Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rebuked the possibility of a “unilateral” release of jailed USAID subcontractor Alan Gross on Wednesday amid growing concern by the United States over his health. Josefina Vidal, the top Cuban diplomat for North American affairs, said that the Cuban government has communicated the terms of Gross’ release to U.S. officials numerous times but did not receive a response. These terms would likely include concessions on the Americans’ part regarding the Cuban intelligence agents—known as the Cuban Five—who are currently serving treason and espionage charges in a Florida prison.
Wednesday’s heated exchange comes less than a month after Gross’ lawyer filed a petition with the United Nations Special Rapporteur claiming that his client has been denied adequate medical attention, “which constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” Since the filing, U.S. government officials and Gross’ relatives have stepped up pressure regarding his release, citing concerns over a mass that developed on Gross’ right shoulder earlier this year that, they claim, could be cancerous. Vidal denied the cancer rumors, saying that Cuban doctors conducted a biopsy that came out negative.
For the moment, Gross will continue to serve the 15-year prison sentence received in 2009 for handing out laptops in Cuba. At the time, he was on assignment as a subcontractor for USAID tasked with setting up wireless Internet connections for Cuba’s Jewish community as part of a $40 million-a-year program to promote democracy on the island.
No es poca cosa que Colombia haya perdido los derechos económicos sobre 80.000 km2 de mar territorial en el diferendo con Nicaragua que la Corte Internacional de Justicia (CIJ) falló a favor de este último país el 19 de noviembre. Lo llamativo es el impacto de la decisión del tribunal internacional en la política interna y exterior colombiana y la cadena de consecuencias que produjo, algunas previsibles, otras evitables, y unas más insospechadas.
El próximo 12 de diciembre, cinco expresidentes, Belisario Betancur, César Gaviria, Ernesto Samper, Andrés Pastrana y Álvaro Uribe tendrán que rendir cuentas ante la plenaria de la Cámara sobre la estrategia de defensa de la Nación en un litigio que terminó interpretando a favor de Nicaragua los límites que se habían trazado en el histórico tratado Esguerra-Bárcenas de 1928. Una jugada que pretende repartir responsabilidades frente a la decisión que exacerbó como nunca el nacionalismo colombiano, apuntando no solo al actual mandatario Juan Manuel Santos, sino a una cadena de errores en la estrategia de defensa que comenzó hace nueve años con el fin que ya todos conocemos.
A nivel interno el fallo despertó, según encuestas, el pesimismo de los colombianos, bajó la popularidad del presidente Santos, puso a la Canciller María Angela Holguín contra las cuerdas, y al Congreso en rebeldía pues desde allí saltaron voces llamando al desacato y a la negativa de modificar los nuevos límites que deben quedar consignados en la Constitución después de un trámite en el legislativo.
In a public hearing Tuesday before the Financial Supervisory Commission in the Chamber of Deputies, Brazilian Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo announced that the country will double the number of security personnel on its borders by 2014. The strategy will focus on increasing the police presence along the Bolivian, Colombian and Peruvian borders, with the exact number of federal police and military personnel to be confirmed.
The move represents an effort to stem the flow of illegal arms and drugs that have helped lead to increasing violence along Brazil’s 16,000-kilometer (9,942-mile) border, which is five times longer than the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
Even though Brazil is now the world's second largest cocaine consumer, many of the drugs entering the country are then smuggled beyond Brazil. According to the 2012 World Drug Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, drugs from Brazil are commonly moved on to Africa (mostly western and southern Africa) and shipped to Europe.
Minister Cardozo also responded to concerns about a recent wave of violence in São Paulo’s favelas due to a growing conflict between the police and a gang known as the Primeiro Comando da Capital (First Command of the Capital—PCC), and stressed the importance of both federal and state governments working together.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa traveled to Argentina on Monday to receive an award from the Universidad de la Plata in La Plata, Argentina, recognizing his contributions to freedom of expression in Ecuador.
The U.S. government has long criticized Correa’s record on freedom of speech, and granted political asylum to the Ecuadorian journalist Emilio Palacio in August after he faced a three-year prison sentence and a $40 million fine for referring to Correa as a “dictator” in El Universo.
Facing pressure from press freedom groups, Correa eventually pardoned Palacio and other executives who had received prison sentences. The U.S. offered asylum to Palacio just 24 hours after Ecuador granted asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at its embassy in London, who published a series of classified U.S. government cables on his website.
Receipt of the award prompted the Ecuadorian president to again defend his record with the press. “It turns out that there’s such a lack of free expression in Ecuador that one of the most important universities in Latin America has awarded the president a prize for fighting for true freedom of expression and democratization of the media,” Correa said on Saturday.
The award, in the category “Presidente Latinoamericano por la Comunicación Popular” (Latin American President for Popular Communication), will be delivered Tuesday at the Facultad de Periodismo y Comunicación. It is not the first controversial prize that the Universidad de la Plata has awarded to a Latin American head of state: in 2011, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez collected the same award.
Top stories this week are likely to include: Mercosur convenes; first week of Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidency; FARC peace negotiations resume; Peru, Chile dispute their border at The Hague; and Rousseff’s oil royalties veto makes waves in Brazil.
Mercosur Considers Ecuador and Bolivia: When Mercosur’s member nations convene on Friday in Brasilia, they will consider upgrading Bolivia and Ecuador—currently associate members—to full membership. Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota cites a desire to deepen South American integration. AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini notes that “with each new addition to Mercosur the original intent of the customs union is becoming diluted. The additions may be economic benefits to Brazil and serve a broader political end, but with Venezuela and now potentially Bolivia and Ecuador the task of coordinating a common external tariff and ensuring that monetary policy doesn't interfere with internal trade is nearly impossible.”
Peña Nieto in the Presidency: After announcing his cabinet on Friday and transitioning into power the following day, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto undergoes his first full week in Mexico’s highest office. Yesterday, the main domestic political parties announced the Pacto por México (Pact for Mexico) that outlines desired political reforms for Peña Nieto’s term. The reforms center on three areas: strengthening the state; economic and political modernization; and expansion of social rights. As AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak observes, “the show of unity with the joint signing of the Pacto por México is an important accomplishment for Peña Nieto but the specifics of how to implement these reforms will be the real challenge especially with PRD legislators already threatening to block them.”
Peru, Chile at The Hague: Beginning today, the International Court of Justice will hear a lawsuit by Peru brought against Chile over an unclear maritime border. In the lead-up, however, both Chilean President Sebastián Piñera and his Peruvian counterpart Ollanta Humala have discouraged their respective citizens from being belligerently nationalistic. Piñera wrote against “exacerbated nationalism, which poisons the soul of the people,” while Humala urged for both countries to consider the outcome of the lawsuit as “the end point of a dispute between brother countries.”
Colombia, FARC Continue Talks: Both sides will resume peace negotiations in Havana on Wednesday. The Colombian government’s chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, has stressed “a stable and enduring peace” as the desired outcome of the talks; President Juan Manuel Santos recently announced that he has designated November 2013 as the deadline for an agreement.
Impact of Dilma’s Partial Veto: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was absent at last Friday’s Unasur meeting in Lima due to “domestic engagements.” The issue in question was whether she would sign into law a controversial law on oil royalties, which would spread the nation’s resource wealth to non-producing states. According to Reuters, Dilma’s veto “changes the bill so that producer states continue to receive royalties on output from existing oil concessions. She signed most of the rest of the bill passed [in early November] by Congress, redistributing royalties from all future oil concessions so that non-producing states get a greater share.” The oil-producing states had threatened to take their case to the Supreme Court, which would have dragged out the case amid Brazil’s preparations for the 2014 and 2016 sporting mega-events. Pay attention this week to see further reactions within Brazil to Dilma’s partial veto.
The road to the presidency for Enrique Peña Nieto started long before he won the Mexico State governorship in 2005. His uncle Arturo Montiel proceeded Nieto in the governor’s mansion (1999-2005) and cousin Alfredo del Mazo González ruled the state (1981-1986) and served as secretary of energy in the remaining years of President Miguel de la Madrid´s term (1982-1988). Politics always surrounded Nieto and ultimately, his relationships, friendships and extended family allowed for a thoughtful, long-term, strategy that culminated in his election to become Mexico´s 66th president.
After 12 years in hiatus, the the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party - PRI) returns to Los Pinos.
Protests, the Oath and Biden
Thousands of riot police protected the area surrounding the nation´s lower chamber where Nieto was due to take the oath before noon on Saturday. As noted in a previous article, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) and his newly-founded Morena movement promised protests throughout Mexico. They did not disappoint. Morena, along with youth movement #Yosoy132, started early, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails against security walls erected around the chamber to protect Enrique Peña Nieto and Felipe Calderón.
Near the National Palace where Nieto later delivered his inaugural speech, protestors hurled rocks at police and used metal and wooden sticks to break hotel and restaurant windows. A store was looted and public bus vandalized. Several youth protesters were arrested and more than two dozen police were treated for minor wounds and respiratory conditions related to smoke and tear gas inhalation.
On November 24, excited, flag-waving fans crowded Brooklyn’s recently-opened Barclay’s Center in anticipation of its first-ever Latino concert. “Is Brooklyn ready to sing?” Colombian rock star Juanes asked the crowd of 10,000 people.
Juanes opened the show for the Dominican multi-Latin Grammy recipient Juan Luis Guerra. It was not a coincidence that the acts were Colombian and Dominican—there are 800,000 Dominicans and 200,000 Colombians who live in New York City, which is now 30 percent Latino.
Juanes’ 12-member band played songs for both the older and younger generations, from the Bob Marley original “Could this be love?” to Inolvidable, a tune that your parents or grandparents probably danced to at their wedding. He also sang Cada vez, a duet with one of his backup singers from Puerto Rico, as well as the Grammy-winning Camisa Negra and the all-time salsa classic salsa, No Le Pegue a la Negra, a Colombian anthem describing the history of slavery in Cartagena—though Juanes added some electronic fusion sounds to the original version and tweaked the speed.
Photo: Courtesy of Errol Anderson / Barclays Center
Juan Luis Guerra joined Juanes midway through his performance and sang “Love and Hate,” a celebration of change and peace. Guerra caught the fans off guard—no one introduced him before he came onstage. The music took off—and so did the fans, who got on their feet and started to dance and shout requests for Como Tú, a contagious song off of his new album, A Son de Guerra. The album is Guerra’s eleventh studio album and was named 2010 Grammy album of the year. He also sang the beautiful ballad Bendiciones.
Guerra did not shy away from social themes during his performance: the classic Ójala que llueva café, was accompanied by images addressing poverty in the Dominican Republic. He also livened up the stage with El niagara en bicicleta, a poignant song that he wrote in the 1990s about the Dominican Republic’s poor infrastructure, the deteriorated conditions of its hospitals and the scarce government resources for healthcare.
President and CEO of Cardenas Marketing Network (CMN) Henry Cárdenas, who brought the duo to Brooklyn, called Barclays Center “absolutely breathtaking,” and said he would be back on February 16 with Marc Anthony in time for Valentine’s Day. “There’s no venue like it,” he said of the three-month-old concert and sports arena.
Also on display at Saturday’s concert was the growing economic strength of the Latino population. A report by the Selig Center for Economic Growth recently revealed that Hispanics have the greatest purchasing power of any U.S. ethnic group and will soon represent the world's ninth-largest economy, with $1.5 trillion in purchasing power. Meanwhile, the Hispanic advertising industry is outpacing all other sectors of advertising, increasing four times faster, and is now a more than $5 billion industry.
Proceeds from the concert will be donated to the Red Cross, providing relief for those who were affected by Hurricane Sandy after it swept through the Caribbean, mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States. As of press time, an estimated $160,000 was collected by Cardenas Marketing Network (CMN).
In the lead-up to tomorrow’s inauguration, Enrique Peña Nieto and his Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI) have crafted a number of legislative proposals they hope will set the tone for his six years in Mexico’s highest office. Three key initiatives are now pending debate before the lower chamber.
First is an initiative to fold the nation’s Secretaría de Seguridad Pública (Public Security Secretariat—SSP) into the interior ministry. Second is a move to strengthen the nation’s Instituto Federal de Acceso a la Información(Federal Institute for Access to Public Information—IFAI). And third is an initiative to create a national anti-corruption commission.
According to Peña Nieto’s transition team, national security and public safety need higher central authority. Analysts note that under Presidents Vicente Fox (2000-2006) and Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), SSP ran roughshod over the government, many times trampling over the attorney general and ignoring human and procedural rights. Examples often cited are the televised capture of French kidnapper Florence Cassez, which caused a deluge of human rights complains against the SSP and strained Mexico’s relationship with France, and the unexplained September shooting of two U.S. Central Intelligence Agency agents outside Mexico City by Mexican Federal Police.
As of Thursday, evening two appointments have been confirmed. The current executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, will head the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores-SRE), replacing Patricia Espinosa Cantellano. And Eduardo Medina Mora Thomas, former head of the Center for Investigation and National Security (Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional -Cisen) and the Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría General de la República-PGR) and current Ambassador of Mexico to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, will occupy the Mexican embassy in Washington.
Currently, Mexico’s congress does not have a dominant political party, so Peña Nieto and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional—PRI) will have to seek consensus after gaining power for the first time in 12 years. A source close to Peña Nieto said that while addressing violence, kidnappings and extortion are demanding issues, the country faces other pressing concerns.
Mexico's incoming president will need to address the alarming unemployment figure of 8 million young adults that are out of the work, despite the fact that Mexico is the second-strongest economy in Latin America, behind Brazil. The pursuit of free-trade agreements between Mexico and the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) has been discussed for decades, but these initiatives have been stagnant. Mexico is the seventh-largest producer of crude oil in the world, but the country needs more private investors to take advantage of the Mexican economy’s projected 3 to 4 percent growth. Although it is fundamental to create incentives for private investors for the exploration and production of crude oil, there are limits, since most of the resources are state-owned.
Updated (November 30, 4:30p.m.): Enrique Peña Nieto's cabinet was introduced. Here is a complete list of the names with their government posts.
For weeks, Mexico’s Estado Mayor (Secret Service) and Secretaría de Seguridad Pública (Public Security Secretariat—SSP) have been laying the groundwork for a safe and peaceful transfer of power on December 1, when Enrique Peña Peña Nieto of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI) takes the oath of office.
The ceremony is scheduled to begin at nine in the morning with the naming of a special committee to escort Peña Nieto to the chamber of deputies, where he will take the oath. Should the chatty bunch in the chamber decide to keep a tight schedule, Peña Nieto can expect to take the oath and deliver his first speech around 11am.
The new cabinet takes its oath on November 30 at midnight, hours before the president-elect takes his. Peña Nieto´s long-time friend, confidant and campaign manager Luis Videgaray will become treasury secretary, while another PRI party heavy-weight, national president Pedro Coldwell, will take over the Energy Ministry. Another important appointment includes the naming of seasoned político Miguel Osorio Chong to the Ministry of the Interior. The Interior Ministry, the strongest of all the ministries, will have additional powers as Congress moves to eliminate the SSP and place all federal police operations under the control of the interior minister.
Peña Nieto´s main nemesis, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), promises that the inauguration of the new president on December 1 will be no picnic for Peña Nieto or the PRI. López Obrador and his newly-founded MORENA movement will hold opposition rallies throughout Mexico´s zócalos to remind voters that Peña Nieto “did not win the presidential election.”
Both the Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party—PAN) and PRI are determined to prevent the kind of spectacle the nation witnessed in 2006, when Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Party of the Democratic Revolution—PRD) deputies tried to prevent Calderón from taking the oath. That endeavor involveded deputies sleeping near the speaker´s rostrum and over entry points in the chamber of deputies to prevent Calderón from entering the chamber. This year, PAN deputies have publicly sworn to defend the outgoing president should any left-of-center deputies attempt any acts of violence during the ceremony.
Meanwhile, Peña Nieto concluded his first meeting with President Barack Obama, Department of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano and congressional leaders from the Republican and Democratic parties in Washington DC. In the Oval Office, Peña Nieto asserted his interest in helping Obama craft and pass meaningful immigration reform, and reiterated his desire to continue forging stronger economic and commercial bonds with the U.S. and the region.
As the meeting took place, Republican senators John McCain, Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Jon Kyl introduced legislation to allow young illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. under certain criteria like serving in the military or attending a technical school or university.
Back in Mexico, PRI, PAN and PRD negotiators were haggling over a multi-party pact entitled Compromiso por Mexico (Agreement for Mexico), which seeks to set the legislative agenda for Peña Nieto´s presidency in five general areas. The agreement emulates the Spanish-style Moncloa Pact of 1977 to ensure democratic governance and transformational policies to make Mexico a first-rate nation.
The five main themes of the pact are: social justice; economic growth, employment and competition; justice and security; transparency and corruption; and governance and democracy. Sub-themes in the agreement include: human rights, security, education reform, sustainable development, poverty, penitentiary system reform, and fiscal reform.
PAN senators loyal to president Felipe Calderón oppose the pact, saying it will only strengthen the PRI. PAN deputies and national and local leaders, including party president Gustavo Madero, think otherwise. The pact will likely be signed as this piece posts.
On the main issue of organized crime, a recent El Universal Buen Dia/Laredo poll reveals 59 percent of Mexicans believe the incoming president should continue the fight against organized crime. Forty-nine percent believe Mexico´s organized crime problem began during PRI rule in the last century, and 33 percent believe drug traffickers are responsible for spilled blood in recent years, versus the 27 percent who fault Calderón for the violence.
As Peña Nieto takes the oath and Calderón leaves for Cambridge to lecture at Harvard´s Kennedy School, one thing is clear: Mexico´s democracy is functioning and moving at an acceptable pace. As President Enrique Peña Nieto takes the helm, we can only hope he takes his oath seriously, moving Mexico in the right direction and improving the lives of his countrymen.
On Wednesday, Argentina began the trial of 68 suspects accused of kidnapping, torture and murder at the notorious Buenos Aires Escuela de Mecánica de la Armada (Navy Mechanics School-ESMA) during the country’s 1976–1983 dictatorship. All but two of the suspects are former members of the Argentine military.
Some 5,000 political prisoners are estimated to have passed through ESMA, which was converted into a clandestine detention center during Argentina’s “Dirty War,” and the vast majority were never seen again. A number of the disappeared were later found washed up on the shores of the Rio de la Plata on the Argentine and Uruguayan coasts, leading to speculation that members of the military dumped living prisoners from navy planes to their deaths. In 1995, the former captain, Adolfo Scilingo, testified that he had thrown 30 people into the ocean in two of the so-called “death flights.”
Azucena Villaflor, one of the founders of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo), was disappeared in 1977 and is believed to have been murdered on the death flights, along with the disappeared French nuns Alice Domon and Léonie Duquet.
The trial that began this Wednesday will be the largest human rights trial involving ESMA thus far, and could clarify the fates of 789 disappeared political prisoners. Several prominent members of the former Argentine military government will be put on trial, including Juan Alemann, Argentina’s former treasury secretary, and eight former navy pilots. One of the pilots, Julio Poch, was working as a commercial pilot in Spain as recently as 2009.
Judge Daniel Obligado will preside over the trial in Argentine federal court, which is expected to take two years and involve at least 900 witnesses. Human rights groups estimate that some 30,000 people were disappeared during the Argentine dictatorship. Today, ESMA is a historical memory museum and cultural center.
The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) was criticized on Monday for violating the two-month, unilateral ceasefire that the rebel group announced in Cuba last week. In an interview with El Tiempo, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón accused the FARC of targeting energy infrastructure and the local police in the department of Antioquia despite the ceasefire having been in effect since midnight on November 20. The FARC denied intentionally violating the ceasefire and responded by saying that their forces on the ground had not received the order in time, blaming the media for not disseminating the news properly.
The Colombian government has resisted pressure to respond to the ceasefire. “Those who have an obligation to demonstrate credibility and commitment [to the peace process] are the FARC, who have historically lied to Colombia,” said Minister Pinzón referring to the 1987 ceasefire that the rebel group violated and the demilitarized zone that the FARC used to rebuild its numbers and capability during the last attempted peace negotiation (1999-2002). Instead, President Juan Manuel Santos and his negotiating team are focusing on long-term peace and the integration of the rebels’ leadership into the political system. Minister Pinzón emphasized the government’s hope that the negotiations succeed and that the FARC “once and for all declare a ceasefire for the rest of time.”
Despite the controversy surrounding the ceasefire, the Colombian government and the FARC will continue to negotiate the end of the 50-year conflict behind closed doors. The talks are being mediated by Norway and Cuba, while Chile and Venezuela—seen as sympathetic to the Colombian government and the FARC, respectively—provide diplomatic support.
The aftershocks from Guatemala’s largest earthquake since 1976 continue to reverberate around the country, causing a halt to governmental efforts to introduce constitutional reform.
In August, President Otto Pérez Molina went to Congress with a list of 35 proposed constitutional reforms covering everything from the mining industry to educational reform. This prompted countrywide protests, leading to the deaths of six civilians in Totonicapán.
On a visit to San Marcos, the area most affected by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake on November 7, Pérez Molina announced that the Q200 million ($25.2 million) that was to be spent on constitutional reform will be set aside to help with the earthquake recovery.
The sheer scale of the earthquake is only just being felt, with 3.4 million people affected by it and 225 aftershocks ranging from 3.5-6.1 on the Richter scale in the past three weeks. At its peak, over 30,000 people were evacuated from their homes.
Enrique Peña Nieto’s meeting today with President Obama and other senior U.S. government officials in Washington sets the stage for a productive and vibrant bilateral relationship, but challenges await. As expected, the atmospherics surrounding the brief visit are welcoming and congratulatory. Both leaders seek to establish a meaningful personal connection that will carry them through the coming years of inevitable ups and downs in a dense and fluid bilateral relationship—one of the most complicated, yet potentially rewarding, in the world. At the same time, they are anxious to discuss the outlines of the agenda anticipated under a Peña Nieto presidency, including energy and tax reform, social security, and security, all areas that impact Mexico’s global competitiveness and priority areas for reform.
Fundamentally, these are issues for Mexicans to address. The United States can nonetheless assist the new president by taking actions that are in our own self-interest. Foremost among these is immigration reform, which President Obama has promoted as an issue for 2013. The United States could also do more to promote the rule of law, first by curtailing our own demand for illegal drugs and also by curtailing the supply of automatic weapons and ill-gotten financial gains from the United States to Mexico.
But the real opportunity, as Mexico’s Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan has suggested, is to move from a transactional to a strategic relationship, much like the United States enjoys with Canada, especially in the economic sphere. The three nations of North America now make up an integrated platform for manufacturing and production; for example, it no longer makes sense to talk about cars that are “made in America.” Now, they are made in North America, as are numerous other products. Rather than resisting this trend, we should be celebrating and promoting it, because doing so makes our own economy more efficient and our people more prosperous, as it does with both Mexico and Canada.
After much public and legislative wrangling, Mexico’s lower chamber opted to bring the country’s labor code into the twenty-first century. With 361 votes supporting the measure and 129 in opposition, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI), Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party—PAN), Partido Verde Ecologista de México (Green Party—PVEM) and Partido Nueva Alianza (New Alliance Party—PANAL) voted on November 13 to breathe life into the Mexican economy by overturning rules that have idled Mexico’s economic engine for four decades. The bill was subsequently sent to the Senate for a second time, and passed.
Absent from the new law are much-needed transparency measures intended for unions, whose boards are controlled by powerful union bosses who skim profits and use slush funds to reward friends, prop up political campaigns and finance everything from protests to public campaigns against reformers.
Union transparency and accountability were central to the labor bill submitted by President Felipe Calderón and his PAN party to the lower chamber in September, but the PRI and its allies would not have it. In the end, forgoing strong union transparency and accountability measures allowed the bill to pass. PRI legislators promised to hold debate on union accountability legislation in a future session.
The Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Party of the Democratic Revolution—PRD), Partido del Trabajo (Labor Party—PT) and Movimiento Ciudadano (Citizens’ Movement—MC) voted against the bill. In their view, the bill does little to help workers, a lot to support business owners and validates union corruption. As the bill went up for a final vote, deputies from the three parties ran a banner across the chamber´s speaker´s rostrum stating, “Those who betray workers betray their country.”
Top stories this week are likely to include: Mexico’s presidential inauguration; Kyoto Protocol up for renegotiation; reaction to a new oil field find in Mexico; UNASUR meets in Peru; and Argentina-Ghana dispute to be reviewed by the UN.
Enrique Peña Nieto Assumes Power: On Saturday, President Felipe Calderón will conclude his six-year term and hand the presidential sash to President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto. He won the July 1 election with a nearly 7 percentage point advantage over the second-place finisher, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. In advance of his inauguration, Peña Nieto will travel to Washington DC and meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House tomorrow. “Expect immigration, security, border cooperation, and economic cooperation to be on the agenda but the main takeaway from their meeting will be to lay the foundation for building on the expanded working level cooperation achieved over the last few years,” notes AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak.
Extra: Look for an AQ Web Exclusive analysis on the inauguration—and the next six years—later this week from Dr. Rafael Fernández de Castro, chair of the international studies department at the Instituto Tecnológico Autonómo de México (Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico—ITAM).
COP18 Gets Underway: The 18th United Nations Climate Change Conference—known as COP18—begins today in Doha, Qatar and runs through December 7. COP18 comes after other UN-sponsored summits—from Rio+20 in Brazil (2012) to COP17 in South Africa (2011) to COP16 in Mexico (2010) —have not managed to renew global commitment toward climate change and with the Kyoto Protocol set to expire this year. The U.S. and Canada are the only countries in the Americas not to ratify the Protocol.
Mexico Finds More Oil: President Calderón announced the discovery of a large oil field in Tabasco state yesterday that may have reserves of up to 500 million barrels. With President-elect Peña Nieto discussing opening up Petróleos Mexicanos (Mexican Petroleums—PEMEX) to private investment, expect discussions this week about what this latest find can mean for its domestic development and geopolitical strategy.
UNASUR Summits: A group of UNASUR defense ministers, known as the South American Defense Council (SADC), is meeting today through Wednesday in Lima. Two working groups, one on the transparency of military stock and the other on the incorporation of women into the defense sectors, are expected to report. The SADC summit occurs ahead of the Fourth Regular Meeting of the Heads of State and Government of UNASUR this Friday, also in Lima.
UN to hear Argentina-Ghana Dispute: After the Argentine vessel ARA Libertad was detained in a Ghanaian port due to unpaid national debts early last month, there has been much back-and-forth between Argentina and bondholders. After Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman took his complaints to the UN, the UN Law of the Sea Tribunal—based in Hamburg, Germany—will hear the arguments on Thursday and Friday. Read more on the dispute between Argentina and its debt holders.
The recent reelection of Barack Obama as President, the increase of Democrats in the Senate, and their slight gains in the House of Representatives has led analysts to talk about a changing America. While Obama is a highly popular political figure in Canada, it was somewhat surprising for many of us glued to our television sets to see him declared President before the stroke of midnight on November 6. After all, the polls had been close, but the victory seems to convey that America has indeed begun to change.
There are two ways to assess what this U.S. election tells Canadians. One way is the actual results which show a changing electorate where minorities, women, and youth will continue to play an increasing role in the choice of future presidents. State referenda also showed a transformation on certain social and cultural issues—legalization of marijuana and support for gay marriage.
The Presidential map with its omnipresent Electoral College seems decidedly more favorable to the Democratic coalition. The Senate map is also favorable to Democratic candidates. The House may still be Republican, but districting in states led by predominantly Republicans governors (30 of 50) can be a determining factor. This has led to some public soul-searching on the part of prominent Republican leaders. In a recent television appearance, conservative Republican Newt Gingrich spoke of the U.S. “as a centrist country with a dominant left”. Where is the center right America of just a few weeks back?
A national population and housing census will take place in Bolivia today, the first in the country in 11 years. Ahead of the survey, President Evo Morales has imposed a general curfew, which restricts private traffic, bans alcohol and closes the country's borders during the day. Exceptions to the curfew include government officials, diplomats, journalists and medical personnel.
The objective of the measure is to recount the country's population to better assess its needs. "The census is not for the government, it is for the people, especially for the future generations,” Morales said. Under the current Bolivian constitution, a census must take place every 10 years. The country has held 10 such surveys since independence in 1826.
According to the National Institute of Statistics (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica⎯INE) Bolivia’s population was of 8,274,325 inhabitants for the 2001 census. Estimates indicate that the population has grown to nearly 11 million.
The results from the census will lead to changes in the number of representatives in the legislative body. At the same time, some communities fear that they may be underrepresented in this year’s count, which will restrict their access to resources in the future. Given the important implications for years to come, the census has triggered more than 80 disagreements over the municipal borders that will help to define specific population areas. On Monday, Morales clarified that the objective of the census is not to solve territorial conflicts but to update information on the number of inhabitants and their needs.
Today the INE will mobilize 217,000 canvassers and will have the support of 36,000 police officers and the armed forces to carry out the national census. All Bolivians, including foreigners who reside in the country or are visiting, must remain at home and participate. Those who fail to abide by the curfew will be subject to a fine.
El anuncio unilateral de las FARC, justo en el día en que se iniciaba la segunda fase de las conversaciones de paz con el gobierno en La Habana, tomó por sorpresa al país: habrá una tregua navideña entre el 20 de noviembre y el 20 de enero, tiempo durante el que el grupo guerrillero promete no realizar ninguna clase de “operaciones militares ofensivas contra las fuerzas públicas” o “actos de sabotaje contra la infraestructura pública o privada”. Este anuncio significa en la práctica que las FARC pararán la escalada de ataques que venían realizando en Chocó, Valle y Cauca—paro armado, cilindros bomba y explosión en fiesta de Halloween incluidos, con un saldo de 47 muertos y 83 heridos—poblaciones donde es un eufemismo seguir llamando daños colaterales a las múltiples víctimas civiles que dejan los enfrentamientos entre ilegales y fuerzas armadas en contextos donde nadie respeta el Derecho Internacional Humanitario. También significa que disminuirán el asedio a poblaciones como Arauca y Norte de Santander donde los trabajadores de los oleoductos tienen cada vez menos libertades de movimiento por temor a ser secuestrados.
Probará además si la cadena de mando que hoy tiene a los máximos representantes de las FARC en la Habana—Iván Márquez a la cabeza—es capaz de controlar a sus cerca de 8 mil hombres distribuidos en cinco bloques y dos comandos conjuntos en todo el país, y si cuentan con suficientes métodos de verificación para probar el éxito de la tregua que como anuncio le sienta muy bien el país, y deja a las FARC con una ventaja política importante en las negociaciones. Aunque sorpresivo, el comunicado de Iván Márquez también recuerda que entre los negociadores guerrilleros hay una fuerte presencia de “estrategas” políticos, al punto de que varios de ellos hacían trabajo militante de base, no tenían un bloque al mando, o incluso no estaban en el país combatiendo como es el caso de Marcos León Calarcá que encabeza la Comisión Internacional de las FARC desde la década de los 80.
Shortly before resuming peace negotiations with the Colombian government in Havana on Monday, Ivan Marquez—the lead negotiator for the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC)—declared a ceasefire, halting all offensive military operations and acts of sabotage against infrastructure.
The ceasefire began at midnight and is expected to last until January 20, 2013, and will “strengthen the climate of understanding necessary so that the parties that are starting the dialogue achieve the purpose desired by all Colombians," says Marquez. The Colombian government has publicly pledged to continue battling the FARC until a peace agreement has been signed and has not commented on Monday’s announcement.
The peace talks, which were postponed for four days due to “technical details,” resumed on Monday, a month after they officially commenced in Oslo. The negotiations will focus primarily on land reform, an issue that the FARC claims has been at the center of the 50-year conflict. The two parties are also set to discuss the formal end to the armed conflict, the political future of the FARC, guarantees for the exercise of political opposition and citizen participation, drug trafficking, and the rights of the victims of the war. Norway and Cuba are mediating the peace talks while Chile and Venezuela act as “acompañantes” to help with logistics and provide diplomatic support.
The end game of the talks is for the FARC to lay down their arms and to negotiate the integration of its troops into Colombia’s mainstream society and political system. The ceasefire is seen as a positive sign that the rebel group is serious about gaining political legitimacy and ending the conflict. Though the Colombian government remains wary of the group’s commitment to peace, analysts believe that this latest move puts pressure on President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration to reciprocate.
Top stories this week are likely to include: Colombia-FARC peace negotiations move to Havana; 2013 presidential contest set in Honduras; Canadian trade minister in Brussels for free trade talks; and The Hague rules on the Nicaragua-Colombia maritime border dispute.
Colombia-FARC Talks Resume: Representatives from the Colombian government arrived yesterday in Havana, Cuba, ahead of the commencement of peace negotiations with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) rebels who had arrived in Havana last week. The talks began ceremonially in Oslo last month, but this week marks a renewed stage of direct negotiations between the two parties—mediated by Cuba and Norway, and observed by Chile and Venezuela. Upon landing in Havana yesterday, Humberto de la Calle, chief negotiator for the government, said that these negotiations would test whether the FARC guerrillas were “willing to reach concrete and realistic agreements.”
Reaction to Honduran Presidential Primaries: Yesterday, the three major political parties in Honduras selected their presidential candidates to compete in the November 2013 contest. The incumbent Partido Nacional de Honduras (National Party of Honduras) selected Juan Orlando Hernandez; the Partido Liberal de Honduras (Liberal Party of Honduras), to which former President Manuel Zelaya belonged, chose Mauricio Villeda; and the Partido Libertad y Refundación (Freedom and Refoundation Party—LIBRE) opted for Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro, who ran unopposed for the post. Now that the field is freshly set, expect significant chatter about the candidates and their backgrounds.
Canada-EU Talk Free Trade: Canadian Minister of Trade Ed Fast will arrive in Brussels, Belgium, today for an advanced round of negotiations on the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which will establish a large free-trade zone between the two economic giants. According to The Globe and Mail, CETA would “open up government procurement contracts to foreign bidders; toughen patent protection laws on pharmaceuticals; increase mutual access to financial services markets; lower some agriculture protections; and include a dispute-resolution mechanism to protect investors and governments.” A final deal is expected to be signed in late 2012 or early 2013.
Nicaragua-Colombia Dispute Ruling: The International Court of Justice will rule on a longstanding maritime border dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia over three islets in the Caribbean Sea—known as San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina. At issue is a 1928 treaty signed between the two countries that was annulled in 1980 by the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The Hague had ruled in 2007 that the 1928 treaty was still valid, but also agreed to review the maritime border—which will culminate in today’s ruling.
El 1 de diciembre de 2012, Enrique Peña Nieto asumirá la presidencia de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos. Ante eso, ¿cuál debe ser la reacción de Yosoy132?
Los caminos a seguir son muchos y variados. El primero, y el más improbable de todos, sería la disolución del movimiento ante los hechos consumados. Esto se podría apoyar, además, en el miedo a la represión gubernamental, pues es sabido que el ahora llamado presidente electo no le tiene ninguna simpatía a este grupo de jóvenes. Los hechos muestran, sin embargo, que esta disolución no ocurrirá.
Otro camino sería el de la violencia, mismo que también se puede descartar de antemano por diversas razones, pero en especial por la enorme inseguridad que vive el país, producto del problema del narcotráfico y la cada vez mayor presencia del ejército en las calles, además de todos los problemas que un estallido violento acarrearía para la nación. Por otro lado, y aunque algunos analistas lo llegaron a ver así, en México no está ocurriendo una “primavera” al estilo de los países árabes. La mayor parte de la población, ya sea por miedo o por apatía, no está dispuesta a participar en una rebelión armada.
President Ollanta Humala is on a three day visit to France, Spain and Portugal as part of his effort to strengthen Peru’s ties with European countries. On Thursday, Humala met with his counterpart in France, François Hollande, where both leaders signed agreements related to student exchanges programs and mutual recognition of diplomas.
On Wednesday, newly-elected Chilean student leader Andrés Fielbaum outlined his approach for educational reform in Chile in the coming year, emphasizing the importance of the student movement in determining the outcome of the December 2013 presidential elections.
Fielbaum, a 25-year-old engineering student, was elected president of the influential Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (University of Chile Student Federation—FECH) on Tuesday under the platform slogan, “Create a Broad Left.” His election, with a little more than 44 percent of the student vote, ends the tenure of the previous FECH president, Gabriel Boric.
Like his predecessors, Fielbaum will have to contend with Chile’s problem of outsized student debt, lack of financial aid and the long-running conflict over the country’s privatized university system, a relic of Chile’s 1973-1990 military dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet. Massive student protests led by FECH erupted across the country in 2010 as students and their supporters demanded educational reforms.
In an article published Monday in Americas Quarterly’s Fall 2012 issue on the Latin American middle class, AQ’s Richard André explains that some 40 percent of Chilean students fail to finish their degrees, and that even college graduates in Chile struggle to pay off their loans. “Unfortunately, high-quality education comes at a high cost. Chile has the second most expensive private university system of any OECD country, after the United States. And due to lack of financial aid, Chilean families shoulder 85 percent of the cost of a university education—more than any other developed nation,” writes André.
On Monday, the University of Diego Portales (UDP) released its annual human rights report, criticizing Chilean security forces’ “irrational and overblown state force” during the student demonstrations of 2010 and 2011. The report cites the controversial “Hinzpeter Law,” named after Chile’s former interior minister and current defense minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter, which makes occupying public institutions a crime punishable with up to three years in jail. Although Congress approved a plan to reduce student loan interest rates last year and has promised to raise $1 billion in taxes for education, students are dissatisfied with the government’s response to their demands, and the protests have not abated.
“We aren’t disposed to sign papers, we’re not ingenuous,” said Fielbaum. “It’s very serious that the presidential candidates—Golborne, Allamand and Bachelet—do not discuss this subject. We have to be interpreting what they want and what they’ll propose in education.”
“We’re a movement capable of changing agendas. We want to influence the proposals and the presidential debates,” he added.
In recent years, states and localities from Arizona and Alabama to Hazleton, Pennsylvania, have passed laws and ordinances to make immigrants’ lives unbearable—what some call “attrition through enforcement.” Suffolk County, NY (located in the central and eastern portion of Long Island) was until recently a paradigmatic case of such an approach.
Only one week after a historic election in which Latino voters played a deciding role in choosing the president, Suffolk County’s new county executive, Steve Bellone, signed an executive order guaranteeing translation and interpretation services to residents with limited English proficiency. The result: a potential model for how pro-immigrant advocates can work with elected officials to change the tenor of immigration politics in this country.
Until last year, Suffolk County was dominated by County Executive Steve Levy, who frequently blamed undocumented immigrants for Suffolk’s problems, appearing with famed restrictionists like Lou Dobbs and supporting legislative proposals that targeted immigrants. Levy and other officials fanned the flames of nativist sentiment in a tense climate that became rife with hate crimes against Latinos, culminating in the tragic hate murder of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero.
Tens of thousands of Argentines took to the streets nationwide and in smaller groups around the globe last Thursday to protest the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. In the last several months, demonstrations like this have become increasingly common: a similar protest in September drew around 200,000 angry Buenos Aires residents out of their homes, armed with pots and pans in a so-called cacerolazo, clamoring and banging their utensils to express their dissatisfaction with the current administration.
Although Fernández de Kirchner was elected with 54 percent of the vote just a year ago, her approval ratings have since fallen to little over 31 percent. The issues moving people into the squares are numerous. The public’s concern over insecurity, inflation, government corruption, and rumors of constitutional reform to facilitate a third term for the president in 2015 are some of the most important grievances.
"We don't want a Chávez who is in power for thirty years. Cristina needs to respect the constitution," says German Levisman, a 29-year-old pharmacist who is worried about the prospect of a third term for Fernández de Kirchner and angered by the government’s policies. "Something that's worth five pesos will increase in price by one peso in a few months. I can't possibly save any money for a house of my own. Meanwhile, government officials buy themselves luxury apartments in the business district. And they have the audacity to call hardworking people 'oligarchs' and 'bad persons?' They are the real bad guys!"
The president has refrained from a direct response to Thursday’s mass protest, which was mobilized mostly via social networks. Fernández de Kirchner did allude to the protest indirectly, referring to participants as "provocative people" who “want to return to the ultra-conservative regime".
Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper interrupted his trip to India to offer President Barack Obama his congratulations on his reelection. In Canada, there had been talk that Conservative Prime Minister Harper may have preferred a more ideologically-similar partner like Mitt Romney to govern our closest political neighbor and ally and strongest commercial partner.
But anyone who knows Canadian-American relations and history should know that interests and interpersonal relationships play a greater role than ideological kinship.
To his credit, Harper, who won a minority government victory a month before Obama's win in 2008, sent a clear signal that his approach to U.S. relations would be pragmatic and sensitive to the president-elect's interests and agenda. The appointment of NDP Premier Gary Doer as Canada's ambassador to Washington in 2009 had all the makings of Harper's desire for a smooth and operational relationship. He was not wrong: Doer has shown aplomb and pragmatism while gaining access, which is so critical and crucial for a functional partnership.
Brazil was ranked 14th in the world for the number of its students now studying at American Universities, Agência Brasil announced Monday. According to the Open Doors report, Brazilians made up 9,029 of the 764, 495 international students at universities in the United States from 2011-2012, an increase of about 6 percent from 2010-2011. U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. expressed his hope that this rate would continue to increase.
Ambassador Shannon attributed the increased numbers of Brazilian students in the U.S. to Science Without Borders, a joint effort between the U.S. and Brazil meant to increase the number of Brazilians in higher education, specifically in scientific fields. The government of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff pledged to provide 75,000 scholarships to Brazilian students wishing to study abroad in scientific and technology-related fields.
In an article published yesterday in the new Americas Quarterly, Shannon explained that this initiative is the most ambitious in Brazilian history: “it is not confined to a single economic or scientific sector. [It] covers all aspects of scientific study: computer and information technology; mathematics; physics; biology; health science; marine science; industrial and electrical engineering; mining, oil and gas technologies; and systems analysis and industrial design."
Ambassador Shannon said that President Rousseff’s ultimate goal is to transform Brazil’s economy to include more jobs in the science and technology sectors, as well as to increase social mobility in one generation.
Although the United States is only poised to receive 20,000 of the total 100,000 Brazilian students studying abroad, Ambassador Shannon would like to see the U.S. receive between 60,000 and 100,000 students. A press briefing was held today with Assistant Secretary of State Ann Stock and the president and CEO of the Institute of International Education, Allan Goodman, in Washington DC to discuss the Open Doors data.
Es todo un reto relatar a la Argentina sin parecer que uno se alineó con una tendencia política militante u opositora, ambas campeantes en un mundo blanco y negro que se apoderó de este país hace cerca de dos años. En 2010 también yo trasegaba por estas calles y lo que vi, con variados matices, fue un país conmovido hasta la médula por la muerte de Néstor Kirchner (expresidente y exsecretario general de la Unasur), celebrante de los renovados juicios a los dictadores de los 1970s, crítico ya de ciertas políticas económicas que el gobierno kirchnerista consideraba dignas (cancelación de la deuda ante el FMI , la renegociación con el Club de París) y algunos analistas peligrosas; preocupado también por la concentración de poder de la pareja presidencial que hasta este deceso, supuestamente planeaba alternarse la Casa Rosada por décadas.
Pero aún con todos esos puntos de vista, legítimos en una democracia, el debate era respetuoso y las voces en los medios eran más plurales. La polarización se exacerbó en estos dos años en modo y forma complejos, a tal punto que los interlocutores se han convertido en enemigos y los discursos están llenos de odio.
Cómo reconocerle a ambos lados sus razones sin parecer tibio, cómo hacer críticas sin ser satanizado, sin perder amigos o entrar en discusiones sin fin. Cómo analizar el papel de los medios que dejaron de estar del lado del gobierno y se fueron a la otra orilla a pelear una batalla económica y política, en la que los grandes perdedores son los lectores y por supuesto los periodistas que no tienen idea qué va a pasar con sus puestos de trabajo luego del mentado 7D (7 de diciembre, plazo para que el grupo Clarín haga efectivo el artículo 161 de la Ley de Medios que lo obliga a desprenderse de las licencias que exceden los límites fijado por la ley.
Economists, social scientists and policy makers highlight the rapid expansion of the middle class in Latin America, but Jamele Rigolini, a senior economist at the World Bank, emphasizes that this growth is not exclusive to the region. In an article published today in Americas Quarterly’s Fall 2012 issue on the middle class, Rigolini writes, “while the industrialized world was facing a challenging decade, many emerging economies surfed past the global turbulences and continued to grow, lifting people out of poverty and feeding the ranks of their middle classes.”
According to Rigolini, the BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India, and China—are all experiencing varying degrees of growth in their middle class, with growth in some regions more substantial than in others. When 50 million individuals joined Latin America’s middle class in the past decade, about 20 million of them were Brazilian. The middle class now comprises about 50 percent of the country’s population, making Brazil an increasingly middle-class society.
Russia and China’s middle classes have also grown remarkably, with the middle class more than doubling in Russia to comprise over half the population, and increasing from 10 million to 83 million individuals in China over 10 years—an eightfold increase. China’s middle class is expected to expand to 1 billion individuals by 2030, making up a predicted 72 percent of the country’s projected future population.
According to a November 9 World Bank report, the size of Latin America’s middle class has grown to equal the number of Latin Americans living in moderate poverty for the first time ever.
Nonetheless, inequality and poverty in the BRIC countries remains a formidable problem. China’s new middle class currently represents only 10 percent of its population. Meanwhile, in India, the 9 million people classified as middle class in 2010 still represent less than 1 percent of that country’s citizens. And Latin America continues to be classified as one of the most unequal regions in the world, with almost two-thirds of the population yet to reach middle-class status in some countries.
“Everything else being equal, when the proportion of the middle class in a society increases, social policy on health and education becomes more active and the quality of governance regarding democratic participation and official corruption improves,” Rigolini says. “Whether the change brought by the middle classes is always good for the poor remains, however, an open question.”
Mexico’s successful deep-water drilling of wells “Trion-1” (August 29) and “Supremus-1” (October 5) in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico has caused national euphoria. It has shown the country’s considerable oil potential and revamped public confidence in state-owned company Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos), whose reputation had dwindled for the past years following a decrease in production, corruption scandals, an inability to stop criminal groups from stealing oil, and drilling failures.
The news has brought a much needed respite for President Felipe Calderón, helping him to balance a record that has been severely undermined over the past years due to his security strategy and the situation of the economy. In fact, the drilling of both wells would have turned into ammunition for his detractors had there not been any positive results, as it follows a 528-percent increase in investment for exploration. Now, however, the outgoing administration has had no qualms in affirming that the discovery may be part of an oil system with an overall production potential of up to 10 billion barrels of oil.
Yet, what has become a “golden egg” for President Calderón may quickly rot for President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto.
The high expectations produced by the discovery will be difficult to achieve due to Pemex’s lack of technological capabilities and the prohibitive cost of deep-water drilling. Indeed, it would be a mistake to take the successful drilling of the aforementioned wells as a sign that Pemex has recovered from decades of managerial excesses, corruption, vested interests, inefficient populist policies, and discretionary policy-making.
The negative effect of these factors, along with the government’s dependence on oil exports for revenue, have resulted in a severe decrease in Pemex’s efficiency.
The Mexican government signaled this week that its approach to fighting drug trafficking in the region could change after voters in the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington decided to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on Tuesday.
A top aide for Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, who will take office in December, said Thursday that the passage of the two controversial voter referendums in the U.S.—Amendment 64 in Colorado and Initiative 502 in Washington—were potentially “game-changing.” Peña Nieto advisor Luis Vidagaray said the president-elect does not think that drug legalization will solve cartel violence in the region, but that Mexico’s drug strategies would now have to be revisited.
“Obviously we can’t handle a product that is illegal in Mexico, trying to stop its transfer to the United States, when in the United States, at least in part of the United States, it now has a different status,” Videgaray said.
About half of all marijuana consumed in the U.S. comes from Mexico, but it is not clear how much legalization of the drug in two U.S. states will impact the revenue of Mexican drug cartels. Eric Olson, deputy director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, said that revenue from marijuana comprises about 20 percent of cartels’ total revenue. A 2010 study by the Rand Corporation said that drug cartels derive about 15 to 26 percent of their revenue from marijuana sales.
However, a different study, by the Mexican Competitiveness Institute, said that legalizing marijuana in just the state of Washington could cut drug cartel profits by $1.37 billion, or 23 percent.
Residents of Mexico City had mixed reactions to the news on Thursday. “What they do there, they do here, and for us that is a big problem,” said a Mexican woman interviewed by Univisión after the elections.
Another woman was less certain that legalization is a mistake. “I don’t know what the result will be, but I think it’s a path that we need to start looking at: the idea of legalizing certain drugs, certain things.”
An earthquake struck off the Pacific coast of Guatemala on Wednesday morning, killing up to 15 people and leaving 100 missing.
The quake was centered about 15 miles off the coastal town of Champerico and about 100 miles southwest of Guatemala City, but it shook buildings as far away as Mexico City, El Salvador and Nicaragua, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The magnitude-7.4 quake struck about 20 miles below the earth’s surface.
The mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard, said no serious damage or injuries had been reported in the city, although many people left their offices during the earthquake to go home.
At a news conference, Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina claimed that not all the reported deaths had been confirmed, but there were reports that some 30 residences collapsed in the town of San Marcos, near the northwestern border with Mexico. San Marcos, where most of the catastrophe was reported, has not experienced an earthquake of this magnitude since a1976 trembler that killed 23,000 people.
In a radio interview, Pérez Molina urged Guatemalans to evacuate tall buildings as an emergency measure while the country is on its highest level of disaster alert.
"I've been in Guatemala for almost two years. I am used to earthquakes. This was a lot more severe, a lot more shaky," said Peace Corps volunteer Adam Baker Carmel.
Nearly 2 million Puerto Ricans went to the polls yesterday, and while they could not participate in the U.S. presidential election, residents of the U.S. territory opted for statehood in a non-binding referendum. Voters on the island also elected the pro-Commonwealth candidate Alejandro García Padilla as the new governor of the island.
The first question on the two-part referendum asked voters if they wanted to change their political status with the United States. Nearly 54 percent (992,374) chose not to continue their 114-year-old relationship with the United States, while 46 percent (786,749) favored the status quo of the island remaining a territory. The second question was geared toward those who favored a change in status and asked voters to choose between three options—U.S. statehood, independence or “sovereign free association.” Sixty-one percent opted for statehood.
Under the current status of Free Associated State (Estado Libre Asociado—ELA) residents of Puerto Rico do not have the right to vote in presidential elections and only have one non-voting representative in Congress. However, Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917. The status of Free Associated State grants a certain degree of autonomy to the island, but restricts its residents from becoming involved in topics such as security, trade and diplomatic relations, among others.
But the future of Puerto Rico also depends on who governs the island. While Governor Luis Fortuño supports Puerto Rico’s incorporation as the 51st state, Governor-elect Alejandro García Padilla advocates maintaining the status quo. García Padilla of the Popular Democratic Party (Partido Popular Democrático—PPD) was elected with 48 percent (870,005 votes) support, while Fortuño of the New Progressive Party (Partido Nuevo Progresista) received 47 percent (855,325) of the votes.
A record 12.2 million Latinos are expected to vote in today's U.S. election. If expectations hold up, this election will further solidify the importance of the Latino vote and its status as not only the county's fastest-growing population but also its growing political influence. The neck-and-neck race between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will likely be decided by swing states with large Latino populations such as Colorado, Nevada and Florida.
Buoyed by his executive order of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in June, President Obama leads Governor Romney 73 percent to 24 percent among Latino voters, according to the latest Latino Decisions tracking poll, with 3 percent of this population still undecided. If President Obama meets this projection, he will become president with the highest level of support from the Latino electorate, breaking President Bill Clinton's record of 72 percent support in the 1996 election.
Governor Romney's stances on issues critical to the Latino population, including immigration policy, have been met with less enthusiasm among many Latino voters. As a result, he is projected to fall short of his campaign goal of 38 percent support from this population.
Beyond the presidential election, Latino voters are also being aggressively courted in hotly contested Senate races such as Nevada and Virginia—both listed as toss-ups by Real Clear Politics.