Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Weekly 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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Mexico Issues Arizona Travel Warning

In response to Arizona’s tough new immigration law, the Mexican government issued a travel advisory warning that “it must be assumed that every Mexican citizen may be harassed and questioned without further cause at any time” once the law takes effect in the summer. The law, SB1070, was signed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer August 23. It has sparked intense debate over provisions allowing local law enforcement officers to request identification when there is “reasonable suspicion” that an individual may be undocumented. People transporting undocumented immigrants could also face charges. “The racial profiling that is likely to be caused by this bill will creep into the everyday lives of all Latinos—either due to profiling or the fear of profiling,” writes AS/COA’s Jason Marczak in the AQ blog. “This is a population that is critical to Arizona’s future prosperity at a time of economic uncertainty.”

Read an AS/COA analysis about SB1070 and the renewed focus on the immigration debate.

Paraguayan President Enacts Emergency Powers

President Fernando Lugo suspended constitutional rights in northern Paraguay on April 24, allowing local authorities to make arrests without warrants in an effort to crack down on a guerilla group known as the Paraguayan People’s Army (PPA). The group has been linked to kidnappings and attacks and are thought to have staged an attack last week that claimed four lives. The state of emergency will run for 30 days. Latin America News Dispatch reports that Lugo stepped up forces Tuesday in Paraguay’s Brazil-Bolivia border area in hopes of capturing PPA members.

Colombian Green Party Candidate Takes Poll Lead

Antanas Mockus, the Green Party candidate and former mayor of Bogota, took the lead in a new poll conducted ahead of the May 30 Colombian presidential election. The Ipsos-Napoleón Franco survey found Mockus with 38 percent support compared to 29 percent for Partido de la U candidate Juan Manuel Santos, the prior frontrunner and a former defense minister in the Uribe administration. Conservative candidate Noemí Sanín took third place with 11 percent. If no candidate wins a simple majority on May 30, a second round will take place on June 20. Read an analysis of the poll results on votebien.com.

Ecuadorian Court Upholds Arrest Warrant for Colombia’s Santos and Padilla

On April 26, a court in Ecuador reissued an arrest warrant for Colombian presidential candidate and former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, and the commander of Colombia’s armed forces, Freddy Padilla. Santos and Padilla are wanted in Ecuador in connection with a raid on a guerilla camp in Ecuadorian territory in 2008, which killed Raúl Reyes, commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa stated on Tuesday that Santos’ “pride” over the raid makes him “a danger not just to Ecuador but to the whole region.” Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has made similar statements, saying “[Santos] is trying to dress up as Little Red Riding Hood … but he is a wolf sent to bomb and invade Ecuador.”

Manuel Noriega Extradited from U.S. to France

The former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, toppled during the 1989 U.S. invasion, was extradited to France this week after serving a 17-year sentence in a Miami prison for drug trafficking. He will await trial for money laundering charges in Paris’ La Santé jail. The 76 year old governed Panama from 1983 until 1989. The Guardian offers a multimedia look at Noriega’s life, including a photographic timeline, videos, and news stories.

Press Freedom Faces Growing Danger in Honduras

The Miami-based Inter American Press Association (IAPA) called on Honduran President Porfirio Lobo to adopt recommendations for tackling violence against journalists in the Central American country. The recommendations include the creation of an international body to investigate crimes against press freedoms, and foster legal and judicial reforms that deal with those crimes. Seven have been killed in Honduras since March 1, rendering it one of the most dangerous countries in the world for media personnel.

Abuses of Central American Migrants in Mexico Documented

A new Amnesty International report covers the ongoing abuse of thousands of migrants traveling via Mexico from Central America to the United States. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission estimates that roughly 10,000 migrants were kidnapped by criminal gangs for ransom last year, and half of victims interviewed indicated public officials were involved. The report also features a map showing migrant transit routes.

Pulp Mill Dispute Simmers as Argentine-Uruguayan Presidents Meet

Tensions persist between Argentina and Uruguay over a pulp mill. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) recently handed down a ruling in a long-running dispute between Buenos Aires and Montevideo over the Uruguay-based paper mill that Argentina says has polluted a waterway dividing the two countries. The ICJ found the mill had polluted the river but said Uruguay was not bound to dismantle the plant. But Argentine protesters continue to block a bridge connecting the two countries. In an effort to ease tensions, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner hosts her Uruguayan counterpart José Mujica on April 28, hoping for an apology as a first step in mending fences between the neighbors, reports Infolatam.

Argentine Supreme Court Overturns Pardon of Dictator

The Supreme Court of Argentina declared “unconstitutional” the pardons of former Argentine President Jorge Videla and Economy Minister José Martínez de Hoz in a kidnapping case. Videla, dictator from 1976 to 1981 and pardoned by former President Carlos Menem, is under arrest because of prior court decisions related to the kidnapping of a textile businessman. Martínez de Hoz faces a new trial and imprisonment.

Financial Regulators Approve Argentine Debt Swap

Argentina plans to carry out a debt swap launch after European financial regulators approved on April 27 the swap offer of up to $20 billion in defaulted bonds. Both Luxembourg’s stock exchange and Italy’s Consob securities regulator accepted the launch that was set to begin in Italy on April 26.

Chile Announces First Global Peso Bond Sale

Finance Minister of Chile Felipe Larraín announced Friday that Santiago is planning the country’s first international bond sale in pesos. Chile’s government will sell $1 billion in dollar-denominated bonds as well as its first peso bond in an effort to bring in $1.5 billon and help provide support for recovery from the February earthquake. Larraín made the announcement at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas; access his presentation and a video of his remarks.

Brazil Plans Army Personnel Boost

Mercopress reports that Brazil plans to increase the number of military personnel in its army from 300,000 to 500,000 over the next two decades. Brazilian defense spending increased during the Lula administration by 44.5 percent between 2004 and 2009.

CARICOM and Brazil Deepen Ties

Brazil signed over 40 deals with 14 Caribbean countries earlier this week, when Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was hosted in Jamaica for the first Brazil-CARICOM Summit. Lula also said “the time is ripe” for a free trade agreement between CARICOM and Mercosur.

Brazil’s Increasing Role in the Global Oil Industry

A Foreign Policy article examines how Brazil’s development of new oil reserves with China’s help is changing the “balance of power” in the international oil industry. In 2009, China offered Brazilian-owned oil giant Petrobras $10 billion in exchange for an oil guarantee to China over the next decade. Petrobras’ discovery in recent years of an oil-rich zone, which analysts say holds between 50 and 70 billion barrels of reserves, along with Brazil’s new collaboration with China “is completely reshaping the [oil] industry,” which may leave private oil companies “passive investors” in Brazilian oil projects, writes Lisa Viscidi.

In Tehran, Brazil’s FM Urges Iranian Nuke Promise

While on an official visit to Iran this week, Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim said Iran should prove its nuclear program does not have military aims and suggested a diplomatic role for Brazil and Turkey in the crisis over Tehran’s nuclear program. Amorim said Iran should have “the capacity to have a nuclear program for peaceful use and, at the same time, to give the international community guarantees and assurances that there is no diversion of this program for military purposes.”

Iran’s Presence in LatAm Not Yet a Threat, Says SOUTHCOM

After the Pentagon released a report last week detecting a growing presence by Iran’s military Quds Force in Latin America, U.S. military officials said Tehran’s presence does not yet pose a threat to the United States. The report raised concerns that Iran may seek to engage in a confrontation with the United States in the Western Hemisphere, but General Douglas Fraser, head of U.S. Southern Command, said Tuesday that Iran’s presence is “diplomatic, it’s a commercial presence. I haven’t seen evidence of a military presence.”

Global Powers Court Latin America

An article in The Christian Science Monitor calls Latin America “one of the most popular belles of the global economic ball,” given that several countries—Russia, China, and Iran among them—have been ramping up diplomatic, military, and economic ties to the region. Recent visitors to the region include Russian and Chinese presidents and the U.S. defense secretary. In the article, AS/COA’s Christopher Sabatini points out that Latin America has benefited by diversifying economic partners, saying: “The attention is good because it provides an engine of economic growth.”

Senate Committee Passes OAS Reform Bill

On April 27, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved legislation to strengthen the Organization of American States (OAS). The “Organization of American States Revitalization and Reform Act of 2010” (S.3087) focuses on guiding the OAS toward reform and greater transparency in budgeting, accounting, and hiring, as well as improving U.S. Government agencies’ use of the OAS as a forum to cooperate on areas including energy, security, economic development, and trade.

Brazil’s Sertão Cowboys Determined to Cultivate Success

A BBC article looks at the rough life of cowboys in Brazil’s dry, northeastern sertão—or backlands. The article mentions that the cowboys have had to take on other jobs in addition to cultivating the sertão because there are several other more productive areas for livestock in Brazil. But “plans are being hatched to ensure that the cowboy of the northeast doesn’t become an extinct breed.”

Tags: Antanas Mockus, Brazil army, Fernando Lugo, Immigration, Inter American Press Association, Juan Manuel Santos, Manuel Noriega, Mexico, OAS, Pulp Mill, SB 1070
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