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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Cuba’s Ideological About-face

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro sparked controversy last week when he told The Atlantic that “the Cuban model doesn’t work.” He later said that he wasn’t maligning Communism, but actually meant “exactly the opposite,” claiming journalists misinterpreted his seemingly straight-forward comment. Despite Castro’s backtracking, the Cuban government announced Monday that it will cut half a million government jobs and encourage those workers to transition into the private sector, clearly suggesting a shift away from Cuban-style Communism.

In a Financial Times commentary, AS/COA’s Christopher Sabatini looks at reforms to U.S.-Cuban policy, writing: “If done carefully, further reforms hold the promise of breaking the policy and human rights stasis that has gripped Cuba, and U.S. policy towards Cuba, for more than half a century. That is a prize worth grasping.”

Rousseff Rises Further in Polls

As Brazil’s October 3 presidential election approaches, new polls show frontrunner Dilma Rousseff with 50 percent vote intention, putting her well ahead of the next candidate, José Serra, reports MercoPress.

AS/COA will hold a panel discussion exploring market views of the Brazilian elections, which will also be available via live webcast.

COA’s Eric Farnsworth explores the importance of the upcoming Brazilian, Venezuelan, and U.S. elections in PODER Hispanic.

IT and Election Transparency in Brazil

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas blogs about the role that technology and digital information access are playing in the upcoming Brazilian election. The post lists various initiatives that will impact the vote, noting that “the candidates are using social media to campaign and participate in debates, while transparency and citizen participation projects are proliferating on the internet.”

Brazilian Bond Market Boom

Riding the wave of momentum generated by Petrobras’ announcement last week that it would hold the world’s largest public offering, Brazilian companies have raised $6 billion in new foreign funds since Monday. BeyondBrics looks at the causes of this new funds inflow and considers the implications for Brazil’s economy.

Peru’s Cabinet Reshuffle

President Alan García announced that he accepted the resignation of his cabinet chief Javier Velásquez as well as eight other cabinet members, including Defense Minister Rafael Rey. The resignations came in the midst of confusion over García’s request that Peru’s Congress repeal a decree he introduced two weeks ago that was rejected by human rights groups who say it would lead to an amnesty for 1990s-era rights violators. Hemispheric Brief blog summarizes the controversy over the decree and the resignation of Rey, one of the decree’s authors.

The Mexican Bicentennial: Cycles in History

In an opinion piece for The New York Times marking the Mexican bicentennial, Letras Libres Editor Enrique Krauze examines the cyclical history of violence in Mexico, from the independence struggle 200 years ago to the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910. He frames current violence in Mexico as “a situation generated, to a great extent, by the market for drugs and weapons in the United States and by the refusal of many Americans to recognize their own portion of responsibility in these tragic events.” He adds: “The drug war will have to be resolved on both sides of the border.”

Read an AS/COA analysis of Mexico’s bicentennial mood.

Mexico Knocks Down Another Kingpin

Mexican authorities captured another leader of the Beltran Leyva cartel, Sergio “El Grande” Villarreal Barragan, reports The Christian Science Monitor. The article argues that this high-level arrest, coming just weeks after the capture of “El Grande” rival Edgar “La Barbie” Villarreal, should give President Calderón a boost.

IDB Approves $1 Billion Loan for Mexico

The Inter-American Development Bank approved a 20-year, $1 billion loan to Mexico, which the bank says should support “fiscal sustainability for the Mexican government as well as reactivation of the Mexican economy” to help “Mexican authorities to address the effects of the international financial crisis.” The Mexican Finance Ministry said that “with this action, the IDB supports the economic policies of the Calderón administration.”

U.S.-Mexico Arms Trafficking by the Numbers

A new report by the Wilson Center and the Trans-Border Institute looking at cross-border weapons trafficking argues that “large amounts of sophisticated firearms…in the hands of violent criminals have made their enterprise more deadly.” The report finds that, even as Mexico more than tripled its seizures of illegal firearms and despite bilaterally coordinated efforts to stop the flow of weapons from the United States, nearly 5,000 U.S. firearms were trafficked to Mexico during the 2009 fiscal year.

Reid Makes DREAM Act Push

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made a September 15 announcement that, with no movement in sight for an immigration overhaul, he will seek to push through the DREAM Act by pinning it as an amendment to a defense authorization bill slated for next week. The legislation, first introduced in 2001 and rejected multiple times, allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before the age of 16 a path to citizenship by attending university or through military service.

Santos Not a Copy of Uribe

In an opinion piece for The Miami Herald, former U.S. ambassador to Colombia Myles Frechette covers the administration of new Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, arguing Santos has repeatedly demonstrated that he differs from former President Álvaro Uribe. “Unlike Uribe,” he argues, “Santos understands that an economically stronger Colombia requires more interaction with its neighbors and with the world.”

California Governor Calls for Approval of Panama and Colombia FTAs

While on a trip to Seoul, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called on U.S. Congress this week to approve languishing trade deals with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. Schwarzenegger argued that the trade deals could lead to $10 billion in U.S. Exports and create thousands of jobs. “If you are for jobs and if your No. 1 priority is stimulating the economy and if you believe in economic freedom then approve those free trade agreements so you can start putting people back to work,” said the governor.

Argentina Sees Surge in Neighborly Tourism

New figures highlight a jump in tourism to Argentina, particularly from the country’s neighbors. Over 100,000 Brazilians visited in July, up 385 percent compared to a year earlier. Uruguay sent 95 percent more travelers while Chile sent 73 percent more. The Argentine Chamber of Tourism forecasts that sector growth will reach 10 percent in 2011.

Costa Rica Earns Moody’s Investment Grade Rating

Moody’s lifted Costa Rica’s bond rating into “investment-grade territory, saying the nation’s debt metrics have improved significantly over the past few years,” reports Dow Jones. Costa Rica’s ratio of public debt to GDP fell 43 percent last year.

Bachelet Named Head of UN Agency for Women

Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet became the head of UN Women, a new agency that merges four UN agencies devoted to women’s and gender issues. In his announcement of the position, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “Ms. Bachelet brings to this critical position a history of dynamic global leadership.”

Ecuador Closes Open-Door Policy

Authorities announced that Ecuador will begin requiring entry visas for visitors from nine Asian and African countries, ending the country’s policy of universal free entry. The government says it added the exceptions to its visa laws in an effort to stop the use of Ecuador as a base for human trafficking, reports IPS News.

Correa Courts Asian Investment

During a one-week trip to Asia that concluded Friday, Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa sought South Korean support and investment in the development of Ecuador’s oil and energy resources. “South Korea doesn’t have oil but it has refineries, while in Ecuador the opposite is true,” Correa told reporters. Correa also traveled to Japan. During the trip, Ecuador also announced that Chinese investments in the Andean country should total $5 billion by the end of the year.

Salvadoran President Links Gangs to Drug Cartels

In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, El Salvador’s President Mauricio Funes warned that connections between gangs in his country and international drug cartels are growing. Funes said “if the U.S. is concerned about [illegal] immigration and drug traffic, the best solution is a strategic alliance that will bring development and job opportunities and social benefits to El Salvador.”

LatAm Prosperity Should Help U.S. Security

In a special report, The Economist takes a look at the Latin American economic resurgence, the way forward for Latin American governments, and how this growth should affect U.S. policy and attitude. It argues that “the more open the United States is towards Latin America, the greater the chances of creating the prosperity which in the end is the best protection against conflict and disorder.”

World Bank: Commodity Exports Helping Latin America

A UN report on the effects of commodity and resource exporting from Latin America and the Caribbean argues that though “traditionally considered a curse for a nation’s development, commodity wealth in Latin America and the Caribbean could—on the contrary—represent a foundation for prosperity.”

Mexico Chido: Celebrating the Bicentennial in Style

BBC Mundo offers a slideshow of an exhibition titled “Mexico Chido” (Cool Mexico) featuring articles that offer alternative ways to commemorate Mexico’s bicentennial and the one-hundredth anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. Pieces range from a chessboard with revolution-era soldiers to clothes hangers featuring lucha libre characters.

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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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