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Franco Announces Paraguay Election Observers

October 30, 2012

by AQ Online

La Unión de Naciones Sudamericanas (Union of South American Nations—Unasur) was notably excluded from Paraguay’s list of observers for the 2013 presidential election announced by President Federico Franco on Monday. The European Union (EU), Organization of American States (OAS) and The Carter Center, all prestigious and internationally renowned organizations according to Franco, will be allowed to monitor the elections on April 21, 2013. However, he refused to comment on Unasur, which temporarily suspended Paraguay after former President Fernando Lugo was unanimously impeached in January.

Monday’s announcement comes one month after President Franco denounced Paraguay’s suspension from Mercosur during his remarks at the United Nation General Assembly. Despite the fact that much of the international community viewed President Fernando Lugo’s ouster as a coup d’état, President Franco has consistently defended the nearly unanimous congressional impeachment process that took place last January. Former President Lugo was voted out of office by the opposition-controlled senate for his ties to officers responsible for the June 15 massacre at Curuguatay in which 17 peasants were killed by police who were attempting to evict them from private property near the Brazilian border.

President Franco, who is not allowed to run in next year’s election, has emphasized that the participation of the EU, OAS, and The Carter Center will ensure a transparent election.

Tags: Elections, Federico Franco, Paraguay

Monday Memo: AQ’s Top Expected Stories for the Week of September 17

September 17, 2012

by AQ Online

Top stories this week are likely to include: Enrique Peña Nieto tours Latin America; United Nations General Assembly gets underway; Venezuela’s presidential election intensifies; European Union continues free-trade talks with Canada; and Paraguay seeks reparations from Mercosur. 

Peña Nieto Visits Latin America: Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto departed yesterday evening for his six-country Latin America tour, which will take him to Guatemala, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Peru this week. Eduardo Sánchez, spokesperson for Peña Nieto, says that the trip’s purpose is to strengthen “the position that Mexico has in the region and the possibilities that it has as a country to build itself as a facilitator” in Latin American relations. Issue topics that are expected to dominate the agenda include security, migration and trade. AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak adds, “each visit will highlight how a Peña Nieto government will seek to elevate Mexico’s role in the region and in working with each country bilaterally. Strengthened cooperation with Guatemala is critical for improving security and migration flows, Colombia has important lessons learned in security, the Chile and Peru visits are linked to trade and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Brazil visit will likely seek to set the two countries on a path toward trade collaboration rather than trade competition.” Peña Nieto told Brazil’s Época magazine that “free trade, far from protectionism, is the path that we should take to make Latin America a thriving actor in the global economy.” 

UNGA Gets Underway: The sixty-seventh session of the United Nations General Assembly opens debate tomorrow afternoon at 3:00p.m. in the New York secretariat. Access the agenda here. Heads of state are expected to arrive next week, where they will make their plenary addresses. 

Venezuela's Presidential Election: In the lead-up to Venezuela’s October 7 presidential contest, it was revealed over the weekend that incumbent President Hugo Chávez would not select a running mate in spite of his widely speculated deteriorating health. Chávez’ challenger, Henrique Capriles, has not selected a likely vice presidential candidate either. Further, Venezuelan polling firm Consultores21 released a poll over the weekend putting Capriles Radonski two percentage points ahead of Chávez – 48 percent to 46 percent.

RelatedAmericas Society and Council of the Americas will host a discussion on September 18, titled “The Road to Venezuela’s Elections: A Look at the Media, Public Opinion, and the Economy.” The president of Consultores21 will speak on the panel.

EU - Canada Trade Talks Continue: Officials from the European Union will arrive in Ottawa this week for the penultimate round of negotiations with Canada on a free-trade pact. An agreement is farther behind schedule. As Americas Quarterly reported in early 2011, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement was anticipated to be signed in the middle of last year. 

Paraguay to Demand Reparations from Mercosur: The Paraguayan foreign ministry filed grievances with the Argentine, Brazilian and Uruguayan embassies in Asunción a few days ago on the charge of “grave arbitrariness” since its suspension from Mercosur following the ouster of former President Fernando Lugo. In a separate release, the foreign ministry noted that “Paraguay has the right to demand moral reparation for the offences infringed upon the dignity of the Republic, as a State and as a member of the international community, as well as claim compensation for the economic losses and damages suffered.” President Federico Franco has charged Mercosur as an “ideological club of friends,” and is intensifying his rhetoric against the South American trade bloc that does not recognize his presidency as legitimate. Expect Argentine, Brazilian and Uruguayan responses from the grievances this week. 

ExtraToday begins the first full week of National Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S., which lasts from September 15 to October 15. 

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Tags: Canada, Enrique Peña Nieto, European Union, Federico Franco, Fernando Lugo, Free Trade, Mercosur, Mexico, Paraguay

Monday Memo: AQ’s Top Expected Stories for the Week of September 17

September 17, 2012

by AQ Online

Top stories this week are likely to include: Enrique Peña Nieto tours Latin America; United Nations General Assembly gets underway; Venezuela’s presidential election intensifies; European Union continues free-trade talks with Canada; and Paraguay seeks reparations from Mercosur.

Peña Nieto Visits Latin America: Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto departed yesterday evening for his six-country Latin America tour, which will take him to Guatemala, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Peru this week. Eduardo Sánchez, spokesperson for Peña Nieto, says that the trip’s purpose is to strengthen “the position that Mexico has in the region and the possibilities that it has as a country to build itself as a facilitator” in Latin American relations. Issue topics that are expected to dominate the agenda include security, migration and trade. AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak adds, “each visit will highlight how a Peña Nieto government will seek to elevate Mexico’s role in the region and in working with each country bilaterally. Strengthened cooperation with Guatemala is critical for improving security and migration flows, Colombia has important lessons learned in security, the Chile and Peru visits are linked to trade and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Brazil visit will likely seek to set the two countries on a path toward trade collaboration rather than trade competition.” Peña Nieto told Brazil’s Época magazine that “free trade, far from protectionism, is the path that we should take to make Latin America a thriving actor in the global economy.”

UNGA Gets Underway: The sixty-seventh session of the United Nations General Assembly opens debate tomorrow afternoon at 3:00p.m. in the New York secretariat. Access the agenda here. Heads of state are expected to arrive next week, where they will make their plenary addresses.

Venezuela's Presidential Election: In the lead-up to Venezuela’s October 7 presidential contest, it was revealed over the weekend that incumbent President Hugo Chávez would not select a running mate in spite of his widely speculated deteriorating health. Chávez’ challenger, Henrique Capriles, has not selected a likely vice presidential candidate either. Further, Venezuelan polling firm Consultores21 released a poll over the weekend putting Capriles Radonski two percentage points ahead of Chávez – 48 percent to 46 percent.

Related: Americas Society and Council of the Americas will host a discussion on September 18, titled “The Road to Venezuela’s Elections: A Look at the Media, Public Opinion, and the Economy.” The president of Consultores21 will speak on the panel.

EU - Canada Trade Talks Continue: Officials from the European Union will arrive in Ottawa this week for the penultimate round of negotiations with Canada on a free-trade pact. An agreement is farther behind schedule. As Americas Quarterly reported in early 2011, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement was anticipated to be signed in the middle of last year.

Paraguay to Demand Reparations from Mercosur: The Paraguayan foreign ministry filed grievances with the Argentine, Brazilian and Uruguayan embassies in Asunción a few days ago on the charge of “grave arbitrariness” since its suspension from Mercosur following the ouster of former President Fernando Lugo. In a separate release, the foreign ministry noted that “Paraguay has the right to demand moral reparation for the offences infringed upon the dignity of the Republic, as a State and as a member of the international community, as well as claim compensation for the economic losses and damages suffered.” President Federico Franco has charged Mercosur as an “ideological club of friends,” and is intensifying his rhetoric against the South American trade bloc that does not recognize his presidency as legitimate. Expect Argentine, Brazilian and Uruguayan responses from the grievances this week.

Extra: Today begins the first full week of National Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S., which lasts from September 15 to October 15.

Tags: Enrique Peña Nieto, European Union, Federico Franco

Venezuela to Formally Enter Mercosur

July 31, 2012

by AQ Online

The presidents of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay will meet Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in Brasilia today to formalize Venezuela’s full admission into Mercosur, the largest trade bloc in South America.

Venezuela’s entry was approved in 2006 and recognized in subsequent years by the parliaments of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, but failed to materialize due to opposition by the Paraguayan Congress. Paraguay’s suspension from Mercosur after Fernando Lugo’s impeachment on June 22, 2012 opened the door for Venezuela to formally join.

Paraguayan President Federico Franco—who was not permitted to attend the meeting—asserted that Chávez’s goal in joining was to give him an electoral push in the upcoming October elections. The visit to Brazil will be the Venezuelan president’s first official trip abroad since he was diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. Chávez, who turned 58 last Saturday, has lately appeared in more rallies and public events after declaring himself free of cancer earlier this month.

Chávez claims that Venezuela finally joining Mercosur is a sign of the United States’ failure in South America, as he claims that Paraguayan resistance is a product of American diplomacy. However, due to its tight exchange controls and high dependency on imports, Venezuela will benefit the least from participation in the regional bloc. The country will also have to meet a series of conditions, which might include resuming diplomatic relations with Israel that have been broken since 2009.

Tags: Brazil, Venezuela, Mercosur, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Hugo Chavez, United States, Fernando Lugo, Federico Franco

Brazil and Paraguay: Powerful Neighbors, Complicated Relationships

June 29, 2012

by Lucy Jordan

Today’s Mercosur presidential meeting, in Mendoza, Argentina, is getting rather more international attention than it likely anticipated.  Previously expected to be little more than tussling over tariffs and a perfunctory discussion of fiscal woes in Europe, the focus now will be Fernando Lugo’s sudden removal from the Paraguayan presidency last Friday.

Although Paraguay claimed to adhere to due legislative process, Lugo’s vice president Federico Franco was sworn in mere hours later, causing international observers to ask if the swift removal had, in fact, been a bloodless coup. In Brazil, use of the neologism “golpeachment”—a combination of the Portuguese words for impeachment and coup—quickly began to spread through social networking sites.

Condemnation came swiftly from Paraguay’s neighbors, leery of regional democratic instability following a series of bloody coups in the 1970s and 1980s. The Mercosur alliance—founding members being Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay—suspended Paraguay from this week’s meetings.

Here in Brazil, the Foreign Ministry refused to confirm circulating reports that President Dilma Rousseff had drawn up “a menu of sanctions” against Franco’s government, and as the week wore on it looked increasingly likely that Brazil’s response would remain diplomatic. As Colin Snider, a professor of Latin American history, pointed out in an interview, Brazil’s ambassador to Paraguay was recalled “for consultations,” but not withdrawn permanently, “an important marker on the more moderate, ‘wait-and-see’ approach from Brazil.”

Mercosur member nations officially decided today not to impose economic sanctions on Paraguay; Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK) said that Mercosur doesn’t believe in sanctions because “they never hurt governments; they always hurt the people.” Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota gave hints yesterday that he would advise against economic sanctions. 

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Tags: Mercosur, Paraguay, Dilma Rousseff, Fernando Lugo, Federico Franco, Brazill

Monday Memo: AQ’s Top Expected Stories for the Week of June 25

June 25, 2012

by AQ Online

Top stories this week are likely to include: effect of Fernando Lugo’s impeachment; Supreme Court verdict on Arizona’s immigration law; Mexico elects a new government; Julian Assange’s asylum request to Ecuador; and Mercosur summit in Argentina.

Backlash to Lugo’s Ouster: After former Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo was impeached last Friday by the opposition-dominated legislature in a 39-4 vote, his vice president, Federico Franco, was sworn in later that evening as the country’s new head of state. Lugo, while accepting the decision of Congress, likened the move to a “parliamentary coup.” Franco belongs to the same coalition—the Patriotic Alliance for Change—as Lugo, who was ousted due to his handling of deadly land clashes the week prior that killed at least 17 people. In response, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Venezuela removed their ambassadors to Paraguay while other countries such as Colombia recalled its ambassador in Asunción for consultations. According to CNN, the governments in Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic said they will not recognize Franco as the legitimate leader of Paraguay. It was just announced this morning that Paraguay will be suspended from this week’s Mercosur summit in Mendoza, Argentina, although Lugo will still attend. However, pay attention for any official declarations from Mercosur later this week on the Paraguay situation. Notes AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini, “As we saw in the case of Honduras in 2009, democratic institutions and rules—when weak—can be manipulated to undemocratic ends. In both cases, presidents were denied fundamental rights of due process. I fully expect that at the Mercosur summit member governments will take action to threaten punishment of the post-Lugo government. UNASUR will likely do the same. The question is: Will anyone care if the OAS does?”

Supreme Court Verdict on SB 1070: The U.S. Supreme Court verdict on Arizona’s restrictive immigration legislation—SB 1070—was delivered this morning, which invalidated three of the four controversial provisions of the law but did uphold the “papers please” provision, which permits police officers to ask for documentation from anyone they suspect of being in Arizona illegally. This ruling could have ripple effects in other U.S. states that have adopted similar legislation, such as Utah, Indiana, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak observes: “Today’s ruling is a partial victory for the rights of immigrants and for any American who may appear to be an immigrant. By blocking three of the four provisions, including the section that would have allowed police officers to arrest anyone if there was probable cause of their being in the U.S. without authorization, the Court by and large held firm that federal regulations must supersede the growing  patchwork of state-level immigration laws. It is unfortunate that the Court upheld the bill’s provision whereby police officers can conduct status checks, but it did severely restrict when and how those checks can be applied.”

Mexico Elections on Sunday: Aside from the presidency, all 628 seats in the Mexican legislature (500 in the Chamber of Deputies, 128 in the Senate) are up for grabs in the nationwide election on Sunday, July 1. In addition, the executive and legislative branches of the Federal District government will be chosen as well as the governorships in the states of Guanajuato, Jalisco and Morelos. While Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI) presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto looks poised for victory as he has led the polls for months, a Barclays Capital analysis predicts a PRI win in Congress.

Assange’s Asylum Request: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange broke terms of his house arrest in London last week when he sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy to the United Kingdom, claiming asylum under the UN Declaration on Human Rights. Sweden is seeking Assange’s extradition from the UK based on sexual assault charges; Assange fears that Sweden will turn him over to the United States. Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño has said that Ecuador is considering the request, based on Assange’s account that he is being persecuted. Sabatini says that an agreement from Ecuador to take in Assange “would be said because he would effectively be given asylum for rape charges, not as a martyr for freedom of expression.”

Mercosur Assembly in Mendoza: An annual meeting of Mercosur members and observers is taking place this week in Mendoza, as Argentina holds the rotating presidency of the trade bloc. Higher-level meetings will occur on Thursday and Friday. While this summit has been planned for months, Friday’s news of Lugo’s ouster—Paraguay is a founding member of Mercosur—has thrown Paraguay’s future status in the alliance under speculation. A statement this morning from the Argentine foreign ministry, signed by all Mercosur nations, “energetically condemns the rupture of the democratic order in the Republic of Paraguay for not having respected the right to due process.” Observes Sabatini, “Watch for the member governments to take formal action to isolate the post-Lugo government.”

Tags: Mexico, Mercosur, Arizona, Ecuador, Paraguay, SB 1070, Fernando Lugo, Enrique Peña Nieto, Ricardo Patiño, Federico Franco


 
 

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