Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas



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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Colombians to Pick Next Prez in June 20 Vote

Former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos polls well ahead of his rival Antanas Mockus ahead of Sunday’s second-round presidential election. A new Datexco survey undertaken for El Tiempo and la W  gives Santos a 37.1 percent advantage over the former mayor of Bogota. Polls inaccurately predicted a close result in the May 30 election, when Santos pulled in more than double the votes of Mockus and came within a few points of winning the necessary 50 percent majority to avoid a runoff.

Semana offers profiles of the two candidates while La Silla Vacía takes a look at who is financing Santos’ campaign. Terra’s Votebien offers ongoing election reporting, from coverage of debates to candidate proposals. Colombia Reports offers English-language coverage, including polls and profiles.

Read an AS/COA analysis of the upcoming election.

The Outlook for Santos’ Economic Plan for Colombia

Dinero takes an in-depth look at the economic proposals of Juan Manuel Santos, the frontrunner in Colombia’s presidential race. The article says Santos, an economist by training who has voiced opposition to tax increases, has pitched five areas for growth and job creation but that revisions to the tax system and labor market will be necessary for the country’s economic expansion.

AS/COA hosts its annual Bogota conference, “Colombia in the Eyes of Wall Street,” on June 17.

Rescue Operation Leads to Freedom for Four Colombian Hostages

A Colombian military operation led to freedom for four hostages held almost 12 years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The rescue of the four Colombians, all former police or military officers, took six months of planning.

Canada’s House Passes Colombia FTA

By a vote of 188-79, Canada’s House of Commons passed a free-trade agreement with Colombia on Monday. The pact moves on to the Canadian Senate for approval. The Globe and Mail reports that critics say the deal does not go far enough to protect human rights in Colombia. “You have to take a realistic look at where Colombia was compared to 10, 15 years ago, and every indicator shows they’ve improved,” counters Conservative Party member Gerald Keddy. “So are you going to reward that forward momentum, or are you going to punish it?”

Calderón Publishes Security Statement amid Growing Violence

On Sunday, the government of Mexican President Felipe Calderón issued a document titled “The Fight for Public Security,” outlining the strategy for combating growing insecurity in the country. The statement outlines areas of action, which include the use of the military to reinforce local police forces, introduction of oral criminal proceedings, and international cooperation and particularly with the United States. He underscored this message on Tuesday night in a televised speech, calling the battle against cartels “a fight worth fighting for because our future is at stake.”

His statements come during a time that homicides related to drug violence reach tragic new levels in Mexico. During a 24-hour period between Thursday and Friday last week as many as 85 people were killed across the country. As Daniel Hernandez reports for the The Los Angeles Times La Plaza blog, this marked a record figure since the beginning of Calderón’s offensive on drug cartels began in 2006. By Monday, this record was broken again with 90 more people killed across the country on Monday, including 15 federal police officers. 

Mexico’s New Cash Controls Seek to Combat Money Laundering

In an attempt to limit money laundering by drug traffickers, the Mexican government has imposed new currency controls. Mexicans with bank accounts will be able to exchange pesos for dollars at a rate of to $4,000 per month while those without bank accounts will only be able to exchange $1,000. The measure was adopted to combat the illegal flow of dollars from the United States into Mexico that funds drug trafficking. An estimated $10 billion-worth of laundered money enters into Mexico’s circulation each year.

Human Trafficking in the Americas

The U.S. State Department this week released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report for 2010, monitoring international compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. In its latest report, the U.S. identifies Colombia as the only Latin American country meeting the minimum standards for fighting illegal human trafficking. Most other Latin American countries remained classified as Tier Two, meaning they do not meet minimum standards but are making significant efforts to meet compliance. Cuba and the Dominican Republic made the list as Tier Three countries, which means they do not meet minimum standards.

In the Spring 2010 issue of Americas Quarterly, Alice Hill and Ramona Carey write about the international, and sometimes intra-national, trade of human beings for sexual exploitation and work.

Bill Gates and Carlos Slim Unite on Mexican-Central American Health Initiative

The Microsoft founder and Mexican businessman created an altruistic alliance aimed at promoting health projects in the poorest regions of Mexico and Central America. Together with Spain, they will donate a total of $150 million, a figure that the head of the Inter-American Development Bank applauded as an “unprecedented” public-private philanthropic due to the size of its intended geographic reach. Through initiative, known as Salud Mesoamerica 2015, they hope to benefit 8 million people.

Another Honduran Journalist Killed

A news director for a Honduran cable news channels was gunned down this week, marking the ninth journalist killed in that country and the eighth in just four months. Two gunmen shot Luís Arturo Mondragón after he left work on June 14.

Climate Disasters in Central America Aggravate Food Vulnerability

El Niño, hurricane Ida, and tropical storm Agatha are among weather woes that have harmed food crops in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Together, they have damaged the agricultural infrastructure necessary to guarantee food security, reports IPS News. The problem is particularly acute in El Salvador, which has been unable to meet domestic demand for certain products, thus increasing imports and prices.

Jamaican Migration Highlighted in New Report

A new Migration Information Source report sheds light on the scale and scope of migration to and from Jamaica. The report, which uses data compiled by the Institute for Public Policy Research and the University of the West Indies, shows that while emigration from Jamaica has fallen steadily over the past two decades in light of tighter immigration controls in the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada, women have begun to account for a greater portion of the Diaspora.

Signs Indicate Hispanics Are Leaving Arizona

New York’s Daily News examines reports that Hispanics are deserting Arizona before the July 29 implementation of tough new immigration law SB1070. Anecdotal evidence—from a largely Hispanic school losing 70 students since the law passed in April to declining profits reported by businesses with Latino clientele—shows changes underway already. Census figures show Hispanics began leaving Arizona when the recession got underway in 2008.

Arizona Sets Sights on Restricting Citizenship by Birth

On the heels of approving a controversial immigration law, Arizona lawmakers appear to be taking a step toward introducing another tough piece of legislation. Writes Adam Klawonn in TIME: “Buoyed by recent public opinion polls suggesting they’re on the right track with illegal immigration, Arizona Republicans will likely introduce legislation this fall that would deny birth certificates to children born in Arizona—and thus American citizens according to the U.S. Constitution—to parents who are not legal U.S. citizens.” Dubbed the “anchor-baby bill,” the law could go as far at the Supreme Court, given that it could violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Petrobras Plans for $25 Billion IPO

Brazil’s state-owned oil firm Petrobras unveiled plans for a $25 billion public offering that will pave the way for offshore drilling in the massive Tupi, presalt fields. Details remain unclear but, should the offering take place, it would be the biggest of 2010, reports Jonathan Wheatley of the Financial Times. Wheatley also blogs in FT’s Energy Source that the BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill has not dented Petrobras’ interest in offshore drilling, even though “the risks soon to be faced in Brazil are similar to or greater than those found in the Gulf.”

Media Mogul Critical of Chávez Flees Venezuela

The majority owner of Globovision, one of the only remaining outlets critical of the Chávez administration, fled Venezuela this week after a warrant was issued for his arrest. The move against, Globovision which Chavez has repeatedly accused of trying to undermine him, comes as Venezuelan authorities seized another private bank, Banco Federal, whose owner has been a prominent critic of Chávez and supporter of Globovision.

Chile and Peru Takes Steps to Improve Relations

In an interview with World Politics Review, COA’s Eric Farnsworth talks about the recent rapprochement between Chile and Peru in the wake of recent diplomatic spats. Peruvian Defense Minister Rafael Rey traveled to Chile last week to meet with his counterpart as well as Chilean president Sebastián Piñera in a sign of improving bilateral ties. “Both countries have a lot to gain by working together and serving as models for others in the region,” said Farnsworth. “Strong democratic governance, growing economies, free trade agreements with the United States and a growing relationship with Asia-Pacific nations has positioned both Peru and Chile to play an important role in regional affairs.”

Argentine Protesters Demand Uruguayan Pulp Mill Tests

Protestors continue to block a border crossing road awaiting for a joint environmental supervision between Argentina and Uruguay that provides concrete evidence against water and air contamination from the pulp mill. The International Court of Justice mandated in April that tests of the mill must be run to ensure no further environmental damage. Not tests have been run thus far.

Néstor Kirchner, Rafael Correa Discuss UNASUR’s Future

Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) Secretary-General Néstor Kirchner and Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, the agency’s pro-tempore head, met in Quito this week to assess the progress of the multilateral body. Delegations from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela participated in the summit. Leaders examined architectural plans for the UNASUR headquarters in Quito and the ratification of the group’s constitution. Six of the 12 member countries have not yet ratified the group’s constitution.

Morales Sees Support Drop

Bolivian President Evo Morales, who has maintained strong approval ratings for much of his presidency, saw that support drop since December, according to a new poll by Ipsos, Apoyo, Opinión y Mercado. 44 percent of those polled approve of Morales’ performance, compared to 66 percent in December.

Mexican Gubernatorial Candidate Shows off Dance Moves

Francisco Olvera, a frontrunner in the gubernatorial race in the Mexican state of Hidalgo, demonstrated one of his talents during one of his campaign stops. A candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (bettern known as the PRI), Olvera showed off his dancing moves when presented a health program aimed at motivating the population to exercise and have a healthy lifestyle. Nine states in Mexico hold votes for new governors on July 4.

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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
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