Wednesday, August 7, 2013

CFK vs. the UN Security Council

On Tuesday, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner headed a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, taking advantage of her country’s turn with the body’s rotating presidency to criticize its structure and call for closer ties to regional organizations.

According to the AP, Fernandez arrived to the meeting 25 minutes late, “keeping Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 14 foreign ministers and dozens of diplomats cooling their heels and chatting.” Once she arrived, she used the opportunity to lash out at the veto power given to the Council’s five permanent members: the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France. The Argentine president described the veto as a dated mechanism of the Cold War era that had become irrelevant in the current global arena, saying, “We can’t deal with the problems in this new world with old instruments and old methods.”

Fernandez then opened up a debate on cooperation between the Security Council and regional organizations. After praising the unanimous decision-making structure of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR, she ceded the floor to the heads of both, the first time in history that representatives of either body had addressed the Council.

Pagina 12 reports that CELAC President and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla spoke of the need to “strengthen an integral, unified strategic perspective” on global security. Peruvian Foreign Minister Eda Rivas, who is currently president pro tempore of the UNASUR Council of Foreign Ministers, called on the Security Council to build a closer relationship with regional organizations in Latin America.

“South America is a region in which we can say there is no risk of interstate conflicts involving threats to peace and security and extreme violence,” said Rivas. “However, UNASUR member states recognize that peace and security must be preserved permanently and all South Americans are convinced that the best way to do this is to strive for an integration based on respect for the fundamental principles of international law.”

In response, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon applauded both regional organizations, and also expressed support for last month’s U.N.-CARICOM meeting, according to the Miami Herald.

As the BBC and Clarin note, Fernandez also used the opportunity to address the long-running Malvinas/Falklands dispute, calling on both parties to negotiate the conflict in accordance with a 1965 UN resolution. “We don't take a fanciful approach to the Malvinas," she said. “We simply want the UN resolution to be enforced.”

News Briefs

  • Although the administration of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos views the Legal Framework of Peace law, which allows for the selective prioritization of crimes committed by armed groups, as a necessary contribution to transitional justice that facilitates peace talks with the FARC, the rebels themselves say they are against the law. El Espectador reports that the guerrilla group released a communiqué condemning the measure, because in their view transitional justice tools are usually implemented in countries which have already undergone a peace process or ended a dictatorial regime, “and it is generally the winners who have imposed their norms on the losers.” The rebels argue that the Colombian conflict is ongoing, and that the state’s acceptance of responsibility for some civilian casualties in the conflict “takes away its legitimacy and makes it unable to act as judge.” Currently, the country’s Constitutional Court is assessing the constitutionality of the law, and has until August 20 to rule on the matter. For a good overview of the matter, see this post at Razon Publica, written by Dejusticia researcher Nelson Camilo Sánchez.
  • A day after the head of military police in Rio de Janeiro was fired in response to his decision to grant amnesty to some 450 police officers who committed allegedly low-level “administrative” infractions since 2011, the state government has already filled the position. O Globo reports that the new police chief will be police Colonel Jose Menezes. Although he says he will revoke the amnesty, Menezes also described it as a good idea in principle. “We are going to stop that policy, because it is a good idea, but we’re going to review it in order to establish objective criteria with a view towards clarifying the doubts about it,” he said.
  • On Monday, several dozen indigenous demonstrators re-occupied Rio’s Indian Musuem, which they had occupied for months in protest of a plan to demolish the building to expand the city’s Maracana football stadium. According to G1, a Tuesday meeting with state government officials ended with no agreement to end the occupation.
  • On Friday, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff signed a new law which will create a “National Mechanism to Prevent and Combat Torture.” Estado reports that the law, which passed Congress in June, was entered into the country’s legal code on Monday. The new body will be staffed with 11 members, who will have the authority to visit civilian and military detention centers to monitor treatment of prisoners, as well as recommend official investigations to authorities. As Conectas explains, this expert panel will be selected by a 23-member commission made up of representatives from federal agencies and civil society groups, who will be appointed by the president.
  • A local party head of Proyecto Venezuela, a small opposition party in the country, was murdered by gunmen on a motorcycle while driving through the capital of Barinas state on Monday night. Although U.S. media outlets have referred to him as an “opposition leader,” the victim -- Pablo Uzcategui -- was a local official for the party and a deputy congressman in Barinas’ state legislature, according to Ultimas Noticias. Carlos Berrizbeitia, the head of Proyecto Venezuela, told the Associated Press that the murder was not the result of a robbery, and did not believe Uzcategui had received any death threats.
  • Police in Guatemala have found the body of a radio journalist outside the station where he worked in the eastern region of Zacapa. Authorities say Jesus Lima was shot twice just before he was set to go into work on Tuesday. Prensa Libre reports that a local journalists association is pressuring authorities to investigate the killing.
  • Plaza Publica has an investigation into the thousands of children that the Guatemalan military is believed to have transferred into state custody in the aftermath of the brutal military offensive that formed part of its “scorched earth policy” in the country’s civil war. Some 20 percent of extrajudicial executions committed by the state during the armed conflict are said to have been minors, and those who escaped the violence were rounded up and sent to orphanages or adopted directly by members of the security forces.
  • According to a press release issued by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who is on a four day visit to Haiti, Haitian President Michel Martelly plans to hold long overdue congressional elections by the end of the year. In his statement, Nelson noted “degree of political polarization" between Martelly and the opposition in Haiti, but said that despite the animosity, “the president indicated that he will hold parliamentary elections this year.”
  • Honduras’ Attornney General’s Office has announced that 17 people have been killed in a violent clash in the remote eastern region of La Mosquitia, in what officials say was a shootout between rival drug trafficking organizations, El Tiempo reports. According to El Heraldo local officials say there are “women, children and elderly men and women” among the victims, as well as individuals allegedly linked to criminal groups.
  • Honduras Culture and Politics has an excellent deconstruction of the language used in a recent Washington Post piece on migration in Honduras, accusing its author of conflating “rural” with “poor” and generally offering a two-dimensional characterization of Honduran and other Central American migrants as “semi-willing drug mules” instead of focusing the story on the violence they face and their vulnerability. 

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