With his signature in-your-face style, influential Argentine opposition journalist Jorge Lanata continued his quest on Sunday night to single-handedly take down the Argentine government.
Since April, Lanata’s weekly Sunday night news program, “Periodismo Para Todos” (Journalism for All–PPT) has aggressively reported on allegations that businessmen close to Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband Néstor Kirchner were involved in a money laundering scandal.
The president, who does not publicly talk to journalists, has yet to acknowledge Lanata’s claims, effectively dismissing the allegations. Lanata’s program is run by the country’s largest media conglomerate, Grupo Clarín, which the government outwardly considers a monopoly and a pusher of false information. Lanata is characterized as sensationalist by government supporters, and pro-government media ignore his reporting.
The spat between Lanata and the Fernández de Kirchner administration is the latest manifestation of a polemic crisis in the Argentine press.
In 2009, the Argentine government introduced a communications bill to replace legislation enacted during the country’s 1976–1983 military dictatorship. The Ley de Servicios de Comunicación Audiovisual (Audiovisual Communication Services Law), more widely known as the “Media Law,” sought to decentralize the heavily concentrated broadcast market and facilitate the entry of new investors, nonprofit organizations and community media.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague and his Ecuadorian counterpart, Ricardo Patiño, met in London on Monday to discuss the unresolved asylum case of the Australian journalist and founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. One year ago, Assange, 41, sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sexual assault and rape. Assange denies the charges and says that he fears he will be extradited to the United States to face additional charges for publishing thousands of confidential government documents on his website.
Patiño confirmed that the Ecuadorian government will continue to provide refuge to Assange inside the embassy. According to a press release from the British Foreign Office, Hague and Patiño “agreed to keep channels of communication open, but made no breakthrough on Julian Assange.” Any solution would have to fall within the laws of the United Kingdom. The British government has repeatedly said that Assange will be arrested if he decides to leave the building, and has spent almost $5 million dollars in around-the-clock guarding of the embassy.
During his visit to London, Patiño also met with Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy, where Patiño declared to the press that there will be no changes in the refugee’s circumstances. Ecuador granted protection to Assange last August, saying that the government feared for Assange’s safety because the journalist believes he might face the death penalty in the U.S. if he is extradited.
According to Patiño, Assange is willing to stay inside the Ecuadorean embassy for five more years. Patiño added that Ecuador would also consider granting asylum to Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old computer analyst who provided The Guardian with top-secret National Security Agency (NSA) documents. “If he applies to our government, then of course we shall analyze the situation,” Patiño said.
Top stories this week are likely to include: Brazilian protests expand across the country; Ecuador approves a controversial new media law; FARC negotiators aspire to Northern Ireland-style ceasefire; U.S. Senator Marco Rubio says immigration bill needs to contain stronger border security provisions; Ecuador’s foreign minister travels to London.
Brazilian Protests Grow: Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the national stadium in Brasilia on Saturday at the beginning of the opening Confederations Cup match between Brazil and Japan to protest the growing cost of living in Brazil, as well as public expenditures for major sporting events set to take place in Brazil, like the World Cup and Olympic Games. Brasilia’s new stadium reportedly cost $600 million to construct. Authorities said that at least 15 people were arrested in Brasilia on Saturday, but the match continued without disruption and ended with Brazil’s 3-0 victory over Japan. The protests come two days after protests against bus fare increases in São Paulo led to hundreds of arrests.
Ecuador Approves Media Law: Ecuador's congress approved a controversial new media law in a 108-26 vote on Friday. The law will create official media overseers and impose strict limits on the percentage of licenses granted to private radio and TV companies. The Ecuadorian government has called the law a “milestone” and said it would make media in the country more democratic. However, press freedom groups and members of the political opposition have said that the new measure, which they characterize as a “gag law,” will have a chilling effect on free speech and dissent.
FARC Aspires to Northern Ireland-Style Ceasefire: FARC negotiator "Andrés Paris" said Sunday that he hoped that the negotiated peace process between the guerrillas and Colombian government will be inspired by the ceasefire that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) agreed to in 1994, resulting in an official end to the conflict four years later. The FARC is calling for a major constitutional reform before they join the political process, and said they would not participate in the 2014 presidential elections unless this happens. So far, the Colombian government has resisted their proposal.
Rubio Calls Immigration Law "95 Percent Perfect": U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said in an interview Sunday that the comprehensive immigration reform bill currently being debated in the U.S. Senate is "95 percent perfect," but needs to contain stronger provisions for border security. Meanwhile, fellow Republican Senator Lindsay Graham said that a perception that the Republican Party is responsible for blocking passage of the bill would add to the party’s “demographic death spiral.” On Thursday, the Senate majority rejected a proposal to make border security a precondition for the legalization of undocumented immigrants.
Patiño to Meet With Hague, Assange in London: Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño is arrived in London on Monday and will meet with his British counterpart, William Hague, to discuss bilateral relations. Patiño also met with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is still living in the Ecuadorian Embassy after more than a year in an attempt to avoid extradition on charges of sexual assault. Assange told Patiño that he was prepared to spend five more years living in the embassy if necessary. Meanwhile, Ecuador’s ambassador to the UK, Ana Alban, announced last week that she would leave her post before Ecuador decides whether to extend political asylum to Assange.
“The love ran out. It’s going to turn into Turkey here,” chanted thousands of protestors as they moved down Rio Branco Avenue in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday evening, closing the downtown’s main thoroughfare to traffic as three police helicopters swam overhead.
When Rio’s protestors returned home from Rio’s State Legislative Assembly after one arrest near Central Station, it was to televised images of violence between police and protestors in São Paulo, where tear gas and rubber bullets were fired into a larger crowd and over 230 people were arrested.
Protests occurred in seven capital cities across Brazil yesterday in response to a ten-cent increase in bus and subway fares. However, such protests have been occurring around the country for several months now. In Porto Alegre in April, protests over the fare increase eventually led to its cancellation. Protesters say that the fare hike, a routine item in Brazilian bus company contracts, has become a tipping point for citizens bearing the cost of Brazil’s public improvements before seeing the benefit.
“If the quality of bus service was improving in Rio, this would make sense, but the buses are overcrowded, they run infrequently and they are unsafe,” said Natane Santos, 25, a law student at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Students made up a healthy portion of the Rio protestors, although there were also participants from different social movements in the city and the occasional political flag. “People are protesting the bigger vision of what’s going on,” Santos continued. “I’m glad to be hearing people chanting tonight, ‘We’re over the World Cup; we want more money for health and education.’”
Amid loud protest that President Daniel Ortega is “privatizing Nicaragua’s dream,” handing over the country to a Chinese businessman and indulging in the same type of “savage capitalism” that he has railed against during his entire political career, Nicaragua’s Sandinista government this week used its supermajority muscle in the legislative National Assembly to give a generous 50-year concession to an unknown Chinese company to design, build and operate an inter-oceanic canal to rival Panama. Ortega is scheduled to sign the bill into law tonight during a nationally televised event.
The Great Nicaragua Canal megaproject, with carries an estimated price tag of $40 billion, includes a combo of megaprojects: two deep-water ports, two international airports, a transisthmian oil pipeline, and an inter-oceanic freight railroad. “This will be one of the world’s most significant infrastructure projects ever,” claims the Chinese concessionaire, HKND Group, a company that was registered only a few months ago in the Cayman Islands. HKND is owned by enigmatic Chinese telecom tycoon Wang Jing, and has no ties to the Chinese government. Nor does Nicaragua, which instead maintains diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
“This is a totally privately held company …there is no government involvement whatsoever, not from China or any other country,” HKND Group spokesman Ronald MacLean-Abaroa, a former Bolivian politico and World Bank official, told me in an interview today. “The minute you have government involved in these kind of projects, the private investors fly away.”
If $40 billion sounds like a lot of money to invest in Nicaragua, that’s because it is. To date, the largest private investment projects in Nicaragua barely measure in the hundreds of millions. So $40 billion—a number that is four times larger than the country’s entire GDP—would seem to have too many zeros to even fit in such small economy.
On June 4, the Mexican Army raided a house in the border town of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, Tamaulipas and rescued 165 people being held against their will by a 20-year-old identified as Juan Cortez Arrez. Testimonies from some of the victims show that they had been kidnapped for nearly three weeks.
News of their rescue has drawn praise for Mexico’s armed forces, which responded to an anonymous call and implemented an operation that resulted in zero casualties and one arrest. However, this event should also serve to bring attention to a problem which has become graver in recent years: trafficking in persons (TIP).
The group rescued comprised 77 Salvadorans, 50 Guatemalans, 23 Hondurans, one Indian, and 14 Mexicans, all of whom had contacted a supposed “pollero” (a person who assists unauthorized immigrants in crossing the border) in the hopes of reaching the United States. The pollero was really a member of a criminal gang who had other plans for the group.
After the rescue, the Mexican government’s spokesperson for national security, Eduardo Sánchez Hernández, stated that many aspiring migrants end up “being delivered to the hands of criminal organizations,” rather than taken safely across the border. These criminal groups then use their captives for sexual trafficking and prostitution, forced labor, as drug mules, and—as the narcofosas (clandestine mass graves) tragically show—execute kidnapping victims in initiation rituals of new gang members. In 2011, 236 bodies were discovered in narcofosas in the border town of San Fernando, Tamaulipas. Granted, there is no proof that all of the victims were intended migrants and some might have been killed in other gang-related activities, including inter-cartel wars, but the problem remains.
Human trafficking is not new to Mexico, but it was not until 2004 that the first anti-trafficking in persons law was passed, making this activity a crime punishable by up to 18 years of incarceration. In 2008, the Attorney General’s office created the Fiscalía Especial para los Delitos de Violencia Contra Las Mujeres y Trata de Personas (FEVIMTRA), a special prosecutor’s team designated to work on crimes against women and human trafficking and whose members have received training from international outfits specializing in these matters. And last year, then-President Felipe Calderón passed a new law making femicide a crime punishable by up to 60 years in jail. Some radio ad campaigns have been launched at a national level to focus on prevention.
El mensaje enviado por los Estados miembros de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) durante su 43ª Asamblea General, realizada la semana pasada en la ciudad de Antigua, Guatemala, fue claro: después de dos años de reflexión y reformas a la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), es necesario pasar a la implementación de las mismas.
Efectivamente, este año la reunión anual de cancilleres de todos los países del continente—menos Cuba—era de especial relevancia en materia de derechos humanos porque “tomaría el pulso” de los Estados en torno a la reforma del Sistema Interamericano de Derechos Humanos (SIDH), después de dos intensos años de discusión, debates, propuestas, reformas y una Asamblea General Extraordinaria realizada en marzo pasado con la que formalmente concluyó el proceso de reflexión sobre la CIDH.
Durante esta Asamblea General realizada en Guatemala, se esperaba la discusión y posible aprobación de una resolución que abordaría el tema—aunque no se conocía el contenido de la misma—y, quizás lo más importante, se elegirían tres nuevos miembros de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos.
Los países que presentaron candidatos a la CIDH fueron Colombia y México (para la reelección), Brasil, Ecuador, Estados Unidos y Perú, quienes fueron muy activos en la promoción de los mismos. Llamó la atención la gestión particularmente proactiva del canciller ecuatoriano, quien—de acuerdo con información recogida en la página web de la Cancillería ecuatoriana—durante los últimos meses visitó buena parte de los países de la región para promover la continuación del diálogo sobre la CIDH y la aprobación de (más) reformas a este órgano, y—suponemos—para promover también su candidato a la Comisión.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff inaugurated a new safety system yesterday, the Integrated Command and Control Center (Centro Integrado de Comando y Control—CICC), that will increase security in several cities—and soccer stadiums—through a coordinated effort among the police (federal, military and civil), the armed forces, the fire brigade, and public utility companies. This new safety system became operational just two days before Brazil kicks off the Confederations Cup —a two-week soccer tournament expected to attract over 350,000 tourists—and that will serve as a test of the country’s readiness for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.
The first center became operational on Thursday in Brasilia, with the president’s announcement serving to inaugurate similar facilities in other Brazilian cities.
The command centers have been installed in the six cities hosting the Confederations Cup: Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Salvador, and Recife. Over the next six months, the enhanced security technology will also be installed in Manaus, Natal, São Paulo, Cuiabá, Curitiba, and Porto Alegre.
The centers are modeled after similar security technology in cities such as London, New York, Mexico City, and Madrid, and will receive real-time images of each stadium and the surrounding areas through fixed and mobile cameras installed on helicopters or police patrols. Unmanned aerial vehicles—small planes that flies over a stadium and monitor ground movement for up to 16 hours within a radius of 250 kilometers (155 miles).
Brazil Minister of Justice José Eduardo Cardozo emphasized that the centers will “allow Brazil to strengthen the fight against organized crime and provide greater security for all its people.”
Magdalena Pacheco lives in Chajul in the remote Ixil region of Guatemala. She is expecting a child and was recently hopeful about the direction of justice in Guatemala after former dictator Efraín Rios Montt’s genocide sentence. But her optimism has shifted after the guilty verdict was overturned.
“I am very bothered by this, it is very sad,” Pacheco, 30, says. “If we can’t make justice happen with one person, what can we expect?”
In May, a Guatemalan court sentenced the 86-year-old retired general to 80 years in prison for the deaths of 1,771 Ixil Indigenous people between March 1982 and August 1983— part of a counter-insurgency campaign directed at guerrillas in the region. Last week, Rios Montt’s re-trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity was postponed until April 2014.
Magdalena’s family was displaced to the mountains during the war, when she was seven years old. Her mother has physical scars and is disabled after being brutally raped by the army; her father was taken away and tortured in a military post, and her 17-day-old brother was burned alive when the soldiers set fire to their house.
Turbulentas han sido las relaciones entre Estados Unidos y Venezuela desde que Hugo Chávez dio rienda a su proceso revolucionario en 1999. En medio de altas y bajas, John Maisto, embajador norteamericano en Caracas entre 1997 y 2000, pareció entender con rapidez el fenómeno bolivariano y apuntó que “hay que fijarse en lo que Chávez hace, no en lo que dice”.
Desde entonces, Caracas y Washington han vivido cualquier cantidad de desencuentros políticos, especialmente entre 2001 y 2009, durante la gestión de George W. Bush. En esos años, Chávez no titubeó al desatar su oratoria y, con la acepción negativa del verbo, innovó en estilos diplomáticos al usar epítetos como “diablo” y “burro” para referirse a su homólogo norteamericano.
Algunos podrían pensar que una de las mayores frustraciones del ex presidente Hugo Chávez era que “el imperio”, como solía enunciar, era el principal socio comercial del país que proclamaba su segunda emancipación. Un cliente que recibe la mitad de los 3 millones de barriles de petróleo que Venezuela produce diariamente. También un proveedor que despacha la mayoría de los bienes que la nación caribeña consume. En síntesis, un aliado con quien la balanza comercial ha crecido durante cuatro años consecutivos.
Pero sin ánimos de entrar en el terreno especulativo, lo cierto es que uno de los grandes apegos de “la revolución bonita” era la oratoria de su líder, y gran parte de la, tan mentada, segunda independencia nacional no era otra cosa que una intachable clase improvisada de retórica. En la práctica, la Venezuela de nuevas instituciones y lemas patrióticos era tan pro americana como aquella que en los años 70 hacía gala de la bonanza petrolera comprando ropa y bienes en Miami.
Culturalmente, la afinidad entre ambos países es tan grande que, justamente, la motivación que llevó a Hugo Chávez a la Academia Militar no fue otra que el béisbol, el deporte bandera de los americanos. El sueño del, entonces, recluta era ser descubierto por un seleccionador e iniciar su carrera de ascenso hacia las grandes ligas. Años más tarde, la política le permitiría una mínima satisfacción personal: en 1999, durante su única visita oficial a Estados Unidos, fue invitado a abrir un juego en el estadio de los Mets de Nueva York.
Su admiración por el líder cubano, Fidel Castro, y sus coqueteos con China en busca de apoyo político a cambio de petróleo, no modificaron ni un ápice la relación comercial entre Caracas y Washington. Políticamente, el saldo de la retórica sí es constatable: ocho años desde la última reunión de cancilleres, cinco años sin embajadores, y apenas un encuentro oficial de mandatarios.
El apretón de manos que Obama y Chávez protagonizaron ante el frenesí de las cámaras, en 2009, durante la cumbre de las Américas de Trinidad y Tobago, fue un suerte de presagio, descartado dos años después cuando Venezuela rechazó las credenciales del embajador designado, Larry Palmer.
La semana pasada, nuevamente un apretón de manos figuró en la prensa nacional: el secretario de Estado, John Kerry, y el canciller venezolano, Elías Jaua, sonrieron ante los flashes, y con banderas de fondo, dieron garantía de que ambas magistraturas quieren un acercamiento.
Según Jaua, ésta fue una de las últimas instrucciones de Chávez. Esto a pesar de que el 5 de marzo, horas antes de anunciar la muerte del mandatario, su sucesor, Nicolás Maduro, expulsó dos agregados militares de Estados Unidos bajo acusaciones de supuestos intentos de “desestabilizar” el régimen. Los meses subsiguientes no fueron menos frenéticos: el Ejecutivo venezolano denunció que Washington no sólo podría ser el culpable del cáncer que afectó a Chávez, sino que además tejía planes para asesinar a Maduro, y, también, a su contendor Henrique Capriles Radonski.
En medio del vaivén discursivo, Calixto Ortega, actual encargado de negocios venezolano en Washington, aseguró que no existe aquello de “malas relaciones” con Estados Unidos, es sólo “una matriz mediática”, frase de efecto que emplean los seguidores de la causa revolucionaria para desmeritar un hecho y volverlo apenas una invención de la prensa opositora.
Paradójicamente, Ortega afirmó este miércoles que “hay una nueva etapa en las relaciones con Estados Unidos”, hasta adelantó que podría venir un encuentro Obama-Maduro. Tocará ver si esta nueva etapa se materializa, o si, por el contrario, la máxima de Maisto también se aplica a los herederos del proceso.
On Wednesday, representatives of the Bolivian and Chilean governments met for the first time at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague for a preliminary meeting to establish the timetable and other details for a case around a long-standing disagreement over the countries’ maritime borders.
Bolivia filed a formal lawsuit against Chile with the ICJ in April, demanding that the court force Chile to negotiate in good faith to provide land-locked Bolivia a sovereign outlet to the Pacific Ocean. Bolivia lost access to the sea in 1904, when it signed a treaty to end the War of the Pacific—a war sparked by conflict over mining rights. Bolivia is seeking land that is currently part of Chile’s Atacama region.
During Wednesday’s meeting—the first step in a long process before the case actually comes before the court—former Bolivian President Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé met behind closed doors with Chilean Ambassador to the United States Felipe Bulnes to discuss dates and other logistics for the proceedings.
After the meeting, Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno denounced the lawsuit as unfounded, upholding Chile’s decades-long dismissal of Bolivia’s territorial claim. Meanwhile, the Bolivian government maintains that the 1904 treaty was signed under pressure from Chile and is therefore invalid.
If the case goes forward, this will be the first internationally arbitrated attempt to solve the dispute. Previous negotiations have failed and the two countries have never re-established diplomatic ties since they lapsed after a previous failed negotiation in 1978.
Four of Argentina’s main farm associations announced on Tuesday a five-day commercial strike that will begin this weekend to protest the Argentine government’s market regulations. Argentine farmers, one of the largest global providers of food, will stop selling livestock and grain from Saturday, June 15, through Wednesday, June 19.
The strike is motivated by rising production costs, export restrictions, high inflation, and high export taxes—up to 35 percent in the case of soybeans—and aims to get the attention of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner just months before the midterm elections. Currently, the Argentine government restricts the export of wheat, corn and meat to ensure a low domestic price.
The relationship between the Argentine government and agricultural workers has been strained for years, beginning with a four-month strike in 2008 that protested Fernández de Kirchner’s attempt to raise taxes on corn and soybeans. The strikes caused food shortages throughout Argentina and eventually halted the planned tax increase after the public showed broad support for the farmers.
Since exporting firms have had advance notice of the strike and will have several days to acquire the goods they need, the strike is not expected to affect commercial exports. Next Thursday and Friday are public holidays, so the strike will only affect the market for three days next week. According to a source from the export sector, “the effect on exports won’t be large, they’ll be relative. [The strike] is more a political move than anything else.”
Twenty years ago this June, the Québec government under Liberal Premier Robert Bourassa adopted legislation stipulating that all outdoor commercial signage should be in French, but lifted the ban on the presence of English and other languages. The media often refers to this as the return of bilingual signs since the 1981 Charter of the French Language (also known as Bill 101) made French the only language allowed in outdoor commercial advertising. While the issue was highly divisive throughout the 1980s and lead to court challenges, the decision in June 1993 by the ruling Liberals was significant enough to make international news. It has since withstood the test of time (in the interests of full disclosure, I was chief of staff to Premier Bourassa from 1989-94).
To better comprehend the significance and magnitude of this language chapter, it is useful to go back in history. The 1960s and 1970s were turbulent times in Québec as the Québec independence movement gained ground and became a legitimate and important component in consideringQuébec’s options for a future in or out of a federal Canada. Closely associated with the debate on Québec independence was the conviction within nationalist circles that the use of the French language (concentrated in Québec and spoken by over 80 percent of Quebeckers) was in danger, and that legislative measures were needed to protect and defend French in various walks of life—education, public administration, language in the workplace, and outdoor commercial signs.
When a Liberal (federalist party) government decided to make French the only official language of Québec in 1974, the hope was that it would calm fears about the future of French. The independentist Parti Québécois, however, came into power in 1976 promising to bring forward comprehensive language legislation. Bill 101, or the Charter of the French language, was enacted in 1977.
Yesterday, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala began a three-day visit to the United States, marking the first official visit since he took office two years ago. Today, Humala met with U.S. President Barack Obama as well as other U.S. officials; he will also visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to tour the school and sign agreements with school administrators.
Peruvian officials see the visit as coming at an opportune time, when Peru-U.S. relations are at a peak. Harold Forsyth, the Peruvian ambassador in Washington, called the visit “historic,” and said it “marks a new level of bilateral support between Peru and the United States.” Many Peruvians believe that the meetings will not only strengthen the two countries’ relationship, but will also help promote Peru’s emergence as a global player.
President Humala kicked off his visit yesterday with a public speech in Washington that highlighted the importance of Peru’s diverse natural resources, including agricultural and mineral exports, to the international economy. But he also acknowledged the country’s struggle with corruption and inequality.
“Today we are talking about creating a good government,” Humala said. “We’ve had to work to create trust, because Peru is in a place where the citizens do not believe in their government. They are not seeing the tangible results that will allow them to develop.”
Today, Humala met with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other U.S. officials. The conversations revolved around key topics such as education, security, energy and climate change, support for micro and small businesses, science and technology, and the fight against drug trafficking. Climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are particularly pertinent to Peru, as the country seeks to solve its massive pollution and urban transport issues.
The peace negotiations in Cuba between the Fuerzas Armada Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) and the Colombian government, set to reconvene today, are not the only peace agreements being conducted in Latin America.
One year ago, the two main drug gangs in El Salvador, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18, agreed a halt to hostilities in a deal brokered by the Catholic Church.
And just over a week ago, the two main rival gangs in Honduras negotiated a similar pact, though not specifically a truce, again mediated by the Catholic Church. The Mara Salvatrucha and Mara 18 said they would commit to zero crime and zero violence on the streets.
Such mediations are not considered typical peace agreements in the traditional sense of international relations, but perhaps they should be. While policymakers and scholars argue that there is a conceptual difference between insurgency groups, rebel groups, organized crime, and terrorism, these peace agreements between different gangs suggest that such distinctions may inhibit sound policy. In fact, the peace agreement negotiated by the Catholic Church and the gangs in El Salvador does not look too different from the negotiations in Colombia.
On his first official trip to the United States since his 2011 election, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala is meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House today. According to a Peruvian government press release, Humala’s three-day visit is aimed at strengthening bilateral relations and mutual cooperation between the countries—particularly in the areas of education, capacity building, support to small businesses, and technology.
Humala will also hold private meetings with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Peruvian president is traveling with Foreign Minister Eva Rivas, Defense Minister Pedro Cateriano, and Foreign Trade and Tourism Minister José Luis Silva Martinot.
Humala is scheduled to give a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce later today. On Wednesday, he will travel to Boston to visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he will sign several cooperation agreements with the university.
Humala is the second Latin American president to visit the White House in a month, following Chilean President Sebastián Piñera’s visit on June 4. Obama and Piñera discussed opportunities for U.S.-Chile cooperation in areas such as economic growth and job creation, transparency, human rights, and the rule of law.
Obama also met recently with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and other regional leaders during his trip to Central America in early May. Read AQ’s exclusive interview with President Obama about his trip to Mexico and Costa Rica here.
In the first days of his last year as president, El Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes was forced to make some changes in the country’s security cabinet. Following a ruling by the Supreme Court declaring the former security and justice minister’s term unconstitutional, Funes selected Ricardo Perdomo as the new security and justice minister.
Perdomo, a civilian who was the former director of the State Intelligence Agency, is a politically-savvy and experienced professional with a lot of political experience. In his first week, Perdomo fired the director of the penitentiary system, and the vice minister of security resigned precipitously.
It’s unclear what Perdomo’s tenure will represent for El Salvador’s unprecedented gang truce, which has helped reduce homicide rates significantly but left extortion rates barely altered. What is clear is that the discourse, at least, seems more coherent now that the security cabinet is led by Perdomo.
In the mix of resignations, police commissioner reassignments, new appointments and a waning presidency, Funes seems to be making a last effort to tackle the country’s insecurity. On June 6, Funes and Perdomo announced the creation of a new anti-extortion unit. The specialized unit will be comprised of 500 police officers and 500 military personnel and will be specially trained and equipped to reduce extortions.
Top stories this week are likely to include: Venezuela’s CNE confirms April’s presidential election results; President Humala arrives in the United States; U.S. senators visit Guantánamo prison; Brazil’s FUNAI director resigns amid Indigenous protests; Nicaraguan Congress expected to vote on building a canal.
Venezuelan Audit Backs April Election Results: Venezuela's Consejo Nacional Electoral (National Electoral Council—CNE) confirmed the victory of Nicolás Maduro in the country's tightly-contested April 14 presidential election. A CNE official on Sunday reported that Maduro beat rival Henrique Capriles by a narrow 1.5 percent of the vote. Capriles, whose request for a full recount of the results was denied, called the audit a farce and has challenged the election results at the Supreme Court. An official report of the audit results is expected to become available sometime this week.
Humala Visits Washington, Massachusetts: Peruvian President Ollanta Humala begins a three-day visit to the United States on Monday. He will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday, as well as Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other U.S. officials and political leaders. Along with Humala’s trip to Washington, he’ll also travel to Massachusetts to visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This will be Humala's first official visit to Washington since he became president of Peru two years ago.
U.S. Senators Visit Guantánamo: U.S. Senators John McCain of Arizona and Dianne Feinstein of California reiterated the need to close the Guantánamo Bay detention center in Cuba after the two made a surprise visit to the facility on Friday with President Barack Obama's chief of staff, Denis McDonough. The visit by McDonough was the first by an administration official since 2009. Currently, 104 of the 166 prison inmates are participating in a hunger strike to protest conditions and what they say are invasive searches by prison guards. Forty-one prisoners are currently being force-fed, according to military authorities. On Friday, McCain and Feinstein said prisoners were being treated in a "safe and respectful" way.
Brazil FUNAI Director Steps Down amid Indigenous Protests: Marta Azevedo, the president of Brazil's Fundação Nacional do Índio (National Indian Foundation—FUNAI) announced her resignation on Friday, citing health problems. Violent protests have erupted in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul over a dispute between Indigenous groups and landowners in which one person has already been killed. Last Thursday, 200 protesters demonstrated in Brasilia to call for a return of Indigenous ancestral lands, while landowners told the government that they expect to be paid at least $1 billion reais to leave the area. Brazilian troops were sent to the site of the dispute last week.
Nicaragua to Debate Alternative Canal: Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega hopes to gain congressional support this week for a canal that would connect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans through a canal in Nicaragua. The project, in which the Nicaraguan government would partner with Chinese company HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment co. Ltd., would take approximately 11 years to build and is expected to cost $40 billion. The government would grant the Chinese company a concession for 100 years to run the canal. The proposed canal in Nicaragua would be three times longer than the Panama Canal, which is currently being expanded and is expected to be completed next year.
In recent months, Brazil has been portrayed increasingly as a beacon of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals in Latin America. It received international praise after the Conselho Nacional de Justiça (National Council of Justice—CNJ) released a decision ordering the legalization of same-sex marriage across the country. Soon after, it garnered worldwide attention when it hosted the 17th LGBT pride parade in São Paulo, widely considered to be the world’s largest.
Yet in striking similarity to Carnaval, lavish pride celebrations in Brazil have come to mask a far deeper and more complex history of violence and oppression.
In a milestone event that garnered far less media attention than those mentioned above, LGBTI activists gathered last month with a group of progressive lawmakers at the 10th National LGBT Seminar to discuss their most pressing needs. Their main concerns included increasing rates of violence and a rise in “fundamentalism and religious intolerance” that has begun to seriously threaten their already limited rights.
Specifically, they have come under attack following the election of Federal Deputy Pastor Marco Feliciano (Partido Social Cristão-São Paulo) to preside over the Chamber of Deputies’ Comissão de Direitos Humanos e Minorias (Committee on Human Rights and Minorities—CDHM). A staunchly anti-gay social conservative, Feliciano has made inflammatory statements, including a claim that “AIDS is the gay cancer,” and that Afro-Brazilians are cursed by their ethnic heritage.
Representatives from Brazil, Mexico and the United States will join the four existing members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), following their election Thursday during the 43rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS).
Dr. José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez of Mexico was re-elected in the first round of voting with 22 votes, and will be joined by Stanford law professor and U.S. candidate James L. Cavallaro, who won 20 votes. Cavallaro will serve for four years before being eligible to seek a one-off re-election.
Receiving 18 votes each in the first round, Paulo de Tarso Vannuchi from Brazil and Colombia’s Dr. Rodrigo Escobar Gil faced a second round run-off, which the Brazilian won with 19 votes to Escobar Gil’s15 votes. Also defeated was Ecuadorian candidate Dr. Erick Roberts Garcés, whose ties to the Ecuadorian government and outspoken criticism of the IACHR likely affected his popularity. Roberts Garcés narrowly missed out on the run-off, with 17 votes in the first round.
Ecuadorian Minister of Defense María Fernanda Espinosa and her Brazilian counterpart, Celso Amorim, expressed their “concern” over Colombia’s ongoing discussions with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during a press conference yesterday in Quito, Ecuador.
The defense ministers’ reaction came in response to a series of statements by the Colombian government over the past week regarding the country’s intention to pursue a closer relationship with NATO, which originally began with President Juan Manuel Santos saying last weekend that Colombia was “to start a process of rapprochement and cooperation” with NATO. Juan Carlos Pinzón, Colombia’s defense minister, later clarified that although the country would extend its “cooperation” with NATO, he ruled out the possibility of membership in the alliance. Instead, he explained that the government’s goal is to cooperate as a partner similar to the relationship that Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and other countries have with NATO. Those countries’ efforts are centered on areas such as terrorism, military training, conflict management, disaster relief, and intelligence.
A NATO official also clarified that Colombia does not meet the geographic qualifications for NATO membership since the alliance is only “open to states in the North Atlantic area.”
Still, the flurry of statements has provoked strong opposition from Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua. Bolivian President Evo Morales asked that Alí Rodríguez, secretary general of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), convene an emergency meeting. Colombia is a member of UNASUR.
Mexico and China have often seen each other as rivals as they compete for market share in the United States. However, this perception is outdated. Both countries’ economies have undergone transformations and now have the potential to play complementary roles. This was on full display this week when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Mexico and came away with stronger bilateral cooperation on a range of issues.
Still, mutually perceived rivalry remains a challenge for cooperation in other areas. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Cancún, Mexico, where resistance to the construction of the commercial complex known as “Dragon Mart” has flared. Dragon Mart is a joint venture between Mexican businessmen, Chengkai Investment Company, and the Chinamex Middle East Investment and Trade Promotion Centre—a business promotion company under the supervision of China’s Ministry of Commerce. The Dragon Mart complex will function as an exhibition center featuring Chinese products and goods from other countries, including Mexico. According to the Chinese media, the project represents a $1.54 billion investment.
Promoters of Dragon Mart have stated that the complex will add 8,550 jobs, but it offers even farther-reaching benefits as it can serve as a point of communication for Chinese and Mexican governments and private enterprises.
Mexican manufacturers have overlooked the fact that Dragon Mart would draw Chinese business at a point when Mexico’s capabilities to export high-value-added goods, such as telecommunications equipment and automobiles, have taken off.
The project’s critics have claimed that Dragon Mart would ease the flow of inexpensive Chinese imports into Latin America, the Caribbean and North American markets. Negative reactions from domestic producers have contributed to local authorities’ recent decision to deny the project’s license, which is likely to cause further delays in construction.
The General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) comes to a close today in Antigua, Guatemala, with a vote for three new members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) scheduled for this afternoon. The elections, which will take place during the 3:00 p.m. (CST)/5:00 p.m. (EDT) plenary session, will replace three of the seven commission members from a pool of six candidates—each representing a different member nation.
The IACHR vote comes at a moment when several member states are calling for reform of the Inter-American System of Human Rights, putting the future of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in jeopardy. The most vigorous criticism has come from members of Alianza Bolivariana de los Pueblos de Nuestra America (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas—ALBA), which includes Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In 2012, the bloc initiated the discussion of a series of reforms that would drastically limit the role of the IACHR and bar the commission from seeking extra-regional financial support. Debate on the reforms has been set aside for now, but it remains on the agenda.
In the meantime, the General Assembly will consider candidates to the IACHR from Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Brazil and the United States.
Erick Roberts Garcés, from Ecuador, recently served as director of human rights for Ecuador’s Attorney General’s Office. Roberts’ close ties to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s administration—as well and his outspoken criticism of the IACHR—have raised questions about Roberts’ impartiality and sparked concern that, if elected, he could threaten the commission’s independence and use his position to push forward reforms that Ecuador supports.
Yesterday U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chilean counterpart, Sebastian Piñera, met at the White House to discuss economic development, trade and their commitment to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a free trade agreement being negotiated among 11 Pacific Rim countries. This was President Piñera’s first official visit to the White House.
Both heads of state were hopeful that the trade agreement would be finalized prior to the October Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Indonesia. Issues have yet to be resolved in areas such as labor, the environment and intellectual property, but negotiations are accelerating.
TPP negotiations are being held among Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam. All 11 countries are also members of APEC, and have a combined GDP of $21 trillion, about 30 percent of global GDP. Japan has also been invited to join the group.
The U.S. and Chile already have strong trade ties. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. had a surplus of $9.4 billion in its trade in goods with Chile last year, an increase of 36 percent from 2011. Chile has trade deals with 62 countries and its economy is projected to expand by 4.9 percent this year, the second fastest pace in Latin America after Peru.
TPP talks will also be on the agenda when Peruvian President Ollanta Humala visits the White House on June 11. Beyond TPP, the two leaders are expected to discuss cooperation on education, energy and climate change, science and technology, and the bilateral trade relationship.
It was 45 years ago today that Robert F. Kennedy was fatally shot on June 5, 1968, just after winning the California presidential primary against fellow Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy. Over the years, we like to remind ourselves of what could have been, had he lived. Perhaps, in this turbulent world, we might do well to recall who he was and how he inspired a generation.
Bobby Kennedy was taught from a very young age about the importance of service, and chose a life very much in the service of making his brother, John, the president of the United States. During his brother’s administration, he served as attorney general and acted as President Kennedy’s leading confidante on a host of issues and crises. Historical accounts of Bobby Kennedy’s role in combating organized crime, pushing for civil rights and being instrumental in ending the potential nuclear confrontation during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 have now become the stuff of legends.
Despite those achievements, I prefer to recall the Bobby Kennedy who grew before our very eyes as he assumed the mantle of his brother’s legacy after 1963, and how, in his own right, he was able to carve out his personal identity through the power of words and his active engagement in social causes. Who can forget the comforting and unifying words of Bobby Kennedy the night Martin Luther King, Jr. died? How about his active support for César Chavez during the latter’s hunger strike on behalf of Latino farm workers? And who can forget his visit to South Africa and his condemnation of apartheid before white university students. when he stated, “Suppose God is black?”
El control de la función pública es una tarea molesta, pero necesaria en toda democracia. Muchos gobiernos que han discrepado de las decisiones de órganos de control han encontrado dos maneras para eliminar dicho control. Una de ellas es oponerse públicamente a las decisiones o incluso alterar las competencias del órgano que las emite. La otra es tomarse el órgano, garantizando que quienes lo integren decidan en favor a sus intereses, o que sean tan incompetentes que el órgano o tribunal pierda cualquier relevancia.
Varios gobiernos de la región usan actualmente ambas vías para limitar a la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH). Llevan más de dos años en un proceso para reformar sus competencias en donde no han alcanzado todo lo que se han propuesto, pero en donde no desfallecen.
Ahora, en la Asamblea General de la Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA) que se celebra esta semana en Antigua, Guatemala, se puso en marcha el plan B: la cooptación de la CIDH a partir de incluir figuras que garanticen que las decisiones estén en la línea de lo que esperan estos gobiernos.
La oportunidad está más que dada. De siete miembros que componen este órgano, tres serán elegidos en Guatemala. La punta de lanza de los países del grupo ALBA (Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América) es el abogado Erick Roberts Garcés, candidato de Ecuador, que ya ha recibido el apoyo público de Uruguay, y en privado se rumora el inminente apoyo de otro número de estados.
The 43rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States opened on Tuesday in Antigua, Guatemala, with the aim of producing “a comprehensive policy against the world drug problem in the Americas."
Guatemala has been at the vanguard of new thinking on the drug trade partly because it has few alternatives. The country is blighted by drug violence and losing control of its territory to organized criminal gangs that control drug shipping to North America and Europe. At the same time, its dangerously weak judicial infrastructure is powerless to stop them.
"We are opening the discussion (on drugs),” said Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina. “This had not been done before. We expect to get the positions of all the American countries."
When Pérez Molina called for the decriminalization of drugs and drug transport in February 2012, he sparked debate on the subject.
But Guatemala is not alone. Uruguay has gone a step further: last year, President José Mujica called for state control of the production and sale of cannabis. A draft bill on this proposal has divided politicians in Uruguay, but is currently working its way through Congress; although the vote was postponed when opinion polls revealed that the majority of Uruguayans were against the proposal.
There is growing support across the hemisphere for a more lax approach to the “War on Drugs,” started by U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1971 in an attempt to combat growing consumption in North America. Pérez Molina was backed by Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla in asking for more debates. Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos said he would favor decriminalization if other countries went first, and legislators in both Brazil and Argentina have debated decriminalizing the personal use of drugs.
Heads of state and foreign ministers from across the Western Hemisphere arrive in Antigua, Guatemala, today for the 43rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS). The three-day meeting will begin with an inaugural session at 6:00 pm (local time) this evening. The primary focus of the Assembly, as noted in the draft declaration, is to discuss effective solutions to the world drug problem and ways to devise a comprehensive and integrated approach to tackle this issue in the Americas.
According to Guatemalan Foreign Affairs Minister Fernando Carrera, consensus already exists among member states that the final declaration should include changes to the current anti-drug policy in the hemisphere. "We already have some ideas on how to change drug-fighting policies,” he said. On Monday, dozens of human rights organizations signed a letter asking leaders “to discuss and rethink the existing initiatives with a view to place human rights at the center of the debate."
The Assembly takes place two weeks after the OAS released a report that urges "assessing existing signals and trends that lean toward the decriminalization or legalization of the production, sale and use of marijuana.” Some member states have argued that the report fails to make specific proposals and reveals that there is no consensus among OAS member states to legalize cocaine, the illegal drug with the greatest impact on the region. According to OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, the Assembly will not approve the report, but will serve as “a platform for discussion and for reaching an agreement to see which agency will monitor the study."
On Thursday afternoon, during the meeting’s fourth plenary session, the Assembly will elect three new members to serve on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The six candidates to the Commission are José de Jesús Orozco (Mexico), Rodrigo Escobar Gil (Colombia), Javier de Belaúnde López de Romaña (Peru), Paulo Vannuchi (Brazil), Erick Roberts Garcés (Ecuador) and James Cavallaro (United States). The Assembly is also expected to discuss some of the controversial reforms to the IACHR being put forward by a group of member states led by Ecuador.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is leading the U.S. delegation. During his visit, Kerry will meet with Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina and hold bilateral talks with his regional counterparts. The U.S. delegation will also include R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta S. Jacobson; Assistant Secretary of State for Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William R. Brownfield; and U.S. Permanent Representative to the OAS Carmen Lomellin.
The latest twist to an ongoing case could see former Chilean president and current candidate Michelle Bachelet investigated by the public prosecutor—but has the media blown it out of proportion, and does the Chilean public care?
Santiago, Chile—When Socialist head of state Michelle Bachelet handed over Chile’s presidential sash to billionaire Sebastián Piñera on March 11, 2010, the halls of Congress literally shook as a tremor hit the port city of Valparaíso. The country was still reeling from one of its worst natural disasters in history—the 8.8-magnitude earthquake of February 27 and its resulting tsunami, which together left over 500 people dead or missing.
Three years on, as Bachelet vies once again for the nation’s highest office, the quake’s reverberations continue to be felt in Chilean politics as the judiciary attempts to establish culpability for the failed tsunami warning.
Despite being cleared of mismanagement by both police and public prosecutors, Bachelet has still not managed to rid herself of the legacy of “27/F,” as it has been dubbed by Chilean media—at least not in terms of judicial proceedings or newspaper columns.
In the latest twist to the saga earlier this month, Raúl Meza, a lawyer representing the families of tsunami victims, successfully used a quirk in Chilean law to bring charges against the former president.
With elections scheduled for November 17 and the country in full campaign mode, the Chilean press jumped on the story, the more sensationalist elements foreshadowing the spectacle of a presidential candidate being cross-examined before the court.
Top stories this week are likely to include: the OAS meets for the 43rd General Assembly in Antigua, Guatemala; Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Mexico and the United States; the U.S. Senate will soon debate immigration reform; the UK and Ecuador foreign ministers may meet to discuss Julian Assange; Indigenous settlers protest in Mato Grosso, Brazil.
OAS General Assembly in Antigua, Guatemala: The 43rd General Assembly of the Organization of Americas States (OAS) will be held this week in Antigua, Guatemala, with agenda items to include the future of the hemisphere’s fight against drug trafficking and the election of three new members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina and several other hemispheric Heads of State have proposed a discussion on revising the hemisphere’s policies against the criminalization of marijuana; an OAS report published in May described several scenarios for dealing with the drug trade, including legalization. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will represent the United States before the Assembly, which meets from June 4-6, with the IACHR election to be held during the afternoon plenary session on Thursday, June 6.
Chinese President Xi Jinping Visits the Hemisphere: Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to Mexico on Tuesday to discuss increasing trade ties between the two countries. China’s relationship with the previous Mexican administration was strained after then-President Felipe Calderón received the Dalai Lama in 2011. Mexico's new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, visited China in April in an effort to improve relations between the two countries. President Xi has also visited Trinidad and Tobago and Costa Rica, and will end his regional tour in the United States this weekend.
U.S. Senate to Debate Immigration Reform: U.S. Senator Charles Schumer predicted on Sunday that the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill will pass the Senate by July 4. The full Senate is expected to begin debating the reforms by June 10, with floor debate possibly beginning this week. The bill needs at least 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, but supporters of the bill are hoping to attract about 70 votes. Meanwhile, a group of legislators is working on its own bill in the House of Representatives, but has not yet formally introduced the legislation.
UK May Enter Talks with Ecuador over Julian Assange: Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño has asked to meet with British Foreign Secretary William Hague to discuss the future of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange when he visits London on June 16. Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June 2012. Assange faces extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges and fears that he will be extradited to the U.S. to face additional charges for the release of secret diplomatic cables.
Hundreds of Indigenous Brazilians Protest in Mato Grosso: Members of the Terena tribe seized a rural property in Mato Grosso state on Saturday that they say is part of their ancestral territory. Tribal members were forcibly evicted from the territory, known as “Sidrolândia,” on Thursday during a confrontation with police, and one member of the tribe was killed in the standoff. On Saturday, members of the tribe met with property owners and representatives from Brazil’s Conselho Nacional de Justiça (National Justice Council—CNJ) to reach an agreement over the conflict, but were not successful. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has said that reaching a solution is a priority for the Brazilian government.
La Televisión del Sur, o Telesur, nació en Venezuela como una utopía: un proyecto comunicacional que pudiera informar a América Latina desde sus entrañas, y disputar la sintonía a colosos como CNN o la BBC, en sus versiones hispanas. Sin pautas publicitarias, la apuesta del entonces presidente Hugo Chávez, sólo fue posible gracias al financiamiento petrolero. Con los años, el sueño tocó el techo de la realidad, y el canal se abrió como una vitrina política de la revolución. En una entrevista, su más alto directivo, Andrés Izarra, explicaría que "en Venezuela no estamos en situaciones normales, estamos en una guerra, por lo tanto los medios no podemos responder con los roles tradicionales.”
Y Venezuela no estaba en una situación normal. A finales de los años 90, las escuelas de periodismo del país enseñaban un hecho innegable: al tiempo que los actores políticos disminuían su efecto y presencia, los medios de comunicación entraban en acción para sustituirlos. En este escenario, nuevas generaciones de periodistas se fueron tallando. En breve, los medios y sus trabajadores comenzaron a robar protagonismo de las noticias.
Con ese contexto, no es de extrañar que, hace dos semanas, luego de que dirigentes de la oposición divulgaron un audio en el cual, Mario Silva, una de las voces más radicales del chavismo mediático, desentrañaba intrigas palaciegas—con todos los ingredientes para un best seller: corrupción, levantamientos militares y traiciones—el escándalo inicial de las denuncias fuese suplantado, en horas, por la expectativa que generó la caída del vocero y el destino de su programa de televisión.
La veracidad de la grabación aún no ha sido confirmada por expertos. Silva aseguró que se trataba de un montaje, y reclamó que altos funcionarios del chavismo denunciados en ella, como el presidente de la Asamblea Nacional, Diosdado Cabello, dieran una "aprobación tácita" a la misma. La Fiscalía General de la República abrió una investigación, no sobre el contenido, pero sí sobre su autenticidad. Hasta la fecha, la única consecuencia real de la revelación fue en las ondas: tras el escándalo, la directiva del canal estatal decidió poner fin a La Hojilla, el programa favorito del fallecido presidente Hugo Chávez, donde cada noche, Silva acuchillaba verbalmente a los adversarios del gobierno, adecuándose al rol extraordinario de los comunicadores, en estos tiempos extraordinarios que vive Venezuela.
After a busy two days in Rio de Janeiro, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden departed yesterday afternoon for Brasília, where he meets today with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Vice President Michel Temer. While Biden’s visit partly touched on issues of public security—he toured the Santa Marta favela, the first community in Rio to have an Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora (Police Pacification Unit—UPP) installed—his chief objective was to press for expanded bilateral trade and investment ties.
Biden’s message to Brazil: the world is rapidly liberalizing trade and opening markets, and it’s time to keep up. On Wednesday, he urged Brazilians to “resist the urge in difficult economic times for protectionism.”
U.S. companies complain that Brazil has set up excessive trade barriers, a complicated tax system, local content requirements that give preference to Brazilian industry, and inadequate intellectual property rights. But Brazilians counter that U.S. monetary policy makes Brazilian products more expensive overseas, and that U.S. subsidies to its own farming sector limit competition from Brazil’s strong agricultural economy.
Despite the disagreements, Americans and Brazilians can point to plenty of successful collaborations. Brazilian aerospace conglomerate Embraer won a U.S. Air Force contract for 20 aircraft, officially authorized in March, and is cooperating with U.S.-based Boeing to develop the KC-390 military jet. Boeing, for its part, is a finalist for a 36-aircraft, $4 billion contract by the Brazilian Air Force.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s vast pre-salt reserves, coupled with the United States’ own discovery and extraction of shale gas, make the two energy powerhouses natural partners. Brazil’s auction this month of 142 oil blocks—the first licensing in five years—brought in $1.4 billion from various buyers, including U.S. firms ExxonMobil and Chevron. The Brazilian government is even moving up the first auction date of the pre-salt reserves to October to cope with the demand.
On his second trip abroad since taking office, Chinese President Xi Jinping began his tour of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago today. He will also visit Costa Rica, Mexico and the United States as Vice President Biden finishes his own Latin American tour.
On this trip, the Chinese president will meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Mexico and China are the two biggest suppliers of manufactured goods to the United States. He is also expected to discuss oil exploration in Trinidad and Tobago and to open up talks with Central America, a region with which China has historically experienced diplomatic strain because most Central American countries maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
While China has increased its interest and trade presence in Latin America, Enrique Dussel, rector of the Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México, believes that the United States’ continued presence and renewed interest in Latin America will limit Chinese influence in the region and create a “triangular relationship.” At the same time, Francisco Nieto Guerrero, director of Georgetown University’s Americas Global Project, believes that the current Chinese administration is prioritizing partnerships with Africa and Latin America because “China sees a great potential for its raw materials and growing markets.” He says that China’s approach to Latin America is a “more ambitious and very pragmatic.”
Mr. Xi is expected to meet with President Barack Obama at the Sunnylands Estate in California from June 7 to 8.
Today, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera begins a week-long trip through through the hemisphere, making his first official visit to the United States since he took office in 2010. He will also travel to Canada, El Salvador and Panama.
Piñera’s visit comes as the Obama administration has displayed a more visible interest in boosting ties with Latin America. President Obama traveled to Mexico and Costa Rica in May and Vice President Joe Biden is currently in Brazil—the last leg of a trip that took him to Colombia and Trinidad and Tobago.
Piñera will kick off his trip in Ottawa, Canada where he will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and attend a day-long conference on technology and learning before heading to the United States on Saturday.
In the U.S., Piñera will meet with members of the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, Secretary of State John Kerry and other world leaders, including International Monetary Fund (IMF) Director Christine Lagarde and World Bank Director Jim Yong Kim.
Piñera will close his U.S. visit by meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday. The presidents will discuss their bilateral agendas and broach the possibility of relaxing or eliminating U.S. visa requirements for Chilean citizens. The presidents also plan to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a trade alliance between 11 Pacific Rim countries, including the U.S. and Chile.
After the U.S., Piñera will travel to El Salvador to meet with President Mauricio Funes and to Panama, where he will tour the renovations of the Panama Canal.
Vice President Joe Biden spent just under 24 hours in Trinidad and Tobago, where he sought to renew America’s bonds with the Caribbean through a small summit-like meeting with leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Dominican Republic. In that short period of time, it became apparent that the traditional dynamic that has characterized the relationship between the Caribbean and the United States may be coming to an end.
Perhaps this is due to the growing fiscal strength of a region, which currently sees economic growth rates that are twice that of Europe. Perhaps it is due to the increasing regional engagement of the world’s other great economic power, China. Whatever the reason, the archetypical “banana republic”-style heads of government that some in the U.S. may be accustomed to were not on hand during this meeting.
By all accounts, the dialogue held between Vice President Biden and the many Caribbean heads of government in attendance was bold, frank and—in the words of Trinidadian Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar—at times “brutal.”
The issues of rum subsidies and criminal deportations quickly rose to the top of the agenda. Caribbean leaders are insistent that the subsidies offered by the U.S. government to rum producers in their Caribbean territories is having a substantial negative impact on the trade economies of the rest of the Caribbean. Regarding criminal deportation, the complaint is that non-American citizens who are sentenced to more than one year in a U.S. prison are subsequently deported back to their country of origin upon their release. Yet, the receiving government is often prevented from getting information from the federal or state governments about the deportee’s offense.