,” as they lack US citizenship and proper identification documents from Mexico. According to the Inter-American Development Bank, as much as 14 percent of Mexico’s population were never included in Mexico’s birth registry, and thus may lack birth certificates, the AP reports. The problem is most frequently seen in Mexico’s poorest states and towns, including Oaxaca and Chiapas. For another look at the assimilation of Mexican immigrants in the US, the Council on Foreign Relations examines the recent report on legal immigration released by the Mexico Insitute at the Woodrow Wilson Center. 
  • India is preparing for its first meeting with several foreign ministers from Latin America. Venezuela, Chile, and Cuba are expected to attend the summit in Delhi on August 7, in what the external affairs ministry has described as the first step in increasing India’s ties to the region. 
  • The AP on an innovative program in which Brazilian inmates may earn reduced prison sentences in return for pedaling exercise bikes that power the local town’s electricity. Another program reduces prison sentences in exchange for reading books.
  • Peru’s postal service has seized more than 132 pounds of cocaine from packages in the mail, most of them reportedly destined for Spain. Infosur reports on the increasingly popular smuggling method. 
  • The former archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, who provided shelter to thousands of opponents of Brazili’s military regime and political refugees from the dictatorships in Argentina and Chile, has died at age 91, provoking the Rio de Janeiro governor to declare three days of mourning.
  • Thousands of baby leatherback turtles died in one of the species’ most important nesting grounds in the world, in Trinidad and Tobago, as a result of a public works project intended to benefit a nearby hotel.

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