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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Conservatives Trounce Opposition in Canadian Elections

Canada’s May 2 elections gave a boost to the Conservative Party, which now holds a parliamentary majority for the first time since Prime Minister Stephen Harper took office five years ago. The New Democratic Party surpassed the Liberals to become the official opposition party for the first time. The Liberal Party lost big, saying goodbye to half its seats and causing Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff to step down. TPM’s Eric Kleefold points to the party’s inability to evolve to voter demands, writing: “[I]n the last few years, when it was again clearly necessary to shift leftward and impress progressive voters, the party instead picked the decidedly centrist Ignatieff as leader, sealing their fate to be squeezed out between the right and left.”

Read an AS/COA News Analysis about the May 2 Canadian elections.

Peru’s Next President to Inherit Natural Resource Conflicts

Whoever wins Peru’s presidential runoff election on June 5 will have to deal with some 200 natural resource conflicts, according to the country’s human rights office. Most of the tensions stem from the $40 billion in largely foreign funds for mining and energy projects that local residents believe will pollute their communities and sap their water supplies while doing little to halt inequality, Reuters reports. 

Bogota Mayor Suspended over Corruption Allegations

Mayor Samuel Moreno of Colombia’s capital Bogota received a three-month suspension from his duties after the Attorney General’s office opened an investigation into his administration of public contracts. Members of Moreno’s party, the left-leaning Polo Democrático Alternativo, also suspended him while the investigation proceeds; some members of the party have called for his resignation.

Venezuela Plays down New Oil Tax

A new oil tax enacted by the Hugo Chávez administration has investors worried, but Oil Minister Rafael Ramírez says companies that invest in new developments will not pay the new tax until after they recoup their original expenditure. The government increased the tax for oil from 60 percent to 95 percent in cases where it passes the $100 per barrel threshold. Analysts expect the tax to deter private sector investment in Venezuela’s oil industry. 

Examining the New Brazil and the Changing Hemisphere

Americas Quarterly’s Spring 2011 issue asks readers to reexamine “how both obvious and subtle changes are making the region more diverse, its future more unpredictable, and policy challenges more complex.” U.S. President Barack Obama’s March trip to Latin America highlighted the contrasts that characterize the region as it grows economically and becomes more integrated. With a special focus on rapidly rising Brazil, authors include former Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and Columbia University’s Saskia Sassen.

Articles from the new issue can be viewed at AQ’s website, where you can subscribe to the journal.

NYC Mayor Calls for Immigration to Solve Economic Woes

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has launched a national campaign for comprehensive immigration reform, argued in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal that the U.S. government should aggressively recruit skilled immigrants and entrepreneurs as part of a strategy to create jobs. Between 1995 and 2005, 25 percent of new high-tech startups counted immigrants among their co-founders, creating 450,000 jobs, Bloomberg noted.

New Destinations & Hispanic Immigrants, an Americas Society compendium of immigration-related articles published this week, looks at topics such as immigrants and the U.S. economy, the role of business, and next steps for the DREAM Act.  

Mexico’s Most Violent States Have Least Professional Police

The states with the highest rates of violence in Mexico also have the least professional and worst-trained police forces, according to statistics published by the National System of Public Security. Website Animal Político presents the data, showing that in states including Chihuahua, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas—where police forces receive less systematic evaluation and professional development—crime rates were higher. 

Why Do Mexican Households Have More TVs than Refrigerators?

The recently released Mexican census figures revealed that 93 percent of the country’s households have televisions, while only 82 percent have refrigerators and 65 percent have showers. The Economist notes in a blog piece: “In a hot country with dreadful television this is curious.” Bloggings by Boz points out, however, that the figure makes sense, since people living in areas with unstable electric currents have less incentive to buy a fridge that runs all day than a television that can be turned off. 

Remittances to Mexico Rise

The amount of remittances sent to Mexico from people living abroad jumped 4.79 percent in March, compared to the same month one year ago, Mexico’s Central Bank reported this week. Remittances leveled out in 2010 after two years of dropping sharply, as the world economy went into recession. 

Mexico and Honduras Lose Free Press Status

U.S. think tank Freedom House classified Mexico and Honduras as countries where the press is not free or independent in its report for 2011, released on World Press Freedom Day (May 2). The organization also labeled Cuba and Venezuela in the same category. A separate study by the International Press Institute found that almost one quarter of the 102 journalists killed worldwide in 2010 died in Mexico or Honduras.

Honduras Drops Last Charges against Zelaya

An appeals court in Honduras dropped the two remaining charges against ousted leader Manuel Zelaya, following demands from President Porfirio Lobo, Zelaya supporters, and foreign governments. Lobo hopes that clearing the way for Zelaya’s return will facilitate Honduras’ reentry into the OAS.

Guatemala Sets a Date for Presidential Vote

The Guatemalan electoral agency scheduled September 11, 2011 for the next presidential vote. Setting a date officially allows candidates to launch their campaigns from now until 48 hours before the election.

Cuba’s Reforms Give U.S. an Opportunity

A study from the New America Foundation by Arturo Lopez-Levy and Lilia Lopez argues that U.S. policymakers should promote economic liberalization in Cuba as a step toward supporting the development of a more open political system in the future. The paper also argues that diplomacy, rather than sanctions aimed at toppling the Communist regime, should guide U.S. policy toward Cuba because it may have a more practical effect on Cuban policymaking. 

A report published last month by AS/COA in collaboration with the Cuba Study Group and ACCION International outlines recommendations for private- and public-sectors leaders to support the development of a small-business and self-employment sector in Cuba. 

A Cruise Liner’s Take on Building a School in Haiti

The New York Times reports on a school in Haiti run by cruise liner Royal Caribbean. Isolated from local communities and without functioning transportation, the school sits on a hilltop next to a gated, 260-acre swath of beachfront property reserved for the thousands of Royal Caribbean’s tourists who drop by for a dip in the ocean every week. “We’ll have a steady supply of well-educated people and they’ll be prepared to work on board the ship,” Associate Vice President of Royal Caribbean John Weis said of the school’s students.

German Prez Tours Mexico, Costa Rica, and Brazil

President of Germany Christian Wulff travels to Mexico, Costa Rica, and Brazil in that order this week to boost German-Latin American ties, reports Deutsche Welle. During the course of his tour, Wulff will visit a gene research center outside Mexico City, highlight an academic exchange program between Central America and Germany, and inaugurate a German research center in São Paulo.

Belo Monte Dam Prompts Brazil to Break with the IACHR

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff ordered her government to suspend relations with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, after the body asked Brazil to halt the Belo Monte dam project. The IACHR recommended that the Brazilian government consult with affected groups, take measures to protect indigenous people, and publish environmental statements in local languages. The project is worth $17 billion and could provide electricity to 23 million homes, but will displace indigenous people and damage the environment. 

Anti-corruption Strides Made in Peru and Argentina

Global Integrity’s 2010 report, released May 4, highlights Argentina and Peru as making noticeable achievements in fighting corruption, saying that “Argentina saw the largest improvement in overall performance.” The report recognize Peru for putting in a place “a legal framework for accessing government information.” Both countries were distinguished for making major strides in terms of implementing and enforcing anti-corruption laws.

Argentina Mourns Loss of Ernesto Sábato

Hundreds of people paid their respects to Ernesto Sábato during his wake in Buenos Aires. The Argentine literary giant, author of The Tunnel, and leader of the commission to investigate dictatorship-era human rights crimes passed away at the age of 99, after suffering a bout of bronchitis and pneumonia. 

Uruguay’s Amnesty Law Could Hurt Ruling Coalition

Vice President of Uruguay Danilo Astori said this week that overturning a bill granting amnesty to military and police for human rights violations during the military dictatorship could backfire against the governing Frente Amplio coalition. Uruguayan voters confirmed the law twice in plebiscites conducted in 1989 and 2009, but the Senate voted along partisan lines to overturn the law on April 12. 

Batista v. Slim: Brazilian Billionaire Takes on World’s Richest Man

Eike Batista, the CEO of EBX Group said to be worth $27 billion by Forbes, says he plans to surpass Mexico’s telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim to take the spot of richest man in the world. “Once you’re a racer, you never get it out of your blood. That’s why I have to race Mr. Slim. I don’t know if I’ll pass him on the left or the right, but I’ll pass him,” Batista said in an interview with Michael Milken of the Milken Institute. The Brazilian billionaire currently ranks eighth in the list of the world’s richest people.

Tags: Bogota, Canada Elections, Cuba Reforms, Mayor Bloomberg, oil supplies, Peruvian Election, Samuel Moreno, Venezuela
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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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