Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Monday Memo: [i]AQ[/i]’s Top Expected Stories for the Week of April 30



Top stories this week are likely to include: Dilma Rousseff’s possible veto of Forestry legislation; The search ends for Cuban actors who defected; the vote on drug victims compensation law in Mexico; construction resumes on Peru’s Conga mine.

Brazil’s Forestry Laws: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is facing extreme pressure from environmentalists, who believe that a new forestry bill, which last week passed both legislatures after fierce lobbying by agroindustry, will speed up deforestation of the Amazon.  Current laws establish that 80 percent of private land in the Amazon region is off limits for development. The new law will allow for the development of vast areas that were previously off limits. According to observers, the changes threaten 270,000 square miles (690,000 square kilometers) and will prevent Brazil from reaching its deforestation reduction goals.  “It’s fitting—if a bit ironic—that this is playing out in the country that will soon host the Rio+20 Conference,” says Chris Sabatini, editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly.

Cuban Defections:
Two young Cuban actors who disappeared last week while making their way to the New York-based Tribeca Film Festival for the U.S. premiere of the film Una Noche have resurfaced and announced their intention to apply for asylum in the United States. The actors, both in their 20s, went missing during a brief stopover in Miami and had not been heard from in nearly a week. “Defections from Cuba are common;” says AQ editor Matthew Aho, “they result from a combination of accommodating U.S. asylum policies for Cubans and the lack of real opportunities for Cuban youth.”

Conga mine construction to resume: The largest-ever mining investment in Peru’s history will be allowed to move forward this year, after months of construction delays caused by local protestors’ fears of environmental damage and water contamination. The Conga protests were the first major crisis of President Ollanta Humala’s administration. His decision to allow the project to proceed will be another major test of his government and could spark a wave of similar protest in the Cajamarca region.  “For many who questioned Humala’s commitment to a market economy and investment, his actions in this case demonstrate that the Peruvian President—at least when it comes to mining—is a pragmatist, says Sabatini.

Drug Crimes Compensation: A bill that would provide victims of drug violence passed Mexico’s Senate last week and is poised to advance through the legislative process this week. The measure, which would provide victims of drug violence with up to $70,000 in financial compensation, along with a variety of specialized social services, is a central demand of a growing piece movement being led by poet Javier Sicilia. The bill’s sponsors, Senators Fernando Baeza and Tomas Torres, are optimistic about its passage, saying it “lays the foundations to reconstruct the social fabric which has been so gravely affected by violence.”

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