What does AQ Online expect to be the anticipated headline grabbers for the week of March 5-9, 2012? The top-five stories include: Joe Biden’s Latin America tour; FIFA’s criticism of Brazil; Hugo Chávez’ health recovery; new presidential polls in Mexico; and the UN making further preparations for Rio+20.
1) Biden in Mexico and Honduras: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived yesterday in Mexico, where he holds meetings today in Mexico City with Mexican President Felipe Calderón and the three presidential candidates for the July 2012 election. According to Tony Blinken, national security advisor to the vice president, Biden and Calderón will discuss a wide range of bilateral issues “in the spirit of equal partnership, mutual respect and shared responsibility.” Tomorrow morning, Biden travels to Honduras to meet privately with President Porfirio Lobo, and then will have lunch with the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama. Much of Biden’s visit will center around the violence surrounding narcotics trafficking through Central America.
Although Blinken said that the meeting in Honduras “provides an opportunity to reaffirm the United States’ strong support for the tremendous leadership President Lobo has displayed in advancing national reconciliation and democratic and constitutional order,” AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini posits, “almost three years after the coup, Honduras has deteriorated politically and socially—and the region has largely walked away from it.”
2) Brazil-FIFA Row: After FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke criticized on Friday Brazil’s lack of preparedness for the 2014 World Cup, specifically its lack of infrastructure and delayed construction timetables, Brazilian Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo has refused to communicate directly with Valcke. Rebelo called Valcke’s remarks—specifically that Brazil needs a “kick in the backside”—offensive and unacceptable. Expect this contention to further increase as the June 2014 kickoff date approaches, but more recently as Valcke lands in Brazil in the coming days.
3) Chávez in Recovery: The revelation by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez that the lesion he had surgically removed in Cuba was indeed a malignant tumor has fueled speculation about his long-term health outlook before and after the October 7 presidential contest against Henrique Capriles Radonski. According to Christopher Sabatini, “unfortunately, the president has refused to be transparent about his condition in the past” and that his admission of the malignant tumor “still raises a number of questions including the prognosis for his recovery, his treatment and some alternative plan should his condition take a turn for the worse.”
4) Peña Nieto’s Lead Slipping: Just two weeks into Mexico’s closed season—a six-week period in which candidates for public office are not allowed to campaign—the race between Enrique Peña Nieto (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) and Josefina Vázquez Mota (Partido Acción Nacional—PAN) is tightening up. A new poll released last week by Parametria shows Peña Nieto leading his PAN challenger by a margin of 49 to 28 percent of the vote—a narrowing of 4 percentage points since its January poll. But a GEA/ISA poll reports that Vázquez Mota has closed in even further: Peña Nieto’s 20-percentage point lead in January dropped to 7 percentage points by mid-February (36 to 29 percent). AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak observes, “Expect the race to become increasingly competitive once the official campaign season begins at midnight on March 29. Vázquez Mota will not allow Peña Nieto to just cruise to victory.” Mexicans vote on July 1.
5) Rio+20 Secretary-General on Brazil Visit: Chinese diplomat Sha Zukang, secretary-general of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, travels to Brazil this week for a six-day visit to oversee the preparations for the June 20-22 conference. Zukang will meet with ministers and negotiators of the final declaration of Rio+20 as well as legislators to work toward the conference agenda. European Commissioner for Climate Change Connie Hedegaard suggested last week that the final declaration should work toward tangible results such as the resolution to gradually limit fossil fuel subsidies.