Friday, August 8, 2014

Argentina Takes U.S. to The Hague

With Argentina apparently no closer to reaching a deal with holdout creditors, the administration of President Cristina Fernandez has taken the unusual step of suing the United States government in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

As La Nacion reports, Argentine officials are claiming that the U.S. “violated its international obligations to respect the sovereignty of Argentina” by not stepping in during its court battle with the bondholders.  The AFP notes that a press release from the Fernandez administration maintains that “a state is responsible for the conduct of all the branches of its government.”

But while the story makes for a great headline, the reality is that the case will almost certainly go nowhere as the U.S. only accepts the Court’s jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis.

Citing Luis Moreno Ocampo, a former chief prosecutor for the Court, the Wall Street Journal reports that “[t]he Kirchner administration probably knows the U.S. will decline its invitation to be sued at The Hague, but hopes this strategy might open the door to some sort of diplomatic solution down the road.”

Meanwhile, Reuters claims that there is evidence that an arrangement between the holdouts and private banks is currently being brokered, and that a final deal could potentially be ready sometime next week.

News Briefs
  • A column in the Huffington Post and The Hill this week by Ezequiel Vazquez-Ger highlights the lobbying efforts in Washington of the Ecuadorean government, noting that the Correa administration has spent $10.5 million in the last five years through PR and lobbying firms, citing data gathered by the Sunlight Foundation. But while the author claims that Ecuador “has the most active government in Latin America in terms of public relations within the United States,” the evidence for this is scarce. Mexico, for instance, spent $6.1 million in lobbying efforts last year alone, and according to the Sunlight Foundation was among the top ten foreign governments to pay for DC influence in 2013. In other Latin America-Washington lobbying news, El Heraldo reports that Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez has announced this week he will jumpstart a new lobbying effort in DC to convince U.S. lawmakers to allocate funds for an aid package meant to address the “root cause” of the recent spike in migration.
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos officially began his second term in office yesterday, after delivering an inauguration speech in which he committed himself to working for peace while explicitly warning FARC rebels that continued attacks could threaten the peace process. As El Espectador and Radio RCN report, Santos also devoted a considerable amount of his speech to promises to improve the country’s education system. Aiming to make Colombia the best-educated nation in the region by 2025, the president promised to allocate more money for education in the 2015 budget than for security and defense, which would be a historical first in the country.
  • Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina wrote an op-ed in The Guardian on Sunday in which he argued that the U.S. should recognize its shared responsibility for the border crisis. But while both Perez Molina and Honduras’ President Hernandez have called for increased security aid to Central America, they will likely be disappointed. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden yesterday told reporters that a “Plan Colombia” in the region was not on the table, because: “Central American governments aren’t even close to being prepared to make some of the decisions that the Colombians made.”
  • While there has been a wave of recent reporting on extortion of Central American migrants by police and gangs in Mexico -- see the Washington Post’s recent investigation -- many of the threats posed to migrants are more institutional in nature. As Centro Prodh lawyer Luis Eliud Tapia Olivares writes in a column for Animal Politico, as many as 1,200 Central Americans are currently being detained in the Mexican penal system, many of whom have not been given adequate legal defense or allowed to contact consular authorities.
  • The New York Times reports on the increasing attempts by Republican politicians in the U.S. to woo Latino voters by deepening ties with Latin America, pointing to an forthcoming Mexico visit by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senator Rand Paul’s upcoming humanitarian trip to Guatemala and the efforts of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin to open a Mexican consulate in his state.
  • A sweeping domestic labor regulation law passed last year will go into effect in Brazil today, potentially benefiting 6.6 million household workers in the country. As Globo and the BBC report, the new law will subject those who employ domestic workers on an informal basis to steep fines, and require employers to provide severance pay and social security.
  • Officials in Rio de Janeiro have announced the arrest of a militia network operating in the west of the city that forced residents to pay extortion fees in exchange for receiving electricity, water and internet. Those who refused to pay were often tortured and executed. According to Folha, 14 of the 27 suspects accused of leading the extortion ring are current and former police, firefighters or military officials.
  • El Comercio reports that Peruvian Interior Minister Daniel Urresti told reporters yesterday that at least 115 candidates in October’s regional and municipal elections have been accused by prosecutors of having links to drug trafficking in the past. The news comes after last month’s announcement that 92 percent (1,699 of 1,841) of all mayors in the country are currently being investigated for alleged acts of corruption.
  • While Russia has announced a reciprocal embargo on certain agricultural imports from the U.S. and Europe, Russian authorities appear to be looking to Latin America to fill this gap. According to Chilean trade official Andres Rebolledo, members of the Russian government and various Latin American representatives in the country met on Wednesday to discuss increasing imports from the region as a substitute for U.S. and E.U. goods.
  • Police in Guatemala have arrested seven migrant smugglers -- popularly known as “coyotes” -- in various operations in Quetzaltenango province, Prensa Libre reports. The AP notes that the U.S. claims the arrests are the result of cooperation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • According to Mexico’s El Universal, the train infamously known as “La Bestia” by many of the Central American migrants who rely on it for the trek northward derailed on Wednesday. This is the ninth time the train has gone off the rails in the past two months, though fortunately there were no reported injuries in the latest incident. Last week, authorities from Guatemala, Mexico and the U.S. reached an accord to establish more checkpoints along La Bestia’s rail routes to try to dissuade migrants from riding the dangerous train.
  • The president of Argentina’s Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Estela Barnes de Carlotto, has finally been reunited with her biological grandson after he was tracked down by genetic testing earlier this week.  Pagina12 reports that de Carlotto and other family members met with their long-lost relative for six hours yesterday, in an extended dinner with “sandwiches, mate, beer, snacks and quite a few tears.”