Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hope for Haiti’s Electoral Impasse?

With a presidential commission outlining a potential path forward, and pressure from United Nations and U.S. officials mounting, the long-running dispute over Haiti’s elections may see some important progress in the coming weeks.

While President Michel Martelly and the opposition have long traded accusations of political posturing and abuse of office, they have failed to pass a law to hold elections. Deadlines for a 2011 municipal vote and a 2012 Senate election came and went, and they are now running out of time to avoid a political crisis. With the terms of senators and lower house representatives ending on January 12, the two sides must come to an agreement to avoid setting up Martelly to rule by decree.

Yesterday, a commission tasked by the president with creating proposals to break the electoral gridlock made some extensive recommendations. In a report, the 11-member body called for the resignation of high-ranking executive, electoral and Supreme Court officials, as well as for the release of opposition-aligned “political prisoners.” The Miami Herald claims to have published a copy of this report on its website this morning, but the link does not appear to be working for this author.

According to the AP’s breakdown of the report, the commission recommends a number of “appeasement measures,” including the resignation of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe in the next week. The group also recommended the resignation of the Supreme Court president and the current members of the heavily-criticized Provisional Electoral Council.

Martelly did not say whether he would follow the recommendations, but told reporters in a news conference yesterday that he would make a decision on them in the next 48 hours.

Meanwhile, representatives of the United Nations and U.S. government are playing an important role on the sidelines. According to Reuters, both have been steadily increasing pressure on the government and opposition to reach a deal before January. And there are already some potential plans on the table. From Reuters:
One plan under discussion: extending parliamentary terms until elections next summer, with presidential elections in November. Foreign donor countries, however, would prefer that Haiti hold legislative, municipal and presidential elections on one day next year, which would cut costs by half. It is estimated that if held separately each election would cost $30 million - money Haiti can ill afford.

News Briefs
  • Brazil’s National Truth Commission (CNV) has presented President Dilma Rousseff with its final report on the abuses committed by the 1964-1985 military regime, and made the three-volume report available on its website. According to Folha de S. Paulo, the CNV report calls for an end to the country’s amnesty law. It also finds that the dictatorship committed “systematic” crimes against humanity, and named 377 people as directly responsible for abuses. O Globo reports that Rousseff became emotional during the ceremony marking the report’s publication today, breaking into tears and halting her statement for over a minute to recompose herself. In her statement the president praised the commission’s work to promote truth and reconciliation, but defended “political pacts” necessary for the country’s “democratization,” an apparent reference to the amnesty law.
  • Mexican daily El Unversal has a front page story this morning on the poor state of human rights protections in the country, noting recent criticism from international and regional human rights bodies as well as local NGOs. The paper especially highlights a 2013 report on the country’s justice system by the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH), which found that just one percent of human rights abuses presented to the attorney general’s office result in a judicial ruling.
  • Those who predict that U.S. sanctions on Venezuela could lead the government to spin them as “imperialist aggressions” to rally the Chavista base saw further evidence of this yesterday. Ultimas Noticias reports that in a response to the U.S. Senate’s passage of a targeted sanction bill, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro slammed the “insolent” actions of the U.S. government and questioned the U.S. Senate’s authority to “come sanction the nation of Bolivar.” Also yesterday, leading Venezuelan human rights group PROVEA issued a statement rejecting the sanctions, warning that they could: 1.) be used by officials to further its claims that the U.S. is conspiring to support opposition protests, and 2.) act as a shield for Maduro to impose unpopular economic reforms.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports on a plan by the Peruvian government to distribute solar panels to two million people in rural areas around the country, a program that some critics say would require greater maintenance and upkeep of the panels, especially in rainforest regions.  
  • Colombian news site La Silla Vacia presents a sobering, in-depth look at how the country’s false positive scandal played out in the military, reporting on a 2006 contest promoted by the army that rewarded an Antioquia-based unit for its “operational results.”
  • According to Honduras’ Proceso Digital, some 20 of the country’s elite, U.S.-vetted TIGRE police force are under investigation for allegedly stealing millions of dollars in seized evidence. The incident directly calls into question the government’s logic behind supporting the new military police force, which was meant to be more trustworthy and effective than standard police.
  • The presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras may not have seen the overwhelming U.S. support for their massive development plan that they would have liked, but they will apparently be moving forward with it anyway. Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has told Reuters that the countries are ready to put up $5 billion over five years to implement the “Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle,” matching a sum that the State Department has said the Congress would need to allocate in order to support the plan.  However, Reuters points out that a budget bill for next year that was floated late on Tuesday only allocates $260 million for the plan in 2015.
  • A recent direct action carried out by Greenpeace in Peru, in which activists spelled out “Time for Change; The Future is Renewable” near the country’s famed Nazca lines, has sparked outrage in the country. El Comercio reports that the footprints left by activists in the restricted area around the treasured site can be seen from the air, and the Peruvian government has claimed it will press criminal charges against those responsible for allegedly “attacking archaeological monuments.”