Top stories this week are likely to include: U.S. Senators hope to introduce immigration reform bill this week; the Brazilian Federal Police will investigate whether Lula had a role in the mensalão scandal; Pablo Neruda’s body will be examined for signs of poisoning; Venezuela’s opposition rallies in Caracas; and the FARC bring extra peace negotiators to Cuba.
“Gang of Eight” Hoping for Immigration Bill by End of the Week: U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Sunday that the bipartisan group of senators working on a comprehensive immigration reform bill may have legislation ready to present to lawmakers by the end of this week. The bill is expected to provide for a wide range of reforms, including strengthened border security, a new guest-worker program and a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Schumer said a best-case scenario could bring the bill up for a vote as early as May after it goes through the Judiciary Committee. On Wednesday, April 10, a rally in support of immigration reform is expected to draw tens of thousands to the U.S. Capitol. http://www.voxxi.com/unprecedented-rally-immigration-reform/
Lula to be investigated in Mensalão scandal: Brazil’s Federal Prosecutor has ordered an investigation into allegations by businessman Marcos Valério that former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was involved in the mensalão scandal, a 2005 vote-buying scheme involving members of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party—PT) and others. Valério was sentenced to more than 40 years in prison last year for his role in the scandal. This weekend, the Federal Prosecutor ordered the Federal Police to investigate Valério’s accusation. Lula has denied all involvement in the scandal.
Pablo Neruda’s Body to be Examined: Chilean forensic investigators will exhume the body of Nobel prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda today to determine whether Chile’s military regime had eliminated Neruda when he died in 1973. Neruda, a communist, allegedly died of cancer just 12 days after the September 11, 1973, coup that installed Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. However, his former driver, Manuel Araya, claimed that a doctor gave Neruda a lethal injection on the day of his death. In February, a Chilean court ordered that Neruda’s body be examined for signs of poisoning. Results are not expected for another three months.
Venezuelan Opposition Rallies in Caracas: Tens of thousands of Venezuelans marched in Caracas on Sunday to express their support for opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles in the lead-up to Venezuela’s April 14 presidential election. Polls indicate that Venezuela’s interim president, Nicolás Maduro, enjoys a 10-percentage point lead over Capriles. Over the weekend, Maduro made headlines in Amazonas state when he invoked the “curse of Maracapana” on those who vote for his rival, and also accused “Central American mercenaries” of plotting to kill him.
FARC Negotiators Bring in Reinforcements: The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) announced Sunday that rebel leader Pablo Catatumbo (Jorge Torres Victoria) arrived in Havana with other members of the guerilla group to reinforce the negotiating team during peace talks with the Colombian government. Catatumbo has allegedly been critical of leading FARC negotiator Iván Marquez (Luciano Marín Arango). Last Thursday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that the government would not engage in a bilateral ceasefire with the FARC until the two sides reach a final agreement. The next round of peace talks is scheduled to begin on April 18.
Yesterday, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced the names of her campaign team for the upcoming presidential elections on November 17. Among them are Rodrigo Peñailillo, Bachelet’s former chief of staff that will assume the role of executive secretary; Alvaro Elizalde, who will resign as the general secretary of the Partido Socialista (The Socialist Party - PS) and assume the role of head of communications; Senator Ricardo Lagos Weber, Bachelet’s former minister spokesperson who will be campaign team leader; Paula Walker, head of press; Alberto Arenas, Bachelet’s former budget director; and Orieta Rojas who will be head of the campaign.
The remaining members of the team will be representatives from other political parties and civil society leaders such as former student leader Karina Delfino, a pioneer in the "revolución pingüina” who will oversee youth initiatives, and Javiera Parada, a close friend to Bachelet’s daughter who will oversee culture. Rodrigo Peñailillo relied on Osvaldo Andrade Lara of the Partido Socialista (The Socialist Party - PS) and former minister of Labor and Social Security under Bachelet’s administration, and former Senator Jaime Quintana and founder of the Partido por la Democracia (Party for Democracy – PPD) to create a short list of candidates.
In addition to establishing her political campaign staff, Bachelet will also create a "political advisory council" that will provide a space for conversation and reflection for experienced political leaders to offer their opinion leading up to the election.
Her 84 percent approval rating when she left office in 2010 suggests that she will win her party’s June primary with ease. In the succeeding election, in November, she will face a candidate from the governing centre-right Coalition, either Laurence Golborne, who as mining minister was in charge of the rescue of 33 miners trapped underground in 2010, or Andrés Allamand, a former defense minister.
Jamaicans often purport, in defense of their homophobia, that as long as gays and lesbians keep “it” to themselves, they have no problem with homosexuality. According to this logic, if a gay person affirms and accepts his or her sexual orientation, he or she is forcing “it” on others. What exactly constitutes “forcing” is quite subjective, and barely anything can be deemed as such.
As a consequence, the vast majority of gays and lesbians in Jamaica live their lives in secret for reasons that include fear of discrimination, violence or harassment, fear of unemployment or eviction from their homes, or even the fear of simply “offending” someone with their homosexuality.
The ironic thing is that these gays and lesbians (many of whom finally decide that being open about their sexuality is not necessarily important) are routinely scrutinized and policed as they go about their daily lives—by the very same people who asked them to keep “it” to themselves.
For more than a decade, Cuba’s Castro brothers (Fidel and Raúl) and their U.S. advocates have lobbied Congress to lift U.S. trade sanctions. Finally recognizing that Congress isn’t likely to do so, the focus of the Castro lobby has now shifted to getting Cuba removed from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
There are two ways Cuba, which has been listed since 1982, could be removed from the list:
The first is for President Obama to certify to Congress that there has been a fundamental change in Cuba's leadership and policies and that it disavows support of international terrorism now and for the future. No serious observer of Cuba will argue there has been any "fundamental change" in the Castro dictatorship, which has ruled Cuba with an iron-fist for 54 years.
The second is for the president to vouch to Congress that Cuba hasn’t provided any support to international terrorism in the preceding six months and has provided "assurances" to the United States that it won’t in the future. This was the vehicle used by the Bush Administration in 2008 to mistakenly remove North Korea from the list. As has now been proven with the Kim family, to rely on assurances of better behavior from the Castro brothers would be to commit foreign-policy malpractice. The Castro dictatorship brutally continues its repression of the Cuban people, routinely foments anti-Americanism around the world, and since December 2009 has held American aid worker Alan P. Gross for the crime of helping members of Cuba’s Jewish community connect to the Internet. Moreover, the Castro government has made it clear that Gross will stay in its prisons until the United States releases five convicted Cuban spies—an act of political coercion ("terrorism" as defined under U.S. law).
On the heels of Uruguay’s Congressional decision on Tuesday to legalize gay marriage, the country embarks on another bold decision today as it begins a three-month public debate over legalizing marijuana. President José Mujica presented a bill to Congress in November that will be voted on in June, after both proponents and opponents have made their cases to the public.
The bill would allow Uruguayans to possess and cultivate, sell and distribute established amounts of marijuana from their homes or places of work and would set up a government office to issue licenses to do so. In addition to regulating medicinal and recreational marijuana use and distribution, The National Cannabis Institute—as the office would be called—would grow and sell marijuana on its own, introducing a new source of government revenue and becoming the first government in the world to distribute marijuana to its citizens.
The bill is expected to pass easily since Mujica’s allies dominate Congress, yet hesitant public opinion prompted the President to slow down the voting process and establish the public debate period that begins today. According to observers, 64 percent of Uruguayans maintain reservations about such a radical liberalization of marijuana laws. While Congress debates the issue over the next three months, advocates on both sides of the debate will launch campaigns to sway the public.
Uruguay already boasts lax laws that permit both possessing and using marijuana. Proponents of the bill hope that even greater relaxation of the law will drive big drug traffickers out of the market and enable people to smoke marijuana without nourishing the violent, illegal drug trade.
The debate over marijuana legalization has simmered throughout the region over the last several years, but no country has put forth a plan as ambitious as Uruguay’s. Presidents of Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, and Costa Rica have called for a broader debate on relaxing regional drug laws, and other regional leaders have lightened sentences on people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana. The Brazilian and Argentine legislatures have even broached legalizing small quantities of other drugs, such as heroin and cocaine—but all save Uruguay have stopped short of proposing and debating bills to enact real changes.
In a 23 to 8 vote, the Uruguayan Senate approved a bill on Tuesday that brings the country one step closer to legalizing same-sex marriage. If passed, the bill would implement gender-neutral terms in marriage licenses and change the definition of civil marriage to "the permanent union, under the law, of two people of different or the same sex."
The 23 senators who voted in favor of the bill include all of the Broad Front (Frente Amplio—FA) lawmakers, as well as seven opposition senators from the National Party (Partido Nacional) and the Red Party (Partido Colorado). The House of Deputies approved a similar bill last December. Before the bill can become law, the lower chamber will have to ratify the senate amendments.
While the measure has been sharply criticized by the Catholic Church, the bill fits into Uruguayan President José Mujica’s left-leaning policies. President Mujica supports the bill and has committed to signing it into law once it passes the legislature.
If the bill becomes law, Uruguay would become the second Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage after Argentina
The day Steve Jobs died after a much-publicized battle with cancer, Apple’s shares rose in what analysts called “a tribute” to the company’s late founder. The next year, Apple’s stock continued its climb, making Apple the most valued company ever as a measure of market capitalization. Jobs’ successor, Tim Cook, had long been preparing for this moment, assuring the market that he could handle the company after Jobs was gone.
Yet, as time goes by, Apple, its shareholders, Cook, and millions of Apple customers around the world are painfully reminded that there can only be one Steve Jobs.
This lesson could be instructive to Venezuela’s interim president, Nicolás Maduro, as he faces the daunting task of preserving the Bolivarian revolution without the charisma of its colorful founder.
Maduro’s short-term strategy may seem obvious: win the elections against a confused opposition and extend the life of la revolución, using the Chávez brand in a sort of political halo-effect. The long-term strategy is less clear, however. Even if Maduro wins and the government’s popularity increases in the near future, Maduro must eventually face the harsh realization that he is not Chávez, and that pretending to be him is easier said than done.
This does not need to be a tragedy for the Venezuelan government. It can be viewed as an opportunity to upgrade the revolution, as Deng Xiaoping once did with China. Meanwhile, the opposition must also learn to manage the revolution, instead of simply fighting it. If not, animosity will once again cloud rational judgment.
Tuesday marks the official start of Venezuela’s 10-day campaign ahead of the April 14 presidential election. The election will be a choice between interim President Nicolás Maduro and Miranda State Governor Henrique Capriles—both of whom have been unofficially campaigning for weeks.
Maduro, Chávez’ political heir, has vowed to honor the late president’s socialist legacy and is campaigning on a spiritual message, committing to follow the steps of his “father.” This election poses a new challenge for chavismo, which for the first time will attempt to retain the presidency without the charismatic presence of its late leader.
Capriles, the candidate of the Coalition for Democratic Unity (Mesa de la Unidad Democratica—MUD), is basing his campaign on the premise that “Maduro is not Chávez.” He is associating Maduro with the country’s corrupt and unstable environment and is criticizing the government for having to implement two currency devaluations in less than 60 days.
Both candidates were expected to kick off their respective campaigns today in Barinas state, where Chávez was born in 1954. On Sunday, after Maduro accused Capriles of seeking to provoke violence by cheduling his first rally in the same state, Capriles announced that he would move the rally to Monagas state. He will campaign in Barinas on Wednesday. Capriles also joined thousands of his followers in a nighttime walk on Monday night to protest against violence and insecurity in Caracas.
In less than two weeks, 18.9 million Venezuelans are eligible to vote for a second time in six months. Although much has changed since Chávez’ victory in October, chavismo is still leading the polls. Local polling firms Datanalisis and Hinterlaces give Maduro a more than 10 percentage point lead over Capriles; other studies indicate that Capriles is trailing by a smaller gap than what was observed in the October presidential election.
“Pese a casi dos años de reflexión y discusión, los países de la región llegaron sin un acuerdo a la Asamblea General de la OEA convocada para definir el futuro de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH)”. Así encabezaron distintos medios de comunicación su cubrimiento de la maratónica reunión de cancilleres realizada el 22 de marzo en Washington DC.
Esta presentación, sin embargo, no captura del todo su compleja realidad. En primer lugar, si bien es cierto que no existía acuerdo total en todos los países, es innegable que existía una inmensa mayoría que consideraba que la CIDH había respondido satisfactoriamente sus dudas y que, por tanto, querían dar por terminado este largo proceso.
Por el contrario, en una posición aislada y minoritaria, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua y Venezuela (los llamados bloque Alba), pese a que sus propuestas habían sido derrotadas, insistían en mantener abierto un debate sobre las funciones y límites del órgano de derechos humanos. No existía entonces un riesgo de división hemisférica. Se trataba de un grupo radical y minoritario frente a un amplio consenso regional.
En segundo lugar, la entrada no da cuenta de que a esta posición se llegó tras un gran esfuerzo. No hay que olvidar que en la Asamblea General de Cochabamba las tímidas voces de defensa de la CIDH de Estados Unidos, Canadá y Costa Rica fueron literalmente acalladas por la euforia colectiva de un grupo de países que pedía a gritos una reforma. Fue gracias a que la prensa independiente y la sociedad civil de las Américas, que se dieron a la tarea de defender al sistema de protección del juego político de conveniencia de los gobiernos, que se llegó a esta posición mayoritaria del viernes. Los progresistas y protagónicos discursos de los cancilleres en la Asamblea General guardan muy poca relación con los ataques de hace no muchos meses.
Top stories this week are likely to include: Nicolás Maduro and Henrique Capriles kick off their campagins; U.S. business and labor leaders reach an agreement on immigration; Argentina faces a court ruling on its debt; Brazil faces more stadium-related woes; and Venezuela auctions $200 million in foreign currency.
Maduro and Capriles Face Off: Venezuela’s interim president, Nicolás Maduro, said Saturday that opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles was trying to incite violence by scheduling his first campaign rally in Barinas state, the birthplace of the late President Hugo Chávez. Maduro and Capriles had both scheduled rallies on Tuesday to kick off their respective campaigns in Barinas state. On Sunday, Capriles announced that he would move the kickoff of his campaign to Monagas state on Tuesday, and campaign in Barinas on Wednesday.
Business and Labor Groups reach Agreement on Immigration: U.S. business leaders and labor groups have reportedly reached an agreement to implement a guest worker program that would introduce a new type of visa – the “W” visa – for low-skilled, year-round temporary workers. The deal was reached during a conference call on Friday between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO that was convened by Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), who is one of eight senators negotiating an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system. Friday’s deal is a positive sign that the bipartisan group of senators will introduce a broad immigration reform bill within the next few weeks.
Argentina’s Day in Court: A New York court is set to rule at any moment on whether Argentina must pay $1.4 billion to holders of its defaulted debt. Argentina submitted a proposal last week to pay back the debt at a discounted rate. If Argentina is forced to pay the holdout bondholders immediately, the country would owe $43 billion in additional claims. Argentina may still appeal to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a federal law that limits suits against foreign governments.
Another Setback for Brazil’s 2016 Olympics: Brazilian officials suddenly closed Rio de Janeiro’s Engenhão stadium last weekend after declaring the structure unsafe, cancelling a scheduled match between the Botafogo and Vaco da Gama soccer teams in the process. Engenhão is scheduled to host the track and field events in the 2016 Olympic Games, but authorities have said there is a danger that the roof of the stadium could blow off. Meanwhile, Rio officials must find an alternate location for the Confederations Cup in June if repairs to the stadium aren’t completed before then.
Venezuela Auctions Foreign Currency: The Venezuelan government’s decision to auction $200 million in foreign currency to a group of chosen companies last week has triggered a de facto currency devaluation, according to analysts. According to the government, 383 companies participated in an auction under the government’s new Sistema Complementario de Administración de Divisas (Complementary System of Currency Administration—SICAD) plan. The official exchange rate is currently 6.3 Venezuelan bolivars per dollar, but the government did not name the sale price of the dollar in the auction. Investment bank Barclays Capital has said that the government’s decision not to publicize the sale price of the dollar in the auction was a way of “avoiding the political cost of the announcement of a second devaluation.” Venezuelan Finance Minister Jorge Giordani said that the SICAD program will make it possible for individuals to obtain foreign currency with transparency.
Thousands of high school and university students protested in the Chilean capital of Santiago yesterday to demand education reform. The students denounced the country’s exorbitant university tuition fees—which represent 40 percent of the average household’s income—demanding an overhaul of the country’s higher education system and a guarantee to free, equal and high-quality public education.
Protests quickly turned violent, however, with hostility between the authorities and students beginning only 20 minutes after the protest was underway, when students were forced to change the agreed upon route for the march. Students reacted by tossing Molotov cocktails at authorities; police used tear gas and water for crowd control. Authorities reported 60 arrests and one policeman injured.
Minister of the Interior Andrés Chadwich responded to the situation: “Once again a group of students feels entitled to generate chaos, damage public property, interrupt transportation and generate violence in Santiago.” The student union spokesman, on the other hand, accused the police of using “excessive, repressive action.”
A series of large student demonstrations began in Chile in 2011. Despite the continued protests over the past two years, there has yet to be a government overhaul of the education system. The principal student-led organization, The Confederation of Chilean Students (La Confederación de Estudiantes de Chile—CONFECH), confirmed another protest for April 11.
The White House announced on Wednesday that U.S. President Barack Obama will travel to Mexico and Costa Rica in the first week of May to “reinforce the deep cultural, familial and economic ties that so many Americans share with Mexico and Central America.” Among other issues, Obama plans to discuss immigration, citizen security and economic development.
Obama has not visited Mexico since Enrique Peña Nieto assumed the Mexican presidency on December 1, 2012; the president’s last visit to the country was to participate in the G20 summit in Los Cabos in June 2012. This trip presents an opportunity for Obama to continue the work he started with Mexico’s previous administration, particularly on border security issues. According to a statement from Obama on Wednesday, “There’s so much more to the relationship—in terms of commerce, in terms of trade, in terms of energy. And so we want to highlight some of the close cooperation that’s already been taking place and to continue to build on that, so that we’re creating more jobs and more opportunity on both sides of the border.”
In Costa Rica, Obama will meet with President Laura Chinchilla and other leaders of the Central American Integration System (SICA)—over which Costa Rica currently presides—to discuss collective efforts to promote economic development in Central America and collaborate on citizen security. This will be the first visit to Costa Rica by a sitting U.S. president since Bill Clinton’s visit in 1997.
Immigration reform is a top issue for Mexico and Central America. The Senate Gang of Eight is expected to share a draft immigration reform bill in early April, with the expectation that a bill could be passed by the end of the summer. Read AS/COA’s Get the Fact series for more on immigrants and the U.S. economy.
Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is expected to announce her candidacy for president in the November election when she returns from the United States this morning, Chilean newspaper La Tercera reported on Tuesday.
Bachelet, who served as president from 2006 to 2010, resigned from her position as under-secretary-general and executive director of UN Women last week. The Party for Democracy (Partido Por la Democracia) and Socialist Party (Partido Socialista de Chile) are expected to announce her as their parties’ candidate on April 13.
Former President Eduardo Frei feels confident in Bachelet’s bid. “Everyone [in Chile] talks about her,” he said, “her friends and her enemies alike have made her campaign for her, they’ve paved the way.” A Centro de Estudios Públicos (CEP) poll is already predicting a Bachelet victory. Still, she would encounter her first challenge on the road to La Moneda on June 30—the date of the primaries to select the opposition coalition’s presidential candidate. Other candidates include Claudio Orrego of the Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócratico Cristiano) and José Antonio Gómez of the Social Democracy Radical Party (Partido Radical Socialdemócrata).
Presidential elections are scheduled for November 17. If no candidate secures an absolute majority in the first round, a runoff election will be held on December 15.
With March 20, 2013 representing the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, historians and journalists in both Canada and the United States have been assessing the wisdom of this historic decision. The Iraq War, due to its enormous costs in human, financial and material terms, has long fallen out of favor with the American people and the political class. Even the Republican Party has taken some distance from the major architects of the war—former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney. Neither has addressed a Republican National Convention since 2004.
In Canada last week, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien made all the media rounds and was strongly commended for refusing to go along with the so-called “Coalition of the Willing” in 2003 after the UN Security Council refused to sanction the U.S.-led invasion. It was the first time that Canada said “no” to a U.S. president about to enter a war. It was a defining moment because Canada was a faithful U.S. ally in World War II, in the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, the 1950-53 Korean War, and throughout the Cold War. Moreover, Canada was very supportive of the invasion of Afghanistan after September 11, 2001.
The decision to go to war in Iraq was never popular in Canada, despite the initial support of the opposition Conservative party leader, Stephen Harper. The case for weapons of mass destruction and the links between Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, and Al Qaeda were never convincing to the general population. The Canadian government of the day, led by Prime Minister Chrétien, had large-scale support for saying “no,” and this support was especially vocal in Chrétien’s home province of Québec. Even Conservative leader and current Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper later recanted, saying the war was a mistake.
More prisoners have joined a hunger strike that began on February 6 at the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay. Striking prisoners say they are protesting more intrusive searches of their cells and open-ended confinement without charge.
According to Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a spokesman for the prison, 28 out of 166 prisoners are on strike, marking one of the most sustained protests the base has had in several years. The prison’s medical staff is closely monitoring the health of all prisoners, and ten of the strikers are being force-fed to prevent dangerous weight loss.
Differences in the notion of what constitutes a “hunger strike” have provoked sharp disagreement between the military and the detainees’ lawyers about how many prisoners are participating. Under the U.S. military’s formal definition, developed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, being on strike includes missing nine consecutive meals—in other words, abstaining from eating three days in a row. Lawyers for detainees claim that the military is significantly undercounting the number of strikers and say that the majority of the detainees in Camps Five and Six have been refusing to eat for weeks.
In response to these claims, Durand said that some prisoners who are refusing their meals have been observed eating food provided by other sources, and that others have covered up the security cameras in their cells to make it more difficult to track their eating.
The reasons for the strike are also in dispute. Lawyers say their clients’ complaints are motivated by an intrusive cell search in early February in which guards touched and inspected their Korans for contraband—an act that is considered a religious desecration. Detainees are also protesting the uncertain legal status of the majority of the prisoners, as well as restrictions on transfers, which have nearly halted any departures from the base. Military officials say there has been no change in the way searches are conducted at Guantánamo and that the hunger strike is an attempt to attract media coverage.
Hunger strikes have occurred at Guantánamo since shortly after it opened in January 2002. The largest one began in the summer of 2005 and reached a peak of 131 prisoners, when the facility held about 500 detainees. A delegation from the International Committee for the Red Cross made an urgent visit to Guantánamo this week to meet with hunger strikers and determine the gravity of the situation on the ground.
Across Latin America and the Caribbean, the trend is an increasing acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people. Recent years have seen important strides toward attaining marriage equality, educational access and public visibility for LGBTI people throughout the region.
Despite these advances, a recent report by the Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Personas Trans (Network of Trans People of Latin America and the Caribbean—REDLACTRANS) highlights the challenges that remain for protecting the fundamental rights of trans people.
Undoubtedly, violence poses the gravest challenge to trans people in the region today. According to the 2011 Trans Murder Monitoring Project, 80 percent of trans murder victims worldwide between 2008 and 2011 were from Central or South America, amounting to a staggering total of 643 homicides. Police impunity and brutality further exacerbate violence against trans people by allowing frequent killings, arbitrary detentions, degrading treatment, and threats and extortion by public security officials. The absence of legal protections that explicitly prohibit violence and discrimination committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity limits access to justice and public protection.
Moreover, trans people face countless obstacles to attaining employment and basic public services, including health care and education. Berenice Bento, a prominent researcher on trans rights in Brazil, estimates that 90 percent of trans women in her country are functionally illiterate due to social exclusion in schools, a figure likely matched throughout the region.
Havana's bustling streets offer a wide variety of transportation options. In the old city overcrowded public buses and state-owned yellow taxis (usually Soviet-era Ladas or more recent Korean and Japanese imports) jostle with bicycle taxis, horse-drawn carriages, and cocotaxis—three-wheeled mopeds where the two rear passenger seats are half-enclosed in a garish yellow coconut-shaped plastic shell.
But many foreign visitors, particularly Americans, are fascinated by the ubiquity of the 1950s American cars roaring up and down the city's main thoroughfares. A few of these classics, painstakingly restored in bright blue, pink or white, serve as open-top touring cars for hire, operated by multilingual guides who offer a trip back in time to experience a bit of the romance of pre-Revolutionary Havana.
The vast majority of the old behemoths, however, fill a much humbler, though more important, niche, playing an essential role in the city's transportation network. These are the taxis colectivos, commonly known simply as máquinas, the uniquely Cuban collective taxis with a form and function that embodies much of the best and the worst of recent Cuban history.
During the so-called "Special Period" of hardship after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, fiscal austerity and shortages of fuel and vehicles forced the communist government to cut the state-subsidized network of city buses and individual taxis, the latter of which used to take a passenger across town for a few Cuban pesos. Public buses continue to service regular routes around the city at the rock-bottom price of 40 Cuban centavos (less than $.02). But individual state taxis charge 5-10 convertible pesos ($5-$10) for a cross-town ride, well beyond the reach of most Cubans in a country where the state salary even for professionals seldom exceeds $30 per month. So for Cubans whose schedule and destination make the city buses inconvenient, but who lack access to the convertible-currency economy, a demand emerged for a means of transport that bridged the gap between the affordability of the public buses and the frequency and convenience of the individual taxis.
Las propuestas actuales de cambios económicos en Cuba han abierto una ventana inédita para discutir y eventualmente empezar a corregir algunas de las desproporciones más recurrentes en el devenir económico del país en las últimas décadas. Por primera vez en mucho tiempo, se ha hecho evidente la necesidad de prestar mayor atención hacia problemas estructurales y consecuentemente concebir políticas con una mayor orientación estratégica, de largo plazo.
Ello requiere identificar algunas de las brechas de desarrollo más importantes que tiene la nación. Estas se presentan en forma de contradicciones en ámbitos específicos, de gran impacto en la concepción de un proyecto viable de desarrollo. Esto nos remite a una incompatibilidad entre los requerimientos del desarrollo contemporáneo y la trayectoria económica de un país. En el caso cubano, algunas tienen que ver con el uso de los recursos naturales y las características de la fuerza de trabajo mientras que otro grupo se vincula con los medios para utilizar esos recursos en beneficio del país.
En términos del planteamiento convencional, Cuba aparece como un país pobre en recursos naturales, sin embargo, en algunos ámbitos de gran impacto en el desarrollo como alimentación y energía, la dotación natural de la isla y la maduración de nuevas tecnologías abren oportunidades insospechadas. Esto implica que en un marco regulatorio mejor estructurado, se podrían mejorar tanto la utilización de las tierras (áreas ociosas, bajos rendimientos) como el aprovechamiento de la biomasa cañera, y las fuentes eólica y solar para garantizar un mayor acceso doméstico y reducir la dependencia externa. La agroindustria cañera ha experimentado un desarrollo tecnológico notable, impulsada por las políticas tecnológica y energética de Brasil, líder indiscutible en este campo. Ya no se trata de una rama “tradicional,” expresión de estancamiento e ingresos decadentes. Esto requeriría nuevas y cuantiosas inversiones que no se podrían financiar con recursos domésticos, lo que llevaría necesariamente a ampliar el espacio para la inversión extranjera, en un grado mucho mayor que hasta el presente.
Last September, the Brazilian government released a study, Vozes da Classe Média (Voices of the Middle Class), noting that 53 percent of Brazilians are currently in the middle class. Of these, 80 percent are Afro-Brazilian. The data was covered extensively in the Brazilian press and sparked a debate about the extent to which Brazil’s recent economic growth has generated an improved standard of living for its overall population.
On one side, optimists celebrated the data, which showed improved social mobility for about 30 million people.
The Brazilian middle class is the third fastest growing in the world, trailing only India and China. Brazil’s middle class is urban, concentrated in the southeast (45 percent) and fascinated with technology. According to the Voices of Brazil study, if this social class were a country, it would be the twelfth most populous country in the world with 104 million people, just below Mexico.
On the other hand, skeptics said that Brazil’s middle class was different from the middle class in countries like the United States, where the middle class not only consumes goods and services but is also educated and enjoys an overall strong quality of life. Brazil’s historical lack of investment in education, its violence and its high levels of corruption have been barriers to complete social growth.
Top stories this week are likely to include: debate continues on IACHR reforms; U.S. Supreme Court considers gay marriage; Bolivia takes Chile to court; Argentina wants UN discussion on Falklands/Malvinas; Indigenous groups protest World Cup construction.
Debate over IACHR Reforms to Continue: In a marathon extraordinary session on Friday, the General Assembly of the OAS resolved to continue discussing reforms to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that were proposed two years ago by Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. Though external funding for the IACHR will be allowed to continue in the meantime, the reforms could mean eventually eliminating external funding for the regional human rights body and restricting the circumstances in which the commission can issue precautionary measures to protect victims.
U.S. Supreme Court Considers California's Prop 8 and DOMA: The U.S. Supreme Court will consider two high-profile cases on same-sex marriage this week. The court will convene Tuesday to consider the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, a law banning same-sex marriage after California state courts had recognized gay marriage earlier in 2008. On Wednesday, the court will also consider the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed into law in 1996 to deny federal benefits to gay and lesbian couples. The court’s decisions could overturn gay-marriage bans in 29 U.S. states.
Bolivia and Chile Dispute Escalates: Bolivian President Evo Morales said Saturday that Bolivia would take Chile to the International Court of Justice in the Hague in "coming days" to sue over Bolivia's lost access to the sea. Bolivia has been landlocked since the 1879-1884 War of the Pacific, but the issue has remained important in modern Bolivian politics. In a radio interview Sunday, Morales said that as long as Sebastián Piñera is president of Chile, he doesn't anticipate holding any further dialogue with Chile to negotiate a solution to the dispute.
Argentina to discuss the Falklands/Malvinas with the UN: Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman is expected to meet with UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon in New York early this week to request that the UN organize a dialogue with the United Kingdom over the political status of the disputed Falklands/Malvinas Islands. Argentina and more than 20 neighboring countries have said that the referendum held by islanders on March 10 and 11 is invalid. Voters overwhelmingly declared the islands a British Overseas Territory.
Brazilian Indigenous Groups Protest World Cup Displacement: Rio de Janeiro police in riot gear stormed a former museum occupied by Indigenous protesters on Friday, firing tear gas and pepper spray after an hours-long negotiation to convince protesters to abandon the building, which had been marked for demolition for the 2014 World Cup. The Indian Museum has been an important refuge for Indigenous Brazilians even after the museum was closed in 1977. On Friday, protesters were reportedly in the process of abandoning the building when the police entered, but the police say that the protesters started a fire inside. Human rights activists and public officials have denounced the police response.
In a recent online article, Vanity Fair mentioned Angélica Rivera –wife of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto–among the top-10 best dressed first ladies in the world. The piece was innocent enough and not unlike the lighthearted articles usually included in this publication. And yet, the article caught wildfire and was highlighted in Mexico’s mainstream media and newspapers, as if making the list was an incredible achievement and a coveted award.
Why is this? My best guess is that since Ms. Rivera has been out of the spotlight since she married and campaigned with Peña Nieto, the President’s PR team grabbed ahold of what they could to give her some sort of national print exposure. If this is the case, staying true to her past as a telenovela star, it seems the most we should expect from her in the coming years will be a pretty face in a pretty dress and a lovely TV smile.
The first 100 days of Peña Nieto’s presidency have come and gone and any political analyst would likely conclude that, whether you agree with his politics or not, the President’s team is doing a good job of portraying him as a hands-on leader who gets the job done. In recent weeks he’s made headlines by pushing forward a much-needed Education Reform, a Victims Protection Law and new Telecom policies. Getting rid of Elba Esther Gordillo, the leader of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (National Teachers Union—SNTE), certainly boosted Peña Nieto’s numbers as well. And while I would not argue that the first lady’s role should be as relevant as the elected official’s, a look back at Rivera’s track record after the first 100 days in the Presidential residence of Los Pinos, reveals a blank slate and missed opportunities.
Traditionally, Mexico’s first lady is awarded the honorary position of president of the Sistema Nacional para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia México (Integral Family Development National System Advisory Board—DIF). Rivera accepted the role just a couple of weeks ago, having remained in the shadows up until then.
After fourteen months of legal wrangling, the genocide trial of former Guatemalan President Efraín Ríos Montt began this week with oral presentations in court.
The trial will make history, as Guatemala becomes the first country in Latin America to try a former leader for genocide—a move that has divided the legal community.
Some classify the actions of soldiers under Ríos Montt’s command as crimes against humanity but not genocide, while others consider them genocide and still others maintain Ríos Montt’s innocence. The court’s interpretation of Ríos Montt’s orders to his soldiers during his command to consider all residents of certain areas, "guerilla sympathizers and therefore the enemy," will likely inform the trial’s outcome.
Peru tried and sentenced Alberto Fujimori to 25 years in prison for corruption and crimes against humanity during his presidency, a charge Ríos Montt and former Chief of Army Intelligence José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez also face.
The eventual verdict will hinge on whether various incidents, including massacres in the Ixil triangle region, constituted genocide against the Maya Ixil.
President Otto Pérez Molina has maintained in public declarations that genocide never happened in Guatemala. Given that Pérez Molina was stationed as a regional commander in Ixil during Ríos Montt’s presidency, the trial could bring unwelcome attention to his wartime activities—something foreign media focused on during his election campaign.
"We respect the independence of powers, so in that sense we will respect what the judiciary is doing and all the processes that are taking place," Pérez Molina said of the trial.
In the courtroom, Ríos Montt surprised observers by sacking his defense team— his fourth change of counsel since January 2012. When offered the chance to speak on the first day, Montt maintained his right to silence but stated that he would speak on record at a later date.
"There is no document or testimony can prove that my client was involved in the events that the Ministerio Publico (MP) accuses him of,” said defense lawyer Francisco Palomo. "What we ask for is a fair trial, away from pressures, and for it not to become a political lynching."
Everyone who is anyone from the political and religious world arrived in Rome this week to take part in a mass to coronate the Catholic Church’s newest leader, Pope Francis. At its pinnacle, cardinals and bishops in full regalia prayed in Latin while bells rang over St. Peter’s Basilica. It was one of the world’s oldest institutions doing millennium-old pageantry for its 265th head.
The pageantry included receiving heads of state a day before the official mass. Over lunch, Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner asked the new pope to be a mediator on Argentina’s claim over the Falkland Islands. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe arrived, flouting an international travel ban that does not include the Vatican, whereas China sent no delegation because Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou was present. Some 132 delegations were on hand for the Vatican’s main event.
There was pageantry indeed, but not for long. The new leader, Pope Francis, is a humble man who will no doubt struggle to change the ways of church executives whose mission is to care for the poor, pray for the sick and aid parishioners—while sometimes living in splendor replete with limousines, chefs, valets, and personal assistants.
El juicio por genocidio y deberes contra la humanidad en contra de los ex-generales Efraín Ríos Montt y José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez dio inicio este martes, luego que la licenciada Jazmín Barrios, Jueza Presidenta del Tribunal A de Mayor Riesgo, resolviera de manera negativa varios recursos interpuestos por la defensa y declarara abierto el debate.
El juicio estaba contemplado inicialmente para dar comienzo el 14 de agosto de este año; sin embargo, el Tribunal A de Mayor Riesgo lo adelantó para el 19 de marzo. Con anterioridad, la Corte de Constitucionalidad rechazó una solicitud de amnistía presentada por la defensa de Ríos Montt. Los abogados de los encausados en reiteradas ocasiones han argumentado que se ha violentado el proceso y que se han violado los derechos de los señalados, pues las pruebas ofrecidas de descargo no han sido aceptadas por el Tribunal que conoció en Primera Instancia.
La discusión de fondo se centra en la existencia o no del delito de genocidio imputado a ambos procesados. Durante la audiencia, hubo momentos en que la jueza tuvo que llamar la atención del público, que reaccionó en contra de uno de los alegados del defensor del General Ríos Montt, Francisco García Gudiel, quién señaló a organizaciones internacionales y peritos de haber recibido grandes cantidades de dinero para emitir sus criterios.
La sala de vistas de la Corte Suprema de Justicias se vio abarrotada. Se calcula que participaron más de 350 personas, público que se ubicó de acuerdo con sus posturas en lugares según estén a favor o en contra del enjuiciamiento. En las afueras, organizaciones de derechos humanos se encontraron a la espera del resultado de la primera sesión de un juicio que ha sido calificado como histórico.
Yoani Sánchez is known for her mordant accounts of the vicissitudes of life under a repressive government. Yet on Wednesday night, at an auditorium at Georgetown University simply adorned with a Cuban flag, I was inspired not only by the lyricism of her Spanish, but by her tone of reconciliation and hope. In wide-ranging remarks, the dream of “a Cuba where all Cubans fit” was the recurring theme.
The island of Sánchez’s imagination celebrates intellectual pluralism, suppressed for decades but now growing from a whisper to a clamor in the “virtual Cuba” of dissident bloggers. It also unites Cubans “from the two shores.” Sánchez vividly conjured the image of islanders and exiles looking at two sides of a mirror and recognizing each other, in direct defiance of a government that has separated gusanos (worms) from revolutionaries.
The equally intrepid blogger Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, who joined Sánchez on her whirlwind speaking tour in Washington DC expressed the joy he finds in building bridges with the Cuban diaspora. Responding to requests from Cubans around the world, he snaps photographs of stucco houses shaded by mango trees, family crypts in the Cemetery of Colón, even the graceful slope of Havana’s seawall—all frozen in the memory of the exiliado.
Doctors in Brazil sparked debate yesterday when the Conselho Federal de Medicina (Federal Council of Medicine) published a petition endorsing the legalization of first-trimester abortions.
The council, which represents approximately 400,000 doctors throughout the country, will submit the petition to a Senate commission that is reviewing several amendments to the country’s penal code. The document was met with overwhelming approval from the council’s 27 member organizations, 80 percent of which supported it.
Abortion is currently illegal in Brazil, except in limited cases: when the pregnancy risks the mother’s life, if the fetus presents signs of severe mental disability or in cases of rape. Nevertheless, Brazilian newspaper Folho de Sao Paolo reports that according to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, approximately 1 million abortions are performed illegally each year in Brazil. In spite of the ban, a 2010 study revealed that 20 percent of Brazilian women under the age of 40 have undergone an abortion, and 55 percent of them have been hospitalized due to resulting complications. The high risk of illegal abortions prompted the Council’s petition, which called the issue of abortion “an urgent matter of public health.”
A change to the law would make Brazil the second country in Latin America to relax abortion prohibitions recently. In October 2012, Uruguay passed the region’s first decriminalization law, permitting abortion within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy in cases of rape and allowing late-term abortions when a woman's health is at risk. Brazil’s proposed change goes further, allowing first-trimester abortions even for healthy pregnancies.
President Dilma Rousseff struggled with the issue in her 2010 presidential campaign. Although she initially supported abortion decriminalization, pressure from Catholic voters prompted her to attenuate her position.
In the most populous Catholic country in the world, the petition has provoked condemnation from Brazil’s Council of Bishops. Moreover, the proposal comes just as the selection of an Argentine Pope has drawn attention to reinvigorating Catholicism in Latin America and comes on the heels of Pope Francis’ meeting with Rousseff—only his second meeting with a head of state since his inauguration.
Some weeks ago, it seemed inevitable that Lima Mayor Susana Villarán was going to lose her job in a recall referendum. The results from March 17 show that Villarán will stay on as mayor after winning a slim majority of the vote.
The effort to recall her was led by the director of the Instituto Peruano de Administración Municipal (Peruvian Institute of Municipal Management), Marco Tulio Gutiérrez and backed by the parties of political figures such as former Lima Mayor Luis Castañeda Lossio, former President Alan García and prior presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori.
A week before the election, the “yes” vote to recall the mayor outnumbered the “no” vote by almost 10 percentage points. The gap between “yes” and “no” votes had been closing in the last weeks of the campaign, but this had not been enough to change the perception that Villarán would be recalled.
However, the results of the recall referendum were a surprise. On March 19, the Oficina Nacional de Procesos Electorales (National Organization of Electoral Processes—ONPE) reported that voters had elected to keep Villarán in office. The election data revealed a narrow 3 percent difference between those voting “no” and “yes” to the referendum, but it was enough for Villarán to stay in power.
Today concludes the seventh round of peace talks between the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) and the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba, with news yesterday signaling there could be an agreement on one of the most important issues on the agenda: agrarian reform.
The issue of land reform is an important part of the negotiations for both sides, yet progress has been slow. In the past, the FARC has declared that to solve agrarian problems, there must be a “democratization,” which means distribution of land held by large landowners. The FARC’s proposal for land reform includes a demand for a redistribution of land and the improvement of property conditions.
By the end of today, there will likely be a press conference detailing the solutions reached in this latest round of dialogues with negotiations resuming again on April 2.
The Colombian peace process began ceremoniously in Oslo, Norway, in October 2012 with negotiations commencing in Havana, Cuba, in November 2012. Lead negotiators include former Vice President Humberto De La Calle on behalf of the Colombian government and Ivan Márquez on behalf of the FARC.
Like most observers, both Catholic and non-Catholic, I was surprised to see Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina chosen as the new Pope. He was nowhere to be seen in the pre-conclave media hype. We in Canada saw Cardinal Quellet from La Motte, Quebec as a serious frontrunner. Yet we are observing since Bergoglio’s election and installation as Pope the signal that this new sovereign pontiff could surprise us and become an agent of change. Already, some media have labeled him the “People’s Pope.”
Most would agree, however, that on issues such as contraception, abortion and priest celibacy, little will likely change in this papacy. Many cardinals made this fairly clear in the hours following the election of Pope Francis. This being said, the need for change will not go away because this pope is more accessible and appears closer to his flock. For instance, issues regarding women in the church will have to be addressed. Dealing with the child abuse scandal must also be the object of stronger actions by the new Vatican administration, and must certainly be handled with greater compassion. Failure to deal with these matters will further marginalize the church as a moral authority in the world.
Yet, change in the Vatican can also come in different ways. While many reform-minded Catholics wish this new pope would be more forthcoming in modernizing some of the tenets of dogma, suffice it to say that Pope Francis has, in a few days, changed the style and the tone in the Vatican City. The choice of Francis as Bergoglio’s papal name was not a quick accident of fate. Photos displaying his care for the poor are both sincere and heartwarming. As we have seen every day since his election, the values attributed to St. Francis of Assisi are already evident in this new pope.
After years of appeals, Efrain Ríos Montt, Guatemala's former military dictator who ruled from 1982 to 1983, stood trial in the country’s first genocide trial that began on Tuesday. Ríos Montt is accused of being responsible for 15 massacres that took the lives of a combined 1,771 Ixil Mayas and forcibly displaced an additional 29,000.
The massacres were part of a counterinsurgency campaign against leftist groups based in Guatemala’s mostly Indigenous western highlands. Along with former head of intelligence José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, Ríos Montt is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity and is being tried by three judges from the Supreme Court’s Tribunal Primero A de Mayor Riesgo (First High-Risk Tribunal A). This marks the first time that a former head of state has been tried for genocide in a domestic court.
Last March, the 86-year-old former dictator was denied amnesty under the 1996 National Reconciliation Law on the grounds that the law denies such protection to those accused of genocide, torture or forced disappearances. Prosecutors admit that there was never a direct order from Ríos Montt to massacre the victims in the Quiche Department where the guerillas were based. But they hope to prove that the leader had knowledge of the acts due to the absolute power granted to him by the military chain of command. His lack of action, they argue, is proof of his complicity. Guatemalan prosecutors have successfully prosecuted other military officers with similar evidence in the past, leading to speculation that Ríos Montt could be found guilty at the end of his six-week trial.
The first day of the trial saw the ex-dictator’s legal team abruptly quit. They were replaced by defense attorney Francisco García Gudiel who tried, unsuccessfully, to file motions to block the proceedings on procedural grounds. He was later dismissed from the courtroom for accusing Judge Jazmin Barrios of bias against him. The three-judge panel appointed a new defense lawyer to represent Ríos Montt for the remainder of his trial.
En total, 31 jefes de Estado, 11 jefes de gobierno, 132 delegaciones de todo el mundo y de diferentes congregaciones religiosas, asistieron este martes al comienzo oficial del pontificado del papa Francisco, el primer latinoamericano en llegar a la cabeza de la Iglesia Católica que congrega a 1.200 millones de fieles, la mitad de ellos en la región. Todo fue histórico en este día en el Vaticano: desde la presencia del presidente de Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou hasta la del líder de la Iglesia Ortodoxa, Bartolomé, pasando por el celebrado hecho de que la curia romana haya escogido a un arzobispo no europeo, jesuita, (que no figuraba en el sonajero de los papables) para reemplazar a un pontífice, Benedicto XVI, quien también por primera vez en la historia renuncia.
Y en medio de todo ese simbolismo hay algo todavía más relevante: el significado para la Argentina de tamaña decisión en momentos en que la curia y el oficialismo están más enfrentados que nunca. Este lunes cuando Francisco recibió a la mandataria de Argentina Cristina Kirchner, en ese escenario cálido en el que intercambiaron regalos y bromearon ante las cámaras, en realidad estaban sentadas en el Vaticano, frente a frente, dos visiones de país.
La presidente le pidió al Pontífice que intercediera ante Gran Bretaña por el reclamo de soberanía de las Islas Malvinas, recordando la labor que ejerció Juan Pablo II cuando intermedió en el conflicto entre Chile y Argentina por el canal de Beagle que amenazaba con desestabilizar el Cono Sur en 1978. Pero aunque Francisco también cree que las Malvinas son argentinas, -lo que, dicho sea de paso, no lo califica como un mediador neutral- el epicentro del asunto es que Roma tiene su propio conflicto con la Iglesia Anglicana hace 500 años, que reconoce a la reina de Inglaterra como la exclusiva jefe de su iglesia.
Given the similarities between millennium-era Argentina and today’s Greece, some wonder if a Greek default and currency exit might not be the worst option for Athens. However, Argentina’s “recovery” would not easily be replicated and the Argentine model should not be considered a blueprint for Greece.
Europe has much to learn from the Argentine default of 2001, but the soundest takeaways are often not the most obvious.
In 2001, Argentina suffered the proverbial “messy default.” To the tune of protesters banging pots and pans throughout the streets of Buenos Aires, the government was forced to disband the currency board that had pegged one peso to one U.S. dollar.
Many of the deepest fears forecasters share over a chaotic Grexit occurred in Argentina. The newly untethered peso plummeted to a quarter of its pegged value, representing massive losses for Argentines who owed debt in dollars. Political instability led to a revolving door in the Executive office. Confrontations in the streets left scores dead as Argentines famously chanted “Que se vayan todos!” (“Everybody out!”) at their government.
Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Rodonski said on Monday that if he wins the presidential election on April 14, he will stop sending 100,000 barrels a day of oil to Cuba and other countries in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). “Not one more drop of oil will go to help finance the Castro regime,” Capriles said at a political rally in the Zulia state.
Capriles went on to criticize Hugo Chávez’s successor and current interim president, Nicolás Maduro, as “Raúl Castro’s candidate,” and said that Havana is just using Venezuela to buoy the Castro regime. Capriles’ comments come in stark contrast to those of his opponent, Maduro, who has pledged Venezuela’s ongoing political and economic support for Cuba, saying his government will “remain firm” on the issue. In return, Cuba sends 40,000 doctors and other professionals to Venezuela.
The National Electoral Council (CNE) set the April 14 date for the election due to a clause in the constitution that requires the election to be called 30 days after the death of the sitting president. Capriles lost to Chávez in last October’s general election by 11 percentage points, and will be looking to remobilize his base in the coming weeks. However, chavista control over Venezuela’s political infrastructure and media, coupled with an outpouring of support following Chávez’ death, have given Maduro a 14-percentage point lead over his opponent, according to the first major poll published in anticipation of the election.
Nosotras estamos en la calle, or We Are on the Streets, is the name of an arts and politics festival that took place earlier this month for the fifth year in a row to promote female participation in the public sphere. Organized by different social collectives interested in highlighting women’s participation in street art, music, theater, and politics, Nosotras estamos en la calle was about women “occupying” spaces that have always been dominated by men.
Some men and women believe that International Women´s Day should not exist because it promotes more gender division. However, according to Peruvian newspaper El Comercio, 97 Peruvian women were killed in 2012 as a consequence of femicide. In a country where gender violence is seen as normal, being a woman is dangerous. Fighting for women’s rights and gender equality is still a necessity.
The arts have always been a good way to discuss such topics. Women are hardly ever recognized as street artists or muralists, as drummers and bandleaders, as hip-hop singers or improvisers, or as strong political figures. Nosotras estamos en la calle brought together female artists to share their knowledge with others.
Este mes se observó el día internacional de la mujer, ocasión propicia para conocer la historia de una mujer emprendedora que ha tenido que afrontar una serie de dificultades y retos para lograr sacar adelante a sus cuatro hijos.
Doña Ruth Susana Aguilar es una mujer guatemalteca originaria del municipio de Chichicastenango—a 145 kilómetros al occidente de la capital—quien trabaja como voceadora de periódicos en la población. Cada día se levanta a las 5 de la mañana para llegar a esperar la camioneta que trae los periódicos y luego empieza su recorrido por las calles para distribuirlos. Esa es prácticamente su rutina diaria, a excepción de los sábados cuando va a la iglesia.
Doña Susana es padre y madre de cuatro hijos. Durante 20 años vivió junto a su esposo Diego Tebelan Calgua, pero ante los múltiples problemas y agresiones que sufría decidió denunciarlo. Acudió a varias instancias como la defensoría de la mujer Indígena y la Policía Nacional Civil, logrando que a su esposo se le obligara a darle la respectiva pensión alimenticia. Sin embargo, éste no cumplió y le llegó a deber más de 15 mil quetzales, por lo que llegaron al acuerdo de que ella se quedaría con la propiedad que construyeron juntos durante los 20 años de matrimonio.
Doña Susana califica a su esposo como un hombre machista que no cumple con sus responsabilidades de padre y esposo, al no brindarle la respectiva manutención a su familia. Estas razones la motivaron a iniciar un proceso de demanda de divorcio, el cual debió suspender por resultarle muy costoso.
Por ese ejemplo de sacrificio y valentía, Doña Susana fue invitada recientemente a un foro organizado por el comité de víctimas de violencia sexual del hospital nacional Santa Elena donde compartió su testimonio con los asistentes entre los que se encontraban representantes de instituciones y estudiantes. En su discurso compartió que después de haberse separado de su esposo decidió quitarse la vida. Esperaba el momento en que quedaba sola en casa para cumplir con su cometido, pero cuando tuvo la primera oportunidad de estar sola, casualmente llegó a su casa el hijo de una vecina para pedirle prestados unos juguetes, petición que no pudo negar pues ella amamantó al niño cuando estaba recién nacido.
Esta misma historia se repitió en otras tres ocasiones, lo que ella interpretó como un mensaje de Dios que la hizo recapacitar e iniciar su lucha diaria para sobrellevar la situación. Desde ese entonces se dedicó a muchas cosas para obtener recursos, como realizar trámites contables, ser voceadora, vender productos de distinta clase. Su esposo llegó muchas veces a la casa para quebrar las ventanas, golpear la puerta y hasta la agredió físicamente, pero todo esto la hizo a ella convertirse en una mujer valiente y emprendedora y a tener un carácter más fuerte. Hoy por hoy doña Susana trabaja de sol a sol y lucha día a día junto a sus cuatro hijos—dos hombres y dos mujeres—quienes también la apoyan para conseguir los recursos necesarios.