Though Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez will not be present, Uruguayan President José Mujica, Bolivian President Evo Morales, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega will be in Caracas today for the Venezuelan leader’s intended—and now postponed—inauguration.
As the ailing Chávez remains in Cuba recovering from a respiratory infection that followed his December 11 cancer surgery, hemispheric well-wishers are arriving in Venezuela to express support for the president, who was re-elected to a third six-year term as president in October despite concerns that he could soon become too ill to rule the country.
Vice President Nicolás Maduro said yesterday that Venezuelan officials have planned an event in honor of Chávez, who has not been seen in public for about a month. Chávez’ Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela—PSUV) said that it would convene a rally in front of the presidential palace. Meanwhile, Henrique Capriles, Chávez’ opponent in last year’s presidential elections, urged heads of state not to attend the proceedings.
Yesterday, the Venezuelan Supreme Court announced that Chávez’ absence from Venezuela on the date of his intended inauguration was legally permissible and would have no impact on his claim to the presidency. Supreme Court President Luisa Estella Morales rejected opposition claims that postponing the president’s swearing-in ceremony until after January 10—the inauguration date stipulated in the constitution—would violate Venezuelan law.
As Venezuela deals with a constitutional crisis, ordinary Venezuelans may be excused for not keeping up with the developments. They are too busy trying to find basic staples.
It has become increasingly difficult in Venezuela to find essential commodities such as sugar, cooking oil and milk. Corn flour, used to make traditional arepas, is easier to find in Miami than in Caracas. Even certain medicines are becoming hard to find.
The government has responded in typical fashion. It has blamed hoarders, and promised swift action to deal with them. At the same time, it denies scarcity exists, while it promises to continue “looking into the issue.”
The cause of scarcity lies with the government. After turning on the public spending spigot last year to ensure Hugo Chávez’ re-election, the fiscal deficit reached an astonishing 15 percent of GDP. With all that fresh money in the economy, imports soared, causing severe problems in the nation’s ports. In Venezuela, where even gasoline is imported, this is a huge deal.
Two decades ago, when political scientist Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the end of history and declared that democracy had triumphed over fascism and communism, Marxist guerrilla groups listened. Many of them shed political ideology and turned to illicit mining, drug trafficking and kidnapping for ransom. Since then, facing military and political pressures, these groups have largely demobilized. And now the last Marxist-led rebellion in South America might come to an end as the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) negotiates for peace with the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba.
The negotiators face an uphill battle. Not only have numerous past negotiations between the FARC and Colombian government failed to deliver durable compromise, but, historically, successful bargains in civil wars across the world in the last century have proven to be rare and improbable. According to the civil war scholar Barbara F. Walter, only 17 of 41 civil wars between 1940 and 1990 contained formal negotiations for peace. Negotiations produced settlement agreements only eight times.
One reason for this is that civil wars differ from other wars. Negotiated settlement in civil war, unlike that in inter-state war, typically includes the complete dismantlement of the armed forces of the losing side. Whereas parties to international wars retain, post-conflict, the security that their respective militaries and territorial sovereignty allow, one side in a civil war loses all ability to defend itself. After dismantling their army and surrendering their conquered territory, combatants face increased vulnerability and diminished ability to verify the other side’s compliance with the settlement. A rational actor will not commit to agreements if it cannot be assured of the other side’s compliance as it transitions from strength to weakness.
The FARC has experienced this before. When several FARC factions disarmed in the 1980s to form a political party, their visibility and vulnerability made them perfect targets. Drug lords, paramilitary groups and government troops slowly exterminated the group.
By a vote of 65 to 46, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a legislation on Tuesday to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. This comes after the measure received overwhelming endorsement from the state Senate in December.
Governor Patrick Quinn expressed his willingness to sign the bill into law. “Roads will be safer if we ensure every driver learns the rules and is trained to drive safely,” he said. According to the Illinois Highway Safety Coalition, unlicensed and uninsured drivers are involved in almost 80,000 accidents in the state each year.
Under the new law, Temporary Visitor Driver’s Licenses, now available for foreigners, will also become available for undocumented immigrants. To be eligible for a license, all drivers must have lived in Illinois for at least a year, as well as successfully completed road tests and have proper insurance. These licenses are renewable every three years and cannot be used for other identification purposes such as voting.
A 2010 Pew Research Hispanic Center survey revealed that 16 percent of the Illinois population—the fifth most populous state in the U.S.—is of Hispanic descent. Once signed, Illinois will join Washington, Utah and New Mexico as the only states in the U.S. that provide driving permits or licenses for undocumented immigrants. For Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White Tuesday was a victory not only for Illinois’ estimated 250,000 undocumented immigrants of legal age to drive, but also for all the residents who will now feel safer on the road.
The Venezuelan Catholic Church said on Monday that President Hugo Chávez must attend his inauguration when his term ends on Thursday. The country's leftist leadership plans to indefinitely delay the inauguration to allow Chávez time to return from Havana, where he is undergoing treatment for an unspecified type of cancer. But Monsignor Diego Padron, head of Venezuela's Conference of Bishops, said that delaying the ceremony would be a morally unacceptable violation of the constitution.”
Chávez, 58, has not been seen in public since he traveled to Cuba for his fourth cancer surgery nearly a month ago—the longest absence in his 14-year presidency. Given Chávez’ weakened state, Attorney-General Cilia Flores said Sunday that the swearing-in can take place at a later date. But Monsignor Padron said that a delayed inauguration would be unconstitutional, saying that “to alter the constitution to attain a political objective is morally unacceptable." Meanwhile the opposition has called for massive street protests if the government does not respect Thursday’s deadline.
During Chávez’ absence, Nicolás Maduro, the former foreign minister who was named vice president in October, has been running the country. The constitution stipulates that National Assembly President—Diosdado Cabello, who was re-elected to the post over the weekend,—act as president if Chávez is declared incapacitated before Thursday, and that Maduro would become head of state if Chávez is declared incapacitated after Thursday.
Desde hace más de un año, la población argentina asiste a una batalla jurídica y mediática que se libra en los estrados, en las calles y, cómo no, en los medios, por la aplicación de la Ley de Servicios de Comunicación Audiovisual, promulgada en el 2009, en la que la presidenta Cristina Fernández de Kirchner se viene jugando todo su capital político.
La llamada Ley de Medios, que derogó una antigua legislación que databa de la dictadura, ha sido destacada por sus simpatizantes dada su construcción democrática, ya que para la redacción de sus 166 artículos se realizaron 23 foros y 80 conferencias con integrantes de la sociedad civil.
“Es un proceso inédito porque el proyecto de ley se discutió horizontalmente, trabajamos por consenso y logramos que 21 puntos que debatimos en el seno de nuestra organización fueran incluidos en la ley”, asegura a Noticias Aliadas, Néstor Piccone, miembro de la Coalición por una Comunicación Democrática, que agrupa a 300 entidades desde sindicatos hasta organizaciones de la sociedad civil, pasando por radios comunitarias, pequeñas y medianas empresas, pueblos originarios, cooperativas de servicios, universidades, y grupos de género y de personas con discapacidad, a lo largo y ancho del país.
Los detractores de la ley están principalmente en aquellos grupos mediáticos afectados por las medidas de desmonopolización, que en síntesis buscan que nadie concentre el uso de licencias, es decir, que un mismo concesionario pueda ser dueño como máximo de una señal satelital, hasta 10 señales sonoras, de televisión abierta o cable, y hasta 24 licencias de radiodifusión por suscripción.
Top stories this week are likely to include: Uncertainty surrounding Hugo Chávez’ inauguration in Venezuela; Evo Morales alleges U.S. plot to destabilize his government; Brazil weighs electricity measures; and Canada deepens ties with Africa.
Inauguration Day in Venezuela: After his re-election last October, President Hugo Chávez is scheduled to be inaugurated this Thursday per the constitution that he helped write when he first rose to office in 1999. However, with Chávez recovering in Havana, Cuba, after his surgery last month on an undisclosed form of cancer, many Venezuelans are questioning his fitness for office as well as if or how he will assume another six-year term in three days. The constitution stipulates that the National Assembly President—Diosdado Cabello, who was re-elected to the post over the weekend—act as president if Chávez is declared incapacitated before Thursday and that Vice President Nicolás Maduro would become head of state if Chávez is declared incapacitated after Thursday. However, there are no indications that the executive branch intends to abide by these rules. Maduro claimed that the Supreme Court could swear in Chávez at a later date—a statement that was supported by Attorney General Cilia Flores, who is also Maduro’s wife. Calls from the political opposition for greater transparency have been repeatedly rebuffed. Stay tuned for updates on what will be the top issue in the hemisphere this week.
Morales Accuses U.S. Embassy: Bolivian President Evo Morales claims he has “irrefutable evidence” that the U.S. Embassy in La Paz is plotting to destabilize his government, claims Minister of the Presidency Juan Ramon Quintana. Quintana continued that the Morales administration will present the evidence to U.S. President Barack Obama and “tell him [to] cease all hostilities against the Bolivian government, stop the political ambush of our government.” U.S.-Bolivian relations have been tenuous since Morales assumed office in 2006, hitting a nadir when Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador in 2008.
Brazil’s Energy Budget Crisis: After water levels in hydroelectric dams dropped considerably—in some areas reaching a two-thirds decrease—Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called an emergency meeting with energy representatives to shore up electricity reserves. Rousseff tasked her Minister of Mines and Energy, Edison Lobão, to head the meeting, which Folha de São Paulo is reporting will occur on Wednesday. At issue: Brazilian cities have experienced blackouts in recent months, and some private-sector analysts are projecting a rationing of electricity in the world’s sixth-largest economy—recalling a similar scenario in 2001. Pay attention to see if Rousseff’s government announces any measures for 2013 as a result of the meeting.
Canada Discusses Africa Policy: Beninese President Thomas Yayi Boni, also the head of the African Union, will visit Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa tomorrow. A central focus of the meeting is anticipated to be the growing instability in Mali; last month the United Nations Security Council agreed to an African-led counter-assault against Islamist rebels. Boni’s visit could include a request for Canadian involvement. According to Defense Minister Peter MacKay, the Canadian government is “contemplating what contribution Canada could make.” International Cooperation Minister added that “Canada remains very concerned about the situation in Mali, [but] we do not anticipate going there.” More concrete details will likely surface after tomorrow’s meeting.
Election season got under way today in Ecuador as eight presidential candidates took to the streets and rallied supporters to campaign for the February 17 presidential and congressional elections.
President Rafael Correa, who has held office since 2007 and is running for a third term next month after being re-elected in 2009, overwhelmingly leads the polls over his rivals, who include businessman Guillermo Lasso, former Ecuadorian president Lucio Gutiérrez, millionaire Alvaro Noboa, and evangelical pastor Néstor Zavala.
A December survey conducted by polling company Perfiles de Opinión found that 60.6 percent of Ecuadorian voters polled signaled an intention to re-elect Correa. A distant 11.2 percent of voters said that they backed Lasso, Correa’s nearest competitor.
The poll by Perfiles de Opinión also found that more Ecuadorian voters signaled an intention to submit blank or nullified ballots than to vote for any presidential candidate other than Correa or Lasso.
Correa launched his presidential campaign early this morning in southern Quito, where he convened a caravan to the coastal city of Portoviejo to hold his first presidential campaign rally today. On January 2, Congress officially granted Correa a month’s leave from January 15 to February 14 in order to focus on his campaign, making Vice President Lenín Moreno Ecuador’s temporary head of state during that period.
When Ecuador’s 11.5 million voters go to the polls on February 17, they will be casting ballots for the president, vice-president, and members of the national assembly, who will all serve until 2017.
As his January 10 inauguration approaches, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez remains shielded from the public in a Havana, Cuba hospital—prompting calls for transparency on President Chavez’ state of health and contingency plans should he not be ready for his swearing-in ceremony.
Though he was re-elected last October to another six-year term as president, Chávez’ silence has raised concerns that he may not be able to take the oath of office next Tuesday to begin his new term. Ramón Aveledo, leader of the opposition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (Coalition for Democratic Unity—MUD) group, said yesterday in a press conference that “it is essential that the government act in a manner that gives confidence.”
“Trying to make the country believe that the president is governing is absurd to the point of being irresponsible,” Aveledo said.
Chávez has not been heard from since undergoing surgery in Cuba three weeks ago, allowing rumors to percolate that the leader’s health is drastically failing. Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro returned from Cuba yesterday to reassure Venezuelans that Chávez is “totally conscious” but faces “a complex and delicate situation.”
National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello paid a visit to Chávez yesterday, while Minister of Science and Technology Jorge Arreaza tweeted that “the comandante Chávez continues battling hard and sends all his love to our people.” Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda reported that Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner visited her Venezuelan counterpart in secret last month.
Before departing for Cuba last month, Chávez asked his supporters to vote for Maduro, his appointed heir, if he cannot assume the presidency. The U.S. State Department has expressed its desire for a transition of power in accordance with Venezuela’s constitution, which expressly mandates that new elections should be held within 30 days if the president-elect is unable to take the oath of office.
Over a decade after a landmark global effort to increase the participation of women in peace and security efforts much of the Americas is still behind the curve.
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSC 1325), passed in 2000, reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in all efforts aimed at promoting peace and security. One pillar of this resolution is to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all UN-administered peace and security efforts. It also calls on all parties to conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse.
But actually operationalizing the resolution requires individual countries to adopt National Action Plans (NAPs). And here's where the region falls short.
National Action Plans serve as a guide for governments to articulate priorities and coordinate the implementation of Resolution 1325. This includes integrating different government agencies and working with civil society to accelerate the provisions mandated by UNSC 1325. However, to date, only 38 countries have adopted NAPs; of these, only three—the United States, Canada and Chile—are in the Western Hemisphere.
This seems odd given that countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have NAPs, in addition to most European countries. Why do we not see more Latin American countries adopt NAPs?
Since taking power in 2006, Canada’s Conservative Party has worked hard to portray itself as the party of sound fiscal practice. All of that went up in smoke earlier this month, as an independent audit confirmed that the costs of stealth fighter jets within the national defense budget had ballooned from $16 billion to nearly $46 billion.
In the House of Commons, the Conservative political class had dodged questions about the cost of these jets for about 18 months. Michael Ferguson, Canada’s Auditor General, blasted this fiscal mismanagement in a scathing spring report, blaming officials in the ministry of national defense for the spiraling costs and keeping the facts from ministers. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, put the price tag of the undisclosed funds at around $30 billion.
The Auditor General’s report did spark some action from the administration of Prime Minister Stephen Harper but the government never acknowledged the costs had run out of control. It froze spending on aircraft procurement and stripped the responsibility for the acquisition of these planes away from the military, handing it instead to a secretariat in the public works department. The military brass was enthralled by fifth-generation F-35 fighter planes, refusing to consider any others. The government, it would seem, never questioned the numbers nor dared to ask the hard questions.
The government could have spared itself some hardship by coming clean on the costs of the plane after a leaked audit report on December 7 hinted of a hefty price tag. But instead, a nervous Peter MacKay, Canada’s defense minister, refused to take responsibility for the bungling of the file when grilled by reporters. A week later, the full audit report was released on December 13 and put the cost and maintenance of 65 F-35 fighter jets at $46 billion over 42 years, and not $16 billion as stated by the Tories. The public was initially told it would cost $9 billion.
We will return on Thursday, January 3, 2013. We wish you a happy holiday season and a happy new year.
Many people are discussing Brazil’s role in Africa’s development and the deepening of their bilateral commercial and political relationships over the past decade. For Brazil, Africa is seen as one of the best growth opportunities and a new frontier for investments. Many of Brazil’s largest infrastructure companies are currently operating in Africa and looking to expand their outreach in the vast African continent. For Africa, Brazil has made great strides in developing advanced technology in agriculture and tropical medicines, which, if shared, could be adapted in Africa.
But there is still much skepticism from African nations as to the real motivations for Brazil’s interest in the region. Is this is a case of market access advantage only? Or is it an imposition of soft power or even a case of reverse colonization?
The Council of the Americas hosted a panel in Washington DC earlier this year on the political and economic ties between Brazil and Africa and what may be next steps for the future. The Brazilian government strongly advocates that its relationship with African countries is different and friendlier than other countries’ (i.e., China) approaches toward Africa. Also, there are numerous commonalities between Brazil and the African countries including the language (in the case of Lusophone countries), historic background, and similar geological and climate conditions—all of which bring the two giants closer together as natural partners.
But it is also hard to ignore that the commercial relationship between Brazil and Africa at present consists largely of exploration of African natural resources by Brazilian companies and exports of Brazilian products to African countries. This is not so much a two-way partnership as it is one country with more know-how and expertise selling products to a group of countries without these advancements.
Yesterday afternoon, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) guerrilla group complained that the Colombian government’s usage of military force during peace talks threatened the harmony of the negotiations. Iván Márquez, chief negotiator for the FARC, stated that “in contrast with our act of humanity, President Santos announces that he will intensify the war on all national territory,” adding it was “nonsense.”
Although the FARC declared a two-month ceasefire last month, the move turned out to be unilateral as Santos made clear that the Colombian government would not reciprocate, and would continue a military offensive until a peace agreement is reached. The Colombian army has been largely successful in its effort, killing 20 FARC fighters earlier this month. In declaring its ceasefire, the FARC has petitioned for a bilateral ceasefire but to no avail. Márquez renewed the call yesterday: “[if the government] continues to be adamant in war, it should at least […] sign a treaty of regularization […] searching always to preserve the lives of the people and respect for their rights.”
The bilateral negotiations began ceremoniously in Oslo, Norway, this past October and intensified the following month in Havana, Cuba, where Cuban- and Norwegian-mediated talks—with Chilean and Venezuelan observation—have been taking place intermittently since the middle of November. The FARC was established in 1966, and its rebellion against the Colombian government marks Latin America’s longest running internal guerrilla conflict.
This week, Guatemala is proudly calling itself the heart of the Mayan world. On December 21, the thirteenth b’ak’tun will end, concluding a 90-year academic struggle about the destined outcome of this cosmological event. While new discoveries such as the finding of a new calendar in the Xultún ruins this past May continue to shine new light on the debate, the accepted view is that the world will not end—as some apocalyptic people have speculated.
To ancient Mayans the numbers 13 and 20 were extremely important due to their significance to crop farming. The Mayan calendar was split into kins (days), winals (20-day months), tuns (360 days), k'atuns (20 tuns), and b’ak'tuns (20 k'atuns). In other words, a b’ak’tun consists of 144,000 days, or over 394 years.
The linear Mayan count of days is referred to as the Long Count, and its start date is August 11, 3114 B.C. on the Gregorian calendar; 13 full b’ak’tun cycles will occur on December 21, when many believe the full Long Count will be complete.
As tuns are five days less in duration than a solar year (365 days), the five-day difference is known as Wayeb—nameless days that are considered the most dangerous. In Lynn V. Foster’s 2002 book Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World, the author wrote, “During Wayeb, portals between the mortal realm and the Underworld dissolved. No boundaries prevented the ill-intending deities from causing disasters." To counteract this, Mayans would try to avoid leaving the house; others would not wash or comb their hair during the period.
The Popol Vuh, one of the most important collections of Mayan documents, indicates that humans are currently living in the fourth world, as Mayan gods created three failed worlds before. This is seen as the zero date for the Long Count circa 3114 B.C.
How did the b’ak’tun 13 turn into a doomsday scenario that even Hollywood caught on to? One reason is a groundbreaking piece of literature by Michael D. Coe circa 1966, entitled The Maya, which said: “There is a suggestion […] that Armageddon would overtake the degenerate peoples of the world and all creation on the final day of the 13th [b'ak'tun]. Thus […] our present universe [would] be annihilated [in December 2012] when the Great Cycle of the Long Count reaches completion.”
Brazilian Attorney General Roberto Gugel announced Wednesday that his office will investigate a claim that former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva was aware of the massive 2005 vote-buying scheme known as the “mensalão,” in which members of Lula’s Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers' Party—PT) and other politicians bribed Brazilian lawmakers to back PT initiatives in Congress.
Former businessman Marcos Valério, who was sentenced to more than 40 years in prison by the Supreme Court in October for his involvement in the scandal, alleged that the former president had authorized loans for the scheme and used some of the money to pay for his personal expenses. Valerio made the accusations in testimony before prosecutors at the Ministério Público Federal (Federal Public Ministry—MPF) in September after he was convicted, which were published in the Estado de São Paulo last week.
Speaking outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Gugel said that he was skeptical of Valério’s version of events, but said they merited investigation nonetheless. “Marcos Valério has frequently made statements that can be considered bombastic, and when we analyze them further, there’s nothing there. But we’ll see what there is in his testimony that could motivate a future investigation,” Gugel said.
Lula, who left office in 2010 with an 87 percent approval rating, has flatly denied the accusations. At a metalworkers’ union gathering in São Paulo on Wednesday, the former president alluded to Valério in his comments, saying that “what most harms my adversaries is my success.” Eight Brazilian state governors and a number of deputies visited Lula to express their support for him on Tuesday.
A Brazilian government spokesperson announced yesterday that President Dilma Rousseff will visit Mexico in early 2013, likely in March, to build on “the very good impression” made by President Enrique Peña Nieto when the then-president elect visited Brasilia in September. The visit will focus on further reversing the tensions sparked over Brazil’s imposition of quotas in early 2012 as well as on sharing the Petrobras model, Brazil’s state oil company, with Mexican counterparts who are looking at how to reform the Mexican state oil company Pemex.
Plans are already underway for a follow-up visit where Pemex executives will travel to Brazil to learn first-hand how Petrobras functions.
Relations soured between Latin America’s two largest economies when Brazil, in response to an escalating trade deficit with Mexico, imposed import quotas on Mexican vehicles. Brazilian government officials have more recently hinted at the possibility of opening up discussions around the current automobile quotas.
Rousseff’s visit to Mexico may be largely symbolic, but the Mexican business community is awaiting concrete actions. Luis de la Calle, the former undersecretary of international business negotiations at the Mexican Ministry of Economy who actively negotiated the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement said that it was “sensible to maintain a certain level of skepticism. At the end of the day, it comes down to interest and what is best for both Brazil and Mexico as a much more open trading relationship.”
A principios de mes, Enrique Peña Nieto tomó posesión de la Presidencia de México en medio de graves protestas callejeras que tuvieron su principal fuerza de choque en la capital. Diferentes grupos como Yosoy132, Morena, sindicatos independientes y otros colectivos campesinos y urbanos protagonizaron duros enfrentamientos contra la policía que duraron más de siete horas y se saldaron con más de 100 heridos. Un día antes, Enrique Peña Nieto hizo la presentación oficial de su gabinete y de un programa de gobierno de 13 puntos.
Por lo que respecta al gabinete, algunos nombres ya se esperaban. Tal es el caso de Miguel Ángel Osorio (Gobernación), Jesús Murillo (Procuraduría General de la República), Joaquín Codwell (Energía), Enrique Martínez (Agricultura), Emilio Chuayffet (Educación Pública), Alfonso Navarrete (Trabajo) y Jorge Carlos Ramírez (Reforma Agraria).
Otros nombres sorprenden pero no extrañan. Tal es el caso de Manuel Mondragón (subsecretario de Seguridad Pública) quien proviene del gobierno de la ciudad de México; Rosario Robles (Desarrollo Social), exgobernadora de la capital del país y expresidenta del Partido de la Revolución Democrática; y José Antonio Meade (Relaciones Exteriores), exsecretario de hacienda del gobierno de Felipe Calderón. Sin embargo, pocos son gente realmente cercana a él, como Luis Videgaray (Hacienda), Gerardo Ruiz (Comunicaciones) y Alfonso Navarrete, lo que nos indica el grado de subordinación que el nuevo presidente tiene respecto al grupo encabezado por Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Incluso una sobrina de éste figura como nueva secretaria de Turismo (Claudia Ruiz Massieu Salinas). Desaparecen también dos secretarías (Seguridad Pública y Función Pública), cuyas atribuciones regresan a la de Gobernación.
Se presentó también un Programa de 13 Puntos y se firmó el Pacto por México entre los principales partidos políticos, por los que se comprometen a diversas acciones de gobierno y reformas legislativas orientadas a cinco objetivos fundamentales: gobernabilidad democrática; crecimiento económico, empleo y competitividad; ejercicio pleno de derechos sociales y libertades; seguridad y justicia, así como transparencia, rendición de cuentas y combate a la corrupción. Lo que no se dijo es cómo se va a lograr, cuándo y de qué forma. Promesas fáciles de incumplir, tal y como lo hemos visto en los últimos cuarenta años.
La duda es si con el mismo modelo económico que ha hundido al país y con los personajes públicos y privados que lo motivaron, el nuevo inquilino de Los Pinos y su gabinete concretarán todo lo que han prometido. Para financiar los proyectos contenidos en ambos documentos, de acuerdo con Carlos Fernández Vega, harían falta 250 mil millones de pesos (casi 20 mil millones de dólares). Por otro lado, en el presupuesto del gobierno, 90 centavos de cada peso ya están comprometidos y no pueden tocarse (pago de deuda, de sueldos, etc.), por lo que sólo quedan 10 centavos por peso (de acuerdo a la Cámara de Diputados). El secretario de Hacienda, Videgaray, ya dijo que no habrá aumento de impuestos en 2013, pero de acuerdo con Carlos González Barragán, director del Centro de Investigación Económica y Presupuestaria, para solventar los compromisos ofrecidos hace falta una reforma fiscal y hacendaria. ¿De dónde sacarán el dinero entonces?
En otro tema, la seguridad pública, las cosas parece que no van a cambiar mucho, pues el nuevo presidente ya anunció que el ejército seguirá en las calles mientras se prepara un nuevo plan de seguridad. Y con el cambio de sexenio, las muertes no han cesado.
Como bien señala Guillermo Knochenhauer, Calderón deja el gobierno en tan malas condiciones que a Peña no le será difícil mejorar aunque sea un poco cualquiera de las políticas del gobierno anterior. Además, éste contará con un conjunto bien disciplinado de medios electrónicos e impresos que encubrirán cualquier fracaso y magnificarán cualquier éxito.
It is difficult to discuss Canada’s constitutional history without mentioning Pierre Trudeau, former Canadian prime minister. That his son Justin, member of parliament for Papineau, Québec, is running for the leadership of his father’s Liberal Party has once again brought the Trudeau constitutional legacy back in the public eye.
From the 1960s until the 1995 Québec referendum on separatism, politics in Canada and in Québec focused largely on constitutional reform relative to the status of the province. In 1867, Canada was created by the British North America Act (BNA), commonly referred to as Confederation. The BNA Act, which serves as our written constitution, created a federal system with the use of French and English in both the national and Québec parliaments.
From 1867 onward, tensions rose between those who preferred a more centralized federalism and those who wished for greater provincial autonomy (i.e., decentralized federalism) which was promoted by successive Québec governments. This characterized federal-provincial relations over the years, and came to a head in the 1960s. Just as Canada was nearing its centennial celebrations in 1967, it was clear that the country was heading toward an eventual constitutional showdown largely provoked by competing visions within Québec’s political class.
Essentially, three visions emerged to define the debate on Québec’s status north of the border. One approach was articulated by the elder Trudeau (1968–1979, 1980–1984), who argued for a strong central government, a Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a greater Francophone Canadian presence in national affairs. A second vision with emphasis on Québec’s identity was gradually developed by a former federalist who later became Québec’s premier, René Lévesque (1976–1985). He believed in full Québec autonomy and sovereignty with the possibility of an economic association with Canada. Finally, successive Québec premiers from Jean Lesage (1960–1966) to Daniel Johnson (1966–1968) to Robert Bourassa (1970–1976, 1985–1994) worked for the reform of the 1867 Canadian Constitution, pushing for greater powers for Québec within the federation. From the 1970s to the 1990s, elections were held in Québec, and federal elections in Canada reflected these differing views over the functioning of our federal state.
Various attempts to modify Québec’s status within Canada produced constitutional proposals but they failed to resolve the issue. In 1980, a Québec referendum on sovereignty was held with the federalists winning decisively. In 1982, the Canadian government led by Prime Minister Trudeau then decided to patriate the Canadian Constitution (the BNA Act, which had remained a British statute since 1867) and include a Constitutional Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Québec government under separatist René Levesque objected and withheld Québec’s consent. Trudeau’s action to patriate was ruled legal by Canada’s Supreme Court, but it had the effect of splitting the federalist forces in Québec.
By 1990, the Meech Lake Accord had been negotiated between the Canadian government and its 10 provinces to provide a rationale for Québec to finally consent to the 1982 patriation. It provided concessions to Québec to obtain its agreement. This attempt at reconciliation by Trudeau’s successor, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (1984–1993), and Québec Premier Robert Bourassa, however, failed ratification by two provinces (Manitoba and Newfoundland). Trudeau, then retired, opposed the Meech Lake Accord and strongly influenced the opposition forces within Canada to the Accord.
This is largely the constitutional legacy that Justin Trudeau, the son of Pierre Trudeau, is now carrying as he runs for the leadership of Canada’s Liberal Party. Sovereignists and some federalists in Québec continue to resent the elder Trudeau’s constitutional legacy. For many, it remains an open wound.
Some in the Québec media now believe that Justin Trudeau must address this issue with a position of his own. Will he complete the unfinished work of 1982? The junior Trudeau, in a recent television interview, skirted the issue by saying that Québec and Canada as a whole did not want to revisit old constitutional wounds and had moved on to other issues.
To some, the younger Trudeau’s view was seen as insensitive and to others, reminiscent of his father’s so-called legendary arrogance.
Having lived through some of the aforementioned constitutional battles, I agree that patriation must be addressed given that Québec is the only non-signatory province to the 1982 Canadian Constitutional Act (including the Charter of Rights). However, no one in the Canadian and Québec political class is held to the same standard as Justin Trudeau is, and none wish to revisit the issue in the near future. Outside of his family name, why should Justin Trudeau be held accountable for redressing his father’s actions?
Politics in this century have changed and the policy debates have moved in new directions. The issue of Québec and the Canadian constitution remains pertinent. But should we be settling our accounts with the elder Trudeau by using his son, who has a different agenda and is running in different times and for different reasons? I do not think so.
Argentina's government began the process of breaking up Grupo Clarín, the country's largest media conglomerate on Monday. The anti-media monopoly law being used against Grupo Clarín was found constitutional by a lower court on Friday and would require the media group to sell off broadcast licenses as well as its majority stake in Cablevision, the cable TV network that has become the company's top revenue driver. Clarín said it would appeal the decision.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has led the campaign against Grupo Clarín, accusing the group of coup mongering and reporting news biased against her government. But critics claim that by dismantling one of the country's few remaining independent media groups that doesn't rely on state advertising revenue, the government is limiting free speech in Argentina. Martin Sabbatella, the head of the government media regulation body, denied the accusation on Monday, saying free speech isn't at risk.
The government has been at odds with the media group since Clarín criticized President Fernández's handling of a tax on the key agricultural industry and a massive farmers strike in 2008. The case may eventually go before Argentina's Supreme Court.
Top stories this week are likely to include: Strong chavista performance in Venezuelan regional elections; Mayan peoples celebrate the thirteenth b’ak’tun; Argentina faces international fiscal isolation; and Peru and Chile sign a pact to remove mines from their shared border.
Impact of Venezuela Regional Elections: Although Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’ health remains uncertain after a surgical operation in Cuba last week, his influence could not be ignored as Venezuelans went to the polls to elect state governors and legislators. Chávez-allied candidates dominated yesterday, winning 20 of 23 states; the opposition won only the states of Amazonas, Lara and Miranda. The Miranda victor was Henrique Capriles Radonski, who formerly held the governorship before resigning it to contest Chávez unsuccessfully during the 2012 presidential election in October. What will this mean for Venezuela? Observes AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini: “While Capriles’ win in Miranda reinforces his leadership of the opposition, this was clearly a victory at the state level for the chavista PSUV party—expanding their control over patronage and state offices which may come in handy if the country has to hold new presidential elections.”
Mayans Prepare for End of the Thirteenth B’ak’tun: Friday, December 21, marks the end of the current b’ak’tun in the Mayan calendar. Each b’ak’tun lasts approximately 394.3 solar years, but this Friday is especially noteworthy since it also marks the end of the Great Cycle—a period of 13 b’ak’tuns that began in 3114 BC. Given the importance of this date, some eschatologists believe the world will experience cataclysmic events; Mayas in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula are approaching the date with “calm and equanimity,” according to the Associated Press. Later this week, AQ contributing blogger Nic Wirtz will report from Guatemala on the preparations being undertaken there for the historic event.
Argentina Faces International Fiscal Isolation: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will issue a report today on the failure of the Argentine government “to provide accurate data on inflation and growth to the Fund as members are required” within a three-month timeline, reports MercoPress. In September, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned that she would give the Argentine government a “red card” if it did not produce accurate inflation statistics. “Argentine officials report the country’s inflation rate at about 10 percent, but independent analysts have the number somewhere between 25 to 30 percent,” says Business Insider. If the IMF report is condemnatory, Argentina faces the prospect of expulsion from the Fund as well as the G-20 group of industrial nations.
Peru, Chile Demine Shared Border: The two Pacific countries are expected to announce on Thursday that approximately 300 anti-personnel and anti-tank mines have been cleared along their shared border. The mines date back to the contentious Peruvian-Chilean bilateral relations during their respective military dictatorships several decades ago. This action was agreed upon this past September by both foreign ministers at the UN General Assembly, and has been facilitated by the Norwegian People’s Aid.
Latin America’s prison system is in crisis. Human Rights Watch has called the Latin American penitentiary system “underfunded, overcrowded and often controlled by criminals inside their walls.” In March 2012, a prison fire killed over 350 inmates in Honduras. The same week, a series of prison riots in three Mexican penitentiaries resulted in 48 fatalities. Later in the year, images of black smoke and tanks moving through the streets of Caracas after a prison riot circled the world.
These tragedies have drawn renewed interest to the growing crisis facing the region’s prison system. Within the context of Central America, the Sistema de Integracion Centroamericano (Central American Integration System—SICA) has listed the improvement, expansion and modernization of the region’s prison system as a strategic objective of the Central American Security Strategy. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has already committed funds to update a diagnostic document detailing the state of the region’s penitentiary system.
El Salvador is no exception to the hemispheric trend of prison violence and overcrowding. Since the two main rival gangs announced a truce in March 2012, El Salvador has increased its awareness of the conditions and challenges that the penitentiary system faces. In June 2012, El Salvador’s Dirección de Centros Penales (Directorate of the Penitentiary System) confirmed that the prison system was operating at 317 percent of its capacity.
For many of us north of the border, we are watching the showdown emerging around the U.S. fiscal cliff discussions. Despite President Barack Obama’s rather convincing victory, it is clear that the divisions remain—and the role of government is central to the discussion. The 2011 debt ceiling stalemate resulted in a process where gridlock was essentially institutionalized with December 31, 2012 as the ultimate date to find a negotiated settlement or else. It is a collective “jump off the cliff.’.
Influential voices such as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and International Monetary Fund President Christine Lagarde are warning about the decreasing role of the U.S. in global economic matters should it fail to get its debt and deficit problems under control. The increasing possibility that a deal will not be reached in time for automatic tax increases and spending cuts to kick in and threaten a second recession in four years has to preoccupy world economies.
The European Union is in recession, emerging markets are less robust and the U.S. economy has had a sluggish recovery since the middle of 2009. A U.S. recession could have catastrophic results, especially north of the border. In recent days, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney sent some ominous signals about the risks associated with failure to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff. We in Canada may have done better coming out of the Great Recession, but there is evidence that another U.S. slowdown will have a serious impact on a range of our exports and overall consumption leading possibly to a Canadian recession as well.
While Canada’s economic future is often dependent on how the U.S. economy fares, we did get some things right that could serve as a guide to U.S. policymakers. The balanced approach regarding revenue and spending cuts that Obama so often advances has been on our radar with successive governments—both Liberal and Conservative—since the mid-1990s. Deficit reduction, debt control, revisiting entitlement programs, modest stimulus programs, tax reductions, free-trade agreements, and reducing the size of government has been very much a part of Canada’s public policy agenda in the last 20 years. Fortunately, Republicans and Democrats have been sending some more encouraging signals in recent days.
It was Winston Churchill who once said that America will try all solutions until they find the right one. It is clear Obama has a mandate to tax the top two percent, whether he does it by raising tax rates or closing tax loopholes. But there is an indisputable reality: tax revenue will not be enough. Some tough decisions about spending cuts including the defense budget, Medicare, Medicaid, and possibly social security will have to be part of the eventual “grand bargain.”
To do this, it will take leadership and political courage on all sides of the partisan divide. It will also have to involve vision and audacity. Clearly, the eyes of the world are directed on the U.S. political class, and especially on President Obama. Having been decisively re-elected last month, it has been said that Obama has a rendezvous with history as he begins his final term. All are waiting to see how he pulls it off, including Canada.
This Sunday, Venezuelans voters will go to the polls one more time to elect 23 governors and 260 state representatives. For the opposition’s Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (Coalition for Democratic Unity—MUD), the election is an opportunity to maintain its local bulwarks; for Chávez’s Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela—PSUV), it is a chance to consolidate the victory achieved on October 7 when Chávez won the presidential elections in all but two states.
Last week, pollster Hinterlaces predicted PSUV victories in eight states, including Miranda and Carabobo—currently governed by the opposition. Poll results indicate that former Vice President Elías Jaua could obtain 48 percent of the votes in Miranda, and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles could obtain 44 percent. The poll predicts similar results in Carabobo, where PSUV candidate Francisco Ameliach is expected to win 54 percent versus 36 percent of the votes for opposition governor Henrique Salas Feo.
While the candidates closed their campaigns on Thursday, Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas announced that Chávez had suffered bleeding and complications after a six-hour cancer operation he had on Tuesday in Cuba. “The patient is in a progressive and favorable recovery of normal vital signs,” he added, while asking Venezuelans to vote out of “love” and to pray for the president’s recovery. Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles criticized PSUV’s “electoral use” of Chávez’s illness, and demanded that the president’s health be addressed separately because it has nothing to do with Sunday’s election.
Amid questions surrounding the president’s health, AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini highlighted six main points to watch in the news after Chávez named Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro his successor on December 8, ranging from currency devaluation to the effect a leadership transition could have on foreign relations.
The Honduran Congress voted Wednesday to dismiss four Supreme Court Justices accused of blocking police reforms sought by Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, escalating a standoff between the country’s judicial, legislative and executive branches.
On Tuesday, Congress voted to approve the president’s reforms, which would require police applicants to submit to polygraph tests and toxicology exams and provide their financial and psychological records before joining Honduras’ police force. The reforms are intended to purge the Honduran police of corrupt officers, and along with other measures, would be put to a public referendum before they become law.
Congress passed the reforms on Tuesday despite the fact that they had already been blocked by the courts. In late November, four justices on the constitutional chamber of the Supreme Court ruled that the police reform measure was unconstitutional in a 4-1 vote. Since the decision was not unanimous, the full court must ratify the constitutional chamber’s ruling, but it has not yet done so.
In comments on Saturday, Lobo accused the dissenting judges of being “against police clean-up efforts” and said they were acting “in collusion to subvert the institutions” with Honduras’ business elite.
A legislative commission that investigated the judges’ ruling determined that they had broken established rules in the decision, and, on Wednesday just a day after approving the stalled reforms, Congress voted 97-31 to expel the four dissenting justices and name their replacements. As the voting stretched into the early morning Wednesday, police and soldiers surrounded the legislative building.
Later on, Honduran Attorney General Luis Rubí fiercely criticized the dismissal of the four judges and said that he, in turn, would look into whether the legislators could be prosecuted for violating the constitution and for violating the separation of powers.
The judges themselves released a statement on Wednesday that called their dismissal “illegitimate, illegal and unjust.” It is not yet clear whether they will make way for the four new judges that Congress chose to replace them.
Uruguay’s lower house passed the Ley de Matrimonio Igualitario (Marriage Equality Law) with a wide margin—81 votes in favor out of 87 total votes—last night, sending it to the Senate where it is expected to be approved. The law recognizes all marriages as legal and provides the same rights and responsibilities for both genders under a civil union.
The new law would also allow couples to decide which surname goes first when they name their children—breaking a tradition in Latin America that gives priority to the father’s name. This measure would replace Uruguay’s 1912 divorce law, which gives only women the right to break their vows without cause.
Legalizing same-sex marriage has been one of the main policy objectives of the ruling Frente Amplio (Broad Front—FA), the same party that has promulgated laws decriminalizing abortion and allowing state-controlled sales of marijuana in an attempt to blunt drug-related crime.
If the bill is signed into law, Uruguay would become the second Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage; Argentina was the first in 2010.
Javier Corrales and Mario Pecheny, co-editors of The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America: A Reader in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, point to growing secularization and stronger activism as key factors in the advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights. The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, and Denmark have marriage equality on the books.
There is a rising star in Latin America. And it is not the a member of the BRICs, but Mexico.
Mexico has received consisten attention regarding its security challenges, but things have started to change over the past few months. In August, Nomura published a report that forecast Mexico would become Latin America’s number-one economy by 2022, stating that “the recent relative outperformance of the Mexican economy to Brazil could prove to be long lasting."
That’s a controversial argument when considering Brazil’s explosive growth during the past years. While its recent economic performance has been weak, this does not imply that South America’s giant will not be able to recover. Or does it?
Brazil’s rapid economic growth was not only due to a favorable macroeconomic outlook and the timely implementation of much-needed reforms, but also, and more importantly, to China’s insatiable appetite for natural resources. The Chinese government has been progressively increasing its presence in foreign markets to guarantee a steady supply of resources, especially energy. This is critical for the Chinese Communist Party, as its legitimacy rests on providing good economic prospects to its population.
On a university campus in Montréal on December 6, 1989, a lone gunman deliberately targeted innocent victims, killing 14 young women and injuring another 14 before turning the weapon on himself. The horror of this tragedy led the Canadian government to institute a gun registry law in 1993, which became a source of controversy for many gun owners regarding the mandated registration of unrestricted guns and the larger bureaucracy to regulate it. The law was eventually modified by Canada’s ruling Conservatives in April 2012—abolishing the firearms registry that was established after the Montréal tragedy. The two Canadian opposition parties in Parliament—the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Liberals—opposed the Conservative initiative.
Since 1989, other tragedies have occurred in both Canada and the United States. Every time such an incident occurs, the initial instinct is to raise the issue of access to firearms and the proliferation of gun-related violence. Gun violence has no boundaries; while Canada has greater restrictions in terms of access, the fact remains that gun violence is still high in North America and the conversation must take place beyond the initial shock of the crime.
The U.S. Constitution provides an explicit right to bear arms. In itself, this has resulted in the reluctance by the political leadership to deal with the issue of gun violence and bring the conversation to a national level. To his credit, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has attempted to start a national conversation on the matter. Following the recent murder-suicide of an American football player, sportscaster Bob Costas tried to follow Bloomberg’s efforts—a comment that resulted in swift condemnation from the National Rifle Association of America (NRA) and its like-minded allies in the media—which put an end to the national conversation.
Thousands of Haitians have been forcibly evicted from tent camps in the nation’s capital, according to a survey by the international aid organization Oxfam on Monday. Three years after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the Caribbean nation of 10 million, 357,000 Haitians are still living in 496 makeshift encampments scattered around the capital. The report, titled “Salt in the Wound: The urgent need to prevent forced evictions from camps in Haiti,” says that 86 percent of camp dwellers lack the financial resources to find alternate housing.
Since July 2010, an estimated 60,000 Haitians have been forcibly displaced from the camps, mostly by landowners who have grown impatient with the slow pace of relocation and are eager to reclaim their property. The report finds that government workers are often complicit in the process and that women, particularly those who are heads of their household, are overwhelmingly the victims of forced evictions.
While Oxfam applauds the government’s effort to relocate some displaced Haitians through the rental-subsidy program, known as 16/6, Haiti Country Director Andrew Pugh called on President Michel Martelly’s administration to do more to protect displaced peoples from violence, intimidation and unlawful threats to evict families. The report was rebuffed by an advisor to Martelly, Salim Saccar, who said, "The government is not engaged in a policy of eviction, but it has, through the 16/6 project, taken measures to safely and permanently relocate the people living in the camps to safe and permanent shelters.”
The Oxfam report was published the same day that President Martelly gave his “State of the Country” speech in North Miami Beach, Florida in an effort to rally support among the diaspora. The president has been the target of protests in Haiti for leaving without addressing the housing crisis, choosing instead to embark on an international tour with stops in Japan, Cuba and Europe.
For the past couple of years, people from all over the world have been asking me the same question: how bad are things in Monterrey, really? Obviously, they are referring to the drug-related violence and overall instability that have recently given the city unwanted international attention.
There’s a saying in Mexico: “cada quién cuenta como le fue en la feria,” which roughly translates to “how the tale is told depends on what the narrator has been through.” Therefore, my experience will not resonate equally among some others who live in Monterrey, but I do hope it will provide a relatively objective conclusion and answer to the above question.
Since the underlying interest behind the question is learning more about the situation of violence, I will not get into details about how Monterrey has a buoyant economy, entrepreneurial society, growing industrial sector, or is the birthplace of the most important higher education systems in Latin America and the home of hard-working, committed individuals. What I will focus on is how daily life has changed for middle-class citizens as a result of the violence and how societal interaction today is less regulated by a rule of law and more so by a rule of fear.
Top stories this week are likely to include: Chávez designates successor as he heads to Havana; Puerto Rico convenes legislature for statehood; Arab-Latin American Forum in Abu Dhabi; and impact of recent energy takeover deals in Canada.
Developments in Venezuela: This is the final week of campaigning in Venezuela’s regional elections, and the electorate will vote on Sunday for state governors and legislators. The most important contest is the gubernatorial race in Miranda, Venezuela’s second most populous state, where chavista loyalist and former Vice President Elías Jaua faces off against presidential runner-up Henrique Capriles Radonski. Furthermore, after President Hugo Chávez’ announcement last Saturday night that he is returning to Cuba for surgery today and having designated Vice President Nicolás Maduro as his heir should he not be able to lead, many in Venezuela will wonder about the severity of Chávez’ cancer and the future of his Bolivarian revolution. Notes AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini, “Now with President Chávez naming his successor, the gubernatorial election in Miranda is becoming a test of succession within the opposition over who could potentially have the legitimacy to lead in the post-Chávez era.”
Extra: Stay tuned for a Web Exclusive this morning from Javier Corrales, Amherst College professor of political science and AQ editorial board member, on Chávez’ announcement.
Puerto Rico Discusses Next Steps for Statehood: After Puerto Ricans rejected their present commonwealth status and 61 percent of respondents backed statehood in a referendum last month, Governor Luis Fortuño plans to call a special session of the legislature to discuss asking the U.S. federal government to honor Puerto Ricans’ request. However, although Puerto Rican voters supported statehood last month, they voted out Governor Fortuño and instead selected Alejandro García Padilla whose Partido Popular Democrático (Popular Democratic Party) wants to keep Puerto Rico as a commonwealth.
Arab-Latin American Forum: In recognition of the growing economic ties between Latin American and Arab countries (roughly $30 billion annually) Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) will host a forum this Saturday for representatives of the two regions. UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan has stated that Arab states’ interest in Latin America goes beyond trade to other aspects of bilateral cooperation—such as food security, environment, education, and culture.
Impact of Canada Energy Deals: After Canada’s trade ministry rejected the takeover of Progress Energy Resources Corp. by a Malaysian state-owned enterprise in October to much disagreement, it seemed to have reversed course—approving the deal last Friday as well as the takeover bid of Canadian firm Nexen by the Chinese firm China National Offshore Oil Corporation on the same day. How will Canadians react to these deals: as necessary alliances for more capital inflow, or as strategic assets in the hands of foreign investors?
The numbers are almost too much to take in: 4,100 murdered this year. This figure does not refer to a war-torn country, but to São Paulo state: the biggest driver of Brazil’s economy.
As a report came out last week showing that Brazil had seen as many violent deaths—500,000—over the past 10 years as Somalia’s 20-year civil war, the death toll in São Paulo city continued to rise.
For a decade, violence in São Paulo had been steadily declining. But recent months have seen a bloody wave sweeping South America’s biggest city—driven by what experts says is a war between police and the Primeiro Comando da Capital (First Command of the Capital—PCC), a criminal gang based out of São Paulo’s prisons.
The PCC formed in 1993 to lobby for better prison conditions, and evolved into a wide-reaching gang involved in drug and arms trafficking throughout the state. Gang leaders use smuggled cell phones to give orders to members on the outside, while complicit guards switch off signal jammers. Clearly the system is working for them: according to police wiretaps heard by Folha de São Paulo, gang leaders recently held a 10-hour conference call to discuss business: buying and selling drugs in Paraguay and Bolivia; sending marijuana and cocaine to São Paulo; and setting up distribution to other states and potential investments with the inflows.
After a massive demonstration on November 8, Argentines planned to take to the streets again Thursday night to protest the enforcement of a new media law scheduled to go into full effect today. In the end, a subway strike, torrential rains and a toxic gas cloud significantly reduced enthusiasm and left the streets of Buenos Aires mostly empty, save for some small scores of pot-banging citizens.
Nevertheless, the day ended largely as a victory for those opposing the Kirchner government's controversial 2009 media law. A court ruled in favor of Grupo Clarín, the largest media conglomerate in Argentina, effectively protecting it from the forcible sale of an important part of its licenses.
The court ruling last night established that Grupo Clarín’s licenses cannot be sold until the Supreme Court can rule on the constitutionality of articles 45 and 161, which limit the amount of licenses companies can hold and establish a divestment procedure for companies who hold more than 24 cable television licenses and 10 open frequency radio or television licenses. The Argentine government claims Grupo Clarín has over 200 licenses; Grupo Clarín says the number is 158.
The government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner today filed an appeal to last night's ruling before the Supreme Court, making use of a special per saltum procedure to bypass the lower courts. Depending on the Supreme Court's acceptance of the appeal and subsequent ruling, Grupo Clarín and other media groups may still have to comply with the new media law before the court can rule on the constitutionality of articles 45 and 161. That judgment would also be open to appeal. Since neither side in the current conflict is expected to back down, the current legal battle will likely continue.
Heads of state of Mercosur member countries are meeting in the Brazilian capital today, marking the first time that Venezuela will participate as a full member in the South American trade bloc after Paraguay’s suspension in June paved the way for its membership. But health concerns are preventing Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez from joining his counterparts from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, with Minister of Petroleum and Mining Rafael Ramirez participating in his place.
The Venezuelan president arrived in Venezuela this morning after 10 days of medical treatment in Cuba. Chávez, 58, was diagnosed with cancer in mid-2011, and since then, has had three cancer surgeries on the island. His prolonged absences have triggered rumors around his health, and bonds have surged as a result of increased uncertainty over Venezuela’s future. When asked about his absence, Chávez explained that his departure from Cuba was delayed by a conversation with Fidel Castro, with whom he had been discussing poetry. He also asserted that Venezuela is “eight days away from the next victory,” referring to the upcoming regional elections that will take place on December 16.
Chávez has been absent from every regional meeting in the past year, including the Summit of the Americas held in Cartagena, Colombia, in April and the Ibero-American summit held in Cadiz, Spain, in November.
One of the central points on today’s agenda is Paraguay’s suspension from Mercosur, following the impeachment of former President Fernando Lugo in June. Paraguay’s suspension will likely continue after the meeting and will likely be extended until a newly-elected president takes office in August 2013.
In a historic gathering in Salvador, Bahia, nearly 100 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Afro-Brazilian activists participated last month in the country’s first-ever National Black LGBT Conference (Primeiro Seminário Nacional de Negras e Negros LGBT).
Given the rare opportunity to be recognized as a unique group that suffers from discrimination based on race, sexual orientation and gender identities, attendees provided passionate accounts of their daily struggles for survival and acceptance. Embodying a collective sentiment of fear, exhaustion and frustration, black lesbian activist Joelma Cezário said, "I’m not afraid of losing my job. I’m afraid of being killed." Her feelings were echoed by countless others.
Tragically, Joelma’s story is not an anomaly: LGBT Afro-Brazilians are frequently subject to violent hate crimes, police abuse, educational and health disparities, and above all, invisibility. Their needs are often ignored by leading Afro-Brazilian and LGBT advocates, who overlook the presence of LGBT Afro-Brazilians in both groups.
Absent from the collective conscience, almost no data has been collected to understand the hardships of LGBT Afro-Brazilians, and no efforts have been made to help them overcome the challenges they face. Upon presenting their demands to government representatives at the national conference—such as calling for racial indicators to be included in anti-LGBT violence data collection and for racial equality programs to account for the Afro-LGBT population—they were pushed back-and-forth between LGBT and racial discrimination experts who avoided answering their questions and directed responsibility to each other.
Meanwhile, the mounting violence against the Black LGBT population in Brazil isn’t even being counted in official statistics. A recent report found that the number of homicides against Afro-Brazilians increased by 5.6 percent in the last decade, compared to a 24.8-percent reduction in homicides among Whites. These figures did not distinguish which victims were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Similarly, a government report issued earlier this year recorded nearly 300 anti-LGBT hate crimes in 2011, more than half of which were targeted against the estimated 10 percent of LGBT Brazilians who identify as transgender. The report failed to provide any information regarding the victims’ racial identity.
Despite an increasingly evident correlation, public institutions continue to fail to take action against the pervasive violence and discrimination that is specific to the Afro-LGBT population.