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.
Top stories this week are likely to include: Lima Mayor Susana Villarán survives recall election; the OAS votes on IACHR reforms in an extraordinary session; the “gang of eight” considers providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants; former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt will stand trial for genocide; Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo challenge a new royalties law.
Lima Mayor Holds Onto Her Job: Lima Mayor Susana Villarán appears to have survived a popular referendum to recall her from her post on Sunday. According to Peru’s Oficina Nacional de Procesos Electorales (National Office of Electoral Processes—ONPE), 51.7 percent of voters supported allowing Villarán to remain in office, while 48.3 percent supported her removal. Villarán became Lima’s first female mayor in 2010, and while polls as late as last month showed a majority of voters would opt to recall her, the trend was slowly reversing itself in the weeks ahead of the election.
OAS to Vote on IACHR Reforms: The General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) will vote on recommendations to reform the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). In an extraordinary session Friday in Washington DC, the assembly will consider measures proposed by ALBA and UNASUR countries which include limiting the sources of funding for the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and moving the seat of the IACHR from Washington DC to Buenos Aires. Member states met in Guayaquil, Ecuador last week to discuss the proposed reforms.
U.S. Immigration Overhaul May Provide Path to Citizenship Within 13 Years: The bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators working to devise an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system may be planning to increase the wait time for green cards from eight years to ten, but may also reduce the total amount of time that immigrants must wait to apply for citizenship from five years to three. The proposal represents a compromise between Democrats and Republicans on the question of providing undocumented immigrants with eventual citizenship. On Monday, the Republican National Committee released a post-election report recommending that the party change its position on immigration in order to win Latino voters in future elections.
Former Guatemalan Dictator to Stand Trial: Former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt is expected to stand trial on Tuesday for genocide committed during his 1982-1983 regime. The 86 year-old will be tried for the execution of 1,771 Indigenous Maya in Quiché department during an internal conflict in which 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed or disappeared. The trial, which was originally scheduled for August, is expected to present more than 900 pieces of evidence and 130 witnesses. The defense has appealed to delay the start of the trial, though court officials reportedly said Friday that the trial would begin on Tuesday morning.
Brazilian States Face Off Over Oil Royalties: The Brazilian oil producing states of Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo are challenging a new law passed last week that would distribute oil and natural gas royalties equally between all Brazilian states. Congress overrode President Dilma Rousseff's veto to pass the law last week, and the president signed it into law on Thursday. Rio's government says the law will cost the state $3.4 billion reais in revenue each year and jeopardize its ability to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.
Mexicans are used to hearing this: “in spite of the violence and insecurity, the Mexican economy is booming and attracting foreign direct investment.” After a recent visit to Monterrey, even Thomas L. Friedman wrote for The New York Times about this in “How Mexico Got Back in the Game,” providing a positive outlook on Mexico’s ability to compete in the global market. Then again, macroeconomics is just part of the story.
Yes, Mexico is becoming an attractive place for U.S. and Europe to invest. The commercial and technical factors to take advantage of are there. However, our current competitive position vs. China and other manufacturing countries should not downplay the fact that drug-related violence is directly affecting certain hotspots in the country. While the flow of foreign direct investment may continue and even flourish, both the reality and perceptions of violence in Mexico are damaging tourism. Brand Mexico is tail-spinning and losing value when it comes to vacation destinations. This should matter to a country that the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) called the eighth most visited nation in the world in 2007.
Former Haitian Dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s trial continued Thursday, as another alleged victim testified about human rights abuses during his 15-year regime. Dr. Nicole Magloire said in court that she was unjustly arrested by the Tonton Macoutes, Duvalier’s infamous private police, and was imprisoned for five days. When asked by Defense Attorney Fritzo Canton if she could have been arrested by mistake, Magloire replied, “If I was arrested by mistake, I was imprisoned by mistake and forced into exile by mistake.”
Magloire was the third person this month to testify in appellate court against the former president-for-life, who inherited power from his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier at age 19. Now 61, the younger Duvalier was charged with human rights abuses and embezzlement in 2011 when he ended his 25-year exile and returned to Haiti. Though a lower Haitian court dismissed both charges, the appellate court is considering reinstituting the rights abuse charge.
Duvalier failed to make his first three court dates, and finally made a surprise appearance on February 28 in a room packed with those who claim they were tortured or imprisoned by his regime. The prosecutors aim to prove that violence perpetrated by Haitian officers under Duvalier’s command were not occasional or rogue acts, but part of a widespread and systematic campaign to terrorize Haitians, constituting “crimes against humanity.”
News that Argentina’s Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope yesterday set off wild celebrations in Argentina and give further support to the oft-cited sentiment that God is Argentine. How could He be otherwise?
Having come from seemingly out of the mix, new Pope Francis was not unknown but neither was he apparently a front-runner in the election to succeed Benedict. Of course, if you believe that the election was the pre-ordained manifestation of God’s sovereign will, then it hardly matters whether he was well-known or not.
What’s interesting from the Latin American perspective is that, as I pointed out in my blog post of February 13, the region is now not just a recipient of missionaries but a significant source of missionaries worldwide—both Catholic and Protestant—and arguably the most vibrant, growing region for the Christian faith.
That the new pope was drawn from the Americas is a recognition of these demographic trends, and acknowledgement that a new, non-European perspective would be valuable in addressing the concerns of the modern Catholic Church.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto followed through on a campaign promise yesterday by launching an innovative life insurance program designed for single, female-headed households. The program, titled Seguro de Vida para Madres Jefas de Familia (Life Insurance for Female Heads of Family), will be overseen by the Secretariat of Social Development (Sedesol) and the Family Development Agency (DIF) with an initial budget of 400 million pesos ($32 million).
With a goal of universal coverage, the program will first be targeted at the 1.7 million women living in rural areas that suffer from high levels of poverty—which includes about 400 municipalities—before it moves into urban areas. To qualify for the insurance, mothers cannot exceed a monthly income of 2,130 pesos ($171). Each child will be entitled to 850,000 pesos ($68) a month if the mother becomes deceased to allow the child to be able to continue professional studies and not be forced to drop out to earn money.
Peña Nieto asserted that the measure is "an act of justice" as one in four households is led by a single mother. As part of the program, children of the deceased mother are under the care and protection of the state until they reach the age of 23 to ensure the completion of their professional education. Peña Nieto declared that this insurance is one layer of a larger social initiative program centered on promoting reproductive health, reducing maternal mortality rates and preventing violence and crime.
Present at the launch ceremony was the representative of the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF) in Mexico, Isabel Crowley, who said that this program "has great significance to ensure progress in the rights of children,” and that this is an “historic opportunity to improve the conditions of children and adolescents in the country who have suffered serious loss of their parents.”
Far south of the South American continent and east of Argentina and Chile is an archipelago known as the Falkland Islands, or Islas Malvinas in Spanish. With a thriving economy and unparalleled natural views and sea life, what some consider inhospitable land is actually home to hundreds of families who live in one of the safest and most beautiful regions of the world.
Unfortunately, the islands are not primarily known for their natural beauty or safety. Instead, the islands evoke animosity between Britain and Argentina. Disagreement over control of the islands erupted in war in 1982, causing hundreds of deaths. The situation continues to be emotionally charged for the islands’ 3,000 inhabitants.
In response to the continued international disagreement, local elected officials called for a referendum to determine the islands’ political status. The referendum question voted on March 10 and 11 asked: “Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?"
Extensive preparations took place ahead of the vote. Local authorities held town hall meetings to determine the wording of the referendum question, and passed a number of referendum codes designed to ensure the vote meets internationally accepted standards of transparency and efficiency. In this light, international observers were invited to supervise the vote. Brad Smith of California and I led the international observation team made up of political and civil society leaders and technical experts from all over Latin America. Observers from as far as New Zealand joined Mexico, Uruguay, Chile, Canada, and the U.S. for the vote.
Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio will be the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church after the 115 cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel elected him in a fourth round of voting on Wednesday. He is the first-ever Latin American pope.
Bergoglio, 76, who will take the name Francis I, was the second most-voted papal candidate in the 2005 conclave that eventually elected Pope Benedict XVI, but he was not generally favored to be elected over his countryman, Leandro Sandri. The pope has suffered from physical limitations after losing a lung at age 21.
The papal conclave first convened yesterday to elect Benedict XVI’s successor, but the day ended in a billow of black smoke, signaling that the cardinals had not yet reached a two-thirds consensus to select the next pope. Today, spectators gathered in the rain at the Vatican to continue awaiting an announcement, but after three rounds of voting, no pope had been elected. It wasn’t until the fourth round of voting that the crowd sighted white smoke coming out of the Sistine Chapel chimney, announcing the election of a new pope.
The former pope, Benedict XVI, shocked the world on February 11, when he announced his retirement after eight years as pope, saying he could no longer perform his job. He was the first pope to step down in nearly 600 years. Top contenders for the papacy included Angelo Scola of Italy, Marc Ouellet of Canada, Odilo Scherer of Brazil, Sandri of Argentina, and Peter Turkson of Ghana.
The General Secretariat of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) announced on Tuesday that trade between its four member countries—Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru—reached $10.4 billion in 2012. Exports within the bloc grew 12 percent, while exports to countries outside the bloc grew 3 percent in 2012.
The CAN has facilitated intra-regional trade in a number of areas but with the greatest emphasis on manufactured goods, which accounted for 75 percent of exports ($7.5 billion) last year. This includes soybean oil, refined copper wire, ultra-light aircraft, and medication.
Countries within the regional trading bloc have seen tremendous growth despite the global financial crisis. Peru boasts the second-fastest growing economy in Latin America averaging 7 percent growth per year for the past eight years. In comparison to the 3 percent average growth for the region in 2012, other members also saw high relative growth rates: Bolivia grew 5.0 percent last year, Colombia grew 4.5 percent and Ecuador’s economy grew 4.8 percent.
El nuevo periodo presidencial en México abre con un pesado legado de amenazas a los derechos humanos. Ante esta situación, el presidente entrante, Enrique Peña Nieto, ha sido cuidadoso de tomar una retórica distanciada de aquella del combate al crimen organizado enarbolada por su predecesor Felipe Calderón y ha proclamado una nueva era de “Estado de Derecho”.
Sin embargo, más allá del uso de palabras, hasta ahora una vasta parte del territorio nacional sigue la estrategia de militarización. Como se puede constatar en el reporte de Human Rights Watch sobre el impacto de la estrategia de seguridad federal de los últimos años, los mexicanos nos encontramos en el peor de los escenarios: ni seguridad, ni derechos. Diversos documentos de derechos humanos dan cuenta de esta realidad: desapariciones forzadas y tortura, acoso, amenazas y violencia contra defensoras de los derechos humanos.
Incluso si Peña Nieto recientemente desobstruyó la Ley General de Víctimas, ley impulsada y anhelada por diversos grupos que luchan para visibilizar y revertir los errores de los últimos años en materia de derechos humanos, el partido del presidente envía señales contradictorias al promover en el senado una reforma constitucional que, de aprobarse, mermaría la operatividad jurídica de los recientes avances en materia de derechos humanos. La tentativa de reforma facilitaría la subordinación de estándares internacionales de derechos humanos en la jerarquía de aplicación de justicia local en un país donde la impunidad es denominador común.
As widely anticipated, 99.8 percent of the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands’ population voted “Yes” in a referendum on March 10 and 11, expressing their willingness to maintain the current political status as a British Overseas Territory. Of the 1,517 votes cast in the two-day electoral process, only three “No” votes were cast. The results were announced late Monday evening by the Falklands electoral authorities, and were celebrated by local residents in the town hall of the capital city of Stanley.
Argentina considers the archipelago—which it calls Las Malvinas—as part of its territory, which was occupied by Britain more than 180 years ago. Following the vote, the chairman of the Falklands Legislative Assembly, Gavin Short, asked Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to respect the islands’ decision. British Prime Minister David Cameron also called on Argentina to respect the almost unanimous vote which represents “the clearest possible result” and expression of the islanders’ sovereignty.
Despite the results and a 92 percent voter turnout, Argentine officials dismissed the referendum as a British publicity scheme with no legal validity. The Argentine government has tried for years to incorporate the islands to its territory, due to their strategic relevance for international trade and the presence of natural resources such as oil. The results of the referendum confirm that the islands’ 2,841 inhabitants—most of which are British by birth—prefer to retain their British nationality. The Argentine Senate will vote this week on a motion to reject the referendum.
A pocos días del 22 de marzo, fecha en que se realizará la Asamblea General de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) en donde se definirá el futuro de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), las apuestas están más altas que nunca. Los países de la Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (ALBA), encabezados por Ecuador y Venezuela, están en una campaña de último minuto que les garantice el apoyo político para inutilizar el único órgano de la OEA con alguna relevancia para la protección del estado de derecho en las Américas.
Hoy 11 de marzo se realiza una inédita reunión en Guayaquil, a la que asistirán los estados parte de la Convención Americana de Derechos Humanos y será presidida directamente por el Presidente Rafael Correa. Esta reunión ha sido ideada por Ecuador con el único fin de reunir a los países y llegar a acuerdos globales más rápidos, sin la intervención de Estados Unidos y Canadá; y en la comodidad de una privacidad que no ha logrado alcanzar en la OEA. Todo esto ocurre dentro de un ambiente político enrarecido por el fallecimiento del mandatario venezolano Hugo Chávez y las obvias interrogantes que deja su partida, tanto sobre el futuro de Venezuela, como sobre la continuidad de sus alianzas regionales.
Tras casi dos años de deliberaciones, los acuerdos en el Consejo Permanente de la OEA siguen siendo lentos y esquivos. La meta es que antes del 22 de marzo los embajadores acuerden un proyecto de resolución que permita a sus cancilleres adoptar una decisión sobre el futuro de la CIDH. El impulso y apoyo que hace unos meses tenía el ALBA se ha visto reducido, gracias a que países importantes en la región han tomado un rol más protagónico en la discusión. En México, Colombia, Brasil y otros países, la presión pública ha llevado a que los gobiernos opinen públicamente y no sigan acompañando con un negligente silencio la agenda del ALBA.
Ante una mayor discusión de las reformas, la aprobación de un borrador de propuesta se ha vuelto una tarea interminable. El Consejo Permanente debe darle una recomendación a la Asamblea respecto de cada una de las 53 recomendaciones propuestas hacia finales del año 2011. Escribir un texto a 34 manos—el número de países de la OEA—es una cuestión compleja. A menos de dos semanas de la fecha final, se ha concertado menos del 10 porciento del proyecto de resolución.
Esto preocupa a Ecuador. Por un lado, nada de lo aprobado hasta ahora tiene el alcance inicialmente planteado por el ALBA—limitar abiertamente la capacidad de la CIDH para hacer su trabajo. Por el otro, el agotamiento ya es notorio en la OEA. La mayoría de Estados espera terminar el tema de fortalecimiento del sistema de derechos humanos con la Asamblea General del 22 de marzo. A esta posición se sumó recientemente el Secretario General de la OEA, José Miguel Insulza. Algo que también debe preocupar a Ecuador, pues Insulza ha sido hasta ahora uno de sus aliados más instrumentales en este proceso.
La reacción de la diplomacia ecuatoriana no se ha hecho esperar. El canciller Ricardo Patiño tiene como prioridad número uno la reforma a la CIDH y para asegurar apoyos se lanzó a una gira regional para convencer uno por uno a los gobiernos latinoamericanos. La puntada final de la campaña es una propuesta presentada a última hora por Nicaragua: proponerle a la Asamblea General que, como no hubo acuerdo hasta ahora, abra el camino para una reforma a la Convención Americana de Derechos Humanos que pueda ser discutida de aquí al segundo semestre de 2014.
No se trata de medidas desesperadas, sino de propuestas coordinadas. De hecho la discusión ha llegado tan lejos gracias a esta estrategia que combina propuestas extremas con persuasión directa. La propuesta inicial se rechaza, pero en la negociación se va ganando poco a poco. Y estos avances los pretende capitalizar el Presidente Correa en la Asamblea General del 22 de marzo a la cual ya confirmó su asistencia.
Habiendo llegado tan lejos, Correa no quiere que se le queme el pan en la puerta del horno. Sabe que Venezuela, su aliado más poderoso, tendrá que invertir ahora tiempo y capital político para garantizar estabilidad interna, descuidando su liderazgo regional. Algo a lo que otros países y tendencias—como la de la izquierda brasilera—esperan sacarle provecho. Después de haber invertido tanto, e incluso de haberlo convertido en un empeño personal, el Presidente Correa no pretende levantarse de la mesa con las manos vacías. Dirá él que se lo debe a sí mismo y a su fallecido amigo, Hugo Chávez.
As the world grapples with generating employment, growth and innovation, a new club of countries has emerged as an engine of regional growth. Through improved governance, liberalized trade and stable macroeconomics, the economies of Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile have rallied in recent years.
Rather than following the lead of the increasingly protectionist and interventionist Mercosur countries, these Pacific economies have taken their cues from the Asian tigers of the 1980s, quietly becoming economic overachievers. Given the rise of China and the American pivot to the East, the Puma countries are poised to play a significant role in the emerging Pacific century.
Statistically, the Pumas are growing by leaps and bounds. They have averaged 4.69 percent annual growth since 2005. The Colombian, Chilean and Peruvian middle classes expanded more than 10 percent between 2000 and 2010, while some estimate that the Mexican middle class already accounts for more than half the population. Inflation, a great scourge of Latin American economies, has been held within central-bank bands across the Puma economies. Puma sovereigns are investment grade, and their issuances are hot.
On paper, the Pumas roar. But what is driving these figures, and are they sustainable?
Top stories this week are likely to include: Venezuela announces new presidential elections; Falkland Islands/Malvinas inhabitants vote on political status; Signatories of the American Convention on Human Rights meet to discuss IACHR reforms; the papal conclave begins Tuesday; Lima Mayor Susana Villarán faces a recall vote on Sunday.
Venezuelan Elections to be Held on April 14: Venezuela’s Consejo Nacional Electoral (National Electoral Council—CNE) announced on Saturday that elections will be held on April 14 to elect the successor of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Venezuela’s interim president, Nicolás Maduro, was sworn in on Friday and will run against opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who announced his candidacy Sunday night. Capriles lost last October’s presidential elections to Chávez by 11 percentage points, and he was about 10 percentage points behind Maduro in polls conducted just prior to Chávez’ death.
Voters in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Vote on Political Status: The 1,672 registered voters of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) went to the polls on Sunday and Monday to vote on the disputed political status of their islands. In a yes-or-no referendum, they are responding to the question: "Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?" The islanders are expected to overwhelmingly support political affiliation with Britain, which has led Argentine lawmakers to call for an extraordinary session of the senate to reject the referendum. Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has said that that Argentina’s claim to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) is a territorial issue that should not be subject to a popular referendum.
States Discuss IACHR Reforms in Guayaquil: Representatives from 23 states that have ratified the American Convention of Human Rights are meeting in Guayaquil, Ecuador today to discuss proposed reforms to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Ecuador has led a group of Latin American countries, including Venezuela and Nicaragua, in calling for changes to the Inter-American human rights system, but critics say the reforms could dramatically reduce the power of the IACHR to address human rights violations as they arise. The meeting in Guayaquil, originally scheduled for March 8, was postponed after news of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’ death last week. The OAS will convene an Extraordinary Session on March 22 to vote on the proposed reforms. Read more about the IACHR Reforms here.
Papal Conclave to Begin on Tuesday: One hundred and fifteen Catholic cardinals will vote to elect the next pope when the papal conclave begins this Tuesday in the Sistine Chapel. The new pope must be selected with a two-thirds majority vote, and if no one is chosen on the first day of the conclave, another four rounds of ballot-submission may take place on Wednesday and every day following that. The current favorite to succeed Pope Benedict XVI is Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola, according to betting companies, though candidates from Ghana, Brazil and Argentina are reportedly in the mix.
Lima’s Susana Villarán Faces Recall: Lima polling company CPI found that 49.6 percent of voters polled plan to vote in favor of recalling Lima Mayor Susana Villarán, while 41 percent of voters indicated that they would vote against recalling the mayor. The recall vote is scheduled for next Sunday, March 17. Villarán was elected in October 2010 and is Lima’s first-ever female mayor, but she has faced serious popular criticism after enacting major reforms to Lima’s transportation system and its informal economy. Villarán urged supporters to vote “no” to the referendum, while Marco Tulio Gutiérrez, who is leading the recall campaign, was criticized for telling voters, “women love to say no, so they can later say ‘yes.’”
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez has died of cancer, leaving a power vacuum that will be hard to fill in the oil-rich country. After Vice President Nicolás Maduro’s announcement of the president’s death, Minister of Foreign Affairs Elías Jaua announced on March 6 that elections would be called in 30 days, as the constitution stipulates, and clarified that Maduro would maintain executive powers until then.
The constitution cast doubts over the legality of Maduro’s temporary succession. It decrees that if the death or incapacitation of the president takes place before a new president is sworn in—as occurred in Venezuela—the head of the national assembly, not the vice president, should take on executive powers until elections take place.
The government declared seven days of mourning for the president and suspended classes nationwide. Maduro said that the armed forces and the national police would be on the streets to prevent violence.
According to the government, Chávez had been undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the Carlos Arvelo military hospital in Caracas, although no pictures or film footage has corroborated that and no one other than top government officials has attested to seeing him there. The president last appeared in public on December 9, 2012, when he appointed Maduro as vice-president and called on the ruling Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela—PSUV) and the armed forces to back Maduro if he had to assume presidential responsibilities. The Supreme Court indefinitely postponed Chávez's presidential swearing-in ceremony on January 10, 2013. The court also ruled that Maduro and the rest of the ministers from the 2007-2013 presidentialterm would remain in their posts for the 2013-2019 term.
As Cardinals gather for the conclave in Rome to choose the next Pope, there is growing speculation about Marc Ouellet, a potential Canadian candidate from Québec. The former Archbishop of Québec and current papal legate to Latin America is seen as a serious contender to replace Pope Benedict XVI. A conservative intellectual from the Québec village of La Motte, who spent 11 years in Colombia, he is considered a potential compromise choice between the traditional European contingency of front-runners and possible candidates from the Southern Hemisphere.
Cardinal Ouellet, often described as a favorite of Rome and the departing Pope, is known for his outspoken views and has over the years developed a number of detractors in his own home province of Québec. Undoubtedly a brilliant and respected scholar, his outspoken conservative positions on abortion and gay marriage have made him a target of harsh criticism from politicians and media in Québec. Once a bastion of the Catholic hierarchy and influence, Québec has become increasingly secularized and can now be characterized as Canada’s most socially liberal province. When Ouellet condemned abortion even in the case of rape, the negative reaction was swift and virulent.
This being said, it will not be the population of Québec or liberal columnists who will select the next Pope. Ouellet and other conservative Cardinals will be facing a far greater opponent in the days ahead—the thirst and desire for change among Catholics. If the Cardinals gathered in Rome reflect the mood of Catholics around the world, the next Pope will have to be a change agent.
There are over 1.2 billion Catholics in the world and while the growth of the Church may be in decline in the Northern Hemisphere, it is expanding in Africa and Latin America. This trend has led to some speculation this time around that a Pope could come from the Southern Hemisphere. But change is needed and desired there as well.
If there is one thing Mexico’s men are famous for, it is the celebration of being macho. We see this everywhere: In telenovelas, the butch and handsome male protagonist becomes the hero only after he conquers the lovely señorita by wooing her with his macho chivalry. It is common to hear traditional male fathers telling their sons “real men don’t cry.”
A number of consumer products also cater to this very innate part of the Mexican heterosexual male’s existence through marketing, which might be considered as sexist in other cultures. The macho element also permeates humor; viewed through the optics of U.S. culture it no doubt be deemed much more than politically incorrect. This is not a matter of right or wrong, but rather a plain and simple recognition of who we are as a culture today.
On March 6, however, Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice (SCJN) took a decision that could lead to a shift in the way Mexican machos coexist with homosexuality, which today is regularly mocked. Mexican insults such as “maricón” or “puñal” (derogatory terms for “gay male”) are thrown around in colloquial talk with as much disdain as the word “pansy” in the English language. But the Supreme Court decided that such expressions are not protected by freedom of speech and can be subject to lawsuit on the basis of moral harm.
The split 3-2 judicial decision is probably an accurate proportion of how Mexican society would view the subject. Some view this as a step toward inclusion and tolerance. Others see this as unnecessary ruling and censorship of what has traditionally been acceptable humor.
More than 30 heads of state traveled to Caracas for the funeral of Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela since 1999 and the architect of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) who passed away on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer. Upon his arrival, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, "he was a dear friend of all nations worldwide; he was the emotional pillar for all the revolutionary and freedom-seeking people of the region and the world."
The long list of world leaders and delegations expected to attend include Cuban President Raúl Castro, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Bolivian President Evo Morales, Uruguayan President José Mujica, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. Beyond Ahmadinejad, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is also confirmed. In representation of President Barack Obama, the U.S. State Department sent a delegation comprised of U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks (NY), former Congressman William Delahunt (MA) and diplomat James Derham.
Chávez lay in a half-open, glass-covered casket in the military academy’s hall, wearing olive green military gear, a black tie and the iconic red beret symbolic of his 14-year socialist rule. The government declared that more than 2 million people had come to pay their respects since Wednesday. Chávez’s body will be embalmed and kept in a glass casket similar to other socialist leaders such as Ho Chi Minh, Vladimir Lenin, and Mao Zedong. After the funeral, his body will be transported to the military headquarters from where he commanded a failed coup in 1992.
National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello said Vice President Nicolás Maduro would be formally sworn-in as acting president at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, and that he would “call for elections.” The National Electoral Council (CNE) is tasked with setting a date for the elections, which must be called within 30 days according to the Venezuelan constitution.
Last month, leaders of Brazil’s rural women’s movement met with their country’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, in Brasilia to press for new national policies addressing domestic violence in Brazil. The Primeiro Encontro Nacional do Movimento de Mulheres Camponesas (First National Encounter of the Rural Women’s Movement) brought together approximately 3,000 activists from 22 Brazilian states. “Honoring the women of my country is my way of expressing what I owe to rural women, women workers, and what I owe to all of Brazil’s women,” Rousseff told the audience.
As Brazilian activists mobilize for International Women’s Day today, they know that this moment has been long in coming. In the 1980s, while women including Rousseff worked to overthrow a military dictatorship and lay the foundation for enduring democracy, young women in southern Brazil founded the Movimento de Mulheres Trabalhadoras Rurais (Movement of Rural Women Workers—MMTR) while still in their teens. Many of them had been forced to quit school after fifth grade to help with the housework, and they refused to accept lives in which women didn’t have the same legal rights as men.
The MMTR activists convinced their mothers, who were accustomed to isolation and submission, to join them on the streets to fight for women’s rights. Together, they also took on the place most resistant to change—their own homes—by fighting for an equal voice and trying to persuade their husbands and sons to help with the housework.
Twenty-five years into this expanding struggle for women’s rights, laws promoting women’s equality are part of Brazil’s constitution and the federal government pays social security to rural women. The women responsible for these changes could have moved away to larger cities, in search of a different reality. Instead, they took on the hard work of changing their own communities and transforming Brazil’s rural towns into places where women can enjoy economic rights and have their voices heard.
The struggles these women began years ago are far from over. Their stories show the mixture of pain and tenacity that propels activism forward:
Gessi Bonês went from leading the women’s movement to running the local health department: from taking over government buildings to working inside one. Gessi’s health department colleagues asked what someone who spent her life mobilizing outside official buildings was doing inside one. “You have no education,” they told her. “You only know how to protest and make trouble, so what are you doing here?” Meanwhile, other leaders of the women’s movement told her, “If you work in the institutions, you’re not part of the movement.”
Even after she had transformed the health department, Gessi continued to wonder how she could most effectively make change, by caring for individual families or pressing for bolder goals through mass protest, and why no one around her seemed willing to let her do both. “I have two hearts,” she said.
Mônica Marchesini also struggles to balance two realities, going to women’s movement meetings even as she works from dawn until after midnight doing farm work and caring for her family. Though she believes that boys should help around the house, she also says she can’t wait until her daughter, her youngest child, grows up, so she’ll be able to help with the housework. Mônica says that she works late into the night, but that her husband needs to rest on the couch and watch TV when he gets home from work in the fields.
Monica manages to hold onto an image of the way she wants the world to be while facing daily the realities of her life as it is now.
Ivone Bonês and Vania Zamboni, a lesbian couple, say that joining the women’s movement gave them the courage to change their own lives, creating a new way of living for themselves. The two women live together in a red and white house in their small Catholic town. But even at their women’s movement meetings, Ivone and Vania say they cannot speak openly about being lesbians, though everyone knows about it. When they have suggested addressing the topic in the group newsletter or at meetings, the other leaders have been unresponsive and the conversation has ended.
Like many women’s activists, Ivone and Vania face the paradox of silence amidst speech. They have learned that speaking out is not enough to change reality—the speaker bears a responsibility to carry the speech forward.
In Brazil as in the rest of the world, reforming gender roles remains as difficult as ever, even after years of struggle. Though the women’s movement in Brazil has achieved important inroads in the fight for greater equality, it continues to struggle with paradoxes and inconsistencies even from within. Fortunately, women like Gessi, Mônica, Ivone, and Vania are learning to face these paradoxes and fight their way through them—the only way political change and equal rights for women can become a reality.
Una versión de este artículo se publicó originalmente en el portal Infobae América
“Con profundo dolor, la Delegación de Paz de las FARC-EP, se une al duelo de los bolivarianos de Venezuela y del mundo ante la noticia descorazonadora, triste, del fallecimiento del Comandante Presidente, Hugo Chávez.”
Las condolencias de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) fueron enviadas entre el maremágnum de pésames que el mundo entero dio a Venezuela: Sin embargo, no pasaron desapercibidas en el contexto político colombiano ante la innegable influencia que tuvo el fallecido líder bolivariano sobre el conflicto que azota al país hace medio siglo.
El presidente Juan Manuel Santos, quien recompuso las relaciones con Venezuela a su llegada al poder, también reconoció el papel de Hugo Chávez en el proceso de paz. “Si hemos avanzado en un proceso sólido de paz, con procesos claros y concretos, es también gracias a la dedicación y el compromiso sin límites del presidente Chávez”, dijo desde la Casa de Nariño.
Fruto de una enconada pelea diplomática, Chávez despertó más odios que amores en Colombia durante los ocho años de presidencia de Álvaro Uribe. Venezuela—país que hoy se desempeña como garante de los diálogos—fue acusado de dar albergue a las FARC y patrocinar la lucha armada de la guerrilla. Estas denuncias tuvieron su punto más álgido tras el hallazgo de las computadoras del número dos de las FARC, Raúl Reyes, quien falleció tras un bombardeo del ejército colombiano en Sucumbíos, Ecuador, en 2008.
Los mensajes encriptados de las computadoras de Reyes fueron estudiados por el Instituto Internacional de Estudios Estratégicos (IISS), el cual reveló que Chávez se reunió en el año 2000 al menos dos veces con el líder guerrillero, y que habría prometido $300 millones para ayudar a la subversión colombiana en su lucha armada. Ecuador y Venezuela siempre impugnaron la veracidad de esas pruebas. Estos hechos provocaron la ruptura de las relaciones económicas entre Colombia y Venezuela, mientras Chávez acusó al gobierno colombiano de haber violado la soberanía ecuatoriana. Consecuentemente, el presidente bolivariano ordenó el envío de tanques hacia la frontera con Colombia y solicitó el retiro de todo el personal de la embajada de Venezuela en Bogotá.
La guerra verbal entre los dos países se atizó de tal forma que la mediación que Chávez estaba ejerciendo en la liberación de rehenes fue suspendida por Uribe. Santos, entonces su Ministro de Defensa, había sido el mayor detractor de este protagonismo de Chávez al considerar que el mandatario venezolano había usado las liberaciones como” propaganda política,” aprovechándose “del drama humanitario de los rehenes”.
Durante los ocho años de uribismo Santos fue un acérrimo detractor de Chávez y fue el primero que denunció la existencia de campamentos de las FARC en la frontera venezolana. También fue crítico del fin de la relación de Caracas con la Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) al señalar que “buena parte de la droga colombiana sale por Venezuela”. Como resultado, durante la campaña electoral del 2011 en la cual Santos se fungía como el heredero legítimo de Uribe, Chávez llegó a calificarlo de “mafioso” y sostuvo que su elección significaría más guerra y menos posibilidades de reactivar el comercio bilateral.
Pero fue Santos quien le apostó a mejorar las relaciones con su vecino y le dio un lugar importante en la agenda colombiana. Escándalos como las revelaciones El Nuevo Herald sobre el conocimiento de Chávez de los vínculos su ex ministro de Defensa, Henry Rangel Silva con narcos y las FARC habrían sido un detonante para la diplomacia binacional, pero no en la era Santos: el presidente prefirió guardar silencio ante el caso.
Santos, quien sin duda prefirió la diplomacia a la confrontación, también le concedió a Venezuela la extradición del narcotraficante Walid Makled, capturado en Colombia en 2011, de quien se esperaba que de ir a Estados Unidos hablaría sobre la relación de funcionarios venezolanos con negocios ilegales como lavado de dinero y narcotráfico.
Tras la muerte del mandatario venezolano, figuras como el senador Juan Fernando Cristo, aseguró que “gústele a quien le guste, independientemente de las diferencias que pudimos tener los colombianos con muchas de las actitudes, Chávez fue clave para el proceso de paz”. Piedad Córdoba, ex legisladora cercana al fallecido presidente, lloró ante las cámaras al recordar emotivamente que Chávez fue un hombre “que amó a su gente y buscó la paz para Colombia.”
Chávez fue generoso con los colombianos en Venezuela a quienes ceduló masivamente—con propósitos electorales por supuesto. También fortaleció los programas de refugio y asilo los cuales, a pesar de no ser ideales, permiten proteger a más nacionales huyendo del conflicto.
Es improbable que su muerte desvié el curso de las conversaciones de paz, pero un cambio de timón en la política venezolana podría replantear por lo menos la política de defensa fronteriza. Lo cierto es que el líder bolivariano dejó una profunda huella tanto en Colombia, como en Latinoamérica y en el mundo.
En los primeros días de su presidencia, Carlos Salinas de Gortari dio un golpe espectacular al conseguir la encarcelación del entonces todopoderoso líder del sindicato de los trabajadores petroleros, Joaquín Hernández Galicia, conocido como “La Quina”, a quien se acusó de diversos delitos del orden federal. Al asunto se le llamó popularmente “el quinazo”. Sin embargo, por todos era sabido que el líder sindical había apoyado abiertamente a Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas en las elecciones de 1988, por lo que se comenzó a especular sobre un posible ajuste de cuentas entre el presidente emanado del Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) y la disidencia sindical, pues debe recordarse que hasta ese momento la mayor parte de los sindicatos—incluyendo al petrolero—estaban subordinados a la voluntad presidencial.
Por otro lado, era sabido que Hernández Galicia desviaba dinero del sindicato a su cuenta personal y a las de sus allegados, que había ordenado la muerte de varios trabajadores petroleros que se habían opuesto a su liderazgo y que había cometido otros delitos más, por lo que su detención se percibió como un acto de justicia y de combate a la corrupción. Buena parte de la población lo vio entonces como el comienzo del fin de la impunidad. Pero no fue así. Después de “La Quina” no se detuvo a nadie más, a pesar de los múltiples señalamientos que existían contra diversos miembros de la clase política y sindical.
Años después, en el comienzo del sexenio de Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, se encarceló al hermano del expresidente Salinas, Raúl Salinas de Gortari, acusado de lavado de dinero y otros delitos más. Una vez más se manejó el asunto como el inicio formal del combate a la corrupción gubernamental, y como siempre, se dijo que no se iban a permitir actos delictivos de ningún tipo, sin importar quién los cometiera. Y una vez más, esto no ocurrió.
Ahora, tanto “La Quina” como Raúl Salinas están libres, exonerados por un juez. Es decir, se les declaró inocentes. Pero el 27 de febrero de 2013 nos despertamos con la noticia de que la Procuraduría General de la República había detenido a Elba Esther Gordillo, dirigente nacional de los maestros, acusada de diversos delitos como fraude y lavado de dinero. Una vez más, se habla en el ámbito gubernamental de combate directo a la corrupción, de cero tolerancia para con los funcionarios públicos y de fin de la impunidad. “El nuevo PRI no tolerará a los corruptos”, han dicho sus dirigentes.
Pero todo mundo sabe que en 2006, tras renunciar al PRI, la lideresa magisterial apoyó al entonces candidato del Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN) a la presidencia, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, y que incluso convenció a varios gobernadores priistas de que hicieran lo mismo, por lo que una vez más nos enfrentamos a un posible ajuste de cuentas.
Nadie niega que Elba Esther Gordillo sea culpable de todo lo que se le acusa desde hace treinta años. Nadie niega que su encarcelamiento sea un acto de justicia, pero si el gobierno realmente quiere mandar una señal positiva a los mexicanos, una señal de que realmente los tiempos han cambiado, debe proseguir con el encarcelamiento de otros líderes sindicales y de muchos funcionarios y exfuncionarios del gobierno—de todos los partidos—que siguen navegando en la impunidad a pesar de los múltiples señalamientos en su contra. Así podrá conseguir Peña Nieto la legitimidad que tanto busca, pues el combate a la corrupción gubernamental es uno de los asuntos que más interesan, hoy por hoy, a los mexicanos.
Grief mixed with uncertainty over Cuba's future on Wednesday as the island mourned the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Granma, the Communist Party newspaper, changed the color of its masthead from red to black for the first time to commemorate the loss of the regime's closest ally, and dedicated six of its eight pages to Chávez' life. In a television addressed to the nation, the Cuban government pledged "resolved and unwavering support for the Bolivarian Revolution in these difficult days" and ordered an official mourning period through Friday.
The Cuba-Venezuela alliance isn't only one of aligned ideologies. Cuba receives over 100,000 barrels of oil a day from Venezuela in exchange for thousands of Cubans working in Venezuelan clinics and schools. Cubans will take some comfort in the fact that interim President Nicolás Maduro seems likely to win the election that must be organized within 30 days, despite a second challenge by Governor of Miranda Henrique Caprilles Radonski. A chavista win would guarantee continued Venezuelan patronage in the short term.
But if Venezuela's oil exports to Cuba dry up—whether due to political turnover or economic crisis—the Communist regime does not have a clear backup plan or other ideological allies that would readily step to fill the gap.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who died of cancer on Tuesday in Caracas, will be remembered by some as a tireless man, as a tireless dreamer, who led and designed a socialist project for Venezuela meant to empower the country’s poor and to deeply transform the social and moral fabric of the oil-rich nation.
He will be remembered by some as an unconventional man of epic historical import; a military man from a humble, rural household who rose to the highest political office in the country; a man who developed, in his 14 years as president, an almost sacred bond with the poor and the voiceless; a showman; a jester; an international figure of long, passionate speeches; a man who, in life, had already achieved the presence and size of a legend.
Today, Venezuela’s crime-ridden capital city of Caracas—the place that witnessed Chávez’s failed coup attempt in 1992 and gave him multiple victories at the ballot box—moves in silence.
The sudden panic that ensued in the hours following the news of the president’s passing has now subsided into a somber calm as Chávez’s supporters prepare to bury their leader.
Late Tuesday night, the Venezuelan government declared seven days of national mourning. The president’s funeral, scheduled to last until Friday, is expected to bring a countless number of Venezuelans into the streets of Caracas.
In the midst of everything that involves the passing of a recently re-elected president, many unanswered questions loom in the minds of Venezuelans—among them, those that pertain to the short-term political future of the country.
Latin Americans are mourning the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who passed away at age 58 on Tuesday. Just hours before Chávez died, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro had accused Venezuela’s enemies of “attacking” the leader with cancer and expelled two U.S. Embassy officials for allegedly conspiring against the deceased president. The president’s body will be taken in a procession through Caracas to the Military Academy where it will lie in state until his funeral on Friday.
Despite ideological differences, the president’s death sent shockwaves of grief across the region. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called for a moment of silence and said that although Brazil did not always agree with his actions, Chávez was a “generous man to all the people in this continent who needed him.” The Cuban government ordered all flags flown at half-staff and declared an official mourning period through Friday. Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner suspended all presidential activities after the announcement, while Chile, Ecuador and Colombia sent their condolences to the mourning nation. Bolivian President Evo Morales, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and Uruguayan President José Mujica are expected to travel to Caracas for Chávez’ funeral.
Condolences also poured in from Venezuela’s overseas allies: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced a day of mourning and compared the fallen leader to a saint, while Russian president Vladimir Putin hailed Chávez as “an extraordinary and strong man” and Hua Chunying, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, called Chávez "a good friend to the Chinese people." Meanwhile, Henrique Capriles, Chávez’ chief opponent in last year’s presidential elections, took to Twitter to stress the need for respect and unity amongst all Venezuelans and sent his condolences to Chavez’ family and supporters, saying that while they were adversaries, they were never enemies.
The official funeral ceremony for heads of state will take place on Friday at 10:00am at the Military Academy in Caracas. Under the Venezuelan Constitution, a new election must be held in 30 days after the president dies or steps down. Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’ handpicked successor, will step up as the interim president and is expected to run against Capriles, who led a spirited opposition campaign in October.
Hugo Chávez died today at the age of 58. While many of his obituaries will focus on his voluminous political legacy, the day-to-day issues he leaves behind are enormously complex. Eventually, they are sure to overshadow any historical discussion about the man.
Politically, his movement is orphaned. Chávez was not only president of Venezuela, he was also president of his party, commanding every detail—from which candidates ran where to which judges had to be fired. His tenuous political coalition—made up of community leaders, the military, old-style communists and entrepreneurs looking to make a quick buck—was only held together by the sheer force of the president’s charisma, which punished dissent swiftly and mercilessly. With Chávez gone, it’s not clear who will make the decisions, or who will keep the tensions among these factions at bay.
Economically, the Chávez legacy is horrendous. The Venezuelan economy consists of a series of distortions piled upon further distortions. Price controls, labor rigidities, foreign exchange controls, clogged ports, and crumbling highways are the norm in Venezuela. Together with a rapacious public sector, a crippling budget deficit, and an underperforming banking sector, the Venezuelan economy is a veritable ticking time bomb held up only by sky-high oil prices that, amazingly, are not enough to sustain the ever-growing chavista State. And while poverty has fallen thanks to massive government spending, this cannot survive a slight dip in oil prices.
In addition, Venezuelans are suffering from one of the worst crime waves any nation not engaged in civil war has ever seen. The government seemingly has no clue on how to tackle the problem. As program after program fails, the government blames the media—or some fictional capitalist culture.
Venezuelans have been in suspended animation ever since December, when the president—in his last public appearance—announced he was going back to Cuba for treatment and named his successor. Ever since that day, life in Venezuela has been a swirl of rumors, indecision and surreal policy-making that even saw the Supreme Court decide that Chávez didn’t have to be sworn in, as the Venezuelan constitution mandates.
Now, that is in the past. A glorious funeral will ensue, and Nicolás Maduro may very well ride the public’s outpouring to an election win. But soon, he will have to come to terms with a political system that has stopped working, and with an economy in tatters.
Congratulations on your inheritance, Mr. Maduro.
I must admit, I was shocked when the e-mail a colleague had written me flashed on my desktop yesterday. “Chávez is dead.” It wasn’t like I wasn’t expecting it. But like the Chavista advisors that staged the bizarre, incoherent press conference shortly before they announced the Venezuelan President’s death, I was oddly taken aback.
In my defense, unlike them I didn’t have the responsibility—or advantage—of preparing the last near-three months. Amazingly, despite the lead time, in what was later revealed to really be their first post-Chávez press conference, Vice President Nicolás Maduro and the cabinet seemed completely out of sync—first an interminable series of introductions and then incredible allegations of U.S. intervention. And then—almost as an afterthought hours later—the announcement that Chávez was dead.
For the last decade or so, being witness to the Chávez government made me feel like I had a front-row seat to the sort of Latin American history that I had studied as an undergrad and grad student. This time, though, there were real human beings and their lives at risk. But it still—I’m embarrassed to say—felt thrilling.
I sort of came of political-analyst age in the Chávez era. Oddly, I’ll always appreciate the beret-wearing putschist for that.
I remember when I arrived in Washington DC in 1995. Many people said that the region had gotten boring; we all seemed to be marching toward free trade and democratic bliss.
And then came Hugo Chávez. I was visiting Venezuela for a trip for the National Endowment for Democracy in 1998 when he was running for president. At the time, his opponents were a motley crew: a former Ms. Universe; a Yale-educated politician who arrived at political rallies on a white horse; and a 70-year-old traditional politician of the center left. At the time I was sure I would have voted for this charismatic figure, Chávez. My cost-free support for the former coup-plotter was bolstered when a prominent businessman confided to me in hushed tones that he had met with candidate Chávez in a closed-door meeting with business leaders and that he had listened, seemed to understand and quietly supported their cause. “The thing is,” he said, “you put that Rolex on his wrist [and all the perks of power] and he’ll moderate.”
Seemed like a good strategy to me. Vote for the outsider candidate who would clean up the annoying elements of the past, but still get a moderate outsider.
Only it didn’t work out that way.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has died, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro announced this evening. Since the president’s return home from Cuba on February 18, Venezuelan supporters have gathered to pray for the health of the president, which has been in decline for weeks. The death of the 58 year-old Chávez, who was re-elected to a fourth term as president last October, ends his fourteen years as president of Venezuela.
Over the weekend, Chávez opponents gathered to demonstrate in Caracas and demand news on the president’s health, which they said was being concealed by the Venezuelan government. Chávez had not been seen in public since a December 11 cancer surgery in Havana. Members of Venezuela’s opposition movement, including Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles, have accused the government of lying to the public about the president’s health.
Chávez government officials denied that the government was concealing information about the president from the Venezuelan public. On Monday, Venezuelan Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas said that the president had been experiencing “highs and lows” in his health status and indicated that the president’s condition was worsening after suffering a severe respiratory infection following “a strong chemotherapy treatment.” Several weeks ago, the government revealed that Chávez, who was breathing through a tracheal tube, was unable to speak.
Guillermo Cochez, Panama’s former ambassador to the OAS, told NTN24 that Chávez had experienced brain death in late December—long before his return to Venezuela—and said that the president had been disconnected from life support machines for the last four days. Cochez’ assertions have yet to be confirmed.
It is still not clear what type of cancer Chávez suffered from. He was diagnosed with cancer in June 2011, and a “softball sized tumor” was discovered in his pelvic region. After the diagnosis, he underwent three operations as well as chemotherapy and radiation treatment—most of which were performed in Cuba.
Also unclear is what will happen in Venezuela in the wake of Chavez’ death. Under the Venezuelan Constitution, Diosdado Cabello, the president of Venezuela’s national assembly, is expected to assume interim presidency.
This week is an important moment to focus on the economic, political and social achievements of women as we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8. While countries have a long way to go in promoting gender equality, a report by the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) looks at where Cuba stands among them.
The report is the culmination of more than two years of research on the comparative economic, social and political standing of women in Cuba. It includes dozens of interviews on the status of gender equality which reveal, despite its global standing as a leader on certain gender issues, where Cuba falls short in achieving equality.
The study begins in the 1950s, with a synopsis of the commitments to equal rights made by Cuban revolutionaries before they came to power. We then identify six policies that produced the biggest changes: efforts to increase female workforce participation; national commitments to education and health care; adoption of a constitutional and legal architecture that protects women’s rights; the incorporation of women’s equality and rights as a core part of the revolution’s political project; creation of women’s organizations to serve as advocates for change; and a successful, early campaign to end illiteracy in Cuba.
These and other efforts enable Cuba to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals for primary education, gender equality and reducing infant mortality—and score first among developing countries in maternal mortality, live births attended by health care personnel and female life expectancy at birth, according to Save the Children.
But, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Cuba has a long way to go when outcomes are measured against key gender equality objectives: access to higher-paying jobs; achieving a fair division of labor at work and home; and access to positions of real power in the communist party or government.
Forbes magazine released its annual ranking of the world’s billionaires on Monday, which includes 100 Latin Americans and 29 Canadians. The group of 1,426 billionaires featured this year has an aggregate wealth of $4.5 trillion, concentrated primarily in the United States (home of 442 billionaires) and followed by Asia-Pacific (386) and Europe (336).
The top-two spots on the list are the same as last year, with Mexican telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim ranked number one and Microsoft founder Bill Gates in the second spot. These two billionaires have recently partnered to perform research on agricultural productivity by donating new infrastructure for Mexico’s International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will support the Center’s Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa initiative.