1. Georges Fauriol in Latin America Goes Global:
    Second, Haiti’s political leadership and civil society activists should start looking down the road to anticipate the obvious: the winding down of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The force has declining political credibility and has exhausted its policing mandate, but it remains a crutch for the government. Before MINUSTAH packs up, Haiti needs to begin to transition toward another form of international commitment more closely associated with Haiti’s long-term governance needs. One possible model might be a variation of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), itself made possible because of the pre-existing mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) that ensued from the 1990s national peace process. The CICIG operates as a UN-sponsored institution but is not a UN body. It attracted considerable attention last year as a key instrument in the demise of Guatemala’s president and others caught in a web of corruption on a grand scale.

    To be sure, several key elements of the CICIG model don’t transfer easily to Haiti, especially the willingness to allow core judicial and investigatory functions to operate autonomously from government bodies. Yet, other countries in the region, notably Honduras and possibly El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, are starting to explore local adaptations of this effective, high-profile model. If nothing else, for Haiti it would build a layered, longer term commitment of international institutional support, integrating elements of good governance, transparency and judicial reform. Critically, civil society activism associated with such an initiative could provide the needed backbone to Haitian political leadership to genuinely engage in the difficult tasks of governing and institution building. Over the past three decades the Haitian political class has presided over little more than a sequence of elections joined together by political crises, with very little real governance in between.
    The CICIG model isn't a magic wand, but this is still a smart outside the box suggestion for how the international community should consider helping Haiti. Haiti's problems are more about politics and institution building, both of which need civilian institutional support more than soldiers on the ground.

    Also consider the Minustah's budget is $390 million while a solid CICIG-like organization can be run for $15-20 million. The budgets aren't completely comparable because no country treats its military and civilian budgets interchangeably, but it's still a cost comparison that should be made if anyone says there is no money for a CICIG-style effort.
  2. Brazil Planning Minister Romero Juca was forced to step down yesterday after the transcript of a recording was leaked suggesting he had played a critical role in removing President Rousseff as a way to "stop the bleeding" of the Lava Jato investigation into corruption.

    1) For Rousseff's allies, Juca's statements about coordinating his efforts with the Brazilian military and Supreme Court feed into their belief that the president's suspension from office was a "coup."

    2) Interim President Temer's cabinet has been a source of embarrassment due to its own corruption scandals and lack of diversity. This is what Goldman Sachs referred to as the "dream team."

    3) Temer should be concerned that there are other recordings of his ministers and congressional allies that are just as scandalous. Juca's decision to step down within hours of the recordings being leaked has set a precedent that other ministers may do the same.

    4) The government insists that its economic agenda is on track. Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles will announce spending limits today. The Congress, with Juca back in the Senate, will soon vote on a budget that will show an "honest" deficit rather than a manipulated surplus. Yet, less than two weeks into Temer's administration, the president and his cabinet appear to be digging themselves into a deeper political hole.
  3. While interim President Michel Temer attempts to promote an image of economic orthodoxy, that image does not match the reality of PMDB politics or governance at the state and municipal level in Brazil. Today's NYT captures that well by looking at the economic mismanagement in the state of Rio.

    There are a lot of international investors cheering the Temer government's new push for austerity and business friendly policies. In that view of the world, Temer is trying hard to undo the unsustainable spending policies of Lula and Rousseff. The biggest risk in that scenario is that Brazil's economy is too far gone to fix quickly or anti-austerity protests may prevent Temer's government from succeeding at their budget reforms.

    As the Rio state government story shows, that view may not be correct. Investors must also contemplate the scenario that Temer's economic team may not pursue real reforms and may follow a typical PMDB local level model of talking a good game about budget discipline while simultaneously spending outside their means.

    Adding to this challenge is that the PMDB leadership have the October municipal elections in their sights. The PMDB will take some serious political hits if the national government is implementing tough reforms that are cutting in to spending and social services. That local pressure is going to run against the attempts by those on Temer's team who want more austerity.
  4. The OAS Democratic Charter was not set up for a scenario in which two countries simultaneously accuse each other of a severe breach of democratic values and it isn't immediately clear by a consensus of a supermajority of countries which one is correct.

    A large number of US-based commentators are cheering on the fact that Brazil's new government is taking on Venezuelan President Maduro. They are also confused as to why other countries aren't falling in to line in backing Brazil's new president.

    One reason (of many) is that the OAS General Assembly remains a club of presidents. Accepting that the Brazil presidential suspension was a legal, institutional and constitutional process, the idea that a vice president (one with serious corruption issues of his own) could usurp the presidential position through power politics and institutional means is a troubling thought to presidents in a region where nearly every government is below 50% approval.  Even presidents who had severe ideological disagreements with Rousseff are still uncomfortable with the way in which she was removed and fear it happening to them some day.

    That is an important consideration when asking why Latin American countries aren't jumping on the Temer bandwagon and cheering on his new government and its foreign policy. You can agree that the process that put Temer in power was legal and still find it somewhat or very unsettling that Brazilian analogies to "House of Cards" don't go far enough. From a Latin American perspective, that makes Temer the absolute wrong person to be the one calling for Maduro to face more international pressure and criticism that may ultimately lead to his removal from power.
  5. When Colombia opened exploratory peace talks with the FARC in 2012, I listed child soldiers as a critical issue for the talks. Yesterday, the Colombian government and the FARC announced an agreement to remove child soldiers from FARC ranks. The agreement will treat child soldiers as victims of the conflict rather than perpetrators of it. No child soldiers will be prosecuted for the crime of rebellion. Colombia will work with UNICEF to reintegrate child soldiers into civilian life around the country.

    This agreement is what needed to happen. The FARC have promised previously to remove child soldiers from their ranks, but this time is different because the FARC will soon be demobilizing as a whole, meaning this agreement will be verifiable at some level.

    Successful reintegration of child soldiers is easier on paper than it is in the real world. Getting this step funded and correctly implemented is critical to Colombia's future prospects of peace.
  6. With 55 votes, Brazil’s Senate accepted the lower house of Congress impeachment vote and suspended Dilma Rousseff from the presidency for 180 days. Around that time, a 2/3 vote in the Senate (54 votes) will be required to convict and remove her from office.

    Rousseff is expected to accept her suspension from the presidency this morning. To her credit, the president has allowed the institutional process to play out even as she has defiantly fought the charges against her. As Brian Winter writes, Rousseff did not stand in the way of the Lava Jato investigation, even at the risk to her own presidency. She isn’t AMLO, anointing herself the legitimate president in a farcical ceremony amid governing institutions that rule to the contrary. She isn’t Maduro, using dirty tricks and repression to hold on to power, even at the cost of repeatedly violating the country’s constitution. In every step up to this point, Rousseff has shown herself to be a democrat who respects the institutional and constitutional rules, even if she disagrees with how her opponents are using them to remove her from power.

    However, respecting the institutions doesn’t mean she will resign early or quietly wait out the 180 days out of sight for the good of Brazil’s stability. While both options are possible, that does not appear to be Rousseff’s style. She is likely to fight this within the framework of the democratic process.

    Due to the circumstances of her impeachment, Dilma is now a suspended president and the leader of the opposition. That isn’t how the system was intended to function when it was designed. It has taken a complex set of circumstances to turn Brazil’s president against its vice president and have the PMDB, a former coalition ally that turned against the president, become the presidential party. Meanwhile, the PT, the party of the suspended president and a previous key link in a Congressional majority coalition, becomes the leading opposition force with the suspended president as its leader.

    There is little precedent anywhere in the world for a suspended president and certainly few examples of a suspended president with this much remaining political power. It is up to Rousseff as to how she will use her unique position. She can, as leader of the country’s opposition, put up a hard fight against the political dealings and policy changes that the interim President Temer will put forward. She can encourage her Congressional allies to vote against the new president’s policies and coordinate with the right wing parties, who also oppose the PMDB, to remove Temer from office or conduct other institutional maneuvers. She can call her supporters to the streets, reuniting the PT and other leftwing parties that were divided over governing policies. She has a right to defend herself and try to get November's scheduled Senate vote to go her way, which will return her to the presidency. All of this can be done within the constitutional framework and is fully in line with this hemisphere’s democratic values.

    Given yesterday’s vote, it is tempting to view an October or November conviction and removal from office as inevitable. However, it is a long time between now and November. Last night’s suspension is not the beginning of a Temer presidency that ends Brazil’s recent political instability. There are now six months, including Olympics and mayoral elections, in which a suspended president will lead the opposition against an interim president and his tenuous Congressional coalition that faces numerous corruption charges of its own. Brazil is entering a new round with key actors in different positions, but the action is still ongoing.
  7. With the peace process nearing its conclusion, Colombia is also setting the ambitious goal of being landmine free within five years. The FARC have agreed in principle to assist with identifying the locations of landmines after the peace process is signed.

    During one of my first trips to Colombia over ten years ago, I visited a center for landmine victims and received a briefing by military officials on landmine issues. While there are certainly professionally built military grade landmines in the country, there are also a significant number of improvised explosives that serve as landmines. That IED component means the mines often have less durability in the field, but can make them significantly harder to identify and disarm.

    Along with the issue of demobilizing and reintegrating child soldiers, this is a critical issue for the country's long term peace prospects. The goal is also completely possible with resources and cooperation. It deserves significant international attention and funding.
  8. Among the critical testimony linking former President Kirchner with businessman Lazaro Baez was that of Horacio Quiroga, who previously managed two Baez oil firms. Quiroga was a regular on the news media denouncing the corruption of the Kirchner family that involved the Baez network of businesses. This interview from 2013 lays out his position. He appeared on television as recently as 10 April of this year, denouncing Maximo Kirchner for his role in operating the family's illicit financial networks.

    Media report this morning that police found Quiroga dead in his house and authorities have indicated it is a "muerte dudosa."

    Argentina is still investigating the strange death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who dug into the improper actions of the Kirchner administration involving Iran. This second death of a critical player in the prosecution of Kirchner is going to accelerate the rumor mill once more.
  9. Brazil's Supreme Court voted to suspend Speaker of the House Eduardo Cunha from the Congress while he faces corruption charges. He cannot retake his position until the charges are cleared. And being that he's almost certainly guilty, that is unlikely to happen.

    Earlier this week, I wrote that some news played into President Rousseff's narrative that the current anti-corruption actions were actually about pushing her out of office. This move with Cunha is the opposite. Yesterday's move helps the narrative that Brazil's institutions are going to target corrupt officials across party lines, including an ally of the likely next president.

    On the other hand, Cunha was almost universally disliked. Brazil's population wanted him out. While Cunha was a master of playing Brazil's politicians to win the top spot in the lower House of Congress, that doesn't mean he was well liked or even particularly respected. He attempted to turn the impeachment of Rousseff into a way to shore up his own political support and protection, but it apparently didn't work.
  10. El Salvador had its least violent month in over a year in April with only 352 murders, compared to the over 600 murders in each of the first three months of 2016. As InSight Crime suggests, the results are almost certainly due to the decision by gangs to reduce homicides and not due to government policies.

    The government policies are troubling. El Salvador is beginning a new phase of even more brutal mano dura policies to take on the gangs. The Salvadoran government has arrested 18 people who brokered the previous peace deal with the gangs that significantly reduced homicides. The Congress made negotiations with gangs a crime.

    Separately, President Sanchez Ceren has said anyone who supports an anti-corruption unit in El Salvador, similar to the CICIG in Guatemala or the MACCIH in Honduras, is a "golplista."

    The Salvadoran government is not going to arrest or kill its way out of the gang problem. The corruption within the government and business sector is a key institutional weakness in the country that enables violent criminal organizations to grow and succeed. By limiting its options to force and refusing to deal with corruption, the Salvadoran government is likely setting itself up for continued violence that already ranks as among the worst in the world.
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