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  • Gasping for a Solution to Bogotá’s Air Pollution Problem

    March 28, 2014

    by Kai Whiting

    In December 2013, Bogotá’s Secretaría Distrital de Movilidad (District Mobility Secretariat) reported that there were 1,447,335 private vehicles registered in the city, representing a 76 percent increase in vehicles in only seven years.  

    Yet the number of vehicles operating in the public service is predicted to decline from 18,482 in 2007 to just 12,333 in 2018, due to urban transport policies that will put older public vehicles out of service in order to promote the TransMilenio  integrated public transport system, which was inaugurated in 2000.

    As Bogotá’s 7.6 million residents await the introduction of new public transportation, they will still have to deal with the big, black plumes of smoke funneling out of the traditional, independent and disorganized buses. Since, under the new transport policy, operators must legally surrender their bus to the public system by the end of this year, there is now no incentive to make repairs or even undertake basic maintenance checks on old buses. 

    Opting to travel on foot may be one way of escaping the serpentine lineup of bumper-to-bumper vehicles on just about every major road, but there is really nowhere to hide from Bogotá’s air pollution.

    Read More

    Tags: Bogota, air pollution, sustainability

  • United Nations Criticizes U.S. on Human Rights

    March 28, 2014

    by AQ Online

    A UN report that was released on Thursday criticizes the United States for a poor performance on 25 human rights issues, ranging from torture and National Security Agency spying, to life sentences for juvenile offenders and the death penalty.

    The report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was critical of the U.S. policy both at home and abroad. The report cited the use of torture by the U.S. armed forces and other government agents and called on the U.S. to “take all feasible measures to ensure the protection of civilians” in drone strikes. It also said that the U.S. must close its detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. President Barack Obama has made it a goal to shut down the detention facility by the end of his term, but 154 detainees remain imprisoned there.

    At home, the report argued that the U.S. must reduce racial disparities in the prison system and end racial profiling, solitary confinement and the death penalty.  It also expresses concerns about the deportation of undocumented immigrants “without regard to…the seriousness of crimes and misdemeanors committed, the length of lawful stay in the U.S., health status, family ties…or the humanitarian situation in the country of destination.”

    However, the report also praised the U.S. in some areas, such as executive orders to ensure “lawful interrogations,” review detention policy options, and eventually close Guantánamo Bay, as well as support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    José Luis Díaz, the Amnesty International representative at the UN, said that the U.S. must implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee “without delay.” The country has one year to provide information on how it is implementing several key recommendations, and until 2019 to provide specific information on all the recommendations made in the report. The last such report was published in 2006.

    Tags: United Nations, Human Rights, Crime, justice, Torture

  • Round Zero and the Mexican Energy Sector

    March 27, 2014

    by Christian Gómez, Jr.

    Monday marked the conclusion of “Round Zero,” a yardstick in a process initiated as part of the Mexican energy reforms. During Round Zero, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), the Mexican state oil company, sent regulators a list of which fields it wants to keep for its own development.

    Pemex currently owns and operates all oil and gas assets in Mexico. After the reform, private companies will theoretically be able to partner with Pemex after the fields are auctioned to private investors.

    While Pemex’s exact wish list was not released publically, the company proposed to keep 83 percent of proven and probable reserves (known as “2P”), and 31 percent of proven, probable and possible reserves (known as “3P”). The 3P fields are potential hydrocarbon resources. Much of the acreage that Pemex left aside contained deepwater and shale resources, where it does not have as much expertise and experience.

    In declaring that it would like to hold on to most operating fields, Pemex is showing that it will keep its most profitable onshore and shallow-water fields, as well as the few deepwater fields where it has already drilled. As it will now operate as a profit-seeking business, it makes sense that Pemex would aim to hold on to its most productive assets.

    Read More

    Tags: Mexico energy reforms, Pemex, Round Zero

  • Negotiations with Peruvian Informal Miners Continue

    March 27, 2014

    by AQ Online

    After six days of mining protests the Peruvian government finally announced an agreement with mining representatives on Tuesday, only to have it turned down by protesters.

    Over the past week over 20,000 unlicensed gold miners in Arequipa and Lima protested through marches, road blocks and sit-ins, denouncing a 2012 regulation that would require informal miners to register their work with the government by April 19, 2014. According to the regulation, those that fail to register would face charges, which could include jail time. However, since the registration process began, less than half of the estimated 70,000 informal miners in the country have been documented.

    Officials, including deputy environment minister Mariano Castro, mining commissioner Daniel Urresti and deputy mines minister Guillermo Shino met with mining representatives from different regions of Peru for eight hours on Tuesday to discuss new terms on the registration process. A new phase in the regulation was established; however mining representatives’ demand for an extended deadline was refused. President Ollanta Humala, who attended the meetings, affirmed that the deadline for the formalization of miners would not change. “We will support those that are in the process (of registering)… We believe in dialogue. We will not accept blackmail from anyone,” he said.

    Informal and industrial mining is an ongoing source of tension in Peru, and the practices are often blamed for increased damage done to the environmental, including almost 45,000 acres of the Amazon rainforest. However, mining is the livelihood of many Peruvian families, accounting for at least 100,000 jobs nationally. The Secretary General of the National Federation of Peru’s Artisanal Miners has accused the government of terminating informal mining in favor of foreign mining corporations.

    Stay tuned for Americas Quarterly’s Spring 2013 issue for in-depth analysis of mining, land rights International Labour Organization Convention No. 169.

    Tags: Peru, informal mining, mining protests

  • Brazil Charges Execs with Price Fixing

    March 26, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Thirty executives from a dozen international companies were charged on Tuesday with price-fixing during the construction and maintenance of subway and train systems in São Paulo, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro. The companies named by the São Paulo State Prosecutor's Office include Siemens of Germany, CAF of Spain, and Alstom of France, among others. 

    Investigations into the allegations began last week, when Brazil's Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Econômica (Administrative Council for Economic Defense—CADE) accused the companies of forming a cartel to fix the prices of the construction projects.  According to CADE, the 18 companies were involved in 15 projects valued at $4 billion from 1998 to 2013, with contracts in the Brazilian Federal District and the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul. According to CADE’s investigations, the companies allegedly prearranged prices through bidding and bribing officials to secure the contracts.

    Bombardier and Siemens have said they will cooperate with the investigations. Brazilian judges still have to decide if they will accept the charges and bring the executives to trial.  The companies named in the investigation will present their defense at an undisclosed date.

    Tags: Brazil, corruption, Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Econômica

  • Venezuela Devalues Bolivar amid Crisis

    March 25, 2014

    by AQ Online

    The Venezuelan bolivar was devalued on Monday to be sold for 55 bolivars per U.S. dollar after currency controls were loosened, representing a weakening of 89 percent for the Venezuelan currency. The move was billed as a tactic to alleviate the shortage of staple goods including medicine and toilet paper, countering the black market rate of 58.6 bolivars to the dollar.

    For the first time in over 10 years, Venezuela decreased regulations by creating a new currency exchange called Sicad II. Despite the positive step, only 20 percent of the oil-rich nation’s dollars will be offered at the new exchange rate, with the remaining currency traded at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar.

    Venezuela’s shortages and severe inflation have led to a month-long protest from students and opposition parties. In a broadcast on Monday, Luisa Ortega, the country’s state prosecutor, admitted to wide-spread abuse on the part of security forces sent in to control the demonstrations. At least 34 people have been killed since the protests began in February.

    Tags: Venezuela, Venezuela protests, Bolivar

  • Monday Memo: Chilean Protests – Rio Violence – Guantánamo – Venezuela Protests – Buenaventura, Colombia

    March 24, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Likely top stories this week: Chileans protest in Santiago; Brazil sends the military into Rio’s favelas; Uruguay will receive five Guantánamo prisoners; Venezuela will investigate abuses during protests; Colombia sends troops to Buenaventura.

    Chilean Protests: Newly-elected Chilean President Michelle Bachelet faced the first major protest of her new administration on Saturday, which was organized to remind the president of her commitment to constitutional reforms and to protecting Indigenous and LGBT rights and the environment. The demonstration, which convened anywhere between 25,000 to 150,000 people, depending on the source, was dubbed “the march of all marches” and was largely peaceful, though isolated clashes led police to deploy tear gas and water cannons. At least 50 people were arrested and three policemen injured, according to authorities.

    Brazil to Deploy Military in Rio de Janeiro Favelas: Rio de Janeiro’s state governor, Sérgio Cabral, has requested military reinforcements to contain the recent upswing in violence in sections of Rio de Janeiro, six years after the city launched a campaign to reduce crime in the city ahead of the World Cup and Olympic Games. On Thursday, three police pacification units (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora—UPP) were set on fire in apparently coordinated attacks. Human rights abuses by police have also added to the recent tension and eroded public trust in the police forces.

    Uruguay Will Take in Guantánamo Prisoners: Uruguayan President José Mujica said that there are various job leads for the five Guantánamo prisoners from Syria that Uruguay said it would take in last week. Mujica, a former political prisoner, last week accepted a request from U.S. President Barack Obama to allow the five prisoners to live in Uruguay, since they cannot return to their country of origin. Currently, there are 154 detainees still in Guantánamo. Mujica also said he would likely cancel a May 12 meeting he had scheduled with Obama, in order to focus on Uruguay’s October elections.

    Venezuela to Investigate Abuses: a 28 year-old pregnant Venezuelan woman was shot and killed this Sunday in Miranda state, adding to the list of casualties in the country’s recent protests. The woman, Adriana Urquiola, was not actually protesting, but was reportedly near a protest barricade when she was shot by gunmen in a dark car. Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz said that Venezuela will investigate 60 cases of human rights abuses. According to Díaz, 31 people have died since the protests began, and at least 15 officials have been imprisoned for links to the violence.

    Gang Violence in Buenaventura, Colombia: Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón deployed an additional 700 troops to the port city of Buenaventura on Friday, a day after Human Rights Watch issued a report condemning the death and disappearance of hundreds of residents in the last three years. The crimes are attributed to powerful criminal groups with paramilitary backgrounds, such as the Urabeños and La Empresa. More than 19,000 people fled Buenaventura in 2013, according to official numbers.

    Tags: Guantanamo, Venezuela, Buenaventura

  • Portillo Admits Guilt, Awaits Sentence

    March 21, 2014

    by Nic Wirtz

    On Tuesday former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo plead guilty to a money-laundering case in New York City federal court and will be sentenced to four to six years in federal prison on June 23.

    In exchange, prosecutor Preet Bharara has agreed to drop additional charges against Portillo that could result in a life-long sentence behind bars in the United States. 

    Portillo was extradited in a surprise morning operation in May 2013, one that he was unaware of until an hour before he was flown out of the country.  Since then, he has been held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in New York.

    U.S. District Judge Robert P. Patterson will officially announce the sentence later this year, but Portillo’s lawyers are hopeful that his sentence will account for time served, given that he has spent the last 50 months in jail. However, as the majority of his jail time was spent in the Guatemalan system, the final outcome rests in the hands of Judge Patterson.

    A far cry from the initial charges of misappropriating an excess of $70 million dollars, current charges indict Portillo for receiving five checks from the Taiwanese Embassy in Guatemala, totaling $2.5 million dollars.

    “I am guilty. I knew at the time that what I was doing was wrong, and I apologize for my crimes, take responsibility for them, and accept the consequences of my actions,” Portillo told the court through an interpreter.

    "I understood that, in exchange for these payments, I would use my influence to have Guatemala continue to recognize Taiwan diplomatically," the former president said.

    Speaking in defense of his client, David Rosenfield told the court, “He is a good and decent person, with an abiding love for the people and country of Guatemala.  [This is] an aberration in an otherwise unblemished life.” 

    However, Rosenfield’s statement will be highly suspect to biographers of Portillo’s life, given that he remains the lead suspect of a double murder case in Mexico that took place in 1982. During the fiesta de la Reina de Independencia, a homecoming party in Zumpango del Rio, Portillo was involved in a disagreement during a late night trip to buy alcohol. The confrontation left two students dead, another injured and the future Guatemalan president on the lam, back to his native country.  A Mexican judge declared the case “inactive” in 1995 but Portillo’s claims of innocence by virtue of self-defense are difficult to uphold given that the case never went to trial.

    Astonishingly, Portillo went on to make political capital out of the situation in his 1999 presidential campaign, claiming that strong, no-nonsense leaders are able to make tough decisions, such as fleeing from country to country to avoid capture.

    A month after Portillo’s presidency finished in January 2004, he made his second escape from prosecution.  With the Ministerio Publico (MP) looking to pick him up on corruption charges, he fled to Mexico with four passports in his possession.

    He was eventually captured in Puerto Barrios in 2010, hiding in a boat about to set sail for Belize. Since then he has been in military prison, from where he successfully beat the 2011 case of embezzlement of the Ministry of Defense brought against him.

    The scandal has placed Guatemala’s relationship with Taiwan in question.  Foreign minister Fernando Carrera has admitted that there is a $1 million annual rolling fund from the Taiwanese financing the redecoration of the ministry and the purchase of new vehicles. However, there have been calls to ditch ties with Taiwan and attempt to open diplomacy with mainland China, a relationship that currently does not exist.

    Journalist Oscar Clemente Marroquín revealed that Portillo had been receiving gifts from the Taiwanese since the 1970s, including luxuries such as all-expenses-paid trips to five star hotels in Taiwan. “Almost all (Guatemalan) ambassadors told me to accept the offers.  I never accepted these invitations because I always thought it was stupid for our country to allow itself to be used as a pawn in Taiwan’s political struggles with China,” said Marroquín.

    Although Portillo was the one eventually caught, the question of the day is: how many other Guatemalan presidents have taken similar bribes over the past 40 years?

    Tags: Guatemala, Alfonso Portillo, money-laundering

  • FARC Says Petro’s Removal Will Affect Peace Process

    March 21, 2014

    by AQ Online

    The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) condemned the removal of leftist Mayor of Bogotá Gustavo Petro from office Thursday, saying it will have a negative impact on the peace negotiations. 

    Last December, Petro, a  former member of the demobilized guerrilla group Movimiento 19 de Abril (19th of April Movement—M-19), was removed as mayor and banned from holding office for 15 years by Colombian Attorney General Alejandro Ordoñez, for alleged mismanagement of the garbage collection system. A backlash of protests and lawsuits filed by Petro's supporters suspended his removal until Wednesday, when the Council of State reviewed and rejected the lawsuits and President Juan Manuel Santos approved Petro’s removal.

    Iván Márquez, the FARC’s second in command, said that the decision to oust Petro affects the trust that has been built between the FARC and the government throughout the peace talks, and casts doubt on the promise of political participation for demobilized guerrillas.

    Petro accused Santos of staging a coup on the city and showing his inability to achieve peace.  Márquez stated that it will be impossible to achieve an agreement with the Colombian government  if it continues to make decisions that undermine Colombian democracy, like the forced removal of a popularly elected official. “We can very respectfully say that the mafia of the right has taken the power,” Márquez added.

    Rafael Pardo Rueda, Minister of Labor of Bogotá, was appointed as interim mayor of the capital on Thursday afternoon until new mayoral elections take place in June.

    Tags: Gustavo Petro, Colombia, FARC

  • Mrs. Clinton Goes To Montreal

    March 20, 2014

    by John Parisella

    It may not be as dramatic as “Mr. Smith goes to Washington,” but Hillary Clinton’s conference at the Montreal Board of Trade Leadership Series on Tuesday had all the trappings of someone on the move towards the big prize in Washington. Unlike Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Nicholas Sarkozy, Tony Blair, and Rudy Giuliani, who participated in the Series after their active political careers, Mrs. Clinton was seen as a “leader with a future.”  Will she or will she not run in 2016?

    The event attracted over 4,000 patrons as well as the three major Québec political party leaders, who interrupted their election campaign  to listen to Secretary Clinton, whom most of the attendees hoped will be the next President of the U.S.A.  She won over the room with her presence, garnering a standing ovation before she even spoke.  The conference was composed of an address given by Mrs. Clinton followed by a question and answer session.

    In her speech, she spoke about women’s issues and the impact of integrating women into the economy, illustrating how studies show a marked increase in a country’s GDP if women are fully integrated and become active economic participants. It is clear that her work in philanthropy will continue to be focused on helping women in all spheres of human activity. Needless to say, her message was well received by the audience.

    During the Q and A session two women, Mrs. Clinton, and the CEO of GazMétro, Sophie Brochu, spoke at length about economic issues, covering topics such as paid maternity leave in the U.S., relations between Canada and the U.S., the crisis in Ukraine, and civic engagement. The discussion was undoubtedly inspiring for many in the room.

    Read More

    Tags: Hillary Clinton, Canada, Montreal Board of Trade Leadership Series

  • Cuba to Debut New Foreign Investment Law

    March 20, 2014

    by AQ Online

    The Cuban Council of State called an extraordinary session of the National Assembly in order to debate and approve a new foreign investment law on Saturday, March 29, the state-run Granma newspaper announced Wednesday.

    The new law is meant to replace that current cumbersome 1995 law that requires foreign companies to pay both a profit tax and a labor tax and is seen as a part of massive reforms taken under President Raúl Castro to aid the ailing Cuban economy. Along with the upgrading of the Mariel Port and the creation of the Special Development Zone that will exempt businesses from the 12 percent profit  tax for 10 years, the  Communist Party Congress approved over 300 economic reforms in 2011, including moving 20 percent of state workers into the non-state sector and authorizing the sale of homes and cars.

    While details of the law remained unclear, it is expected to make Cuba more attractive to investors who have pulled out of the island over the past 12 years due in part to Cuba’s burdensome tax system.  Cuba’s economy only grew 2.7 percent in 2013, and with its commercial relationship with Venezuela at risk due to ongoing protests in the South American country, the Cuban economy could contract 4 to 7.7 percent this year.

    Tags: Cuba, Foreign Investment, Venezuela

  • Qatar Denies Bribery over World Cup Bid

    March 19, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Qatar’s World Cup 2022 Bid Committee said on Tuesday that it was not aware of alleged bribes paid by the former head of the country’s football association, Mohamed Bin Hammam, to former FIFA Executive Committee member Jack Warner. The statement comes as a response to a March report in the London-based Daily Telegraph that claimed that a company owned by Bin Hamman paid Warner $1.2 million for his vote as a member of the bid selection  committee.

    Qatar's organizing committee said in a statement that "The 2022 Bid Committee strictly adhered to FIFA's bidding regulations in compliance with their code of ethics," and that it was unaware of “any allegations surrounding business dealings between private individuals.”

    Months after the December 2010 vote that granted hosting duties to Russia and Qatar in 2018 and 2022, respectively, FIFA President Sepp Blatter admitted that the governing body had made a “bad mistake” in the bidding process, and suspended two FIFA Executive Committee members—Oceania representative Reynald Temarii and African executive committee member Amos Adamu—due to bribery allegations.

    Bin Hammam later ran against Blatter in the 2011 election for FIFA president, but days before the vote, Bin Hammam was accused of bribing Caribbean FIFA officials to vote for him in a plot allegedly involving Warner. As a result, Blatter ran unopposed and was elected to a fourth presidential term, while Bin Hammam was banned for life from FIFA activities and Warner resigned from the executive committee and as president of CONCACAF, the North American football governing body.

    Qatar will become the smallest nation to host the tournament, though its bid has drawn criticism from human rights groups, as 1,200 Indian and Nepalese migrant laborers have died in recent months due to substandard work conditions.

    Read a debate in Americas Quarterly about whether FIFA’s corruption has hurt the beautiful game.

    Tags: FIFA, Word Cup 2022

  • Head of Mexico National Security Commission Resigns

    March 18, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Manuel Mondragón y Kalb, Mexico’s head of the National Security Commission, resigned on Monday. He had served in the position since 2013 and was in charge of crime control and prevention.

    Although the motive for Mondragón y Kalb’s resignation is unclear, sources speculate that it was in part because Mondragón  was far behind schedule on heading an anti-drug National Gendarmerie paramilitary force that was to be organized by September of 2013 with 10,000 officers. As it stands, the group will now will have an estimated 5,000 officers in its ranks.  President Enrique Peña Nieto appointed Mondragón y Kalb as part of his promise to crack down on crime and drug related violence.  However, while homicide and murder rates have decreased, other forms of violence have spiked. Between January and November of 2013 there were 32 percent more kidnappings in Mexico than during the previous year.

    Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong is expected to make an official announcement  of Mondragón’s resignation today. No replacement has been named yet. A trained plastic surgeon, Mondragón y Kalb held several federal positions prior to becoming the national security commissioner, including Police Chief of Mexico City.

    Tags: Manuel Mondragón y Kalb, Mexico

  • El Salvador's (Close) Presidential Election: What's Next?

    March 17, 2014

    by Julio Rank Wright

    El Salvador's Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced a winner of the March 9 presidential runoff a week after the election, leaving half of the country overjoyed and the other half in despair.

    Salvador Sánchez Cerén, of the governing Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (Farabundo Marti Liberation Front—FMLN), won by a mere 0.22 percent of the general vote—equivalent to just over 6,000 votes. The final results (50.11 percent for the FMLN and 49.89 percent for the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista, or Nationalist Republican Alliance—ARENA) exemplify a nation divided in two.

    The runoff result was a surprise to all. The first round election had given the FMLN a ten percentage point advantage over ARENA. How was ARENA able to cut the difference by so much in just three weeks? What implications does the result have for the FMLN, and what will governing El Salvador look like in the next presidential term?

    El Salvador's recent presidential election represented the last possibility for ALBA expansion in the short term, since Cerén, a former leftist guerrilla, campaigned on possible ALBA adhesion.

    Read More

    Tags: El Salvador, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, ARENA, FMLN

  • Monday Memo: El Salvador’s Next President – Venezuela – Peace in Colombia – Protesters Cross U.S.-Mexico Border – Bogotá and Petro

    March 17, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Likely top stories this week: election results are sustained in El Salvador; Venezuelan protests continue; Santos is optimistic about peace with FARC; young immigrant protesters cross back into the U.S.; Gustavo Petro’s future as mayor is uncertain in Bogotá.

    Cerén Declared Next President of El Salvador: El Salvador’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal officially rejected presidential candidate Norman Quijano’s calls to annul the country’s March 9 presidential elections on Sunday. Last Friday, the court declared Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén the next president of El Salvador, but Quijano claimed electoral fraud and demanded a vote-by-vote recount. The court said Sunday that there was not enough evidence to back up Quijano’s claims. Cerén won by a narrow margin, capturing 50.11 percent of the vote—or just 6,364 votes, according to the final count. Cerén will take office on June 1 and govern for five years.

    Death Toll Mounts in Venezuelan Protests: After another day of protests on Sunday, Venezuelan security forces cleared demonstrators on Sunday from Plaza Altamira, a square in Caracas that has served as a center of the protests in Venezuela. A day after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro issued an ultimatum to protesters on Saturday, troops entered the square on motorcycles, firing water cannons and tear gas into a crowd armed with rocks and homemade bombs. Government supports also rallied on Sunday, marching to the presidential palace to show support for Maduro. As of Thursday, Venezuelan state prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz announced that 28 people had been killed in the violence in the last six weeks.

    Santos Says Colombia Could Reach Peace Deal by End of Year: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos maintains that the government could sign a peace agreement with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) by the end of 2014. The success of a peace deal has been called into question following the country’s legislative elections, which saw former President Álvaro Uribe’s new party, the Democratic Center, win the second-largest number of seats in the Senate. Uribe is deeply critical of the peace talks, and accuses the government of offering the guerrillas impunity for their crimes.  Santos said that a deal would likely lead to efforts to eradicate coca crops and drastically reduce Colombia’s production of cocaine.

    Mexican Immigrants Organize Mass Border-Crossing into U.S.: Approximately 60 immigrant protesters were detained on Sunday as they participated in a mass border-crossing into the United States to protest U.S. immigration policy. The protesters, most of whom are undocumented young people who entered the U.S. as children, crossed at the Tijuana-San Diego border in the third such crossing in a week. All of the protesters had been deported or left the country before President Barack Obama signed an order to defer deportation for childhood arrivals into the U.S. in June 2012. The protesters who attempted to cross the border this week have applied for asylum hearings.

    Petro’s Fate Still Uncertain in Bogotá: Colombia’s Consejo de Estado (Council of State) must decide soon if Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro can remain in office after Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez ordered his removal in December. The Council of State is expected to convene on Tuesday to resolve the remaining appeals, and its decision will ultimately end up on the desk of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who is running for re-election in May. Meanwhile, even if Petro remains mayor, he could face a recall election on April 6.

    Tags: Gustavo Petro, Venezuela, Immigration

  • Febrero: El mes cuando la guerra llegó a Venezuela

    March 14, 2014

    by Albinson Linares

    Este mes, parte de Caracas y varias ciudades del país se volvieron campos de batalla entre estudiantes, ciudadanos de todas las edades y los cuerpos de seguridad del Estado. Organizaciones no gubernamentales, como el Foro Penal Venezolano, aseguraron el miércoles 12 de marzo que habían registrado 1.313 detenciones relacionadas con las protestas estudiantiles durante el mes de febrero.

    En Caracas y Valencia, hay denuncias y documentación de maltratos de más de 34 jóvenes, y el Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Prensa denunció que más de 89 periodistas (algunos corresponsales extranjeros), han sido agredidos: 22 fueron detenidos temporalmente cuando cubrían las manifestaciones y a más de 20 les robaron sus equipos.

    Para el 7 de marzo de 2014, la Fiscal General de la República, Luisa Ortega Díaz, ofreció nuevas cifras del conflicto: “Tenemos 318 personas lesionadas y 19 fallecidas. De las 318 lesionadas, 217 son civiles y 81 son funcionarios policiales y fiscales.”

    Read More

    Tags: Venezuela, Venezuela protests, Nicolás Maduro

  • Colombia: 5 fenómenos de las elecciones de 2014

    March 14, 2014

    by Francisco Miranda Hamburger

    Las elecciones del domingo pasado no sólo generaron un nuevo equilibrio de fuerzas en el Congreso sino que también reflejaron varias tendencias políticas.

    El senador Uribe y 18 más

    El resultado más destacado de la jornada electoral del 9 de marzo fue la irrupción del Centro Democrático como segunda fuerza política en el Senado. El estreno de un partido con más de 2 millones de votos—representando el 14 por ciento del total de los votos depositados—se convirtió en la noticia principal de las elecciones.  A pesar de haber denunciado el Congreso como “ilegítimo” y corrupto en su cuenta de twitter, el nuevo senador Uribe confirmó que se posesionará en su escaño desde el Legislativo. La llegada de una bancada de 19 opositores de derecha al Senado no sólo reduce las amplias mayorías de la Unidad Nacional—el partido del presidente Juan Manuel Santos—sino que también obliga a recomponer las alianzas dentro la Cámara Alta. Los senadores conservadores y de la Opción Ciudadana (antiguo Partido de Integración Nacional—PIN) también subirán su cotización como nuevos “fieles” del Centro Democrático en el Senado.

    Read More

    Tags: Colombia elecciones 2014, Alvaro Uribe, Juan Manuel Santos, Centro Democratico

  • Guatemala Tries Ex-Guerrilla For Massacre

    March 14, 2014

    by AQ Online

    A trial against former guerrilla leader Fermín Felipe Solano Barrillas of the Organización del Pueblo en Armas (Revolutionary Organization of Armed People—ORPA) began on Thursday for the massacre of 22 farmers in the town of El Aguacate, Chimaltenango, in 1998. Captured in May of 2013, Solano is charged with homicide and crimes against humanity.  This is the first time that an ex-guerrilla is charged with participation in a massacre during Guatemala's 1960-1996 civil war.

    The charges against Solano were filed by human rights organization Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (The Mutual Support Group—GAM) on behalf of the victims’ families. Solano is the only one in trial for the massacre, although GAM has requested that authorities continue their investigation to find the role that Pedro Palma Lau, "Commander Pancho," played in the massacre. Palma is known by human rights activists to have been Solano’s superior.

    Until now, attempts to uncover the atrocities from Guatemala’s civil war have focused on the Guatemalan Military. Most recently, former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt was found guilty of genocide of the Maya Ixil people and sentenced to 80 years in prison. The sentence was later annulled by Guatemala’s highest court over claims that Montt’s due process was violated. Rios Montt’s trial is set to continue in January 2015.

    Tags: Guatemala civil war, Felipe Solano Barrillas

  • World Cup Tickets Close to Being Sold Out

    March 13, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Two-thirds of the 345,000 remaining World Cup tickets were sold within three hours of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)’s final sales phase on Wednesday.

    Tickets were made available for 60 of the 64 World Cup matches set to take place in June and July. The fastest selling tickets were to Brazil matches, followed by games for England, Germany, and the United States. Countries with the most purchases were Brazil (143,085), the United States (16,059), Australia (5,357), Colombia (4,574), and Argentina (3,800). Due to the influx of online customers, fans had to wait almost an hour in some cases to place their virtual purchases. Ticket sales will close on April 1 and a final round of last-minute ticket sales will open on April 15.

    Prior to the final sales phase, 2.3 million of the total 3.3 million tickets had already been sold and distributed, including all tickets to the opening and closing matches in São Paulo and at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana, as well as the semifinals.

    Brazil passed the 100 days to the World Cup mark last Monday and currently is still awaiting final construction on three of its stadiums. The ninth World Cup stadium, Arena da Amazônia, was inaugurated on Sunday, leaving Itaquerão, the Arena Pantanal, and the Arena da Baixada stadiums in São Paulo, Cuiabá and Curitiba, respectively, to be finished.

    Tags: World Cup, Brazil, FIFA

  • Elections: Québec Style

    March 13, 2014

    by John Parisella

    If there is one election campaign that usually resonates across Canada outside of a national election, it is the one held in the province of Québec (a federated state). This has been the case since the 1960s when the modern age of Québec politics and the growing impact of television converged. A strong thrust for major progressive reforms advocated by the Liberal government of the day, and the emergence of a strong nationalist fervor dominated the campaigns. The political effervescence of the day resulted in the creation of pro-Québec independence party with a social democratic agenda in 1968. It was named the Parti Québécois (PQ).

    In the early 1970s the pro-independence and highly nationalist PQ became a growing force. By 1976, they formed a majority government and committed to have a referendum that would result in an independent Québec and the breaking up of Canada as we know it. Since then, the PQ has been in (1976-1985/1994-2003/2012-) and out of power but when in power, they tend to promote Québec’s political separation from a federal Canada. There have been two referenda in Quebec (1980,1995) and the pro-independence forces have lost both.

    In September 2012, the PQ formed a minority government and has worked since then to win a majority by building up support. On March 5, Québec Premier Pauline Marois asked Québec’s Lieutenant Governor to dissolve the National Assembly for an election to be held on April 7. A majority would give the PQ the reins to push for Québec independence and possibly stronger advocacy of language legislation to protect the French language (Québec’s official and majority language).

    Read More

    Tags: Canada, Elections, Quebec

  • Venezuela y la parálisis de UNASUR

    March 12, 2014

    by Víctor M. Mijares and Luis L. Schenoni

    La estabilidad interna de Venezuela es un tema relevante a la agenda política latinoamericana. La revolución bolivariana, cargada del ímpetu de su discurso anti-imperialista, puso a la disposición de la región recursos y voluntad para la materialización de un proyecto conjunto. Sin embargo, hace más de un mes que la violencia política y la represión aumentan en Venezuela. El fracaso económico del país petrolero se manifiesta en una inflación galopante y desabastecimiento, alta criminalidad y un próspero mercado de armas ilegales. La desesperación de la clase media comienza a permear a los más pobres, y la ausencia de un líder carismático ya no puede ser compensada con incrementos del gasto público.

    Era de esperarse que este mes los principales mecanismos internacionales encargados de  gestionar este tipo de crisis—o bien la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) o la Unión de Naciones Sudamericanas (UNASUR)—se activasen.

    Suramerica aparenta estar paralizada: El embajador panameño, Arturo Valliarino, convocó ante la OEA una reunión de cancilleres para tratar el tema de Venezuela. Rápidamente, el embajador venezolano, Roy Chaderton, bloqueó los intentos de reunión. El canciller venezolano, Elías Jaua, entonces acusó a Panamá de seguir la agenda de Washington para perjudicar la imagen del gobierno de Venezuela y alentar una intervención. Justo después de una reunión privada del consejo permanente de la OEA—y coincidiendo con los actos del primer aniversario de la muerte de Hugo Chávez—Nicolás Maduro rompió relaciones con Panamá.

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    Tags: UNASUR, OEA, Venezuela

  • Salvadoran Presidential Candidate Demands Recount

    March 12, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Salvadoran presidential candidate Norman Quijano demanded  a recount of individual votes on Wednesday after preliminary results from Sunday’s elections showed that Quijano lost to former rebel and current Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén by fewer than 7,000 votes.

    “We are not going to permit fraud of the chavista or Maduro type in Venezuela. This is El Salvador,” said Quijano, responding to the close vote that favored Cerén 50.11 percent to Quijano’s 49.89 percent.

    The electoral council has denied Quijano’s request for a vote-by-vote recount, but the Supreme Electoral Tribunal is verifying that polling station records are in line with electronic tallies. Final results are expected to be announced on Friday.

    Quijano’s Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (Nationalist Republican Alliance—ARENA) and Cerén’s Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (Farabundo Marti Liberation Front—FMLN) were the main protagonists of El Salvador’s bloody 1979-92 civil war, and this week’s election results showed how divided the country remains more than two decades later.

    Quijano, the former mayor of San Salvador, ran on a law and order platform and campaigned against the country’s high crime rate and notorious street gangs. If the results stand, Cerén, the current vice-president, would become the first former guerilla president of El Salvador.

    Tags: El Salvador 2014 election, Norman Quijano, Salvador Sánchez Cerén

  • Venezuela mesiánica

    March 12, 2014

    by Paula Ramón

    Los venezolanos siempre se han vanagloriado de su “sentido del humor” para superar adversidades. No es una sobrevaloración: vivir en una crisis perenne, a pesar de la riqueza nacional, requiere mucho más que un simple buen talante.

    Es comprensible, entonces, que el 5 de marzo, en el primer aniversario de la muerte del presidente Hugo Chávez, una de las noticias más tuiteada fuese: “Se cumple un año del día que dijiste ‘cualquier cosa es mejor que Chávez,’” parodia del site de notas falsas “El Chiguire Bipolar.” Fiel a su estilo, “El Chiguire”–como es conocido en Venezuela–puso el dedo en la llaga con la sátira, claramente crítica a la oposición radical.

    El chiste viene como anillo al dedo en el contexto actual. Durante un mes, centenas de personas han salido a las calles para mostrar su descontento con el Gobierno nacional. En manifestaciones improvisadas, golpeando ollas, administrando barricadas, quemando basura o simplemente elevando carteles, los manifestantes sólo piden una cosa: la salida inmediata de Nicolás Maduro, presidente y heredero político de Chávez.

    No es que no existan motivos de sobra por los qué protestar en Venezuela. Su capital, Caracas, es la sexta ciudad más cara del mundo, según reveló el reciente análisis Costo de Vida Mundial 2014, producido por la revista inglesa The Economist. El informe evaluó los precios de 160 productos y servicios en 140 ciudades, y concluyó, entre otras cosas, que Caracas es tan cara como Tokio.

    Read More

    Tags: Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro

  • El Congreso que debatirá la paz

    March 12, 2014

    by Jenny Manrique

    Finalmente las sospechas se cumplieron: el expresidente Álvaro Uribe llegó al Senado de la República de Colombia convirtiéndose en el mayor elector de la jornada, y logró que 19 candidatos de su nuevo movimiento, Centro Democrático, ocuparan sillas en el congreso. Aunque los más optimistas dentro de sus filas pronosticaban hasta 35 sillas, lo cierto es que el Centro Democrático solo fue superado por el Partido de la Uque logró 21 sillasun movimiento paradójicamente creado a su imagen y semejanza ocho años atrás, cuando sus integrantes apoyaban a quien hoy es su principal enemigo: el presidente Juan Manuel Santos.

    Aunque Santos conserva la mayoría en el congreso—pues los partidos Liberal, Cambio Radical y Conservador que hacen parte de la Unidad Nacional, en suma lo dejan con el 65 por ciento del Congresolo cierto es que se vienen debates álgidos con Uribe como el gran opositor a la paz, que es el caballito de batalla de Santos. Y, continuando con las paradojas de la política, el partido de Uribe se queda en una esfera que hasta hace dos días era ocupada sólo por el izquierdista Polo Democrático, el único contrapeso que el oficialismo tenía en el hemiciclo.

    Lo que puede resultar esperanzador, en medio de la falta de legitimidad de un Congreso que lleva años eligiendo a parapolíticos y que en estos comicios no fue la excepción33 electos tienen relaciones "non sanctas" con grupos armados, según la Fundación Paz y Reconciliaciónes que figuras de gran peso político pueden generar debates sesudos y plurales. Pesos pesados como Jorge Robledo e Iván Cepeda (Polo Democrático), Claudia Lópezun fenómeno electoral con 80.000 votos de opinióny Antonio Navarro (Partido Verde), Horacio Serpa, Viviane Morales y Juan Manuel Galán (Partido Liberal) y Carlos Fernando Galán (Cambio Radical), han ocupado altos cargos en el Estado. Estas figuras tienen trayectoria política, se les conoce por su seriedad y pocos cuestionan su transparencia.

    Read More

    Tags: Colombia elecciones, Alvaro Uribe, Juan Manuel Santos, Parapolitica

  • Great Expectations as Bachelet Assumes Presidency Again

    March 11, 2014

    by Joseph Hinchliffe

    On Tuesday, March 11, in her first act as senate president, Senator Isabel Allende will place a red, white and blue sash over the shoulder of Michelle Bachelet, officially making her the first re-elected president of Chile’s modern era.

    It will be a moment loaded with symbolism of the country’s struggle to break the shackles of a recent dictatorship and age-old traditions of patriarchy and machismo. Both Allende and Bachelet lost their fathers in the days following the country’s September 11, 1973 military coup

    Salvador Allende, Senator Allende’s father, was the first democratically-elected Marxist head of state in Latin America. He took his own life in the presidential palace, rather than submit to the military forces that bombed La Moneda palace and maintained power for the next 17 years with a reign of terror and unimaginable atrocity. His daughter escaped with her life and was forced into exile for the duration of the dictatorship. She returned to pursue a long-standing and distinguished career as a parliamentarian and champion of progressive causes.

    Brigadier General Alberto Bachelet died from torture at the hands of his former military colleagues for remaining loyal to President Allende. His daughter was captured and imprisoned before she, too, made it out of the country and lived in exile.

    Michelle Bachelet returned to Chile to practice medicine and eventually went on to become health minister, then the first female defense minister in Latin America and, later, Chile’s first female president. She left office with an enviable 84 percent approval rating. During the Piñera years, she became the inaugural head of UN Women, earning the praise and esteem of world leaders. She returned, triumphant, to sweep first the primaries, followed by the first round of general elections and finally the runoff vote.  

    But these potent and evocative narratives obscure another reality—just how difficult this term will be for Bachelet.

    Read More

    Tags: Chile, Michelle Bachelet, Bachelet inauguration

  • Russia’s Military Power in Latin America

    March 11, 2014

    by Ramiro Sebastián Fúnez

    As tensions between the United States and Russia over the future of the Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula continue to rise, Moscow officials may look to beef up their country’s stronghold in Latin America.

    Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on February 26 that his country is planning to expand its long-standing military presence in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, possibly bringing the U.S. and Russia’s icy diplomatic standoff into the Western Hemisphere.

    Although Shoigu mentioned that Russia would also boost its armed presence in Vietnam, Singapore, the Seychelles and several other countries, Moscow’s anticipated embankment in Latin America will surely be perceived as a threat to U.S. defense policymakers.

    “The talks are under way, and we are close to signing the relevant documents,” Shoigu said in a press conference in Moscow. “We need bases for refueling near the equator, and in other places,” he explained.

    It is still unclear, however, whether Russia will construct new Moscow-owned bases in the proposed countries. Russia may only seek permission from already-existing naval defense ports to increase its access to military stations with refueling, maintenance and repair capabilities. The country’s only naval base outside the country is located in Tartus, Syria.

    Read More

    Tags: Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Russia

  • Biden Cancels DR Meeting, Opts to Meet Ukrainian PM

    March 11, 2014

    by AQ Online

    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will be cancelling the second leg of his Latin American trip that was announced last month in order to meet with Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and President Obama in Washington this week. The Vice President, who is currently in Chile for Michelle Bachelet’s inauguration, will no longer meet with Dominican president Danilo Medina to discuss regional cooperation, AFP reported yesterday.

    Biden took advantage of his time in Chile to meet with Presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and Ollanta Humala of Peru to discuss the recent conflict in Venezuela. In written comments to Chile’s daily newspaper El Mercurio, Biden denounced President Nicolás Maduro’s administration’s handling of the largely peaceful student protests. The comments came after the Organization of American States voted 29 to 3 last Friday to not send a mission to Venezuela, standing in solidarity with the government. Only the U.S., Canada and Panama opposed the declaration.

    Biden’s aides confirmed that the vice president intends to reschedule his trip to the Dominican Republic in order to meet with President Medina.

    Tags: Joe Biden, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Ukraine

  • Monday Memo: Salvadoran Elections – Colombian Elections – Bachelet – UNASUR Meeting – Manaus Stadium Inaugurated

    March 10, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Likely top stories this week: Salvadoran presidential candidates are running neck-in-neck; former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe wins a Senate seat; Chilean President-elect Michelle Bachelet meets regional leaders before her inauguration; UNASUR countries gather in Chile to discuss Venezuela; Brazil inaugurates its ninth World Cup stadium, with three more to go.

    Salvadoran Elections Remain “Too Close to Call”: Salvadorans went to the polls on Sunday in a runoff election between presidential candidates Salvador Sánchez Cerén and Norman Quijano. The country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal asked both candidates to refrain from claiming victory until the results have been fully calculated—which may take until Thursday, according to officials. Vice President Sánchez Cerén, of the Farabundo Martí Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional—FMLN) and a former guerrilla, was just ahead of Quijano, of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista—Arena) party, in the latest polls, with a razor-thin .22 percentage point lead.

    Uribe elected to Senate in Colombian Elections: In Sunday’s legislative elections, President Juan Manuel Santos’ coalition claimed 47 out of 102 Senate seats and 92 out of 166 seats in the Lower House, while voters elected former President Álvaro Uribe of the Democratic Center (Centro Democrático) to a seat in the Senate. Uribe has been highly critical of Santos’ government’s peace talks with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) in Havana. Santos congratulated Uribe and said, “I hope that we can leave aside the hatred and resentments, and can work for the country.” Santos is running for re-election in May’s presidential elections.

    Bachelet to Meet with Maduro Before Inauguration: Chilean President-elect Michelle Bachelet will have an intense day of meetings before her inauguration on Tuesday, including a meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and other regional leaders. More than 20 countries are sending representatives to the inauguration. Vice President Joe Biden will represent the United States, and met with Bachelet this morning.

    UNASUR Meeting in Chile: Latin American foreign ministers and heads of state in the Union of South American Nations (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas—UNASUR) will meet in Chile on Wednesday to discuss the political unrest in Venezuela, where an estimated 21 people have died in continuing protests. This morning, the Venezuelan National Guard reportedly dismantled barricades in the city of San Cristobal. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced the UNASUR meeting last Thursday, adding that the Venezuelan president “would never be capable of repressing his own people.”

    Brazil Inaugurates World Cup Stadium: On Sunday, Brazil inaugurated its ninth World Cup stadium in the Amazonian city of Manaus. The stadium, Arena da Amazonia, was inaugurated a month later than expected and is still not yet fully completed, but 20,000 people attended a regional championship match there on Sunday. Three workers were killed in the stadium’s construction, and it cost $70 million more than expected. Brazil still needs to complete construction on three stadiums before June:  Itaquerão in São Paulo, the Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá, and the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba.

    Tags: Michelle Bachelet, El Salvador 2014 election, Alvaro Uribe

  • Uribe Senador: la gran novedad de las elecciones en Colombia

    March 7, 2014

    by Jenny Manrique

    Las campañas electorales en Colombia parecen calcadas una de la otra: los partidos políticos quedan expuestos en la picota pública por avalar a personajes sospechosos; los grandes barones electorales o sus herederos vuelven al curul; las regiones escasamente proponen caras nuevas; y aquellas colectividades que por no alcanzar el umbral requerido de votos en los anteriores comicios perdieron la personería jurídica, respaldan movimientos ciudadanos avalados por firmas, pocas veces  nacidos de una genuina intención ciudadana, y en cambio, con una fuerte maquinaria de los políticos tradicionales detrás.

    Si las cosas continúan así, tras la jornada electoral a la que Colombia asiste este domingo 9 de marzo para elegir 262 parlamentarios entre Cámara y Senado, el Congreso no tendrá mucha renovación. Salvo a la inquietud de saber finalmente cuántas curules obtendrá la lista cerrada del partido Centro Democrático, encabezada por el ex presidente Álvaro Uribe (entre 15 y 36, según el grado de optimismo y cálculo político de uribistas o antiuribistas), el camino carece de sorpresas.

    Nadie duda la llegada de Uribe al Senado y el escenario de álgido debate que este promete en el Congreso. Después de todo, muchos de sus más grandes contradictores estarán allí esperando cuestionarlo por temas tan álgidos como las chuzadas del DAS, la persecución política y judicial de oponentes políticos y periodistas, y las acusaciones públicas que el ex mandatario solía hacer contra sus opositores. En esta lista, figuran senadores que seguro serán repitentes como los del Polo Democratico—Jorge Robledo e Iván Cepeda, los del Cambio Radical como Germán Varon, y los nuevos aspirantes como la investigadora Claudia López de la Alianza Verde, reconocida por su papel en la revelación de los más oscuros pasajes de la parapolítica en Colombia. Habrá que ver si sólo el voto de opinión—es decir, sin la maquinaria clásica que amarra el sufragio en Colombia—le permite a ella y a otros partidos chicos alcanzar el umbral de 450 mil votos para poder participar en estos debates.

    Read More

    Tags: Colombia, Colombia elecciones

  • Last Chance to Vote for AQ as ASME's Best Cover!

    March 7, 2014

    by AQ Online

    This week, AQ entered our Fall 2013 Media in the Americas: Threats to Free Speech cover in the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) Readers’ Choice Award contest on Facebook. We are currently in first place in the "Brainiest" magazine category—which includes publications like The Atlantic, Wired, and Business Week, among others—and we need your help to win it! 

    Please click here and “Like” on Facebook to vote for our Fall cover. We are the only Latin American title in the running. In doing so, you'll be supporting us, the region, our community, and our work for quality journalism, writing and public debate.

    You have until Sunday, March 9, at midnight to vote by clicking “Like” on the ASME Facebook page. We only have a few days left: now more than ever, your vote counts!​​

    Read More

    Tags: Americas Quarterly, Free Speech

  • The Best University Student in Mexico is an Inmate?

    March 6, 2014

    by Arjan Shahani

    The penal system does not work; criminals that do jail time do not reform. We’ve heard these arguments in Mexico before—and for the most part, they seem to be true.

    Stories abound of drug lords continuing to run their operations from within their cells by using unauthorized mobile phones, and of youth that are imprisoned for minor crimes, only to turn  into full-blown criminals once they enter the penal system.

    However, one case in Baja California sheds a beacon of light that could be a sign of better things to come in the Mexican penitentiary system.

    Pedro Antonio Gerardo Acosta is a 29-year-old inmate in the El Hongo jail near the city of Tecate in Baja California, serving a 20-year sentence for kidnapping. This convicted criminal also recently obtained the highest score in the country on the national academic test for higher education (public and private), administered by the Centro Nacional de Evaluación para la Educación Superior A.C. (National Evaluation Center for Higher Education—CENEVAL).

    Gerardo Acosta is one of the first inmates to graduate from a pilot program run by the Baja California State Penitentiary and the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC), which allows people serving a sentence in El Hongo to receive higher education while incarcerated.  Along with Gerardo Acosta’s amazing achievement, two of his inmate classmates also received special recognition for outstanding academic performance in 2013.  

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    Tags: Mexican Penal System, Education, Pedro Antonio Gerardo Acosta

  • Clash between Indigenous Group, Military Police Leave Seven Injured

    March 6, 2014

    by AQ Online

    At least seven military police were injured in a confrontation with Indigenous Mapuche in the Araucania region of Chile on Wednesday.

    The clash began on Monday when 30 hooded individuals, presumed to be Mapuches took over the privately-owned El Canelo farm in an act to reclaim land they believed to be theirs by ancestral rights. After the perpetrators set fire to the land, military police intervened and were met with pellet guns, resulting in seven wounded officers, who are currently in stable condition at the Talcahuano Naval Hospital.

    General Ivan Bezmalinovic, head of the police force in the eighth region of Chile where the conflict occurred, stated that a special operations group was sent in to prevent further fire outbreaks from land invaders. However, according to the Mapuche community, the fire at El Canelo was not an ambush, but rather an act of self-defense against new police assaults on land the group claims as their own.

    The incident comes days after a Mapuche leader was sentenced to 18 years in prison for arson and the resulting deaths of the property owners. Conflicts between indigenous communities and private land holders and extractive corporations are ongoing, particularly in southern Chile where there is a population of nearly one million Mapuche. The International Labor Organization's Convention 169 went into full effect in Chile on September 15, 2009, which recognizes the land rights of such communities; however tensions remain high.

    Stay tuned for Americas Quarterly's Spring 2014 issue for in-depth analysis of ILO 169, land rights, and previous consultation. ​

    Support AQ! "Like" our Fall 2013 issue cover here.

     

    Read More

    Tags: Mapuche, ILO 169, Chile

  • Diplomacy Isn’t a Tug of War

    March 5, 2014

    by Christopher Sabatini

    Diplomacy during the Cold War, wrote Sam Tanenhaus in last Sunday’s New York Times, may have been more of a high wire act than a chess match—but diplomacy, neither then nor now, is a tug of war. 

    Unfortunately, that’s the way it’s being conducted in the U.S.’ delinked Cuba-Venezuela policies—hostages to age-old vendettas, anachronistic policies and the persistent failure to develop policy in the hemisphere through a broader geostrategic lens. 

    In this case, our ability to play a larger, more constructive role in the deteriorating political situation in Venezuela is being held back by our utter lack of leverage over Cuba. 

    Since Hugo Chávez took the oath of office in 1999, the former lieutenant colonel’s Bolivarian Revolution has been a beneficiary of Cuban intelligence and planning services that have helped the movement reorganize the intelligence services, gut the electoral council and create community militias (the now-infamous colectivos).

    According to some sources, there are over 40,000 Cubans currently in Venezuela, including doctors, sports trainers (sports trainers?) and advisors.

    Read More

    Tags: U.S. Policy, Cuba-U.S. relations, Venezuela-U.S. relations

  • U.S. Court Sides with Chevron in Ecuador Case

    March 5, 2014

    by AQ Online

    A U.S. federal judge ruled in favor of Chevron Corp. yesterday, dealing a blow to the 30,000 Amazonian villagers who successfully sued the California-based oil company for $9.5 billion over environmental damage in 2011.

    In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan wrote that U.S. courts could not be used to collect the $9.5 billion sum, citing wrongful conduct on the part of the prosecution. The court found that New York City lawyer Steven Donziger and Ecuadorian lawyers corrupted the case in Ecuador by submitting fraudulent evidence and bribing an Ecuadorian judge with $500,000 to rule in their favor.

    Donziger responded that his team would quickly appeal the decision, while Chevron called the ruling a “resounding victory for Chevron and our stockholders.”

    In 2011, a judge in Ecuador awarded $18 billion to five Amazonian tribes suing Chevron for environmental damage caused by Texaco—which was later bought by Chevron—between 1972 and 1990 in the Lago Agrio region. Ecuador’s highest court upheld the judgment, but reduced the amount to $9.5 billion.

    Chevron claims that a 1998 agreement it signed with Texaco absolves it of liability for any the 18 billion gallons of toxic waste and 17 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the rainforest.

    The Ecuadorian Embassy in Washington, which is not involved in the case, issued a statement saying that yesterday’s ruling "does not exonerate Chevron from its own legal and moral responsibilities resulting from its decades of contamination of the rainforest that has endangered the lives, culture, and environment of countless poor, indigenous people."

    Support AQ! "Like" our Fall 2013 issue cover here.

    Tags: Ecuador, Chevron, Corporate social responsibility

  • The West and the Ukraine Test

    March 4, 2014

    by John Parisella

    The Sochi Games are over and Russian President Vladimir Putin is back to business as usual. The decision to use Russian troops following the Ukraine’s establishment of a new government is reminiscent of Cold War politics and Putin’s disregard for international law.

    In reaction, the Canadian government has already chosen to recall its ambassador to Russia. Through President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, the U.S. government has also warned that there will be consequences to Putin’s response to the change of government in Kiev.

    In recent weeks, the Western world has seen the street reaction in Kiev’s Independence Square to now former President Victor Yanukovich’s decision to choose a Putin-directed economic deal over one from the European Union. The violence ordered by Yanukovich to quell the protesters only intensified and inflamed the degree of opposition. Many in the West following the Olympics in Sochi were stunned by how quickly the ‘’street revolution’’ replaced Yanukovich and installed a new government in accordance with the Ukrainian constitution (impeaching Yanukovich and releasing a prominent political opponent were both legal and constitutional).

    Certainly, Putin’s objective to present the best face of Russia to the world during Sochi suffered a major setback. While invading and taking control of Crimea may give him the upper hand against a cash–strapped Ukraine with a new provisional government, it does little to show the emergence of a new Russia. Already, the anti-gay law and the release of political opponents from prison depicted the calculation of a ruthless and inward–looking leader.

    Read More

    Tags: Vladimir Putin, Ukrain, Victor Yanukovich

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