Lawyers representing the Indigenous Diaguita announced an initial agreement with mining giant Barrick Gold on Wednesday. Negotiations stalled in 2013 after the Canadian company invested $5 million in the Pascua-Lama mining project in the southern Atacama Desert.
The Diaguita had opposed the gold and copper mine located on the border of Chile and Argentina on the grounds that they were not properly consulted through the consulta previa process established by International Labour Organization Convention 169 (ILO 169) and codified into Chilean national law in 2009.
The initial agreement, which will be valid for six months, is the first in a series of steps that must be taken under ILO 169 before Barrick Gold can move forward. If the Diaguita community approves of Barrick’s project proposal, the two parties will enter the dialogue phase, which can last up to two years.
Despite the initial agreement, the Pascua-Lama project is officially on hold until water management infrastructure to prevent water pollution is constructed and the dialogue phase under ILO 169 is complete.
Miedo. Una simple lectura—que no pretende ser estadística—de las redes sociales, tras el resultado electoral del pasado domingo en Colombia, me arrojó innumerables veces esa palabra. Colombianos indignados y connotados columnistas la usaron para manifestar lo que sienten frente al escenario que el 40% de los votantes del país nos dejó para segunda vuelta: otra elección entre representantes de la misma oligarquía de siempre, el presidente en ejercicio, Juan Manuel Santos y el candidato del Centro Democrático uribista, Óscar Iván Zuluaga.
Una elección entre la ultraderecha y la centroderecha, entre la guerra y la paz, entre los amigos y enemigos del ex presidente y flamante senador Álvaro Uribe, quien es sin duda no solo el gran elector de la jornada sino el gran protagonista de la política colombiana de los últimos 12 años.
Es así como el epílogo de la carrera electoral a la que llegó Colombia el domingo, y que hasta hace apenas un mes parecía ser liderada por la anunciada reelección de Santos (difícilmente un mandatario no es reelecto; Lula, Evo, y Correa son ejemplos) estuvo marcado por la abstención y el miedo.
Ya no es el miedo a salir a votar o a ser amenazado si no se vota por el candidato respaldado por los violentos; paradójicamente, fue una de las jornadas electorales más tranquilas, gracias a la tregua pactada con las FARC y el ELN desde La Habana. Es el miedo a que ese proceso de paz se rompa, o a que por seguir avanzando en la idea de diversos sectores del país de que es conversando y no a bala que la guerra se acaba, los guerrilleros salgan impunes de sus crímenes o venga a Colombia el “castro-chavismo.”
El miedo a que las FARC se “adueñen” del país fue el discurso ventilado sin cesar desde la campaña de Zuluaga (es decir, la de Uribe). El ganador de primera vuelta con el 29,26%, 3.759.862 votos, ya anunció que rompería el proceso de paz si gana la segunda. Un mensaje que siempre cala porque es más fácil vender el discurso de seguridad que el de la paz, y porque sobre el segundo, difuso y complejo, se ha especulado mucho desde que se iniciaron las conversaciones en La Habana. El elector común no tiene información sobre lo que se está pactando en Cuba o tal vez simplemente no le interesa. Tampoco ha habido suficiente pedagogía.
Si bien muchos en Colombia queremos la paz, la complejidad de discutir políticas como la agraria, la antidroga o la participación política de los alzados en armas no pasa por el análisis del electorado. Que eso le signifique seguridad en el mediano y largo plazo, no es algo que el ciudadano digiera la hora de ir a la urnas.
Si es en cambio de expresa preocupación para partidos políticos, intelectuales y medios de comunicación que han hablado en los últimos días de hacer un frente por la paz para rodear el proceso. Esto es, votar por Santos. Aún sus más enconados opositores—como su contendor del 2010, Antanas Mockus; la ex candidata del Polo Democrático Alternativo (un partido de la izquierda), Clara López (que obtuvo en la primera vuelta el nada despreciable número de 1.957.626 votos); y el alcalde de Bogotá, Gustavo Petro—hoy hacen campaña pública para rodear el proceso. Dentro de los movimientos de izquierda y de organizaciones de derechos humanos que tienen sentidas diferencias con Santos por haber manejado con desatino las protestas y demandas de sectores campesinos, hay un debate interno por tener que elegir el mal menos peor con tal de no dejar que la ultraderecha se tome el país, con todo lo que eso significa: falsos positivos, avance del paramilitarismo y más guerra.
Así las cosas y a sabiendas de que los conservadores se irán con Zuluaga (es decir con Uribe), lo que representa los 1.995.628 votos que obtuvo Marta Lucía Ramírez, aún falta saber que pasará con los votos de Enrique Peñalosa (1.065.111, correspondientes al 8,29 por ciento) y con la también histórica cifra de voto en blanco que alcanzó el 6%. De las alianzas y de lo que pase en las siguientes dos semanas y media de campaña, depende el futuro del país. Zuluaga se ha mostrado inmune e impune a los escándalos: ni un hacker entregándole información confidencial sobre La Habana lograron desbancarlo del primer lugar.
Las FARC, que cumplieron 50 años de fundadas este 27 de mayo y quienes fueron factor de peso electoral en su momento (eligieron a Pastrana y a Uribe por razones totalmente opuestas) prefirieron callar hasta segunda vuelta. El país también les pide un gesto generoso de paz que devuelva la confianza de que el proceso vale la pena, que extiendan la tregua y avancen en pactos. Aunque es el tema que por décadas ha trasnochado a Colombia, este 15 de junio más que nunca es el ballotage (segunda ronda) por la paz. Y contra el miedo.
Interpol issued a warrant for the arrest of former Ecuadorian President Jamil Mahuad on Tuesday for embezzlement, mishandling of public funds and causing the country's banking crisis in the late 1990s.
Mahuad became president in 1998 when Ecuador was on the brink of war with neighboring Peru over a territorial dispute. Mahuad and then Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori signed a peace treaty months later, and they were both nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for this act. Things changed on March 9, 1999, when Mahuad declared a state of emergency and two days later, he froze bank accounts across the country, shutting down half of the 42 banks operating in Ecuador. The former president also replaced Ecuador's sucre currency with the U.S. dollar.
A coup by the military and the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador—CONAIE) in January 2000 forced Mahuad to flee Ecuador to the United States. He settled in Boston and is now a professor at Harvard University.
The Interpol warrant means that Mahuad may now be detained and extradited to Ecuador to face charges which could see him jailed for between eight and 12 years.
The case against the Mahuad was brought forth by the Ecuadorian government 13 years ago and has been ongoing. In December 2012, Ecuador's Corte Nacional de Justicia (National Court of Justice) requested that Interpol capture Mahuad, but Interpol denied the claim in January 2013.
On two previous occasions, I have used the Americas Quarterly blog as a space to talk about gun violence. The incidents in Aurora (July 2012) provoked one, and another surfaced when remembering the events of Montreal’s Polytechnique Engineering School in 1989 where 14 women were gunned down. We can also recall Virginia Tech, Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Dawson College as further evidence that gun violence is still very prevalent. All this violence has occurred on school campuses involving assailants with serious mental problems.
Now we have the sad and scary events in Santa Barbara. As the parent of one of the victims said last Saturday: when will it stop?
This past weekend we were exposed to the YouTube video of the alleged killer in Santa Barbara where six people died and 13 were injured. The footage was chilling to watch and was replayed continuously over various newscasts. The killing rummage was quick and sudden and it surfaced that the assailant purchased his weapon and armaments legally.
It would be easy to say this is an American problem and that we in Canada can only shake our heads in disbelief, especially given that these killing sprees are more frequent in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world. However, violence does not stop at the border as we have seen all too often.
Patricia Gutierrez de Ceballos and Rosa Brandonisio—married to Daniel Ceballos and Vicencio Scarano, ousted mayors of San Cristobal and San Diego respectively—won landslide votes in Venezuela’s mayoral elections on Sunday to replace their husbands after both men had been arrested and jailed as part of the opposition protests. The women are both part of the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (Democratic Unity Roundtable—MUD) opposition group.
Thirty-year-old Patricia Gutierrez de Ceballos, who has no previous political experience, won over 73 percent of the mayoral votes in San Cristobal this Sunday. In the midst of increasing protests in the city, her husband was arrested and sentenced to 12 months in jail under accusation of conspiracy and civil rebellion. In San Diego, Vicencio (Enzo) Scarano was sentenced to over 10 months in prison for refusal to remove protesters’ street barricades. His wife, Rosa Brandonisio, a former City Council member, won over 87 percent of the votes in Sunday’s election. Brandonisio has endorsed continued peaceful protesting in Venezuela as part of her campaign. “The people will remain peacefully in the streets, making people listen, so that it echoes throughout the world that Venezuela right now is going through a very difficult time, economically, socially, morally, and politically,” she said.
President Nicolás Maduro, however, gave ominous declarations during the voting on Sunday. “If elected mayors turn crazy, they will also be judged,” he said.
San Cristobal and San Diego have been among the most violent cities during the Venezuelan protests, with dozens of people killed in each location. Anti-government protests have been taking place since February 13 when student-organized protests flared up and turned violent in Caracas.
I, like many others, was one of those who sent an e-mail to the U.S. State Department inquiring about the visa status of a number of Cuban economists coming to the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) last week in Chicago. Most, though not all of them, received visas after becoming lodged in the State Department’s labyrinthine processes.
Sadly, I couldn’t have done the same for Manuel Cuesta Mora, a Cuban human rights activist who requested a visa from his government to travel to the same LASA conference. The Cuban government denied his visa, and I don’t have much pull with those guys, unfortunately.
Denied. [But the Joke’s on the Cuban Government]
The news of Cuesta Morua’s visa denial arrived just before the LASA conference started. According to the Cuban government the reason for Cuesta Morua’s inability to leave his country was that he had previously been arrested for participating in a peaceful protest in late January 2014, expressing citizen opposition to yet another regional platitudinous summit that failed to recognize the democratic values it purports to uphold.
In this case it was the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit held in Havana. Dozens of activists were rounded up by the Cuban government to preempt any embarrassing expressions of “democratic-ness.” And most Latin American presidents didn’t say a word, though many have benefitted from the sort of democratic openness or its defense under other less-leftist regimes.
It has been a surprising trend that, for the past several years, a number of Latin American countries have voted into power democratically elected left-wing governments of some kind—whereas Colombia has steered toward governments from the right of the political spectrum.
Even in countries in the region where right-wing presidents continue to hold office, like Mexico or Paraguay, there is still a strong Left that disputes elections and gets a considerable amount of legislators elected in the polls. In Colombia, on the other hand, political power has been largely split—at least in the last two decades—between different factions of the conservative Right.
Meanwhile, the emaciated democratic Left is crippled by internal rivalries (like in the case of the Polo Democrático), and has been targeted by death squads whenever it manages to approach a position of real power (like the widespread assassination of Unión Patriótica leaders and of demobilized M-19 fighters-turned-politicians in the 1980s and 90s).
Colombia’s current political trends can be explained by history. Historically, Colombia has been a geographically divided country since colonial times. After independence, no political party managed to unify the different territories that constituted the nation, and instead, the country was governed by strong regional socio-political dynamics.
Esta semana los líderes de The Guardian se reunieron con los directivos del diario El País para la entrega del premio Ortega y Gasset, pero más allá de los formalismos, fue un encuentro entre periodistas, donde emergió un debate que nos afecta a todos. ¿Cuál es la esencia del periodismo y su vigencia?
La respuesta fue inmediata: las historias. Más allá de los soportes, es decir redes sociales, contenidos audiovisuales o elementos para difundir la información, lo que marca la calidad y sello del contenido, son las historias.
Aquellas que no se encuentran en un comunicado de prensa. Aquellas que no se encuentran, muchas veces, detrás de un escritorio.
Los periodistas somos personas que contamos historias sobre otras personas. Es tan simple como eso. Es un oficio esencialmente humano y aunque la industria ha afrontado tiempos de enorme crisis, apostar por las historias, es apostar por un mundo que se alimenta de conexiones propias de nuestra naturaleza social.
El soporte es sólo el vehículo, pero es finalmente la historia lo que nos hace detenernos. Al leerla nos vemos a nosotros mismos, cómo afecta nuestra vida, nos hace reflexionar respecto a qué queremos hacer en este minuto o en los próximos 10 años. Nos interesa, nos molesta, nos lapida, genera una reacción.
The Dominican Republic’s Senate passed a bill granting citizenship to children born in the Dominican Republic to migrant parents on the night of May 21st, following the approval of the law by the Cámara de Diputados (Chamber of Deputies) last Friday. Senator Cristina Lizardo, from Santo Domingo requested that the legislation be passed in urgency bypassing normal procedures and the bill was passed after two readings. The law only needs the president’s signature to go into effect.
Dominican Republican President Danilo Medina proposed the legislation after the country received international criticism due to a Constitutional Court ruling from September 2013 that determined that the children of immigrants could not be considered citizens because their parents came to the Dominican Republic “in transit”. The country was accused of racism by its Caribbean neighbors, who believed the law specifically targeted the Haitian community that make up the majority of immigrants to the Dominican Republic. Tensions flared between Haiti and the Dominican Republic leading both countries to recall their ambassadors.
The law seeks to provide a path to citizenship for the children of immigrants that had been irregularly recorded or are not registered in the Dominican Civil Registry. Some argue that the law still discriminates against people who do not have documentation, but the Dominican government says that they can apply for naturalization two years after registering with this system. Haitian Prime Minister, Laurent Lamothe, expressed approval of the new law, a sign that the countries may fully reestablish diplomatic relations.
Stay tuned to hear more on this debate in our summer issue of America’s Quarterly which will feature a co-authored article from Haitian author Edwidge Danticat and Dominican author Junot Diaz.
With 21 days left before the World Cup begins, Brazilian bus drivers have gone on strike—shutting down terminals across São Paulo—while thousands of police are striking in 14 of Brazil’s 26 states and smaller protests are cropping up across the country.
In São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous city with over 20 million inhabitants, over half of the city’s 28 bus terminals are closed due to the strikes. The bus strike began on Tuesday with 300 drivers marching to the the mayor’s office to demand a meeting with São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad. Bus drivers are demanding a salary increase that surpasses the 10 percent increase agreement reached by their union, which they have rejected as insufficient. The Rio de Janeiro police force joined them yesterday, launching a 24 hour strike to call for a salary increase of their own.
Police strikes and protests are a particular concern to officials, since six of the 14 states where strikes are occurring (Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Bahia, Pernambuco, and Amazonas) are scheduled to hold World Cup games next month.
As the chaos continues, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s government continues its efforts to calm the protests. “We hope common sense prevails, that as the World Cup approaches these protests will diminish,”said Secretary General Gilberto Carvalho.
Tradicionalmente, las elecciones presidenciales en Colombia se han caracterizado por sus escándalos de corrupción, filtración de dineros del narcotráfico, y compra desmedida de votos. Lejos de romper con esta penosa tradición, la actual carrera presidencial pasará a la historia, por sumar a este prontuario el espionaje, la polarización, los insultos y acusaciones, y la falta de propuestas serias.
A pesar de contar con la presencia de varios candidatos con ideologías diversas, las elecciones presidenciales del 2014 parecen enfrentar únicamente a dos de ellos, provenientes de la misma corriente política: Óscar Iván Zuluaga, del Uribe Centro Democrático (partido creado por el ex presidente Álvaro Uribe) y Juan Manuel Santos, del Partido de la U. (movimiento político creado por el mismo presidente. El afán por obtener la presidencia ha llevado a algunos miembros de estos dos grupos a cometer actos de dudosa profesionalidad y a rayar en la ilegalidad.
Por una parte, al Centro Democrático se le han comprobado vínculos con Andrés Sepúlveda, a quién a su vez se le investiga por interceptaciones ilegales de las comunicaciones del Presidente Santos y del equipo de negociadores del proceso de paz, que en la actualidad sostienen el gobierno y las FARC en La Habana, Cuba. Adicionalmente, un sector importante de las fuerzas militares colombianas ha mostrado abiertamente su simpatía con el movimiento político de Uribe. Esta lealtad quedó en evidencia con una polémica filtración de coordenadas geográficas de operativos secretos de inteligencia al ex-presidente, quien de inmediato las publicó en Twitter, sin reparo por los riesgos evidentes de seguridad para los involucrados en dichas misiones.
Cuban dissident Yoani Sánchez launched 14ymedio, an online-only newspaper, on Wednesday morning. The outlet is meant to be an alternative to the state-controlled media, but Sánchez said that it will not serve as a platform to criticize the government. Rather, it will “contribute information so that Cubans can decide, with more maturity, their own destinies,” Sánchez said.
Activist Reinaldo Escobar, the paper’s editor-in-chief and Sanchez’ husband, said 14ymedio would avoid tension with the government by remaining a digital-only title and steering clear of loaded words like “dictatorship” and “regime.” While the first edition ran an interview with jailed opposition writer Ángel Santiesteban, the paper also covers issues beyond politics, like sports and style.
14ymedio will likely have limited readership, given that Internet access is sparse in Cuba and information is tightly controlled by the government. Three years ago, the Venezuelan government built a high-speed fiber optic cable, bringing more online access to the island. And though there are now some 300 public Internet cafes across the country, Internet use is prohibitively expensive—sometimes costing a week’s worth of public employee wages.
En nombre de la Revolución Bolivariana, Hugo Chávez le dio una prioridad nunca antes vista a la política exterior venezolana. Ni en el periodo de la Doctrina Betancourt—diseñada para aislar a los regímenes autoritarios de las Américas—ni en el del Tercermundismo de primer gobierno de Carlos Andrés Pérez, tuvo Caracas un protagonismo internacional como el que experimentó bajo la revolucionaria y sobredimensionada Doctrina Chávez.
Es por ello que la tímida y defensiva posición diplomática de Venezuela en el primer año de Maduro llama la atención y genera cambios en la dinámica política hemisférica. ¿Qué pasó con la política exterior venezolana? El precio de un barril de petróleo sigue alrededor de los US $100, y Chávez parece haber dejado instrucciones precisas. Las principales piezas gabinete de gobierno son hombres de confianza de “El Comandante,” pero la política exterior venezolana es irreconocible.
Como política pública, la exterior es compleja, porque conecta a los sistemas políticos doméstico e internacional, es decir, que está sujeta a variables internas y externas. Las variables del sistema internacional—salvo graves crisis—suelen moverse de manera lenta. Aun los cambios más espectaculares requieren de meses o años de maduración antes de ocurrir. La política doméstica puede ser más volátil, sobre todo en países en los que la institucionalidad ha sido degradada sistemáticamente. Esto genera una interacción de sistemas que van a distinta velocidad. Por esta razón, el caso de la contracción de la política exterior venezolana debe ser coyunturalmente analizado a partir de factores de política doméstica.
De los factores a analizar podemos destacar dos íntimamente vinculados: la desprofesionalización diplomática y la ausencia del líder fuerte. Ambos corresponden al proceso de desinstitucionalización propio del personalismo político. El primero es responsabilidad directa del mismo Chávez. Contrario al resto de las potencias regionales y potencias medias—y buena parte de las menores—latinoamericanas, Venezuela partidizó su academia diplomática y en la práctica abolió la carrera del servicio exterior. Este proceso fortaleció al presidente, a su partido, pero debilitó al Estado en su conjunto. La muerte de Chávez pone en evidencia a una política exterior altamente dependiente de la discrecionalidad, sin que existan instituciones que permitan darle continuidad, ni siquiera a la propia promoción revolucionaria en el exterior.
Seventy-one percent of likely voters—including 64 percent of Republicans—in the most competitive congressional districts in the United States consider support for comprehensive immigration reform an important factor in how they cast their vote in November, a recent Politico poll found. The survey released on Monday polled 867 likely voters in both English and Spanish and had a margin of error of plus/minus 4.1 percentage points.
According to the results, support for an immigration overhaul crossed party lines, with 78 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents calling it an important factor in deciding who to vote for. The same is true for 85 percent of Hispanic voters, 74 percent of white voters and 58 percent of African-American voters. Only 26 percent of those polled said that immigration would not influence their vote, and just 12 percent opposed comprehensive reform.
The poll comes less than a week after President Barack Obama set a timeline for action on reform during a meeting with law enforcement officials last Tuesday. While the Senate passed a comprehensive bill last June, similar legislation has been stalled in the House of Representatives. Meanwhile, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson is in the midst of conducting a review of the administration’s immigration enforcement policies, specifically the controversial Secure Communities program.
This week’s likely top stories: Candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga is implicated in a Colombian hacking scandal; Gustavo Madero wins the PAN’s internal elections in Mexico; the Colombian government and FARC reach an agreement on drugs; the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights will visit Guatemala; Argentine Vice President Amado Bodou may be called to testify in a criminal investigation.
Colombian Hacking Scandal Deepens with Release of New Video: A video released this week has implicated Colombian presidential candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga in a hacking scandal just a week ahead of the country’s presidential election on May 25. The video was published by Colombian news magazine Semana and shows Zuluaga discussing illegal interceptions of military intelligence with his advisor, Andrés Sepulveda, who was arrested and charged with hacking and espionage early this month. Last week, Zuluaga took a narrow lead in the polls over current President Juan Manuel Santos, who is running for re-election. Former Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, also a candidate in Sunday’s elections, has called on Zuluaga to quit the race.
PAN Leader Re-elected in Mexico, Improving Chances of Reforms: The leader of the Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party—PAN), Gustavo Madero, easily won re-election on Sunday in the party’s internal election process, increasing chances that oil and telecom reforms in Mexico will pass. Madero has been working with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to pass the reforms, although his party has been divided by its cooperation with Peña Nieto’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI). Madero won 57 percent of the votes cast by 155,984 PAN party members, easily defeating his rival, Ernesto Cordero, who won 43 percent of the vote and said that the PAN should be “responsible and firm” in its opposition to the PRI.
Colombia and FARC Reach Agreement on Drugs: The Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) reached an agreement on Friday to stem the country’s illegal drug trade, the third point of their six-point peace agenda. The government and rebels had already reached agreements on land reform and political participation last year. Humberto de la Calle, the government’s chief negotiator in Havana, said that the FARC has agreed to sever any ties to drug trafficking and that both sides have agreed to clear rural areas of land mines. FARC negotiator Iván Márquez said the government will address the health consequences of spraying toxic chemicals on coca fields by paying reparations to those affected.
UN Deputy High Commissioner on Human Rights to Visit Guatemala: United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri will pay an official visit to Guatemala on May 25 in order to conclude the office’s technical assistance to the country, according to a press release from the high commissioner’s office. Pansieri is expected to meet with Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina, as well as with several government ministers, members of congress, and the president of the Comisión Presidencial de Derechos Humanos (Presidential Commission of Human Rights—COPREDEH). She will also travel to Izabel to meet with Indigenous women who were victims of sexual violence during Guatemala’s armed conflict and will speak with human rights activists. Pansieri will conclude her visit on May 29.
Argentine Vice President Bodou May Testify in Criminal Investigation: An Argentine appeals court on Friday rejected a request by Argentine Vice President Amado Bodou to be removed from an ongoing tax evasion and influence-peddling investigation. The case focuses on a family-run printing firm, formerly known as Ciccone Calcográfica S.A., which was saved from bankruptcy in 2010 after receiving an injection of capital from a firm run by an acquaintance of Boudou’s close friend, and eventually passed into state hands. Bodou didn’t become involved in the investigation until 2012, after a police raid on an apartment he owned turned up evidence that he may have been involved. Boudou has maintained that he was not involved in any criminal wrongdoing, and has declined to take a leave of absence from office. The court may call on him to testify in the case.
Mexico’s Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (National Coordinator of Education Workers–CNTE), the powerful teacher’s union, took to the streets of Mexico City yesterday to protest President Enrique Peña Nieto’s educational reform, including a 3.5 percent increase in teachers’ wages. The leaders of the union sent a message to the president calling the increase “a joke.”
The education reform seeks to professionalize Mexico’s teachers, some of who have been accused of being "maestros aviadores" (aviator teachers) because they regularly fail to attend class. The protests in the capital come a month after local governments in Oaxaca, Chiapas, Michoacán, Sonora, Zacatecas and Baja California were taken to court by the Peña Nieto’s administration for not adhering to the rules of the reforms, and the laws of the “Servicio Profesional Docente” (Professional Teaching Service).
The educational reform project began with an agreement among Mexico’s three main political parties, known as the Pacto por México (Pact for Mexico). The reforms have faced stiff opposition, especially in southern Mexico where protests in Guerrero have turned violent and over a million students in Oaxaca missed nearly two months of class in September and October of last year. After taking to the streets on May 15, teachers threatened to call for more powerful protests and mobilizations against the Peña Nieto government.
On May 13, director Pamela Yates, producer Paco De Onís, and editor Peter Kinoy launched a special screening and discussion of their documentary film “Disruption” at ThoughtWorks’ Technology Salon in New York City.
“Disruption” takes the filmmakers’ body of work, which has long focused on human rights and transitional justice, in a new direction. The film opens by showcasing the Bogotá-based NGO Fundación Capital’s efforts to work directly with women in Colombia and Peru, and later Brazil, to fight poverty and inequality through the Women Savers program, which empowers women to open bank accounts and save money. Thanks to hands-on training—which later evolves into Colombia LISTA, an innovative financial tutorial program delivered by tablet—the women in the film not only develop a new knowledge of their rights and abilities, but are inspired to open their own businesses and become social and political leaders in their communities.
Eventually, recognizing both the achievements and the shortcomings of conditional cash transfer programs such as Bolsa Familia in Brazil, where beneficiaries age out of the system when children graduate from school, Fundación Capital takes its model abroad to other parts of the Americas. The film crew shadows members of the NGO as they visit government ministers in Rio de Janeiro and Citi executives in New York City to find out if their financial inclusion programs can be scaled to a national and regional level and used to create permanent change.
Buses in Rio de Janeiro returned to normal operations today after a strike immobilized the city for two days. The strike began Tuesday and left hundreds of thousands of commuters without transportation. According to Alexandre Almeida, the Rio Onibus press officer, at the start of the strike over 7,500 buses—comprising 84 percent of the city’s bus fleet—were halted. Bus drivers initially began striking for 24 hours last Thursday and decided to reinitiate the strike after their demands for better working conditions and a 40 percent salary increase were not met.
Between last week and this week’s strike, over 700 buses have been damaged as part of the protest and strike. The Transônibus union, which represents 36 bus companies across Rio de Janeiro state, reached an agreement with transportation companies for a 10 percent increase in salaries, but drivers rejected the proposal. The Central Sindical e Popular Conlutas (Trade Union and People Center—CSP), representing the drivers, complained that the agreement between the union and the companies “still eliminates 28,000 fair-collector jobs.” Hélio Teodoro, a leader of the striking bus drivers, stressed the importance of including the bus drivers themselves in the discussions. “The solution is the union and the companies sitting down with us to negotiate,” he said.
With less than a month until the 2014 World Cup begins, an increase in strikes and protests has left many wondering if the city is prepared to take on the over 600,000 tourists that will be traveling to Rio de Janeiro for the games.
In a meeting with law enforcement officials at the White House on Tuesday, President Barack Obama said that House Republicans have a “narrow window” of two or three months to push comprehensive immigration reform legislation through before midterm politics become a priority. Congressional elections will be held on November 4.
At the meeting, Obama cast immigration reform as a security issue, saying that maintaining the status quo “makes it harder for our law enforcement agencies to do their job.” The president signaled that the administration could “reboot” the controversial Secure Communities program, which shares information on immigrants gathered by local and state law enforcement with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson—who assumed office last December—is in the midst of conducting a review of the administration’s immigration enforcement policies. Over the past few months, Johnson has met with stakeholders on both sides of the immigration reform debate, including the national immigrant youth organization United We Dream and the nonprofit Center for Immigration Studies.
The president expressed hope that comprehensive reform legislation—like the bill that passed the Senate with bipartisan support in June 2013—would make it to his desk, provided that there’s movement before the August recess. Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner told local chambers of commerce in San Antonio on Monday that both parties are “getting closer on the policy side in terms of how to deal” with immigration reform.
Exportation in Colombia has been, and remains, a significant driving factor for large-scale mineral exploration, extraction and production by multinational corporations. According to the Banco de la República, the Colombian mining sector contributed to a record high proportion of the country’s total exports in 2011 and 2012, at 71 percent.
Fossil fuels especially constituted an integral component of mining sector production, with oil and coal representing 70 percent and 20 percent of production, respectively. A 2011 report produced by Carolynna Arce, deputy director of the Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos (National Hydrocarbon Agency), reported that Colombia received an estimated $4 billion in foreign direct investment in the oil and gas sector in 2010. This could explain why, earlier this year, Colombia Reports ran the headline that “66% of Colombians think mining is positive for the country.”
Such optimism arguably overlooks various Colombian mining scandals, such as the illegal assignment of mining titles in National Parks by Ingeominas that surfaced in 2011. That aside, ABColombia, The Guardian, Peace Brigade International and Guillermo Rudas of Colombia’s Universidad Javeriana all vocally highlighted the tax breaks enjoyed by multinational mining companies in Colombia.
Five hydroelectric projects in the Peruvian Amazon that would generate electricity for consumption within the country and abroad would require more than $7 million in investment, AméricaEconomía reported Monday.
All five projects, located in Amazonas region in northern Peru, would bring over 8,000 jobs to the rural region according to José Arista Arbildo, president of the Gobierno Regional de Amazonas (Regional Government of Amazonas—GRA). This would help Amazonas ease its dependence on agricultural products and transition into a sustainable-energy producing region, Arista said. Two of the projects have already been approved by Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines and are projected to be completed in approximately five years. The other three projects are still in the evaluation phase and will not begin construction until 2018.
Similar hydroelectric energy projects have been halted or blocked in Brazil and Chile for failing to properly consult Indigenous communities that would be adversely affected in a legal mechanism known as consulta previa or prior consultation. Inambari, a hydroelectric plant on the border with Brazil has been stalled since 2011 due to environmentalist and Indigenous protests.
Every year around February, Carlos Slim Helú’s name is tossed around in the offices of Forbes magazine. Numbers are crunched, and Forbes’ editors determine if they will publish the Mexican businessman’s name with a 1 or a 2 beside it in their famous “World’s Richest People” list.
In a country ranked 88th in the world in GDP per capita in 2013, with 52.3 percent of its population living below the poverty line in 2012, one has to wonder how it is that Slim is able to accrue so much wealth.
Forbes calculates Slim and his family’s net worth at $72 billion dollars. Other publications calculate his worth at around $75 billion, so let’s settle for $73, give or take a few billion. Putting things into perspective, based on last year’s GDP per capita estimates, Slim’s $73 billion net worth is equivalent to more than the wealth of 4.6 million average Mexicans put together.
There are a number of explanations for how Slim got this rich. Some appeal to the romantic story of an entrepreneurial boy who learned to invest from his father at the age of 12. Others, more critical of Slim, point towards the moment that Slim bought Teléfonos de México (Telmex) in 1990 during the privatizations of former President Carlos Salinas Gortari. In reality, Slim was a wealthy man well before 1990, but I’m sure that gaining control of the only phone company in the country at the time helped grow his assets, which include ownership and/or shareholder participation in over 200 companies in Mexico.
This week’s likely top stories: U.S. Congress considers sanctions against Venezuela; Uruguay’s José Mujica visits with Barack Obama; the leader of the Zetas may be dead; Brazil faces new obstacles in World Cup preparations; Michelle Bachelet visits Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina.
U.S. Congress Pushes for Sanctions Against Venezuela: The United States House Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday recommended the passage of a bill that would sanction the Venezuelan government for human rights violations committed since nationwide protests started in February. The sanctions would include banning visas and freezing the assets of Venezuelan officials involved in the abuses. On Friday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro called the proposed sanctions a “stupid idea,” and on Sunday, the Venezuelan government announced the release of 155 protesters who had been arrested in raids on street encampments last week, although some 160 protesters remain in jail.
Mujica Meets With Obama in Washington DC: Uruguayan President José Mujica is meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday in Washington DC. Along with a discussion of hemispheric politics and trade, Mujica and Obama are expected to discuss Uruguay’s offer to receive five prisoners from the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. Mujica is also expected to seek Obama’s help in fighting a $2 billion lawsuit by tobacco giant Philip Morris, which is suing the South American country for a 2009 anti-tobacco law that the company says violates its intellectual property rights. Mujica is in Washington DC until Thursday, when he is expected to make a presentation before the OAS on the legalization and commercialization of marijuana.
Zetas Leader Believed Dead: Galindo Mellado Cruz, accused of being one of the founders of the Zetas Cartel in Mexico, is believed to be one of five people killed in a shootout in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, on the Mexico-U.S. border. Although Mellado, also known as “El Mellado” or “Z-9”, no longer held a position of power in the Zetas, he was one of the 30 founding members of the cartel, who were originally part of Mexican special forces. The Zetas collaborated with the Gulf Cartel until the two cartels split, provoking a territorial battle that was particularly deadly in Tamaulipas. The Zetas reportedly control more territory than any other criminal gang in Mexico and are notorious for extremely violent and gruesome crimes.
Brazil World Cup Preparations: As rumors circulate that the International Olympic Committee has considered moving the 2016 Olympic Games to London, Brazil is stepping up security preparations for the World Cup, deploying more than 30,000 troops to the country’s borders to target illegal immigration and the trafficking of drugs and weapons. Meanwhile, about 7,000 members of the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra (Homeless Workers’ Movement—MST) have set up camp outside the new Arena Corinthians in São Paulo to demand affordable housing for working-class Brazilians and to protest rising prices and expenditures on World Cup stadiums. Arena Corinthians will host the opening match of the World Cup on June 12.
Bachelet Meets with Fernández de Kirchner: Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has arrived in Buenos Aires to meet with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, marking Bachelet’s first international visit since the beginning of her second presidency. The leaders will meet on Monday and primarily discuss reviving the Treaty of Maipú, which was signed by the two presidents in 2009 and sets out to create a bi-oceanic railway network between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. In addition, the presidents will discuss Argentina’s plans to join the Pacific Alliance and relations within the more protectionist Mercosur trade bloc.
Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera became the forty-seventh president of Costa Rica yesterday. Solís, 56, appeared alongside First Lady Mercedes Peñas Domingo at the National Stadium in San José for the inauguration ceremony, saying, “We want to effectively combat poverty, not just administer it.” In addition to its plan to reduce poverty, Solís’ administration will face a divided legislative assembly, ongoing border issues with Nicaragua, and the challenge of regaining Costa Ricans’ trust in politicians and the government.
The victory for Solís and the leftist Partido Acción Ciudadana (Citizen Action Party—PAC) marks the first time since 1948 that a non-traditional party has interrupted the two-party dominance of the Partido Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Party—PNL) and the Partido de Unidad Socialcristiana (Social Christian Unity Party). On April 6, Solís won an astounding 78 percent of the votes in the second round of the Costa Rican elections. This after PLN candidate Johnny Araya dropped out of the presidential runoff race following a poll that showed that Solís already had a commanding 44 percent lead.
The outgoing president, Laura Chinchilla, has faced criticism for the country’s weak infrastructure and growing debt, and her inability to address various scandals. Her PLN party has been in power for the last 8 years.
Argentina’s official government gazette announced yesterday the creation of a cultural ministry department to be headed by folk singer and composer Teresa Adelina Sellares, also known by her stage name, Teresa Parodi.
Prior to the creation of the Cultural Ministry, the government cultural department was run through the Secretary of Culture, Jorge Coscia, who resigned from his position with the appointment of Parodi. The decree issued by the government noted the importance of recognizing culture, given that “political decisions, economic and financial initiatives and social reforms have much more possibilities to success if the cultural perspective is considered.” Among other areas, the Cultural Ministry is in charge of all national museums, and will also work closely with the Assistant Secretary of Sociocultural Policies, Franco Vitali.
Prior to her appointment, Parodi—a former teacher, artist and Peronist activist—had been working at the Espacio Cultural Nuestro Hijos (ECuNHI), a human rights organization run by the Madres de la Plaza de Mayor (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo). Over her lifetime she has produced 30 albums and received various awards, including the Platinum Konex Award for best author-composer of the decade in 1995, the Award of the National Endowment of the Arts in 1999, the Gardel a la Música in 2003, and the Grand National Prize of Arts and Sciences in 2011.
Cultural development has been a priority for President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration, supported by leaders in the music, film and art world. With the addition of Minister Parodi, Fernández de Kirchner’s cabinet is now comprised of 16 ministers, all headed by Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich.
Luego de pasar por la elección más reñida en la historia reciente de El Salvador, el país espera que en menos de un mes Mauricio Funes, el primer presidente del partido de izquierda Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN), deje el poder y le pase la banda presidencial al primer presidente excombatiente del FMLN, Salvador Sánchez Cerén.
El país está literalmente dividido—después de una elección cuya diferencia fue de apenas 0.22 por ciento—y se encuentra en un ambiente de expectativa, en ocasiones tenso y nervioso. Ante una realidad como esa, sumada a un panorama económico desalentador y un aumento en la delincuencia, el presidente electo se verá obligado a colaborar con la oposición política al menos hasta las elecciones legislativas del 2015. Es por eso que la reciente visita de Sánchez Cerén a Venezuela ha generado reacciones encontradas.
Yo le doy dos posibles lecturas a la visita de Sánchez Cerén a Venezuela el pasado 1 de mayo: la primera es optimista y la segunda es un poco más apegada a la realidad. Hace dos meses, en las vísperas de la elección presidencial de El Salvador, el presidente venezolano Nicolás Maduro fue el primero en felicitar a Sánchez Cerén, aun cuando a El Salvador se le agotaban los recursos legales para afirmar quien había ganado la elección presidencial con los márgenes de diferencia más estrechos de las últimas décadas.
The Colombian attorney general’s office announced yesterday that authorities have arrested a hacker suspected of spying on communications belonging to the government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) as they conduct peace talks in Havana.
Andrés Sepúlveda was arrested in a raid on a Bogotá office for allegedly running an illegal spying ring. Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre said that Sepúlveda’s operation was selling information to a third party in an attempt to “sabotage, interfere and affect the peace process in Havana.” Investigators believe that President Juan Manuel Santos’ emails may have been intercepted.
Sepúlveda is linked to the political campaign of Óscar Iván Zuluaga, the Centro Democrático (Democratic Center) candidate who is running against Santos in Colombia’s May 25 presidential election. Zuluaga acknowledged yesterday that Sepúlveda has been providing social network and security services for his campaign since February, but insisted that the spying ring had nothing to do with his campaign.
A prior spying scandal unveiled in February also targeted the peace talks in Havana, but Montealegre said that the latest scandal was not linked to Operation “Andrómeda,” in which members of the Colombian military set up a special intelligence unit to spy on the government, the FARC, and journalists’ communications.
The raid comes days after Santos’ chief campaign strategist, J. J. Rendon, resigned amid allegations that he received $12 million from drug kingpins in exchange for mediating a negotiated surrender.
The botched April 29 execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett made headlines throughout the world, leading to appeals to either abolish capital punishment in the United States or revisit the methods used to execute by lethal injection (in this case, the nature of the drugs).
Since 1976 (after a brief suspension of the death penalty by the U.S. Supreme Court), over 1,000 people have been executed and over 3,000 are currently on death row. Presently, there are only 18 U.S. states that have abolished the death penalty altogether.
U.S. President Barack Obama has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to look into the circumstances surrounding the execution in Oklahoma. However, there will likely be little change resulting from this initiative. Obama is not an abolitionist himself, and individual states have the upper hand on this issue.
Proponents for or against capital punishment weighed in on Sunday talk shows, such as “Meet the Press” and “This Week”. The views ranged from limiting the categories of murders subject to the death penalty to the use of drugs tested and approved to avoid future botched executions—not too encouraging for those who oppose capital punishment and want a wider debate.
The Venezuelan executive’s approval rating dropped from 46.8 percent in February to 37 percent in April amid chronic consumer shortages, high inflation, increased violence, and street protests that began in February.
The poll, conducted by public opinion group Datanálisis, also found that 79.5 percent of Venezuelans have a negative view of the country’s current state. The economic conditions—including an inflation rate rapidly approaching 60 percent—as well as the violence and extreme shortages that sparked the nation-wide protests in February continue to be the biggest factors affecting Maduro’s popularity. A third of Venezuelans polled cited these as the country’s main problems.
Venezuela has also faced international scrutiny for its response to the three-month-long demonstrations that have paralyzed major cities across the nation. A recent Human Rights Watch report highlighted the unlawful use of force perpetrated by security forces against unarmed, nonviolent anti-government protestors, who have been shot at point blank range, severely beaten, and forced to undergo physiological and physiological torture.
Guatemala’s Comisión de Postulación, a national selection committee, announced the six nominees for country’s next attorney general last week, with the name of current attorney general Claudia Paz y Paz conspicuously absent from the list. Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina will make his choice after interviewing the remaining candidates, and must announce a new attorney general by May 17.
Paz y Paz’s exclusion has generated outrage in Guatemala and abroad from human rights groups who say the snub was politically motivated. “We knew that the prosecutor [Paz y Paz] had many enemies, but we hoped the Commission would be independent,” said Helen Myrna Mack, of the Myrna Mack Foundation. “I think everybody was surprised and disappointed. It shows the system lacks credibility, it means that there’s no autonomy.”
Diego Álvarez, the spokesman for the Comisión Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala (Commission against Impunity in Guatemala—CICIG) said, “We are surprised that Paz y Paz is not on the list of six candidates, despite her excellent performance during her term, along with her classification in the process.”
After an intensive interview before the Comisión de Postulación, Paz y Paz’s score (69 out of 100, later amended to 73) placed her first among the 26 competing candidates. The Commission reviewed each candidate’s work experience and credentials and asked the candidates generic questions, followed by a round of more personal, specific questioning. The candidates also completed a written law exam.
However, Paz y Paz’s true test was whether the 14 members of the Comisión de Postulación would cast their vote for her. Milton Argueta, the dean of the faculty of law at Universidad Francisco Marroquin, reported that he had received death threats prior to making his vote, and two text messages to his cell phone suggested that his wife would be murdered if he remained on the Commission, but he remained.
This week’s likely top stories: Juan Carlos Varela will be Panama’s next president; talks between Haiti and the Dominican Republic are postponed; marijuana legalization goes into effect in Uruguay; a Colombian mine collapse kills at least 12 people; a Brazilian soccer fan is killed in Recife.
Juan Carlos Varela Wins Panamanian Election: Juan Carlos Varela of the Partido Panameñista won a highly anticipated election on Sunday as Panamanian voters elected their next president. With 80 percent of votes counted, Varela had gained a 7 percent lead over his closest rival, José Domingo Arias of the ruling Cambio Democrático (Democratic Change), with Partido Revolucionario Democrático (Democratic Revolution Party—PRD) candidate Juan Carlos Navarro in third. Both Arias and Navarro conceded victory to Varela on Sunday night, although the election results are not yet official. Varela will take office on July 1 with Isabel Sain Malo, who will become vice president.
Talks Between Haiti and the Dominican Republic Postponed Again: A third round of talks between the Haitian and Dominican government have been postponed a fourth time after Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elías Jaua, who is mediating between the two countries, asked to reschedule. Haitian and Dominican leaders were expected to discuss trade, health, tourism and migration on May 6—and to address last year’s Dominican Constitutional Court decision that has left hundreds of thousands of descendants of Haitian immigrants born in the Dominican Republic without citizenship. A first round of talks between the two countries took place on January 7, and a second round took place on February 3. The third round was originally scheduled for March 12, and is now expected to take place on May 8.
Uruguayan Marijuana Law Comes into Force: Uruguay’s marijuana legalization law will go into effect on Tuesday, permitting Uruguayan adults to grow up to six cannabis plants and to purchase up to 40 grams of the drug each month. All Uruguayan pharmacies that choose to sell cannabis must register with the national government, as do all individuals who wish to purchase marijuana from pharmacies. Diego Cánepa, head of the country’s drugs board, said that the sale of cannabis is not expected to begin until late 2014, but that the licensing process for companies to grow the plant will be rolled out within the next 15 days. Uruguayan President José Mujica, who will visit the White House on May 12, has criticized pot laws in the United States, saying that Uruguay’s policies will be more restrictive.
Death Toll Rises in Colombian Mine Collapse: At least 12 people were killed when an illegal gold mine in Colombia’s Cauca department collapsed last Wednesday night. After three victims were identified last week, rescue workers recovered more victims this weekend, and say that at least four other people who are still missing may have perished. The mine collapse was the second in less than a week in Colombia, after four miners in Antioquia department died after inhaling toxic fumes in an illegal mine.
Brazilian Soccer Fan Killed in Recife: A 26-year-old Brazilian soccer fan was killed outside the Estadio do Arruda in Recife on Friday, when unidentified fans ripped toilet bowls out of the stadium bathroom and threw them from the top deck in a match between Santa Cruz and Paraná. Brazilian authorities will bar fans from the stadium for the next two matches and said that Santa Cruz fans will be banned from all stadiums until those responsible for the death are identified. The Arruda stadium will not host any World Cup matches, which start next month.
In early March, The Washington Post ran an article on pending ambassadorial nominations worldwide, highlighting the fact that political maneuvering in the U.S. Senate was stalling numerous nominations and that, by implication, U.S. interests abroad were suffering.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Western Hemisphere, which, at the time the article was written, hosted U.S. embassies with almost half of the ambassador slots vacant. Some of these vacancies—such as in Bolivia and Venezuela—are long-standing, owing to political difficulties with host nations. Others, including in Colombia, have subsequently been filled.
Still, a disheartening number of posts remain without fully accredited ambassadors. Of these, one in particular stands out: Peru, which has been without an ambassador since Rose Likins left in September 2013.
A qualified candidate to replace her, career official Brian Nichols, was nominated on June 24, 2013, and was unanimously approved by the Foreign Relations Committee in October and again in January 2014. He has yet to be confirmed, patiently waiting longer than any other nominee for any other ambassador post worldwide.
This is particularly strange—to say nothing of the personal toll that it takes on nominees and their families—because a prosperous, democratic Peru is a cornerstone of U.S. policy in the Americas. The trade and investment relationship is strong and growing. Peru is an important economic partner with a bilateral free trade agreement and a party to the ongoing TPP negotiations. Peru is also a founding member of the Pacific Alliance, consisting of four Latin American nations pursuing a new vision of economic integration that fits comfortably within a framework of U.S. interests.
Protesters in Haiti called for the resignation of Haitian President Michel Martelly as they closed a major road in Port-au-Prince on Thursday. Some 2,000 protesters accused Martelly of corruption and demanded that the government hold elections.
This is the third protest against the Haitian government this week after elections have been delayed for almost two and a half years. In March, a U.S. Congressional delegation to Haiti—including Florida Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Frederica Wilson—voiced concern over Haiti’s delay to hold elections. UN Special representative and head of the UN Stabilization Mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH), Sandra Honoré, has encouraged the participation of all actors after the executive, the legislative and political parties reached the Accord of El Rancho in February, agreeing to combine parliamentary and municipal elections. If elections are not held by the end of 2014, the parliament will dissolve in January of 2015, allowing Martelly to rule by decree.
The protests on Thursday were broken up by riot police and UN peacekeepers after the blockade and the Associated Press reported that at least 10 protesters were detained. Demonstrations overtook the northern city of Cap-Haitien on Sunday, and protests in the capital turned violent on Monday after protesters smashed car windows in Port-au-Prince.
Brazil is betting on an eventual opening in Cuba. The bet is more than economic; it’s linked directly to a larger geopolitical project intended to draw Cuba toward its own model of economic and political organization as Cuba wakes up from its 55-year slumber under the Castro regime.
The process has already started with a series of market-oriented reforms initiated by Raúl Castro—brother to Fidel—and will only accelerate with the passing of the octogenarian Castro brothers and their guerrilla field comrades. Unfortunately, as Brazil engages in a wise game of hemispheric chess, the U.S. is playing solitaire: the result of the self-imposed embargo that has prevented economic, diplomatic and even routine contact with an island 90 miles away from the United States.
In the last five years, Brazil financed the majority of the $957 million deep water Mariel port project in the northwest of the island built by infrastructure giant Odebrecht. The port, and the 180-square-mile free-trade and development zone that surrounds it, is intended to service wide draft ships that will be able to pass through the expanded Panama Canal—a requirement that many U.S. ports won’t be able to meet when the updated canal completes its expansion by 2015. And it’s only the beginning. Recently, when he was in the country to tour the facility, former President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced the acquisition of the iconic beer company Bucanero by the Brazilian beer giant, InBev, and there is talk that Brazil’s recent investments in Cuba’s Mariel port facility and free trade zone are only the tip of the iceberg.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto proposed new rules yesterday aimed at increasing oil production and boosting the economy.
The proposed legislation includes the creation of eight new laws and the modification of 13 existing laws. Mexican Secretary of Tax, Luis Videgaray, and Secretary of Energy, Pedro Joaquín Coldwell, have said that, with the exception of public gasoline sale, the new rules would open the sale of energy resources to foreign and private firms while keeping them under state control. Videgaray maintained that the laws will reduce Mexico’s high fiscal dependence on oil revenues.
If the rules are approved by Congress, it would end a 75-year monopoly by the state-run oil company Pemex, which was created by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI) under President Lázaro Cárdenas in 1938. While giving new businesses the opportunity to invest in Mexican oil, the laws would also lower taxes on Pemex from 79 percent to less than 65 percent. Pemex would also be guaranteed at least a 20 percent stake of business in oil deposits in defined territories.
Political opposition parties, the Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party—PAN) and the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Party of the Democratic Revolution—PDR) have both pushed back against the reform. The PAN has made its support of the new rules conditional on the passage of electoral reform that would weaken the PRI’s influence. The PRD is hoping to overturn the proposed reform altogether.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.