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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Counting Numbers in Record-breaking Coverage of the Chilean Miner Rescue

More than 4 million page views per minute. Roughly 5.5 million live video streams on CNN. Approximately 412,000 social media mentions of “Chile” on October 13. Mashable Media reports on the record-breaking television and online viewership of the Chilean miner rescue.

Access an AS/COA Online resource guide to media coverage of the rescue.

In an op-ed for CNN, Americas Society’s Daniel Shapiro reflects on the fact that two of the Chilean miners rescued were identified as poets. “Chilean culture is steeped in poetry; poetry has become a life-blood of that country, ingrained in the bedrock as it were, over time,” writes Shapiro.

Piñera Talks Miners in UK Visit

During an October 18 visit to London, Chilean President Sebastían Piñera and British Prime Minister David Cameron discussed cooperation on education and clean energy, as well as the San José “miracle.” Piñera told reporters “I am sure that the traditional and historic friendship between Great Britain and Chile is now stronger than ever.”

Watch an interview with President Piñera by Sarah Montague of BBC’s HARDtalk in which he talks about Chile’s plans to increase mining safety.

Chile Invests Bigtime in Brazil

Brazil has replaced Colombia as the second highest recipient of Chilean investment. Moreover, “with clouds on the horizon to doing business in Argentina,” argues Financial Times Beyond Brics blog, “Brazil looks like a bigger, better, and safer bet.”

Brazilian Green Party Candidate Won’t Play “Kingmaker”

Ex-presidential candidate Marina Silva of the Green Party announced that she will stand by her party’s October 17 decision to remain neutral in Brazil’s October 30 presidential runoff. Silva forced a runoff between candidates Dilma Rousseff and José Serra when she won a surprising 19.33 percent of the vote in the election’s first round. Rousseff and Serra have since stepped up efforts to capture the support of PT voters.

Dilma’s Lead Stops Shrinking

Pollster Vox Populi released results from its October 15 poll, which shows Dilma Rousseff’s vote-intention at 50 percent—a three-point increase over the previous week that puts her 13 points ahead of José Serra. Serra’s ability to capitalize on Rousseff’s alleged support for legalizing abortions allowed him to cut into her lead, but this trend seems to have slowed.

Brazil Again Raises Tax on Foreign Capital Inflows

The Brazilian government announced on October 18 that it would increase taxes on fixed-income foreign investments from 4 to 6 percent in a second attempt to control the rise of the real’s value, reports Veja. This marks the second increase in two weeks.

Watch the video of an AS/COA program featuring Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega in which he explains the reason for the increase and addresses questions about worries over an international “currency war.”

Election of Brazilian Clown Calls Voting Laws into Question

A professional clown named Tiririca won a congressional seat in São Paulo in Brazil’s October 3 election using campaign slogans such as “Vote for Tiririca, Because It Can’t Get Any Worse.” A New York Review of Books blog ponders if baffling election outcomes stem from Brazil’s compulsory voting laws and looks back to a 1959 election when a rhinoceros from the São Paulo zoo won a city council seat.

Qatar Picks up Shares in Banco Santander’s Brazil Unit

Banco Santander SA’s Brazilian unit agreed to sell $2.7 billion of its bonds to Qatar Holding LLC, in order to raise capital in the wake of acquisitions, reports Bloomberg.

IMF: LatAm Economies Risk Overheating

The International Monetary Fund’s Hemispheric Regional Economic Outlook warns that, while many South America’s economies recovered so well from the 2008 economic downturn, they now run the risk of overheating and inflation. The report argues that the normalization of fiscal policy is an important first step to slowing public spending and cooling growth.

Washington Sends Security Envoy to Guatemala and Honduras

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Johnson began a three-day tour of
Honduras and Guatemala on October 18 to discuss law enforcement reform and pending security legislation. The State Department hopes that the “visit will encourage continued partnership between the U.S., the governments of Central America, and other international donors to improve citizen security in the region.

Pre-election Immigration-legislation Proliferation

With the House adjourned and the Senate preparing to adjourn ahead of the November 2 midterm elections, both Democratic and Republican Senators introduced immigration bills in September. A Migration Policy Institute piece takes a look at pending legislation as well as likely outcomes, and considers the senators’ “deeper political calculations underlying the measures.”

Read AS/COA Online coverage of the Latino vote in the upcoming midterm elections.

Tracking Hispanic Voters, State by State

A new set of surveys by Pew Hispanic provides a profile of each state’s Latino electorate. New Mexico has the highest percentage, with Latinos constituting 38 percent of eligible voters, followed by Texas at 25 and California at 24 percent, as an interactive map shows.

Congressional Border Spending: More of the Same

When it returned from its August recess, Congress quickly pushed through legislation providing $600 million more for border control measures, but immigration reform legislation remained deadlocked. “For 20 years, [Congress] has followed the mantra of ‘securing the border first’ as a way of avoiding the deeper and broader issues tied up with immigration,” writes Peter Buxbaum in an analysis for International Relations and Security Network. The article contends that a growing number of policy experts are arguing that immigration reform can’t wait for “an airtight southern border.”

A new Americas Quarterly blog post by Christopher Sabatini argues that “the economic rationale for immigration should be the organizing principle for our policy and for our public debate.”

Mexican Cartel Smuggles $42 Million in Iron to China

The Attorney General of Mexico announced the arrest of Javier López Medina, Mexican cartel La Familia’s top accountant. Medina told interrogators that he had maintained trade relations with Mexican exporters for the cartel, and oversaw the export of stolen iron to China, reports Milenio. In the past year, the operation involved the smuggling of roughly $42 million worth of the metal to China.

Colombia Aims to Keep Nukes out of FARC’s Grasp

Global Security Newswire reports that Colombia’s new Center for Nuclear Security is using intelligence gathered from rebel camps to prevent the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) from acquiring nuclear-grade uranium. The center—the first of it’s kind in South America—says that data on seized FARC laptops shows the rebels had been trying to purchase nuclear materials in the Ukraine.

García Proposes Integration with Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama

El Tiempo reports that Peruvian President Alan García announced plans for a new integration system that would facilitate the free flow of goods, services, capital, and people between Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, and Chile.

AS/COA hosts its annual conference in Lima on November 3, featuring remarks by García.

Chávez in Tehran

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez continued his political tour with a stopover in Iran on October 18, during which he and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad reaffirmed “strategic relations between the two countries … exploring areas of bilateral integration but also at the level of South-South schemes,” Caracas’ ambassador to Tehran told reporters.

Chavéz’s October 15 visit to Russia culminated in an agreement calling for Russia to help Venezuela build a nuclear power plant. Caracas Chronicles offers analysis of why the nuclear pact is not a cause for concern and predicts “it’s not going to happen.”

Morales Admits Coca Growers Contribute to Narcotrafficking

In comments delivered to a meeting of the farmer’s union on October 17, Bolivian President Evo Morales acknowledged that the coca growers union he heads diverts some of its production to illegal drug traffickers, reports El Pais.

Just days before, an October 15 meeting between Bolivian and Cuban foreign ministers in Havana resulted in a pact to combat drug trafficking.

Port-Au-Prince’s Housing Costs on the Rise

The Associate Press reports that, with roughly 110,000 homes and apartment buildings destroyed in the January quake and a squatter population of more than 1.3 million, Haiti faces a major housing shortage. Prices have even throttled relief efforts by international NGOs such as Habitat for Humanity and Voices for Haiti, who cannot afford to house the volunteers needed to contribute to the reconstruction effort.

Haitians Head to Senegal

Over 160 Haitians took up an offer from Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade for free housing and scholarships, which he extended in the wake of Haiti’s January 12 earthquake. Foreign Policy’s blog argues that “there is a strong case to be made that allowing Haitians to migrate, even to a country that’s struggling itself, is a more effective way of helping the country than sending aid.”

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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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