Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Monday Memo: [i]AQ[/i]’s Top-Five Expected Stories for the Week of March 26

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Top stories this week are likely to include: Pope Benedict XVI’s ongoing trip to Latin America; Hugo Chávez in Havana for radiation therapy; Latin America’s verdict on the World Bank presidency; pro-FARC sentiments in Caracas; and Chávez neck-and-neck with Capriles Radonski.

Benedict XVI in Latin America: In his six-day trip to Mexico and Cuba, the Pope has already waded into the thorniest political issues. He condemned drug trafficking in Mexico and urged followers of the Catholic Church to wield their faith against poverty and other social challenges. “Besides being a successful visit for the Pope, on the political front the question is whether his message will in fact translate into a boost in the polls for PAN presidential candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota,” observes AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak.  Amid an ongoing crackdown on human rights in Cuba ahead of Benedict XVI’s landing in Santiago today, the pontiff has spoken out against Cuba’s communist model, adding that “today it is evident that Marxist ideology in the way it was conceived no longer corresponds to reality.” The reserved response given by the Castros may overshadow the Pope’s visit through Wednesday.

Chávez’ Therapy in Cuba: Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez arrived back in Havana, the site of his two surgeries after being diagnosed with cancer, for further radiation treatment. He is expected to remain there until Thursday, and he will return to Venezuela for three days before flying back to Cuba for another five-day treatment. But the Venezuelan people still do not know the severity of their president’s health. Notes AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini, “This has already sparked the rumor mill. The lack of transparency on the part of Miraflores is troubling.”

Brazil and the World Bank:
Brazil, Latin America’s strongest economy, has not yet decided whom to support for the World Bank presidency despite nominating José Antonio Ocampo (Colombia) on Friday. The two other candidates are Jim Yong Kim (U.S.) and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria). Brazil has long argued for greater representation in global governance on the part of emerging markets, despite casting its vote for Christine Lagarde over Mexican Central Bank (Banxico) head Agustín Carstens last year for the International Monetary Fund managing director post. “Even under the realignment in the voting system, Brazil only controls just over 2 percent of the votes while the U.S. controls nearly 16 percent. Developing countries will certainly have more of a say in this election but the vote of countries like Brazil will ultimately be more of a political statement than one that will dramatically affect the outcome of the election,” notes Jason Marczak. The three candidates will be interviewed to succeed the World Bank’s outgoing President Robert Zoellick, with a decision to be announced at the latest next month.

Outrage over Tirofijo Tribute: Former FARC commander Manuel Marulanda Vélez—nom de guerre Tirofijo—was given a tribute over the weekend in Caracas to commemorate four years after his death. The Colombian government expressed indignation at the event, saying that Tirofijo represents “decades of terror of the FARC.” Venezuela’s perceived coziness with FARC and other rebel groups has always caused rifts with Colombia; Christopher Sabatini says: “President Santos’ policy of improving relations with his counterpart in Caracas helped to cool tensions and address regional issues. But this event is just another that tries those ties. Are they intended to provoke?”

Chávez Tied with Presidential Challenger: President Chávez is in a statistical tie with the opposition candidate, Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, according to a Consultoras21 poll released last Friday. Chávez received 46 percent support and Capriles Radonski 45 percent, marking the first time in the general election that Capriles Radonski has moved to a technical tie with the incumbent. Chávez is seeking a third term on October 7; Christopher Sabatini observes that “there’s a long time until voting day, but things are certainly getting interesting.”

Tags: Colombia, Cuba, Drug Trafficking, FARC, Henrique Capriles Radonski, Hugo Chavez, Mexico, Pope Benedict XVI, Venezuela
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