International roundup

By Agencies
redaccion@latinocc.com

A referendum allowing Mexicans to vote midterm on whether the president should remain in office has become a strange political football involving all three branches of government.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced gleefully Monday that his supporters had collected 10 million signatures in favor of the referendum, several times more than is legally required, which could put his future at risk.

It’s strange because there is little apparent reason to hold the referendum and the constitution doesn’t require it. 

López Obrador gets positive ratings from about two-thirds of those polled and would no doubt win the vote to serve out the second half of his six-year term.

But the president’s political style consists of constant campaigning: He was on the campaign trail nonstop from 2005 to 2018, and enjoys it. 

So he is demanding a referendum, even though it will cost about $200 million and electoral authorities say they don’t have enough money.

And some members of Congress, dominated by the president’s Morena party, weighed in by filing a criminal complaint essentially accusing electoral officials of blocking democracy.

With the signatures in hand, the president now considers the matter settled, and appears to wish that criminal complaint would go away.

“Let the people decide, let it be the people. Let’s end the complaints and the accusation and organize it already,” López Obrador said.

The opposition National Action Party calls the referendum “a very expensive and unconstitutional piece of political theater” and said the money would better be spent on creating jobs, reactivating the pandemic-battered economy and alleviating poverty.

Patricio Morelos, a professor at the Monterrey Technological university, said López Obrador is eager to hold the vote because it was one of his campaign promises. 

It would also serve to energize his political base before the 2022 gubernatorial races and the 2024 presidential elections.

The National Electoral Institute wrote in a statement that the Congress members’ criminal complaint was an act of “intimidation and an attack on our autonomy.”

While the institute is independent and nonpartisan, López Obrador has frequently accused its member of being “conservatives” opposed to his policies.

NICARAGUA

The Nicaraguan government has seized the former embassy and diplomatic offices of Taiwan, saying they belong to China.

President Daniel Ortega’s government broke off relations with Taiwan this month, saying it would recognize only the mainland government.

Before departing, Taiwanese diplomats attempted to donate the properties to the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Managua.

But Ortega’s government said late Sunday that any such donation would be invalid and that the building in an upscale Managua neighborhood belongs to China.

The Attorney General’s Office said in a statement that the attempted donation was a “maneuver and subterfuge to take what doesn’t belong to them.”

Taiwan’s Foreign Relations Ministry condemned the “gravely illegal actions of the Ortega regime,” saying the Nicaraguan government had violated standard procedures by giving Taiwanese diplomats just two weeks to get out of the country.

It said Taiwan “also condemns the arbitrary obstruction by the Nicaraguan government of the symbolic sale of its property to the Nicaraguan Catholic church.”

Msgr. Carlos Avilés, vicar of the archdiocese of Managua, told the La Prensa newspaper that a Taiwanese diplomat had offered the church the property, saying, “I told him there was no problem, but the transfer was still in the legal process.”

The Central American country said in early December it would officially recognize only China, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory.

“There is only one China. The People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government that represents all China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory,” the Nicaraguan government said in a statement announcing the change.

The move increased Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation on the international stage, even as the island has stepped up official exchanges with countries such as Lithuania and Slovakia, which do not formally recognize Taiwan as a country. 

Now, Taiwan has 14 formal diplomatic allies remaining.

China has been poaching Taiwan’s diplomatic allies over the past few years, reducing the number of countries that recognize the democratic island as a sovereign nation. China is against Taiwan representing itself in global forums or in diplomacy. 

Nicaragua established diplomatic relations with Taiwan in the 1990s, when President Violeta Chamorro assumed power after defeating Ortega’s Sandinista movement at the polls. Ortega, who was elected back to to power in 2007, had maintained ies with Taipei until now.

ECUADOR

Ecuador has announced that the Covid-19 vaccine will be mandatory for most citizens, saying the measure is needed because of a rise in infections and the spread of variants such as Omicron.

The health ministry said there were enough doses to «immunize the entire population». Those with a medical justification will be exempt and all others aged five or over must be vaccinated.

To date, 77.2% of the eligible population has been given two doses and more than 900,000 people have received a booster shot.

The ministry said vaccines were a «shield of protection» against the virus, helping to prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths.

The decision, it added, was based in the country’s constitution, in which the right to health must be guaranteed by the state.

Austria and Germany are among other countries planning a similar move.

Ecuador has already adopted vaccination certificates, which are required in public places such as restaurants, cinemas, theatres and shopping centers.

It has also imposed measures on travelers to try to curb the spread of Omicron, which appears to be more contagious but milder than other variants of the virus.

Since the start of the pandemic, the country has confirmed 33,600 Covid-related deaths.

CAPTION

Candles burn in front of pictures of murdered journalists Miroslava Breach, left, and Javier Valdez during a demonstration against the killing of journalists A senior government human rights official said this week, that 90% of crimes against activists and journalists go unpunished in Mexico 

MEXICO

A senior government human rights official said Thursday that 90% of crimes against activists and journalists go unpunished in Mexico.

The assistant interior secretary in charge of human rights said that in those cases where the culprits have been identified, almost half are local officials.

Local officials in Mexico are often angered by corruption accusations against them, but in some cases they are also in league with criminal or business interests.

Alejandro Encinas said new laws are needed to protect activists and reporters.

Mexico currently has a protection mechanism of alarms or guards that as of October covered 495 journalists and 1,011 activists. But critics have said the measures are insufficient. Nine people covered by the protection measures have been killed since Dec. 1, 2018, when President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous places on earth for reporters outside active war zones.

Official figures show that in the first three years of the administration of López Obrador, 96 community, environmental or rights activists have been killed in Mexico, and 47 journalists or media workers.

Encinas also commented on the rather limited results of an amnesty law for Indigenous people, elderly non-violent offenders and those who didn’t get a fair trial. Under that program, only 44 people have been freed out of 1,798 who applied. Many cases are still under study.