Lenin Moreno to Continue Ecuador’s Citizens Revolution

By Ronald J. Morgan

This year’s Ecuadoran Elections wrapped up on a sour note and with the prospect of rising political confrontation. Right-wing Opposition Candidate Guillermo Lasso has refused to recognize the results of the second round voting.

“I will never recognize the victory of a candidate declared by the National Election Council,” Lasso, 61, said shortly after a final vote recount  April 18. Speaking from a Guayaquil Hotel the president stressed, “I can’t be a participant to a fraud, I can’t be a participant to a deception of the voters, of a process full of illegalities, of abuse and of constant arbitrariness.” 1.

The charges, however, did not receive backing in the international community. The United States, the Organization of America States and the Union of South American Nations election  vouched the April 12, second round election was free of fraud. 2, 3, 4, 5

After the recount of 1.2 million votes the Ecuadoran National Election Council  declared the official result 51.16% for official Country Alliance (Alianza Pais) Party Candidate Lenin Moreno against 48.84% for Creating Opportunities (Partido CREO-SUM) Candidate Lasso.

Lenin Moreno, 64, and his vice president, Jorge Glas, 47, will continue the left policies of outgoing President Rafael Correa (2007-2017).  Both men have served as vice president under Correa.

See: Ecuador Elections: The Citizens Revolution Without Correa

Moreno, who is paraplegic as a result of a crime assault, has vowed to continue expanding social benefits and create more housing and universities. But he is constrained by low oil prices, which have created a recession and heavy government debt. Following the vote recount, Moreno thanked  voters  in a Tweet for their support and promised not to defraud them. He also said he was open to a national dialogue. “It is time for agreements on the great national objectives. Democracy has been strengthened. We look ahead, the future will not be detained.” 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

He will be inaugurated May 24.

Ecuador has also elected a new 137 SEAT congress and has approved a referendum restricting politicians from having offshore accounts.  The referendum passed with the support of 55.12% who voted, some 5 030 579 votes. Some 44.88%, some 4,096,559 votes were cast against the measure.  The new congress will draw up a law implementing the offshore restriction. 12, 13, 14

In congress, the official Country Alliance (Alianza Pais) party saw their number of seats drop. The party won 74 seats, down 26 seats from the last election.

The Right-wing  Creating Opportunities Party (Partido CREO-SUMA) won 34 seats. A gain of 22 seats.

The Right-wing Social Christian Party (Partido Social Cristiano) of Cynthia Viteri won 15 seats. Up 9 seats.

The results, while showing the right making gains, nevertheless leave the Country Alliance with a working majority in congress.

Expectations of a right-wing win in the presidential vote drove the election from the start and have led to the current standoff. Lasso had promised to cut taxes and create jobs. He vowed to be advocate of democratic change in Venezuela and to review Ecuador’s loans with China. He also said he would ends Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange´s asylum at Ecuador’s London Embasssy. 14a

At the time of the Feb. 19, first round elections Lasso, a banker, seemed within striking distance of an upset. Lenin Moreno fell just short of the 40% plus 10 percentage point difference in votes needed to win in the first round with 39.36% of the vote. Lasso followed with 28.9% vote. In third place was right-wing Social Christian Party’s Viteri with 16.32% of the vote. A four-day delay in completing the vote count produced the first uncertainty regarding fraud in the Lasso opposition.

Throughout the second round election campaign there were poll predictions that Lasso would win. Recent right-wing shifts in Argentina and Brazil,  and a right-wing victory in a reelection referendum in Bolivia, also added to the expectation of an opposition win.

The April 2, election night brought the two sides into dispute when inaccurate exit polls showed Lasso winning. Lasso pronounced himself the winner early on election night and a number of  television stations announced that exist polls showed Lasso ahead giving the impression of an opposition victory. Adding to the confusion, was a cut off of the vote tally website for 20 minutes.

President Correa has said this cutoff  was the result of a cyber attack coming from somewhere in the United States. When the website returned to operational and Lenin was shown winning, Lasso accused the government of fraud.

On April 5, Lasso announced that his party had found irregularities in 1,795 voting documents. Some 592,350 votes were affected, Lasso said. Lasso demanded a vote by vote recount. The Ecuadoran National Election Council decided to recount a sample of 1.2 million votes in public on April 18. 15

Lasso said it was not enough and did not attend the recount. Lasso charged the judges of the CNE were biased.

The elections took a further tense and angry turn when President Rafael Correa charged that there was a conspiracy at work throughout the 2017 elections. Correa has charged that two polling firms and the television stations, Ecuavisa and Canal Uno, had engaged in an effort to make it look like Lasso was winning on election night. The Polling Firm Cedatos pronounced Lasso ahead based on exit polls and the polling organization Participacion Ciudadana called their poll a technical tie but their actual result showed Moreno winning.

As a result criminal charges are being considered against the polling firms Cedatos and Participacion Ciudadana and the televsion stations Ecuavisa and Canal Uno. The polling and media outlets have denied any wrong doing. The investigation also extends to whether the Creo-Suma party paid for positive polling results throughout the campaign. 16, 17, 18

The election  news coverage also produced a dispute over whether a newspaper should be required to reprint a news story related to one of the presidential candidates. A Ecuador Nongovernmental Organization, Observatorio por la Calidad de la Información brought a complaint before the government press regulation board (Superintendencia de Información y Comunicación) contending that 7 newspapers had failed to print relevant information contained in a March 15 Argentina Newspaper  Pagina 12 article related to candidate Lasso’s taxes and finances. 19

The government press regulatory body voted to fine the seven major newspapers 3,750 dollars each. The media include El Comercio, El Universo, La Hora, Expreso and T.V. stations Teleamazonas, Ecuavisa and Televicentro. The case is under appeal.

The refusal to concede defeat by Lasso and the  government investigation into the possible manipulation of polling data to favor Lasso have increased political tensions. A possible Venezuela like standoff between the opposition and the government will be casting a cloud over the Moreno inauguration.

The situation has brought criticism from one of Ecuador’s most influential right-wing politicians, Guayaquil Mayor Jaime Nebot.  Nebot has publicly criticized Lasso’s inability to prove his election fraud accusations. 20

In another move that is aimed at keeping opposition pressure on the government, a new opposition group, Movimiento Unidad, Cambio y Progreso,
 has filed an action with the Ecuadoran National Election Council calling for a referendum to call a new constitutional convention. The convention would make major political reforms, including eliminating indefinite reelection and changing how judges on the National Election Council are chosen. 21

(For full elections results see wikipedia: Elecciones presidenciales de Ecuador de 2017)

SOURCES: 

1. Lasso: ‘Jamás reconoceremos la victoria de un candidato declarado por el CNE como presidente electo’ _El Comercio 19 de abril de 2017 http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/elecciones-discurso-guillermolasso-recuento-cne.html#.WPeaQhRx9H8.twitter

2. OAS Observer Mission Hails Ecuador Elections, Dismisses Fraud http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/OAS-Observer-Mission-Hails-Ecuador-Elections-Dismisses-Fraud-20170403-0037.html

3. ‘Impossible’: Ecuador’s Electoral Missions Address Fraud Claims  http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Impossible-Ecuadors-Electoral-Missions-Address-Baseless-Fraud-Claims-20170329-0042.html

4. Misión de la OEA en Ecuador destaca participación democrática y llama a resolver cuestionamientos por la vía institucional  3 de abril de 2017http://www.oas.org/es/centro_noticias/comunicado_prensa.asp?sCodigo=C-021/17

5. Estados Unidos felicita a Lenín Moreno por su victoria electoral http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/estadosunidos-felicitaciones-leninmoreno-elecciones-ecuador.html

6. 19 de abril de 2017 12:13 Lenín Moreno agradece apoyo y llama a un acuerdo nacional http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/leninmoreno-acuerdos-recuento-elecciones-cne.html

7- 21 de abril de 2017 00:00 Lenín Moreno tiene pendientes en agenda 32 ofertas de campaña http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/leninmoreno-ofertas-pendientes-ecuador-politica.html

8. Ecuador Elections: Housing, Poverty Reduction Will Drive Lenin Moreno’s http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Ecuador-Elections-Housing-Poverty-Reduction-Will-Drive-Lenin-Morenos-Government-20170329-0028.html Government

9. 24 de abril de 2017 13:59 Cepal calcula crecimiento de 0,6% para la economía de Ecuador http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/cepal-calcula-crecimiento-economia-ecuador.html

10. Ecuador supera la recesión económica y cerrará el 2017 con crecimiento del 1,42% Esta noticia ha sido publicada originalmente por Diario EL TELÉGRAFO bajo la siguiente dirección: http://www.eltelegrafo.com.ec/noticias/economia/8/ecuador-

11. 26 de abril de 2017 00:00 El Gobierno presentó su plan de financiamiento en Londres http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/gobierno-plan-financiamiento-londres-deuda.html. Si está pensando en hacer uso del mismo, por favor, cite la fuente y haga un enlace hacia la nota original de donde usted ha tomado este contenido. ElComercio.com

12. 26 de abril de 2017 00:00 Alianza País renueva la cúpula de la futura Asamblea Nacional http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/alianzapais-asamblea-asambleistas-elecciones-cargos.html

13. Elecciones legislativas de Ecuador de 2017 https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elecciones_legislativas_de_Ecuador_de_2017

14. Consulta popular de Ecuador de 2017 https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consulta_popular_de_Ecuador_de_2017

15. ¡ATENCIÓN! ¡En Vivo! Presentación de fundamentos de impugnación a los resultados electorales https://www.pscp.tv/LassoGuillermo/1MnxnLlPOboGO?t=8

26 de abril de 2017 00:00 Alianza País renueva la cúpula de la futura Asamblea Nacional http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/alianzapais-asamblea-asambleistas-elecciones-cargos.html

16. Rafael Correa habla de complot en contra de los resultados electorales http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/rafaelcorrea-complot-resultados-elecciones-presidencia.html#.WOqEuIgEG-o.twitter

16a La batalla de Rafael Correa contra las encuestadoras http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2017/04/08/america/1491663240_194731.htm

17. CNE cuestionó a Cedatos y Participación Ciudadana http://www.eltelegrafo.com.ec/noticias/politiko-2017/49/cne-cuestiono-a-cedatos-y-participacion-ciudadana

18  10 de abril de 2017 11:31 El periodista Rafael Cuesta Caputi renunció a Canal UNO 27456 El periodista Rafael Cuesta Caputi anunció en su cuenta de Twitter su renuncia a Canal UNO. Foto: Archivo/ EL COMERCIO. El periodista Rafael Cuesta Caputi anunció http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/participacionciudadana-cedatos-apoyo-rafaelcorrea-elecciones.html

19.  Ecuador fines media for not publishing a story http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-39682264

20. Jaime Nebot lamenta que Guillermo Lasso no haya podido probar supuesto fraude electoral  http://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2017/04/26/nota/6156361/jaime-nebot-lamenta-que-guillermo-lasso-no-haya-podido-probar

21. Un nuevo movimiento inició un proceso para impulsar una Asamblea Constituyente en Ecuador.  http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/nuevo-movimiento-proceso-impulsar-asambleaconstituyente.html#.WQDT9OSVlIk.twitter

 

 

 

 

 

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Argentina’s Neoliberalism: Firings, Price Hikes, Austerity

By Ronald J. Morgan

The second year of the Mauricio Macri Administration is beginning with what use to be called the Washington Consensus firmly in control. As is usually the case with such administrations the focus is on economic reforms that will lead to increased foreign investment.

In Argentina, it’s a summer with 8% unemployment, higher air conditioning bills and little money available to go to the beach. Many people have been fired in the last year: 70,00o in the public sector and 162,000 in the private sector, according to a report by the Instituto Para El Desarrollo Economico.1

In  Macri’s first year much of the 12 years of Left nationalist and anti-neoliberal agenda was swept away. Macri is unabashedly pro-American and Anti-Chavez.

Macri’s cabinet is  a total about face in terms of who is in command of economic policy. Shaping a conservative pro business agenda is a troika made up of Marcos Peña, cabinet chief and architect of the Macri election victory, Mario Quintana, co-coordinator of the cabinet and founder of the Farmacity drug store group and the Pegasus conglomerate made up of Freddo Ice Cream shops, a mall and other interests; and Gustavo Lopetequi cabinet economic coordinator and former CEO of LAN Airlines Argentina. Much of the underlying ideas come from a Macri-related think tank,”Fundación Pensar”.

This December and January, the troika has been accused of firing officials who they have had differences with them on economic policy. Finance Minister Alfonso Prat Gray was axed after differences over a tax reform. He was a long time executive at J.P. Morgan.

See: Argentina’s Macri Takes Over

Macri, who has designated himself the top economic boss of the cabinet, decided to split the finance ministry in two. Luis Caputo was named Finance Minister and  Nicolas Dujovne was named Treasury minister. Caputo was head of the Argentina office of Deutsche Bank and has headed up an investment fund. Dujovne has been chief economist at Banco Galicia and has held a number of government economic jobs since the Carlos Menem era.

In Jaunary, Macri further showed an urge to ax dissident advisers by firing the head of Banco La Nacion, Carlos Melconian. Melconian was replaced by  Javier Gonzalez Fraga, a former Menem  Central Bank president. La Nacion is a development bank which assists the government in its economic policies. Gonzalez is a member of the board of directors of Peugeot auto company. Gonzalez also ran for vice president under the Cambio Radical party under Ricardo Alfonsin in 2011.

Macri was elected in 2015, with a just under 3% margin of victory. Voters seemed most upset with annoying controls on dollars, various price controls and growing recession. A spate of unresolved crimes, the lack of believability of official statistics and perceived politicization of the justice system also lead to a narrow defeat for the most powerful political movement since Juan Peron.

Shortly after taking office in 2015, the Macri administration benefitted from a number of corruption revelations involving former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (2007-2015) and members of her cabinet.

But the Cambiemos coalition made up of the PRO party, the Radical Civic Union Party, and the Coalicion Civica ARI party finished the year with low popularity. While Macri gave himself a grade of 8 out of 10 for the year, a recent public opinion poll had the public scoring him with a 4. 2

Macri was no doubt voted into office to fix economic and political problems that became evident after the 2011 Kirchner re-election. But Argentines have had to suffer through a neoliberal fix sponsored by a cabinet led by multinational corporation executives and business magnates. Whether their recipé will stand up to the accomplishments of the now criticized Kirchner era remain to be seen.

The government is seen as a friend of the farming, mining and financial sectors. But ordinary Argentines have had to put up with a reduction in their incomes.

In 2015, Macri moved quickly to end the peso exchange rate controls putting the peso on a free float and allowing free access to dollars. He also resolved the outstanding Buzzard Bond holdout controversy by settling the foreign debt dispute with a $9.3 billion payment. He also lowered taxes on farm exports and freed controls on imports. Foreign corporations were allowed to send their profits home. The government statistics office known as INDEC was relaunched.

Confirming that Argentines had parked billions outside the country a tax amnesty on repatriated funds has brought in nearly $100 billion in offshore dollars and help raise government reserves to $38.7 billion.

The country was and still is in a steep recession with strong inflation. Statistics show a devastating third quarter, 2016, with inflation at its highest in 25 years at 40% and GNP dropping 3.8%. Consumer spending was down 3.1%.

Poverty was pegged by the new INDEC at 32%. Young families are particularly falling on hard times. Some 47% of children are living in poverty.

The precarious situation required the neoliberal government to boost spending on poverty programs and old age pensions. In the first half of 2016 Marcri boosted some welfare programs by 20% and implemented a VAT rebate for the poor. But by the end of the year the rising inflation and massive firings were causing larger and larger protests. 3

Pope Francis, an Argentine, joined with poverty organizations such as Barrio de Pie and the CGT Labor Federation in backing a government agreement to provide emergency assistance under a declared Social Emergency which will last until December 2019. The law passed congress Dec. 7 and will increase social relief programs by $1.8 billion.  In addition to the regular welfare increase, the law will boost unemployment insurance, and increase financing for soup kitchens. Informal workers will be allowed to a receive a compensation that boosts their income up to one minimum wage. Government cooperative jobs will be increased from 300,000 to 510,000. The plan also calls for a $125 dollar year end bonus for those on welfare.

Access to foreign borrowing has allowed the country to imagine restarting the economy. The Macri government after paying the Buzzard Bond foreign debt holdouts, were able to return to the international finance markets. They then borrowed $37.8 billion in new funds and they plan to borrow $13 billion more in 2017. This money along with economic reforms will restart the economy, reduce inflation and set the stage for 20 years of healthy economic growth the Macri financial gurus predict. 4

But  the year has begun under a cloud of certainty. The government contends the economy has started to move ahead and that inflation is headed downward during the last months of 2016. The official prediction for 2017 is 3% GDP growth. The IMF, however, recently backed off a rosy November assessment predicting  GDP growth of 2.7% in 2017 and now predicts a lower 2.2% growth.

The first year of Macri’s effort was lost to fighting inflation and reducing the budget deficit. The small political coalition enters the second year of its four-year term with October congressional elections threatening a sharp rebuke from the electorate.

Annoying Kirchner exchange controls have been replaced by annoying public price hikes and massive job firings that have cut Argentine spending power. The lower middle class has been hit hard in addition to the poor.

The Kirchner government has been criticized by the Macri team as relying too much on heavy government spending and consumer purchasing. From 2001 to 2014 government employment rose from 2.3 million to 3.9 million.

Macri plans to change the model toward investment growth. Early in 2016 he announced that the government had 1.5 million public jobs too many and began cutting.

The Macri government made its most dramatically  austere move by deciding to end government subsidies of public utilities and other public services. The  decision resulted in dramatic public sector price increase known as the Tarifazo. The Argentine think tank Ecolatina reported that government controlled prices increased 66% in the Buenos Aires capital area. This included 467% increase in electricity, a water increase of 300% and a gas hike of 254%. Public transportation jumped 70%. All this added 7% to the total inflation rate, Ecolatina reported. The peso devaluation and price increases pumped up Argentina’s inflation to 40% in 2016.

The increases, which are continuing this January, (30% more on electricity, a 8% hike in gasoline prices and a 130% increase in toll road fees) are supposed to show the international investment community that Argentina is putting its fiscal house in order and supposedly with such sound management international investment will come calling.

But with most Argentines facing an austere summer budget the financial gurus may have their priorities out of line with political reality. No doubt the Argentina that rejected  neoliberalism and the George Bush ALCA trade agreement at the 2005 Summit of the Americas is not the boss this year.

In 2016, the once derided International Monetary Fund, was back showing strong allegiance to Macri’s neoliberal priorities. In a Nov. 9 economic performance review the IMF team called the Kirchner approach “An incoherent and disturbing economic model.” The Macri team on the other hand was carrying out “a well managed and necessary transition.” 4a

The IMF said the previous subsidy of government service prices should be counteracted by focused poverty relief programs. An idea that is under way but has worked better on paper than in reality in the past.

The economy will be relaunched by using the recently borrowed money to undertake infrastructure and new housing programs. A year end tax reform which passed after tense negotiations with Argentina’s major CGT labor federation, is also supposedly going to free money for consumer spending.

Macri also obtained some labor concessions aimed at speeding development of the new Vaca Muerta shale oil fields. But the move to force labor concessions is already galvanizing labor resolve not to be short changed in too many economic areas. The votes of labor are looming in the balance over the perception that Macri wants a cheaper labor environment. 5

The failure of the government to pass regulations governing the recently passed Economic Emergency Law programs, a failure to hold down further job firings until March as agreed with labor; and issuance of a law weakening on- the-job injury protections, angered the powerful CGT labor confederation at its annual summer barbecue this January.

Labor also found the announcement of a cut in long weekend holidays to be too much. The threat of a major labor protest now looms in the near future.

As the election approaches in October, Macri and his team of advisers are in need of evidence of a real economic turn around. So far, they only have a couple of monthly statistics indicating a downward trend in inflation and a slight up tick in some production numbers. The minor good news came in the final months of 2016. 6

The big question is whether former President Fernandez de Kirchner will decide to run for a congressional seat. But whether she runs or not, Kirchner forces are expected to be campaigning against an administration which has fired tens of thousands and raised prices on government services to the max. The opposition may be strengthened if voters believe that, once again, neoliberal economics is asking the public to pay for an improvement in the business environment.

The official Pro coalition campaign  will likely have a strong ideological content focusing on alleged corruption and other wrong doing by the previous government.

But despite the charges of political wrong doing, the Kirchner economy from 2000 to 2011 remains hard to dismiss. This summing up on Argentina Wikipedia shows Cambiemos faces a significant challenge on the economic front:

“The economy nearly doubled from 2002 to 2011, growing an average of 7.1% annually and around 9% for five consecutive years between 2003 and 2007.  Real wages rose by around 72% from their low point in 2003 to 2013. The global recession did affect the economy in 2009, with growth slowing to nearly zero;  but high economic growth then resumed, and GDP expanded by around 9% in both 2010 and 2011 Foreign exchange controls, austerity measures, persistent inflation, and downturns in Brazil, Europe, and other important trade partners, contributed to slower growth beginning in 2012, however. Growth averaged just 1.3% from 2012 to 2014, and rose to 2.4% in 2015.”

SOURCES:

1.DESPIDOS MASIVOS EN ARGENTINA:
CARACTERIZACIÓN DE LA SITUACION Y
ANÁLISIS DEL IMPACTO SOBRE LA…
Wo rking Paper · December 2016.http://www.iade.org.ar/system/files/despidos_masivos_en_argentina_-_caracterizacion_de_la_situacion_y_analisis_del_im

2. Un año de Macri: el 43% de la gente hace un balance negativo de la gestión y el 26% la ve bien3 de Dic. 2016 http://www.clarin.com/politica/macri-gente-balance-negativo-gestion_0_BkJnKngml.html.

2a. Polls Shows More Argentines Think Macri’s Government Is Worse Than CFK’s Year end Poll http://www.thebubble.com/polls-shows-more-argentines-think-macris-government-is-worse-than-cfks/.

2b. Desde la UCA estiman que aumentó la indigencia en el último trimestre de 2016 http://www.cronista.com/economiapolitica/Desde-la-UCA-estiman-que-aumento-la-indigencia-en-el-ultimo-trimestre-de-2016-20170107-0010.html

3. Argentine Government Caves: ‘Social Emergency’ Bill To Go To Congress http://www.thebubble.com/argentine-government-caves-social-emergency-bill-to-go-to-congress/

3a. Macri trumpets welfare benefits April 17, 2016 http://buenosairesherald.com/article/212736/macri-trumpets-welfare-benefits

3b. Qué es la Ley de Emergencia Social La CGT y organizaciones sociales se manifestaron hoy para reclamar su aprobación http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1957488-que-es-la-ley-de-emergencia-social

4. IMF Executive Board Concludes Article IV Consultation with Argentina On November 9, 2016, https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2016/11/10/PR16500-IMF-Executive-Board-Concludes-Article-Consultation-with Argentina

4a. “Hay tres objetivos: bajar el déficit, subir el gasto de infraestructura y disminuir impuestos distorsivos”, dijo Dujovne http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1971676-conferencia-de-prensa-nicolas-dujovne-caputo-gobierno-economia

4b.. How Argentina Settled a Billion-Dollar Debt Dispute With Hedge Funds times.com/2016/04/25/business/dealbook/how-argentina-settled-a-billion-dollar-debt-dispute-with-hedge-funds.html?ref=oembed&_r=0

5. Vaca Muerta: Macri pidió que el acuerdo se extienda a todos los sectores http://www.ieco.clarin.com/politica/vaca-muerta-macri-pidio-acuerdo-extienda-sectores_0_SyzixW78e.html.

5a. Flexiblization,Macri, Clarín y el empresariado: plan de guerra contra la clase trabajadora http://www.laizquierdadiario.com/Macri-Clarin-y-el-empresariado-plan-de-guerra-contra-la-clase-trabajadora

6. La encuesta de la Provincia que pone en alerta a Mauricio Macri y María Eugenia Vidalhttp://www.clarin.com/politica/encuesta-provincia-pone-alerta-mauricio-macri-maria-eugenia-vidal_0_Bkkgl-r8e.html

 

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Colombia: Plan B Peace Accord Approved

By Ronald J. Morgan

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has succeeded in having the Colombian congress approve a revised version of the peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The passage of the accord officially ends 52 years of war between the  Colombian government and the FARC. The conflict which began in 1964, left 220,000 dead and more than five  million displaced according to a study by the Colombia National Center for Historical Memory. Demobilization of 7,000 FARC guerrillas will begin shortly.  (See WOLA comparison of the two peace accords and other analysis) 1.2.3.4.5.

The decision by President Juan Manuel Santos to approve the new peace pact by way of a congressional process  was not to the liking of the leaders who supported the NO victory over the original peace accord in the Oct. 2, plebiscite. The group wanted a second plebiscite to test support for the new agreement.

See: Peace Will Bring a Decade of Reforms to Colombia

President Santos told the nation shortly before the signing of the revised peace agreement that the time for delays was over. “My first and principal concern is for the peace process and for the risk that is growing every day of losing everything that’s been achieved given the fragility of the cease fire…We have to act there is no time to lose.”

Only a simple majority was required to approve the peace deal via Congress. The president carried the ball by using his political majority in both houses of congress through his Unidad Nacional coalition.  It now falls to the Constitutional Court  to issue a ruling allowing a Fast Track approval system to be used to convert the agreement into law. 6.

After the surprise defeat of the original agreement in an Oct. 2 plebiscite, the government consulted with major NO backers, took their suggestions and went back to the FARC for renegotiation. The intense period of effort went on for 41 days. The new agreement was announced Nov. 12. 7.

But backers of the No victory over the original peace accord are still defiant and unwilling to accept the new document. Rejection of the accord by ultra-right opponents lead by former President Alvaro Uribe Velez (2002-2010) has lead to a tense and polarized situation. Uribe backers have vowed to seek a referendum to undo the new peace treaty. During the debate before the vote approving the peace accord in the Senate on Tuesday, Nov. 29 and the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Nov. 30 the No coalition charged the congressional action was an illegal act violating the member’s legal duties (A crime known in spanish as prevaricato).

The final vote in the Senate was  75 votes  in favor, zero against, out of  102 seats. The House of Representaives voted 130 in favor with zero voting no, out of a total of 166 seats. In both houses oppostion supporters walked out at the time of the vote. 8.9.10.11.

See: Colombia Peace Accord: Can it be fixed after stunning No vote?

The proposed oppostion referendum will involve a complicated process and will be difficult to carry out successfully. It is more likely that it will be used to build support for an Uribe protegé candidate for president in 2018.. Overall, a new period of political conflict where the Right attempts to block any political gains by a new FARC political party is already under way. Violence against leftists has also surged.

The revised peace agreement was signed Thursday, Nov 24, in Bogotá. It is being called the Teatro de Colon agreement after the place it was signed.  The small and short signing ceremony had a more somber note than the original event in Cartagena, Sept. 26.

The Maximum Leader of the FARC Rodrigo Londoño, alias Timochenko, said while signing the new agreement: “We have enriched and modified the earlier accord. He also called for “the word to be the only weapon of Colombians” in the future. Londoño mentioned the recent increase in violence against social activists and called for a change in attitude. Colombians, he said, are tired of violence, political stigmatization and name calling. 12.

Despite long multi-hour sessions with government negotiators the Right Wing NO supporters have attacked the new document as has having been signed without a chance for review by the NO representatives.

Typical of opposition No comments were the following:

Marta Lucia Ramirez, ex presidential candidate of the Partido Conservador: “We find that the new text doesn’t satisfy important in-depth observations which generates an enormous lack of legitimacy.” El Espectador, Nov. 21, 2016

Former President Andres Pastrana (1998-2002) said: “In a few days without allowing the presence nor the review of the NO they signed without consultation, in contradiction with the electoral result, a document with the character of a final and definite decree.” Pastrana maintains Santos violated a court ruling dictating “that given the implications of the popular referendum the effects should reflect capably the preferences of the majorities of those who participated in the plebiscite.” El Espectador Nov. 20, 2016

Former Attorney General Alejandro Ordonez called the accord “The same agreement all dressed up.” i.e. cosmetically changed. He contends the reasons that people rejected the original accord remain in place. Congress, he contends, does not have the political legitimacy to pass on the accord and there needs to be another plebiscite. El Espectador, Nov. 15, 2016

Former President Alvaro Uribe Velez, leader of the No contends that points referring to drug trafficking, impunity, the Armed Forces, victims, and political eligibility of the guerrillas before completing their sentence, were not incorporated into the new accord. Uribe told a recent session of the Colombian Congress: “We will seek a mechanism of citizen participation to honor the defense of the points the government didn’t want to accept.” Prensa Democratico, Nov. 22, 2016  13.14.15.16

The final peace agreement took a controversial last minute turn when in the footnotes of the peace agreement, the significance of responsiblity of command was loosened. This change came the same day as the peace agreement was signed, Revista Semana reported.  This was taken as a 11th hour concession to the Association of Retired Colombian Military Officers. The change was criticized by Human Rights Watch as a lessening of the ability to prosecute military officers for wrongdoing by their subordinates.

Human Rights Watch had originally praised the new agreement as an advance over the original which they had criticized for allowing too much impunity. But then, a last minute change caused the organization to turn against the new accord too. Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch, told Revista Semana that the change could affect prosecutions in massacre cases like those of the False Positive Murders (civilains murdered and then passed off as dead guerrillas). 17

The change requires that prosecutors for the Special Jurisdiction for the Peace prove that the commanders not only had control over their troops but were also in command of the crimes that were committed. This, Vivanco said, would be much more difficult to prove.

Briefly summarized, the new agreement changes the following:

  1. The whole of the peace agreement is no longer included in the constitution. Humanitarian aspects of the accord are to be included in the constitution for three presidential periods (12 years). In addition, the new agreement includes a clause requiring that the government and the FARC comply with all aspects of the accord.
  2. Under the transitional justice system adopted, those participating or convicted will have to remain in a restricted zone not larger than one Transitional Relocation Zone. Special permission will have to be granted to leave the zone. Those found to not be cooperating in confessing war crimes can receive up to 20 years in a normal prison.
  3. FARC gets to keep 10 special seats — five in the House of Representatives and five in the Senate from 2018 to 2026. But the FARC may not run candidates for the 16 special seats for conflict zones which will exist from 2018 to 2026.
  4. The new accord strengthens protection for private property and requires that all expropriations be done according to current legislation.
  5. The time table for peace accord investment in development programs is extended from 10 to 15 years. A proposed land census cannot be used to raise land values and increase taxes on landowners.
  6. Campaign finance assistant to the new FARC political party will be reduced from a planned 10% during 2018 to 2026 to the average amount given to all political parties and movements during the period.
  7. Special treatment for drug trafficking crimes will be dependent on a finding that the money earned went to support the FARC war effort.
  8. The Constitutional Court will be allowed to hear appeals of transitional justice court decisions. The move places the peace accord related justice system under the control of the Constitutional Court.
  9. Foreign Judges are eliminated from the Special Jurisdiction for Peace Court. The court will only exist for ten years and only for the first two years may requests for investigation be received.
  10. Changes text of focus on sex discrimination to say only that woman and men will be treated equally and recognizes that there are special circumstances affecting each group. Church groups had criticized the original wording as being pro homesexual.
  11. The new agreement requires that the FARC present a list of assets at the time of disarmament.
  12. Prosecution of  third party financiers of violence remains in place. But Nongovernmental organizations can not act as prosecutors but may provide information.
  13. New Campesino Zones, in addition to those already existing,  are not allowed.
  14. The accord excludes from transitional justice crimes committed for personal enrichment.
  15. Command Responsibility given last minute changes: The new text requires that prosecutors for the Special Jurisdiction for the Peace prove that the commanders not only had control over their troops but were also in command of the crimes that were committed. This could be much more difficult to prove in court.
  16. Eligibility for election remains for all FARC members even if they have been convicted of war crimes.
SOURCES:

1. Key Changes to the New Peace Accord Wola Nov. 15, 2016 http://colombiapeace.org/2016/11/15/key-changes-to-the-new-peace-accord/

2.Las claves del nuevo acuerdo de paz con las Farc 13 de Nov. 2016 http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/paz/claves-del-nuevo-acuerdo-de-paz-farc-articulo-665295.

3.Estos serían los candados del nuevo acuerdo de paz Nov. 15, 2016 http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/nuevo-acuerdo-de-paz-dejusticia-refrendacion-e-implementacion/505527

4.El nuevo acuerdo según las FARC Nov. 15, 2016 http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/proceso-de-paz-las-farc-y-el-nuevo-acuerdo-de-paz/505409

5.Cinco cosas que debe saber del proceso de paz con las Farc, 23 de Nov. 2016 http://www.eltiempo.com/politica/proceso-de-paz/cinco-cosas-que-debe-saber-sobre-el-nuevo-acuerdo-de-paz/16756941

6.Congreso terminó de refrendar el nuevo acuerdo con las Farc,Nov. 30, 2016 http://www.eltiempo.com/politica/proceso-de-paz/refrendan-nuevo-acuerdo-con-las-farc/16763099?_

7.Los 40 días y 40 noches que pasaron para conseguir el nuevo acuerdo, 21 Nov. 2016 http://www.eltiempo.com/politica/proceso-de-paz/cronica-de-las-negociaciones-para-lograr-nuevo-acuerdo-de-paz/16754195

8.La paz sin Uribe http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/acuerdo-de-paz-con-las-farc-posicion-de-uribe-y-los-del-no/506807

9.Uribe no aceptará el nuevo acuerdo si no se puede modificar 15 de Nov. 2016 http://www.semana.com/confidenciales-semanacom/articulo/alvaro-uribe-no-aceptara-nuevo-acuerdo-si-no-puede-modificarse/505648

10.Las Farc le cerraron la puerta a un encuentro con el Centro Democrático 22 de Nov. 2016 http://www.eluniversal.com.co/colombia/las-farc-le-cerraron-la-puerta-un-encuentro-con-el-centro-democratico-240755

 11.Uribismo acudirá a referendo contra el nuevo acuerdo de paz http://www.eltiempo.com/politica/proceso-de-paz/uribismo-pide-referendo-para-consultar-puntos-del-nuevo-acuerdo-de-paz/16758438

12.”Que la palabra sea la única arma que nos permitamos usar”: ‘Timochenko’24 de Nov. 2016 http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/timochenko-habla-en-el-teatro-colon-el-dia-de-la-firma-del-acuerdo-final/506466

13.Pastrana rechaza el nuevo acuerdo entre el Gobierno y las Farc 20 de Nov. 2016 http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/pastrana-rechaza-el-nuevo-acuerdo-de-farc-articulo-666520

14.Congreso no tiene la legitimidad para avalar el nuevo acuerdo de paz: Alejandro Ordóñez 15 de Nov. 2016 http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/judicial/congreso-no-tiene-legitimidad-avalar-el-nuevo-acuerdo-d-articulo-665532

15.“En el nuevo texto no se satisfacen importantes observaciones de fondo”: Marta Lucía Ramírez http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/el-nuevo-texto-no-se-satisfacen-importantes-observacion-articulo-666689

16.”Hay temas graves que no se modificaron”: Uribe, 22 de Nov. 2016 http://www.alvarouribevelez.com.co/es/content/hay-temas-graves-que-no-se-modificaron-uribe

17.”El Gobierno se rindió ante las presiones de los exmilitares”: José Miguel Vivanco 25 de Nov. 2016 http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/human-rights-watch-critica-cambios-en-el-acuerdo-de-paz-entre-gobierno-y-farc/506599

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How the Sandinistas Grew Powerful

By Ronald J. Morgan

A 2000 political pact between Daniel Ortega and then President Arnoldo Aleman paved the way for impunity and back room deals. The pact made the Sandinistas and the Independent Liberal Party the dominant political forces in the country. 1,2

A 2011 Supreme Court decision allowing indefinite reelection and a 2014 constitutional reforms are being blamed for what is now evolving into an increasingly authoritarian one party dominant political system.

Election fraud was alleged in the 2008 municipal elections and 2011 presidential elections.The United States cut off funding from the New Millenium Account assistance fund to show its displeasure with the 2008 vote.

The constitutional reform of 2014, allows indefinite reelection, certain presidential decrees with the force of law and the removal of the 35% minimum vote requirement to be president. It also extends the right of military officers to run for political office

The 2016 election was thrown into a one-sided event by an Electoral Supreme Court decision last July. The court ruled to unseat the opposition congressman Eduardo Montealegre as head of the Independent Liberal Party and its ally the Sandinista Renovation Movement. The decision stemmed from its resolution of a dispute over the rightful leader of the Independent Liberal Party. The dispute had been raging for a while.3

The Court replaced Montealegre with Pedro Reyes. And when some Liberal Independent Party deputies refused to recognize Reyes the court ordered them removed from congress. Reyes was to be allowed to appoint replacements. Then in August, the court banned the Independent Liberal Party from running for president.

Another opposition party, the The National Coalition for Democracy, whose expected candidate was Luis Callejas, pulled out of the Nov. 6 vote calling the election a farce.

SOURCES:

1.Of politics and democracy in Nicaragua in the XXIst century http://archive.thedialogue.org/PublicationFiles/Politics%20and%20democracy%20in%20Nicaragua.pdf

2.Strange Bedfellows: The Aleman-Ortega Pact https://nacla.org/article/strange-bedfellows-aleman-ortega-pact

3.Nicaragua Electoral Authority Unseats Opposition Lawmakers http://www.apnewsarchive.com/2016/Nicaragua_electoral_authority_unseats_opposition_lawmakers/id-5c680c2b50d24116b19aebe514367072

 

 

 

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Nicaragua’s Controversial Election

By Ronald J. Morgan

Daniel Ortega has won a third consecutive re-election as President of Nicaragua. Ortega, who turns 71 this week, can point to some impressive accomplishments since returning to power through the ballot box in 2007.

But dissatisfaction with the shortcomings of the current election is causing increased polarization inside the country. The next five years are expected to include increased social protest and perhaps outside economic sanctions. After many years of relative calm Nicaragua is showing signs of  serious political crisis.

A Supreme Court decision in July, left the Nov. 6, voting without the principal opposition candidates of the Independent Liberal Party. The opposition has called the election a farce and announced plans not to accept the vote as legitimate.  The United States has issued a statement Nov. 7, expressing deep concern that the vote was marred. It also has criticized the lack of independent vote observers.

Since the elections back in 2007, Ortega’s Sandinista Party has gradually gained control of congress and the Supreme Court and most of the country’s other institutions. While economic progress has been above average in Nicaragua, democracy has been seen as slipping.

See: How the Sandinistas Grew Powerful

Few expect a return to the Cold War days of the 1980s when Washington sought to defeat the Sandinistas with  the Contra War leaving 20,000 dead.

But the win this November, drew criticism as an election similar to those staged by the Somoza Family which ruled Nicaragua from 1936 to 1979. Selection of Rosario Murillo as Vice President candidate and the presence of other Ortega family members in the government has also drawn criticism for creating the appearance of a family dynasty.

The lack of opposition participation has brought criticism from the Organization of American States and the United States. Right-wing congress members have initiated an attempt to impose restrictions on Nicaragua’s international loans. The bill, known as the NICA Act has passed the House of Representatives and awaits consideration by the Senate next year.

Following the criticism by the OAS, Ortega  agreed to 90 days of talks aimed at perhaps implementing some form of corrective political reforms. Nicaraguan business and opposition sectors are eager for Ortega to correct course. And without change, the country could easily lose its recent economic progress and become engulfed in a Venezuela type political polarization. The political crisis probably will not be over until the next presidential election in 2021.

The next five years are expected to be more difficult economically do to a drop off in Venezuela international assistance through the ALBA program, and lower prices for exports. The last nine years of Ortega rule produced substantial success. Ortega formed an alliance with the Nicaraguan business sector and embraced free trade, including the CAFTA Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

With the help of  $3.5 billion in Venezuela assistance the Sandinista government improved social conditions. For the past ten years Nicaragua has also experienced  lower criminal violence than its neighbors in Central America. The 2016 Nicaragua IMF Report found that poverty had fallen from 42.9% in 2009 to 29.9% in 2014.

Economic growth also was above average for Central America: 5.1% in 2012 4.5% 2013 4.7% 2014 4.0% 2015,  and 4.2% projected for 2016.

Foreign investment has been encouraged. And according to IndexMundi, has produced a steady inflow of capital in recent years: 2007: $381.7million, 2008: $627.3 million, 2009: $433.9 million, 2010: $489.9 million, 2011: $936.3 million, 2012: $767.7 million, 2013: $815.5 million, 2014: $883.5 million. Inflation has remained in single digits since 2008. Nevertheless, Nicaragua remains the second poorest country in Latin America after Haiti.

Under President Ortega relations with Russia and China have strengthened continuing his anti-U.S. imperialism world view. Russia is providing military assistance and equipment, including 50 battle tanks. A Russian satellite tracking base for use in the Russian GPS system may be established.

The biggest issue after the recent election is the plan by a Chinese investor to build a controversial $50 billion canal across Nicaragua which will compete with the Panama Canal and perhaps increase economic activity in Nicaragua substantially.

The project has been criticized as a possible boondoggle with negative environmental effects. And Nicaraguan peasant groups are opposed to giving up their land for the project. The 175 mile long canal project broke ground in December 2014. The Nicaraguan government granted the right to build the project to Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company. The company is headed by Beijing Developer Wang Jing.

Presidential Results from Wikipedia 2016 Nicaragua Presidential Elections.

Candidate Party Votes %
Daniel Ortega Sandinista National Liberation Front 1,803,944 72.50
Maximino Rodríguez Constitutionalist Liberal Party 373,230 15.00
Pedro Vallejos Independent Liberal Party 111,968 4.50
Saturnino Cerrato Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance 106,993 4.30
Erick Cabezas Conservative Party 57,299 2.30
Carlos Canales Alliance for the Republic 34,835 1.40
Invalid/blank votes 90,246
Total 2,578,515 100
Registered voters/turnout 68.20
Source: El Nuevo Diario (99.80% of votes counted)

SOURCES

CSE asigna a Ortega el 72.5% de los votos http://www.laprensa.com.ni/2016/11/07/politica/2130836-cse-asigna-a-ortega-el-71-3-de-los-votos

Nicaragua’s Elections Marked by Apathy and Mistrust http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/nicaraguas-elections-marked-by-apathy-and-mistrust/

In Nicaragua, a Blatantly Rigged Election http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/05/opinion/in-nicaragua-a-blatantly-rigged-election.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

Encuesta M&R favorece a Ortega con 69,8% y CID-Gallup con el 52% http://www.lajornadanet.com/index.php/2016/11/03/encuesta-mr-favorece-a-ortega-con-698-y-cid-gallup-con-el-52/#.WB0d49LhCM9

Nicaragua: El golpe “blando” en marcha http://www.cubadebate.cu/opinion/2016/11/03/nicaragua-el-golpe-blando-en-marcha/#.WB0eVdLhCM9

 IMF Country Report on Nicaragua http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2016/cr1634.pdf

World Bank Nicaragua  Overview http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/nicaragua/overview

Nicaragua electoral authority unseats opposition lawmakers http://www.apnewsarchive.com/2016/Nicaragua_electoral_authority_unseats_opposition_lawmakers/id-5c680c2b50d24116b19aebe514367072

Political Crisis Looms in Nicaragua in Run-Up to Elections http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/political-crisis-looms-in-nicaragua-in-run-up-to-elections

Lo que establece el “Nica Act” http://confidencial.com.ni/lo-establece-nica-act/

Ortega entre la OEA, Clinton y “Nica Act” http://confidencial.com.ni/ortega-la-oea-clinton-nica-act/

Opinion: Russian Tank Deal With Nicaragua ‘Back to the Future’ Moment for U.S.https://news.usni.org/2016/05/09/opinion-russian-tank-deal-with-nicaragua-back-to-the-future-moment-for-u-s

Nicaragua’s Grand Canal http://www.cfr.org/infrastructure/nicaraguas-grand-canal/p36468

7 razones de expertos para llamar farsa las elecciones en Nicaragua http://www.laprensa.com.ni/2016/08/19/politica/2086096-farsa-electoral-elecciones-en-nicaragua

Sin sorpresa, Ortega es reelegido en cuestionados comicios en Nicaragua http://www.elconfidencial.com/ultima-hora-en-vivo/2016-11-07/sin-sorpresa-ortega-es-reelegido-en-cuestionados-comicios-en-nicaragua_1058261/

Líderes opositores Nicaragua no reconocerán resultados de “farsa electoral” http://www.elconfidencial.com/ultima-hora-en-vivo/2016-11-07/lideres-opositores-nicaragua-no-reconoceran-resultados-de-farsa-electoral_1058227/

El “Nica Act”. ¿Y ahora qué hacemos? http://www.laprensa.com.ni/2016/11/07/columna-del-dia/2129292-el-nica-act-y-ahora-que-hacemos

 Nicaraguan Voters Are Getting Ready to Follow Daniel Ortega’s Script http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/11/05/nicarguan-voters-are-getting-ready-to-follow-daniel-ortegas-script-nicaragua/

 

 

 

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Colombia Peace Accord: Can it be fixed after stunning No vote?

By Ronald J. Morgan

Colombia’s Ultra-Rightists are back  center stage in the nation’s political arena.

In a surprising, unexpected, change of fate, Colombians voted down a complex peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).  The vote, Sunday, Oct. 2, was in sharp contradiction to numerous opinion polls released in the weeks before the plebiscite. The victory revives the right wing Centro Democratico party from the defeat it suffered in the presidential elections of 2014, and the regional elections of 2015.

After more than four years of negotiations President Juan Manuel Santos and the members of the FARC Command are left with a difficult path forward toward peace. Santos has ordered a bilateral cease fire kept in place while a series of consultations are held with the promoters of the No vote. United Nations security forces are also staying in place to prevent violence.

Members of Colombia’s hard right, led by former President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010) achieved a rejection of the peace treaty signed in Cartagena, Sept. 26, with 6,419, 759 votes against the accord or 50.23%. The yes votes totalled 6,359, 643, some 49.76%. The vote came during rainy weather in some areas. Absenteeism totalled a whopping 62.57% which means that 20 million voters sat home during the crucial vote. Also hurting the Si or Yes vote were large numbers of null and unmarked votes –86,243 unmarked votes and 170,946 null votes. No charges of fraud were raised, however. 1,2,3,4

See: Colombia Update: Regional Elections Bolster Rightwing Power

Humberto de la Calle. the chief negotiator of the peace negotiations and a leader of the Si campaign, tendered his resignation. But the president has since asked him to stay on to  negotiate a new modified agreement. Gina Parody, secretary of education, also resigned after working in the SI movement. Former President Cesar Gaviria (1990-1994), who was also important in leading the SI movement, has refrained from commenting on the debacle. 5

The Oct. 2, vote was a shock.  The atmosphere of impending peace is now one of uncertainty and concern about right wing control over political reforms. The central question is whether the peace accord can be fixed and whether the FARC will be willing to make further concessions. The surprise of the defeat is still reverberating throughout the nation.

Supporters of the NO also seemed taken by surprise by the victory, and quickly stressed that they were still in favor of achieving peace, but want the peace accord changed. President Juan Manuel Santos moved to calm the political waters by quickly putting into place a dialogue with the leaders of the NO campaign. This new negotiation with the right is providing the basis for some rational effort to resolve the impasse over the peace accord. But it has also been criticized by the Left as an accommodation among political elites.6

The upset victory by the No forces brought former President Alvaro Uribe face to face with Santos for the first time in six years. Another critic of the peace process, former President Andres Pastrana (1998-2000) also met with the president to discuss how NO objections may be worked into a revised accord.

See: Colombian Political Forces Reset After Santos Win

Rounding out the group of ultra-right leaders were: Martha Lucia Ramirez, Ivan Duque, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, former Presidential Candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga and former Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez.  On Wednesday, a group of NO Commissions were working to draw up a list of objections and suggested modifications to the accord. These suggestions will be presented to the government in the coming week. The government will then negotiate again with the FARC in Havana. The revised peace accord, if agreed to, could then be submitted to a second plebiscite.

In the midst of the new negotiations with Colombia’s peace opponents Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for his negotiation efforts. The prize committee did not award the prize to the FARC, however, adding further insult to the Leftist Insurgency’s effort.

Later in the week a newspaper interview brought another surprise to the mounting tensions. The NO Victory took a potential stumble when the NO campaign was described in a way that it seemed that it tried to incite the electorate to anger with arguments that were less than accurate.  Juan Carlos Velez Uribe, manager of the Centro Democratico NO Campaign explained in an interview with the Bogota Newspaper La Republica the campaign strategy and identified the major NO campaign supporters.  This explanation quickly touched off a denial by Alvaro Uribe, head of the Centro Democratico and sharp criticism from the Left.7,8

Legal actions charging illegal campaign techniques also were brought before the National Prosecutors Office and the Supreme Court. Velez Uribe resigned his post at Centro Democratico and retracted what he said in the interview. Whether the campaign tactics could be considered illegal campaign activities adds further uncertainty to the effort to reconcile the accord

The FARC has taken a conciliatory posture since the loss on Oct. 2. Comandante Timoleon Jimenez has pointed out that Uribe was invited to talk directly to the FARC about his concerns on two occasions. He also stressed that the FARC plans to defend what was agreed to in the peace accord. But he opened the possibility of some change through a national political pact which would solidify the peace. He also raised the question of whether the peace accord is legally done in by the plebiscite since it was signed by the government and registered as a special accord in Bern, Switzerland.

The FARC has called for national mobilizations to support the gains won during the peace negotiations. Marches to support the peace are proceeding with the aim of showing grass-roots support by the left for the current peace accord. 9,10

The No vote does do in all recently passed legislation to fast track the accord into the Constitution. President Santos has described the government’s approach to fixing the peace accord as consisting of a series of “adjustments” to what has been agreed to. It is thought a second plebiscite could be held to approve the modifications.

A week after the Oct 2 vote Uribe posted on his twitter a series of demands that he says will be made in the coming negotiations with the government. 11

Among the demands are:

1. Punishment of high ranking persons accused of serious crimes with five or eight years of incarceration even though it may be at an agricultural farm or other work facility. Those found guilty of serious crimes should not be eligible for election to elective office.

2. Narcotics crimes are to be considered normal crimes ineligible for special treatment.

3. Transitional justice to be put under the control of a special Supreme Court body or the current system of  Ley de Justicia, Paz y Reparación to be applied..

4. Amnesty for rank and file guerrillas and special relief for military and police accused of crimes. Guerrillas are to receive payment for eradicating drug crops.

5. Manual eradication should be a priority with a possibility of aerial spraying if necessary.

6. Special protection for land owners so they won’t be affected by the peace agreement.

7.  Financing of the peace agreement should be adjusted to the fiscal capabilities of the state.

8. Agreement with the FARC should not limit the ability of mayors and governors to attend to the needs of citizens equally.

9. Calls for a limitation on consultations with communities through government decrees to avoid interference with government activities.Consultations are to be public.

SOURCES:

1. Estos son los principales actores que ganan con el ‘no’ del plebiscito http://www.eltiempo.com/politica/proceso-de-paz/quien-gano-el-plebiscito-en-colombia/16716647?_

2.La debacle de las encuestadoras http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/plebiscito-por-la-paz-encuestadoras-se-equivocaron-con-resultados/496543

3.Colombia dijo “No” al acuerdo de paz con las Farc http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/paz/colombia-dijo-no-al-acuerdo-de-paz-farc-articulo-658143

4.¿Por qué perdió el Sí? Oct. 2, 2016 http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/plebiscito-para-la-paz-por-que-perdio-el-si/496519

5. De la Calle pone su cargo a disposición del presidente Oct. 3, 2016 http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/humberto-de-la-calle-renuncia-a-su-cargo-como-negociador/496651

5a. Santos rechaza renuncia a De la Calle y lo pone a negociar con el uribismo http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/gana-el-no-en-el-plebiscito-designacion-de-voceros-del-centro-democratico/496725

6. Organizaciones sociales rechazan negociación entre santismo y uribismo Oct. 4, 2016 http://colombia2020.elespectador.com/pais/organizaciones-sociales-rechazan-negociacion-entre-santismo-y-uribismo

7. El No ha sido la campaña más barata y más efectiva de la historia, Oct. 5, 2016 http://www.larepublica.co/el-no-ha-sido-la-campa%C3%B1a-m%C3%A1s-barata-y-m%C3%A1s-efectiva-de-la-historia_427891

8. Denuncian al senador Álvaro Uribe por estrategia del No en el plebiscito http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/judicial/denuncian-al-senador-alvaro-uribe-estrategia-del-no-el-articulo-659100

9. Renegociar el acuerdo de paz: ¿Es posible? Oct. 3, 2016 http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/plebiscito-para-la-paz-sera-o-no-posible-renegociar-los-acuerdos/496759

10. Human Rights Watch expone soluciones para puntos de discordia en acuerdo final de paz, Oct. 7, 2016, http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/human-rights-watch-expone-soluciones-puntos-de-discordi-articulo-659083

11. Votamos No, seguimos por la paz. Urgencia y Paciencia. Algunas proposiciones https://twishort.com/8ijlc

 

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Peace Will Bring a Decade of Reforms to Colombia

By Ronald J. Morgan

Monday evening, September 26, Colombia ended 52 years of conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The ceremony in Cartagena begins a process of transformation in Colombia. This article outlines the coming demobilization and the implementation of the peace agreement. It owes a lot to a summary published recently in Revista Semana: “Detalle sobre Acuerdo para terminar la guerra.” And, it is recommended reading.

Leader of the FARC, Timoleon Jimenez, whose real name is Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, told the gathering in Cartagena: “No one should doubt that we are moving toward a policy without arms. We are preparing to disarm our minds and hearts…In the future, the key will be the implementation of the accords, in such a manner that what is written on paper takes life in reality. And for this to be possible, in addition to the international verification, the Colombian people must become the principal guarantors  that what was agreed to materializes. Jimenez stressed: “We are going to comply and we hope the government complies.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos pledged to support the FARC in their efforts to become a peaceful political force within the country. “Mr. Rodrigo Londoño and members of the FARC: Today when you under take your road of return to society, when you begin you transformation  to convert yourselves into a political movement without arms, following the rules of justice, truth and reparation contained in the agreement — I, as Chief of State of the country that we love, welcome you to democracy.

“To change the bullets for votes, the arms for ideas, is a brave decision and the more intelligent decision that any subversive group can take. And at a good time you understood the call of history. We are not nor will we ever be in agreement with the political or economic model that should be followed by our country, but as I said in Havana, I will defend with all my determination your right to express your ideas within the democratic regime because that is the essence of freedom within a state of law.”  1, 2,

The complex peace accord signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is expected to create a peace reform period that will last the coming decade. The signing of the peace accord, Sept. 26, sets the stage for an Oct 2, plebiscite which will vote the complicated pact up or down.3, 4

The vote must pass a threshold of 4.5 million votes to pass. While the arrival of peace is coming in an atmosphere of intense political polarization, the agreement is expected to pass. 5, 6, 7

Once approved, the pact will be put before congress to be converted into a set of laws. This process is to be completed in 12 months. The FARC will have six nonvoting observer seats — three in the Chamber of Representatives and three in the Senate. The peace accord will obtain its legal status through a constitutional reform known as the Acto Legislativo para la Paz. The law was passed in June and provides an expedited approach to converting the peace agreement into a series of laws. A fast track approach to the legislation will include reduced debates and no changes in the laws without presidential approval.

The President will also have the power to emit decrees with the force of law over 180 days in order to make the peace accord work. The peace agreement will rank as part of the constitution. The Constitutional Court will hear all challenges to peace treaty related laws. One challenge has been made to the Acto Legislativo para la Paz so far.

As part of the legislative implementation the government must include an investment plan for the hardest hit of the region’s conflict zones. 8, 9, 10

After four years of negotiation, the peace accord leaves Colombia with a road map of reforms in the rural development, political reform, justice and victims compensation  and illicit drug areas. The reforms, if implemented successfully, will have a transforming effect on rural areas of Colombia and open up the political process to new forces. But overall the agreement will not threaten the existing economic structure. In fact, President Juan Manuel Santos has predicted a strong peace period economic expansion.

See: Santos Rolls Out Colombian “Third Way” And More Neoliberalism

A main concern accompanying the arrival of peace is the overall security situation for Left supporters and politicians. In the weeks running up to the peace accord signing 13 social activists were murdered. 11, 12

After approval of the plebiscite (If not approved the peace accord is stopped without a clear indication of what will happen next) the FARC forces will begin a six month demobilization process. They will move out of base camps into 22 demobilization areas. They will disarm in stages with some arms being surrendered every 30-days during the 180 day period.

After leaving the demobilization camps guerrillas will have the right to a number of government benefits. The agency, Economias Solidarias de Comun, Ecomin, will administer the benefits. Each member of the FARC will receive 8 million pesos (U.S. 2,741) to under take an economic project approved by Ecomin.

FARC members will also receive two years of payments equivalent to 90% of the minimum wage. If a FARC member decides to study he can receive up to eight years of incentives.

The peace agreement attempts to attack the causes of the 52 year-old conflict with a Rural Development Reform and a major increase in political inclusion.

The Integral Rural Reform in a nutshell includes the following:

Distribution of 3 million hectares (7.41 million acres) of land to rural peasants. Colombia will also formalize the titles to 7 million hectares (17.29 million acres) of land and conduct a land census to determine who owns what land in rural areas. Land for the redistribution is expected to come from vacant lands, land seized as part of criminal prosecutions and expropriation with compensation. Gifts of land may also be encouraged.

To bring rural Colombia out of the isolation and poverty of the conflict years, Colombia will implement 16 development programs in hard hit areas with high poverty. To combat hunger in the rural areas a new food security program will be put in place. Colombia will also pass a series of tax incentives to encourage private investment in rural areas.

See: Colombia Peace Negotiations Turn Two

Colombia’s rural areas will also be receiving attention through the Accord on Illicit Drugs. This agreement means to be a more people friendly approach to the drug war. Aerial crop spraying has been stopped and alternative development programs will seek to eliminate 96,000 hectares (237,120 acres) of drug crops. Drug crop production jumped from 69,000 hectares (174,430 acres) in 2014, to 96,000 (237,120 acres) in 20015.

Aerial spraying could be resumed in an emergency but is expected to be used only as a last resort. There will be less punishment of crop cultivators and more focus on combatting organized crime and drug related financial crimes. Persons in drug growing areas will have two years to decide whether to participate in the program. Infrastructure will be improved in drug producing zones in order to make easier more legitimate economic activities.

The political reforms contained in the peace accord are expected to reshape Colombia’s political environment. The agreement calls for the government to foment political pluralism, strengthen guarantees of participation and fight against persecution.

Major components of the Political Participation Agreement are:

Creation by political parties and political movements of a Statute of the Opposition to guarantee opposition political rights. Political parties will be allowed to operate more easily without restrictions on their legal status and voter registration will be promoted in rural areas.

Because of numerous acts of violence against political party and social movement members there will be a new system of security for political activity participants. This will include a special prosecutor and police force to protect politicians.

To enhance representation in conflict zone areas 16 special seats will be allowed in the Chamber of Representatives. The seats will be by persons from those areas.

In order to facilitate the FARC’s entrance into politics the FARC will be allowed five seats in the Chamber of Representatives and five in the Senate for two election periods. Until 2026 there will be no minimum member or vote requirements. The State will also provide financing to the new FARC party for 10 years. The amount will be equivalent to 10%  fo all government political party subsidies.

The FARC is allowed one seat on the Consejo Nacional Electoral, CNE but they are not allowed to vote.

The crucial and most controversial of the six accords making up the peace agreement is the Victims and Justice Accord.  The accord will include a Truth Commission with a three year mandate; a special unit to search for all disappeared persons; and a special legal jurisdiction to try crimes against humanity.

See: Colombia Victims Accord to Impact Human Rights Policy

Based on the principles of Transitional Justice, the prosecution for war crimes by both the guerrillas and state actors will allow lesser than normal legal penalties in return for a full cooperation in investigating the crimes. Human Rights Watch has criticized the agreement as too lenient.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace will consist of 24 judges. Four of the judges may be foreigners. This court will both investigate and prosecute. Crimes which will be punished, include genocide, forced disappearance, sexual violence, forced displacement and recruiting of minors.

Persons agreeing to provide the court with the truth in an exhaustive manner will be able to receive reduced sentences of five to eight years. Those who refuse to cooperate could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. Current court cases involving both the military and guerrillas are to be transferred to the new court. No appeals are allowed once a person agrees to cooperate. Those convicted also will not lose their political rights.

While serving their special transitional justice sentence, the persons will have some restriction of their liberty and will be involved in projects such as rebuilding towns, de-mining operations and substitution of illicit crops.

Verification and implementation of the peace accord will be done by a six member Comision de Implementacion Seguimiento y Verificacion del Acuerdo Final de Paz. This will have three FARC members and three government members. The commission will be required to draw up a 10 year plan for implementation of all aspects of the accord. As part of the implementation commission international verification will be carried ou by Cuba, Norway, Venezuela and Chile.

Demobilization will be overseen by 500 international observers under the United Nations Military Security Council. In addition 262 FARC members and 263 government members will be in command of the activities. 13, 14

SOURCES:

1. FARC Comandante Timoleon Jimenez:Nuestra única arma será la palabra http://www.farc-ep.co/comunicado/nuestra-unica-arma-sera-la-palabra.html

2. Palabras del Presidente Juan Manuel Santos en el acto de firma del Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del Conflicto con las FARC http://es.presidencia.gov.co/discursos/160926-Palabras-del-Presidente-Juan-Manuel-Santos-en-el-acto-de-firma-del-Acuerdo-Final-para-la-Terminacion-del-Conflicto-con-las-FARC#.V-rFP5TEhpw.twitter

3. Full Text of the Colombian Peace Agreement http://www.eltiempo.com/contenido/politica/proceso-de-paz/ARCHIVO/ARCHIVO-16682558-0.pdf

4. Detalle sobre Acuerdo para terminar la guerra http://especiales.semana.com/acuerdo-de-paz/capitulo-uno.html

5. Sí a la paz, pero no a la participación política de Farc, El Espectador, Sept. 20, 2016 http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/si-paz-no-participacion-politica-de-farc-articulo-655925

6. “Preocupan la polarización y la intolerancia de esta campaña”: Alejandra Barrios, directora de la MOE, El Pais, Septiembre 21, 2016 http://www.elpais.com.co/elpais/colombia/proceso-paz/noticias/preocupan-polarizacion-y-intolerancia-esta-campana-alejandra-barrios-d#.V-Kt-pgfFtQ.twitter

6a Plebiscito por la paz precipitó campaña presidencial del 2018 Sept. 18, 2016 http://www.eltiempo.com/politica/partidos-politicos/plebiscito-y-campana-presidencial-2018/16704599

7. Videos de campañas por el Sí y el No en el plebiscito se toman las redes sociales, El Espectador, 16 de Sept. 2016 http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/videos-de-campanas-el-si-y-el-no-el-plebiscito-se-toman-articulo-655185

8.What’s in store for US aid to Colombia? Feb. 4, 2016, https://www.devex.com/news/what-s-in-store-for-us-aid-to-colombia-87698

9.‘Plan Colombia’: How Washington learned to love Latin American intervention again

Sept. 18, 2016 https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/plan-colombia-how-washington-learned-to-love-latin-american-intervention-again/2016/09/18/ddaeae1c-3199-4ea3-8d0f-69ee1cbda589_story.html?postshare=4001474244633332&tid=ss_tw-bottom

10.Aprueban monto del Presupuesto del posconflicto por $224,4 billones, Sept. 13, 2016 http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/economia/aprueban-monto-del-presupuesto-del-posconflicto-2244-bi-articulo-654661

11.Colombia’s Human Rights Defenders Are Dying for Peace, Sept. 9, Insight Crime 2016 http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/colombia-s-human-rights-defenders-are-dying-for-peace

12. Los 13 líderes asesinados después de la firma del acuerdo de paz Revista Semana, Sept. 12, 2016 http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/los-13-lideres-asesinados-despues-de-la-firma-del-acuerdo-de-paz/493528

13. Desafíos del fin del conflicto Sept. 7, 2016, El Espectador http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/desafios-del-fin-del-conflicto-articulo-653552

14. Las 30 tesis que han guiado la décima conferencia de las FARC,  Sept. 29, 2016 http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/conferencia-de-las-farc-2016-las-30-tesis-que-la-guian/494773

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