Top stories this week are likely to include: the World Bank presidency goes to a vote; Secretary Clinton in Brazil; Repsol proposes talks with CFK; Chávez authorized for 90-day leave; and the possibility of progress in drug-related violence.
World Bank Presidency: With Colombia’s José Antonio Ocampo withdrawing his candidacy over the weekend, the contest for the next president of the World Bank is a two-person race. A vote is scheduled for today to decide between the two remaining candidates: the United States’ Jim Yong Kim and Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Despite Brazil’s call recently for the BRICS nations to rally behind one candidate, pay attention to which candidate the developing economies will cast their vote. AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini says, “The ability of developing countries to really force a change in the international financial institutions depends on their ability to ally. They split over the IMF presidency last year, and despite their narrowing to two candidates for the World Bank, it’s difficult to imagine them rallying over the Nigerian candidate.”
Secretary Clinton in Brazil: After yesterday’s conclusion of the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Colombia, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be in Brasilia, Brazil, today and tomorrow for meetings on the Global Partnership Dialogue and the Open Government Partnership (OGP). She and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will “welcome 42 new countries into the [OGP] as they announce concrete commitments to prevent corruption, promote transparency, and harness new technologies to empower citizens,” according to a State Department press release. AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak notes that “with last weekend’s summit not signaling any kernel of hemispheric unity, this week’s meetings are an important opportunity for the Americas’ two largest economies to show that one of the most important relationships in the hemisphere continues to strengthen.”
Repsol Proposes Talks with Argentina: Reports surfaced last week that the Argentine government was mulling a takeover of the majority of shares of YPF SA, the country’s largest oil company. Those reports sparked an international backlash especially in Spain, where YPF’s parent company Repsol is based. Spain’s minister of industry warned on Friday that Argentina would become an “international pariah” if it went ahead with the takeover—and Argentina has since delayed the project rather than abandon it. The head of Repsol is currently in Argentina and is urging talks between his company and the Argentine government. Look out for developments this week.
Chávez in Cuba for Extended Stay: Although he planned to attend last weekend’s Summit of the Americas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez instead departed for further medical treatment in Havana after doctors advised him on Saturday not to travel to Cartagena. On the same day, the Venezuelan legislature legally authorized Chávez to leave the country for up to 90 days. Pay attention to how Venezuelans react to the possibility of a prolonged absence of the president—especially the opposition eager to unseat him.
Progress in Drug-Related Violence?: Last weekend’s Summit “served as a good forum for discussion over drugs—and that was about it,” according to Sabatini. But while no final declaration was made on this longstanding problem, there was one glimmer of hope on Saturday. El Salvador, one of the Northern Triangle countries embattled by the bitter gang violence surrounding narcotics trade, experienced its first homicide-free day since President Mauricio Funes took office in June 2009. Whether this is a one-off success or the beginning of a pattern remains to be seen.
Following the assassination of Rodolfo Torre Cantú, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) candidate for governor of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas on Monday morning, the PRI national committee chose his brother, Egidio Torre Cantú, today as his replacement on the ballot for this Sunday’s elections. His selection was approved by the PRI committee based on “his honesty and social acceptance, ideological convictions and the work he has done on behalf of the party.”
Egidio Torre Cantú is a civil engineer and previously held public office from September 2000 to December 2001 as mayor of Ciudad Victoria. However, his candidacy has also raised some controversy as he is also the owner of a company which has received public contracts valued at 166.5 million pesos (US$13 million) since 2005. Those contracts were awarded by the current governor, Eugenio Hernández, also a member of the PRI, raising allegations of favoritism in Egidio’s selection as substitute candidate. The current administration claims no wrongdoing or favoritism in awarding Mr. Cantú’s company, Servicios de Ingeniería Tohesa, the contracts, which were awarded through both non-competitive and competitive bids. Further debate will decide whether Mr. Cantú’s election might violate laws governing public servants and their private enterprises.
At the time of his assassination, Rodolfo Torre Cantú was expected to win this Sunday’s elections. The assassination, blamed on hitmen affiliated with the drug cartels of the border state, follows the murder of the mayor of Guadalupe, Jesús Manuel Lara Rodríguez, just over a week ago, also attributed to narco-traffickers.
Mexican President Felipe Calderón visits Washington today on his first official state visit to discuss immigration and security with President Obama. President Calderón is also meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today. This evening, President Calderón and his wife, Maragrita Zavala, will be the guests of honor at a State Dinner to be held in the East Room of the White House. President Calderón will address a joint session of Congress at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow.
Drug-related violence on the U.S.-Mexico border is a topic of discussion with President Calderón pressing Obama on the increased demand for drugs in the U.S. as fueling the increased violence. While Calderón has praised the Obama administration for acknowledging that many of the weapons used in crimes in Mexico originate in the U.S., further cooperation will be necessary to stem the violence. As Diana Villiers Negroponte writes in Americas Quarterly, the extension and expansion of the Merida Initiative will be critical to these efforts.
President Calderón, a vocal critic of Arizona’s SB1070, is expected to press for comprehensive immigration law reform at the federal level. In recent weeks, President Calderón has issued travel warnings for Mexicans traveling to Arizona amid increasing pressure at home to cut off commercial ties with Arizona for having passed SB1070 into law.
In remarks on the South Lawn today following a welcoming ceremony for the Mexican president, both leaders expressed their desire to work cooperatively to address these issues. President Calderón called for “a border that will unite us instead of dividing us,” with President Obama responding, “I say to you and the Mexican people: Let us stand together.”