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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Peru’s PM to Resign, Push for End of Decrees that Sparked Amazon Conflict

Peruvian Prime Minister of Peru Yehude Simon announced that the government will ask congress to eliminate decrees 1090 and 1064, which are among the laws at the core of the violent clashes between protesters and police on June 5. Those clashes claimed dozens of lives. Simon also said that he would resign from office as soon after the stand-off with indigenous people in Peru’s Amazon was resolved. The government also granted permission for indigenous leader Alberto Pizango to leave the country after he was granted political asylum by the Nicaraguan government.

An Americas Quarterly web exclusive goes into detail about the set of controversial decrees and how they fueled popular discontent that led to the clashes. Furthermore, AQ offers ongoing coverage of the conflict in a dedicated “Issues In-Depth” section.

The indigenous protests also sparked friction between Lima and La Paz, after Peruvian officials accused Bolivian President Evo Morales of meddling in their internal affairs and instigating protesters into violence against the police. Peru also withdrew its ambassador from Bolivia on June 15 in protest of comments made by Morales against its government. Political Science Professor Miguel Centellas, writing from Bolivia, explores the reasons why Morales publicly supports the Peruvian indigenous movement and what that means for his own popularity ratings ahead of presidential elections in December.

Lula Joins BRIC Leaders for First Summit

Foreign Policy Association “Global Markets” blog examines the first BRIC summit, held June 16 in Russia. In his analysis, Elison Elliott points out that the four BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India, and China—account for 40 percent of global currency reserves and that, “While they are far from a monolithic group, they are generally united in their frustration with the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.” RGE’s Latin America EconoMonitor examines the economic outlook for each country and reports that, despite media attention on suggestions BRIC members want to weaken the dollar’s influence, “the inaugural summit focused primarily on forging common positions on financial regulatory reform and climate change rather than foreign exchange rate management.” 

Read an AS/COA analysis of the first BRIC leaders’ summit.

U.S. Supreme Court Denies New Trial for “Cuban Five” Spies

Convicted Cuban spies lost the chance for a new trial when the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to hear their appeal. Defense lawyers argued that their clients received an unfair trial in Miami and had called for a change of venue.

What to Do with Gitmo?

Drake Bennett of The Boston Globe’s “Ideas” section evaluates various proposals on how to repurpose the U.S. Guantanamo Navy base in Cuba. Ideas include transforming it into an ecotourism spot, building a biological research station, or simply returning it to the Cubans.

Explosion Rocks Oaxacan Protest Anniversary March

One person was killed and 13 injured when tens of thousands of people assembled in Oaxaca on June 14 to commemorate the third anniversary of a demonstration that gripped the southern Mexican city for six months. In 2006, roughly 20 people died—including American journalist Brad Will—and dozens were injured or arrested in clashes with police over the protests initiated by the teachers union and staged against the state Governor Ulises Ruiz. The governor will step down next year following 2010 elections as he will not be eligible to run for reelection.

Predicting a Comeback for Mexico

Eurasiagroup’s Ian Bremmer writes for Foreign Policy’s “The Call” blog that, Mexico’s future appears bright, despite a rough year in which it’s been battered by the global economic downturn, swine flu, and a war on drug cartels. Bremmer counts the country’s political stability and institutional strength among factors that it will return to being a “dynamic emerging market and a sound long-term investment bet.” 

AS/COA hosts a June 23 roundtable examining Mexico’s upcoming congressional elections. 

White House Immigration Reform Meeting Postponed…Again

For the second time this month, President Barack Obama canceled a White House meeting with House and Senate leaders to discuss immigration reform. The National Immigration Forum’s ImmPolitic blog covers numerous reactions to the postponement from political commentators. Feet in 2 Worlds blog reports that some Republicans accuse the Obama administration of “playing politics with the delicate issue” and excluding some Republican legislators.

Ecuador Improves Credit Rating after Bond Buyback

The government of President Rafael Correa successfully bought back 91 percent of its defaulted sovereign bonds, slightly improving the country’s credit rating given by Standard & Poor’s to CCC+. Analysts interviewed by Bloomberg explain that Ecuador’s bond default was a mistake and that “Correa won’t be able to sell bonds in foreign markets for the ‘foreseeable future.’”

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s ViewsWire says that the buyback was well received by investors despite the big price discount. “The buyback represents a rare instance of a country that did not repay its debt even though it had the resources to do so. It was also one of the least contentious in the history of Latin American sovereign defaults,” ViewsWire adds.

Correa also received a call from President Barack Obama to congratulate him on his reelection. The White House said that Obama conveyed his intentions to strengthen bilateral relations with Quito based on open dialogue and mutual respect.

Correa Proposes Agency to Protect Governments from Media

Robert Amsterdam’s Venezuela Report blog looks at a proposal by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa to create a regional body to defend governments against press attacks. Venezuela’s and Bolivia’s presidents backed the idea, which Correa will propose officially when he assumes the presidency of the Union of South American Nations in July. The blog asks whether the bigger concern is the “reticence coming from the region’s leadership or the indifference coming from the public at large.” 

Venezuela to Buy 49 Percent Stake in DR Oil Refinery

After a Petrocaribe summit held in Saint Kitts and Nieves June 11 and 12, Venezuela announced negotiations with the Dominican Republic for the purchase of 49 percent of the Dominican state-owned oil refinery (Refidomsa). Dominican opposition parties and business leaders protested, saying it could endanger the country’s fuel supply. But the Dominican government said the move will help guarantee a continuous fuel supply

Nestor Kirchner’s Prospects for Renovating Peronism

Political analyst Julio Burdman writes for Infolatam that the future of the Peronist party in Argentina remains in the hands of the former president Néstor Kirchner. Burdman forecasts that after the legislative elections on June 28, Kirchner will remain an important actor of the party but should foster an internal political renovation to guarantee the party’s evolution.

The Case of 9-Year-Old Could Bedevil U.S.-Brazil Ties

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Bernard Aronson covers the case of Sean Goldman, a 9-year-old New Jersey boy kidnapped by his Brazilian mother five years ago. One month ago, a federal judge in Brazil ordered that Sean should be returned to his American father. Yet the case has been frozen “in the country’s seemingly endless judicial appeals process,” writes Aronson, despite the fact that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have raised the matter with Brazilian officials.

Bill Clinton Assumes Haiti Role

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton assumed his role as UN special envoy to Haiti this week. At a June 15 press conference, Clinton laid out priorities that included generating new jobs, private investment, and better coordination of disaster management among the myriad of non-governmental organizations working on the island. “I hope that in the process of doing all this, we will continue to elevate awareness of both the pain and the promise of Haiti in the international community, and there are real genuine economic opportunities there,” said Clinton.

The Witnesses that Accused Fujimori

Peruvian magazine Etiqueta Negra profiles two men who discovered the remains of people killed by the Peruvian death squad Colina, linked to former President Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s. Their testimonies were decisive in the historic trial of Fujimori that ended with an April 2009 guilty verdict and a sentence of 25 years in prison.

Read AS/COA coverage of the Fujimori verdict.

A “False Positive” Survivor Speaks

In the second installment of a three-part series, The Miami Herald chronicles how Colombian peasant Aladino Rios survived a “false positive” execution in 2007 from a military squad in the southern state of Huila. “False positives” are civilians killed by government forces and reported as guerrilla casualties of war.

Kidnappings and Rescues in Honduras

Honduran newspaper La Prensa reports about the rising number of kidnappings in the country in the last three years. The article says kidnappers target wealthy businessmen and their families and that, even after paying hefty ransoms, some victims have been executed. It also highlights efforts by an elite police squad fights back engaged in rescue efforts.

Camaraderie between El Salvador and Honduras 40 Years after Soccer War

Honduras and El Salvador played each other in a World Cup qualifying match on June 10, four decades after the 100-hour Soccer War. Freelance reporter Allen Abel chronicles how people from both countries congregated peacefully in suburban Maryland to watch the televised match between their national soccer teams. The writer explains that rioting that broke out during games between the two countries in July 1969 led to the war, but that the 2009 game was marked by camaraderie.

Tags: Alberto Fujimori, Argentina, Bill Clinton, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guantanamo Bay, Haiti, Honduras, Immigration, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela
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