A new Brazilian law that aims to curb cyber crime will go into effect in April, as announced on Tuesday. The law, passed last year, will make cyber crimes a criminal offense with jail sentences ranging from three months to two years.
Brazil is the world’s fourth largest source of phishing, which cost local banks $700 million in 2012. Given the growth of cyber crime, there is concern that the jail sentences will not be severe enough to deter criminals who openly trade stolen information online. Limor Kessem, an expert at the leading international security firm RSA, predicts that the law will not have an effect on the level of crime until criminals start seeing their counterparts arrested and imprisoned.
Although Brazil is still considered an emerging market, 48 percent of Brazilians connect to the Internet and use online banking at a comparable rate to more developed nations. The seventh-largest economy in the world has a growing middle class—53 percent of the total population—that has propelled online banking and commerce into the mainstream. But the growth of the middle class and the resulting spike in Internet connectivity have made the country an attractive target for phishing and malware.
As Brazilian banks and businesses strengthen security measures and the government targets the hackers behind these schemes, experts fear that offenders will simply change their focus to other countries. The lack of a regional authority will make it easier to target other emerging Latin American markets as their banks and commerce become increasingly digitized. According to a recent report by the São Paulo based security company Kaspersky Lab, the lack of intraregional cooperation and legal obstacles “means that unfortunately, cyber criminals will enjoy easy money and impunity for some time."
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez remains in a Caracas military hospital, prompting continued speculation in Venezuela and abroad about eventual succession and concerns over political stability—as well as uncertainty about who is in charge.
The president’s uncertain situation comes at a time of significant social and economic difficulty in Venezuela. The government’s announcement on February 2 of a 32 percent currency devaluation and the elimination of the bond-exchange market rate is likely to generate further inflationary pressures and shortages of essential goods. Meanwhile, the opposition is trying to build political capital over growing popular discontent against the devaluation, which will affect the purchasing capacity of Venezuelans.
If Chávez dies—whether in the first four years of his term or the last two—Venezuela’s weak political institutions will be gravely tested. Here are the guidelines set out in Venezuela’s 1999 Constitution should any of the following three scenarios take place:
If Chávez regains his health: Taking the government’s official announcements at face value, Chávez could recover his health and continue as president. Pending any new health-related developments, this would mean less in terms of political instability, but Chávez’ idiosyncratic rule and mismanagement of the economy could pose formidable problems for Venezuela in the long run.
If Chávez passes away or becomes incapacitated in the last two years of his six-year term: Under this scenario, Venezuelan Vice-President Nicolás Maduro would finish out the remainder of the presidential term before new elections are called.
If Chávez passes away or becomes incapacitated in the first four years of the six-year constitutional term: Vice-President Maduro would replace Chávez until the Consejo Nacional Electoral (National Electoral Council –CNE) calls for a new election within 30 days.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed major education reforms into law on Monday, limiting the power of the teachers’ union. By modifying two articles of the constitution, the overhaul allows the government to hire and fire teachers, and aims to gather reliable data on schools, teachers and students in Mexico’s education system, which serves an estimated 35.5 million children. Monday “begins an education transformation Mexican society longs for,” the president said during a ceremony at the National Palace in the capital.
Mexico’s 1.4 million-strong teachers’ union (SNTE)—the largest in Latin America—staged nationwide strikes to oppose some of the proposed reforms, fearing they could result in massive layoffs. The union "cannot support a measure that threatens our job security," said Elba Esther Gordillo, who has led the union for the past 23 years. Still, with Mexico ranking last on test scores among OECD countries, President Peña Nieto considered taking on the unions necessary to achieving meaningful reform.
Bipartisan support of the reform renews hope that the president commands the political capital to pursue his ambitious reform agenda, which includes overhauls of the tax and energy systems. "This reform is the first great step to transform the education of our young. We are going to get Mexico moving," Mr. Peña Nieto said in a Twitter post, shortly after the education bill passed the Congress 360-51 last December.
With the election of a pro-sovereignty party in Québec last September, the questions about Québec’s future within the Canadian federation have once again surfaced. While there is no referendum about Québec’s future on the horizon—in part because the ruling Parti Québécois made only a vague commitment in last year’s election campaign to conduct such an exercise, and in part because the Parti Québécois forms a minority government in the National Assembly—it is appropriate to look at the workings of Canadian federalism and see how Québec has accommodated itself within the system.
It is useful to remember that all three countries in North America are federations: Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. All three federalist systems operate differently. There is not a “one size fits all” brand of federalism. In the last 50 years, all three federations have had their challenges. Regional tensions, jurisdictional battles and the aspirations of federated states like Québec have contributed to changes in how these federations operate. Of the three North American federations, Canada is the most decentralized—in fact, it is one of the most decentralized countries in the world.
Canada’s federation has a defined distribution of powers, some exclusive to each order of government—either federal or provincial—and some shared between the two. Economics, culture, immigration, and the environment are shared jurisdictions. All powers not enumerated in Canada’s federal constitution are relegated to the central government through what is called the residual clause.
Despite this more decentralized federation, disputes have periodically surfaced within Canada when central government policies affect provincial jurisdictions through federal spending power or the development of new programs. Since Canada’s creation as a federation in 1867, we have undergone periods of centralizing federal policies as well as periods of greater provincial autonomy. In Canada as in other federations, the Supreme Court has often been called to adjudicate these disputes. The federated state of Québec has been at the center of these conflicts more than any other, always arguing to protect existing powers or add new jurisdictions.
Top stories this week are likely to include: Cuba prepares for political successors in 2018; Venezuela’s opposition protests lack of information on Chávez; Tensions between Chile and Bolivia rise over Bolivian soldiers’ arrest; Oscar Arias visits Paraguay for OAS elections observations; and Cerrejón strike continues after explosives destroy trucks.
Raúl Castro Says he'll Step Down in 2018: On Sunday, Cuban President Raúl Castro told the Cuban National Assembly that he will step down at the end of his upcoming five-year term as president in 2018. Revolutionary icon Fidel Castro, whose public appearances are now rare, was present when his brother made the announcement putting an official end-date on an era of Castro rule that began in 1959. Raúl Castro then named Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermúdez, 52, his first vice-president. The younger Castro had indicated on Friday that he was thinking of retiring and might name a successor from among the next generation of Cuban politicians.
Venezuelan Opposition Demands Information as Chávez' Health Remains Uncertain: Hundreds of government opponents marched in Caracas on Saturday as part of the opposition’s new political offensive to protest the current political stasis in Venezuela as President Hugo Chávez remains out of sight in a military hospital. Since returning from Cuba on February 18, the Venezuelan government has shared limited information about the president’s cancer treatment and prognosis. On Friday, Venezuelan Vice-President Nicolás Maduro said that Chávez was “energetic” and had participated in a five-hour meeting with government leaders, though he acknowledged that the president can't speak because he is breathing through a tracheal tube. Meanwhile, Chávez supports held candlelit vigils outside the presidential palace to pray for the president’s recovery.
Hearing for Bolivian soldiers in Chile begins Monday: Three Bolivian soldiers arrested in Chile for crossing the border with weapons on January 25 will face a judicial hearing today in the northern Chilean city of Iquique to determine whether they'll remain in prison. The arrest of the soldiers has increased the diplomatic strain between Bolivia and Chile after Bolivia denounced Chile's actions via a letter to the UN on February 18. On Sunday, Bolivian President Evo Morales compared Chile’s imprisonment of the soldiers with Bolivia’s lost access to the Pacific Ocean since 1879, another source of recent tension. Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs Alfredo Moreno said that Bolivia is blocking a swift resolution to the soldiers’ cases.
Oscar Arias Visits Paraguay to Prepare for April Elections: Former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias is visiting Asunción, Paraguay, until February 27 as head of the Electoral Observation and Political Accompaniment Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS). The mission aims to facilitate and monitor Paraguay’s presidential elections on April 21 to ensure that they are free and fair. It will be setting up elections observers and meeting with members of the Paraguayan government for the next two months. A number of the country’s neighbors view Paraguayan President Federico Franco as illegitimate due to the controversial impeachment of his predecessor, former Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, in June 2012. Members of Mercosur and Unasur elected to suspend Paraguay from regional membership until the elections are held.
Explosives Destroy Trucks at Cerrejón while Mining Strike Continues: Unknown assailants detonated explosives at the Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia on Sunday as a strike that began on February 7 continued into its seventeenth day. Both Cerrejón and the leader of Sintracarbon, the coal miners' union, denounced the attack, which damaged four trucks but reportedly did not result in casualties. Cerrejón workers initially demanded a 7 percent pay raise, but they have since decreased that amount to 5.8 percent. According to the World Coal Association, Cerrejón’s coal accounted for 80 percent of Colombia’s coal exports last year. Union leader Igor Diaz said that the workers will meet with Cerrejón today to restart wage negotiations despite the attack.
Watch a recent AQ documentary on Cerrejón. http://www.americasquarterly.org/rio-rancheria-documentary
For generations, world leaders looked to the United States for consent before approaching Latin American leaders. U.S. presidents James Monroe and Teddy Roosevelt threatened to make war if external powers sought to interfere in Latin America—and European powers, for the most part, followed the script. The tradition continued after World War II and throughout the Cold War, but it changed the day Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011) became president of Brazil.
Disinterest, followed by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and financial troubles everywhere, further removed the U.S. from Latin American affairs at the beginning of this century. In a few short years, Silva managed to post the Brazilian colors atop the Latin America stage. Mexico made a similar run, but its internal struggle with organized crime, corruption, dysfunctional politics and constant disputes with the U.S. over a number of political issues limited its chances.
However, today is another day, and Mexico has yet another opportunity to enter the big leagues.
Unlike his predecessor Felipe Calderón, newly-minted Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has decided to place more emphasis on the economy and cross-party negotiation. His leads on international affairs, José Antonio Meade and Eduardo Medina Mora, are experienced practitioners who understand commerce, power, diplomatic speak and international trends. More importantly, these men have the ability to leverage Mexico’s existing relationship with the U.S. and its growing commercial relationship with Asia and Europe to project Mexico’s power and prestige.
Meade was named secretary of state when Peña Nieto assumed office as president. The lawyer and Yale-trained economist has held several positions in government since 1991 in which he developed and promoted national banking and savings policies at different commissions: his most recent public posts included secretary of energy and treasury under Calderón (2006-2012). Most notably, from 2011-2012, Meade coordinated G-20 financial policy when Mexico held the group´s presidency. He has been tested by public opinion and Congress, is well-versed in the Mexican economy and is popular in international circles.
Raúl Castro’s government faces a number of critical issues, including the deteriorating health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, the potential loss of his oil and Cubans' impatience with the government’s timid economic reforms. Who would have thought that a slight, humble woman of 37 years figured among them?
Yet the actions of the Cuban government and their sympathizers in Brazil have proved that despite looming economic and political problems, they clearly consider Yoani Sánchez one of their biggest challenges. The question is, why?
Despite the fact that Cuba has one of the lowest rates of access to the Internet in the world, Sánchez has a following of more than half a million outside Cuba. She is emblematic of a generation disaffected with the revolution and its legacy. She is not the only one. She is one of a whole group of bloggers, many of them women, who have taken to the Internet to complain about the daily indignities of living in Cuba today.
In spite of receiving awards for her journalism from Europe and the United States, the Cuban regime had consistently denied Sánchez the right to leave the island. But then this year, the Castro government instituted a new travel policy that grants to Cubans—with some exceptions—the right to travel out of the country (a right enjoyed by people in most countries). So far so good, right?
A few days ago, Yoani Sánchez arrived at her stop, Brazil. There her greeting party consisted of Cuban government-organized demonstrators that have—at almost every appearance—threatened her and tried to prevent her from speaking. It must have felt like home, since the use of government thugs to intimidate and physically threaten dissidents is a common occurrence in Cuba.
Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier snubbed a judge's order to attend a court hearing yesterday to determine if he will be indicted on human rights violations committed under his ruthless 15-year regime.
Reynold Georges, Duvalier's defense attorney and former senator, claimed that he filed an appeal of the judge's order and asserted that he was confident that the Supreme Court would overturn the decision to force Duvalier to appear in court as well as put a stop to accusations brought forth by countless victims of Duvalier's rule. Georges boasted, "We're waiting for the Supreme Court decision and we're going to win, I don't lose. I'm Haiti's Johnnie Cochran."
The victims' attorneys urged the judge to arrest the former leader for not being present in court. Judge Jean Joseph Lebrun of Haiti's Court of Appeals responded that Duvalier had no grounds to appeal to the Supreme Court at this juncture and demanded that the prosecutor bring the former leader to court "without delay." It was not clear whether there would be any consequences for not adhering to court orders.
Duvalier inherited power from his father, François "Papa Doc" Duvalier in 1971 and ruled Haiti until he was overthrown in 1986. Thousands of people were murdered or tortured in prison during this time. Duvalier made an unexpected return to his earthquake-stricken homeland in January 2011 after nearly 25 years in exile in France, opening himself up to possible prosecution. Duvalier was also charged with embezzling between $300 million and $800 million of assets during his presidency however a court dismissed the embezzlement charge, which would carry a maximum of five years in prison.
The human rights community is in an uproar. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay declared in Geneva that "the State has an obligation to ensure that there is no impunity for serious violations of human rights which occurred in the past."Pillay stressed that there are no statute of limitations of any kind in international law for grave violations of human rights which include murder, torture, extrajudicial executions, and enforced disappearances, among others.
This is not the first time Duvalier has skipped his court hearing. He has done so twice this year and continues to travel the country freely despite a court ruling placing him under house arrest.
Some version of immigration reform is almost certain to pass within the next year. President Obama, Republicans and Democrats alike are all strongly supportive of the idea and have each offered formidable, bipartisan proposals. If successful, this will be the first major change in U.S. immigration law since President Reagan’s signing of the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986.
But as we are presented with the rare opportunity to reform our system, we must ensure that we do so in a way that works for all, and that we continue our conversations after an agreement is reached. Doing so will mean accounting for the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people within comprehensive immigration reform and entering a discussion on the realities they face.
Leading up to the 2012 U.S. presidential elections, immigrant and LGBT activists made groundbreaking history. They joined forces and proved the effectiveness of intersectional advocacy. Together, they passed immigration and marriage equality measures in a number of states, and they ensured immigrant and LGBT rights remained a central focus within our national political discourse.
More importantly, they reminded us that these two groups are deeply tied to one another. Many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States identify as LGBT. Some of them are married to same-sex partners in states where they are legally permitted to do so, but are left “with the painful choice between staying with the person they love or staying in the country they love,” as stated by White House spokesperson Shin Inouye in a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
A delegation of U.S. lawmakers led by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) returned from Cuba on Wednesday without jailed USAID subcontractor Alan Gross. The seven-member delegation left for Cuba on Monday with the intent of freeing Gross, who was arrested in 2009 for bringing communications equipment as part of a "democracy-promotion program" and is currently serving a 15-year sentence.
The lawmakers-including Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) from Gross' district in Maryland-met with Gross in prison, though they did not comment on his condition. The delegation also met with President Raúl Castro for three hours, according to Cuban government sources. Sen. Leahy said afterward that he and Castro "discussed the continuing obstacles and the need to improve relations," adding that that a rapprochement "is in the interest of both countries." The group also met with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla and Parliament President Ricardo Alarcón.
Other delegation members included Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA). Cuban officials have made it clear that there will be no progress on freeing Gross until the Cuban agents imprisoned in the U.S. for treason, known as the "Cuban Five," are let go. Despite the political stalemate and the unmoving embargo, engagement between high-level government officials from both countries can create opportunities for changing otherwise static policy.
Las cifras policiales oficiales indican que durante los últimos meses la cantidad de asesinatos registrados en El Salvador ha disminuido en aproximadamente 50 por ciento. Esto es especialmente significativo considerando que un informe elaborado por Naciones Unidas, publicado el año pasado, ubica a dicho país como el segundo más violento del mundo. No obstante, atrás del aparente logro se identifican elementos que pronostican una crisis en el aparato de seguridad gubernamental del país centroamericano.
La reducción en homicidios antes mencionada se deriva de una brumosa iniciativa que implicó negociar el cese de hostilidades entre las principales pandillas rivales que operan en El Salvador, pacto desarrollado bajo condiciones desconocidas y mantenidas en total secreto por el Estado. El decremento, por lo tanto, no es el resultado del fortalecimiento del sistema de justicia penal o de la ejecución de una estrategia integral implementada para controlar la criminalidad, sino que está en función de la buena voluntad de las estructuras delictuales por mantener un acuerdo ajeno a la institucionalidad estatal.
Contrario a la interpretación ordinaria que provocaría una reducción tan acentuada en la incidencia de homicidios, la fuerza policial salvadoreña está en su peor momento. El Gobierno, en medio de una crisis fiscal, mantiene al personal policial trabajando en condiciones precarias, según consta en diferentes reportajes periodísticos publicados el año pasado, con equipo e instalaciones deterioradas. La falta de liquidez del Ejecutivo también lo ha llevado a retrasar varios meses el pago de los salarios complementarios devengados por policías, quienes denunciaron públicamente la situación a finales del 2012.
The most controversial outcome of last month’s second CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) summit in Santiago, following close on the heels of the first EU-CELAC meeting, was the decision in Santiago to appoint Cuban President Raúl Castro to the chairmanship of the 33-member regional body.
Castro, who will be splitting the two-year term with his Costa Rican counterpart, Laura Chinchilla, could not resist several pointed remarks aimed at the United States. He decried the presence of multinational companies in the region and the U.S.’ continued possession of Puerto Rico. The 81-year-old leader’s message was clear, however:
“We are building the ideal of a diverse Latin American and Caribbean region united in a common space of political independence and sovereignty over our enormous natural resources to advance toward sustainable development [and] regional integration,” Castro said.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos described Cuba’s leadership of CELAC as a “very significant political development with special symbolism.” Though absent from the summit, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez wrote in a letter that the act told “the U.S., with a single voice, that all the attempts to isolate Cuba have failed and will fail.”
Every February in both Canada and the United States, we celebrate Black History Month. Originally a one-week affair in the second week of February to celebrate the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, it is now a month-long series of festivities and activities to commemorate the contribution of African Americans and Black Canadians to North American society. This year, the celebrations coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech.
While serious issues and problems affecting African American communities remain, Barack Obama has just been reelected for a second term as president of the United States—not a small accomplishment. For those of us who cringe at the subtle and not so subtle racial overtones in the attacks against Obama (the birther issue is an illustration), we should take comfort in the fact that Obama is the first president since 1956 to receive more than 51 percent of the popular vote twice, and his party received over 1 million more votes than the Republicans in the congressional elections. Moreover, no one can deny the progress made in racial equality in the past few decades, especially since the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Already, some historians are questioning whether the progress of African Americans remains fundamentally cosmetic with Obama in the White House. After all, unemployment within black communities is way above the national average, poverty is at record levels, and gun violence is still at epidemic proportions. Yet, Obama carried the vote among African Americans at the level of 94 percent. Are African Americans just voting for one of their own and giving Obama a pass in terms of gains for their communities?
Bolivian President Evo Morales stopped in Caracas on Tuesday to visit President Hugo Chávez on route to New York City for the inauguration of the International Year of Quinoa. President Morales was greeted at the international airport by Venezuelan Foreign Vice-Minister Temir Porras, but members of the Foreign Ministry declined to comment on his agenda while in the country. The ailing president ,who had been in Cuba since his latest cancer operation last December, returned to Venezuela early Monday morning and is continuing cancer treatment at the military hospital in the country’s capital.
President Chávez announced his return via his Twitter account—which had been inactive since the beginning of November—just three days after the government released pictures of him with his daughters at a Cuban hospital. The pictures and tweets came after 67 days of silence, in which the President was shielded from the public. Despite his return, it is unlikely that the nation will hear from him soon. While Information Minister Ernesto Villegas reports that he is “conscious, with his intellectual functions intact,” he also admits that the president is breathing through a tracheal tube which makes it difficult to speak.
Speculation surrounds Chávez’ surprise return, but many believe it was meant to silence the opposition leaders who maintain that the executive is unable to run the country due to his poor health. Because the Supreme Court ruled in favor of extending the timeline for his inauguration indefinitely, he is expected to take the oath of office for his fourth term now that he is back in Venezuela. Despite this extension, Venezuela could be facing another election soon. Although he has not personally treated Chávez, Dr. Carlos Castro, the scientific director of the Colombian League against Cancer in Bogota, believes that the president’s unspecified cancer is incurable and expects the executive to have to step down due to the severity of his condition. The Venezuelan Constitution requires that a new vote be held within 30 days of a president dying or stepping down.
El Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Penal, organización civil radicada en México, dio a conocer recientemente los resultados de su investigación “Las 50 Ciudades más Peligrosas del Mundo." El estudio calcula el promedio de homicidios entre la población total de cada ciudad, y persigue un fin mucho más que académico. De acuerdo con el Consejo Ciudadano, “lo que perseguimos es contribuir al reclamo que los diferentes pueblos del mundo hacen a sus gobernantes para que cumplan con su obligación de proteger los derechos de los individuos a la vida, la propiedad y la libertad.” Los resultados del estudio no deberían sorprendernos. Sin embargo, arrojan indicios de variables que hasta el momento, al menos en Centroamérica, no se daban a conocer.
Dentro de las 50 ciudades más violentas del mundo figuran 39 ciudades latinoamericanas—sin contar el Caribe. El resto se encuentra en Sudáfrica o Estados Unidos. San Pedro Sula, Honduras ocupa el primer lugar, llevándose el indecoroso reconocimiento como la ciudad más peligrosa del mundo. En cuarto lugar figura Tegucigalpa, Honduras, seguida de Ciudad de Guatemala, en doceavo lugar, y San Salvador en el puesto 44 detrás de ciudades como Baltimore, Nueva Orleans, Oakland y Detroit en los Estados Unidos.
Pero, ¿de qué sirven los rankings de este tipo? Los centroamericanos conocen de primera mano los retos a la seguridad ciudadana que afrontamos, pero información como ésta aporta lecciones valiosas que no podemos ignorar.
Renowned Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez began an 80-day international tour on Monday, after receiving her passport with the relaxation of travel restrictions that eliminated exit visas for Cuban citizens. Sánchez arrived in the Brazilian coastal city of Recife for a screening of Conexión Cuba Honduras (Cuba-Honduras Connection), a documentary featuring her life and work directed by filmmaker Dado Galvao who begun the fundraising campaign to fly Sánchez to Brazil.
Despite overwhelming support from bloggers and local activists, Sánchez’ visit encountered some resistance as a group of protesters backing the Cuban government blocked the screening of the film and called her a “mercenary.” Sánchez expressed her disappointment, but acknowledged that she was expecting the situation.
After her visit to Brazil, Sánchez will attend the Inter-American Press Association’s (IAPA) conference in Puebla, México, where she will present her first report as vice chair for Cuba in IAPA’s Press Freedom Committee. She will later travel to the U.S. in March to participate in “The Revolution Recodified”, a symposium on digital culture and the public sphere in Cuba that will take place in New York City between March 15-17. Sánchez is also expected to travel to Washington DC and Miami, followed by trips to the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Peru, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
After five decades of restricted travel for Cuban citizens, Sánchez’ trip is seen as a test for the new Cuban law. Still she noted that it “seems like the reform we dream of, that of freedom of association and expression is still far away.”
Earlier this week in Brazil, the price of ethanol rose above the price of sugar for the first time in nearly two years. What does this mean? Sugar mills, which dot Brazil’s landscape, will now opt to produce ethanol rather than sugar. This is a key development in a country that has been a leader in sugarcane ethanol for the past 40 years.
Since the 1970s, Brazil has led the way in producing alternative liquids as a part of the country’s energy matrix. Indeed, in 1975, Brazil initiated a gasoline substitution program called Pró-Álcool (The National Alcohol Program), which was developed in response to the world oil crisis at the time. Brazil could pivot its extensive sugar supply to produce ethanol, which could be used as an automotive fuel instead of relying on fossil fuels—which fluctuated in price—in large part due to the vagaries of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
This approach resulted in a win-win: Brazil became the world’s second-largest producer of ethanol fuel and, until 2010, was the world’s largest exporter. The Brazilian government subsidized production of ethanol, mandated that fueling stations offer ethanol in addition to gasoline, and provided incentives to build cars that ran on ethanol alone. Later, Brazilian automakers began producing “flex-fuel” automobiles that gave drivers the option to fill up their tank with either pure ethanol, or an ethanol/gasoline blend, depending on what was cheaper on that particular day.
Voters in Ecuador on Sunday will decide whether to give President Rafael Correa of the PAIS Alliance (Alianza Patria Altiva y Soberana - Alianza PAIS) another term on Sunday, with the latest opinion polls giving him a 40 percentage point lead over his opponents for the presidential election. Of his seven challengers, Correa’s closest opponent is Guillermo Lasso Mendoza from the 21 Believe (21 CREO) political party. Lasso Mendoza is a former executive of Banco de Guayaquil and has promised to lower taxes on job creation and abolish a 5 percent tax on capital that has discouraged foreign investments and weakened the banks.
Correa’s 56 percent approval rating can be attributed to policies such as low-interest rates for first-time homeowners, free school supplies and uniforms for children, medical care at public hospitals for the poor, and welfare compensation reaching nearly 1 in five Ecuadoreans—or 1.9 million people including single mothers, the elderly and low-income families. They receive $50 a month from the state, which is largely possible due to the nation’s oil wealth.
Since Correa assumed office in 2007 the unemployment rate dropped from 9.82 to 4.71 percent and the economy has had robust performance, with 5.6 percent GDP growth last year While lower-income populations have benefited from increased social programs, journalists have faced criminal charges under Correa. A number of state news media have fallen under his leadership which now includes five television stations, four radio stations, two newspapers, and four magazines--up from one radio station previously. The Indigenous community has also protested against the government’s failure to consult with native people over water rights and its insistence on paving the way for large-scale precious metals mining.
To win the Presidential election on Sunday, Correa needs at least half the valid votes cast or 40 percent of the vote, plus a 10 percentage-point lead over the second-place candidate to be elected in the first round. If no candidate receives the requisite number of votes, a second-round election will be held April 7 between the top two candidates. The National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral) will publish partial voting results after polls close on February 17.
Peace talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government are slowly progressing in Havana, Cuba, despite renewed violence and generally low expectations. Land reform continues to be a contentious area and just last month the FARC unveiled a 10-point communiqué outlining its requests. While the plan failed to explicitly mention the 4 to 5 million citizens currently displaced due to the conflict, successful peace talks could create new opportunities for these Colombians to return to their land.
The multiple perpetrators in Colombia’s armed conflict mean that a peace treaty with only one group (the FARC in this case) will not provide a complete solution. The FARC and the paramilitaries (the largest and most organized adversaries for much of the conflict) each displaced millions of civilians from some 7 million total hectares of land. Although estimates vary, by all counts the paramilitaries displaced as many individuals as the FARC and perhaps even twice the amount. Drug traffickers and organized criminal groups like the new bandas criminales (BACRIM) have also followed suit, ousting a good portion of 2011’s estimated 200,000 displaced persons, according to the Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (CODHES).
The first step to reversing the displacement is providing basic security, particularly in the areas most affected by the conflict (Caqueta, Putamayo, Valle del Cauca, among others). Here the FARC peace agreement would begin this process, but comprehensive disarmament, demobilization and reintegration is critical.
After the Venezuelan government announced its intention to devalue its bolívar currency late last week, the 32-percent shift in its exchange rate—from 4.3 to 6.3 bolívars to the dollar—went into effect yesterday. It is Venezuela’s fifth devaluation in nine years; the previous devaluation occurred in January 2010.
Yesterday, the bolívar reached its lowest value, having declined 18 percent in unregulated black-market trading since last week’s announcement. As roughly 70 percent of products consumed in Venezuela are imported, following last week’s announcement many Venezuelans lined up to purchase electronic appliances and airline tickets in order to protect themselves from the price increases that went into effect yesterday.
On the black market, bolivars are being traded for more than three times the new official rate, with dollars selling for over 20 bolívars this week. Despite sitting on the world’s largest petroleum reserves, Venezuela’s economy faces an inflation rate of 22 percent—which yesterday’s devaluation was intended to curb. Yesterday’s economic measures also included the elimination SITME—the Spanish acronym for a state-owned bond trading system that sold dollars at a second-tier rate—and that the government is still exploring alternative measures to obtain dollars in SITME’s stead.
At issue is the Venezuelan government’s struggle to meet heavy demand by importers for dollars. Vice President Nicolás Maduro has said that the government can meet such demands by way of its oil profits—a notion that is doubted by experts such as Universidad Central de Venezuela economics professor José Guerra.
Alberto Ramos, an economist at Goldman Sachs, believes that this “devaluation was long overdue, as since the last devaluation headline inflation rose by 98 percent.” Conversely, former Venezuelan Industry and Trade Minister and current AQ editorial board member Moisés Naím sharply criticized the move as “desperate.”
President Obama’s Inaugural Address and State of the Union speech have one thing in common. The emphasis is on jobs and America is changing. Its demographics clearly showed that the electoral map favors the party that is more attuned to minorities, women’s rights and the youth. Its social fabric is being tested regarding gay marriage, gun control restrictions and the possible legalization of marijuana. The economic picture is transforming itself as the U.S. sees energy self sufficiency on the horizon as it actively searches for expanded markets for exporting its goods. Finally, the interminable debate around the debt and annual deficits will go a long way in defining the role of government for future generations.
Canadians observe the U.S. political landscape with interest, and sometimes, with bewilderment. They see the Democrat and Republican parties stuck in political gridlock, and conclude that America still holds to a status quo that is out of tune with new realities. Yet, this is far from accurate, suffice it to say that America has made great strides in many areas that affect our lives north of the border. We must take note.
Canada and the United States form the largest commercial partnership on the planet. And while trade flows have generally stagnated in the decade since 9/11, Canada still sends more exports to the U.S. than any other country (over 70 percent). My home province of Québec sent 68 percent of its exports to the U.S. in 2011; in the state of New York alone, we exported $7 billion of goods compared to $2.4 billion in China, $1.5 billion to Germany and $1.4 billion to France.
On a night where President Barack Obama addressed government investments, gun control and a drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, the need to overhaul the U.S. immigration system commanded five paragraphs in Tuesday’s State of the Union speech. The President said it is his responsibility to work toward a government that “encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation of ours.”
The President seized on his first State of the Union since winning reelection to reiterate the details of his immigration reform plan, following broader remarks given two weeks ago in Las Vegas. While he focused on creating a pathway to citizenship for the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S., the President also conceded that increased enforcement must be part of the compromise to get legislation through congress. “Real reform,” the President stated, “means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my administration's already made, putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years. “
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who was a last-minute addition to the bipartisan Gang of Eight, also addressed immigration—in English and Spanish—in his Republican rebuttal immediately following the president’s speech. “We can also help our economy grow if we have a legal immigration system that allows us to attract and assimilate the world’s best and brightest. We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally. But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws.”
While Senator Rubio has pledged his support for immigration reform, including a pathway citizenship, some of his key Republican colleagues have voiced strong opposition against any kind of reform. Still, the majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented according to a Quinnipiac University survey, giving President Obama critical momentum heading into his second term.
This week’s announcement that Pope Benedict XVI has resigned and will relinquish his official papal duties at the end of the month has brought into relief the important role of the Catholic Church in Latin America, and the important role of Latin America in the Catholic Church. Home to over 40 percent of the world’s Catholics, some Latin Americans are suggesting that the next Pope to be elected should—for the first time in history—come from outside Europe and, specifically, that he should come from Latin America.
Whatever the merits arguing in favor of a geographic approach to Church leadership, the discussion highlights an important point: increasingly, the vibrancy of the Catholic Church is coming not from its traditional base in Europe and North America, but from developing regions of the world.
Much as a shift in broader global governance is underway, with power diversifying from north to south, this pattern is being repeated in the religious sphere as well—not just in the Catholic Church, but even more so in Protestant evangelical churches.
For years, the growing influence of evangelicals across Latin America has been noted by observers. Adherents have multiplied dramatically, building on a base established primarily but not exclusively from North American missionaries working within the region. But the pattern of evangelization is rapidly changing. In fact, according to Dr. Rodolfo Girón, for many years a pioneer in Latin American missions, the mentality of Latin American evangelical churches is changing from being receivers of missionaries to being senders of missionaries.
No sooner had Cuban President Raúl Castro returned to Havana from Chile, where he was sworn in as the new president of the Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States—CELAC), than Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders—RSF) repeated his own words back to him. The French-based NGO released a letter Monday urging the Cuban leader to release journalists currently held in Cuban prisons and called on Castro to reject, in Cuba, the “aggression, threats and use of force” he mentioned during his CELAC acceptance speech.
During the CELAC summit, Castro had said he had “total respect for international law and the United Nations Charter.” In response, RSF requested “that these undertakings quickly be given concrete expression in your own country.”
RSF applauded Cuba’s migration law reforms, which took effect on January 14. “It means that Cubans who want to travel abroad no longer need an exit permit and are guaranteed the right to return,” the group said, though they demanded that the new reforms be applied to all citizens without distinction, including dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez, who recently obtained a passport. RSF said that Sánchez “must be allowed to return at the end of the regional trip she plans to begin soon.”
“The door should also be open for all the journalists and dissidents who want to come back after being forced into exile, and for all those in Cuba who would now like to travel,” RSF said.
In 2009, in his first State of the Union speech, President Obama did not even mention immigration. Last year, the president was bold in his call for action for the DREAMers.
On Tuesday night, he dedicated five paragraphs to immigration reform and called for not only comprehensive immigration reform but also for “establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship.” He made his case for reform with the roar of sustained, thunderous applause echoing throughout the House chamber, with Vice President Biden on his feet and Speaker Boehner also clapping in agreement.
The president made his case for immigration reform within the context of what needs to be done to make our economy stronger.
On both sides of the aisle, it has become increasingly clear that we need immigrants for our global competitiveness. Immigrants are more likely to start small businesses than their U.S.-born counterparts and their labor often creates jobs for U.S.-born workers across the American economy. As baby boomers retire, immigrants are the ones who will buy their homes, fill the jobs they leave and provide for their health care. One-quarter of all high-tech firms were founded by immigrants.
Pope Benedict’s resignation on Monday took the world by surprise, and brought hope to Latin America—home of 42 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics—that the next leader of the Catholic Church could be the first to come from outside of Europe.
According to two senior Vatican officials, Latin America’s time has come. Archbishop Gerhard Muellet told Düsseldorf’s Rheinische Post newspaper that ”Christianity isn't centered on Europe,” and on a similar statement, Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch stated that the Church's future is no longer in Europe. For others, however, the higher number of European Cardinals may shift the odds against a Latin American Pope.
All Cardinals less than 80 years old are candidates and can vote to choose the new Pope at a conclave, a closed-door election process that takes place in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. The leading Latin American candidates in the next conclave are Odilo Scherer, 63, archbishop of Sao Paolo, and the Italian-Argentine Leonardo Sandri, 69, who announced to the world the death of Pope John Paul II on April 2005.
Despite Latin America’s long Catholic tradition, a pontiff’s first visit to the region didn’t take place until 1968 when Pope Paul VI visited Bogota, Colombia. The most recent visit was in 2012, when Pope Benedict XVI visited Mexico and made a historic appearance in Cuba, at a time when, according to Cuba Study Group’s Tomas Bilbao, the country “has openly recognized the failure of its current economic model, has encouraged its citizens to openly debate the need for change, and has even recognized the legitimate role of Cubans living abroad in Cuba’s future.”
Pope Benedict XVI, 85, will step down for health reasons on February 28, becoming the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to give up his post. The new pontiff’s first visit to the region could take place in July 2013 during World Youth Day celebrations in Brazil.
En los últimos sexenios los políticos mexicanos han hablado constantemente de las “reformas estructurales” que el país necesita para modernizarse y progresar y que, por supuesto, casi nunca concretan. Hablan de la reforma política, la reforma educativa, la reforma laboral, la reforma electoral, la reforma energética y otras más igual de importantes. Y en efecto, el país está urgido de esas reformas, aunque éstas sean un poco distintas a las que plantean los miembros de la clase política. A continuación señalo algunas de las más importantes:
Top stories this week are likely to include: President Obama discusses immigration reform in the State of the Union; Ecuador prepares for presidential and congressional elections; Colombia and FARC make progress in peace negotiations, Venezuela’s currency devaluation goes into effect; and Mexican farmers begin to release suspected criminals in negotiations with Guerrero state.
President Obama to Discuss Immigration, Guns in State of the Union Address: U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to renew his demand for comprehensive immigration reform, gun control and climate change in this Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, according to senior officials. Obama has called for a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. and told House Democrats that immigration reform will be a “top priority and an early priority” of his second term. Meanwhile, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Cuban American and one of eight U.S. Senators in a bipartisan effort to overhaul the U.S. immigration system, will deliver the Republican response—a signal that the GOP is seeking to overcome its poor standing with Latino voters in the last election. “The president and Senate negotiators have laid out two different visions with respect to a path to authorized status for undocumented immigrants. The principles to be laid out in Tuesday’s speech will set a marker of just how much the president is willing to negotiate,” said AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak. Tuesday’s speech will be the 100th State of the Union address.
Ecuador Prepares for Elections Next Sunday: Ecuador's presidential race will enter its final week as voters at home and abroad prepare to elect the country's next president and members of the national assembly on February 17. President Rafael Correa is heavily favored to win re-election to a third term. A survey last week by polling agency Perfiles de Opinion showed that 62 percent of expected voters support Correa, while only 9 percent of voters say they support his nearest rival, Guillermo Lasso. Correa has held office since 2007, and if he wins Sunday’s elections, he will serve a four-year term that will end in 2017.
Colombia and FARC say they are Nearing an Agreement on Land Reform: The Colombian government and FARC leaders said Sunday that they are making progress in the latest round of peace negotiations in Havana, which included an "exhaustive analysis" of land reform. During a press conference on Sunday, the FARC said that they are prepared to free two police officers and one soldier captured by the rebel group in January, fulfilling demands by the Colombian government to release the hostages at once. FARC negotiator Rodrigo Granda said Sunday that the negotiations were on track and advancing at “the speed of a bullet train.” The sixth round of peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC will start on February 18.
Venezuelan Currency Devaluation Takes Effect Wednesday: The Venezuelan government's long-expected currency devaluation, announced last Friday, will officially go into effect on Wednesday. The official exchange rate will change from 4.3 bolivars to the dollar to 6.3 bolivars to the dollar, the fifth time the country’s currency has been devalued in a decade. Venezuelan Vice-President Nicolás Maduro, currently leading the country in the absence of the ailing President Hugo Chávez, said that the devaluation was needed to fund the country’s social programs, and was also a response to attacks on the bolivar by capitalist “speculators.” The impending devaluation has already caused a rush of panicked last-minute shoppers to buy domestic appliances and other goods over Carnival weekend.
Mexican Farmers Begin Turning over Hostages: Mexican farmers in the township of Ayutla who detained 53 suspected criminals in January released 11 of their hostages last Friday after negotiations with the Guerrero state government. The farmers, fed up with recent drug-related violence and kidnappings in their community, have formed so-called “self-defense” forces to set up checkpoints, capture and imprison suspected criminals before trying them before an ad-hoc town assembly. The vigilante justice has been criticized by human rights groups, but the farmers say they are acting to protect themselves in the absence of the state, which has so far tolerated the movement. The Guerrero state government said the farmers agreed to turn over "the first 20" detainees, though it's not clear whether more will be released. The farmers have said they will not back down until the government proves it is capable of protecting them and establishing peace in the region.
Employees of Colombia’s largest coal mine, Cerrejón, went on strike yesterday after the company and its 4,500 union members failed to reach an agreement on wages and benefits for the first time in 22 years.
Orlando Cuello, manager of the National Union of Coal workers (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadroes de la Industria del Carbón – Sintracarbón) confirmed that 3:00 pm (COT) Thursday was the cutoff time for the negotiations. The union’s grievances center on the lack of appropriate compensation for the high-risk nature of the job, with an estimate that miners in other parts of the world earn three times more than Cerrejón employees. Other factors in the negotiations include recognition of health and occupational hazards, dignity of employees, equity with contract workers, environmental protection of the department of La Guajira where the mine operates, and respect of local communities.
Cerrejón, the subject of a new AQ documentary, is a joint venture between BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Xstrata. It produced 34.6 million tons of coal and exported 32.8 million tons globally in 2012. The strike threatens the company’s potential production targets for 2013 and may damage the local and regional economy by up to $5.4 million a day.
Chile’s Mapuche population has long struggled for greater rights. So many warmly greeted President Sebastián Piñera’s recent promise to give “top priority and urgency” to finding a constitutional solution that will recognize Chile’s Indigenous Mapuche people, a 700,000-person strong minority group that constitutes 6 percent of Chile’s population. His reaction comes after a month of increased tension in the southern Araucanía region, where the majority of the Mapuche live.
After a mid-January summit was held in Temuco, Araucanía’s main city, Piñera has promised to set up a council for Indigenous peoples that is “truly representative of the community’s history, tradition and culture.” This is a positive first step in trying to integrate the Mapuche into the political process since they currently do not have any representation in Congress. At the same time, demands by the Mapuche for an independent state were ignored. The Indigenous group’s main struggle is for the return of what its members claim are their ancestral lands.
It is a positive sign that Piñera and the Chilean government seem to be trying hard to quell violence within the Araucanía region and are beginning to open up dialogue and negotiations with the Mapuche.
But efforts toward reconciliation are being viewed in an increasingly cynical manner by both sides.
The dismissal of Walter Ramirez, a policeman who killed Mapuche leader Matias Catrileo in January 2008, has been called tactical by Ramirez’ lawyer Gaspar Calderon. Calderon told CNN Chile that his client is a victim of "popular justice” and suggested that the decision was made merely to give Chilean Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick something to offer the Mapuche ahead of the Temuco summit.
Leaders of the Primero Justicia (Justice First—PJ) opposition party in Venezuela vigorously rejected claims of corruption yesterday, after National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello accused three of its members of such on Tuesday and the Assembly summarily agreed to open an investigation to look into the charges. Cabello, a loyalist of President Hugo Chávez, accuses PJ of illegally accepting campaign donations.
Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles, who was PJ’s presidential candidate in last year’s election and chosen in a February 2012 primary to represent an opposition coalition united against Chávez, dismissed the allegations and referred to Cabello as mafia leader Al Capone over Twitter. In a speech yesterday, Capriles told supporters that the ruling party wants “to come after me [and] demoralize you all.”
The opposition fears that chavista politicians are raising these threats in order to scare away private businesspeople from making future campaign donations. Given the lingering uncertainty surrounding Chávez’ health—he has not been seen in public for almost two months, and missed his own inauguration in January—Venezuelan political analyst José Vicente Carrasquero believes that Chávez loyalists are seeking to damage the opposition politically ahead of a possible upcoming election, according to the Associated Press. The Venezuelan Constitution calls for elections within 30 days if Chávez dies or steps down from office.
Due to relaxed Cuban travel restrictions that eliminated the exit visa, Brazilian film director Dado Galvo announced Tuesday that prominent dissident and blogger Yoani Sánchez will travel to Recife, Brazil, for a screening of the 2009 documentary Conexión Cuba Honduras (Connection Cuba Honduras), in which she is featured. Sánchez was granted a travel visa and will be arriving in Brazil on February 18, thanks in part to an online initiative led by Galvo, the director of the documentary, who raised funds to purchase her ticket.
Sánchez is best known for her prize-winning blog, Generación Y, which she named after the generation of Cubans born in the 1970s and 1980s, a time when names beginning with “Y” were popular. Her blog is openly critical of life under the Castro regime, and notably contains the only interview that President Obama has granted to a blogger. She has been able to avoid Cuban censorship having her friends abroad post entries that she emails to them. As one of the best-known dissidents in Cuba, many doubted that Sánchez would be able to take advantage of the January 15 exit visa law that allowed Cubans to apply for a passport without a government permit and an invitation letter from abroad. After 20 failed attempts, Sánchez announced via Twitter that she had been granted a passport just 15 days after the law went into effect.
While other notable dissidents, such as Ángel Moya, have been denied the right to travel abroad, this latest development represents a dramatic shift in Cuban policy. The change in travel laws on the island is expected to help spur the economy, and while restrictions are still in place for certain professionals such as athletes and party leaders, the change will allow some of Cuba’s most vocal critics to spread their message abroad.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced today that six members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) and two policemen were killed in an attack near the Venezuelan border. The announcement comes only days after the president requested that the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army—ELN) set free two German citizens who were seized last week in the northern Catatumbo region. These events have raised concern about the viability of the peace talks in Havana, but both the government and the FARC remain optimistic about progress.
Iván Márquez, head of the FARC’s negotiating team, believes there are many reasons for his side to be optimistic about the peace process. “Destroying the road towards peace over claims of armed conflict would be unreasonable,” he stated. But since the group’s two-month ceasefire came to an end on January 20, kidnappings and violence have resumed in the country.
Smaller but more politically motivated than the FARC, the ELN has also expressed its interest in engaging in peace talks with the government, but the group refuses to stop its attacks on civilian and military targets as a precondition to begin the negotiations. The peace-building process held in Cuba recently concluded its third phase, with no major progress made toward ending the longstanding conflict. Land reform is currently the main focus of the negotiations.
Top stories this week are likely to include: Cubans re-elect President Raúl Castro in one-party elections; Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman travels to London; Paraguay investigates the death of Lino Oviedo; Argentina reacts to the IMF after being censured; Mexican authorities conclude rescue efforts after PEMEX explosion.
Parliamentary Elections Begin in Cuba: Cuba’s nearly 8.5 million voters went to the polls yesterday to elect 612 national assembly members and members of the country’s 15 provincial assemblies in the country’s one-party elections. Eighty-six year-old revolutionary leader Fidel Castro—who had not been seen in public since October—made a surprise appearance at the polls on Sunday to cast his vote in Havana’s El Vedado neighborhood. His brother, Cuban President Raúl Castro, was re-elected for a second five-year term—his last, if the president’s decision last year to introduce two term limits is upheld. "This parliament will be in place at an important time in the history of the revolution; though they likely will not have the power or diversity to positively affect the course of reforms or leadership changes," says Christopher Sabatini, Editor-in-Chief of Americas Quarterly.
Argentine Foreign Minister Declines to Meet with Falkland Islanders: With little over a month before Falkland/Malvinas Islanders vote in a March 10 referendum on their island's political status, Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman has arrived in London to make the case that the disputed islands belong to Argentina. Timerman will make a presentation at the Argentine Embassy in London to discredit the upcoming referendum, in which the islanders are expected to affirm that they are British. Timerman had originally planned to meet with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in a bilateral meeting, but he declined the invitation after Britain insisted that representatives of the island’s government also be present.
Paraguay Investigates Death of Presidential Candidate Lino Oviedo: Paraguayan President Federico Franco has declared three days of national mourning after third-party candidate Lino Oviedo was killed along with his pilot and bodyguard in a helicopter crash late on Saturday. The cause of the crash, which witnesses say was accompanied by an explosion, has not yet been determined, but authorities have called the death an accident. However, members of Oviedo’s Unión Nacional de Colorados Éticos (National Union of Ethical Citizens—UNACE) party have demanded an investigation into whether the politician was assassinated. Oviedo was a retired general who helped overthrow Paraguayan dictator General Alfredo Stroessner, and was also charged with organizing a failed coup in 1996 against former Paraguayan President Juan Carlos Wasmosy, for which Oviedo served time in prison.
Argentina's Next Steps After IMF Censure: Last Friday, Argentina became the first nation to be censured by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for its widely-disputed inflation data, which the national statistics agency reports at 10.8 percent. Argentine Minister of the Economy Hernán Lorenzo reacted to the fund’s decision by saying that his country is being punished for “protecting national industry and jobs, financing itself without the markets, and saying ‘no’ to vulture funds.” According to the IMF, Argentina must address "inaccurate data" by Sept. 29, 2013 to avoid suspension. If the country fails to comply with the IMF by implementing remedial measures such as creation of a new consumer price index, Argentina faces further sanctions, which could include suspension of voting rights or expulsion.
Investigation of Thursday's Pemex Blast Continues: Mexican authorities will continue to investigate the cause of the blast that killed at least 36 workers at a Pemex office complex in Mexico City on Thursday. The death toll rose on Sunday as rescue workers found three more bodies over the weekend, but it now appears that rescuers are concluding their efforts to search for survivors—though one woman who worked as a secretary at the office remains missing. Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam declined to say on Friday whether the explosion was an accident, due to negligence, or part of an attack, but he added that there should be more information available in the coming days.
As Canadians, we tend to watch the Inaugural activities with interest. Sometimes, as in 1961 or in 2009, we marvel at the significance and the majesty of the event. Many times, we are indifferent and see it merely as a news story in the heart of winter every four years.
We do not pretend to understand the subtleties of the words of a U.S. President, but we cannot deny their scope in terms of the years to come. John F. Kennedy asked his fellow citizens to become engaged: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” This time around, Barack Obama said that “America was made for this moment.” He outlined the vision of the Founding Fathers, and laid out a progressive vision of where America must go, which he linked with the basic values of the U.S. constitution.
Many on this side of the border are familiar with the call for an activist government, and an effort to reduce inequalities in society. Much of our social fabric is based on this approach. What was attractive in the speech had to do with the JFK-like call for greater citizen engagement on issues like gun control , and the presentation of a vision of a changing country largely defined by new demographics. It was clear Obama understood his victory coalition, and addressed its inherent and emerging values and hopes. Republicans, take note! Obama2.0 seems more determined to press his agenda this time around.