Guerrilla commanders in Colombia, COVID-19 lockdowns, Amazon Oil, and more
A unique weekly summary of politics, economy, technology and culture in Latin America. Written by a journalist based in Rio de Janeiro Catherine osborn.
January 29, 2021, 8:00 AM
welcome to Foreign police‘s Latin America Brief. I am a journalist based in Rio de Janeiro who covers the region for media like Foreign police, NPR and The World by PRX. For eight years, I have lived in Brazil, although I grew up in Texas.
With this digest, I’ll both keep you abreast of the week’s news and outline the debates that will determine the future of Latin America – from geopolitics to business to human rights. I also hope to share some of the region’s tremendous cultural richness and sense of humor.
This week we take a look at charges against former guerrilla commanders before the Colombian War Crimes Tribunal, regional locks, a constitutional shield against abortion in Honduras, and Amazon oil.
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While the headlines may be focused on the latest COVID-19 variants in Latin America, another story – with ramifications for peace and justice across the region – took a key milestone this week. After an investigation of more than two years, the court of transitional justice of Colombia accused eight former guerrilla commanders for crimes they committed during the pre-2016 civil conflict, including kidnappings, killings, enforced disappearances and sexual violence. Two of the defendants are sitting senators, positions granted to them under the peace agreement.
Under the 2016 agreement, the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) agreed to demobilize and be investigated in return for concessions such as reduced criminal sentences, physical protection and seats in Congress. This first concession is what stake now. Former commanders can either admit the crimes and take a sentence of five to eight years, or be given longer sentences of up to 20 years.
The responses of the defendants and other political actors to these accusations – which form part of the first of seven general cases before the war crimes tribunal – will constitute a temperature check on the fragile peace process in Colombia. Although designed to unite the country, it has also been the subject of political polarization.
Although most ex-combatants remained demobilized and embraced socio-economic reintegration and civilian politics (again this week the group dropped the acronym FARC for their political party and renowned like Comunes), some broke away from the peace agreement and called for rearmament in 2019, while other FARC splinter groups remained active for years.
The Colombian government, for its part, has failed to live up to its commitment to provide legal economic alternatives to join the FARC in the countryside and to protect both ex-combatants and civil society leaders, who kill at an increasing rate as various criminal groups fight for the territory the FARC left. A series of rural massacres in recent weeks has made this January the deadliest start of the year since the peace agreement was signed, the transitional court has concluded.
International support has so far played an important role in Colombia’s post-conflict transition. As the Trump administration took action ran the counter to the peace agreement, the envoys of the Biden administration in Bogotá announced that strengthening the peace process would be part of their big priorities, and Colombian social leaders have made direct calls to the new White House for support.
If the peace process goes as planned, it will be one of the the most complete in the world in its reach for justice, fact-finding and economic remedies for the root causes of conflict. The economic desperation and political inertia that have been obstacles to the transition are also stumbling blocks for other societies emerging from conflict and turning their eyes to Colombia.
Monday February 1: Brazilian Lower House and Senate elect speakers
Wednesday February 3: Ecuador, Mexico and Venezuela participate in the meeting of the Ministerial Follow-up Committee of OPEC and non-OPEC countries
Sunday February 7: Ecuadorian legislative election and first round of the presidential election
Sunday February 7: Contested deadline for the departure of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse
The continental battle of COVID-19. From Sunday to February 14 at least, 10 of Peru’s 25 districts will enter a strict lockdown that aims to ease the pressure on its ICU packaged, echoing the measures taken since the start of the pandemic. At the other end of the spectrum, Mexico continues to reject locks even what may be his deadliest point in the pandemic, the president and the country’s richest man recently tested positive. South American countries have been subject to new blanket travel bans as other countries aim to block a coronavirus variant first identified in Manaus of Brazil, which is under review for potentially higher contagion.
Rude logic. The main European lenders BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse and ING have announced gradual elimination financing of the Ecuadorian Amazon crude oil trade due to environmental concerns. Last August, militant groups reported banks were breaking their own sustainability commitments with funding for drilling in the region totaling $ 5.5 billion over 11 years.
Snapshot of deforestation. Across the Amazon biome, which spans nine countries,21 percent More old-growth forests were cut or burnt in 2020 than in the previous year, estimates the non-governmental organization Amazon Conservation. Brazil recorded the most deforestation, while Bolivia recorded the largest year-over-year increase. At this rate, the forest will reach a tipping point on the path to transforming a savannah in 10 to 20 years, said Carlos Nobre, scientist at the University of São Paulo.
Fernández in La Moneda. Despite ideological differences between Argentina’s center-left president Alberto Fernández and Chile’s center-right president Sebastián Piñera, Fernández made his presidency’s first official visit to Chile this week. Fernandez call for a reversal of the current “disintegration in the region”, and the leaders signed cooperation agreements including plans for a submarine cable which will link South America and East Asia.
Sugar patent. Colombian artisanal mills that produce the solid golden sweetener known as panela (Piloncillo in Mexico) have united in legal challenges against what they say is an international attempt to patent their age-old knowledge. The controversy shows how much patent offices face the difficulty of recognizing technologies from other countries and languages, as this New York Times room discusses: “Patenting a humble staple like panela struck Colombians as absurd, like patenting café con leche.”
In recent months, several Latin American countries have submitted updated decarbonization commitments under the Paris Agreement, adjusting their plans to be more ambitious. Which of the following countries has launched a national strategy for green hydrogen (made from electricity from renewable energies) and has mapped reductions based on the use of green hydrogen in its new commitment?
C) Costa Rica
Scroll down for the answer.
Argentina’s decriminalization of abortion, passed by Congress last month, goes into effect on Sunday. Argentine abortion rights activists say they hope their “green wave” – named for the movement’s iconic green bandanas – will encourage similar liberalizations elsewhere in Latin America. In a region with powerful protections for religion, this has also already fueled negative reactions. Less than a month after Argentina’s historic vote, the legislatures of Chile and Honduras have demonstrated regional tension.
In Chile, where abortion for rape, fetal inviability and when a mother’s life is in danger was legalized in 2017, a congressional committee began discussing a bill this would decriminalize the procedure during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. He faces an uphill battle in the current Congress, but this year’s constitutional drafting process and general election could change the country’s power dynamics.
In Honduras, meanwhile, where a total ban on abortion is outlawed, lawmakers quickly approved a constitutional amendment requiring a three-quarters majority to ever legalize the procedure. Hundreds of international groups, including a UN panel and the European Parliament, have condemned the move. Currently, one in four Honduran girls get pregnant before the age of 19, according to the UN, and gender-based violence is one of the main factors pushing women and girls to flee the country.
As grassroots campaigns continue, abortion is likely to appear more and more as a topic of debate in the community. elections which will take place in nine Latin American countries in 2021.
In its update to the Paris Agreement, Chile mapped out a possible scenario in which it fuel 71 percent of its transport of goods with green hydrogen by 2050. By 2040, it Goals to be one of the top three exporters of green hydrogen in the world. The government invests part of the funds for a new amount of 265 million dollars clean technology institute, which he hopes will reduce the price of green hydrogen to make it competitive in 2030.
So much for this week.