Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Weekly News Roundup from Across the Americas

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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.

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Mediated Talks on Honduras to Resume; Zelaya Calls for Insurrection

Talks between the deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and the interim government ended in Costa Rica with little progress on July 10. Since then, Costa Rican President Óscar Arias announced talks would resume later this week and Zelaya said that, should he not gain reinstatement this weekend, he would consider the dialogue a failure. He also called on Hondurans to engage in an insurrection.

The Christian Science Monitor interviewed COA’s Eric Farnsworth, who described the call for an uprising as “a colossal mistake.” Moreover, in a debate on a National Jounal Experts blog, Farnsworth writes: “The real story is not the overthrow of Zelaya in Honduras…[but] where the hemisphere itself has been as nation after nation has elected leaders who then use the institutions of democracy to attempt to perpetuate themselves in power.”

The Wall Street Journal puts the Honduran crisis in context in a multimedia look at the history of caudillos. Considering both sides of the coup, the main article states: “In the eyes of the international community Roberto Micheletti took charge through an old-fashioned coup,” but “In Mr. Micheletti’s take on the events, it was his government who avoided another, slow-motion coup by Mr. Zelaya himself.”

Fernando Carrera Castro argues in Foreign Policy’s The Argument that the U.S. financial crisis was an important factor in the Honduran Coup and that the political crisis will only exacerbate the country’s economic problems. Castro says that Honduras’ dependence on the United States “turned out to be a major problem with the first signs of economic downturn, and since the last quarter of 2008, the situation has become a nightmare.”

Read AS/COA analysis of recent events in Honduras and access our resource guide to the crisis.

La Familia Violence Demonstrates Drug War Woes

Though Mexican authorities have scored victories in their fight against cartels, “[t]he longer and harder the war is prosecuted, the more complex and daunting it becomes,” write Ken Ellingwood and Tracy Wilkinson of The Los Angeles Times. The violent attacks in the wake of a Mexican drug kingpin’s arrest serve as a case in point. Eje Central describes the fervent, nearly suicidal attacks after the July 10 capture of cartel member Arnaldo Rueda Merida, of the Michoacan-based cartel known as “la Familia.” Other challenges include rooting out persistent graft in police forces, an ever-rising body count, and a public distrust of government.

Listen to a speech by President Felipe Calderón at the annual AS/COA Mexico City Conference.

Read AS/COA analysis of the latest round of violence.

Mexico’s PAN to Elect New Leader

El Universal reports that Mexico’s governing National Action Party, whose recent congressional election loss led to the party director Germán Martínez’s resignation, plans to convene on August 8 to elect an interim director until what would have been the end of Martínez’s term in December 2010.

Listen to an AS/COA discussion of the July 5 elections with Mexican political scientist Denise Dresser.

Read AS/COA coverage of the elections.

Revisiting Mexico and the Merida Initiative

In August, reports Excelsior, U.S. President Barack Obama will make a return visit to Mexico, meeting President Felipe Calderón in Guadalajara. Collaboration between the two countries under the Mérida Initiative will likely be a topic. Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper will also head to Mexico for a three-leader summit on August 9 and 10.

The Council of the Americas will hold a panel discussion on July 24 about the upcoming North American Leaders’ Summit.

Canada to Require Visas for Mexicans

Ottawa announced that starting this week, Mexicans will need visas to enter Canada. The federal government says it took the action to stem Mexican asylum bids. It received 9,400 such claims in 2008 alone, representing a quarter of refugee applications received in Canada. Embassy Magazine reports on how the decision came about.

Republicans Challenge on State Dept Confirmation Hearings

Blogging for AQ, Liz Harper offers an overview of the confirmations hearings for key Latin America policy posts. “The headline out of this hearing, however, is not about the accomplishments, or policies, of these sharp and savvy diplomats,” writes Harper. “It was an opportunity for certain Republicans to raise legitimate complaints about the Obama administration’s policies on Honduras and Cuba.”

Brazil’s Ex-Prez Announces Legislative Clean Up

An Infolatam article reports that Brazil’s Senate leader José Sarney will annul hundreds of secret Senate decisions from the past 14 years and that the beneficiaries of these decisions must return any public resources they received as a result. The article reports that accusations of fraud by Sarney and under his watch have paralyzed the country’s Senate over the past six months. 

Lula Delivers Amnesty to Undocumented Immigrants

A bill that Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva signed into law on July 9 granted Brazil’s roughly 200,000 undocumented immigrants amnesty. Those granted amnesty can attain citizenship after two years. A Latina Lista blog post looks at the amnesty as a step forward, putting Brazil ahead of other countries struggling with immigration policy, such as the United States or most of the European Union.

Twitter Takes Over in Brazil

Discussing the popularity and impact of Twitter in Brazil, a Latin American Thought blog says, “Twitter has taken Brazil by storm and has become one of the site’s fastest growing markets.” The analysis looks at Twitter’s impact on Brazilian politics and how officials interact with constituents while inspiring political action in the face of corruption scandals.

Women Coming to America

Recent data show that more than half of immigrants coming to the United States are women. A New Media America article examines the ways immigrants, and particularly women, integrate themselves into U.S. society.

Learn more about AS/COA’s Hispanic Integration Initiative.

Cultural Diplomacy: New York Philharmonic Heads to Havana

It seems the arts have replaced ping-pong as an international diplomacy tool. The New York Philharmonic and the Royal Ballet of London have plans to perform in Cuba. A Guardian blog post takes a look at the intersection of soft diplomacy and the arts. U.S. Opposes Insulza’s Reelection as OAS Head

The United States said it will not support Chile’s José Miguel Insulza for reelection as Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS). Santiago Times writer Chris Noyce says Insulza’s stance on Cuba’s readmission to the OAS and his alleged proximity to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez “rubbed the U.S. the wrong way.” Read an AS/COA interview with Insulza in which the OAS stance on Cuba was discussed.

Washington Holds Migration Talks with Cuba

On July 14 the opening round of migration talks between the Obama administration and Cuba concluded, signaling a successful beginning to the first official discussion between the two governments in six years. The Miami Herald reports that a U.S. diplomatic visit to Cuba is likely in December.

Read AS/COA analysis of Washington’s relationship with Cuba under a new administration.

Blogging from a Cuban Prison

In The Huffington Post, Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez offers up a post by Pablo Pacheco, an imprisoned Cuban journalist. He says, “I think I can also say without fear of being wrong that the voice that has been the most tightly muzzled among the 11 million Cubans is that of the prisoner.” Pacheco was arrested during Cuba’s Black Spring in 2003.

Non-Aligned Movement Chimes in on Embargo

The Latin Americanist blog reports on the Non-Aligned Movement’s call for the United States to drop its embargo on Cuba, issued just as Egypt assumes the organization’s presidency from Havana.

Comparing Swine Flu Reactions in Chile and Argentina

The Economist examines Argentina’s struggles with A/H1N1 Flu in comparison to Chile’s efforts. “Chile’s response seems to have been swifter, better coordinated and more decisive,” whereas in Argentina “many seem to believe that officials have understated the number of people…with swine flu.”

In the Wake of Elections, a Look at Argentine Institutions

In an article for openDemocracy, University of Westminster’s Celia Szusterman takes an in-depth look at the background of Argentina’s mid-term congressional elections. She writes: “The key factor in understanding Argentina is its lack of institutions: this is what makes her politics unpredictable and so difficult to explain, let alone understand. The question is: why are there no institutions? Why are there no parties?”

Fujimori Admits to $15 Million Payment

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori confessed to paying former Intelligence Director Vladimiro Montesino $15 million to resign in 2000. But the president, serving 25 years in prison for human rights abuses, did not admit to criminal responsibility because the $15 million were repaid to the government, reports University of Pittsburgh’s Jurist blog.

Americas Quarterly launches its human rights issue at McNally Jackson Bookstore on July 24.

Read AS/COA coverage of Fujimori’s trial and conviction.

Javier Velásquez Appointed as Peruvian Prime Minister

Peruvian President Alan Garcia has chosen congressman Javier Válasquez Quesquén to be his third prime minister in three years. El Comercio reports that along with filling the post of Yehude Simon, who resigned after the violence over Amazonian land issues in June, Garcia named seven new cabinet members.

Colombia Court Must Recount Annulled Senate Votes

Due to irregularities in the 2006 senate elections, courts must recount nearly 34,000 ballots. The recount could unseat several senators, most notably Martha Lucía Ramírez, a prominent presidential candidate, reports El Tiempo.

Don’t Believe the Iran Embassy Hype

Even U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned of Iran building a state-of-the-art embassy in Managua as part of its efforts to establish stronger ties in Latin America. But, like some other Iranian investments proposed in the region, the embassy “doesn’t exist,” write The Washington Post writers Anne-Marie O’Connor and Mary Beth Sheridan.

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