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Latam Brief: Mexican lawmakers pass controversial reform “Plan B” (December 16, 2022)

Latin America Daily Briefing

Mexico’s Congress approved President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s controversial proposal to overhaul the country’s electoral institute (INE), yesterday.

The Senate passed a watered down version of AMLO’s original proposal, dubbed “Plan B,” after the president’s supporters in the lower chamber failed to muster the super majority required for constitutional reform.

But the plan still reduces funding for the independent entity, and reduces the INE’s ability to sanction public officials who promote themselves in electoral periods, among other changes — moves that defang its ability to shield Mexico’s electoral system from undue political intervention.

López Obrador, who has led a far-reaching government austerity drive, initially sought deeper cuts in staff and budget at the INE, as well as to make its top officials elected rather than appointed. Critics said his proposal would have given outsize influence to his ruling Morena party.

(El País, El País, Animal Político, Washington Post)

MinIgualdad in Colombia

Colombia’s Congress overwhelmingly approved the creation of a Ministry of Equality and Equity. The new ministry will seek to eliminate social, economic and political inequalities, and will be headed by Vice President Francia Márquez, reports El País. The entity was one of her central campaign promises, adopted by President Gustavo Petro.

“It is one of the campaign promises that generated the most hope in those who voted for her and that is at the heart of her political project, because it aims to address the inequalities of those she called ‘nobodies,’“ explains Silla Vacía.

The appointment will also permit Márquez to take a more central political rol in the Petro administration, as the vice president’s position has “ambiguous Constitutional powers,” according to Pirate Wire Services.

Nonetheless, the entity lacks some of the teeth Márquez’s original plan included — namely the national department of social prosperity and the institute of family welfare, each of which manages significant social funding. This means Márquez’s capacity for action ultimately depends on Petro, according to Silla Vacía.

More Colombia

  • Márquez’s election has thrust Afro-Colombian voices into the limelight, providing them with greater support and recognition, reports the BBC.

  • Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) revoked a controversial amnesty it granted to three alleged IRA members accused of training Colombia’s largest guerrilla group in bomb-making. The court concluded that the Irishmen had not fully divulged the truth about a 2001 trip to Colombia, thus violating the terms of the amnesty. (Guardian)

  • Palmira, a city in Colombia with a population of roughly 359,000 people, ranked for a decade among the 50 most violent cities in the world. But an innovative program prioritizing resources for youth susceptible to gang violence has helped change that—contributing to a 29 percent drop in the city’s homicide rate over the past year — Open Society Foundations Voices


  • Brazilian federal police carried out 81 search and seizure warrants, yesterday, issued by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes as part of his investigations into supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro regarding allegedly anti-democratic acts and the spread of fake news on social media regarding this year’s presidential election. Police seized 21 weapons, including a submachine gun and scoped rifles at one address. (Folha de S. Paulo, Associated Press)


  • Peruvian judges ruled that former president Pedro Castillo be held in preventive detention for 18 months pending trial on charges of rebellion and conspiracy for his attempt to shut down Congress. The decision did not touch on the merits of accusations faced by Castillo but the panel cited the risk of flight by the deposed president. (Guardian)

  • A group of Castillo’s supporters has camped outside the detention center where he has been held. Upheaval in Peru following his ouster has continued, and the government extended a state of emergency curfew to more provinces, yesterday. (New York Times)

  • Sixteen people, several of them teens, have been killed in demonstrations which have been repressed by security forces. At least 197 civilians and more than 200 police officers have been injured in clashes, according to the country’s ombudsman’s office, which in a statement yesterday called on security forces to “immediately cease the use of firearms and tear gas bombs dropped from helicopters.” (New York Times)


  • The Biden administration is considering whether to limit the number of Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans who can claim asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border while opening other avenues for immigration, reports the Miami Herald.


  • Argentine moderate presidential candidates, particularly Buenos Aires mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, have a real chance at convincing citizens to move beyond the country’s notorious political polarization, dubbed the “grieta,” argues Benjamin Gedan in Americas Quarterly.


  • A judicial report recently rediscovered in Chile’s national archives discloses a previously unreported incident protagonized by notorious U.S. outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1905. The document proves not only that Sundance killed a police officer in Chile but also that he was helped to escape by a U.S. diplomat, reports the Guardian.


  • “On Sunday, Argentina faces a date with destiny, going up against France in the World Cup final. … The prospect of that victory has consumed the national imagination. Though they live thousands of miles away from the Gulf emirate, Argentines comprise one of the biggest blocs of fans who have traveled to Qatar — a reality that is audible to anyone attending or watching Argentina’s matches during the World Cup.” — Washington Post Worldview

  • The World Cup host country Qatar has been criticized on a number of human rights fronts — while the history of the soccer tournament has a definite checkered past, the case raises meaningful comparisons to the 1978 World Cup hosted by Argentina’s military dictatorship. Some Argentine players later expressed regret for allowing themselves to be exploited by the regime, reports the Washington Post.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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