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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Come Again: Recount or Revote in Haiti?

With concerns running high about electoral fraud in Haiti’s November 28 presidential vote, some observers—including former U.S. President Bill Clinton—have called for a ballot recount. But third-place finisher Michel Martelly believes electoral officials should take it a step further and hold a revote on January 16, the date slated for a runoff between Mirlande Manigat and Jude Célestin. Martelly finished less than 7,000 votes behind Célestin, who was endorsed by current President Réne Préval. PBS NewsHour spoke with Joel Dreyfuss, native of Haiti and editor of TheRoot.com, about a potential recount and suspicions about the neutrality if Haiti’s electoral commission.

Read an AS/COA Online analysis about the Haiti’s disputed presidential vote.

LatAm Econ Growth, Still Strong, to Slow in 2011

A report by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean suggests that Latin American growth will average 6 percent for 2010. However, growth in 2011 will fall to 4.2 percent. The report highlights Paraguay as the fastest growing economy in 2010 at 9.7 percent, and Haiti as the poorest performing with economic growth at negative 7 percent.

Flooding Continues to Plague Colombia

Terra.com presents a multimedia interactive documenting the season that has ravaged Colombia. Flooding has displaced roughly two million people in Colombia. Terra’s coverage includes a slideshow, statistics about the victims, and a collection of news about the storms.

Read AS/COA Online coverage of the rains and flooding in Colombia, Panama, and Venezuela.

Correa Visits Colombia to Show Support

Ecuador’s president made a trip Wednesday to Colombia to signal his support for Colombia in the wake of devastating floods that have left more than 260 people dead. Correa also delivered eight tons of goods and pledged aid to flood-damaged areas. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called the visit “the culmination of the process of normalizing relations” between the two countries.

Brazilian Senate Confirms Next CenBank Head

The Senate approved Alexandre Tombini, appointed by President-elect Dilma Rousseff, to take over Brazil’s Central Bank. Tombini will replace the Bank’s current head Henrique Meirelles when the new administration is inaugurated on January 1.

Chávez Asks for Permission to Rule by Decree Again

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez asked permission from Congress to rule by decree for a year, through an “Enabling Law.” Chávez argues that he needs the authority “to confront the emergency” caused by recent heavy rains, but critics say he wants to circumvent a new Congress where the opposition made gains in recent elections. Venezuela’s Congress has passed simila laws for Chávez three times—in 1999, 2001, and 2007.

Majority of U.S. Citizens Support DREAM Act

“Americans are more likely to say they would vote for than against a law” along the lines of the DREAM Act, according to a GALLUP poll conducted in early December. On December 8 the U.S. House of Representatives approved DREAM Act legislation, which creates a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrant youths through military service or college attendance. However, on Thursday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) tabled the bill due to a lack of support among Senators. A strong supporter of the bill, Reid hopes for a vote on the House version of the bill before the Congressional lame duck period reaches its scheduled end on December 17, writes Daniel Altschuler in the Americas Quarterly blog.

Adoption Law Passed to Help Haitian Orphans

The Latin Americanist reports that, while the DREAM Act has been making headlines, “another proposal to help undocumented youth was quietly passed and became a law this month.” On December 9, U.S. President Barack Obama inked the Help Haiti Act, which eases the adoption process for 1,200 Haitian orphans following January’s earthquake.

PAN Candidate Announces Bid for 2012 Mexican Presidential Race

Mexican Senator Santiago Creel announced at his birthday celebration he will run in the 2012 presidential elections as a center-right National Action Party candidate, reports Milenio.

Seized Mexican Guns Traced back to U.S. Stores

No other state has produced more guns seized by police in the brutal Mexican drug wars than Texas,” according to an investigative report by The Washington Post. The Post conducted a year-long investigation that revealed the top 12 U.S. dealers of guns traced to Mexico, though the article points out that “[a] high number of traces does not necessarily signal wrongdoing.”

The Right to Bear Arms in LAC

Slate.com’s Explainer department ponders which countries besides the United States allow their citizens the constitutional right to bear arms. In terms of the Americas, the article looks at Guatemala, Haiti, and Mexico, noting that “Guatemala’s Article 38 is the only one that’s as broad as our Second Amendment.” The Mexican and Haitian Constitutions are more restrictive, with laws requiring permits or limiting the types of guns that can be owned. Permitting gun ownership does not necessarily indicate high levels arms possession; there are 15 guns per 100 people in Mexico compared to 90 per 100 in the United States.

OAS, El Salvador Sign Pact to Mark Weapons

The agency’s Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and El Salvador’s Foreign Affairs Minister Hugo Martínez Bonilla signed an agreement December 13 with the goal of reining in gun trafficking. The OAS will supply El Salvador with a marking and basic training team to facilitate tracing the origins tracing the origins of confiscated firearms.

New Polls Take Political Pulse in El Salvador

Tim’s El Salvador Blog provides a summary and links to a pair of new public opinion polls. Both show President Mauricio Funes continuing to enjoy high approval ratings. One from the University of Central America’s Public Opinion Institute found that, for the first time, the military was considered the most trusted institution in the country. The survey also showed Salvadorans worry about the economy and public safety but approve of police efforts to combat crime.

Poverty Doesn’t Necessarily Equal Violence in Guatemala

Carlos Mendoza at The Black Box blog looks at the relationship between poverty and violence in Guatemala, where the relationship is the inverse of what many believe is the dominant pattern: violence is less common in poorer areas. The post provides maps as supporting evidence.

Guatemala Gets First Female Attorney General

President Álvaro Colom swore in Claudia Paz as the country’s first woman to occupy the post of attorney general, according to Inside Costa Rica. She said her two top goals will be fighting impunity and organized crime.

Puerto Rican University Students Protest

Students of the state-run University of Puerto Rico organized a 48-hour blockade of the school to protest a proposed $800 annual fee. Global Voices Online presents a collection of news pieces and blogs covering the violence that resulted when university-hired security clashed with student protestors on December 7 and 8.

Cuba’s Economic Opening Won’t Rely on the U.S.

An article for Foreign Policy argues that as Cuba moves towards welcoming international investment, “the United States will be left out of the game.” The piece by Eurasiagroup’s Ian Bremmer contends that the Cuban government “is making it abundantly clear that an economic opening can and will be made without U.S. help or influence.”

High Debt Sparks Economic Reform in Cuba

Cuba’s foreign debt was last reported at $17.8 billion in 2007 and is estimated at nearly 50 percent of GDP, reports the Financial Times, which says the high debt rate could spell economic reforms in 2011. China, Cuba’s largest creditor, may be a force applying pressure on the Castro government to liberalize the island’s economy.

Cuban Hunger Striker Accepts EU Prize In Absentia

Guillermo Fariñas, a Cuban dissident who drew global attention after a 135-day hunger strike to free political prisoners, accepted the European Parliament’s Sakhorov Prize for Freedom of Thought from Cuba today. Cuban authorities did not grant Fariñas an exit visa, so the European Parliament marked his absence with an empty chair. In a six-minute speech taped for the event, Fariñas called upon the EU to maintain its policy of encouraging progress on human rights and political change in Cuba.

Canada, Mexico, U.S. Hold Ministerial Meeting

The North American Foreign Ministers Meeting brought together Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss continental security, transnational crime, disaster preparedness and relief, and democracy building—specifically in Haiti. The meeting also paved the way for an expected 2011 North American Leaders’ Summit.

Ottawa and Washington to Weigh Border Security Initiative

Council on Foreign Relations Fellow Edward Alden writes for Security Debrief about a border-security perimeter pact that U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will likely reveal in January 2011. The details remain unclear, but the intention would be ease cargo inspections and increase protection against terrorist attacks. The agreement could face opposition in Canada over sovereignty concerns.

Argentina Lifts Trade Blockade against Paraguay

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo said he will attend the upcoming Mercosur summit, after the Argentine Maritime Workers Union agreed to lift a blockade against Paraguayan products. The union had called the blockade in solidarity with an affiliated Paraguayan port workers’ strike.

Uruguayan Sanitation Workers End Strike after Major Trash Pileup

More than 7,000 tons of trash piled up in the capital of Uruguay following a weeks-long strike by sanitation workers. Trash collectors went back to work Monday, but the Mujica administration continues to face work stoppages in banks, airports, and public hospitals, prompted by debates over the restructuring of salaries, benefits, and work schedules for government workers.

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