This Week in Latin America: Protests Follow Killing of Mexican Journalist—Haiti's Elections—Petrobras Scandal Widens—Guyana-Venezuela Border Dispute
Here's a look at some of the stories we're following this week:
Outrage after Killing of Mexican Journalist: Protests are expected to continue today after Rubén Espinosa, a photojournalist for the Mexican weekly Proceso, was found dead in an apartment building in Mexico City on Friday. Espinosa, whose body was found along with those of four other individuals, fled his home state of Veracruz in June because he feared for his life. He is the seventh journalist to be killed in Mexico this year, and the fourth from Veracruz. Protesters, many of them journalists, are calling for the resignation of the state’s governor, Javier Duarte. Duarte previously claimed that journalists in the state were not under threat, and that high levels of violence there mainly affect those “involved in one way or another with criminal groups.”
Haitians (Finally) Go to the Polls: Haitians will vote in parliamentary and local elections on Sunday, more than three years later than originally planned. The extended delay is the result of a political dispute between President Michel Martelly and the legislature over the implementation of electoral laws. Martelly has essentially ruled Haiti by decree since January, when the country’s parliament was dissolved after failing to come to an agreement with the executive on extending legislative term limits. A first-round vote to replace Martelly, who is term limited, will take place in October.
International Implications of the Petrobras Scandal: Peru’s attorney general will send prosecutors to Brazil to investigate allegations that firms there paid bribes to Peruvian officials in relation to a trans-Amazonian highway infrastructure project. The investigation comes as the corruption scandal involving Brazilian state oil company Petrobras—as well as many of the country’s leading construction firms—continues to grow. Peru’s decision to investigate possible bribes to its own state officials highlights the international reach of the turmoil in Brazil; development contracts in Colombia, Ecuador, the United States and elsewhere could also be affected.
Venezuela-Guyana Border Dispute: UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon will send secretariat staffers to Venezuela and Guyana to try to settle a border dispute between the two countries. Previous UN attempts to mediate the crisis have failed. At issue is the location of a maritime border near the mouth of the Essequibo River, where ExxonMobil recently discovered a significant oil deposit. Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro asserted his country’s claims on the area shortly after the find; Guyana demurred, and a war of words ensued between Maduro and Guyana’s president, David Granger. Both men have signaled a willingness to discuss the matter outside the UN General Assembly next month, but have balked at the idea of giving any ground.
Latin American Economies in Brief
More Currency Pressure: Several Latin American currencies continue to lose value on foreign exchange markets amid low global commodity prices and a strong dollar. Colombia’s peso is particularly vulnerable. This time last year, it stood at 1,872 to the dollar; today, it opened trading at 2,879 to one.
Effects of Cheap Oil: The continued decline in crude prices signals a tough road ahead for the region’s exporters. Mexico has already postponed an auction of deepwater oil and gas blocks that had been set to begin this month, while the price of Venezuelan crude fell below $46/barrel for the first time since March.
Puerto Rico's Debt Payments: The government in Puerto Rico is expected to miss a $58 million bond payment today, as the territory struggles with a long-burning debt crisis. The island’s government made a separate payment, on debts incurred by a state development bank, before a Saturday deadline, but Governor Alejandro García Padilla is still calling for restructuring of the territory’s $72 billion debt.
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