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Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

From 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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Victorious Humala Plans SouthAm Travels

The latest numbers from Peru’s electoral authority confirm that Ollanta Humala maintains his lead over Keiko Fujimori, who conceded defeat on Monday. Humala won 51.465 percent of the votes against Fujimori’s 48.535 percent, with 98 percent of the ballots counted. Several Latin American leaders congratulated Humala on his victory and invited him to visit their countries. Humala begins a tour of South America next Wednesday that will take him to Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile, and then the rest of South America. The goal of the trip will be to strengthen bilateral relations with Peru’s regional neighbors and to push agreements aimed at promoting Peru’s development. Humala also says he hopes to visit the United States. 

Humala gave his first sit-down interview since the election to CNN en Español on June 6, in which he proposed allowing recall elections for the president and legislators, as well as reforming the Peruvian Constitution to allow the state to invest public money. He also said that under his administration military figures will only occupy military positions and there will be “zero tolerance for drugs.” He noted that ex-President Alberto Fujimori, currently serving time for corruption and human rights abuses, will only be transferred to an ordinary jail cell if the courts decide to move him. “We don’t want more divergence. We want unity.” 

Peru’s Stock Market Rebounds after Monday’s Steep Drop

The Peruvian stock market continued to recover Wednesday, after ratings agencies said that President-elect Ollanta Humala’s election would not affect the country’s investment-grade status. The Lima General Index plummeted 12.5 percent on Monday—the largest drop since it was created in 1981—and closed early, after conservative Keiko Fujimori conceded defeat to Humala. The Economist Intelligence Unit explores the meaning of the election for Peru’s economy. 

Read an AS/COA Online News Analysis about Humala’s electoral victory.

Ecuador, Venezuela Oppose OPEC Production Increase

The presidents of Ecuador and Venezuela met this week and released a statement arguing against an increase in oil production by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), of which both countries are members. Their statement came a day before a June 8 summit in Vienna, where OPEC failed to ratify a proposal by Saudi Arabia and three other Persian Gulf countries to raise output.

Hugo Chávez Goes on Tour

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez visited Brazil, Ecuador, and Cuba, where he signed a series of bilateral cooperation agreements. Chávez and Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa agreed to create mixed enterprises to construct housing in Venezuela, while in Brazil Chávez signed eight agreements in the fields of energy, food, and infrastructure. The visit to Brazil marked Chávez’s first since Dilma Rousseff took office in January. 

IDP Activist Murdered in Medellin

Ana Fabricia Córdoba, a leader of Colombia’s internally displaced population and cousin of former Senator Piedad Córdoba, was murdered Tuesday while riding a public bus on Tuesday in Medellin. Córdoba was herself displaced from the countryside in Apartadó in 2001 after her husband was murdered and, nearly one year ago, Córdoba’s son Johnatan was killed in Medellin. Córdoba’s daughter, Diana Ospina Córdoba, said she and her two siblings received death threats following Córdoba’s murder.

Colombians Happy with Juan Manuel Santos

Eighty percent of Colombians view President Juan Manuel Santos positively after his first nine months on the job, according to a survey conducted by Centro Nacional de Consultoría and reported June 7. Only 11 percent disapproved of the Santos administration, according to the telephone poll that reached 1,000 people in 39 cities.

New Law Weakens El Salvador’s Supreme Court

The Salvadoran legislature passed a law on June 2 requiring the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court to make decisions unanimously. Bloggings by Boz suggests El Salvador’s Congress made the move to avoid having the Supreme Court strike down a free trade agreement with the United States as unconstitutional. El Salvador’s conservative parties, including ARENA and GANA, supported the change. President Mauricio Funes approved it while his own party, the FMLN, opposed it.

How to Prevent Another Honduran Coup

Days after Honduras gained readmission into the OAS, The Los Angeles Times carried an op-ed by a team of U.S. specialists in constitutional law who were tasked by a Honduran truth commission with offering a legal perspective on what took place when President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown in June 2009. The three lawyers found that both the executive branch and the military had acted unconstitutionally and urged immediate reforms to safeguard against future overreaching by either. “The relative calm of the last two years in Honduras has brought with it the opportunity to engage in unpressured analysis of these issues,” they write. “Reform is needed now because it would not be possible to make it happen under the pressures of a crisis. Honduras should seize the moment to make improvements that can help keep democracy safe in moments of crisis.”

Costa Rican and Guatemalan Presidents Reject Drug Legalization

During a visit to Costa Rica over the weekend, Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom and his host and counterpart Laura Chinchilla rejected the notion that legalization of “soft” drugs such as marijuana could ease organized crime or violence. Their comments come in response to a report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which includes ex-presidents of Latin America among its leadership, calling for decriminalization and regulation of illicit substances. Colom and Chinchilla also discussed a security plan scheduled for unveiling during a Central American summit on June 22 and June 23 in Guatemala.

Ex-Tijuana Mayor Arrested for Illegal Gun Ownership

Mexican authorities arrested former Mayor of Tijuana Jorge Hank Rhon June 4 on charges of owning illegal weapons in an operation that involved the arrest of 10 other individuals and that has been dubbed the “hankazo.” The authorities found 40 rifles, 48 handguns, a gas grenade, and thousands of bullets on Rhon’s premises. However, the case against him has been complicated by the fact that the military raided his home without a search warrant, sparking rumors that his arrest was politically motivated to tarnish the resurgent Institutional Revolutionary Party’s reputation. Rhon was mayor from 2004 to 2007.

Mexico’s Police Find Two More "Narco Tanks"

The discovery of a factory in Ciudad Camargo along the Texas border producing armored trucks for the Gulf Cartel prompted a flurry of articles in the U.S. press about homemade “narco tanks.” Mexicans refer to the vehicles as “monsters” and the military says they can resist fire from a .50-caliber machine gun.

Brazil v. Mexico: No Clear Economic Leader?

Writing for LatIntelligence, Shannon O’Neil of the Council on Foreign Relations compares the rosy reports about Brazil’s economy to dismal news about Mexican drug war violence and makes the case that, despite notable differences, neither country necessarily comes out ahead in terms of economic potential. “This skewed coverage hits both countries—though Mexico the hardest,” writes O’Neil. “For Brazil, it encourages the ‘hot money’ flowing in, further aggravating the underlying economic weaknesses. For Mexico, the resoundingly negative take may, somewhat paradoxically, make it harder to address the security challenge.”

Dilma Criticizes Forest Code’s Amnesty Clause

Speaking mostly to foreigners at a meeting of the planning committee for the 2012 Rio+20 sustainable development conference, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said Tuesday she will not support a provision in a pending Forest Code reform that gives amnesty to those who illegally deforest the Amazon. The proposal has prompted an outcry among environmentalists and Brazil’s scientific community.

For background on Brazil’s debate over proposed reforms to the Forest Code, read this AS/COA Online News Analysis.

Brazil’s Chief of Staff Resigns amid Corruption Scandal

President Dilma Rousseff’s Chief of Staff Antonio Palocci resigned June 7 ove a brewing scandal tied to the fact that he multiplied his assets by a factor of 20 from 2006 to 2010 while working simultaneously as a congressman and a consultant. Palocci denies that he or his consulting company, The Project, committed any crimes and Brazil’s Attorney General’s Office closed the case, saying the complaint did not offer sufficient evidence to investigate. The founding member of the Workers Party (PT, in Portuguese) played a leading role in the Lula administration and built a reputation over the last decade as a voice supporting the private sector’s interests. He will be replaced by Senator Gleisi Hoffman, also of the PT. A Folha de São Paulo recounts the scandal’s development over the last three weeks and details Palocci’s political trajectory from Trotskyism to economic orthodoxy via a pair of interactive features.

NASA Launches Argentine-Built Satellite to Forecast Climate Shifts

The U.S. space agency on Thursday launches a satellite from California’s coast in an effort to measure evolving ocean salt levels to predict both short-term weather-related events as well as climate change. The Argentine-built spacecraft carries NASA-built instruments and the bilateral mission marks the U.S. agency’s first space observations of ocean-surface salinity, which is key to forecasting the earth’s climate. The mission also marks 17 years of partnership between the Argentine and U.S. space agencies.

Argentine President’s Popularity Rises amid “Paradoxical” Capital Flight

Financial Times’ beyondbrics blog reports that capital flight continues to accelerate in Argentina, despite the fact that the economy appears to be on the upswing and polls show current Argentine President Cristina Fernández would have a solid chance of winning reelection in October—should she decide to run. The post notes that capital flight in April and May doubled first-quarter rates. “The uncertainty which normally encourages people to change their pesos into dollars and stick them under the mattress or send them to foreign accounts appears not to be related, this time, to the outcome of the election,” reports Jude Webber. “Instead, it is linked to the thornier question of: What happens to policy in a Cristina II government?”

600 Uruguayan Penguins Die Mysteriously

Roughly 600 dead penguins have washed ashore on Uruguay’s Atlantic coast, prompting authorities and scientists to look for evidence to explain the unusual occurrence. While some speculate that an agricultural chemical known as Fertox may have caused the deaths, the National Environmental Director Jorge Rucks doubts the theory. The Uruguayan authorities are measuring the level of toxicity in the water and the penguin carcasses to gain more information.

Paraguay’s 2013 Presidential Race Gets Moving

One day after Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo said he was not interested in reelection, retired General Lino Oviedo announced his candidacy for the National Union of Ethnical Citizens (UNACE, in Spanish). Oviedo, who ran for the presidency in 2003 for the Colorado Party, said “Paraguay is governed by the inept and the corrupt.”

Bolivia to Host OAS General Assembly

The Organization of American States announced that its next general assembly will take place June 8, 9, and 10, in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The decision was made during the final day of this year’s summit in El Salvador.

Mother of Deceased Hunger Striker Set to Leave Cuba

Reina Luisa Tamayo, the mother of hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo, is set to leave Cuba for Miami next Thursday with 12 family members now that her son’s remains have been exhumed. Zapata’s death on February 23, 2010, drew worldwide media attention to Cuba’s jailed dissidents, the great majority of whom have since been released after the Catholic Church mediated an agreement with the Communist government last summer.

Jamaica’s Tivoli Gardens: A Year after the Raid

A year after Jamaican security forces raided commercial district Tivoli Gardens to capture drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke, The Jaimica Gleaner offers an in-depth look at the impact on residents and businesses. Through slideshows, articles, and videos, the news site remembers the violent two-day period of clashes that claimed dozens of lives.

In Pictures: Chile’s Puyehue Volcano Eruption

The Atlantic’s In Focus photography blog offers a visual exploration of the June 6 eruption of Chile’s Puyehue volcano—previously dormant for over half a century. Thousands of residents were evacuated as the volcano’s ash plume spat debris six miles into the sky. The effects were felt across the Andes in Argentina and Uruguay, where international flights to and from were temporarily canceled as a result of the ash cloud.

Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: Chavez, Amazon, Honduras, Ecuador, Correa, Santos, Peru elections, Dilma, Coup, Humala, Keiko

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