Haitian President-elect Michel Martelly traveled to Washington DC today to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the heads of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. Talks will focus on job creation, education, security, reconstruction, public health, and the future relationship between Haiti and these multinational organizations.
The three-day trip to the U.S. comes two weeks after preliminary results confirmed that Mr. Martelly received 68 percent of the vote in a March 20 run-off election, beating former First Lady Mirlande Manigat. The President-elect will also meet with the U.S. news media, including CNN, the Washington Post, and Fox News. The National Press Club in Washington has confirmed that Martelly will hold a press conference on Thursday, the last day of his trip.
The Provisional Electoral Council had intended to release final results on April 16, but the announcement was since rescheduled for tomorrow. If the preliminary results stand, Martelly will become Haiti’s 44th president on May 14. One of his first responsibilities will be to nominate a new prime minister, who must then be approved by a parliament still largely controlled by members of outgoing President Réne Préval’s INITE party.
Michel Martelly, otherwise known as kompa star “Sweet Micky,” was declared the winner of the Haiti’s presidential election according to preliminary results released by the Provisional Electoral Council yesterday. Martelly, 50, received 68 percent of the vote in the March 20 runoff, besting constitutional law professor and former first lady Mirlande Manigat.
While he is best known for his carnival music, on-stage antics and profanity, Martelly reinvented himself during the campaign as a clean-cut, antiestablishment politician focusing on reforming education and agriculture and streamlining delivery of $18 billion in promised humanitarian aid. His image as political outsider makes him popular among Haiti’s poor, but Martelly will have to court the Haitian elite to guarantee political support of his policies.
The likely next president is already ruffling some feathers among the upper crust with his plan to reinstate the Haitian Armed Forces that was disbanded by former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1995. Martelly will face the challenge of sharing power with a prime minister chosen by Haiti’s parliament, where incumbent president René Préval’s INITE party holds significant sway.
Though preliminary results show that Martelly won by a landslide, Manigat will have a chance to appeal the preliminary results before the official numbers are announced on April 16. If the results stand, Martelly will be sworn in as Haiti’s 44th president of Haiti in May and face the daunting task of rebuilding a weakened public sector in a country currently dominated by nongovernmental organizations.
Presidential Election Results Delayed in Haiti
Haiti’s electoral agency announced that preliminary results from a March 20 runoff election—originally scheduled to be released March 31—won’t be available until April 5, with final results planned for April 16. The council attributes the delay to signs of fraud in vote counts. The results will reveal whether ex-First Lady Mirlande Manigat or former pop singer Michel Martelly will serve as the country’s next president.
IDB To Help Cool LatAm Economies
The Inter-American Development Bank said it will help Latin American economies “de-dollarize” during its four-day annual meeting, which took place in Calgary this year. The Washington-based bank said it will offer more loans in local currencies and the option to exchange open loans from dollars in order to combat the soaring value of many of the region’s currencies and economic overheating. The International Monetary Fund’s regional director Nicolas Eyzaguirre said the region should terminate stimulus programs to stop overheating, but Brazil’s Deputy Central Bank Governor Luiz Pereira da Silva defended his country’s plan to limit inflows of speculative capital from overseas.
Bachelet on UN Gender Empowerment Initiative
In an interview with The New York Times, former Chilean President and current head of UN Woman Michelle Bachelet discusses her strategy to empower women worldwide. She emphasizes bringing women into positions of power and recruiting men to support the struggle for gender equality.
Brazil Versus Energy Curse
Latin America analyst Shannon O’Neil thinks Brazil can avoid the “energy curse” that traps developing economies in a cycle of dependence on a single export subject to wild price swings. According to O’Neil, Brazil’s diverse economy, past experience implementing a successful national energy plan, and democratic form of government will all help turn pre-salt oil discoveries into a blessing rather than a curse.
Brasilia Tries to Rein in Real with New Tax
Financial Times reports on Brasilia’s attempt to combat appreciation of its currency through a new tax adjustment requiring local companies to pay a 6 percent tax (up from 5.38 percent) on a portion of funds raised from foreign loans and international bond sales. “The tax adjustments underline a subtle shift in the focus of the government’s efforts to rein in the currency,” reports Samantha Pearson. “Whereas past measures targeted ‘foreign speculators’ and alluded to a global ‘currency war,’ Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president, has taken a wider, more technical approach by introducing measures that will affect Brazilians as well as foreigners.”
Argentine Daily Blocked from Distributing Sunday Paper
Clarín, the Argentine media conglomerate, failed to distribute the Sunday, March 27 edition of its newspaper because of union protestors who blocked vehicles from leaving the printing plant in the early hours of the morning. The news group has been engaged in an ongoing dispute with the Fernández de Kirchner government over allegations of holding a monopoly. However, critics accuse Fernández of a vendetta against the newspaper, which takes a critical stance against her administration.
Hugo Chávez Gets Journalism Prize on South American Tour
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez kicked off a four-country tour through Latin America with a visit to Argentina, where he received a journalism award for from the University of La Plata for his contributions to the state-funded Telesur broadcast network. Chávez and Argentine President Christina Fernández de Kirchner signed trade agreements providing Argentina with oil in exchange for cars, food, agricultural equipment, and technology transfers to build motors and refrigerators in Venezuela. Chávez travels on to Uruguay, Bolivia, and Colombia.
Óscar Arias Talks Venezuela
Former President of Costa Rica and Nobel Laureate Óscar Arias offered veiled criticism of what he referred to as a “step backwards” for democracy in Venezuela under Hugo Chávez in an interview with El Universal. Without naming Chávez explicitly, Arias pointed out that some democratically elected governments “erase checks and balances…censor the press, shut down media, disqualify opposition politicians, and modify the Constitution to get reelected.” Notwithstanding his criticisms, Arias also maintained that Venezuela’s pluralism and free elections make it a democracy.
Colombia Mulls Extradition of Suspect to US or Venezuela
On March 25, Colombia’s Supreme Court decided that Venezuelan drug kingpin Walid Makled can be extradited. Now Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos must decide whether to send Makled to the United States, where he’s wanted for narcotics trafficking, or to Venezuela, where he’s been connected to the murder of a journalist. Makled has indicated that, in the case that he gets sent to the United States, he will share information linking Venezuelan authorities to the drug trade, reports The Christian Science Monitor’s backchannels.
Peruvian Nationalist Ollanta Humala Takes Lead in Poll
A poll by CPI released Sunday shows that nationalist Ollanta Humala has risen from third place to take the lead in Peru’s presidential race. Humala’s support jumped from 15.7 percent to 21.1 percent in a week, according to CPI. Conservative Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the former president who dissolved the Congress and is now serving a 25-year jail sentence for human rights violations, placed second with 19.9 percent. None of the five major candidates enjoy sufficient support to avoid a runoff.
Read an AS/COA Online Analysis about polling in the Peruvian presidential elections.
Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru Could Form New Econ Bloc
In an interview with El Tiempo, Peruvian President Alan García suggests that his country could form an integrated economic bloc with Chile, Colombia, and Mexico during a summit set to take place in Lima on May 2. García also talked with the Colombian daily about supporting Bogota’s bid to join the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. He also left open the possibility of running for president again in 2016, after sitting out the upcoming five-year term.
Honduran Judge Permits Zelaya to Return
Judge Óscar Chinchilla annulled orders for the arrest of ex-President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, but the former leader refuses to return, saying that he faces threats from some of those who overthrew him in 2009. Zelaya currently lives in the Dominican Republic. The Honduran government used tear gas and water cannons on Monday to break up protests led by teachers demanding the return of the ousted president as well as the fact that they’ve experience a six-month delay in salary payments.
Pérez Molina Leads Polls in Guatemalan Prez Race
Guatemalan daily El Periódico released the results of a poll by Borge y Asociados for the month of March that puts Otto Pérez Molina of the Patriotic Party in the lead for the country’s presidential election, with 47.2 percent. Sandra Torres of the governing National Unity of Hope holds second place, with 13.7 percent. Pérez, who lost the 2007 vote to current President Álvaro Colom, previously ran under the slogan mano dura, cabeza y corazón (firm hand, head and heart). First Lady Torres began divorce proceedings Monday, which will allow her to circumvent a Guatemalan constitutional ban preventing close relatives of the head of state from succeeding as president.
Unraveling a Guatemalan Murder Mystery
In a lengthy feature for The New Yorker, journalist David Grann unravels the political conspiracy that led to the murder of Rodrigo Rosenberg in Guatemala in the spring of 2009. Rosenberg caused a political uproar when a video surfaced saying that if he were murdered, Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom was responsible. A UN investigation found, however, that Rosenberg organized his own assassination.
Dominican President May Seek a Third Term
The Dominican Liberation Party presented President Leonel Fernández Sunday with a petition signed by 2.2 million people asking for his third consecutive reelection. Fernández said he would let his party decide on his candidacy, though the Constitution prohibits more than two consecutive presidential terms.
Cuban State Media Gives Independent Bloggers Publicity Boost
When Cuba’s state media last week aired a documentary called “Cyberwar” vilifying the country’s independent bloggers as pawns of Washington, they ended up accidentally doing their enemies a big favor. Yoani Sánchez says that she and other bloggers now enjoy fame on the island, where few people previously read their work.
Jimmy Carter Visits Cuba
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter this week visited Cuba for the second time, where he discussed ways to move forward with stalled U.S.-Cuban relations with Cuban leaders, including Raúl Castro. Carter also met with prominent bloggers and dissidents. Notwithstanding speculation in the U.S. press that Carter went to the island to press for the release of jailed U.S.A.I.D. contractor Alan Gross, Carter said Tuesday he wanted to work to improve bilateral relations and did not visit to get Gross out of jail.
Mexican Media Outlets Sign Drug War Coverage Pact
Covering organized crime in Mexico is a dangerous business, with the country among the world’s most dangerous for reporters, according to the Knight Center for Journalism is the Americas. With that in mind, almost 50 Mexican media outlets last week signed the Agreement for News Coverage of Violence, which seeks to prevent news organizations from succumbing to the influence of cartels by avoiding distributing excessively violent images and preventing attacks on journalists, among other measures. Sadly, a day after the pact was inked, a Televisa TV host was found dead in the northern city of Monterrey in what appeared to be a gang-style killing.
UK’s Deputy PM Visits Mexico
Nick Clegg, the British deputy prime minister, led a business and educational delegation to Mexico March 28 in what he said “marks the beginning of a major push in 2011 to renew the UK's ties to Latin America.” The Guardian reports that Clegg will be the first British politician to address the Mexican Senate. “Having learnt from the Tequila Crisis of the 1990s, Mexico demonstrated great resilience in the face of global recession,” wrote Clegg in Reforma “As we look to reform our banking sector at home, there are important parallels we can draw.”
Mexico Criminalizes Femicide
The Latin Americanist blog reports on Mexico’s approval of a law that makes gender-based murder a separate crime punishable by sentences of up to 70 years. The Attorney General’s office will create an office to investigate violence against women. Also, last week the country’s Secretariat of the Interior distributed a manual to federal employees that offers guidelines for avoiding sexist language in the workplace.
Canada-Mexico Relations Driven by State-to-Province Relations
The relationship between Canada and Mexico is increasingly determined by the interaction between Canada’s provincial governments and Mexico’s state governments, according to a new report by think tank FOCAL. The report argues that these relationships, which the two countries’ federal governments generally fail to manage, can both encourage and complicate the overal bilateral relationship.
PM Harper Sets May Date for Election
Canadians will vote in their fourth general election in seven years come May 2 after Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority government lost a rare no-confidence vote on March 25, leading to the dissolution of Parliament. The Toronto Star reports that Harper’s Conservative Party is polling strongly and could end up with a majority in Parliament. Shortformblog explains the Canadian Parliament’s vote and what happens next. Get ongoing coverage of the five-week campaign on the daily’s politics page.
An Insider’s Look at an Andean Narco-submarine
Wired magazine takes readers inside a jungle-built submarine used to traffic Colombian cocaine. The vessel, seized by Ecuadoran authorities last year, demonstrates a level of technical know-how that’s a major step up from cigarette boats encased in wood and fiberglass that were previously seized. It could go 10 days without refueling, carried a crew of up to six people, and had a hull made of difficult-to-trace materials. “The most valuable feature, though, is the cargo bay, capable of holding up to 9 tons of cocaine—a street value of about $250 million,” writes Jim Popkin. And there may be other submarines traveling in the Pacific right now; a second, similar drug sub was seized in February.
Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced yesterday that large voter turnout and a “high incidence of fraud and irregularities” during the March 20 presidential runoff will delay the announcement of preliminary results. Though the results were scheduled for release tomorrow, presidential hopefuls Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly will have to wait until April 4 for the first vote tallies.
Compared to the first round of voting on November 28, 2010, which was marred by widespread fraud, low voter turn out and three days of violent protests, international monitors had praised the second round for being better organized. The violence following the first round broke out when it was announced that Martelly, a kompa star that is a favorite among Haiti’s poor, was left off the runoff ballot. Not until the Organization of American States reviewed the voting results was Martelly placed back on the ballot over then-second place holder Jude Celestin—the candidate of current president Réne Préval’s party.
Though the delay affects the release of preliminary results, final results remain on schedule to be released on April 16. The next president of Haiti, who will assume power this May, will face the daunting task of procuring billions of dollars in promised foreign aid and rebuild a weakened public sector in a country currently dominated by nongovernmental organizations.
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.
Previewing Obama’s Latin America Trip
A March 15 White House press gaggle with U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Mike Froman offered a preview of President Barack Obama’s trip to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador from March 19 to 23. Froman focused on Latin America’s economic strides, saying: “[T]his trip fundamentally is about the U.S. recovery, U.S. exports, and the critical relationship that Latin America plays in our economic future and jobs here in the United States.” He also indicated that energy, infrastructure, and trade would serve as focus areas during the tour and that a CEO Forum will be held in Brasilia during Obama’s stop there. Several U.S. secretaries will join Obama for the Brazil portion of the trip, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
In a follow-up White House press conference on March 16, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes confirmed that Obama will deliver a speech spelling out the administration’s “approach on Latin America” while in Santiago on Monday. According to the Associated Press, Rhodes suggested “Obama will highlight the democratic transitions that swept through Latin America as a model for Middle Eastern countries that are facing challenges to their autocratic regimes.”
Visit AS/COA Online ahead of and during the president’s trip to Latin America for ongoing coverage. AmericasQuarterly.org carries an “Issues in Depth” page on the Obama tour. Also follow AS/COA on Twitter (@ascoa) and Facebook.
Brazil’s Ex-ForeignMin Makes Case for UN Security Council Seat
Celso Amorim, who served as Brazil’s foreign minister during the Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva administration, called upon President Obama to support Brazil’s inclusion in a reformed U.N. Security Council. “It would be a disappointment if Obama does not endorse our drive for a permanent seat on the world’s premier international security body,” Amorim writes for Foreign Policy. “Not just because Brazil deserves a seat but because the council’s very legitimacy depends on the inclusion of emerging powers.”
Funes’ Agenda for Obama’s Visit
Diana Villers Negroponte, a Brookings Institution senior fellow, outlines what to expect when U.S. President Barack Obama stops in San Salvador next week during his Latin American tour. She writes that Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes will seek Washington’s partnership on recognizing poverty-eradication efforts, combating organized crime, providing equipment and training for an El Salvador-based security plan, supporting an IMF plan to offset effects of the economic crisis, and increasing U.S. private investment in the energy sector. “By his visit, Obama is signaling assurance in the Funes government’s capacity to rebuild the economy, distribute wealth, and contain the violence,” says Negroponte. “We must hope that foreign investors will build upon this assurance to develop manufacturing plants, alternative energy production and agro-industrial businesses.”