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Monday Memo: Colombian Legislature – Argentine Debt – Peruvian Environmental Law – Deaths in Nicaragua – Bolivian Child Labor

July 21, 2014

by AQ Online

This week’s likely top stories: Colombia inaugurates a new legislature; Argentina must pay its debt by July 30; Reforms to Peru's environmental agency are criticized; Five Nicaraguans are killed after a Sandinista anniversary celebration; Bolivia allows those as young as 10 to work.

Colombia installs new legislature: As Colombia’s new legislature was sworn in on Sunday, re-elected Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos hailed the installation of a new “Congress of peace.” Though Santos’ Partido de la U (Party of the U) faces a reduced majority in Congress and outspoken opponents like current Senator and former president Alvaro Uribe, Santos said he hoped that the newly-elected legislators would continue to support the government’s ongoing peace talks with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) in Havana. Since the talks began in 2012, the FARC and the government have agreed on three points of a six-point plan, and must still decide on restitution for victims of violence, rebel disarmament, and how to ratify the final peace agreement.

Argentine debt negotiations near deadline: Argentina must reach a deal with its holdout creditors before July 30 or face its second default in 13 years. There is still a possibility that U.S. courts could issue a stay to allow the country to continue negotiating with holdouts, but a default would likely trigger recession, inflation, high unemployment and other economic woes for the country. Argentina has been ordered to pay approximately $1.5 billion to its holdout creditors, but if other bondholders demand the same terms as the holdouts, Argentina said it may have to pay up to $120 billion. Meanwhile, Argentine Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said that the holdouts may try to seize YPF-Chevron assets in the Vaca Muerta shale gas deposit.

Controversial reforms to Peru’s environmental agency: After Peruvian President Ollanta Humala enacted a controversial law on July 11 to reform the country’s Organismo de Evaluación y Fiscalización Ambiental (Environmental Evaluation and Regulation Organization—OEFA), environmental groups, Peru’s ombudsman, environmental authorities and some elected officials say the changes will weaken the country’s environmental protections. The law—which the Peruvian government says will refocus the OEFA on “preventative” rather than disciplinary actions—will streamline the environmental review process and lower fines for all but the largest environmental infractions, among other changes designed to attract mining investment. Meanwhile, the agency faces a lawsuit by the mining sector that could slash its 2014 budget by 40 percent.

Five Killed in Nicaragua: Five people were killed and at least 24 wounded in Nicaragua on Sunday following a Sandinista political celebration. In two separate attacks, two men and two women were killed by gunshots as they traveled on the Pan American highway outside the community of Las Calabazas, while north of Matagalpa, another man was killed. Thousands of Nicaraguans had gathered in Managua on Saturday to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution. An anti-Sandinista group reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack on Facebook.

Bolivia legalizes child labor: Bolivian Vice President Alvaro García Linera signed a law last Thursday that will permit Bolivian children as young as 10 to work independently, and will permit 12-year-olds to work for others with parental authorization. The measure was approved by Bolivia’s congress earlier this month. Previously, the minimum working age in Bolivia was 14, but the government said that the new law would help to combat extreme poverty, and reflects the realities of a nation where some 800,000 children are already employed. The International Labour Organisation says that it will study the legislation to decide whether it contravenes international conventions. Human Rights Watch issued a statement in January calling on the Bolivian government to reject a proposal to lower the minimum working age.

Tags: Colombian Legislature, Argentine debt, Child Labor

Monday Memo: BRICS Summit – Argentina and Russia – U.S. Immigration – FARC and Colombian Peace – World Cup Riots

July 14, 2014

by AQ Online

This week’s likely top stories: BRICS leaders meet in Brazil; Argentina and Russia sign energy agreements; U.S. considers action on child immigrants; Colombian forces strike FARC; Argentine soccer fans riot.

BRICS leaders to launch new bank at summit: Leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa will convene in Fortaleza, Brazil for the sixth BRICS summit on Tuesday. The leaders will launch the “New Development Bank” (NDB) with $50 billion in initial capital to allow developing nations to secure infrastructure construction loans, pending legislative approval from all five BRICS countries. The BRICS countries also plan to set up the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA)—a $100 billion emergency lending pool for countries facing currency crises—whose purpose would be similar to that of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It is not yet clear how the lending criteria of the CRA will differ from the IMF, if at all. China will contribute $41billion in initial funding to the CRA, South Africa will contribute $5 billion, and Brazil, Russia and India will each contribute $18 billion.

Argentina and Russia reach agreements on nuclear power:  Russian President Vladimir Putin and Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed a number of energy deals on Saturday while the Russian leader visited Buenos Aires to cooperate on nuclear energy and other projects. Putin announced that Russia will help build a nuclear reactor and bases for a satellite system in Argentina and may help construct two hydroelectric plants. Fernández de Kirchner confirmed that Russia is also interested in investing in Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale formation and is planning to send a delegation to the area. On Friday, Putin was in Cuba meeting with Raúl and Fidel Castro to discuss energy, security, and health cooperation between Cuba and Russia.

U.S. Congress to consider $3.7 billion for child immigrants: After U.S. President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion in funding last week to address the growing crisis of young undocumented immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided on how to proceed. Some Republicans have said that the $3.7 billion propose spends too little on border security. Many have advocated overturning a 2008 law signed by former President George W. Bush intended to protect unaccompanied children from human and sex trafficking, arguing that the children should be immediately returned to their home countries. Time is running out for congressional action, as Congress will begin a month-long break in August.

FARC guerrillas killed by Colombian army and police: Colombian national police and military killed 12 presumed guerrillas from the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) on Sunday in the northwestern Colombian department of Antioquia. In a joint security operation, the police and military forces also seized weapons, computers, cellphones and USB memory sticks that could be useful for Colombian military intelligence. This comes after Saturdays’ capture of Manuel Cepeda Vargas—a member of FARC accused of more than 40 terrorist acts–in another joint operation between the police and army in the southwestern department of Cauca. Peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC will resume in Havana on Tuesday.

World Cup riots in Argentina: An initially peaceful gathering of Argentine soccer fans near the Obelisk monument in Buenos Aires turned violent late on Sunday night as some hardcore fans rioted in response to the Argentine soccer team’s 0-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, making Germany the first European team to claim the World Cup trophy on American soil. As rioting and looting broke out along Avenida 9 de julio in Buenos Aires, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and used water cannons on the crowd. At least 15 police officers were reported injured in the violence, and at least 50 people were detained.  The Argentine national team is expected to return to Buenos Aires on Monday.

Tags: BRICS summit, Immigration, Russia-Latin America Relations

Monday Memo: Argentine debt – Putin in Latin America – Italy investigates Plan Cóndor – Earthquake – Trapped Honduran Miners

July 7, 2014

by AQ Online

This week’s likely top stories: Argentine negotiates with holdout creditors; Russia’s Vladimir Putin will visit Cuba, Argentina and Brazil; Italy investigates dictatorship-era murders; an earthquake hits Mexico and Guatemala; and Honduran authorities search for eight missing miners.

Argentina begins debt negotiations: Argentina will begin negotiating a settlement today with its holdout creditors, who are owed some $1.5 billion, according to a U.S. federal court decision that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June. Argentine Minister of the Economy Axel Kicillof leads an Argentine delegation to New York today, and will meet with Daniel A. Pollack, a mediator designated by U.S. judge Thomas Griesa to help reach an agreement. Argentina has until the end of July to make its first interest payment, or else face default for the second time in 13 years.

Putin tours Latin America: Russian President Vladimir Putin will begin a six-day tour of Latin America on July 11 with a visit to Cuba to meet with Fidel and Raúl Castro, followed by stops in Argentina to meet with Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Brazil to meet with Dilma Rousseff. On Friday, Russia’s parliament voted to write off 90 percent of Cuba’s $35 million debt, and instead aim to use the money for investment projects in Cuba. Putin, along with heads of state from India, China, South Africa and Brazil, will then meet for a summit of the BRICS countries starting on July 13, just after the final match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Rio de Janeiro. The same day, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is expected to pass responsibilities for the World Cup to Putin in an official handover ceremony, since Russia will be hosting the international tournament in 2018.

Italy investigates Plan Cóndor murders and disappearances: Italian judge Alessandro Arturi began the first stage of an investigation into the murder and disappearance of 23 Italian citizens during “Plan Cóndor,” an operation carried out by South American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s to repress and murder political opponents to the regimes. On Monday, Arturi accepted a list of the accused, which includes 33 former members of the military and security forces in Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Italian prosecutor Giancarlo Capaldo is reportedly conducting a similar investigation of the military governments of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The preliminary hearings are expected to take place this fall, and Arturi will decide on October 6 if the evidence presented by human rights groups and families of the disappeared will allow the case to progress to a criminal trial in 2015.

Earthquake hits Mexico and Guatemala: At least 2 people in Guatemala have died in a 6.9-magnitude earthquake that struck southern Mexico and Guatemala on Monday morning. The quake set off landslides and caused widespread damage to homes and power lines. The quake’s epicenter was Puerto Madero, a Mexican city near the Guatemala border, but the two deaths were reported in San Marcos, Guatemala, where at least two residents were killed when the walls of their homes collapsed.

Search for trapped miners continues in Honduras: Eight miners remain trapped in an informal gold mine near El Corpus, a small town in the southern department of Cholutecas in Honduras. The mine is in an area where landslides and earthquakes are common, and El Corpus mayor Luis Andres Rueda said there were more than 50 informal mines in the area. The mine collapsed last Wednesday, and the authorities saved three miners two days after the collapse when the miners yelled for help. If the remaining miners are not found near the site where the other three miners were rescued, the search may be called off.

Tags: Vladimir Putin, Argentine debt, Human Rights

In World Cup, on to Round Three...

July 2, 2014

by Eric Farnsworth

With the second round of the World Cup soccer tournament concluded the main storylines have been the success of teams from the Americas, the early exit of previous stalwarts England, Italy and Spain, the relatively high number of goals, and—at least in the United States—the sudden realization that soccer actually has a strong and passionate following. The dog that hasn’t barked? The pre-tournament meme about Brazil’s unpreparedness to host such a large event and the crime and street protests which were to have shut down various venues.  Clearly, that’s not proven out.  With two weeks to go, some commentators are already wondering aloud whether this will be the most successful World Cup of all time.

That may be a bit dramatic, but the signs are encouraging. Problems exist, of course, as they do in every major global event, and big questions about cost and legacy of the tournament will be asked by Brazilians themselves after the tournament concludes.  Most observers, however, now seem to be content to enjoy Brazil’s famous hospitality and the joy of the beautiful game at the highest international level.

And what a competition it’s been. Goalies have stolen the show. The U.S.’ Tim Howard, Mexico’s Memo Ochoa, Brazil’s Júlio César, Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas, and others have become international celebrities as a result of their acrobatic, gravity-defying saves. Nonetheless, more goals have already been scored to this point in the tournament this year than were scored in the full 2010 tournament, and that has made the games suspenseful and fun to watch. 

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Tags: 2014 World Cup, Tim Howard, Brazil

Monday Memo: Varela in Panama – Argentine debt – ELN attack – Costa Rica and Colombia World Cup Firsts – Amado Boudou

June 30, 2014

by AQ Online

This week's likely top stories: Juan Carlos Varela takes office as Panama's new president; Argentina negotiates a settlement with holdout creditors; the ELN attacks in Arauca; Costa Rica and Colombia advance to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time; Argentine Vice President Boudou faces charges.

Juan Carlos Varela inaugurated in Panama: Panamanian President-elect Juan Carlos Varela will be officially sworn into office on Tuesday with a number of regional leaders in attendance, including a U.S. delegation led by Secretary of State John Kerry. Varela, of the Partido Panameñista (Panameñista Party) was elected on May 4 over José Domingo Arias of the Cambio Democrático (Democratic Change) party, earning 39 percent of the vote over Arias’ 32 percent, though Varela’s party only won 11 seats in Panama’s 71-seat legislative assembly. Varela, Panama’s former vice president, has promised to fight corruption and improve government transparency while continuing to improve Panama’s infrastructure.

Argentina to negotiate as interest payment comes due: With a $539 million interest payment on bonds due today (Monday), Argentina has 30 days to make the payment to avoid its second default in 13 years. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Argentina’s appeal in a long-running battle with holdout creditors after it defaulted on its debt in 2001. The Supreme Court decision allowed a lower court ruling to stand, which requires Argentina to pay a group of holdout creditors some $1.3 billion before it can pay other bondholders. The country has one month to negotiate a settlement with the holdouts in U.S. District Court to avoid a default.

Attack on oil camp in Western Colombia leaves 13 injured: The Colombian government has accused the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army–ELN) of  attacking on a camp in the Caño Limón oilfield in the Colombian state of Arauca in western Colombia, injuring 13 people as they were preparing to attend Sunday Mass. While the ELN has traditionally carried out attacks on oil pipelines themselves, Colombian Minister of Mining and Energy Amylkar Acosta said this was the first time they had attacked a camp for workers, and accused the ELN of cowardice. The ELN has agreed to engage in formal peace talks, but have yet to agree to a formal truce; they have been accused of three other attacks on the same oil pipeline in the last ten days.

Costa Rica and Colombia make World Cup history: Costa Rica and Colombia both advanced to their teams’ first-ever World Cup quarterfinals this weekend, after Colombia defeated Uruguay 2-0 on Saturday and Costa Rica beat Greece in a penalty shootout on Sunday after tying 1-1 in regulation time. Colombia—led by 22-year-old James Rodríguez, who has scored at least one goal in each of his first four World Cup games—will face host country Brazil in the quarterfinals on July 4. Costa Rica will face the Netherlands on July 5 after the Dutch defeated Mexico on Sunday with a controversial penalty kick.

Argentine vice president charged with bribery: An Argentine judge charged Vice President Amado Boudou with bribery and corruption on Friday. If he is found guilty, Boudou could face between one and six years in prison. Boudou is accused of using his position as economy minister to interfere in bankruptcy proceedings against a printing company—charges that he denies. He is the first sitting Argentine vice president since 1983 to face such charges.

Following the 2014 World Cup? Read AQ's coverage here.

Tags: 2014 World Cup, Amado Boudou, Juan Carlos Varela

Monday Memo: Santos Wins in Colombia – Argentine Appeal Rejected – Biden Visits Latin America – Bolivia Hosts Summit – Neves to Face Rousseff in Brazil

June 16, 2014

by AQ Online

This week’s likely top stories: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos wins re-election; the U.S. Supreme Court rejects Argentina’s appeal; U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visits Latin America; Bolivia hosts the G77+China Summit; Aecio Neves will represent the PSDB in Brazil’s elections.

Following the 2014 World Cup? Read more coverage here.

Santos Re-elected President in Colombia: Colombian voters re-elected incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos on Sunday, awarding him nearly 51 percent of the vote. Óscar Iván Zuluaga, who led in the first round election on May 25, gained only 45 percent of the vote in Sunday’s runoff election and delivered a concession speech on Sunday.  Santos’ campaign focused on continuing his government’s peace talks with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) in Havana, and called his election a victory “of hope over fear.” Santos will be inaugurated on August 7 to serve another four-year term.

Argentine Appeal Rejected By U.S. Supreme Court: The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a major blow to the Argentine government on Monday, rejecting the country’s appeal in its case against holdout creditors Aurelius Capital Management and NML Capital Ltd. The court let a lower-court ruling stand without comment, upholding a decision that Argentina owes more than $1.3 billion in principal and interest. The Argentine government warned that the decision could have severe consequences and “trigger a renewed economic catastrophe.” Argentina defaulted on about $100 billion of its debt during its 2001 financial crisis.

Biden to visit Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala: Obama administration officials announced on Sunday that Vice President Joe Biden will add a stop to his tour of Latin America this week: Guatemala. The vice president will attend today’s soccer match between the U.S. and Ghana in Brazil, and then visit Colombia and the Dominican Republic before meeting with Central American leaders in Guatemala on Friday. The vice president is expected to discuss the soaring number of unaccompanied Central American minors who have crossed into the United States without papers. This year, 48,000 unaccompanied young immigrants were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol.

Bolivia Hosts G77+China Summit: Bolivia hosted the G77+China Summit this weekend in Santa Cruz, marking the 50th anniversary of a group of 77 developing countries that has since expanded to 133 countries. China, while not a member of the G77, joined the summit to signal its increasing trade ties with the region. Bolivian President Evo Morales called for a new world order where “the peoples of the world can grow in peace and live well” and an end to the UN Security Council, which Morales said has only reinforced global hierarchies and no longer promotes peace. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the importance of the G77+ China for global development and added that countries must protect human rights to achieve sustainable development. The summit concluded with a call to end poverty by the year 2030.

Aecio Neves to Run Against Rousseff in October: The Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Brazilian Social Democracy Party—PSDB), nominated Senator Aecio Neves to run for president against incumbent President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil’s October 5 presidential elections. On Saturday, Neves, a former governor from the state of Minas Gerais, said that he would implement a more austere economic policy, reducing public spending to reign in the country’s inflation. However, Neves also said in a June 2 interview that his government would continue funding the popular Bolsa Familia cash transfer program. Current polls show that Rousseff holds an eight percentage point lead over Neves in the case of a runoff election, which would take place on October 26.

Following the 2014 World Cup? Read more coverage here.

Tags: Argentine debt, Juan Manuel Santos, Joe Biden

Monday Memo: Brazil World Cup – Colombian Runoff Election – Venezuelan Protests – Mexican Reforms – Amado Boudou

June 9, 2014

by AQ Online

This week’s likely top stories: the FIFA World Cup kicks off in Brazil; Colombian voters return to the polls; Venezuelan protesters call for the release of Leopoldo López; President Enrique Peña Nieto defends Mexican reforms in Spain; Argentine Vice President Amado Boudou testifies in court.

World Cup Begins in Brazil Amid Subway Strike: The FIFA World Cup will officially open on Thursday, June 12, with the opening match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena Corinthians stadium in São Paulo. Meanwhile, protesters clashed with police in São Paulo as they supported a subway workers’ strike that began last Thursday when metro employees called for a 12.2 percent salary increase ahead of the tournament. On Sunday, the subway workers’ union voted to continue the strike indefinitely, which will inevitably affect transportation to the Arena Corinthians stadium 12 miles east of central São Paulo. A São Paulo labor court has fined the union $175,000 and said it will add $220,000 per day that the work stoppage continues.

Colombian Runoff Elections:  Colombian voters will return to the polls on Sunday to choose between current President Juan Manuel Santos of the Partido de la U and challenger Óscar Iván Zuluaga of the Centro Democrático in what is expected to be a very tight race for president. The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC), who have agreed on three points of a six point peace agenda with the Colombian government in Havana, announced a three-week ceasefire from June 9 to June 30 in recognition of the June 15 runoff election. The government and the FARC recently announced the creation of a truth commission to investigate the deaths of the estimated 220,000 people killed in the country’s 50 year-old internal conflict.

Venezuelan Opposition Calls for Release of Leopoldo López: Members of the Venezuelan opposition protested in Caracas on Sunday to call for the release of opposition leader Leopoldo López, who has been imprisoned since February 18—and are also demanding new presidential elections as soon as possible.  López was formally charged in April by Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz of damaging property, arson and instigating violence in the February 12 protests that set off a wave of anti-government demonstrations across the country.  Those charges were upheld last week by Judge Adriana López, who concluded that López must remain in custody. At least 42 people have died in protest-related violence.

Enrique Peña Nieto Defends Mexico’s Reforms:  In a speech delivered at a meeting of business and political leaders in Madrid, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto defended the political and economic reforms he has passed during his time in office. In the conversation, the president signaled that the introduction of foreign capital into the energy sector would make Pemex a “productive industry of the state,” rather than just an “industry of the state.” He added that Mexico is attempting to deepen its relationship with its Latin American neighbors, citing Mexico’s participation in the Pacific Alliance alongside Chile, Colombia and Peru. Enrique Ochoa Reza, head of Mexico’s Comisión Federal de Electricidad (Federal Commission of Electricity—CFE), and Spanish energy company Iberdola also signed a collaborative agreement.

Argentine Vice President Boudou Appears in Court: Argentine Vice President Amado Boudou is expected to testify on Monday in a criminal corruption probe for his possible involvement in a corruption and influence-peddling scandal. Boudou is accused of using his position as economic minister of Argentina to illegally lift bankruptcy proceedings against the Ciccone Calcografica printing company in return for 70 percent ownership of the firm in 2010. Boudou will appear before prosecutor and federal judge Ariel Lijo in a closed court session. Bodou denies any wrongdoing and asked that Monday’s court session be broadcast before the Argentine public—but that request was denied.

Read more AQ coverage of the 2014 World Cup.

Tags: 2014 World Cup, Colombian Election, Amado Boudou, Leopoldo Lopez

Argentine Vice President to Appear in Court

June 6, 2014

by AQ Online

Yesterday, Federal judge Ariel Lijo changed Argentine Vice President Amado Boudou’s court date from July 15 to June 9. Boudou will face charges of corruption, illegal negotiations as a public employee, and illegal profiteering related to his purchase of the Ciccone Calcográfica printing company with a partner in 2010. Boudou allegedly planned to use the company to print bank notes and official documentation. Given that he was economic minister at the time, the acquisition would have been illegal according to Argentine law.

The vice president maintains his innocence and has challenged the judge to have a televised trial. On Wednesday his defense team requested that the summons be annulled, claiming that the allegations were based on “false affirmations, lacking legal, factual and evidential substance.”

Once seen as a possible successor to President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Boudou met yesterday with the president, who after months of maintaining her distance, has expressed her support for the defendant and ordered him to accept the summons.

He has since cancelled a trip planned for next week to attend the Architecture Biennial in Venice, Italy. In a strange coincidence, the mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, was arrested yesterday along with 34 others on charges of bribery and corruption.

Tags: Argentina, Amado Boudou, Corruption Charges

Monday Memo: Colombian Hackers – PAN in Mexico – Colombia and FARC – UN Visits Guatemala – Bodou in Argentina

May 19, 2014

by AQ Online

This week’s likely top stories: Candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga is implicated in a Colombian hacking scandal; Gustavo Madero wins the PAN’s internal elections in Mexico; the Colombian government and FARC reach an agreement on drugs; the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights will visit Guatemala; Argentine Vice President Amado Bodou may be called to testify in a criminal investigation.

Colombian Hacking Scandal Deepens with Release of New Video: A video released this week has implicated Colombian presidential candidate  Óscar Iván Zuluaga in a hacking scandal just a week ahead of the country’s presidential election on May 25. The video was published by Colombian news magazine Semana and shows Zuluaga discussing illegal interceptions of military intelligence with his advisor, Andrés Sepulveda, who was arrested and charged with hacking and espionage early this month. Last week, Zuluaga took a narrow lead in the polls over current President Juan Manuel Santos, who is running for re-election. Former Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, also a candidate in Sunday’s elections, has called on Zuluaga to quit the race.

PAN Leader Re-elected in Mexico, Improving Chances of Reforms: The leader of the Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party—PAN), Gustavo Madero, easily won re-election on Sunday in the party’s internal election process, increasing chances that oil and telecom reforms in Mexico will pass. Madero has been working with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to pass the reforms, although his party has been divided by its cooperation with Peña Nieto’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI). Madero won 57 percent of the votes cast by 155,984 PAN party members, easily defeating his rival, Ernesto Cordero, who won 43 percent of the vote and said that the PAN should be “responsible and firm” in its opposition to the PRI.

Colombia and FARC Reach Agreement on Drugs: The Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) reached an agreement on Friday to stem the country’s illegal drug trade, the third point of their six-point peace agenda. The government and rebels had already reached agreements on land reform and political participation last year. Humberto de la Calle, the government’s chief negotiator in Havana, said that the FARC has agreed to sever any ties to drug trafficking and that both sides have agreed to clear rural areas of land mines.  FARC negotiator Iván Márquez said the government will address the health consequences of spraying toxic chemicals on coca fields by paying reparations to those affected.

UN Deputy High Commissioner on Human Rights to Visit Guatemala: United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri will pay an official visit to Guatemala on May 25 in order to conclude the office’s technical assistance to the country, according to a press release from the high commissioner’s office. Pansieri is expected to meet with Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina, as well as with several government ministers, members of congress, and the president of the Comisión Presidencial de Derechos Humanos (Presidential Commission of Human Rights—COPREDEH). She will also travel to Izabel to meet with Indigenous women who were victims of sexual violence during Guatemala’s armed conflict and will speak with human rights activists. Pansieri will conclude her visit on May 29.

Argentine Vice President Bodou May Testify in Criminal Investigation:  An Argentine appeals court on Friday rejected a request by Argentine Vice President Amado Bodou to be removed from an ongoing tax evasion and influence-peddling investigation. The case focuses on a family-run printing firm, formerly known as Ciccone Calcográfica S.A., which was saved from bankruptcy in 2010 after receiving an injection of capital from a firm run by an acquaintance of Boudou’s close friend, and eventually passed into state hands. Bodou didn’t become involved in the investigation until 2012, after a police raid on an apartment he owned turned up evidence that he may have been involved. Boudou has maintained that he was not involved in any criminal wrongdoing, and has declined to take a leave of absence from office. The court may call on him to testify in the case.

Tags: Óscar Iván Zuluaga, Colombian Election, Gustavo Madero, Amado Bodou

Argentina Creates Culture Ministry

May 8, 2014

by AQ Online

Argentina’s official government gazette announced yesterday the creation of a cultural ministry department to be headed by folk singer and composer Teresa Adelina Sellares, also known by her stage name, Teresa Parodi.                    

Prior to the creation of the Cultural Ministry, the government cultural department was run through the Secretary of Culture, Jorge Coscia, who resigned from his position with the appointment of Parodi. The decree issued by the government noted the importance of recognizing culture, given that “political decisions, economic and financial initiatives and social reforms have much more possibilities to success if the cultural perspective is considered.” Among other areas, the Cultural Ministry is in charge of all national museums, and will also work closely with the Assistant Secretary of Sociocultural Policies, Franco Vitali.

Prior to her appointment, Parodi—a former teacher, artist and Peronist activist—had been working at the Espacio Cultural Nuestro Hijos (ECuNHI), a human rights organization run by the Madres de la Plaza de Mayor (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo). Over her lifetime she has produced 30 albums and received various awards, including the Platinum Konex Award for best author-composer of the decade in 1995, the Award of the National Endowment of the Arts in 1999, the Gardel a la Música in 2003, and the Grand National Prize of Arts and Sciences in 2011.

Cultural development has been a priority for President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration, supported by leaders in the music, film and art world. With the addition of Minister Parodi, Fernández de Kirchner’s cabinet is now comprised of 16 ministers, all headed by Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich.

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Tags: Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Ministry of Culture, Teresa Parodi

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