Monday, December 15, 2014

Haiti's Prime Minister Steps Down

In a major concession to the opposition that could end the country’s long-running electoral stalemate, Haitian President Michel Martelly has agreed to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe. Other concessions recommended by a presidential commission, like the resignation of the Supreme Court president and electoral council, may soon follow.

Martelly announced that he would accept Lamothe’s removal on Friday. The Miami Herald reports that in his speech the president also said he would begin assessing the commission’s other recommendations, as well as nominating a new prime minister, on Monday (today). Lamothe himself announced his resignation yesterday, alongside other cabinet ministers.

While the move could pave the way for serious negotiations to take place in the coming weeks over the passage of a delayed election-scheduling law, some analysts have pointed out that it leaves Martelly considerably weakened, as Bloomberg notes. The AFP reports that some sectors of the opposition have been mollified by Friday’s announcement, but that others are calling for the president himself to step down.

The latter camp has fueled a new round of anti-government protests in recent days. These protests have been accompanied by reports of inappropriate use of force by elements of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country. According to the AP, MINUSTAH released a statement late Friday that it was investigating these assertions. On Saturday, demonstrators clashed with security forces outside the presidential palace, and at least one was killed after hundreds of youths allegedly attempted to break through police barricades.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and United Nations continue to be playing an important role on the sidelines in attempting to support the government while steering both sides away from a political crisis. State department envoys Tom Adams and Thomas Shannon visited the country last week and met with both Lamothe and Martelly to push for dialogue. And in a Herald interview last week, former U.S. President and U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti Bill Clinton defended the now former prime minister, saying:
“He’s done a really good job […]The one thing that Haiti doesn’t want to get out of this process is looking like ‘Ok, we had four great years, we were growing like crazy so you think we’ll throw it all away and go back to the old ways. It won’t be good for the country.’”

News Briefs                                                                                                                                    
  • The currents phase of the Colombian peace talks, in which conflict victims have been given space to address the FARC and government negotiating teams in Havana, is drawing to a close. Newspaper El Espectador reports that UN and National University mediators have announced the list of the final victims’ delegation, which will visit Havana today. Semana notes that the list includes ex-Senator Piedad Cordoba, who was kidnapped by paramilitaries in 1999, a selection that has caused controversy over her perceived closeness to the rebels.
  • Yesterday Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto hit back against critics of the investigation into the disappearance of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa. Reforma reports that in a report on the investigation sent to the Senate, the president noted that 56 people had been arrested, 13 searches had been carried out, six vehicles had been arrested and 26 arrest warrants issued so far in connection with the case.
  • As the BBC reports, last week hundreds of police in Rio de Janeiro took part in a protest marking the death of eighty officers who were killed so far this year and calling for the penal code to deal stricter sentences against those who kill police.
  • Recent days have seen further indications of U.S. sanctions against Venezuelan officials potentially allowing President Nicolas Maduro to rally his base. El Universal and Ultimas Noticias report that on Friday, Maduro called for a mass rally to be held today in Caracas to mark the 15th anniversary of the country’s new constitution, as well in protest of the U.S. sanctions.
  • In an interesting show of solidarity with Maduro, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has confirmed to journalists that the main supporters of Venezuelan sanctions -- Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Senator Marco Rubio -- have been placed on a list of people banned from entering Nicaragua. On Twitter, Rubio mocked the announcement, joking that his “summer vacation plans are ruined.”
  • The past week has seen a good deal of reporting on Uruguay’s reception towards the six former Guantanamo detainees who were released there last week. While an October Cifra poll showed that 58 percent of the country disapproved of the transfer, by all accounts the six appear to be enjoying Montevideo thus far. On Friday the PIT-CNT labor union, which is housing the former detainees, said that the six went on a stroll through the city the day before, and that they are already becoming fans of the local custom of sipping yerba mate.
  • In the early hours of Sunday morning, the UN climate talks in Peru finally arrived at a deal that outlines a frameworks for signees to commit to cutting fossil fuel emissions. As the New York Times reports, however, nations will face no legal consequences or sanctions for failing to cut emissions, and will only be subject to international scrutiny.
  • Sunday’s Miami Herald featured an analysis of Cuba’s unfinished economic reforms, highlighting the lack of progress on plans to unify the country’s two-currency system.