Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

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Presidential Election Results Delayed in Haiti

Haiti’s electoral agency announced that preliminary results from a March 20 runoff election—originally scheduled to be released March 31—won’t be available until April 5, with final results planned for April 16. The council attributes the delay to signs of fraud in vote counts. The results will reveal whether ex-First Lady Mirlande Manigat or former pop singer Michel Martelly will serve as the country’s next president.

IDB To Help Cool LatAm Economies

The Inter-American Development Bank said it will help Latin American economies “de-dollarize” during its four-day annual meeting, which took place in Calgary this year. The Washington-based bank said it will offer more loans in local currencies and the option to exchange open loans from dollars in order to combat the soaring value of many of the region’s currencies and economic overheating. The International Monetary Fund’s regional director Nicolas Eyzaguirre said the region should terminate stimulus programs to stop overheating, but Brazil’s Deputy Central Bank Governor Luiz Pereira da Silva defended his country’s plan to limit inflows of speculative capital from overseas.

Bachelet on UN Gender Empowerment Initiative

In an interview with The New York Times, former Chilean President and current head of UN Woman Michelle Bachelet discusses her strategy to empower women worldwide. She emphasizes bringing women into positions of power and recruiting men to support the struggle for gender equality.

Brazil Versus Energy Curse

Latin America analyst Shannon O’Neil thinks Brazil can avoid the “energy curse” that traps developing economies in a cycle of dependence on a single export subject to wild price swings. According to O’Neil, Brazil’s diverse economy, past experience implementing a successful national energy plan, and democratic form of government will all help turn pre-salt oil discoveries into a blessing rather than a curse.

Brasilia Tries to Rein in Real with New Tax

Financial Times reports on Brasilia’s attempt to combat appreciation of its currency through a new tax adjustment requiring local companies to pay a 6 percent tax (up from 5.38 percent) on a portion of funds raised from foreign loans and international bond sales. “The tax adjustments underline a subtle shift in the focus of the government’s efforts to rein in the currency,” reports Samantha Pearson. “Whereas past measures targeted ‘foreign speculators’ and alluded to a global ‘currency war,’ Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president, has taken a wider, more technical approach by introducing measures that will affect Brazilians as well as foreigners.” 

Argentine Daily Blocked from Distributing Sunday Paper

Clarín, the Argentine media conglomerate, failed to distribute the Sunday, March 27 edition of its newspaper because of union protestors who blocked vehicles from leaving the printing plant in the early hours of the morning. The news group has been engaged in an ongoing dispute with the Fernández de Kirchner government over allegations of holding a monopoly. However, critics accuse Fernández of a vendetta against the newspaper, which takes a critical stance against her administration.

Hugo Chávez Gets Journalism Prize on South American Tour

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez kicked off a four-country tour through Latin America with a visit to Argentina, where he received a journalism award for from the University of La Plata for his contributions to the state-funded Telesur broadcast network. Chávez and Argentine President Christina Fernández de Kirchner signed trade agreements providing Argentina with oil in exchange for cars, food, agricultural equipment, and technology transfers to build motors and refrigerators in Venezuela. Chávez travels on to Uruguay, Bolivia, and Colombia. 

Óscar Arias Talks Venezuela

Former President of Costa Rica and Nobel Laureate Óscar Arias offered veiled criticism of what he referred to as a “step backwards” for democracy in Venezuela under Hugo Chávez in an interview with El Universal. Without naming Chávez explicitly, Arias pointed out that some democratically elected governments “erase checks and balances…censor the press, shut down media, disqualify opposition politicians, and modify the Constitution to get reelected.” Notwithstanding his criticisms, Arias also maintained that Venezuela’s pluralism and free elections make it a democracy.

Colombia Mulls Extradition of Suspect to US or Venezuela

On March 25, Colombia’s Supreme Court decided that Venezuelan drug kingpin Walid Makled can be extradited. Now Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos must decide whether to send Makled to the United States, where he’s wanted for narcotics trafficking, or to Venezuela, where he’s been connected to the murder of a journalist. Makled has indicated that, in the case that he gets sent to the United States, he will share information linking Venezuelan authorities to the drug trade, reports The Christian Science Monitor’s backchannels.

Peruvian Nationalist Ollanta Humala Takes Lead in Poll

A poll by CPI released Sunday shows that nationalist Ollanta Humala has risen from third place to take the lead in Peru’s presidential race. Humala’s support jumped from 15.7 percent to 21.1 percent in a week, according to CPI. Conservative Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the former president who dissolved the Congress and is now serving a 25-year jail sentence for human rights violations, placed second with 19.9 percent. None of the five major candidates enjoy sufficient support to avoid a runoff.

Read an AS/COA Online Analysis about polling in the Peruvian presidential elections. 

Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru Could Form New Econ Bloc

In an interview with El Tiempo, Peruvian President Alan García suggests that his country could form an integrated economic bloc with Chile, Colombia, and Mexico during a summit set to take place in Lima on May 2. García also talked with the Colombian daily about supporting Bogota’s bid to join the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. He also left open the possibility of running for president again in 2016, after sitting out the upcoming five-year term.

Honduran Judge Permits Zelaya to Return

Judge Óscar Chinchilla annulled orders for the arrest of ex-President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, but the former leader refuses to return, saying that he faces threats from some of those who overthrew him in 2009. Zelaya currently lives in the Dominican Republic. The Honduran government used tear gas and water cannons on Monday to break up protests led by teachers demanding the return of the ousted president as well as the fact that they’ve experience a six-month delay in salary payments. 

Pérez Molina Leads Polls in Guatemalan Prez Race

Guatemalan daily El Periódico released the results of a poll by Borge y Asociados for the month of March that puts Otto Pérez Molina of the Patriotic Party in the lead for the country’s presidential election, with 47.2 percent. Sandra Torres of the governing National Unity of Hope holds second place, with 13.7 percent. Pérez, who lost the 2007 vote to current President Álvaro Colom, previously ran under the slogan mano dura, cabeza y corazón (firm hand, head and heart). First Lady Torres began divorce proceedings Monday, which will allow her to circumvent a Guatemalan constitutional ban preventing close relatives of the head of state from succeeding as president. 

Unraveling a Guatemalan Murder Mystery

In a lengthy feature for The New Yorker, journalist David Grann unravels the political conspiracy that led to the murder of Rodrigo Rosenberg in Guatemala in the spring of 2009. Rosenberg caused a political uproar when a video surfaced saying that if he were murdered, Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom was responsible. A UN investigation found, however, that Rosenberg organized his own assassination.

Dominican President May Seek a Third Term

The Dominican Liberation Party presented President Leonel Fernández Sunday with a petition signed by 2.2 million people asking for his third consecutive reelection. Fernández said he would let his party decide on his candidacy, though the Constitution prohibits more than two consecutive presidential terms.

Cuban State Media Gives Independent Bloggers Publicity Boost

When Cuba’s state media last week aired a documentary called “Cyberwar” vilifying the country’s independent bloggers as pawns of Washington, they ended up accidentally doing their enemies a big favor. Yoani Sánchez says that she and other bloggers now enjoy fame on the island, where few people previously read their work. 

Jimmy Carter Visits Cuba

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter this week visited Cuba for the second time, where he discussed ways to move forward with stalled U.S.-Cuban relations with Cuban leaders, including Raúl Castro. Carter also met with prominent bloggers and dissidents. Notwithstanding speculation in the U.S. press that Carter went to the island to press for the release of jailed U.S.A.I.D. contractor Alan Gross, Carter said Tuesday he wanted to work to improve bilateral relations and did not visit to get Gross out of jail. 

Mexican Media Outlets Sign Drug War Coverage Pact

Covering organized crime in Mexico is a dangerous business, with the country among the world’s most dangerous for reporters, according to the Knight Center for Journalism is the Americas. With that in mind, almost 50 Mexican media outlets last week signed the Agreement for News Coverage of Violence, which seeks to prevent news organizations from succumbing to the influence of cartels by avoiding distributing excessively violent images and preventing attacks on journalists, among other measures. Sadly, a day after the pact was inked, a Televisa TV host was found dead in the northern city of Monterrey in what appeared to be a gang-style killing.

UK’s Deputy PM Visits Mexico

Nick Clegg, the British deputy prime minister, led a business and educational delegation to Mexico March 28 in what he said “marks the beginning of a major push in 2011 to renew the UK’s ties to Latin America.” The Guardian reports that Clegg will be the first British politician to address the Mexican Senate. “Having learnt from the Tequila Crisis of the 1990s, Mexico demonstrated great resilience in the face of global recession,” wrote Clegg in Reforma “As we look to reform our banking sector at home, there are important parallels we can draw.”

Mexico Criminalizes Femicide

The Latin Americanist blog reports on Mexico’s approval of a law that makes gender-based murder a separate crime punishable by sentences of up to 70 years. The Attorney General’s office will create an office to investigate violence against women. Also, last week the country’s Secretariat of the Interior distributed a manual to federal employees that offers guidelines for avoiding sexist language in the workplace. 

Canada-Mexico Relations Driven by State-to-Province Relations

The relationship between Canada and Mexico is increasingly determined by the interaction between Canada’s provincial governments and Mexico’s state governments, according to a new report by think tank FOCAL. The report argues that these relationships, which the two countries’ federal governments generally fail to manage, can both encourage and complicate the overal bilateral relationship.

PM Harper Sets May Date for Election

Canadians will vote in their fourth general election in seven years come May 2 after Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority government lost a rare no-confidence vote on March 25, leading to the dissolution of Parliament. The Toronto Star reports that Harper’s Conservative Party is polling strongly and could end up with a majority in Parliament. Shortformblog explains the Canadian Parliament’s vote and what happens next. Get ongoing coverage of the five-week campaign on the daily’s politics page

An Insider’s Look at an Andean Narco-submarine

Wired magazine takes readers inside a jungle-built submarine used to traffic Colombian cocaine. The vessel, seized by Ecuadoran authorities last year, demonstrates a level of technical know-how that’s a major step up from cigarette boats encased in wood and fiberglass that were previously seized. It could go 10 days without refueling, carried a crew of up to six people, and had a hull made of difficult-to-trace materials. “The most valuable feature, though, is the cargo bay, capable of holding up to 9 tons of cocaine—a street value of about $250 million,” writes Jim Popkin. And there may be other submarines traveling in the Pacific right now; a second, similar drug sub was seized in February.

Tags: Colombia, Haitian Elections, Hugo Chavez
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