This Week in Latin America: 'El Chapo' Escapes—Oil Bidding in Mexico—Buenos Aires Mayoral Election—Pan-American Games
Here's a look at some of the stories we're following this week:
'El Chapo' Escapes: Law enforcement officials from throughout the region continue their search for Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, after the drug kingpin and leader of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel escaped from a maximum security prison outside Mexico City on Saturday. Authorities have heightened surveillance along Mexico's southern border with Guatemala, and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has pledged American support in tracking down the fugitive. Until his arrest in February 2014, Guzmán was one of the most sought after criminals on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border; his escape is sure renew calls for high-profile cartel leaders to be extradited to the U.S. upon capture, rather than remain in Mexico. The jailbreak marks another low point for Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, following a series of scandals that have dented the administration's reputation both at home and abroad. "This will cause a regression of the image of [Mexico's] federal government in the world," Miguel Barbosa, the president of Mexico's senate, told El Universal.
Mexico's Oil Opening: On Wednesday, Mexico will announce the winning bids for the rights to 14 shallow-water oil and gas blocks in the Gulf of Mexico. The bids come as part of a historic opening of the country's energy sector, and mark the first time that oil companies will be able to explore and develop Mexico's abundant oil and gas resources since the country nationalized its hydrocarbons industry in 1938. While the auctions process is expected to last several years, the opening round comes as international oil prices sit around half the $100/barrel numbers reached last summer, when Mexico's energy bill passed the legislature. The International Energy Agency expects prices to remain low well into 2016, casting doubt over the prospects for Mexico's reform agenda. As one international energy official told the Financial Times, "the decline in the oil price significantly hinders positive effects of the reform, especially in the short term."
Mayoral Run-off in Argentina: Elections will be held Sunday to select the mayor of Buenos Aires, two weeks after the top two candidates failed to garner the 50 percent of first-round votes needed to avoid a run-off. Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, the cabinet chief to outgoing mayor Mauricio Macri, is expected to prevail over rival Martín Lousteau in Sunday's vote, according to polls. Though Lousteau served in Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's first administration, both he and Rodríguez come from parties in opposition to Fernández's Frente para la Victoria (FpV). Whoever wins on Sunday, the results should prove a boon to Macri, who will run in presidential elections in later this year. Mariano Recalde, the FpV representative who finished third in first-round voting and thus will not take part in the runoff, refused to endorse either of the remaining candidates, saying that they were both part of the same political force. "If we vote for Rodríguez Larreta, Macri wins, but if we vote for Lousteau, Macri also wins," said Recalde.
Pan-American Games: The Pan-American Games are underway in Toronto, with host Canada taking an early in the medal count over the United States, Colombia and other challengers. The games are viewed by many as a tune-up for the Olympics, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro next year. Still, not everything on offer in Toronto is quite up to Olympic standards: baseball, water-skiing and bowling are all part of the Pan-American lineup, but are not Olympic sports. The games come as the wisdom of hosting international sporting events has come into question, especially in the developing world. If the Pan-American Games' reception in Toronto is any indication, officials in Rio de Janeiro should start tempering expectations—as of the inaugural ceremony last week, only 800,00 of the 1.4 million tickets had been sold.
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