This week’s likely top stories: Mercosur leaders meet in Caracas; former General Hugo Carvajal returns to Venezuela; California Governor Jerry Brown visits Mexico; Mexican Congress discusses energy reform; Argentina nears its debt deadline.
Mercosur leaders to address Israel at Mercosur summit: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is expected to lead Mercosur leaders in condemning Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip at Tuesday’s summit of Mercosur presidents in Caracas. Last Thursday, Israel referred to Brazil as a “diplomatic dwarf” after Rousseff recalled Brazil’s ambassador to Israel and the Brazilian Foreign Ministry cited Israel’s “disproportionate use of force” in Gaza. All five presidents of Mercosur’s full members—Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela—are expected to attend the summit, along with Bolivian President Evo Morales, whose country is in the process of joining the bloc. Argentine President Cristina Fernández is also expected to deliver a speech condemning “vulture funds” only one day before Argentine debt talks are set to expire.
Venezuelan ex-general freed in Aruba: Former Venezuelan General Hugo Carvajal received a hero’s welcome in Venezuela after he was released from detention by Aruban authorities on Sunday. U.S. officials have accused Carvajal of aiding in drug trafficking and supporting left-wing guerillas in Colombia. While Carvajal was waiting to be confirmed as Venezuela’s consul in Aruba, he was arrested last Wednesday at the request of the United States, but the Dutch government finally agreed that he “should have diplomatic immunity as nominated consul to Aruba.” The United States has accused the Venezuelan government of threatening the governments of Aruba and the Netherlands to release the former general.
California Gov. Jerry Brown trade mission to Mexico: California Governor Jerry Brown has arrived in Mexico to discuss immigration and trade with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and leaders from Central America. The governor will meet with Peña Nieto today and with Central American leaders on Tuesday to discuss the wave of undocumented minors arriving in the United States. The focus of the trip will be the economy and trade, and the governor will be joined by a delegation of more than 100 state government, business, economic development, investment and policy leaders to foster trade, educational exchanges, climate change, and tourism between California and Mexico.
Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies to discuss energy reform legislation: Members of Mexico’s lower house will begin discussion today on secondary legislation for Mexican energy reform. The reform will permit the participation of private national and foreign investment in Mexico’s oil and gas company PEMEX and the Comisón Federal de Electricidad (CFE–Federal Electricity Commission) for the first time in the country’s history. The Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party—PAN) has promoted the creation of a Fondo Mexicano del Petróleo (Mexican Fund for Oil) with profits derived from the oil industry in order to invest in infrastructure and technology. The director of CFE, Enrique Ochoa Reza, emphasized the benefits of the reform, including generating cheaper and more environmentally friendly forms of energy.
Argentina at risk of default as debt deadline nears: Upon the news that the Argentine government will not meet with a debt mediator until tomorrow, Argentina’s government bonds dropped to a one-month low today. The Argentine government has met with court-appointed mediator Daniel Pollack on four occasions, and negotiations over $1.5 billion in unpaid debts remained deadlocked after no progress had been made with talks on Friday. If negotiations are not completed by July 30, or a court delay is not offered, Argentina will default for the second time in only 13 years.
Caracas announced yesterday its opposition to the “illegal and arbitrary” arrest of former Venezuelan general, Hugo Carvajal in the Dutch-administered Caribbean island Aruba. While Carvajal–ex-director of military intelligence in Venezuela and personal advisor of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez–awaited his approval as consul in Aruba, he was detained on Wednesday night at the request of the U.S. government for his supposed involvement in drug-trafficking and support of the Colombian guerrilla group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–FARC).
Carvajal was involved Chávez’s first coup attempt in 1992 and served as the military intelligence chief from 2004 to 2011. In 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted Carvajal and other Veneuzlean military officials accusing them smuggling cocaine and providing weapons to FARC rebels. He has also been accused of providing protection and documents of identification for Colombian cartel leaders, including Wílber Varela, in Venezuelan territory.
Although Venezuelan authorities declared the capture illegal because General Carvajal had a diplomatic passport, the Dutch government had never approved of his appointment. The U.S. has have 60 days make a formal request for request an extradition of the former general.
Carvajal is one of three former high-ranking officials from Chávez’s administration that have been charged in drug-trafficking cases. Benny Palmeri-Bacchi, one of these former officials, was arrested upon his arrival in Miami, and yesterday pleaded not guilty to protecting a drug-trafficker who brought cocaine from Venezuela to the United States.
This Friday, presidents of the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras will meet with President Barack Obama in Washington DC to deal with the crisis of unaccompanied minors arriving in the U.S. from Central America.
Migration between these countries is not new, and has been high on the multilateral agenda for years. The U.S., Mexico and Central America share not only geographic proximity, but historical, social, political, economic, and cultural ties.
The non-authorized flow of adults and children between Central America, Mexico and the U.S. continues to alarm all sides, with over 347,000 nationals from Mexico and Central America removed from the U.S. in FY 2013 alone, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This comprised about 94 percent of all U.S. deportations in 2013—but does not account for the high numbers of Central American migrants removed from Mexico.
Yet it is the recent spike of minors attempting to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border from Mexico and the Northern Triangle—from 19,418 children in FY 2009 to 56,547 in FY 2014—that opened a major inquiry into the recurring immigration crisis, prompting quick political responses and visits between U.S., Mexican and Central American officials.
U.S. Counselor of Department of State Thomas Shannon arrived in Honduras on Wednesday as part of a three-day trip to Central America to address the estimated 52,000 unaccompanied minors from the region entering the U.S. illegally. As part of his trip, Shannon visited repatriation centers and met with leaders of civic organizations and government officials. He also spoke with members of the Red Cross, the Border Police, and immigration officials on the Honduran-Guatemalan border in Corinto, Honduras—an area that has seen high levels of violence and narcotrafficking activity, as well as the transit of thousands of migrants per year.
The unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. are primarily coming from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and many have since been detained by U.S. officials. “Migration is a problem that corresponds to all of the countries involved—the countries of origin, transit and destination. We have the responsibility to work together to look for a solution to the problem,” said Shannon.
Shannon, who is the first Foreign Service Officer to serve as Counselor in 32 years, discussed the importance of addressing the push factors in Central America. “We want to work to assure that migrants, instead of looking for the American dream look for the Honduran dream. We need to build opportunities [in Central America], even though we understand that some of these [children] wish to be [reunited] with their parents, but migration has many causes,” he said.
Shannon’s trip concludes today, just before President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina and Salvadorian President Salvador Sánchez Cerén on Friday in Washington DC to discuss the crisis of children migrants.
During the past few months, the United States, Mexico and Central American governments have brought attention to the number of unaccompanied minors fleeing towards the U.S. from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico.
A recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that the number of unaccompanied children ages 12 and younger caught at the U.S.-Mexico border this fiscal year rose 117 percent, compared to last fiscal year. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that by May 31 this year, unaccompanied minors apprehended at the southwest U.S. border included 13,282 children from Honduras, 11,577 from Mexico, 11,479 from Guatemala, and 9,850 from El Salvador. The Wall Street Journal stated that the total number of unaccompanied children taken into custody at the end of June had climbed to 57,525.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a map that identifies the origins of the unaccompanied children and the factors causing child migration to the United States. In the case of Guatemala, the map indicated that many Guatemalan children come from rural areas and are probably seeking economic opportunities in the U.S., while many children from Honduras and El Salvador are coming from regions with high crime rates and are likely seeking refuge from violence.
Different opinion leaders have begun to analyze the situation from a variety of perspectives. Some, like Joaquín Villalobos, a former Salvadoran guerrilla leader, argue that the private sector is not taking action to reduce migration. Mary Anastasia O'Grady, a conservative writer from The Wall Street Journal, has focused on violence and impunity in these countries, mainly resulting from the war on drugs in the Northern Triangle of Central America.
Muzaffar Chishti and Faye Hipsman argued in a recent article for The Migration Policy Institute that “In reality, there is no single cause. Instead, a confluence of different pull and push factors has contributed to the upsurge. Recent U.S. policies toward unaccompanied children, faltering economies and rising crime and gang activity in Central American countries, the desire for family reunification, and changing operations of smuggling networks have all converged.”
While there is an urgent need to resolve the situation and reduce the number of unaccompanied children migrating to the U.S., the problem requires a combination of short- and long-term solutions. It is important to impose harsher penalties for “coyotes” or smugglers, since this has become a very lucrative business for organized crime, according to recent reports by Prensa Libre and Emisoras Unidas. It is also important to communicate to Indigenous leaders in sending communities why crossing illegally into the U.S. is a crime (both in Spanish and in different Mayan languages).
In the case of Guatemala, the private sector is already working with different the Guatemalan government, international organizations and cooperation agencies to accelerate economic growth and generate long-term solutions that will reduce immigration towards the U.S. through the Mejoremos Guate (Let’s Make Guatemala Better) initiative, led by the Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations (CACIF) and the Guatemalan Development Foundation (Fundación para el Desarrollo de Guatemala—FUNDESA).
Guatemala’s private sector is implementing different projects in rural areas to increase economic opportunities: for example, by financing irrigation programs to increase agricultural productivity and by creating more English programs to increase the number of people that can work in call centers. Other projects include public policy advocacy for flexible labor laws—flexible hours and work contracts, more temporary employment or working from home, greater flexibility in pay arrangements, and reducing red tape to generate business and increase real income. In the pipeline, other initiatives involve supporting increased funding for low interest rate credits to increase investment in the departments of origin of unaccompanied minors, and promoting exports to southern Mexico by building manufacturing industries close to the border. In addition, it is important to increase the capacity of crime prevention projects in violent areas of Guatemala City, to support crowdsourcing initiatives like Alertos, which can support integrated solutions to reduce violence, and to build technical capacity for public law enforcement officials, both from the National Civil Police and Municipal Police.
U.S. policymakers, think tanks and NGOs that promote development in Guatemala and other countries in Central America must begin focusing on projects to increase productivity and reduce social exclusion in rural areas. These initiatives will have a direct impact on development and will help reduce the lack of opportunities that leads migrants to seek a better life in another country.
Massachusetts voters are split on whether they support Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to temporarily shelter 1,000 unaccompanied young immigrants in the state, according to a Boston Globe poll released today. Half of the 404 voters polled expressed support for Gov. Patrick’s plan, and 43 percent opposed it, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points. Responses to the poll split along political lines, with 79 percent of Republicans opposing the plan and 69 percent of Democrats supporting it. As of the end of June, 733 minors had already been discharged to Massachusetts.
In an emotional address on Friday during which he called the situation at the southern border a “humanitarian crisis,” Gov. Patrick said the state could provide temporary shelter for up to four months at one of two military facilities in the towns of Bourne or Chicopee. He made clear that all services rendered at either facility relating to unaccompanied minors would be staffed and paid for by the federal government. But the mayor of Chicopee, Richard Kos, strongly opposed using the city’s Westover Air Reserve Base as an option, citing concerns about “security issues and maintaining normal operations.”
While generally regarded as a liberal state, the poll showed that Massachusetts residents are more moderate on immigration issues. Asked whether the migrant children should be allowed to stay in the U.S. after judicial hearings, and only 39 percent answered yes, while 43 percent said they should be deported. And only 52 percent of those polled support a path to citizenship for immigrants already in the country illegally, which is in line with national poll results.
Chinese President Xi Jinping kicked off a two-day tour of Cuba last night, stirring hopes that the China will invest heavily in Cuba’s developing economy. President Xi will meet with President Raúl Castro today in Havana before flying to the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.
While China and Cuba are close political allies, instability in the Cuban economy stifled efforts to act on deals signed by the two countries for large Chinese investments in Cuba’s nickel, hotel and oil industries between 2000 and 2009. President Castro’s economic reforms—along with the new foreign investment law that offers tax breaks for joint-ventures and more investment security, and development of the Mariel Special Development Zone, which will offer tax and contract incentives unavailable elsewhere on the island—are expected to be used as an incentive for Chinese investment in Cuba’s pharmaceutical and automotive sectors.
President Xi’s visit to Cuba culminates his four-country tour of Latin America. During his visit to the region, the Chinese executive also met with Argentine, Brazilian and Venezuelan officials to finalize key investment deals and launch the new Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) development bank.
China is currently Cuba’s largest creditor and second-largest trade partner.
This week’s likely top stories: Colombia inaugurates a new legislature; Argentina must pay its debt by July 30; Reforms to Peru's environmental agency are criticized; Five Nicaraguans are killed after a Sandinista anniversary celebration; Bolivia allows those as young as 10 to work.
Colombia installs new legislature: As Colombia’s new legislature was sworn in on Sunday, re-elected Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos hailed the installation of a new “Congress of peace.” Though Santos’ Partido de la U (Party of the U) faces a reduced majority in Congress and outspoken opponents like current Senator and former president Alvaro Uribe, Santos said he hoped that the newly-elected legislators would continue to support the government’s ongoing peace talks with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) in Havana. Since the talks began in 2012, the FARC and the government have agreed on three points of a six-point plan, and must still decide on restitution for victims of violence, rebel disarmament, and how to ratify the final peace agreement.
Argentine debt negotiations near deadline: Argentina must reach a deal with its holdout creditors before July 30 or face its second default in 13 years. There is still a possibility that U.S. courts could issue a stay to allow the country to continue negotiating with holdouts, but a default would likely trigger recession, inflation, high unemployment and other economic woes for the country. Argentina has been ordered to pay approximately $1.5 billion to its holdout creditors, but if other bondholders demand the same terms as the holdouts, Argentina said it may have to pay up to $120 billion. Meanwhile, Argentine Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said that the holdouts may try to seize YPF-Chevron assets in the Vaca Muerta shale gas deposit.
Controversial reforms to Peru’s environmental agency: After Peruvian President Ollanta Humala enacted a controversial law on July 11 to reform the country’s Organismo de Evaluación y Fiscalización Ambiental (Environmental Evaluation and Regulation Organization—OEFA), environmental groups, Peru’s ombudsman, environmental authorities and some elected officials say the changes will weaken the country’s environmental protections. The law—which the Peruvian government says will refocus the OEFA on “preventative” rather than disciplinary actions—will streamline the environmental review process and lower fines for all but the largest environmental infractions, among other changes designed to attract mining investment. Meanwhile, the agency faces a lawsuit by the mining sector that could slash its 2014 budget by 40 percent.
Five Killed in Nicaragua: Five people were killed and at least 24 wounded in Nicaragua on Sunday following a Sandinista political celebration. In two separate attacks, two men and two women were killed by gunshots as they traveled on the Pan American highway outside the community of Las Calabazas, while north of Matagalpa, another man was killed. Thousands of Nicaraguans had gathered in Managua on Saturday to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution. An anti-Sandinista group reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack on Facebook.
Bolivia legalizes child labor: Bolivian Vice President Alvaro García Linera signed a law last Thursday that will permit Bolivian children as young as 10 to work independently, and will permit 12-year-olds to work for others with parental authorization. The measure was approved by Bolivia’s congress earlier this month. Previously, the minimum working age in Bolivia was 14, but the government said that the new law would help to combat extreme poverty, and reflects the realities of a nation where some 800,000 children are already employed. The International Labour Organisation says that it will study the legislation to decide whether it contravenes international conventions. Human Rights Watch issued a statement in January calling on the Bolivian government to reject a proposal to lower the minimum working age.
For the past month, I have been working in Brazil providing production services for international broadcasters covering the World Cup. Twelve Brazilian different cities hosted the tournament, which began on June 12 in São Paulo, and 32 nations from all over the globe participated—bringing hordes of players, fans and reporters to remote parts of Brazil that had never heard their languages or seen their flags before.
I traveled to six of these host cities by air and road, and witnessed just how vast and versatile this country of 200 million people really is—and I didn't even see the half of it.
My four-week journey began in the northeastern city of Natal, capital of Rio Grande do Norte, where I flew into the new São Gonçalo do Amarante–Governador Aluízio Alves International Airport. The privately-owned terminal had been inaugurated a week before our arrival. Its tall ceilings and glass façade were beautiful and modern, with curvy windows that reflected the light from the afternoon sunset. Our 12 pieces of luggage arrived promptly and the employees were helpful and courteous.
However, the airport is far from Natal’s city center, and street signs and pavement were absent at several points along the 20 mile (32 km) route. My taxi driver complained that the airport only had one entry, and cursed the new structure and the World Cup for making the local airport twice as distant as the old one.
Three U.S. conservative political groups are organizing over 300 anti-immigration demonstrations across the country on Friday and Saturday to protest the federal government’s decision to relocate unaccompanied minors in Texas to other states.
The American Legal Immigration Political Action Committee (ALIPAC), Overpasses for America and Make Them Listen are coordinating efforts along with other Tea Party-associated groups to protests in front of state capitols, Mexican embassies and elsewhere.
“Our goal is to unify Americans of every race, political party, and walk of life against this Obama-inspired invasion of our American homeland,” said Paul Gheen, president of the North Carolina-based ALIPAC. The groups are frustrated over what they perceive as a deliberate lack of enforcement of current immigration laws, as 57,000 youth from Central America and Mexico have entered the U.S. illegally thus far this year.
The protests come one week after a bipartisan group of governors expressed concern about the relocations and how much they will cost their respective states. Many local governments officials have complained about a lack of communication coming from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol about whether buses of immigrant children would be coming and, if so, when.
Protests are also being planned far from the U.S.-Mexico border. The conservative group Oregonians for Immigration Reform is also organizing protests in five cities, including Portland.
A comienzos de julio, Rafael Osío Cabrices, un periodista venezolano con una trayectoria respetada en Caracas, describió en un emotivo artículo su proceso al exilio. “Ya no soy más un reconocido periodista, apenas un inmigrante,” comentaba en una de sus líneas.
La frase, que me tocó personalmente, podría describir a decenas de colegas que en los últimos años han dejado el país con miedo. Miedo al desempleo, la crisis económica, la violencia, la ausencia de futuro.
Desde abril de 2013—cuando Nicolás Maduro, heredero político del fallecido presidente Hugo Chávez, tomó posesión de la Jefatura de Estado—tres grandes conglomerados de noticias han sido vendidos. El primero fue Globovisión, televisora privada que, asfixiada por demandas judiciales, pasó a manos del gobierno, implicando un giro de 180 grados en su línea. El canal que albergaba los principales críticos de la “revolución bonita” comenzó a asomar la posibilidad de firmar convenios con emisoras de Irán para la compra de enlatados.
El segundo fue la Cadena Capriles, la mayor empresa editorial del país, y mi antigua casa de trabajo. La Cadena Capriles es dueña de Últimas Noticias, diario con la principal circulación de Venezuela, en promedio 210 mil ejemplares diarios. Para poner en contexto su alcance, es posible comparar con Folha de São Paulo—el periódico con mayor tiraje de Brasil—que con 170 millones más de habitantes, distribuye 301 mil ejemplares diarios.
In his first trip to the Dominican Republic, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed the heated topic of citizenship laws, urging Dominican and Haitian leaders to collaborate on a humane solution.
Lawmakers approved Naturalization Law 169-14 in May of this year in response to a 2013 court decision that stripped nationality from individuals born between 1929 and 2007 in the Dominican Republic to non-native parents without residency permits.
The court sentence directly affects thousands of descendants of Haitian immigrants. Although Dominican authorities claim that only 13,000 Haitian descendants have been affected, NGOs and humanitarian groups estimate the number to be over 210,000.
“With a large majority of immigrants coming from Haiti, it is critical that the governments of Haiti and Dominican Republic cooperate closely to provide the necessary identification for Haitians living and working in the Dominican Republic,” said Ki-moon. He also warned against the “privatization of nationality” and said the right of all people should be protected.
However, many Dominican leaders defended the laws. “It’s not true that we discriminate against Haitian citizens because of their race or color, and because of nationality issues,” said President of the Senate Reinaldo Pared, who asserted that the UN’s focus should be on securing the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
During his trip, Ki-moon also lauded the Dominican Republic’s contributions to art, literature and sports, and praised the country’s allocation of four percent of GDP to education. Ki-moon also visited Haiti earlier this week, where he launched a sanitation project as part of a solution to the cholera epidemic that has affected over 700,000 people, killing an estimated 8,500.
Stay tuned for Americas Quarterly’s Summer 2014 issue for an in-depth analysis of the Dominican Republic’s citizenship laws.
Since the birth of Canada in 1867, Quebec has been an influential player in determining the country’s leadership. Throughout the country’s history, Quebec has played an important role in federal politics, most notably in modern times. Not only have Quebecers (Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien, and Paul Martin) occupied the seat of the Canadian Prime Minister for over 36 years (1968 to 2006), but throughout those years, the pro-independence movement in Quebec has had a persistent impact on the conduct of federal politics.
Until the 1993 federal general election, it was conventional wisdom in Canadian electoral politics that no party could form a majority government in the Canadian House of Commons without some significant Quebec representation. This changed with the emergence of the pro-independence Bloc Québécois, which took the majority of seats from the province of Quebec, thereby becoming the Official Opposition. The Bloc went on to become a dominant voice for Quebec in the federal parliament in every subsequent election until the last electoral rendezvous in 2011. It is fair to say that Quebec’s absence within the federal power structure curtailed its influence and gradually resulted in its decline as a player in federal politics over the next two decades.
The U.S. Congress has less than three weeks to reach a compromise on immigration that would address the surge of unaccompanied minors before Congress’ August recess.
President Obama requested $3.7 billion from the legislative branch to respond to the situation through increased deportation, a surge in border control agents and aid for the sending countries. However, an agreement on how much funding to provide—and where to allocate those funds—has yet to be made.
The humanitarian crisis has led to increased cooperation between Mexico and Central American sending countries in an attempt to crack down on the criminal organizations trafficking the children north. However, high rates of violent crime and impunity in Central America—particularly the Northern Triangle region of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador—continue to contribute to unusually high rates of child migration.
The White House is expected to meet with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today to discuss expedited deportations and the president’s funding request. It is unclear how the U.S. immigration system will manage the influx of unaccompanied minors if Congress does not act before the August recess.
Participating in the fifth-annual Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin on July 14th, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala asked that European countries sanction European-based mining companies that commit labor abuses in Peru. Humala’s comments come after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the two countries’ bilateral relationship. During the meeting, Merkel expressed Germany’s commitment to developing technology and industry in Peru, and expanding scientific research and scholarships to Peru.
Humala looked to gain support for multilateral negotiations ahead of the Cumbre del Clima de Lima (Climate Summit in Lima), part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 20th session of the Conference of Parties (COP20) in December 2014, which will focus on finalizing an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol and seek to reduce CO2 emissions before 2020. Before arriving in Germany, Humala spent three days in France meeting with President François Hollande, where the two leaders agreed to work together on health care, defense and education. Like Merkel, Hollande pledged more scholarships for Peruvians to study in France.
President Humala will also travel to Brazil, to attend the sixth BRICS Summit with other South American leaders on July 16, where he will meet with Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping and newly-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Humala’s international tour will end in Mexico on July 17, where he will meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto before returning home to Peru where he commands a paltry 25 percent approval rating.
This week’s likely top stories: BRICS leaders meet in Brazil; Argentina and Russia sign energy agreements; U.S. considers action on child immigrants; Colombian forces strike FARC; Argentine soccer fans riot.
BRICS leaders to launch new bank at summit: Leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa will convene in Fortaleza, Brazil for the sixth BRICS summit on Tuesday. The leaders will launch the “New Development Bank” (NDB) with $50 billion in initial capital to allow developing nations to secure infrastructure construction loans, pending legislative approval from all five BRICS countries. The BRICS countries also plan to set up the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA)—a $100 billion emergency lending pool for countries facing currency crises—whose purpose would be similar to that of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It is not yet clear how the lending criteria of the CRA will differ from the IMF, if at all. China will contribute $41billion in initial funding to the CRA, South Africa will contribute $5 billion, and Brazil, Russia and India will each contribute $18 billion.
Argentina and Russia reach agreements on nuclear power: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed a number of energy deals on Saturday while the Russian leader visited Buenos Aires to cooperate on nuclear energy and other projects. Putin announced that Russia will help build a nuclear reactor and bases for a satellite system in Argentina and may help construct two hydroelectric plants. Fernández de Kirchner confirmed that Russia is also interested in investing in Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale formation and is planning to send a delegation to the area. On Friday, Putin was in Cuba meeting with Raúl and Fidel Castro to discuss energy, security, and health cooperation between Cuba and Russia.
U.S. Congress to consider $3.7 billion for child immigrants: After U.S. President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion in funding last week to address the growing crisis of young undocumented immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided on how to proceed. Some Republicans have said that the $3.7 billion propose spends too little on border security. Many have advocated overturning a 2008 law signed by former President George W. Bush intended to protect unaccompanied children from human and sex trafficking, arguing that the children should be immediately returned to their home countries. Time is running out for congressional action, as Congress will begin a month-long break in August.
FARC guerrillas killed by Colombian army and police: Colombian national police and military killed 12 presumed guerrillas from the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) on Sunday in the northwestern Colombian department of Antioquia. In a joint security operation, the police and military forces also seized weapons, computers, cellphones and USB memory sticks that could be useful for Colombian military intelligence. This comes after Saturdays’ capture of Manuel Cepeda Vargas—a member of FARC accused of more than 40 terrorist acts–in another joint operation between the police and army in the southwestern department of Cauca. Peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC will resume in Havana on Tuesday.
World Cup riots in Argentina: An initially peaceful gathering of Argentine soccer fans near the Obelisk monument in Buenos Aires turned violent late on Sunday night as some hardcore fans rioted in response to the Argentine soccer team’s 0-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, making Germany the first European team to claim the World Cup trophy on American soil. As rioting and looting broke out along Avenida 9 de julio in Buenos Aires, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and used water cannons on the crowd. At least 15 police officers were reported injured in the violence, and at least 50 people were detained. The Argentine national team is expected to return to Buenos Aires on Monday.
On July 15, the leaders of the five BRICS countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—will convene in Fortaleza, Brazil. This will mark the sixth official meeting between the member nations since the creation of the group in 2009.
Only two days after the final of the World Cup, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has the opportunity to extend the global spotlight on her country by hosting the BRICS leaders.
For Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, this will mark his first visit to Brazil and only his second international tour since entering office in May—so Indians will be listening closely to hear his public stance on various issues. Chinese President Xi Jinping will also be making his first trip to Brazil, though he is in no way a stranger to Latin America, an important source of raw materials for China and target for foreign direct investment. Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely be thankful for the change in landscape after receiving such negative attention from the West for Russia’s policies toward the Ukraine. And President Jacob Zuma of South Africa is hopeful that the sixth Summit will produce results that were envisioned in the fifth meeting he hosted last year in Durban.
Yesterday in the city of Juan Dolio in the Dominican Republic, the Dominican and Haitian governments began the third round of bilateral talks concerning the legalization of the thousands of Haitians that live in the Dominican Republic without legal documentation. In a press conference after the talks concluded, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said that the Haitian government will provide documentation for the process of naturalization and regularization to its poorest citizens in the Dominican Republic for only 1,000 Dominican pesos ($23).
The pledge comes one month after the Haitian government announced the implementation of the Programme d'identification et de documentation des immigrants Haïtiens (Identification and Documentation Program for Haitian Immigrants—PIDIH) that would provide Haitian residents in the Dominican Republic with documents like an government identification, birth certificate and passport for 2,500 pesos ($57).
The Dominican Senate passed the Plan Nacional de Regularización de Extranjeros (The National Plan of the Regularization of Foreigners) last month as a response to a ruling issues last September by the Tribunal Constitucional (Constitutional Tribunal) that retroactively stripped citizenship from Dominicans born after 1929 to undocumented immigrants. Since the Dominican government began the process of regularization on June 2, more than 80,000 have signed up to start the process. However, only 20,000 of this group have some type of identification, and only 300 fit all the requirements.
Beyond the discussion of immigration, the Dominican Minister of the Presidency Gustavo Montalvo asked that the Haitian government end the current ban on importing Dominican products, which he said has resulted in “increasing the informal market” and has “created competitive disadvantages.” Nevertheless, Montalvo said that with the bilateral talks this year the countries have made more progress than in the previous 50 years.
Mexican telecom giant América Móvil stands to lose its stronghold on the telecommunications market after the Mexican Congress approved legislative reforms on Wednesday intended to break down telecommunications monopolies in the country.
President Enrique Peña Nieto proposed the reforms on March 24 as part of his campaign to create more competition in the Mexican telecommunications market and improve Mexico’s economy. The new reforms require businesses to hold less than 50 percent of the market share, will place restrictions on pricing, and require that telecommunications infrastructure be shared—but will also allow such companies to determine their own breakdown of the market share.
Owned by billionaire Carlos Slim, América Móvil currently dominates the market with 70 percent of Mexico’s cellphone subscribers and 80 percent of its landlines—and with over 272 million wireless subscribers, it is the largest operator in the Americas. Arturo Elias, a spokesperson for Carlos Slim, said yesterday that to meet the requirements of the new reforms, América Móvil would have to sell between 15 and 17 percent of its overall phone market.
Spain’s Telefonica, which is currently second in the Mexican telecommunications market, may try to expand its current market due to the new reforms—and companies with a smaller portion of the Mexican market, such as AT&T, Virgin Mobile and Grupo Televisa, could also benefit from the legislation. Mexico’s transportation and communications ministry said in a statement that “this decision could transform competition in the telecommunications sector with improved quality and better prices for services to end users.”
In 1945, the Brazilian football clubs Remo and Paysandu took the pitch here in Belém, gateway to the Amazon in the northeastern state of Pará. One of many face-offs of their famous century-old rivalry, the match became significant for more than just the 7-0 drubbing that Paysandu inflicted. It would leave a deep scar on Remo’s psyche.
The score still haunts Remo supporters such as Fabrico Bessa, even though his team has since bested Paysandu many times, including this year in the annual Clássico Rei da Amazônia (King of the Amazon Classic).
“We won the local championship this year, but anytime I try to talk about it to someone from Paysandu they just look at me and say ‘7-0’,” said Bessa, a 34-year-old optometrist with a practice here. “We will always have to swallow that, because we don’t know how to explain how we lost 7-0.”
In a small way, Bessa told me, that’s how this entire nation feels after the World Cup host lost 7-1 to Germany in the semifinal of the planet’s most-watched sporting event. Local newspapers reflected the agony on their front pages: “Massacre,” “Humiliation,” “An embarrassment for eternity.” Brazil had been the runaway favorite to win it all, with pre-tournament analytical models giving the seleção at least a 50 percent chance of claiming the trophy.
“It’s too sad to be real,” Bessa said.
Brazil is now in mourning. But in that is something to be noted: Brazil is also unified.
Brazil was routed 7-1 by Germany during yesterday’s World Cup semifinal match in Belo Horizonte, marking the South American nation’s biggest defeat in the history of the tournament. Neymar Jr., Brazil’s star player, was out of the lineup with a fractured vertebrae from Friday’s physical clash with Colombia. But more than their striker, the seleção sorely missed team captain and defensive leader Thiago Silva, who received a second yellow card on Friday and was prohibited from playing against Germany.
In Silva’s absence, Brazil’s back line looked scattered, allowing four German players to score five goals in the first 30 minutes alone—sending a shock to the country that has won more World Cup trophies (5) than any other team. Following the game, President Dilma Rousseff said on Twitter, “I am immensely sorry for all of us,” and Brazilian coach Luiz Scolari said in a post-game interview that “It was the worst day of my life.”
Dilma will be feeling the pressure as Brazil’s attention turns from the World Cup to the presidential elections in October. Rousseff’s opposition, centrist candidate Aécio Neves, is currently polling at 20 percent, well below the president’s 38 percent voter support. But that margin could become slimmer if Brazilians’ frustration with the $11 billion price tag for hosting the tournament boils over into more protests like those that gripped several Brazilian cities during last summer’s Confederations Cup and immediately preceding this summer’s World Cup.
On Monday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an executive order issued by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in August 2012, which denied driver’s licenses to young immigrants who have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The ruling reverses a May 2013 decision in which District Judge David Campbell sided with Brewer’s administration, denying that her policy was unconstitutional because federal law would take precedence over it.
Immigrants can qualify for DACA and receive temporary work permits and remain in the U.S. without risk of deportation for two years, provided that they are under 30, they arrived in the country before the age of 16, have a high school diploma, GED or served in the military, and have not been convicted of a significant misdemeanor or felony. Brewer’s attorneys claimed the driver’s license ban was put in place to prevent improper access to public benefits and for the State of Arizona to avoid assuming “the liability of giving licenses to people who aren’t authorized to be in the country.”
Monday’s ruling is a victory for immigrants’ rights advocates, particularly in Arizona where 87 percent of workers commute to work by car. Only Arizona and Nebraska have issued license denials, however a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the policy in Nebraska this year.
Immigration reform has been thrust into the spotlight this summer as tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, have entered the U.S. illegally this year. The White House announced yesterday that the majority of these young immigrants will be deported because they will not qualify for assistance for “humanitarian reasons.”
Check a debate between Jan Brewer and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on whether states and local governments have the right to enforce their own immigration laws.
This week’s likely top stories: Argentine negotiates with holdout creditors; Russia’s Vladimir Putin will visit Cuba, Argentina and Brazil; Italy investigates dictatorship-era murders; an earthquake hits Mexico and Guatemala; and Honduran authorities search for eight missing miners.
Argentina begins debt negotiations: Argentina will begin negotiating a settlement today with its holdout creditors, who are owed some $1.5 billion, according to a U.S. federal court decision that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June. Argentine Minister of the Economy Axel Kicillof leads an Argentine delegation to New York today, and will meet with Daniel A. Pollack, a mediator designated by U.S. judge Thomas Griesa to help reach an agreement. Argentina has until the end of July to make its first interest payment, or else face default for the second time in 13 years.
Putin tours Latin America: Russian President Vladimir Putin will begin a six-day tour of Latin America on July 11 with a visit to Cuba to meet with Fidel and Raúl Castro, followed by stops in Argentina to meet with Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Brazil to meet with Dilma Rousseff. On Friday, Russia’s parliament voted to write off 90 percent of Cuba’s $35 million debt, and instead aim to use the money for investment projects in Cuba. Putin, along with heads of state from India, China, South Africa and Brazil, will then meet for a summit of the BRICS countries starting on July 13, just after the final match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Rio de Janeiro. The same day, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is expected to pass responsibilities for the World Cup to Putin in an official handover ceremony, since Russia will be hosting the international tournament in 2018.
Italy investigates Plan Cóndor murders and disappearances: Italian judge Alessandro Arturi began the first stage of an investigation into the murder and disappearance of 23 Italian citizens during “Plan Cóndor,” an operation carried out by South American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s to repress and murder political opponents to the regimes. On Monday, Arturi accepted a list of the accused, which includes 33 former members of the military and security forces in Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Italian prosecutor Giancarlo Capaldo is reportedly conducting a similar investigation of the military governments of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The preliminary hearings are expected to take place this fall, and Arturi will decide on October 6 if the evidence presented by human rights groups and families of the disappeared will allow the case to progress to a criminal trial in 2015.
Earthquake hits Mexico and Guatemala: At least 2 people in Guatemala have died in a 6.9-magnitude earthquake that struck southern Mexico and Guatemala on Monday morning. The quake set off landslides and caused widespread damage to homes and power lines. The quake’s epicenter was Puerto Madero, a Mexican city near the Guatemala border, but the two deaths were reported in San Marcos, Guatemala, where at least two residents were killed when the walls of their homes collapsed.
Search for trapped miners continues in Honduras: Eight miners remain trapped in an informal gold mine near El Corpus, a small town in the southern department of Cholutecas in Honduras. The mine is in an area where landslides and earthquakes are common, and El Corpus mayor Luis Andres Rueda said there were more than 50 informal mines in the area. The mine collapsed last Wednesday, and the authorities saved three miners two days after the collapse when the miners yelled for help. If the remaining miners are not found near the site where the other three miners were rescued, the search may be called off.
Cerca de 57 mil colombianos han acompañado desde las tribunas a la Selección de fútbol y se han deleitado con los 11 goles que tienen al país en los cuartos de final de la Copa del Mundo, mientras un sentimiento de euforia e histeria colectiva inunda a la patria. Grandes empresarios y grandes endeudados que empeñaron hasta la casa para poder ir a Brasil, se encuentran entre ese público futbolero conocedor o ignorante del deporte de masas, pero capaz de aglutinarse ante ese proyecto de nación en que se ha convertido el fútbol.
Hasta el presidente Juan Manuel Santos, quien decretó el viernes como día cívico para que los empleados públicos puedan ir a su casa a ver el decisivo partido Colombia-Brasil, se aseguró un lugar en el estadio Castelão, en Fortaleza, junto a la presidenta del equipo anfitrión y rival, Dilma Rousseff. También millones seguiremos el partido por televisión, mientras un nombre memorable que vitorearía fielmente desde las tribunas, será el gran ausente de esta fiesta: Andrés Escobar.
A 20 años de su absurda muerte ocurrida el 2 de julio de 1994 en Medellín, cuando no habían pasado ni 10 días del autogol que el delantero hizo en el partido contra Estados Unidos, su nombre y los 6 tiros que lo extinguieron, retumban en la memoria de una sociedad testigo de los tentáculos criminales del narcotráfico. El último mundial al que había ido Colombia, no solo dejó un sabor amargo por su descalificación, sino por acto criminal que como ningún otro (ni siquiera las muertes de ministros, candidatos presidenciales, bombas indiscriminadas) hizo sentir a los ciudadanos indignados y avergonzados.
El asesino Humberto Muñoz pagó solo 12 años de cárcel. Era escolta de los hermanos Pedro David y Santiago Gallón Henao, reconocidos narcotraficantes de Carlos Castaño y luego socios del Chapo Guzmán, quienes en este caso solo pagaron 15 meses de prisión domiciliaria por el delito de encubrimiento y US$750 de fianza. Fueron los Gallón Henao quienes increparon a Escobar en una discoteca por el autogol, pero que gracias a su poder dentro de la Medellín de sicarios en moto, nunca fueron juzgados como determinantes del crimen, ni se esclareció del todo su relación con las jugosas sumas que la mafia se jugaba en las apuestas del mundial de entonces.
Las presiones que tenían los jugadores de esa icónica selección de ‘El Pibe’ Valderrama, Freddy Rincón, René Higuita y Leonel Álvarez, muy bien retratadas en el documental “Los dos Escobar” de los directores Jeff Zimbalist y Michael Zimbalist, distan mucho de la tranquilidad y confianza que se ve a los jugadores del equipo de hoy. Jóvenes como el crack James Rodríguez y el pase-gol Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, vivieron su infancia en la década de los 90, turbulenta pero quizá la salida a los peores años del narcoterrorismo. Se fueron a clubes europeos y aunque comenzaron de locales, no pertenecieron a esas plantillas financiadas por la mafia como el América de Cali y el Atlético Nacional de los 80s.
No obstante esa pasión desbordada y esa identidad—que en la Colombia de hoy no generan ni los políticos ni la mentada paz, pero sí el juego bonito de esta selección—no evita que dejemos de matarnos. Ya van 19 muertos y casi 4000 riñas tras las cuatro victorias, y cada vez que hay partido, las autoridades se desbordan en medidas de seguridad, imponen la ley seca (prohibición de venta de bebidas embriagantes) y hasta toque de queda para menores.
Como si fuera poco, por lo menos en Belo Horizonte, los colombianos han sido el grupo de extranjeros con más detenidos por delitos como entrar marihuana a los estadios, revender boletas y como no, emborracharse y pelear. Hasta el Ministerio del Interior lanzó la campaña “Fútbol en paz”, simplemente para que dejemos de matarnos.
¿Qué hay en la cultura colombiana que no nos deja llorar los goles y abrazarnos, en vez de salir a celebrar la victoria con balas y muerte? Son épocas más sosiegas como no, parece que ya no hay mafias ni narcos detrás de los equipos, y el resultado del campeonato ya es de por sí histórico para Colombia. Pero todavía no nos hemos desprendido de la violencia lastre que nos identifica, de la falta de cultura ciudadana, de las muestras de odio entre el que piensa distinto, y eso que aquí todos somos la misma hinchada.
“El fútbol es la única religión que no tiene ateos”, dijo el escritor uruguayo Eduardo Galeano. Ojalá que a diferencia de las religiones, dejemos de matarnos cuando nuestros dioses no ganan. Ojalá que gane Colombia este viernes.
Police dismantled a World Cup ticket scalping operation with the arrest of 11 individuals in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in a raid Tuesday night. After a three-month investigation, twenty search warrants were granted and police raided a mansion in Santa Mônica, Barra da Tijuca, seizing close to $10,000 reais and 100 World Cup tickets that were originally meant for NGOs, sponsors and national delegations, as well as computers, cell phones and documents used in the operation.
Among those arrested was the suspected leader of the operation, Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, an Algerian national, naturalized French citizen who former played second division soccer in Canada. Fofana allegedly sold the tickets to tourist agencies at elevated prices through an organization called Atlanta Sportif with branches in Atlanta and Dubai. While legitimate tickets to the final match at Maracanã stadium were selling for $440 to $900, Fofana’s agency was selling them for up to $35,000. According to the police investigator, Fábio Barucke, those arrested in the raid confessed to participating in illegal ticket sales for the past four World Cups and have made close to $200 million reais per tournament, and $1 million reais per game.
The organization's relationship with FIFA is also under investigation as Fofana had a special sticker giving him access to FIFA-restricted areas during the tournament, and calls were also traced from Fofana to FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich. “We have reason to believe that a member of FIFA was involved with the group,” said Inspector Barucke.
The individuals detained have been charged with money laundering, illegal money changing and organized crime, which carry a maximum of 18 years in prison if convicted.
With the second round of the World Cup soccer tournament concluded the main storylines have been the success of teams from the Americas, the early exit of previous stalwarts England, Italy and Spain, the relatively high number of goals, and—at least in the United States—the sudden realization that soccer actually has a strong and passionate following. The dog that hasn’t barked? The pre-tournament meme about Brazil’s unpreparedness to host such a large event and the crime and street protests which were to have shut down various venues. Clearly, that’s not proven out. With two weeks to go, some commentators are already wondering aloud whether this will be the most successful World Cup of all time.
That may be a bit dramatic, but the signs are encouraging. Problems exist, of course, as they do in every major global event, and big questions about cost and legacy of the tournament will be asked by Brazilians themselves after the tournament concludes. Most observers, however, now seem to be content to enjoy Brazil’s famous hospitality and the joy of the beautiful game at the highest international level.
And what a competition it’s been. Goalies have stolen the show. The U.S.’ Tim Howard, Mexico’s Memo Ochoa, Brazil’s Júlio César, Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas, and others have become international celebrities as a result of their acrobatic, gravity-defying saves. Nonetheless, more goals have already been scored to this point in the tournament this year than were scored in the full 2010 tournament, and that has made the games suspenseful and fun to watch.
Colombia extradited seven taxi drivers who were charged with murdering a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, on Tuesday. Special Agent James “Terry” Watson was stabbed to death after a botched robbery on June 20, 2013. The alleged murderers will stand trial in Virginia.
The taxi drivers were members of a criminal band based in the Bogotá that targeted taxi passengers for robbery. On the night of the murder, the drivers attempted to take Watson on a “millionaire’s ride” or “express kidnapping,” a common scheme in Colombia in which the attackers force the victim to empty their bank accounts at an ATM machine before releasing them.
The alleged murderers were extradited after the U.S. government successfully argued that Watson, who served as an agent for the DEA for 13 years, was an “internationally protected person with diplomatic immunity” under the Vienna Convention and that the trial should take place in the United States.“These citizens were wanted via an Interpol Red Notice for the crimes of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime,” General Ricardo Restrepo, the Colombian anti-narcotics police chief, said. It marks the first mass extradition between the two countries that isn’t related to narcotrafficking.
The World Cup is a lot more than just soccer. It is a global celebration and in many regards, a showcase of cultures, not just from the host country but from all nations participating in it.
While Mexico did not become the World Cup soccer champion in Brazil, international media sources did call it the champion of social media, as one of the nations with some of the most social media chatter and memes during the tournament. The flourishing of social media has made Mexico renown in all corners of the globe, in ways that traditional media has not.
Unfortunately, not all of our portrayals are positive. During Brazil 2014, some Mexican fans chose to display their “cultural humor” in ways that could be considered hateful or homophobic—including taunting goalkeepers by calling them “puto,” a derogatory term used frequently at soccer matches in Mexico. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) even opened up an investigation to evaluate if the Mexican soccer federation should be fined for promoting discrimination through the use of this taunt (in the end, FIFA decided against it, determining that the federation could not be held liable for spectators’ conduct).
More relevant than the debate over FIFA’s decision about the chant is the fans’ reaction to it. Instead of questioning the use of the word and our projection of Mexican culture to the world, many Mexican soccer fans decided to bask in the glory of their ability to insult others.
In an announcement at the White House yesterday, President Barack Obama blamed House Republicans for congressional inaction on comprehensive immigration reform, and said that he would be moving forward with executive action to fix the U.S.’s broken immigration system. Obama went on to say that he would be moving resources from the interior of the country to the border, in part to address the estimated 50,000 unaccompanied minors who have entered the U.S. illegally so far in 2014.
Obama said that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder will "identify additional actions my administration can take within my existing legal authorities, to do what Congress refuses to do and fix as much of our immigration system as we can.” Obama expects recommendations by summer’s end, which could affect the midterm elections in November.
Under executive action, Obama could reduce deportations by extending deferred action to certain group of undocumented immigrants, similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program he started through executive action in 2012.
The announcement comes less than a week after Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner told the president that the House of Representatives would not vote on the comprehensive reform bill that passed the Senate a year ago, despite the fact that there is enough bipartisan support in the chamber to pass it.
After a long and dreary winter and an unusually rainy spring, Montrealers have greeted the summer season with the Canadian Grand Prix, a series of elaborate street festivals including Jazz Fest and Just for Laughs, and the traditional national holidays of Québec and Canada. They are part of the usual rituals of summer associated with Montreal.
This year, however, may mark the beginning of a new optimism and a concerted effort at reviving the city—and may make the buzz a year-round reality. At least, that’s the hope.
This past winter, a prominent businessman and executive banker, Jacques Ménard of the Bank of Montreal, Canada’s oldest bank, released a report he had commissioned from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) dealing with Montreal’s current challenges and ways to revitalize the city.
Comparing Montreal with other cities possessing similar characteristics, the BCG report presented a ten point revitalization program, including additional powers usually associated with a city’s status as a metropolis, such as greater powers of taxation and greater autonomy.
This week's likely top stories: Juan Carlos Varela takes office as Panama's new president; Argentina negotiates a settlement with holdout creditors; the ELN attacks in Arauca; Costa Rica and Colombia advance to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time; Argentine Vice President Boudou faces charges.
Juan Carlos Varela inaugurated in Panama: Panamanian President-elect Juan Carlos Varela will be officially sworn into office on Tuesday with a number of regional leaders in attendance, including a U.S. delegation led by Secretary of State John Kerry. Varela, of the Partido Panameñista (Panameñista Party) was elected on May 4 over José Domingo Arias of the Cambio Democrático (Democratic Change) party, earning 39 percent of the vote over Arias’ 32 percent, though Varela’s party only won 11 seats in Panama’s 71-seat legislative assembly. Varela, Panama’s former vice president, has promised to fight corruption and improve government transparency while continuing to improve Panama’s infrastructure.
Argentina to negotiate as interest payment comes due: With a $539 million interest payment on bonds due today (Monday), Argentina has 30 days to make the payment to avoid its second default in 13 years. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Argentina’s appeal in a long-running battle with holdout creditors after it defaulted on its debt in 2001. The Supreme Court decision allowed a lower court ruling to stand, which requires Argentina to pay a group of holdout creditors some $1.3 billion before it can pay other bondholders. The country has one month to negotiate a settlement with the holdouts in U.S. District Court to avoid a default.
Attack on oil camp in Western Colombia leaves 13 injured: The Colombian government has accused the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army–ELN) of attacking on a camp in the Caño Limón oilfield in the Colombian state of Arauca in western Colombia, injuring 13 people as they were preparing to attend Sunday Mass. While the ELN has traditionally carried out attacks on oil pipelines themselves, Colombian Minister of Mining and Energy Amylkar Acosta said this was the first time they had attacked a camp for workers, and accused the ELN of cowardice. The ELN has agreed to engage in formal peace talks, but have yet to agree to a formal truce; they have been accused of three other attacks on the same oil pipeline in the last ten days.
Costa Rica and Colombia make World Cup history: Costa Rica and Colombia both advanced to their teams’ first-ever World Cup quarterfinals this weekend, after Colombia defeated Uruguay 2-0 on Saturday and Costa Rica beat Greece in a penalty shootout on Sunday after tying 1-1 in regulation time. Colombia—led by 22-year-old James Rodríguez, who has scored at least one goal in each of his first four World Cup games—will face host country Brazil in the quarterfinals on July 4. Costa Rica will face the Netherlands on July 5 after the Dutch defeated Mexico on Sunday with a controversial penalty kick.
Argentine vice president charged with bribery: An Argentine judge charged Vice President Amado Boudou with bribery and corruption on Friday. If he is found guilty, Boudou could face between one and six years in prison. Boudou is accused of using his position as economy minister to interfere in bankruptcy proceedings against a printing company—charges that he denies. He is the first sitting Argentine vice president since 1983 to face such charges.
June 28 is an important day for members of both the LGBTQ community and the Honduran working class. The first is the anniversary of the 1969 “Stonewall Riots” in New York City by the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). And the second is the anniversary of the 2009 military-led coup d'état that ousted populist Honduran President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales from office and led to protests by the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (National Popular Resistance Front—FNRP).
Zelaya, who came into office as a member of the center-right Partido Liberal (Liberal Party) in 2006 but moved closer to the Left throughout his tenure, was arrested by the military and forcibly exiled to Costa Rica on June 28, 2009 after proposing a referendum that would enable voters to approve a constitutional assembly.
Though these events may appear unrelated—apart from their shared anniversary—they have produced one common result: a greater awareness of human rights violations and the mobilization of grassroots protest movements.
And while LGBTQ groups in the United States have made a number of legislative gains since 1969, Honduran activists—and LGBTQ activists in particular—have just begun their fight for political, social and economic justice.
Chilean Minister of Health Helia Molina set out on Thursday to clarify the government’s position on legalizing therapeutic abortion—abortion only in cases of rape, putting the life of the mother at risk, and the inability of the fetus to live outside of the womb. Molina said that the government was not promoting a law that would allow the voluntary termination of pregnancy under any circumstance, and that the proposed legislation would be formally debated in congress.
The announcement comes a day after Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said in an interview in Spanish newspaper El País that she would send the legislation to congress in the second half of the year. President Bachelet’s spokesman, Álvaro Elizalde, has since referred to the headline as misleading.
The president the Unión Demócrata Independiente (Independent Democratic Union–UDI) opposition party, Ernesto Silva, expressed his disapproval at the president’s proposal on such a controversial topic, stating, “like the immense majority of Chileans, we are always advocates for the defense of life.”
In Chile, abortion was legal for medical reasons until 1989 when former President Augusto Pinochet’s military government instituted a total ban on the practice. Abortion has become a hot-button issue since the return of democracy. The Chilean right, including ex-President Sebastián Piñera, has been vigorously opposed to the practice of abortion in any form. In 2013, Piñera controversially praised an 11-year-old pregnant girl for keeping her baby after being raped, and has recently reiterated his position opposing therapeutic abortion legislation.
Bachelet has had a busy first 100 days, successfully passing a tax reform that would fund her sweeping reforms to make education free at all levels, and proposing policies towards reconciliation with the Mapuche–Chile’s largest indigenous minority–including increasing political representation and returning land to the Mapuche in Southern Chile. In total she has completed 91 percent of the 56 measures she intended to propose during her first 100 days.
As Team U.S.A. took the pitch today in Recife for what might be its final World Cup match, some other Brazilian cities were already turning off the lights on their newly built stadiums now that the tournament is halfway over.
Here in Manaus last night, the final crowds exited the still-shiny $300 million Arena da Amazônia after the Honduras-Switzerland match, bringing a close to the biggest event that ever has—and likely ever will—come to the Amazon rainforest. With no more matches scheduled here or in Cuiabá, Natal, and Curitiba, public scrutiny is now turning to what will become of these mega-investments.
“It’s not economical, it’s not good for the country,” said Kelson Eugenio, sitting inside the stadium yesterday with his eight-year-old son and suggesting the money could have been better spent on education. “At the same time, soccer is soccer. We’re taking advantage of the World Cup being here.”
Brazil’s government is still trying hard to sell the event to a skeptical public—and time is running out, with the final match scheduled for July 13. Some long-term benefits to the event’s $11.3 billion price tag are already visible, such as new infrastructure, a jump in tourism, and a boost to businesses. Others are less apparent, like the government’s claim that $6 billion in new investment has been promised by visiting businesspeople, or the specialized training for Brazilian security and police.
Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes finishes his trip to Japan today, after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday. The heads of state discussed concerns with North Korea, nuclear missile development, and territorial and maritime coercion claims, but the primary focus of the meetings was to discuss transnational development between the two countries, including Japanese funding of Paraguayan infrastructure.
President Cartes affirmed his country’s stability, stating that it is a safe country to conduct business, with one of the best corporate climate’s due to tax benefits, available labor force, vast territory, and the low cost of energy. Currently, there are 10 Japanese companies based in Paraguay, but the president has plans for further investment. ”We’ve received cooperation from Japan for a wide range of development projects […] Japanese companies have created jobs for young people,” said Cartes.
On Tuesday, Akihito Tanaka, president of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), awarded Paraguayan Finance Minister Germán Rojas a sum of approximately $176 million, which will be put toward the construction of an asphalted highway in the southern Paraguayan state of Alto Paraná, connecting Natalio, Itapúa and Cedrales. The area is where most of the country’s grain harvesting and production takes place. The money will also be used to aid the 200,000 individuals affected by recent torrential flooding in recent weeks.
Paraguay, recently the host country for the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly meeting on development and social inclusion, has been lauded for its economic growth of 13 percent, yet remains one of the most unequal and socially exclusive countries in the region.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.