Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

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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.

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Lobo Wins Controversial Honduran Election

The National Party’s Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo came out the clear winner in Sunday’s controversial presidential election, pulling in over 55 percent of the vote to mark a double-digit victory over his leading contender, the Liberal Party’s Elvin Santos. Reporting from Tegucigalpa, AQ blogger Daniel Altschuler writes about speculation over voter turnout figures. The Honduran electoral tribunal placed the figure at 61 percent while observer group Hagamos Democracia announced counts closer to 48 percent. Read the National Democratic Institute’s assessment of the electoral process.

Leaders from 22 countries joined at the Ibero-American summit this weekend in Estoril, Portugal, where divisions ran high over whether to recognize the results of last Sunday’s election in Honduras. All countries present condemned the June 28 ouster of Manuel Zelaya, but the United States, Peru, Costa Rica, and Panama announced they would recognize the elections. Critics opposing the election object to it being carried out by the interim government even as deposed leader Manuel Zelaya’s political fate remains uncertain.

The Honduran Congress is slated to vote on Zelaya’s reinstatement today, December 2. The ousted leader’s term would run through the end of January. Last week, the Supreme Court advised against his return to power.

Access an AS/COA timeline of the Honduran Congress.

Mujica Clinches Runoff Election in Uruguay

José Mujica defeated former President Luis Alberto Calle in Sunday’s runoff elections. Bloggings by boz offers five points on the election and notes that the “relatively uneventful” nature of the election compared to the simultaneous one in Honduras is “a testament to Uruguay’s success.” Mujica, a former guerilla fighter imprisoned while the country was governed by a military junta, embraced moderate progressive policies and chose trusted former Economy Minister Danilo Astori as a running mate.

Read an AS/COA analysis of October’s first round of elections.

Elections in Bolivia: The Struggle for Control of the Senate

Bolivian President Evo Morales is expected to easily win the votes necessary to hold power in elections this Sunday. According to the latest polls, Morales has 55 percent support. His closest contender, former Cochabamba Mayor Manfred Reyes Villa, trails him by 37 points. As Miguel Centellas notes in his blog Pronto, what’s less clear is who will win a majority in the country’s Senate. New polls indicate the opposition could lose control to Morales’ party, the Movement Toward Socialism. The Cochabamba-based Democracy Center offers a breakdown of top issues focused on by presidential candidates, with topics including the new constitution, regional authonomy debates, natural resources, coca, and foreign relations.

Argentine Judge Annuls Decision on Gay Marriage

After a court ruling allowed two men in Buenos Aires to marry—marking what would be the first same-sex marriage in Latin America—an Argentine judge overturned the November 12 decision. Maria Rachid, head of the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transvestites, said only the Supreme Court can overturn the decision and that preparations will continue for the wedding, scheduled for this week. Currently, same-sex couples can only engage in a civil union in Argentina.

Mexican Budget Process Spells Win for Governors

David Agren writes in World Politics Review that the Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) 19 state governors “emerged as the real winners in [Mexico’s 2010] budget process.” In addition to obtaining funding for highways and public works projects, the governors received more money for states preparing for gubernatorial races in 2010. Agren writes that this reflects a trend toward decentralization in Mexican politics in which governors are wielding more influence over security matters and budgets.

Halfway through Term, Calderón Calls for Reforms

Mexican President Felipe Calderón kicked off the second half of his term by calling for a strengthening of public finances. He also stressed the need for fiscal, energy, and political reforms, saying the country needs “to generate the conditions that will enable us to overcome the institutional paralysis that has blocked the country from reaching agreements on fundamental issues.”

In a new evaluation, pollster Mitofsky Consultancy found that 58 percent of Mexican citizens approve of President Felipe Calderón, even as an overwhelming majority have a negative view of the country’s economic outlook.

Four Private Banks Shuttered in Venezuela

The Venezuelan government closed four private banks to the public after President Hugo Chávez said he has “no problem” nationalizing banks that break the country’s laws. The banks, which were originally seized on November 20, represent 6 percent of the country’s bank deposits.

Deportation of Miners Stokes Colombia-Venezuela Dispute

Colombia accused Venezuela of violating human rights after the Venezuelan military deported 380 Colombian and 45 Brazilian miners, reports El Espectador. Venezuelan Vice President Ramón Carrizales, who says that the gold-camp mining in the country’s Amazon region is illegal, defended the deportation of the miners. The dispute worsens relations that have been rocky since Bogota signed a military pact with the United States.

VP Santos on Colombia’s Land Mine Eradication Efforts

In an interview with Cambio, Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos says that, since 1990, there have been over 8,000 victims in Colombia from mines laid out by the FARC. Santos commented on the complex, costly process behind eradicating mines. Colombia hosts the Cartagena Summit on a Free-Mine World this week.

Australia and Colombia Initiate Trade Talks

Colombia and Australia signed an accord to strengthen commercial ties and agreed to begin negotiations for a free trade deal in 2010. Total trade between the two countries was worth almost $60 million through September of this year, while FDI investment and tourism between the countries also grew.

Ahmadinejad Wraps up LatAm Tour

During Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Brazil last week, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva expressed support for Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes but encouraged Ahmadinejad to engage in dialogue on nuclear non-proliferation. The Venezuela Report by Robert Amsterdam offers a transcript of an interview with Ahmadinejad by Globo’s William Waack in which the Iranian leader responds to questions about bilateral relations on subjects ranging from nuclear technology to Mideast politics. “We are very good friends,” said Ahmadinejad about ties with Brazil but conceded disagreement on some international issues.

Ahmadinejad’s visit followed trips to Brazil by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres, who pushed Lula to help limit Iran’s nuclear goals. Lula plans to visit Iran in March or April 2010.

U.S. President Barack Obama penned a letter to Lula on the eve of Ahmadinejad’s visit in which he repeated Washington’s position on Iran’s nuclear program.

Read COA Vice President Eric Farnsworth’s recent article in Folha de São Paulo about U.S.-Brazilian relations.

HIV/AIDS Rates Higher among Latinos

With Tuesday marking World AIDS Day, El Mundo reports that, while Hispanics make up 15.4 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 18 percent of newly detected HIV/AIDS cases. The article says cultural and socioeconomic factors may help explain the higher rate of the disease among Hispanics, who are 2.5 to 3 times more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than whites. (Hat tip: tespismagazine.com)

Immigrants Fuel Growth in U.S. Cities

A new study from the Fiscal Policy Institute finds that immigrants in the 25 largest American metropolitan areas contribute to economic output equal to their share of the population. Foreign-born workers represent 20 percent of the population and also generate 20 percent of economic output. “It’s easy to understand why immigration and growth are closely connected. Immigrants are drawn to areas where there are jobs, and an expanding labor market can help fuel further growth,” says David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of the Fiscal Policy Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative.

Learn more about AS/COA’s Hispanic Integration Initiative. AS/COA will hold a December 11 panel in Omaha, Nebraska on Latino integration.

No Season of Giving for Some Houston-Based Immigrant Kids

Faced with high demand for Christmas gifts for needy children this year, some Houston charities require proof that one family member has legal immigration status before handing over holiday toys. The Salvation Army and a Houston Fire Department-affiliated charity are among those screening the young beneficiaries through Social Security card and birth certificate verification, reports The Houston Chronicle.

Online Novel Documents Free-Speech Struggle in Cuba

Exiled Cuban author and journalist Julio San Francisco documents his fight against censorship in his home country through a 600-page online novel. The book draws from the writer’s life experiences, which ultimately forced him to leave Cuba “or rot in prison.” Although his work is banned on the island, San Francisco is confident that Cubans will find ways to read it, reports EFE.

In an interview with PBS’ Worldfocus, AS/COA’s Christopher Sabatini discusses the upswing in dissident Cuban bloggers and a new blog initiated on the island by the Catholic Church.

Peru’s New and Improved Capital

GlobalPost documents Lima’s renaissance, noting that the Peruvian capital has made major strides to clean up the pollution, crime, and decay that has long deterred international travelers en route to Cuzco or Machu Picchu. Major city-led efforts to restore historical buildings, plazas, and shopping areas have been coupled with public housing projects to absorb the massive wave of rural migration to the city that began in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Learn more about AS/COA’s programmatic efforts in Peru.

Tags: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Honduras, Immigration, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela
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