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Monday Memo: Parliamentary Elections in Cuba – Argentina’s IMF Censure – Mexico Investigates Pemex Explosion – and more

February 4, 2013

by AQ Online

Top stories this week are likely to include: Cubans re-elect President Raúl Castro in one-party elections; Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman travels to London; Paraguay investigates the death of Lino Oviedo; Argentina reacts to the IMF after being censured; Mexican authorities conclude rescue efforts after PEMEX explosion.

Parliamentary Elections Begin in Cuba: Cuba’s nearly 8.5 million voters went to the polls yesterday to elect 612 national assembly members and members of the country’s 15 provincial assemblies in the country’s one-party elections.  Eighty-six year-old revolutionary leader Fidel Castro—who had not been seen in public since October—made a surprise appearance at the polls on Sunday to cast his vote in Havana’s El Vedado neighborhood. His brother, Cuban President Raúl Castro, was re-elected for a second five-year term—his last, if the president’s decision last year to introduce two term limits is upheld.  "This parliament will be in place at an important time in the history of the revolution; though they likely will not have the power or diversity to positively affect the course of reforms or leadership changes," says Christopher Sabatini, Editor-in-Chief of Americas Quarterly.

Argentine Foreign Minister Declines to Meet with Falkland Islanders: With little over a month before Falkland/Malvinas Islanders vote in a March 10 referendum on their island's political status, Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman has arrived in London to make the case that the disputed islands belong to Argentina. Timerman will make a presentation at the Argentine Embassy in London to discredit the upcoming referendum, in which the islanders are expected to affirm that they are British. Timerman had originally planned to meet with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in a bilateral meeting, but he declined the invitation after Britain insisted that representatives of the island’s government also be present.

Paraguay Investigates Death of Presidential Candidate Lino Oviedo: Paraguayan President Federico Franco has declared three days of national mourning after third-party candidate Lino Oviedo was killed along with his pilot and bodyguard in a helicopter crash late on Saturday. The cause of the crash, which witnesses say was accompanied by an explosion, has not yet been determined, but authorities have called the death an accident. However, members of Oviedo’s Unión Nacional de Colorados Éticos (National Union of Ethical Citizens—UNACE) party have demanded an investigation into whether the politician was assassinated. Oviedo was a retired general who helped overthrow Paraguayan dictator General Alfredo Stroessner, and was also charged with organizing a failed coup in 1996 against former Paraguayan President Juan Carlos Wasmosy, for which Oviedo served time in prison.

Argentina's Next Steps After IMF Censure: Last Friday, Argentina became the first nation to be censured by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for its widely-disputed inflation data, which the national statistics agency reports at 10.8 percent. Argentine Minister of the Economy Hernán Lorenzo reacted to the fund’s decision by saying that his country is being punished for “protecting national industry and jobs, financing itself without the markets, and saying ‘no’ to vulture funds.” According to the IMF, Argentina must address "inaccurate data" by Sept. 29, 2013 to avoid suspension. If the country fails to comply with the IMF by implementing remedial measures such as creation of a new consumer price index, Argentina faces further sanctions, which could include suspension of voting rights or expulsion.

Investigation of Thursday's Pemex Blast Continues: Mexican authorities will continue to investigate the cause of the blast that killed at least 36 workers at a Pemex office complex in Mexico City on Thursday. The death toll rose on Sunday as rescue workers found three more bodies over the weekend, but it now appears that rescuers are concluding their efforts to search for survivors—though one woman who worked as a secretary at the office remains missing. Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam declined to say on Friday whether the explosion was an accident, due to negligence, or part of an attack, but he added that there should be more information available in the coming days.

Tags: Raul Castro, Cuba, Argentina, Pemex, Lino Oviedo, IMF

Brazil's European Dream

March 21, 2012

by Eduardo J. Gomez

The news that Brazil has overtaken Britain to become the world's sixth largest economic power is being touted as a sign that that the longtime "country of the future" has finally arrived. While the celebrations have been somewhat muted by concerns over slowing GDP growth and the country's still-heavy dependence on high energy and food prices, Brazil is heading into the coming global showcases of both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics with more than its usual swagger.

But this emerging economic prominence is raising the question of just what kind of actor Brazil will be on the world stage. In the past 20 years, Brazil has become well known for turning crisis situations into geopolitical opportunities, becoming a leading voice in international forums devoted to AIDS, poverty, and even the environment. And now, it is doing it again with a challenge that Brazilians understand all too well: a debt crisis.

Only this time, it's Europe in need of a helping hand, not the former Portuguese colony in Latin America. At an EU-Brazil summit held in Brussels last October, President Dilma Rousseff told European leaders, who had asked for assistance: "You can rely and count on us." As an initial strategy, Rousseff and her finance minister, Guido Mantega, considered using their foreign exchange reserves—estimated at $352 billion—to purchase debt through treasury bonds. However, after consulting with her BRIC colleagues at a meeting in Washington last November, Brazil decided that buying EU bonds would be too financially risky, and proposed instead to indirectly assist Europe by donating an estimated $10 billion to the International Monetary Fund.

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Tags: Brazil, BRICs, IMF, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, 2014 World Cup, European Union, Dilma Rousseff, 2016 Olympics, Guido Mantega

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

January 12, 2012

by AS-COA Online

From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

Ahmadinejad Tours Latin America

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began a tour of four Latin American countries on Sunday, beginning in Venezuela and traveling to Nicaragua yesterday for President Daniel Ortega’s inauguration. He is visiting Cuba today, and will fly to Ecuador on Thursday. Ahmadinejad is continuing efforts to expand Iran’s political and economic influence in the region, even while a crisis involving Western sanctions and a threat to block the Strait of Hormuz takes place in Iran. In an interview with Al Jazeera, COA Vice President Eric Farnsworth commented on Iran’s relationship with its few Latin American allies: “It is certainly a marriage of political convenience. In other words, they need each other." 

Read an AS/COA News Analysis about Ahmadinejad’s trips to Latin America.

U.S. House Speaker Leads Delegation to LatAm

House speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is leading a congressional delegation to Latin America this week, with stops in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico to focus on energy and economic security. As well as discussing implementation of Colombia’s free-trade agreement—recently ratified by the U.S. Congress—the delegation will also consider energy issues in Brazil. During the first leg of the trip in Rio de Janeiro, the delegation visited a recently pacified favela.

Romney Releases First Spanish-Language Ad

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has released a Spanish-language campaign ad in Florida. The ad is narrated by Romney’s Spanish-speaking son Craig. The Washington Posts’ The Fix blog states that “while the ad does not mention Cuba, Cuban-Americans are obviously Romney’s focus,” given that 72 percent of registered Republicans in Miami Dade county are of Hispanic descent and largely Cuban-Americans. The ad features three Cuban-born Florida Republican lawmakers: Representative Mario Díaz-Balart, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and former Representative Lincoln Díaz-Balart. 

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Tags: IMF, Iran-Latin America, House Delegation, Venezuelan Consul, Venezuelan Defense Minister, FARC Leader

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

September 21, 2011

by AS-COA Online

From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

Dilma First Woman Ever to Open UNGA

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff became the first woman in history to open the UN General Assembly. “It is with personal humility, but with my justified pride as a woman, that I meet this historic moment,” said Rousseff as she opened the general debate. “I share this feeling with over half of the human beings on this planet who, like myself, were born women and who, with tenacity, are occupying the place they deserve in the world. I am certain that this will be the century of women.” Rousseff can also be found on the cover of this week’s Newsweek, with a profile by Mac Margolis.

In conjunction with the opening of the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly, Americas Society and Council of the Americas are hosting multiple Latin American heads of state. Go to AS/COA Online for livestreams and a schedule of events.

LatAm Countries to Join U.S.-Brazilian Governance Partnership

Presidents Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and Barack Obama of the United States officially launched the Open Government Partnership (OGP) while in New York on Tuesday. The OGP’s goal is to give citizens tools to monitor elected leaders and achieve more transparent governance. Mexico is one of the six founding members and other Latin American countries that have pledged to sign on to the partnership are: Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, and Uruguay. “This is a smart program for U.S. policy in the hemisphere and a great leadership role for Brazil to play,” reports Bloggings by Boz, who links to commitments and plans from Brazil, Mexico, and the United States.

Palestine Can Expect Heavy LatAm Support at UN

Nearly every country in Latin America is set to support a vote for Palestinian statehood, which is anticipated at this week’s UN General Assembly. The only holdouts appear to be Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Panama. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas toured Latin America in 2009.

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Tags: IMF, Palestine, President Dilma Rousseff, United Nations General Assembly

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

June 22, 2011

by AS-COA Online

From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

Argentine President Announces Reelection Bid

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced Tuesday she will run for reelection in October. Fernández, who has led Argentina since 2007, stated her decision was based on “a strong sense of political and personal responsibility.” Given her current high popularity, many analysts see her as well placed to win reelection. 

Sec. Clinton Joins CentralAm Leaders at Guatemalan Security Summit

In a trip aimed at supporting Central American efforts to rein in drug cartels, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will head the U.S. delegation to Guatemala City for the Central American Integration System’s summit on security, kicking off June 22. Assistant Secretary of State for Hemispheric Affairs Arturo Valenzuela and Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield will also attend and will meet with seven regional presidents, including heads of state from Central America, Colombia, and Mexico. The United States has already pledged $200 million to support security initiatives in Central America and is not expected to pledge additional funds at the summit. 

In a related story, The Washington Post takes an in-depth look at security challenges faced at the porous Guatemalan-Mexican border.  

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Tags: El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, IMF, Kirchner, Hilary Clinton, Drug War. Mexico Central Bank, Venezuala Electricity

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

May 25, 2011

by AS-COA Online

From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

PDVSA Hit with U.S. Sanctions over Iran Ties

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro said Tuesday he could not guarantee the supply of oil to the United States after the Obama administration sanctioned Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA over its dealings with Iran's energy sector. Venezuela exports one million barrels of oil per day to the United States, which amounts to 10 percent of U.S. imports. The Chávez administration threatened to cut exports in the past, but did not do so.  

Colombia’s Senate Passes Victims Law

The Victims Law, which would provide a system of state reparations and means to recover illegally usurped land to victims of the country’s civil conflict, passed Colombia’s Senate. The House and Senate versions must now be reconciled. La Silla Vacía outlines the main points that require clarification before the Colombian Congress decides to approve the legislation. 

LatAm, Asia Still Leading the Way on Global Econ Recovery

The UN’s mid-year update to the World Economic Situation and Prospects Report found that Asia and Latin America continue to aid a global economy on the mend. “The strong recovery continues to be led by the large emerging economies in Asia and Latin America, particularly China, India, and Brazil,” according to the report. However, the survey also warns of potential bumps in the road for these growth economies: “[C]oncerns include persistently rising inflation and emerging domestic asset price bubbles, fuelled by large capital inflows and related upward pressure on their exchange rates.” 

Latinos Like Mobile

In February, the Pew Hispanic Center released a report finding that Latinos were less likely than non-Hispanic whites to use the internet, have a home broadband connection, or own a cell phone. A new study by the Hispanic Institute, however, found that English-speaking Hispanics have “emerged as the most avid users of wireless services,” and that they are more likely than non-Hispanics to own a cell phone, send text messages, and use a greater variety of mobile features. 

Read More

Tags: Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, IMF, Puerto Rico, PDVSA, Sanctions, Immgiration

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

May 18, 2011

by AS-COA Online

From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

Giuliani Advises Peru’s Fujimori as She Pulls ahead

Conservative Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori contracted former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani this week as an adviser to help design public security programs. The news came as polls indicated that Fujimori has begun to pull ahead of leftwing nationalist Ollanta Humala for the June 5 runoff election. A Datum released Sunday night found Fujimori leading over nationalist Humala by nearly six percentage points, with 46 percent against Humala’s 40.2. Another pollster, Ipsos Apoyo, released a figure the same day that found Fujimori winning by a smaller margin, with 51.1 percent compared to Humala’s 48.9 percent. 

Victims Law Reaches Final Debate in Colombian Congress

A law that would provide state compensation to victims of violence in Colombia’s civil conflict reaches its final debate in Congress today. Before passing the law, legislators will debate whether to legally recognize that Colombia faces an internal conflict with enemy combatants or to classify the FARC guerrilla army as a terrorist group for the purposes of the law. Colombian ex-President and FARC nemesis Álvaro Uribe explains to Foreign Policy why he supports categorizing the guerrillas as terrorists rather than combatants. Investigative website La Silla Vacía charts the positions of key Colombian politicians on the issue. 

Scandal-tainted Colombian Envoy to Venezuela Resigns

Eight months into his job, Colombia’s Ambassador to Venezuela José Fernando Bautista stepped down Monday after admitting he had ties to a Colombian construction conglomerate involved in bribing politicians for work contracts. He will be replaced by Ricardo Montanegro, who served as the Colombian business attaché in Caracas.

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Tags: Celso Amorim, Venezuela, Haiti, Keiko Fujimori, IMF, Free-trade agreement, Michel Martelly, Colombian Congress

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

October 20, 2010

by AS-COA Online

From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

Counting Numbers in Record-breaking Coverage of the Chilean Miner Rescue

More than 4 million page views per minute. Roughly 5.5 million live video streams on CNN. Approximately 412,000 social media mentions of “Chile” on October 13. Mashable Media reports on the record-breaking television and online viewership of the Chilean miner rescue.

Access an AS/COA Online resource guide to media coverage of the rescue.

In an op-ed for CNN, Americas Society’s Daniel Shapiro reflects on the fact that two of the Chilean miners rescued were identified as poets. "Chilean culture is steeped in poetry; poetry has become a life-blood of that country, ingrained in the bedrock as it were, over time," writes Shapiro.

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Tags: Chile, Brazil, Colombia, IMF, Weekly Roundup


 
 

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