Top stories this week are likely to include: Venezuelans continue to await news on Chávez; Bolivian soldiers are released but tensions remain; Cardinals meet to discuss possible papal candidates; Argentina offers to issue new bonds for defaulted debt; and Mexico’s PRI ends its opposition to private investment in the state oil company.
Venezuelans continue to wait for news on Chávez' health
Supporters and opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez demonstrated in Caracas again this weekend after Vice President Nicolás Maduro announced on Friday that Chávez was once again undergoing chemotherapy to treat his cancer. Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles, who lost to Chávez in the 2012 presidential election, said Friday that Maduro was lying about Chávez' true condition. Meanwhile, Venezuelan Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas denied today that the government has lied about the president’s health and said that Chávez has been experiencing “highs and lows” since returning to Venezuela on February 18.
Bolivia says Chile violated international norms
Bolivian President Evo Morales announced Sunday that he would bring Chile before international authorities for detaining three Bolivian soldiers who crossed into Chile with weapons at the end of Janaury, saying the detention violated international norms for transnational cooperation on crime. The soldiers' case in Chile was suspended Friday after they agreed not to enter the country for a year. They returned to Bolivia but tensions between the two countries are continuing to escalate. Bolivia is also mounting a renewed effort to dispute its international borders with Chile; access to the Pacific Ocean was lost in 1879.
Cardinals meet to discuss the next pope
More than 140 Catholic cardinals are convening today to discuss possible papal candidates and conduct Church business. According to the Vatican, the cardinals have not yet set a date for the conclave that will determine whom to choose as Pope Benedict XVI’s successor. Vatican journalists say that possible successors to Pope Benedict, who officially stepped down as pope last Thursday, include Brazilians João Braz de Aviz and Odilo Scherer, and Argentine Leonardo Sandri.
Argentine government agrees to compromise offer on debt standoff
Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced before Congress on Friday that the country would be willing to issue new bonds for private equity fund NML Capital Ltd., which is suing the country for $1.3 billion in defaulted debt. Fernández de Kirchner had previously refused to pay the “vulture funds,” which she has accused of profiting from Argentina’s 2002 economic crisis. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals will give Argentina until March 29 to explain the terms of a new debt swap.
PRI approves private investment in Pemex
Mexico's Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI) voted unanimously on Sunday to end its opposition to constitutional changes that would permit private investment in the state oil company, Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is expected to send bills to Congress later this year that would propose constitutional changes to permit new energy and fiscal reforms. The PRI controls 241 of the 500 seats in Mexico’s lower house, but would need additional congressional support for the reforms to pass.
After much public and legislative wrangling, Mexico’s lower chamber opted to bring the country’s labor code into the twenty-first century. With 361 votes supporting the measure and 129 in opposition, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI), Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party—PAN), Partido Verde Ecologista de México (Green Party—PVEM) and Partido Nueva Alianza (New Alliance Party—PANAL) voted on November 13 to breathe life into the Mexican economy by overturning rules that have idled Mexico’s economic engine for four decades. The bill was subsequently sent to the Senate for a second time, and passed.
Absent from the new law are much-needed transparency measures intended for unions, whose boards are controlled by powerful union bosses who skim profits and use slush funds to reward friends, prop up political campaigns and finance everything from protests to public campaigns against reformers.
Union transparency and accountability were central to the labor bill submitted by President Felipe Calderón and his PAN party to the lower chamber in September, but the PRI and its allies would not have it. In the end, forgoing strong union transparency and accountability measures allowed the bill to pass. PRI legislators promised to hold debate on union accountability legislation in a future session.
The Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Party of the Democratic Revolution—PRD), Partido del Trabajo (Labor Party—PT) and Movimiento Ciudadano (Citizens’ Movement—MC) voted against the bill. In their view, the bill does little to help workers, a lot to support business owners and validates union corruption. As the bill went up for a final vote, deputies from the three parties ran a banner across the chamber´s speaker´s rostrum stating, “Those who betray workers betray their country.”
Representatives of the Partido Revolucionario Intitucional (PRI) agreed to allow electoral votes cast in this past Sunday’s gubernatorial elections in the state of Veracruz to be opened and counted one by one to confirm that their candidate, Javier Duarte de Ochoa, won the election outright.
Opposition coalition “Viva Veracruz” continues to claim that their candidate, Miguel Angel Yunes Linares, was a victim of electoral fraud and requested the recount. The PRI agreed to the recount on the condition that the losing candidate no longer refer to themselves as the “legitimate governor.”
The PRI was successful in this past Sunday’s elections, sweeping gubernatorial victories across nine of 12 states. With victories in Chihuahua, Quintana Roo, Tlaxcala, Zacatecas and Tamaulipas, the PRI seems to be well represented ahead of the 2012 elections. However, opposition party Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD) has also raised protests over the elections in the city of Juarez. The PRD claims that the PRI purchased votes in its favor. The allegations are currently under investigation.
As headlines continue to report a tale of horror, violence and massacre in what had seemed to be a peaceful country, a growing debate stirs on whether or not
The general consensus is that President Felipe Calderón has inherited a cancer that the Partido Revolucionario Institucional(PRI regime) had contained through institutionalization of corruption. This is a cancer that former President Vicente Fox was unable to effectively cope with when he took office, ending the PRI’s hold on power. Now Felipe Calderón is trying to get rid of this disease by beating it with a big stick and empowering the military to crack down on criminal organizations such as the Zetas and Beltrán Leyva’s group , but as Ana María Salazar has stated recently, “Mexicans are paying a huge price”
Calderón’s war on drugs seems limited if the goal is to effectively address the complex issue of drug-related violence. A recent conversation I had with a group of Thunderbird School of Global Management and Tec de Monterrey postgraduate students proves there are at least seven more ideas that the President should consider incorporating into his strategy:
1. A hard line political and militarily line is needed, but we should recognize this is not the path to a solution. This part of the strategy should be seen as mere containment. Just like the Planarian worms if you try to cut the head off a criminal organization, it will grow back and sometimes even multiply , but you need to keep doing so to prevent the worm from growing stronger.
In the most dramatic proposal for political reform in decades, Mexican President Felipe Calderón announced yesterday a 10-point plan aimed at revamping Mexico’s political system. Among the many reforms, the proposal would allow independent candidates to run for office and relax term-limit rules for legislators, allowing lawmakers and mayors to hold office for up to 12 years.
The legislation would also reduce the number of seats in the chamber of deputies by 20 percent to 400 seats, and reduce the number of senators from 128 to 96. Calderón also included a provision that would require, for the first time, a runoff election in presidential races in which no candidate obtains more than 50 percent of total votes cast. If passed, the reforms would dramatically alter Mexican politics. According to Calderón, “the idea is to give citizens more power, to give them the capacity to shape public life and to strengthen our democracy.”
Reactions to the proposal have been mixed. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) expressed its approval for most of the provisions, but refuted the need for runoffs in presidential races. The Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) rejected the proposal altogether. Gustavo Madero, leader of the Senate’s National Action Party (PAN) party, spoke highly of the proposed reforms, saying they present an opportunity to “leave behind formulas originated in the days of the monolithic PRI.”
Congress will officially debate the proposal in 2010.
Last Sunday, Mexico witnessed how the PRI, or Institutional Revolutionary Party (a heterogeneous grouping of right-of-center groups and revolutionary nationalists), reasserted its standing and overtook President Felipe Calderón's National Action Party (PAN) in the elections for Congress, six governors, and municipalities and local congresses in 11 states. The PRI also defeated the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which lost many of its traditional constituencies and is now facing one of its worst crises.
The PAN's electoral strategy didn't help. While the PRI relied on the political and financial resources of its governors to operate the party’s campaign, the PAN chose an approach of direct confrontation. It also counted on President Calderón's popular image, paralleling a vote for the PAN with a vote against drug traffickers.
Stolen elections and ballot-box stuffing became such the norm in Mexico under the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) that observers used to say that even the dead rise and vote on election day. In the mid-term legislative elections on July 5, this time it may be the once-thought moribund PRI that rises from the dead. A newly resurgent PRI in Mexico’s bicameral congress will have consequences for the policy agenda (mostly positive) of President Felipe Calderón and his Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) and signal the decline of the leftist Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD)—under its current leadership, maybe not such a bad thing).
At stake in these elections are 128 seats in the Mexican Senate and all 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. If polls are to be believed, these elections may dramatically shrink the seats that the PRD gained in the 2006 elections. At the time, many believed this would be the trend, as Mexico appeared cleaved between the Right (PAN) and the Left (PRD). In the 2006 elections, the PRD scored 37 of the one-third-open Senate seats, compared to 57 for the PAN and 32 for the PRI. Most remarkable was that only six years earlier in the 2000 presidential/legislative elections the PRD only managed 17. In the lower-house elections in 2006, Mexico’s standard bearer for the Left, the PRD, did even better scoring 106 seats in the chamber, exceeding the 66 it won in 2000.