Top stories this week are likely to include: Fidel Castro’s birthday; Buenos Aires subway shutdown continues; public teachers to end striking in Panama; talks to renew in Colombia between the government and the Indigenous Nasa; and a possible dialogue over Venezuela’s detained U.S. Marine.
Fidel Turns 86 Years Old: Cuba’s revolutionary leader and former president, Fidel Castro, turns 86 years old today. He faces health issues, having stepped down from the presidency in 2006 after undergoing intestinal surgery—and has not been seen in public or mentioned in the news since June 19, according to Reuters. AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini notes of the occasion, “Six years ago when Fidel Castro stepped aside to pass the torch to his brother Raúl, people thought the end was near. Give the man's staying power credit, but really, what modern country in the region and in the world remains as centered and fixated on an 86-year-old man? It's a sign of how little Cuba—and U.S. policy toward the island—has progressed. We're all stuck in the past.”
Subway Shutdown in Buenos Aires: A strike by union employees of Buenos Aires’ municipal subway system is entering its tenth day today, with no end in sight after talks broke down on Friday with the administration of Mayor Mauricio Macri. The subway shutdown has inconvenienced between 600,000 and 1 million daily commuters. Macri, the most prominent figure of the opposition Propuesta Republicana (Republican Proposal—PRO) party, is blaming the ruling Frente para la Victoria (Front for Victory—FPV) party, to which President Cristina Fernández belongs. Macri is accusing FPV operatives of inciting the union workers, who are demanding a 28 percent increase in pay. Buenos Aires Deputy Mayor Maria Eugenia Vidal stated that the city officials “just don’t have the means to pay for this.” Pay attention to see if there will be any breakthrough in negotiations this week.
Teacher Strike to End in Panama: Leaders of a teacher strike in Panama reached an understanding with the government on Saturday to end the weeklong strike today. Teachers were protesting over issues such as decaying classrooms and insufficient pay.
Santos-Nasa Mediation To Resume in Colombia: Leaders of the Indigenous Nasa group expect to set a date by this Tuesday for the resumption of mediated talks with the government of Juan Manuel Santos. More than 10,000 Nasas marched in the department of Cauca yesterday demanding the government return to the table. Cauca, in southwest Colombia, is home to many rebels belonging to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC). The Santos administration, therefore, has placed many Colombian soldiers in Cauca as part of the ongoing internal conflict with the FARC, which the Nasa view as a threat to their territorial sovereignty. The Nasas and the government, however, hope to reach an agreement through mediation.
Venezuela-U.S. Showdown Over Detention: After Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced late last week that police have detained an American citizen who claimed to be a former U.S. Marine, tensions have flared between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments. According to the Associated Press, a State Department official said that the U.S. authorities were not notified of his arrest. Chávez has openly suspected that the detainee, whose name has not been released, may be a “mercenary” scheming to destabilize Venezuela. Stay tuned to see if there may be more updates on this case in the coming week.
EXTRA, Rio 2016: After yesterday’s closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the world’s attention turns to Rio de Janeiro for 2016. But is the city ready? Check out AQ’s television segment on Brazil and the Olympics on the “Efecto Naím” program on NTN24.
Beginning today, units of the Argentine Federal Police (also known as La Federal) will begin leaving their posts at subway stations across Buenos Aires and by mid-March will be removed from highway posts surrounding the city. The ongoing changes, announced over the last by the office of Minister for Public Safety Nilda Garré, are part of a larger reorganization that will involve the removal of police officers from hospitals, public buildings and certain parts of the city.
According to reports, the moves are part of an effort to reduce corruption and improve the public image of the federal police. Since taking office in 2010 Garré has fired dozens of police officials on suspicion of corruption and has begun removing the police force from crime and drug ridden neighborhoods in an effort to discourage corrupt behavior. According to Garré, “the police force should only be used to combat federal crimes,” and the removal of officers from subways, hospitals, and public buildings will strengthen its presence on the streets.
Critics of the measures believe that they are politically motivated and an attempt to undermine the policies of Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri (PRO.) Macri, a member of the opposition, Propuesta Republicana coalition has frequently clashed with the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Buenos Aires Minister of Justice and Safety Guillermo Montenegro says that the removal of the police force in critical locations of the city is hampering public safety: “It seems like they (La Federal) are retreating from their duties all together.”
Mauricio Macri, incumbent mayor of Buenos Aires since 2007, was re-elected yesterday by a nearly two-to-one margin over challenger Senator Daniel Filmus. The election, which had entered a run-off last month after no candidate won an outright majority on July 10, ended with Macri claiming 64.3 percent of votes and Filmus the remaining 35.7 percent.
Filmus was President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s hand-picked candidate from her Frente para la Victoria (Front for Victory—FPV), which controls both the presidency and a combined 118 seats in the 329-seat bicameral Argentina National Congress. Although Macri enjoys widespread popularity as mayor, his Propuesta Republicana (Republican Proposal—PRO) alliance holds only 11 seats in the national congress.
This election was viewed by observers as a bellwether for Argentina’s presidential race. Macri was considered a leading challenger to Fernández de Kirchner in the upcoming October election, but he declined to enter the race earlier this year in favor of seeking another mayoral term. Although Fernández de Kirchner currently leads in the polls, a first-round victory—which requires at least 40 percent of the vote—is not a foregone conclusion. Macri’s endorsement is widely sought after among all potential candidates and he has pledged to speak with each of them prior to deciding who to back.