Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

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Obama Administration to Halt 300,000 Deportations

U.S. Department of Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano revealed August 18 that the United States will review 300,000 pending deportation cases for people living in the country for several years who have not committed serious crimes. The Houston Chronicle reports that Napolitano submitted a letter to 22 senators saying “it makes no sense to expend our enforcement resources on low-priority cases, such as individuals…who were brought into this country as young children and know no other home.” Given that the move will affect undocumented immigrant students, supporters of the long-stalled DREAM Act heralded the decision.

The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog outlines who might qualify to remain in the United States under the new Obama immigration policy, with factors for staying deportation including an individual’s length of residence, age at the time of arrival, educational pursuit or military service, age, and role as primary caretaker.

Learn more about immigration issues at AS/COA’s Hispanic Integration Hub.

Cancer Claims Canadian Opposition Leader

Jack Layton, who led Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) to Official Opposition status for the first time in May’s federal vote, lost his battle with cancer this week. His passing came as a surprise, given his late-July announcement that he would step down from his position temporarily to seek treatment. In a letter penned in the final days before his death, Layton—known for his tendency to avoid political mudslinging—addressed Canadians by saying: “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.”

Layton’s passing leaves Canada’s two main opposition parties, the NDP and the Liberal Party, with interim leaders at a time when the governing Conservative Party holds a parliamentary majority.

Rousseff Ranked World’s Third-most Powerful Woman

The Brazilian president took the number three spot in Forbes.com’s list of the 100 most powerful women in the world, behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner took spot number 17.

No More Cabinet Shuffles in Brazil?

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff told key parties in her coalition that she would not make further cabinet shuffles at this time, reports Folha de São Paulo. Since June she has accepted the resignation of three ministers tainted by corruption scandals. However, her efforts to tackle corruption have weakened coalition alliances.

Read an AS/COA Online analysis on Rousseff’s ministerial shakeups.

Brazil’s FinMin Says Country Could Feel Global Economic Pains

Guido Mantega, Brazil’s finance minister, told a Brazilian Senate committee this week that Brazil’s 2011 growth could decrease from the currently projected 4.5 percent to 4 percent as a result of economic pains felt in the United States and Europe.

Coming Soon to Google Maps: The Amazon

GlobalPost’s ¿Que Pasa? blog reports that “[i]n its quest to map the entire planet, Google has started in on the world’s largest tropical rainforest.” The mapping will take place in partnership with Brazil’s government-backed Amazonas Sustainable Foundation. Conservationists hope the project will help counter rising deforestation.

Chile Faces Two-day Nationwide Strike

Chileans braced for a 2-day strike on August 24 and 25 involving protesting unions, students, transportation workers, and center-left political parties who demand a revised Constitution allowing for popular referendums and educational reform. On the first day of the protest, the Ministry of the Interior declared it fell short of making an impact, as only 5.3 percent of government employees joined the demonstrations. La Tercera offers a rundown of figures relevant to the protests.

Can Chilean Student Protests Shape Future Policymaking?

An openDemocracy article on Chile’s large-scale student protests explores the impact of social movements on the policymaking process in that country. The article’s authors contend that the current governance model relies on a formula created to foster democratic transition from the Pinochet era rather than allowing citizen participation in creating policy. They write: “To the extent in which social movements, both new and rearticulated ones, are able to connect with existing discontent and establish alliances with other formal and informal political actors, they will be able to shape future policy agendas.”

Chile Adds 10,000 to List of Pinochet-era Victims

Last week, the Valech Commission—charged with investigating Chile’s dictatorship-era abuses—added almost 10,000 people to the list of people tortured between 1973 and 1990. An initial 2004 report released by the commission identified 28,000 victims. In 2009, then-President Michelle Bachelet reopened the commission’s work. After current President Sebastian Piñera signs the latest report, his administration can take steps to provide reparations to those newly identified.

Argentine-Uruguayan Pulp Dispute over and “Buried”

In an interview with an Uruguayan newspaper, Argentina’s Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said relations have improved markedly since a bilateral dispute over an Uruguayan pulp mill thought to have contaminated a jointly shared river. Timerman described the disagreement as “buried.”

U.S. Aid Linked to Colombian Wiretapping Scandal

The Washington Post
reports on revelations that U.S. officials, including CIA operatives, provided support to Colombia’s security agency as it conducted extralegal wiretapping of Colombian Supreme Court officials. Several high-ranking Colombian security officials under investigation have given details on the agency’s relationship with the U.S. embassy in Bogota, but U.S. officials deny any knowledge that illegal activities took place.

Colombia to Export Electricity to CentAm via Panama

On Monday, Colombia and Panama announced that they will partner on a new energy infrastructure project to carry electricity from Colombia’s northern Andes to Panama’s Caribbean coast and throughout Central America. The project, ticketed at $420 million, will be jointly paid for by the two countries and is scheduled for a 2014 finish date.

Russian Foreign Minister Visits El Salvador, Peru, Venezuela

Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov tours Latin America this week in a trip that brings him to El Salvador, Peru, and Venezuela. The visit to Peru was marked by Lavrov’s first meeting with new President Ollanta Humala. A pre-inauguration trip to Moscow by Humala’s brother, who met with Lavrov there, sparked controversy due to conflicting reports about whether he traveled to the Russian capital on official business.

Panamanians Debate Development in Capital’s Historic District

The Miami Herald covers the growing tensions over a highway development project planned on the borders of a historic district in Panama City. “Panama officials insist the highway project is needed to ease traffic in the city and make way for new development,” writes Tim Rogers. “Residents of Casco Viejo, however, say the landfill highway would destroy their beaches, ruin historic structures, and remove the neighborhood from UNESCO’s World Heritage list.”

Cuba Assumes Rotating Leadership of Disarmament Body

Cuban Foreign Affairs Vice Minister Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez assumed the month-long presidency of the international Conference on Disarmament, relieving North Korea of the post. Canada temporarily left the 65-member group in protest of Pyongyang’s leadership.

Trinidad Declares State of Emergency in Crime Hotspots

Prime Minister Trinidad & Tobago Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Sunday announced a state of emergency in specific areas plagued by rising crime. The move involves enabling military personnel powers of search and seizure while imposing curfews in crime “hotspots.”

Costa Rica’s President Urges Regional Front against Drug Gangs

In an interview with the BBC, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla rejected the idea of her country creating a military to combat transnational crime groups affecting public safety in her country. “”Costa Rica will never reconsider its decision to abolish the army… Rather the absence of an army has been a guarantee of security in the country,” she told the news outlet. “But what we want is to supply our police force with better equipment, giving it a defensive, not an offensive, capacity.” The interview took place on the sidelines of Chinchilla’s visit this week to Mexico, where she signed a security agreement Monday with Mexican President Felipe Calderón. http://www.americasquarterly.org/node/2836

AS/COA hosts President Chinchilla for remarks on September 21.

Mexican Billionaire Increases New York Times Co. Stake

Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, increased his holdings in the New York Times Company from 6.9 to 7.3 percent this month in a move that boosted the media company’s share values. ForeignPolicy.com compares Slim’s wealth to the fact that millions still live in poverty in Mexico, and reports on successful social-transfer payment programs helping to combat inequality.

Latin Americans Use Online Maps to Boost Public Safety

Brazil has one called WikiCrimes, Panama has Mi Panama Transparente, and Venezuela has VicTEAMS. In Latin American countries from Mexico to Argentina, people are turning to online mapping services to supplement police data and guide fellow citizens to avoid dangerous areas. IPS News reports on online crime maps in a number of countries.

Patagonia Holds Key to Age-old Question: Where Does Lager Come from?

The Los Angeles Times reports that scientists discovered a rare yeast growing in Argentina’s Patagonia region that’s thought to be the key ingredient used to invent lager beer roughly 600 years ago. How Saccharomyces eubayanus made its way from Argentina’s beech trees to Germany’s beer halls is less clear, however.

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