Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Monday Memo: Guatemalan Protests—Costa Rican Discrimination—Chinese Investment—Guyana Election—Technology in Honduras

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Demonstrators Call for Pérez Molina’s Resignation:  Thousands of protestors marched across 13 cities in Guatemala on Saturday to call for President Otto Pérez Molina’s resignation. The protests came as a response to a customs tax fraud scandal uncovered by the Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala (International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala—CICIG) in April that led to the resignation of Vice President Roxana Baldetti earlier this month, though she denies involvement in the scheme. The protests were organized via social media, without any clear leadership. While Pérez Molina had originally announced his intent to let CICIG’s mandate expire, the scandal later prompted the president to announce that he will request a two-year extension.

Costa Rica orders Executive Action against LGBT Discrimination: In honor of International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia on May 17, Costa Rican Vice President Ana Helena Chacón announced new legislation that will punish public workers found discriminating against others on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While the decree does not outline what the sanctions for discrimination will be or how they will be issued, the decree does mandate training on equal access for employees of public organizations, as well as the redefining of a couple or partner to include same-sex partners for all institutions under the executive branch. Chacón, who has long been a supporter of LGBT rights, announced the decree on Friday at Costa Rica’s Casa Presidencial. Despite the new measure, same-sex marriages and civil unions are currently not recognized in Costa Rica.

Chinese Premier Seeks Investment Opportunities in South America: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will arrive in Brazil today as part of a four-country tour that also includes Colombia, Peru and Chile. During the first leg of his trip, Kequing will meet with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and is expected to oversee the agreement of a $50 billion Chinese investment in Brazilian infrastructure. At the center of the agreement is a proposed railway that would stretch from the coast of Brazil through the coast of Peru, aiding the transport of Chinese import commodities. Rousseff praised Chinese knowledge and expertise in infrastructure, such as roads, railways, ports, and airports. The visit will mark Keqiang’s first official tour of Latin America.

Multiracial Bloc Breaks Guyana’s Ruling Party Streak: David Granger, a former army brigadier, was sworn in as Guyana’s eighth president on Saturday, marking the end of a 23-year rule for the Indo-Guyanese People’s Progressive Party (PPP). Moses Nagamootoo, an Indo-Guyanese politician who left the PPP for the multiracial coalition known as A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change coalition (APNU+AFC), will serve as prime minister in the coalition’s one-seat majority Parliament. APNU+AFC’s electoral success brought what many hope is an end to racially divided politics in the South American nation, where the majority of inhabitants are either of Indian or African descent. The elections commission rejected a request for a recount from ousted President Donald Ramotar, whose administration had been plagued by charges of corruption.

Honduras to use Bitcoin Technology for Land Title Tracking: After a deal made last week, the Honduran government will partner with Factom, a Texas-based blockchain technology company, to start a land title registry system. Blockchain, the underlying technology of Bitcoin, keeps a history of all transactions on a permanent database. The use of blockchain technology in land title tracking will allow for a more secure and transparent system of records in the Central American country, where almost 60 percent of land ownership is undocumented. While past systems of land registry have been riddled with fraud and hackers, the blockchain technology will make official records less vulnerable to corruption.

Tags: Chinese Investment in Latin America, David Granger, LGBT Rights, President Otto Pérez Molina
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