From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.
Victorious Humala Plans SouthAm Travels
The latest numbers from Peru’s electoral authority confirm that Ollanta Humala maintains his lead over Keiko Fujimori, who conceded defeat on Monday. Humala won 51.465 percent of the votes against Fujimori’s 48.535 percent, with 98 percent of the ballots counted. Several Latin American leaders congratulated Humala on his victory and invited him to visit their countries. Humala begins a tour of South America next Wednesday that will take him to Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile, and then the rest of South America. The goal of the trip will be to strengthen bilateral relations with Peru’s regional neighbors and to push agreements aimed at promoting Peru’s development. Humala also says he hopes to visit the United States.
Humala gave his first sit-down interview since the election to CNN en Español on June 6, in which he proposed allowing recall elections for the president and legislators, as well as reforming the Peruvian Constitution to allow the state to invest public money. He also said that under his administration military figures will only occupy military positions and there will be “zero tolerance for drugs.” He noted that ex-President Alberto Fujimori, currently serving time for corruption and human rights abuses, will only be transferred to an ordinary jail cell if the courts decide to move him. “We don’t want more divergence. We want unity.”
Peru’s Stock Market Rebounds after Monday’s Steep Drop
The Peruvian stock market continued to recover Wednesday, after ratings agencies said that President-elect Ollanta Humala’s election would not affect the country’s investment-grade status. The Lima General Index plummeted 12.5 percent on Monday—the largest drop since it was created in 1981—and closed early, after conservative Keiko Fujimori conceded defeat to Humala. The Economist Intelligence Unit explores the meaning of the election for Peru’s economy.
Read an AS/COA Online News Analysis about Humala’s electoral victory.
Ecuador, Venezuela Oppose OPEC Production Increase
The presidents of Ecuador and Venezuela met this week and released a statement arguing against an increase in oil production by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), of which both countries are members. Their statement came a day before a June 8 summit in Vienna, where OPEC failed to ratify a proposal by Saudi Arabia and three other Persian Gulf countries to raise output.
From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.
2010 Energy and Climate Ministerial Convenes in Washington
Energy ministers from the Americas met in Washington D.C., on April 15 and 16 for the 2010 Energy and Climate Ministerial of the Americas. An article penned by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu explores the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, which has the goal of developing a clean energy network across the Western Hemisphere to cooperate and share information on energy initiatives. “[C]lean, reliable energy will provide a foundation for broad-based economic growth that will widen the circle of prosperity across our hemisphere and also reduce our carbon emissions,” they write.
Learn more about AS/COA’s Energy Action Group.
Bolivia Hosts Alternative Climate Change Summit
Ten thousand delegates from more than 100 countries gather in Bolivia this week for the first-ever World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, taking place in Cochabamba, Bolivia, from April 19 through the 22. The summit was arranged by Bolivian President Evo Morales as an alternative to the Copenhagen summit in 2009. The Democracy Center, based in Cochabamba, offers day-by-day coverage of the People’s Summit on Climate Change.
Far-Reaching Immigration Bill Passes in Arizona Senate
On April 19, Arizona’s Senate approved a bill that allows local police officers to search people for their immigration papers and also makes it a crime for employers to hire illegal immigrant day laborers. The Latin Americanist blog points out that while supporters of the bill say it will help lower crime, opponents argue that it will encourage “racial profiling” by police and target Arizona’s Latino population.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), currently engaged in a reelection campaign and considered a longtime advocate of comprehensive immigration reform, caused a stir by backing the legislation and saying border security is a top priority. Politico reported that immigration reform advocates were “bewildered.” His political rival, Congressman J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), described McCain’s shifting position as “political gamesmanship…born of political convenience—driven by his need for personal political gain.”
I was a little taken aback last week when I told a high-minded Peruvian journalist I would be traveling to Quito to cover the presidential elections. Correa! she said, eyes alight, eyebrows waggling, her elbow giving me a knowing dig in the ribs.
I might have written this off as a case of sensory deprivation brought on by years of covering the none-too-pretty underbelly of Limeño politics, were it not for the groupies at Rafael Correa’s final Quito campaign rally this week. Starry-eyed, perfectly coiffed, with heavy eyeliner—and I think in one case, false eyelashes—they jostled for position at the barricades demanding to know when El Presidente would be there. Granted this was a political rally, and flag-waving, chanting and fist-waving are par for the course. But there is no denying the man has charisma.
And for now, it seems, he has the trust of the people. Correa’s closest rival, Lucio Gutiérrez, the former president ousted in 2005, outpaced expectations. But even so he raised the possibility of fraud. Exit polls, though, still show the president with a convincing margin of victory.
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa announced yesterday a controversial move to buy back the country’s 2012 and 2030 bonds at only 30 cents on the dollar. Investors are less than pleased, though probably not surprised. Last December, Correa’s government failed to make a scheduled interest payment on its 2012 bonds. At that point, the government’s two other global issues (2015 and 2030), were also considered in default.
That default, unlike the bulk of past defaults in the region, was not caused by empty coffers. Ecuador’s debt is currently less than 20 percent of GDP—a relatively light burden. Argentina’s debt at the time of its 2001default, by comparison, was “equivalent to 150 percent of its GDP.” Correa instead justified the move on moral grounds, calling the debt “immoral and illegitimate.” An audit commissioned by Correa found evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the issuance of its foreign debt.
How investors will react to yesterday's news is uncertain, especially in this economic climate. But one thing is certain. Correa’s tough stance has bolstered his popularity at home, and increased his odds of an easy re-election this coming Sunday. Polls from Cedatos-Gallup and Santiago Pérez Investigaciones y Estudios show Correa with between 49 percent and 52 percent support, which would provide a first-round victory.