All posts by Mike Allison

Now is the time to discuss the strengthening and extension of CICIG’s mandate, not to negotiate its death by a thousand cuts

I have a new op-ed with The Hill entitled Guatemala asks President Trump to weaken anti-corruption commission. After the recent news that President Morales and the Guatemalan government might be looking for the United States to help weaken CICIG, I argue that now is not the time to kill CICIG with a thousand cuts.
The CICIG has been one of the international community's most innovative tools available to tackle organized crime and corruption in Guatemala. While it is no magic bullet, the CICIG is a low-cost, win-win institution for the United States, international community, and people of Guatemala. With one year remaining in its mandate, now is the time to discuss the strengthening and extension of CICIG’s mandate, not to negotiate its death by a thousand cuts.
You can read it here.

Another night of government repression in Nicaragua

Orlando Perez gives his take on Nicaragua for Global Americans with Hear no evil, see no evil: Daniel Ortega in the midst of a crisis.
Ultimately, only an end to violence and negotiations that lead to regime change can resolve the crisis peacefully. At the moment, however, the prospects for such an outcome seem more remote than ever. Ortega, his wife, and their supporters seem adamant to remain in power by whatever means. The opposition does not seem to have the leverage necessary to push the regime to negotiate in good faith. The armed forces seem content to allow armed civilians to violently repress popular protests and to undermine domestic security. The police are actively involved in the repression. The international community is struggling to find an effective way of promoting a peaceful resolution. In the middle of this chaos are the Nicaraguan people, whose economy is deteriorating, whose security has been undermined, and whose dream of peace and democracy has turned into a nightmare.
Last night was another brutal one in Nicaragua as pro-government forces attacked the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua. Easier said than done but the only solution is for Ortega and his followers to leave power.

El Salvador’s ongoing fight against corruption

In the World Politics Review, Christine Wade argues El Salvador’s Legacy of Impunity Hampers Its Ongoing Fight Against Corruption.
Investigating and prosecuting corruption in El Salvador is a difficult business. The country’s judicial institutions have been chronically underfunded since the end of its civil war in 1992. Those institutions are also overburdened. El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, at 64 murders per 100,000 people in 2017. In 2015, the rate of femicide there—the deliberate killing of women because of their gender—was the third-highest in the world. Approximately 95 percent of homicides in El Salvador go unpunished. This situation is the result not only of weak institutions, but also systemic corruption and a general culture of impunity that is the legacy of the brutal civil war.
Christine's book Captured Peace lays much of the blame for corruption, impunity, weak institutions, and violence on ARENA governance between 1989 and 2009. I think that many of us held out hope that a moderate Mauricio Funes presidency that had positioned itself between ARENA and the FMLN would reverse the damage done by previous ARENA administrations. However, that does not appear to have been the case. Mauricio and friends appear to have used state institutions for petty cash while FMLN officials got rich off ALBA Petroleos. The FMLN was more than happy to ally with Tony Saca to advance their partisan interests while El Salvador burned.

"Is a Harley really an all-American bike? Who even cares?"

My friend Christina Fattore published an op-ed on Why it doesn’t matter if a Harley is ‘made in America’ for The Conversation using some insights from a paper we wrote on the US-EU banana wars. Christina and I overlapped at Florida State University and she is now an associate professor of political science at West Virginia University.
As an international relations expert who focuses on trade disputes, Trump’s anger at Harley’s announcement is understandable. He wants to promote Harley-Davidson for his “America First” agenda. The goal of this approach is to protect and create American manufacturing jobs. With Harley taking the production of its EU-bound bikes abroad, this does not look like a success for Trump.
But this got me to thinking, in a world that depends on global supply chains, what makes a product truly “made in America”? Is a Harley really an all-American bike? Who even cares?
Read her answer here.

In El Salvador, Nayib Bukele pacted with gangs as well.

According to a recent report by El Faro, Nayib Bukele made agreements with local gangs during his campaign for and time as mayor of San Salvador. Although Tim Muth lays out several obstacles still in his path, the former FMLN outsider is currently the front-runner in the race for the presidency.

Bukele negotiated with gangs to campaign in their territory, to prevent them from interfering with his voters on election day, and to relocate the location of the August patron saint festivals and the downtown market. In addition, Bukele and his team negotiated with the various gang cells to prevent violence during the celebration of Oscar Romero's beatification.

I think that we've all been operating under the assumption that most local politicians negotiate with gangs in El Salvador. As Hector Silva points out for InSight Crime, however, "On some occasions, these pacts have had a clearly criminal profile." From what we know about Bukele's dealings with gangs in the capital, his relationship does not have a "clearly criminal profile." Tim is also skeptical that these revelations will affect the enthusiasm of Bukele's supporters and, presumably, his chances at the presidency. I agree with both Hector and Tim but Salvadorans can't feel comfortable living with the hypocrisy.