Guatemala’s presidential, congressional and mayoral elections this Sunday will be the sixth election since the 1996 peace accord that ended a civil war in which 200,000 people were killed. Widespread corruption — reflected in the investigation, conviction or criminal charges against three presidents, including current President Jimmy Morales and his immediate predecessor, Otto Pérez Molina, a vice president and other high-level officials — has led to popular distrust in the government and the electoral process.
But the stakes are high for both Guatemala and the United States. Washington’s concerns are linked to the instability and insecurity generated in part by that corruption and the murderous cartels that managed last year to traffic 1,400 metric tons of cocaine through Guatemala, according to the State Department.… Seguir leyendo »
Decades ago, while training for U.S. Peace Corps service in El Salvador, I traveled into the rain forest of the state of Veracruz to the tiny village of Zongolica. Most of the men and all of the women and children spoke only Nahuatl, survived on subsistence farming and faithfully maintained their culture despite four centuries of Spanish influence. There was little crime, much less violence, in the state — and a strong sense of community, particularly in Zongolica, where adobe bricks were made cooperatively for each other’s homes.
Today, Veracruz is a battleground where five major cartels and multiple smaller criminal gangs kill for control over lucrative cocaine drug routes, oil pipelines and human trafficking networks — with the Zetas and the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación emerging as the most dangerous and successful organizations.… Seguir leyendo »
Here is an interesting question for President Donald Trump: Who deports more Central American migrants, the United States or Mexico? The answer is Mexico by a long shot.
In 2015, Mexico, without a wall — but with better surveillance in collaboration with the U.S.-deported 165,000 migrants from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The United States deported 74,478 Central Americans the same year.
So antagonizing the people of Mexico and the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto with a constant refrain of, “You will pay for the wall” may not be the best way for Trump to lower the number of migrants crossing the southwest border into the U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
Colombia’s 52 years of brutal civil combat ended with two signatures made with a pen fashioned from a single bullet. I felt privileged, sitting a few rows from the stage in the Colombian city of Cartagena de Indias on 26 September, to witness the moment when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Commander “Timochenko” and President Juan Manuel Santos each in turn picked up the bullet and formally committed to their peace treaty.
Perhaps the most dramatic moment, however, came when Timochenko broke an at times ideological speech to ask for forgiveness from the men, women and children who had been victims of FARC violence.… Seguir leyendo »
The late socialist leader Hugo Chávez should be turning over in his grave as the poor are suffering the most from Venezuela’s economic collapse. His successor, President Nicolás Maduro, is attempting to cling to power by railing against a recall referendum, a provision that Chávez himself included in the constitution.
The humanitarian disaster caused by Maduro’s policies, compounded by the economic impact of a sharp drop in global oil prices, explains why even some longtime Chavistas are demanding a referendum to oust the president. Misguided policies have undermined national production of basic goods and undercut imports. Hospitals are running out of catheters, sheets, and working x-ray machines.… Seguir leyendo »
The Taliban takeover of Kunduz in Northern Afghanistan this week is the visible part of an insurgency iceberg that has grown larger, more destructive, and more threatening to the Afghan coalition government and to the Obama administration’s Titanic-like exit strategy.
Kunduz is the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban since the United States entered the country in 2001. The setback crowns a year in which the United States and NATO were down to a total of 13,000 support forces, Taliban attacks and civilian casualties reached a 14-year high, and the Islamic State reared its ugly head in the country.… Seguir leyendo »
The United States, France, and the United Nations are falling into an all too familiar trap in the Central African Republic (CAR) of financing transition elections before armed militias have been disarmed and their communal hold broken. Exclusionary and botched elections could trigger another wave of violence and deepen the crisis.
There is no way for the current time schedule of voting by end of the year to be anything more than a wasted and potentially violence triggering event. Unless conditions on the ground change dramatically, militias disarmed, functional local administration in place, relations between Christian and Muslim communities improved, guarantees for refugees and internally displaced to vote and adequate electoral security, the elections should be postponed.… Seguir leyendo »
In 1982, President Reagan noted the importance of arms-control treaty compliance stating, “Simply collecting agreements will not bring peace. Agreements genuinely reinforce peace only when they are kept. Otherwise, we are building a paper castle that will be blown away by the winds of war.”
Significantly, in a December 1985 report, Reagan stated, ” the Soviet Union has violated its legal commitments to the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty-1 Anti-Ballistic Missile (SALT I ABM) Treaty and Interim Agreement, the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, the Geneva Protocol on Chemical Weapons, and the Helsinki Final Act.… Seguir leyendo »
Three years after an earthquake devastated Haiti, its elites seem poised to produce their own man-made disaster of instability and polarization. Unless the nation’s leaders pursue a national governability accord to organize long-delayed elections, halt unconstitutional appointments and address basic needs, Haiti could become a permanent failed state.
The International Crisis Group report published last week: “Governing Haiti: Time for National Consensus” tracks the failure of will across a broad spectrum of Haiti’s national leaders to seek agreement on national challenges.
The most recent triumph of partisan over national interest has been the failure of President Michel Martelly, parliamentary leaders and the business community to implement the governance agreement signed on Christmas Eve with the support of an ad hoc ecumenical body, Religions for Peace.… Seguir leyendo »
Some of Haitian President Michel Martelly’s closest advisors and some opposition Parliament leaders are still locked in a reckless high-wire battle that threatens to plunge the nation into instability and stagnation. They have to compromise quickly and agree to move the country to firm ground with consensus on meeting critical challenges facing Haiti.
For five months, Parliament denied Martelly his choice for prime minister and, now, after five months, his coterie has forced Prime Minister Gary Conille to resign, placing the country again in caretaker status without the ability to sign new contracts, authorize new hires or start new projects in a country desperate for jobs, decent and permanent homes for the displaced and economic infrastructure.… Seguir leyendo »
Now that Congress is returning from the August recess with plans to vote on pending free-trade agreements, partisan bickering must not be allowed to kill the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The Colombia of President Juan Manuel Santos is a far different country from the Colombia of his predecessor, Alvaro Uribe. Liberals should recognize that some progress has been made on human rights concerns that kept them from supporting the agreement for nearly five years. It is time for the United States to recognize that progress by passing the bilateral FTA, which virtually eliminates tariff and other trade barriers between the two countries.… Seguir leyendo »