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  • President Bachelet Cancels Venezuela Trip

    July 29, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Chilean President Michelle Bachelet unexpectedly canceled her trip to Venezuela for today’s Mercosur Summit yesterday afternoon. Alvaro Elizalde, a spokesman for the Bachelet administration, confirmed that Heraldo Muñoz, Minister of Foreign Affairs, will represent the Chilean delegation at the summit in Caracas.

    In addition to the Mercosur meetings, Muñoz will also meet with Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro’s administration and with the Venezuelan opposition coalition Mesa De Unidad Democrática (Democratic Unity Coalition–MUD), at their request.

    Muñoz is expected to express Chile’s interest in restarting and facilitating the stalled peace negotiations between MUD and the Venezuelan government. It is unclear whether he will address the continued imprisonment of opposition leader and former mayor Leopoldo López of the Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) party.

    President Bachelet’s absence was attributed to a winter cold and emergency meetings regarding her signature tax, healthcare and education reform.

    Tags: Chile, Michelle Bachelet, Venezuela, Mercosur

  • Monday Memo: Mercosur Summit – General Hugo Carvajal – Gov. Jerry Brown – Mexican Energy Reform – Argentine Debt

    July 28, 2014

    by AQ Online

    This week’s likely top stories: Mercosur leaders meet in Caracas; former General Hugo Carvajal returns to Venezuela; California Governor Jerry Brown visits Mexico; Mexican Congress discusses energy reform; Argentina nears its debt deadline.

    Mercosur leaders to address Israel at Mercosur summit: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is expected to lead Mercosur leaders in condemning Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip at Tuesday’s summit of Mercosur presidents in Caracas. Last Thursday, Israel referred to Brazil as a “diplomatic dwarf” after Rousseff recalled Brazil’s ambassador to Israel and the Brazilian Foreign Ministry cited Israel’s “disproportionate use of force” in Gaza.  All five presidents of Mercosur’s full members—Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela—are expected to attend the summit, along with Bolivian President Evo Morales, whose country is in the process of joining the bloc. Argentine President Cristina Fernández is also expected to deliver a speech condemning “vulture funds” only one day before Argentine debt talks are set to expire.

    Venezuelan ex-general freed in Aruba: Former Venezuelan General Hugo Carvajal received a hero’s welcome in Venezuela after he was released from detention by Aruban authorities on Sunday. U.S. officials have accused Carvajal of aiding in drug trafficking and supporting left-wing guerillas in Colombia. While Carvajal was waiting to be confirmed as Venezuela’s consul in Aruba, he was arrested last Wednesday at the request of the United States, but the Dutch government finally agreed that he “should have diplomatic immunity as nominated consul to Aruba.” The United States has accused the Venezuelan government of threatening  the governments of Aruba and the Netherlands to release the former general.

    California Gov. Jerry Brown trade mission to Mexico: California Governor Jerry Brown has arrived in Mexico to discuss immigration and trade with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and leaders from Central America. The governor will meet with Peña Nieto today and with Central American leaders on Tuesday to discuss the wave of undocumented minors arriving in the United States. The focus of the trip will be the economy and trade, and the governor will be joined by a delegation of more than 100 state government, business, economic development, investment and policy leaders to foster trade, educational exchanges, climate change, and tourism between California and Mexico.

    Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies to discuss energy reform legislation: Members of Mexico’s lower house will begin discussion today on secondary legislation for Mexican energy reform. The reform will permit the participation of private national and foreign investment in Mexico’s oil and gas company PEMEX and the Comisón Federal de Electricidad (CFE–Federal Electricity Commission) for the first time in the country’s history. The Partido Acción Nacional (National Action PartyPAN) has promoted the creation of a Fondo Mexicano del Petróleo (Mexican Fund for Oil) with profits derived from the oil industry in order to invest in infrastructure and technology. The director of CFE, Enrique Ochoa Reza, emphasized the benefits of the reform, including generating cheaper and more environmentally friendly forms of energy.

    Argentina at risk of default as debt deadline nears: Upon the news that the Argentine government will not meet with a debt mediator until tomorrow, Argentina’s government bonds dropped to a one-month low today. The Argentine government has met with court-appointed mediator Daniel Pollack on four occasions, and negotiations over $1.5 billion in unpaid debts remained deadlocked after no progress had been made with talks on Friday. If negotiations are not completed by July 30, or a court delay is not offered, Argentina will default for the second time in only 13 years.

    Tags: Mercosur, Immigration, Hugo Carvajal, Argentine debt

  • Former Chávez Aid Detained in Aruba

    July 25, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Caracas announced yesterday its opposition to the “illegal and arbitrary” arrest of former Venezuelan general, Hugo Carvajal in the Dutch-administered Caribbean island Aruba. While Carvajal–ex-director of military intelligence in Venezuela and personal advisor of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez–awaited his approval as consul in Aruba, he was detained on Wednesday night at the request of the U.S. government for his supposed involvement in drug-trafficking and support of the Colombian guerrilla group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–FARC).

    Carvajal was involved Chávez’s first coup attempt in 1992 and served as the military intelligence chief from 2004 to 2011. In 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted Carvajal and other Veneuzlean military officials accusing them smuggling cocaine and providing weapons to FARC rebels. He has also been accused of providing protection and documents of identification for Colombian cartel leaders, including Wílber Varela, in Venezuelan territory.

    Although Venezuelan authorities declared the capture illegal because General Carvajal had a diplomatic passport, the Dutch government had never approved of his appointment. The U.S. has have 60 days make a formal request for request an extradition of the former general.

    Carvajal is one of three former high-ranking officials from Chávez’s administration that have been charged in drug-trafficking cases. Benny Palmeri-Bacchi, one of these former officials, was arrested upon his arrival in Miami, and yesterday pleaded not guilty to protecting a drug-trafficker who brought cocaine from Venezuela to the United States.

    Read More

    Tags: Venezuela, FARC, Drug Trafficking

  • U.S. Ambassador Shannon Travels to Central America

    July 24, 2014

    by AQ Online

    U.S. Counselor of Department of State Thomas Shannon arrived in Honduras on Wednesday as part of a three-day trip to Central America to address the estimated 52,000 unaccompanied minors from the region entering the U.S. illegally. As part of his trip, Shannon visited repatriation centers and met with leaders of civic organizations and government officials. He also spoke with members of the Red Cross, the Border Police, and immigration officials on the Honduran-Guatemalan border in Corinto, Honduras—an area that has seen high levels of violence and narcotrafficking activity, as well as the transit of thousands of migrants per year.

    The unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. are primarily coming from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and many have since been detained by U.S. officials.  “Migration is a problem that corresponds to all of the countries involved—the countries of origin, transit and destination. We have the responsibility to work together to look for a solution to the problem,” said Shannon.

    Shannon, who is the first Foreign Service Officer to serve as Counselor in 32 years, discussed the importance of addressing the push factors in Central America. “We want to work to assure that migrants, instead of looking for the American dream look for the Honduran dream. We need to build opportunities [in Central America], even though we understand that some of these [children] wish to be [reunited] with their parents, but migration has many causes,” he said.

    Shannon’s trip concludes today, just before President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina and Salvadorian President Salvador Sánchez Cerén on Friday in Washington DC to discuss the crisis of children migrants.

    Tags: child migrants, Thomas Shannon, Central America

  • Massachusetts Voters React to Unaccompanied Minors Plan

    July 23, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Massachusetts voters are split on whether they support Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to temporarily shelter 1,000 unaccompanied young immigrants in the state, according to a Boston Globe poll released today. Half of the 404 voters polled expressed support for Gov. Patrick’s plan, and 43 percent opposed it, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points. Responses to the poll split along political lines, with 79 percent of Republicans opposing the plan and 69 percent of Democrats supporting it. As of the end of June, 733 minors had already been discharged to Massachusetts.

    In an emotional address on Friday during which he called the situation at the southern border a “humanitarian crisis,” Gov. Patrick said the state could provide temporary shelter for up to four months at one of two military facilities in the towns of Bourne or Chicopee. He made clear that all services rendered at either facility relating to unaccompanied minors would be staffed and paid for by the federal government. But the mayor of Chicopee, Richard Kos, strongly opposed using the city’s Westover Air Reserve Base as an option, citing concerns about “security issues and maintaining normal operations.”

    While generally regarded as a liberal state, the poll showed that Massachusetts residents are more moderate on immigration issues. Asked whether the migrant children should be allowed to stay in the U.S. after judicial hearings, and only 39 percent answered yes, while 43 percent said they should be deported. And only 52 percent of those polled support a path to citizenship for immigrants already in the country illegally, which is in line with national poll results.

    Tags: Immigration, unaccompanied minors, Massachusetts

  • Visit Sparks Hope for Chinese Investment in Cuba

    July 22, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Chinese President Xi Jinping kicked off a two-day tour of Cuba last night, stirring hopes that the China will invest heavily in Cuba’s developing economy. President Xi will meet with President Raúl Castro today in Havana before flying to the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.

    While China and Cuba are close political allies, instability in the Cuban economy stifled efforts to act on deals signed by the two countries for large Chinese investments in Cuba’s nickel, hotel and oil industries between 2000 and 2009. President Castro’s economic reforms—along with the new foreign investment law that offers tax breaks for joint-ventures and more investment security, and development of the Mariel Special Development Zone, which will offer tax and contract incentives unavailable elsewhere on the island—are expected to be used as an incentive for Chinese investment in Cuba’s pharmaceutical and automotive sectors.

    President Xi’s visit to Cuba culminates his four-country tour of Latin America. During his visit to the region, the Chinese executive also met with Argentine, Brazilian and Venezuelan officials to finalize key investment deals and launch the new Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) development bank.

    China is currently Cuba’s largest creditor and second-largest trade partner.

    Tags: Cuba, China, China-Latin America, Xi Jinping

  • Monday Memo: Colombian Legislature – Argentine Debt – Peruvian Environmental Law – Deaths in Nicaragua – Bolivian Child Labor

    July 21, 2014

    by AQ Online

    This week’s likely top stories: Colombia inaugurates a new legislature; Argentina must pay its debt by July 30; Reforms to Peru's environmental agency are criticized; Five Nicaraguans are killed after a Sandinista anniversary celebration; Bolivia allows those as young as 10 to work.

    Colombia installs new legislature: As Colombia’s new legislature was sworn in on Sunday, re-elected Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos hailed the installation of a new “Congress of peace.” Though Santos’ Partido de la U (Party of the U) faces a reduced majority in Congress and outspoken opponents like current Senator and former president Alvaro Uribe, Santos said he hoped that the newly-elected legislators would continue to support the government’s ongoing peace talks with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) in Havana. Since the talks began in 2012, the FARC and the government have agreed on three points of a six-point plan, and must still decide on restitution for victims of violence, rebel disarmament, and how to ratify the final peace agreement.

    Argentine debt negotiations near deadline: Argentina must reach a deal with its holdout creditors before July 30 or face its second default in 13 years. There is still a possibility that U.S. courts could issue a stay to allow the country to continue negotiating with holdouts, but a default would likely trigger recession, inflation, high unemployment and other economic woes for the country. Argentina has been ordered to pay approximately $1.5 billion to its holdout creditors, but if other bondholders demand the same terms as the holdouts, Argentina said it may have to pay up to $120 billion. Meanwhile, Argentine Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said that the holdouts may try to seize YPF-Chevron assets in the Vaca Muerta shale gas deposit.

    Controversial reforms to Peru’s environmental agency: After Peruvian President Ollanta Humala enacted a controversial law on July 11 to reform the country’s Organismo de Evaluación y Fiscalización Ambiental (Environmental Evaluation and Regulation Organization—OEFA), environmental groups, Peru’s ombudsman, environmental authorities and some elected officials say the changes will weaken the country’s environmental protections. The law—which the Peruvian government says will refocus the OEFA on “preventative” rather than disciplinary actions—will streamline the environmental review process and lower fines for all but the largest environmental infractions, among other changes designed to attract mining investment. Meanwhile, the agency faces a lawsuit by the mining sector that could slash its 2014 budget by 40 percent.

    Five Killed in Nicaragua: Five people were killed and at least 24 wounded in Nicaragua on Sunday following a Sandinista political celebration. In two separate attacks, two men and two women were killed by gunshots as they traveled on the Pan American highway outside the community of Las Calabazas, while north of Matagalpa, another man was killed. Thousands of Nicaraguans had gathered in Managua on Saturday to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution. An anti-Sandinista group reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack on Facebook.

    Bolivia legalizes child labor: Bolivian Vice President Alvaro García Linera signed a law last Thursday that will permit Bolivian children as young as 10 to work independently, and will permit 12-year-olds to work for others with parental authorization. The measure was approved by Bolivia’s congress earlier this month. Previously, the minimum working age in Bolivia was 14, but the government said that the new law would help to combat extreme poverty, and reflects the realities of a nation where some 800,000 children are already employed. The International Labour Organisation says that it will study the legislation to decide whether it contravenes international conventions. Human Rights Watch issued a statement in January calling on the Bolivian government to reject a proposal to lower the minimum working age.

    Tags: Colombian Legislature, Argentine debt, Child Labor

  • National Protests Planned Against Unaccompanied Minors

    July 18, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Three U.S. conservative political groups are organizing over 300 anti-immigration demonstrations across the country on Friday and Saturday to protest the federal government’s decision to relocate unaccompanied minors in Texas to other states.

    The American Legal Immigration Political Action Committee (ALIPAC), Overpasses for America and Make Them Listen are coordinating efforts along with other Tea Party-associated groups to protests in front of state capitols, Mexican embassies and elsewhere.

    “Our goal is to unify Americans of every race, political party, and walk of life against this Obama-inspired invasion of our American homeland,” said Paul Gheen, president of the North Carolina-based ALIPAC. The groups are frustrated over what they perceive as a deliberate lack of enforcement of current immigration laws, as 57,000 youth from Central America and Mexico have entered the U.S. illegally thus far this year.

    The protests come one week after a bipartisan group of governors expressed concern about the relocations and how much they will cost their respective states. Many local governments officials have complained about a lack of communication coming from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol about whether buses of immigrant children would be coming and, if so, when.

    Protests are also being planned far from the U.S.-Mexico border. The conservative group Oregonians for Immigration Reform is also organizing protests in five cities, including Portland.

    Tags: Immigration, United States, Texas

  • Ban Ki-moon Discusses Citizenship in the Dominican Republic

    July 17, 2014

    by AQ Online

    In his first trip to the Dominican Republic, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed the heated topic of citizenship laws, urging Dominican and Haitian leaders to collaborate on a humane solution. 

    Lawmakers approved Naturalization Law 169-14 in May of this year in response to a 2013 court decision that stripped nationality from individuals born between 1929 and 2007 in the Dominican Republic to non-native parents without residency permits.

    The court sentence directly affects thousands of descendants of Haitian immigrants. Although Dominican authorities claim that only 13,000 Haitian descendants have been affected, NGOs and humanitarian groups estimate the number to be over 210,000.

    “With a large majority of immigrants coming from Haiti, it is critical that the governments of Haiti and Dominican Republic cooperate closely to provide the necessary identification for Haitians living and working in the Dominican Republic,” said Ki-moon. He also warned against the “privatization of nationality” and said the right of all people should be protected.

    However, many Dominican leaders defended the laws. “It’s not true that we discriminate against Haitian citizens because of their race or color, and because of nationality issues,” said President of the Senate Reinaldo Pared, who asserted that the UN’s focus should be on securing the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

    During his trip, Ki-moon also lauded the Dominican Republic’s contributions to art, literature and sports, and praised the country’s allocation of four percent of GDP to education. Ki-moon also visited Haiti earlier this week, where he launched a sanitation project as part of a solution to the cholera epidemic that has affected over 700,000 people, killing an estimated 8,500.

    Stay tuned for Americas Quarterly’s Summer 2014 issue for an in-depth analysis of the Dominican Republic’s citizenship laws.

    Tags: Ban Ki-moon, Dominican Republic-Haiti relations, Naturalization Law 169-14

  • Deadline Approaching for Congressional Action on Unaccompanied Minors

    July 16, 2014

    by AQ Online

    The U.S. Congress has less than three weeks to reach a compromise on immigration that would address the surge of unaccompanied minors before Congress’ August recess.

    President Obama requested $3.7 billion from the legislative branch to respond to the situation through increased deportation, a surge in border control agents and aid for the sending countries. However, an agreement on how much funding to provide—and where to allocate those funds—has yet to be made.

    The humanitarian crisis has led to increased cooperation between Mexico and Central American sending countries in an attempt to crack down on the criminal organizations trafficking the children north. However, high rates of violent crime and impunity in Central America—particularly the Northern Triangle region of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador—continue to contribute to unusually high rates of child migration.

    The White House is expected to meet with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today to discuss expedited deportations and the president’s funding request. It is unclear how the U.S. immigration system will manage the influx of unaccompanied minors if Congress does not act before the August recess.

    Tags: Immigration, unaccompanied minors

  • Humala and Merkel Discuss Climate Agenda in Berlin

    July 15, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Participating in the fifth-annual Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin on July 14th, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala asked that European countries sanction European-based mining companies that commit labor abuses in Peru. Humala’s comments come after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the two countries’ bilateral relationship. During the meeting, Merkel expressed Germany’s commitment to developing technology and industry in Peru, and expanding scientific research and scholarships to Peru.

    Humala looked to gain support for multilateral negotiations ahead of the Cumbre del Clima de Lima (Climate Summit in Lima), part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 20th session of the Conference of Parties (COP20) in December 2014, which will focus on finalizing an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol and seek to reduce CO2 emissions before 2020. Before arriving in Germany, Humala spent three days in France meeting with President François Hollande, where the two leaders agreed to work together on health care, defense and education. Like Merkel, Hollande pledged more scholarships for Peruvians to study in France.

    President Humala will also travel to Brazil, to attend the sixth BRICS Summit with other South American leaders on July 16, where he will meet with Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping and newly-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Humala’s international tour will end in Mexico on July 17, where he will meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto before returning home to Peru where he commands a paltry 25 percent approval rating.

    Tags: Ollanta Humala, Peru, Environment

  • Monday Memo: BRICS Summit – Argentina and Russia – U.S. Immigration – FARC and Colombian Peace – World Cup Riots

    July 14, 2014

    by AQ Online

    This week’s likely top stories: BRICS leaders meet in Brazil; Argentina and Russia sign energy agreements; U.S. considers action on child immigrants; Colombian forces strike FARC; Argentine soccer fans riot.

    BRICS leaders to launch new bank at summit: Leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa will convene in Fortaleza, Brazil for the sixth BRICS summit on Tuesday. The leaders will launch the “New Development Bank” (NDB) with $50 billion in initial capital to allow developing nations to secure infrastructure construction loans, pending legislative approval from all five BRICS countries. The BRICS countries also plan to set up the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA)—a $100 billion emergency lending pool for countries facing currency crises—whose purpose would be similar to that of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It is not yet clear how the lending criteria of the CRA will differ from the IMF, if at all. China will contribute $41billion in initial funding to the CRA, South Africa will contribute $5 billion, and Brazil, Russia and India will each contribute $18 billion.

    Argentina and Russia reach agreements on nuclear power:  Russian President Vladimir Putin and Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed a number of energy deals on Saturday while the Russian leader visited Buenos Aires to cooperate on nuclear energy and other projects. Putin announced that Russia will help build a nuclear reactor and bases for a satellite system in Argentina and may help construct two hydroelectric plants. Fernández de Kirchner confirmed that Russia is also interested in investing in Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale formation and is planning to send a delegation to the area. On Friday, Putin was in Cuba meeting with Raúl and Fidel Castro to discuss energy, security, and health cooperation between Cuba and Russia.

    U.S. Congress to consider $3.7 billion for child immigrants: After U.S. President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion in funding last week to address the growing crisis of young undocumented immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided on how to proceed. Some Republicans have said that the $3.7 billion propose spends too little on border security. Many have advocated overturning a 2008 law signed by former President George W. Bush intended to protect unaccompanied children from human and sex trafficking, arguing that the children should be immediately returned to their home countries. Time is running out for congressional action, as Congress will begin a month-long break in August.

    FARC guerrillas killed by Colombian army and police: Colombian national police and military killed 12 presumed guerrillas from the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) on Sunday in the northwestern Colombian department of Antioquia. In a joint security operation, the police and military forces also seized weapons, computers, cellphones and USB memory sticks that could be useful for Colombian military intelligence. This comes after Saturdays’ capture of Manuel Cepeda Vargas—a member of FARC accused of more than 40 terrorist acts–in another joint operation between the police and army in the southwestern department of Cauca. Peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC will resume in Havana on Tuesday.

    World Cup riots in Argentina: An initially peaceful gathering of Argentine soccer fans near the Obelisk monument in Buenos Aires turned violent late on Sunday night as some hardcore fans rioted in response to the Argentine soccer team’s 0-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, making Germany the first European team to claim the World Cup trophy on American soil. As rioting and looting broke out along Avenida 9 de julio in Buenos Aires, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and used water cannons on the crowd. At least 15 police officers were reported injured in the violence, and at least 50 people were detained.  The Argentine national team is expected to return to Buenos Aires on Monday.

    Tags: BRICS summit, Immigration, Russia-Latin America Relations

  • Dominican Republic and Haiti Resume Immigration Talks

    July 11, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Yesterday in the city of Juan Dolio in the Dominican Republic, the Dominican and Haitian governments began the third round of bilateral talks concerning the legalization of the thousands of Haitians that live in the Dominican Republic without legal documentation. In a press conference after the talks concluded, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said that the Haitian government will provide documentation for the process of naturalization and regularization to its poorest citizens in the Dominican Republic for only 1,000 Dominican pesos ($23).

    The pledge comes one month after the Haitian government announced the implementation of the Programme d'identification et de documentation des immigrants Haïtiens (Identification and Documentation Program for Haitian Immigrants—PIDIH) that would provide Haitian residents in the Dominican Republic with documents like an government identification, birth certificate and passport for 2,500 pesos ($57).

    The Dominican Senate passed the Plan Nacional de Regularización de Extranjeros (The National Plan of the Regularization of Foreigners) last month as a response to a ruling issues last September by the Tribunal Constitucional (Constitutional Tribunal) that retroactively stripped citizenship from Dominicans born after 1929 to undocumented immigrants. Since the Dominican government began the process of regularization on June 2, more than 80,000 have signed up to start the process. However, only 20,000 of this group have some type of identification, and only 300 fit all the requirements.

    Beyond the discussion of immigration, the Dominican Minister of the Presidency Gustavo Montalvo asked that the Haitian government end the current ban on importing Dominican products, which he said has resulted in “increasing the informal market” and has “created competitive disadvantages.” Nevertheless, Montalvo said that with the bilateral talks this year the countries have made more progress than in the previous 50 years.

    Tags: Dominican Republic, Haiti, Immigration

  • Approval of Reforms Jolts Mexican Telecommunications Powerhouse

    July 10, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Mexican telecom giant América Móvil stands to lose its stronghold on the telecommunications market after the Mexican Congress approved legislative reforms on Wednesday intended to break down telecommunications monopolies in the country.

    President Enrique Peña Nieto proposed the reforms on March 24 as part of his campaign to create more competition in the Mexican telecommunications market and improve Mexico’s economy. The new reforms require businesses to hold less than 50 percent of the market share, will place restrictions on pricing, and require that telecommunications infrastructure be shared—but will also allow such companies to determine their own breakdown of the market share.

    Owned by billionaire Carlos Slim, América Móvil currently dominates the market with 70 percent of Mexico’s cellphone subscribers and 80 percent of its landlines—and with over 272 million wireless subscribers, it is the largest operator in the Americas. Arturo Elias, a spokesperson for Carlos Slim, said yesterday that to meet the requirements of the new reforms, América Móvil would have to sell between 15 and 17 percent of its overall phone market.

    Spain’s Telefonica, which is currently second in the Mexican telecommunications market, may try to expand its current market due to the new reforms—and companies with a smaller portion of the Mexican market, such as AT&T, Virgin Mobile and Grupo Televisa, could also benefit from the legislation. Mexico’s transportation and communications ministry said in a statement that “this decision could transform competition in the telecommunications sector with improved quality and better prices for services to end users.”

    Read More

    Tags: Mexico, Mexican telecommunications, América Móvil

  • Brazil Crashes out of the World Cup

    July 9, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Brazil was routed 7-1 by Germany during yesterday’s World Cup semifinal match in Belo Horizonte, marking the South American nation’s biggest defeat in the history of the tournament. Neymar Jr., Brazil’s star player, was out of the lineup with a fractured vertebrae from Friday’s physical clash with Colombia. But more than their striker, the seleção sorely missed team captain and defensive leader Thiago Silva, who received a second yellow card on Friday and was prohibited from playing against Germany.

    In Silva’s absence, Brazil’s back line looked scattered, allowing four German players to score five goals in the first 30 minutes alone—sending a shock to the country that has won more World Cup trophies (5) than any other team. Following the game, President Dilma Rousseff said on Twitter, “I am immensely sorry for all of us,” and  Brazilian coach Luiz Scolari said in a post-game interview that “It was the worst day of my life.”

    Dilma will be feeling the pressure as Brazil’s attention turns from the World Cup to the presidential elections in October. Rousseff’s opposition, centrist candidate Aécio Neves, is currently polling at 20 percent, well below the president’s 38 percent voter support. But that margin could become slimmer if Brazilians’ frustration with the $11 billion price tag for hosting the tournament boils over into more protests like those that gripped several Brazilian cities during last summer’s Confederations Cup and immediately preceding this summer’s World Cup.

    Tags: Brazil, World Cup, President Dilma Rousseff

  • Court Strikes Down Arizona’s Driver’s License Ban for DACA Recipients

    July 8, 2014

    by AQ Online

    On Monday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an executive order issued by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in August 2012, which denied driver’s licenses to young immigrants who have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The ruling reverses a May 2013 decision in which District Judge David Campbell sided with Brewer’s administration, denying that her policy was unconstitutional because federal law would take precedence over it.

    Immigrants can qualify for DACA and receive temporary work permits and remain in the U.S. without risk of deportation for two years, provided that they are under 30, they arrived in the country before the age of 16, have a high school diploma, GED or served in the military, and have not been convicted of a significant misdemeanor or felony. Brewer’s attorneys claimed the driver’s license ban was put in place to prevent improper access to public benefits and for the State of Arizona to avoid assuming “the liability of giving licenses to people who aren’t authorized to be in the country.”

    Monday’s ruling is a victory for immigrants’ rights advocates, particularly in Arizona where 87 percent of workers commute to work by car. Only Arizona and Nebraska have issued license denials, however a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the policy in Nebraska this year.

    Immigration reform has been thrust into the spotlight this summer as tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, have entered the U.S. illegally this year. The White House announced yesterday that the majority of these young immigrants will be deported because they will not qualify for assistance for “humanitarian reasons.”

    Check a debate between Jan Brewer and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on whether states and local governments have the right to enforce their own immigration laws.

    Tags: Jan Brewer, Immigration, Arizona

  • Monday Memo: Argentine debt – Putin in Latin America – Italy investigates Plan Cóndor – Earthquake – Trapped Honduran Miners

    July 7, 2014

    by AQ Online

    This week’s likely top stories: Argentine negotiates with holdout creditors; Russia’s Vladimir Putin will visit Cuba, Argentina and Brazil; Italy investigates dictatorship-era murders; an earthquake hits Mexico and Guatemala; and Honduran authorities search for eight missing miners.

    Argentina begins debt negotiations: Argentina will begin negotiating a settlement today with its holdout creditors, who are owed some $1.5 billion, according to a U.S. federal court decision that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June. Argentine Minister of the Economy Axel Kicillof leads an Argentine delegation to New York today, and will meet with Daniel A. Pollack, a mediator designated by U.S. judge Thomas Griesa to help reach an agreement. Argentina has until the end of July to make its first interest payment, or else face default for the second time in 13 years.

    Putin tours Latin America: Russian President Vladimir Putin will begin a six-day tour of Latin America on July 11 with a visit to Cuba to meet with Fidel and Raúl Castro, followed by stops in Argentina to meet with Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Brazil to meet with Dilma Rousseff. On Friday, Russia’s parliament voted to write off 90 percent of Cuba’s $35 million debt, and instead aim to use the money for investment projects in Cuba. Putin, along with heads of state from India, China, South Africa and Brazil, will then meet for a summit of the BRICS countries starting on July 13, just after the final match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Rio de Janeiro. The same day, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is expected to pass responsibilities for the World Cup to Putin in an official handover ceremony, since Russia will be hosting the international tournament in 2018.

    Italy investigates Plan Cóndor murders and disappearances: Italian judge Alessandro Arturi began the first stage of an investigation into the murder and disappearance of 23 Italian citizens during “Plan Cóndor,” an operation carried out by South American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s to repress and murder political opponents to the regimes. On Monday, Arturi accepted a list of the accused, which includes 33 former members of the military and security forces in Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Italian prosecutor Giancarlo Capaldo is reportedly conducting a similar investigation of the military governments of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The preliminary hearings are expected to take place this fall, and Arturi will decide on October 6 if the evidence presented by human rights groups and families of the disappeared will allow the case to progress to a criminal trial in 2015.

    Earthquake hits Mexico and Guatemala: At least 2 people in Guatemala have died in a 6.9-magnitude earthquake that struck southern Mexico and Guatemala on Monday morning. The quake set off landslides and caused widespread damage to homes and power lines. The quake’s epicenter was Puerto Madero, a Mexican city near the Guatemala border, but the two deaths were reported in San Marcos, Guatemala, where at least two residents were killed when the walls of their homes collapsed.

    Search for trapped miners continues in Honduras: Eight miners remain trapped in an informal gold mine near El Corpus, a small town in the southern department of Cholutecas in Honduras. The mine is in an area where landslides and earthquakes are common, and El Corpus mayor Luis Andres Rueda said there were more than 50 informal mines in the area. The mine collapsed last Wednesday, and the authorities saved three miners two days after the collapse when the miners yelled for help. If the remaining miners are not found near the site where the other three miners were rescued, the search may be called off.

    Tags: Vladimir Putin, Argentine debt, Human Rights

  • Eleven Arrested in World Cup Ticket Scalping Operation

    July 3, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Police dismantled a World Cup ticket scalping operation with the arrest of 11 individuals in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in a raid Tuesday night. After a three-month investigation, twenty search warrants were granted and police raided a mansion in Santa Mônica, Barra da Tijuca, seizing close to $10,000 reais and 100 World Cup tickets that were originally meant for NGOs, sponsors and national delegations, as well as computers, cell phones and documents used in the operation.

    Among those arrested was the suspected leader of the operation, Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, an Algerian national, naturalized French citizen who former played second division soccer in Canada. Fofana allegedly sold the tickets to tourist agencies at elevated prices through an organization called Atlanta Sportif with branches in Atlanta and Dubai. While legitimate tickets to the final match at Maracanã stadium were selling for $440 to $900, Fofana’s agency was selling them for up to $35,000. According to the police investigator, Fábio Barucke, those arrested in the raid confessed to participating in illegal ticket sales for the past four World Cups and have made close to $200 million reais per tournament, and $1 million reais per game.

    The organization's relationship with FIFA is also under investigation as Fofana had a special sticker giving him access to FIFA-restricted areas during the tournament, and calls were also traced from Fofana to FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich. “We have reason to believe that a member of FIFA was involved with the group,” said Inspector Barucke.

    The individuals detained have been charged with money laundering, illegal money changing and organized crime, which carry a maximum of 18 years in prison if convicted.

    Tags: World Cup, Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, FIFA

  • Colombians Accused of Murdering DEA Agent Extradited to U.S.

    July 2, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Colombia extradited seven taxi drivers who were charged with murdering a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, on Tuesday. Special Agent James “Terry” Watson was stabbed to death after a botched robbery  on June 20, 2013. The alleged murderers will stand trial in Virginia.

    The taxi drivers were members of a criminal band based in the Bogotá that targeted taxi passengers for robbery. On the night of the murder, the drivers attempted to take Watson on a “millionaire’s ride” or “express kidnapping,” a common scheme in Colombia in which the attackers force the victim to empty their bank accounts at an ATM machine before releasing them.

    The alleged murderers were extradited after the U.S. government successfully argued that Watson, who served as an agent for the DEA for 13 years, was an “internationally protected person with diplomatic immunity” under the Vienna Convention and that the trial should take place in the United States.“These citizens were wanted via an Interpol Red Notice for the crimes of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime,” General Ricardo Restrepo, the Colombian anti-narcotics police chief, said. It marks the first mass extradition between the two countries that isn’t related to narcotrafficking.

    Tags: Colombia, DEA

  • Obama to Pursue Executive Action on Immigration Reform

    July 1, 2014

    by AQ Online

    In an announcement at the White House yesterday, President Barack Obama blamed House Republicans for congressional inaction on comprehensive immigration reform, and said that he would be moving forward with executive action to fix the U.S.’s broken immigration system. Obama went on to say that he would be moving resources from the interior of the country to the border, in part to address the estimated 50,000 unaccompanied minors who have entered the U.S. illegally so far in 2014.

    Obama said that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder will "identify additional actions my administration can take within my existing legal authorities, to do what Congress refuses to do and fix as much of our immigration system as we can.” Obama expects recommendations by summer’s end, which could affect the midterm elections in November.

    Under executive action, Obama could reduce deportations by extending deferred action to certain group of undocumented immigrants, similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program he started through executive action in 2012.

    The announcement comes less than a week after Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner told the president that the House of Representatives would not vote on the comprehensive reform bill that passed the Senate a year ago, despite the fact that there is enough bipartisan support in the chamber to pass it.

    Tags: Immigration, President Barack Obama, unaccompanied minors

  • Monday Memo: Varela in Panama – Argentine debt – ELN attack – Costa Rica and Colombia World Cup Firsts – Amado Boudou

    June 30, 2014

    by AQ Online

    This week's likely top stories: Juan Carlos Varela takes office as Panama's new president; Argentina negotiates a settlement with holdout creditors; the ELN attacks in Arauca; Costa Rica and Colombia advance to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time; Argentine Vice President Boudou faces charges.

    Juan Carlos Varela inaugurated in Panama: Panamanian President-elect Juan Carlos Varela will be officially sworn into office on Tuesday with a number of regional leaders in attendance, including a U.S. delegation led by Secretary of State John Kerry. Varela, of the Partido Panameñista (Panameñista Party) was elected on May 4 over José Domingo Arias of the Cambio Democrático (Democratic Change) party, earning 39 percent of the vote over Arias’ 32 percent, though Varela’s party only won 11 seats in Panama’s 71-seat legislative assembly. Varela, Panama’s former vice president, has promised to fight corruption and improve government transparency while continuing to improve Panama’s infrastructure.

    Argentina to negotiate as interest payment comes due: With a $539 million interest payment on bonds due today (Monday), Argentina has 30 days to make the payment to avoid its second default in 13 years. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Argentina’s appeal in a long-running battle with holdout creditors after it defaulted on its debt in 2001. The Supreme Court decision allowed a lower court ruling to stand, which requires Argentina to pay a group of holdout creditors some $1.3 billion before it can pay other bondholders. The country has one month to negotiate a settlement with the holdouts in U.S. District Court to avoid a default.

    Attack on oil camp in Western Colombia leaves 13 injured: The Colombian government has accused the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army–ELN) of  attacking on a camp in the Caño Limón oilfield in the Colombian state of Arauca in western Colombia, injuring 13 people as they were preparing to attend Sunday Mass. While the ELN has traditionally carried out attacks on oil pipelines themselves, Colombian Minister of Mining and Energy Amylkar Acosta said this was the first time they had attacked a camp for workers, and accused the ELN of cowardice. The ELN has agreed to engage in formal peace talks, but have yet to agree to a formal truce; they have been accused of three other attacks on the same oil pipeline in the last ten days.

    Costa Rica and Colombia make World Cup history: Costa Rica and Colombia both advanced to their teams’ first-ever World Cup quarterfinals this weekend, after Colombia defeated Uruguay 2-0 on Saturday and Costa Rica beat Greece in a penalty shootout on Sunday after tying 1-1 in regulation time. Colombia—led by 22-year-old James Rodríguez, who has scored at least one goal in each of his first four World Cup games—will face host country Brazil in the quarterfinals on July 4. Costa Rica will face the Netherlands on July 5 after the Dutch defeated Mexico on Sunday with a controversial penalty kick.

    Argentine vice president charged with bribery: An Argentine judge charged Vice President Amado Boudou with bribery and corruption on Friday. If he is found guilty, Boudou could face between one and six years in prison. Boudou is accused of using his position as economy minister to interfere in bankruptcy proceedings against a printing company—charges that he denies. He is the first sitting Argentine vice president since 1983 to face such charges.

    Following the 2014 World Cup? Read AQ's coverage here.

    Tags: 2014 World Cup, Amado Boudou, Juan Carlos Varela

  • Bachelet Government Clarifies Position on Abortion

    June 27, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Chilean Minister of Health Helia Molina set out on Thursday to clarify the government’s position on legalizing therapeutic abortion—abortion only in cases of rape, putting the life of the mother at risk, and the inability of the fetus to live outside of the womb. Molina said that the government was not promoting a law that would allow the voluntary termination of pregnancy under any circumstance, and that the proposed legislation would be formally debated in congress.

    The announcement comes a day after Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said in an interview in Spanish newspaper El País that she would send the legislation to congress in the second half of the year. President Bachelet’s spokesman, Álvaro Elizalde, has since referred to the headline as misleading.

    The president the Unión Demócrata Independiente (Independent Democratic Union–UDI) opposition party, Ernesto Silva, expressed his disapproval at the president’s proposal on such a controversial topic, stating, “like the immense majority of Chileans, we are always advocates for the defense of life.”

    In Chile, abortion was legal for medical reasons until 1989 when former President Augusto Pinochet’s military government instituted a total ban on the practice. Abortion has become a hot-button issue since the return of democracy. The Chilean right, including ex-President Sebastián Piñera, has been vigorously opposed to the practice of abortion in any form. In 2013, Piñera controversially praised an 11-year-old pregnant girl for keeping her baby after being raped, and has recently reiterated his position opposing therapeutic abortion legislation.

    Bachelet has had a busy first 100 days, successfully passing a tax reform that would fund her sweeping reforms to make education free at all levels, and proposing policies towards reconciliation with the Mapuche–Chile’s largest indigenous minority–including increasing political representation and returning land to the Mapuche in Southern Chile. In total she has completed 91 percent of the 56 measures she intended to propose during her first 100 days.

    Tags: Michelle Bachelet, Abortion, Chile

  • Japan Pledges $176 Million for Paraguayan Development

    June 26, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes finishes his trip to Japan today, after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday. The heads of state discussed concerns with North Korea, nuclear missile development, and territorial and maritime coercion claims, but the primary focus of the meetings was to discuss transnational development between the two countries, including Japanese funding of Paraguayan infrastructure.

    President Cartes affirmed his country’s stability, stating that it is a safe country to conduct business, with one of the best corporate climate’s due to tax benefits, available labor force, vast territory, and the low cost of energy. Currently, there are 10 Japanese companies based in Paraguay, but the president has plans for further investment. ”We’ve received cooperation from Japan for a wide range of development projects […] Japanese companies have created jobs for young people,” said Cartes.

    On Tuesday, Akihito Tanaka, president of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), awarded Paraguayan Finance Minister Germán Rojas a sum of approximately $176 million, which will be put toward the construction of an asphalted highway in the southern Paraguayan state of Alto Paraná, connecting Natalio, Itapúa and Cedrales. The area is where most of the country’s grain harvesting and production takes place. The money will also be used to aid the 200,000 individuals affected by recent torrential flooding in recent weeks.

    Paraguay, recently the host country for the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly meeting on development and social inclusion, has been lauded for its economic growth of 13 percent, yet remains one of the most unequal and socially exclusive countries in the region.

    Read More

    Tags: Horacio Cartes, Shinzo Abe, Development

  • Uruguay’s Suárez Faces Possible Suspension for Bite

    June 25, 2014

    by AQ Online

    FIFA announced early Wednesday that it is launching an investigation to determine whether Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez bit an opposing player during Uruguay’s World Cup match against Italy on Tuesday. FIFA has given the Uruguayan national team until tomorrow afternoon to present evidence, and announced that it would issue a ruling before Uruguay plays Colombia in the Round of 16 on Saturday. Suárez could face a ban from international competition for up to 24 matches, or two years.

    In the 80th minute of yesterday’s group stage match, Suárez got tangled up with Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini and appears to have bitten Chiellini in the shoulder before both players fell to the ground. No foul was called at the time, and Uruguay went on to win 1-0, sending the team through to the knockout stage of the Cup and eliminating Italy.

    "These are things that happen on the pitch, we were both in the area, he thrust his shoulder into me," Suárez said in his defense in a press conference after the match. Chiellini said the no-call was “ridiculous” and insisted that he had teeth marks to prove the bite.

    Suárez is no stranger to controversy on the field. In 2013, he was banned from 10 matches for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, and in 2010, he served a seven-match ban for biting PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal. He also was banned from eight matches and fined $68,000 for using racial slurs against Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. But Suárez is perhaps best known for purposefully using his hands to prevent a Ghana goal in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup, for which he received a red card.

    Tags: Luis Suarez, World Cup, FIFA

  • U.S. Plans to Deport Unaccompanied Minors

    June 24, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, announced on Monday that the U.S. will move forward with the deportation of the estimated 60,000 to 80,000 undocumented unaccompanied minors who will enter the country illegally in 2014 alone.The announcement comes just days after the White House unveiled a multi-million dollar plan to help reintegrate Central American return migrants in their home countries and increase security assistance funding.

    In addition to speeding up the deportation process, the White House emphasized that these children are not guaranteed asylum. Unlike Canadian and Mexican minors, Central American children—who make up the majority of the recent surge—cannot be repatriated immediately, and are instead put in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement until they can be placed with a parent or guardian while awaiting their deportation proceedings.

    In addition to foreign aid, the Obama administration’s plan announced on Friday would increase immigration enforcement on the border, open facilities designed to detain families and increase the amount of immigration judges available to handle immigration court hearings to help ease the backlog that is partly responsible for keeping unaccompanied children in cramped quarters.

    Tags: Immigration, Immigration Reform

  • Monday Memo: Dilma Rousseff – Strike in Puerto Rico – Argentine Debt – Claudia Paz y Paz – Soccer Violence

    June 23, 2014

    by AQ Online

    This week's likely top stories: Dilma Rousseff confirms she will run for re-election; workers go on strike in Puerto Rico; Argentina says it will negotiate with hedge funds; Chilean bus drivers fear soccer violence; Claudia Paz y Paz will receive an award.

    Rousseff’s candidacy is official: Brazil’s ruling Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers Party—PT) confirmed on Saturday that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will be the party’s candidate for the country’s October presidential elections. Despite declining popularity, protests surrounding the World Cup and Olympics, and meager economic growth rates, Rousseff still leads the field of presidential candidates in the polls. However, the Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro (Brazilian Labor Party—PTB) announced this weekend that it will support Rousseff’s competitor, Aécio Neves from the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Brazilian Social Democracy Party—PSDB), and end its alliance with the PT. Rousseff will campaign alongside current Vice President Michel Temer, who will also run for re-election on the ballot with Rousseff.

    Workers strike in Puerto Rico: Medical services employees began a 24-hour strike Sunday in front of the Centro Médico de Río Piedras to protest measures by the government to confront the island’s fiscal crisis. The workers join other sectors across Puerto Rico, including metropolitan transit workers and bank employees, in opposing the Ley 66 de Sostenibilidad, which the Puerto Rican Senate passed on June 16 to declare a fiscal state of emergency.  The law intends to stabilize the Puerto Rican economy within three years, but it will also freeze bonuses and benefits for public employees. Last Thursday, an assembly of public workers agreed to hold a general strike sometime this week.

    Argentine government denounces court ruling: Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to let a $1.3 billion ruling against Argentina stand, the Argentine government published full-page advertisements in major U.S. newspapers this weekend, arguing that “paying the vulture funds is a path leading to default.” However, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said on Friday that she was willing to negotiate with the hedge funds. Argentine Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said that Argentina will make a formal proposal on Monday to U.S. Federal Judge Thomas Griesa to pay back "100 percent of bondholders."

    Chilean transit workers fear soccer riots: Chilean transit workers said they will suspend bus services in anticipation of riots and violence from soccer fans after Chile takes on the Netherlands in the World Cup today. After Chile’s victory over Spain last Wednesday, bus drivers were attacked and buses were taken over by out-of-control fans. Meanwhile, Chilean security forces have put a special traffic plan in place in the capital to avoid major congestion and keep order. So far, Chile’s transportation minister, Andrés Gómez-Lobo, has reported that bus services have been operating as scheduled.

    Claudia Paz y Paz receives human rights prize: The Washington Office on Latin America announced today that it has awarded former Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz a Human Rights Award for her work combatting organized crime and corruption. Paz y Paz presided over the trial of former Guatemalan President Efraín Ríos Montt and convicted him of genocide and crimes against humanity before the verdict was overturned on a technicality. Paz y Paz’ tenure was cut short last month, and she was replaced by former Supreme Court judge Thelma Esperanza Aldana Hernández, who took office on May 17 and has close ties to Ríos Montt’s party.

    Tags: Dilma Rousseff, Puerto Rico, Claudia Paz y Paz

  • Bogotá Institutes Dry Law to Stem Soccer-Related Violence

    June 20, 2014

    by AQ Online

    A ley seca (dry law) announced by Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro on Wednesday was extended until 6 am this morning. Petro justified the implementation of the law citing the violence that erupted after Colombia’s opening World Cup game against Greece on June 14—the South American nation’s first tournament appearence in 16 years. Despite liquor sales ending at 6 pm, over 100 people were injured and nine people were killed in gunfights, stabbings and fistfights on the eve of the presidential runoff.

    Asociación de bares de Colombia (Association of Colombian Bars–Asobares) criticized the law, claiming that it would create a black market in Bogotá similar to demilitarized zone of Caguán, which was a safe haven for the Fuerzas Armadad Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) during the presidency of Andrés Pastrana. Even though liquor sales were banned, bars were still able to open during and after the match yesterday.

    Colombia has had a history of violence resulting from soccer celebrations, as exemplified by their resounding 5-0 victory over Argentina in the 1994 World Cup when 76 people were killed and 912 were injured in the celebrations. On Wednesday, fans of the soccer club Millonarios, who celebrated the club’s 68th anniversary, stole a bus by threatening the bus driver with a knife in a day that ended with 32 wounded.

    So far, Colombia has performed brilliantly during the World Cup, shutting out Greece 3-0—when the initial violence erupted—and defeating Côte D'Ivoire 2-1 to book a ticket to the knockout stage of the cup. Their final match of the group stage is against Japan on Tuesday, June 24.

    Tags: Colombia, Gustavo Petro, Dry Law

  • Biden, Santos Discuss Colombian Peace Talks

    June 19, 2014

    by AQ Online

    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with recently re-elected Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday as part of his four-nation tour of the Americas. The primary focus of the meeting was to discuss the ongoing peace talks with the Colombian insurgent groups. For the past 18 months the Colombian government has been negotiating with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army—ELN)—the two groups that have been involved in the Colombia’s internal conflict over the last 50 years. The talks were central to Santos’ win over Centro Democrático (Democratic Center) challenger Óscar Iván Zuluaga on Sunday with 50.95 percent of the vote.

    While the U.S. has provided more than $9 billion since 2000 to help fund Plan Colombia, which has been fighting the drug war and the FARC and ELN insurgents, its current assistance is at its lowest level since 1998, with only $300 million sent this year. Biden affirmed the U.S.’ support of Colombia during the peace negotiations, but gave no specifics as to how such backing would be carried out. “Just as the United States has supported Colombia’s leaders in the battlefield, so do we fully support you at the negotiation table,” Biden told reporters.

    Read More

    Tags: Joe Biden, Juan Manuel Santos, FARC peace negotiations

  • U.S. Patent Office Rejects Redskins Trademark

    June 18, 2014

    by AQ Online

    In a rare move on Wednesday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelled six trademark registrations owned by the Washington Redskins on the grounds that the National Football League (NFL) team’s name is offensive to Native Americans. The office’s independent Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled that the term “Redskins” was disparaging to "a substantial composite" of Native Americans when the trademarks were granted between 1967 and 1990.

    The Redskins can appeal the decision and the team would retain its trademark rights during the appeal process. If the team eventually loses the trademark, it can still use the Redskins name and logo, but other organizations could as well. Redskins team owner Dan Snyder—who has repeatedly defended the franchise’s name and logo—said last year that the team would never change its name, even if it lost its trademark protections.

    Over the past year, pressure has been mounting on the franchise to change its name and logo. In February, Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington State and chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee, and Representative Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma and member of the Native American Caucus, sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking that the league change the name.

    The National Congress of American Indians ran an anti-Redskins commercial called “Proud to Be” that aired during halftime of the ABC’s telecast of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals last week.

    Following the 2014 World Cup? Read more coverage here.

    Tags: Native Americans, Redskins, NFL

  • U.S. Supreme Court Rules against Argentina’s Appeal on Debt

    June 17, 2014

    by AQ Online

    In a victory for the New York-based hedge fund, Elliot Management Corp., the U.S. Supreme Court decided against hearing an appeal from Argentina on Monday, meaning that the South American nation will have to meet its debt obligations on defaulted notes from 2001 in full, despite having restructured its debt.

    The Argentine government has until June 30 to reach a settlement before the payment is due to all creditors who refused to accept the country’s debt restructuring, including Elliot Management Corp., at a cost of $15 billion. The high court’s decision not to hear the case is the culmination of a series of restructurings and settlements that took place after Argentina defaulted on $81 billion of liabilities in 2001.

    Argentina has 25 days to request a rehearing from the Supreme Court, an outcome that experts deem unlikely. As the Argentine stock market plummeted, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner addressed the nation Monday evening stating that the country would only make payments to holders of restructured debt, defying a lower U.S. court’s ruling.

    Tags: Argentina, U.S. Supreme Court

  • Monday Memo: Santos Wins in Colombia – Argentine Appeal Rejected – Biden Visits Latin America – Bolivia Hosts Summit – Neves to Face Rousseff in Brazil

    June 16, 2014

    by AQ Online

    This week’s likely top stories: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos wins re-election; the U.S. Supreme Court rejects Argentina’s appeal; U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visits Latin America; Bolivia hosts the G77+China Summit; Aecio Neves will represent the PSDB in Brazil’s elections.

    Following the 2014 World Cup? Read more coverage here.

    Santos Re-elected President in Colombia: Colombian voters re-elected incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos on Sunday, awarding him nearly 51 percent of the vote. Óscar Iván Zuluaga, who led in the first round election on May 25, gained only 45 percent of the vote in Sunday’s runoff election and delivered a concession speech on Sunday.  Santos’ campaign focused on continuing his government’s peace talks with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) in Havana, and called his election a victory “of hope over fear.” Santos will be inaugurated on August 7 to serve another four-year term.

    Argentine Appeal Rejected By U.S. Supreme Court: The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a major blow to the Argentine government on Monday, rejecting the country’s appeal in its case against holdout creditors Aurelius Capital Management and NML Capital Ltd. The court let a lower-court ruling stand without comment, upholding a decision that Argentina owes more than $1.3 billion in principal and interest. The Argentine government warned that the decision could have severe consequences and “trigger a renewed economic catastrophe.” Argentina defaulted on about $100 billion of its debt during its 2001 financial crisis.

    Biden to visit Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala: Obama administration officials announced on Sunday that Vice President Joe Biden will add a stop to his tour of Latin America this week: Guatemala. The vice president will attend today’s soccer match between the U.S. and Ghana in Brazil, and then visit Colombia and the Dominican Republic before meeting with Central American leaders in Guatemala on Friday. The vice president is expected to discuss the soaring number of unaccompanied Central American minors who have crossed into the United States without papers. This year, 48,000 unaccompanied young immigrants were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol.

    Bolivia Hosts G77+China Summit: Bolivia hosted the G77+China Summit this weekend in Santa Cruz, marking the 50th anniversary of a group of 77 developing countries that has since expanded to 133 countries. China, while not a member of the G77, joined the summit to signal its increasing trade ties with the region. Bolivian President Evo Morales called for a new world order where “the peoples of the world can grow in peace and live well” and an end to the UN Security Council, which Morales said has only reinforced global hierarchies and no longer promotes peace. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the importance of the G77+ China for global development and added that countries must protect human rights to achieve sustainable development. The summit concluded with a call to end poverty by the year 2030.

    Aecio Neves to Run Against Rousseff in October: The Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Brazilian Social Democracy Party—PSDB), nominated Senator Aecio Neves to run for president against incumbent President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil’s October 5 presidential elections. On Saturday, Neves, a former governor from the state of Minas Gerais, said that he would implement a more austere economic policy, reducing public spending to reign in the country’s inflation. However, Neves also said in a June 2 interview that his government would continue funding the popular Bolsa Familia cash transfer program. Current polls show that Rousseff holds an eight percentage point lead over Neves in the case of a runoff election, which would take place on October 26.

    Following the 2014 World Cup? Read more coverage here.

    Tags: Argentine debt, Juan Manuel Santos, Joe Biden

  • Homeland Security Seeks to Stem Flow of Undocumented Migrant Children

    June 13, 2014

    by AQ Online

    United States Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced yesterday that he is in discussions with several Latin American ambassadors about the increasing number of unaccompanied Central American children who are illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border into southern Texas, and considering ways to send them home. Through May, 47,000 such children have made their way  to the U.S.—double the number from last year. Most come from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

    Johnson’s announcement comes as a response to two public letters he received from attorney generals in the border states of Texas and Arizona about undocumented immigrants. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott requested $30 million from Homeland Security for an “overwhelmed” border patrol. He claims that the arrival of undocumented immigrants exposes the state to threat of “dangerous cartel activity, including narcotics smuggling and human trafficking.” In a  separate letter, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said that federal immigration authorities must stop the practice of moving undocumented single parents with children to Arizona due to limited housing availability in Texas, and threatened to sue if it continues.

    In his address, Johnson made clear that those entering the U.S. illegally would not qualify for the pathway to citizenship that is part of the comprehensive reform legislation pending in Congress.

    Tags: Immigration, Central America, Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security

  • Brazil Strikes Threaten World Cup Opening Day

    June 12, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Strikes loom over two of Brazil's largest cities on the eve of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which begins this afternoon. Airline workers in Rio de Janeiro started a partial strike on Wednesday night that continues today, and transit workers in São Paulo—the site of the opening match—had threatened to strike today but called decided not to late last night.

    Airline union workers in Rio de Janeiro are demanding a pay raise as well as a bonus for working during the month of the World Cup. Only 20 percent of airline workers are expected be on strike in an effort to avoid a fine they would be required to pay if more than 80 percent of union workers failed to show up for work. Meanwhile, the flights for the 554,000 visitors​ headed to Rio are not expected to be affected.

    In São Paulo, subway workers suspended a 48-hour strike for higher wages on Monday after being pressured by the government, but threatened to strike again on Thursday if the 42 workers who were fired for vandalism and misconduct on Monday were not hired back. And though a vote by 1,500 of the workers late last night called off today’s strike, a smaller march is still planned for those who were laid off. "We get the feeling that maybe we aren't as prepared for a full confrontation with police on the day the World Cup starts," said union president Altino Prazeres.

    Meanwhile, in a statement during prime-time television Tuesday night, President Dilma Rousseff assured Brazilians that the country is ready to host the World Cup and defended the investment in the games—which totaled $11 billion—stating that between 2010 and 2013 the government invested 212 times more than that amount—$762 billion—in education and health care.

    Brazil is scheduled to face off against Croatia in the Corinthians stadium in São Paulo today, and the first game in Rio de Janeiro will take place between Argentina and Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday.

    Ready for the 2014 World Cup? Read more coverage here.

    Tags: Brazil, World Cup 2014, Brazil strikes

  • Chilean Government Rejects HidroAysén Dam Project in Patagonia

    June 11, 2014

    by AQ Online

    After a three hour meeting on Tuesday, a committee of five ministers in Michelle Bachelet’s cabinet has rejected the HidroAysén project–a hydroelectric plan to build five dams in two rivers in Patagonia that would have generated 2,750-megawatts of energy and increased power generation in Chile by 10 percent. The project, backed by the companies Endesa Chile and Colbún with an investment of $3.2 billion dollars, faced massive protests throughout the country soon after its approval on May 9, 2011 by the Comisión de Evaluación Ambiental (Commission of Environmental Evaluation—CEA). The two companies have 30 days to appeal to the Tercer Tribunal Ambiental de Valdivia (Third Environmental Tribunal of Valdivia), which will have the last word on the project.

    Environment Minister Pablo Badenier, the head of the committee, stated that the decision was made after the committee accepted the demands of local communities and Chilean citizens as whole. In addition, Energy Minister Maximo Pacheco said the plan failed to take into account its impacts on the local ecology and populations, and did not sufficiently quantify damage to the environment and wildlife. CEO of HidroAysén, Daniel Fernandez, lamented the move as a “lost opportunity” for the Aysén region, one of the most isolated and poorest areas of Chile.

    Former Environment Minister under Sebastián Piñera, María Ignacia Benítez, noted the political nature of the decision, and said that she “did not understand the reasons for the rejection.” Nevertheless, environmental groups celebrated the decision as a victory, and emphasized that this was just the first of many denials of projects that are damaging to the environment in Chile.

    To read more about the HidroAysén project and community consultation in energy projects click here.

     

    Ready for the 2014 World Cup? Read more coverage here.

    Tags: Chile, Patagonia, HidroAysen

  • U.S. Supreme Court Rules against Children of Immigrants

    June 10, 2014

    by AQ Online

    In a 5-4 decision on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that children of immigrants with pending visa applications will be sent to the back of the line once they turn 21. The decision will add more than nine years to the wait time of children who “age out” of the system.

    The Supreme Court ruling reversed the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which ruled in favor of Rosalina Cuellar de Osorio, a Salvadoran immigrant whose son was moved to the back of the line after eight years of waiting for a green card. In the split decision, the Court sided with the Obama Administration in finding that the Child Status Protection Act passed in 2002 only offers relief to a small category of children who turn 21 while awaiting a green card with their family.

    While the Supreme Court agreed with the U.S. government’s interpretation, a group of 26 bipartisan congressmen who were in office when the law was passed, including Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), argued against the government’s interpretation in a brief recently submitted to the court. They maintain that the intent of the law they passed was to promote family unity.

    Ready for the 2014 World Cup? Read more coverage here.

    Tags: Immigration, U.S. Supreme Court

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