Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

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From 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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Chávez Likely to Need Chemotherapy

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said he may go through a third stage of treatment involving radiation or chemotherapy, following surgery to remove a cancerous tumor that he described as the size of a baseball. Chávez received extreme unction on Tuesday, saying it would serve to protect his body against malignant cells. Bloomberg analyzes what Chávez’s illness means for his 2012 presidential bid.

China Promises More Funds for Venezuela

Convalescing Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said over the weekend that Beijing will loan Caracas another $4 billion for development projects, including railway infrastructure. Venezuela will contribute $2 billion of its own funds to the activities. The Associated Press reports that “China has become Venezuela’s biggest foreign lender in recent years,” with $32 billion in exchange for oil shipments. 

Humala’s Brother Meets with Gazprom

President-elect Ollanta Humala returned from a visit to Washington to controversy, after the Russian state-controlled oil company said that Humala’s brother Alexis had visited claiming to be a “special representative of the President-elect of the Republic of Peru.” Ollanta Humala denied that his brother, who studied engineering in Russia and speaks the language fluently, went to Russia as a representative of the Peruvian government.

Colombians Feel Less Secure following Wave of Political Violence

President Juan Manuel Santos remains popular as his first year in office draws to a close, with a 76 percent approval rating according to a late June Gallup poll. But polling data reveals that Colombians view security as the country’s number one problem and the area where Santos has performed most poorly. With crime statistics holding steady, La Semana posits the feeling of insecurity may owe to a wave of terrorist attacks by FARC and ELN guerrillas.

Rousseff Shakes up Transportation Ministry after Scandal

After Brazilian magazine Veja revealed last week a kickback scheme in the country’s Transportation Ministry, President Dilma Rousseff removed several high functionaries and accepted the resignation of the transportation minister, Alfredo Pereira do Nascimento. Pereira was replaced this week by Paulo Sérgio Passos, a career public servant.

Brazil and U.S. Team up on Government Transparency

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota announced July 12 the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral initiative whose goal is to promote transparency, empower citizens, and fight corruption. Clinton cited Brazil’s online transparency portal, a site that allows citizens to see how their tax dollars are being spent, as an example of how governments can use new technologies to increase transparency and accountability.

U.S. Scraps Ethanol Tariffs as Brazil Faces Weak Sugar Harvest

After years of clamoring for the U.S. Congress to reduce tariffs on imported ethanol, Brazilian producers may not see the potential benefits in the near future. A poor sugar harvest combined with rising domestic demand means Brazil will probably not have enough left over to export any to the coveted U.S. market.

Israel Blocks Brazil from Selling Unmanned Jets to Venezuela, Bolivia

Brazil will soon begin manufacturing Israeli-designed, unmanned jets to aid drug interdiction efforts, with the condition that Brazil cannot then sell those jets to Venezuela or Bolivia. Israel’s relations with Venezuela deteriorated in January 2009, when President Hugo Chávez recalled his country’s ambassador in protest against Israel’s bombing of Gaza. Bolivian President Evo Morales broke relations with Israel a week later.

Desperately Seeking Tuition Payments: UK Recruits Brazilian Students

British Education Minister David Willetts traveled to Brazil last month to ink a deal that could bring as many as 10,000 fee-paying students from the South American country to study in the United Kingdom. Some critics say the move is designed to offset major budget cuts for British higher education and that some domestic students could lose the opportunity to study due to a lack of funding.

Maintenance Jobs: Educated Need Not Apply in Uruguay

An upcoming round of offers for 2,000 Uruguayan government positions in the fields of maintenance and custodial work expressly excludes applicants with college educations, while giving preference to the children of current employees. The announcement, which is not the first of its kind, has sparked controversy in Uruguay, with some alleging that the requirements amount to an unconstitutional form of discrimination.

Miners Strike at Chile’s CODELCO

Chilean miners went on a 24-hour strike at state-owned CODELCO on Tuesday for the first time in two decades. The Copper Miners’ Union called the strike in protest against President Sebastián Piñera’s restructuring plans for the company, which they say will lead to job cuts and benefits losses and pave the way for the state enterprise’s privatization. The strike cost CODELCO $41 million in lost production.

Macri Wins First Round of Buenos Aires Mayoral Election

Conservative incumbent Mauricio Macri won a solid victory in the July 10 first-round election for mayor of Buenos Aires, and will face President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner-backed candidate Daniel Filmus in a runoff vote scheduled for July 31. Global Voices rounds up opinions in the blogosphere on the elections, emphasizing Macri’s role as a prominent adversary of Fernández de Kirchner and Buenos Aires’ history of charting a political course at odds with the provinces.

LatAm 2011 Growth Forecast to Hit 4.7 Percent

A new report released Wednesday by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean forecast continued recovery for the region, with 4.7 percent GDP growth over all for 2011. Countries experiencing the highest growth rates are Panama (8.5 percent), Argentina (8.3 percent), Haiti (8.0 percent), and Peru (7.1 percent). The report predicts that Latin America and Caribbean economic growth will hit 4.1 percent in 2012.

Truth Commission Deems Honduran Coup Unconstitutional

The Honduran Truth and Reconciliation Commission on July 7 released their final report, which determined that the June 2009 ousting of President Manuel Zelaya was unconstitutional. On the other hand, the report found that the country’s Magna Carta fails to allow for a judicial process to remove a corrupt official. JURIST sums up the report’s recommendations: revising the constitution to limit executive powers, defining the military’s role in times of crisis, restructuring the judiciary, and investigating human rights abuses carried out during the coup.

Guatemala Arrests Two for Murder of Cabral

Elgín Enrique Vargas was arrested Tuesday in Guatemala on charges of ordering the attack that left Argentine folk singer Facundo Cabral dead this weekend. The target of the attack was not Cabral, but businessman Henry Fariñas, who survived, Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz said. Police also arrested Wilfred Alan Stockes, who the authorities accuse of firing on the Range Rover in which Cabral and Fariñas were traveling. View photos from the series of spontaneous vigils and demonstrations for Cabral that took place throughout Guatemala City at MiMundo.org and see images of the return of Cabral’s remains to Argentina at Clarín.

U.S. Authorities Deport Suspected Guatemalan War Criminal

On Tuesday the United States deported Pedro Pimental Ríos back to Guatemala. A former member of the Guatemalan military, Pimental will face charges for his alleged role as one of 60 people involved in the 1982 massacre of more than 150 people in the village of Dos Erres. Guatemalan authorities issued arrest warrants for over a dozen military officers suspected of being involved in the killings and the United States has helped track down four of them. 

White House Brings Suit against Guatemala over Labor Rights

Given ongoing violations of labor rights in Guatemala, the Obama administration is bringing a lawsuit against the Central American country to ensure it complies with labor-protection rules outlined in a seven-year-old trade pact. The White House may see the case as a tool to help win support for pending trade pacts. “It’s an effort to send a signal to Obama’s labor allies that the administration will enforce the labor provisions that are in trade agreements,” said AS/COA’s Christopher Sabatini.

“Tequila Party” Aims to Increase Latino Voters

Angered by the increasingly anti-immigrant sentiment in her home state, Arizona Republican DeeDee Garcia Blase dropped her lifelong affiliation with her party to launch the “Tequila Party”—a nonpartisan attempt to register as many Latinos as possible ahead of the 2012 presidential election. The party’s 20-state campaign to register Hispanic voters begins in Kansas on July 29.

Online Legal Forum Explores the Case of Arizona’s Immigration Law

Next month, the state of Arizona will likely file a petition for the U.S. Supreme Court to review the injunction against several of the more controversial portions of its immigration law SB1070. With an eye to that end, SCOTUSblog is hosting an online symposium to explore various legal aspects of Arizona v United States. (Hat-tip: Immigration Prof Blog.)

Three Die during Dominican Republic Protests

Unrest during a July 11 strike in the Dominican Republic caused three deaths after demonstrators demanded reductions in the price of food, medicine, and fuel. Two of the deaths occurred in Santiago, the country’s second-largest city. The third person died in the municipality of East Santo Domingo, after being shot while taking photos with his cellular phone of clashes between protesters and police.

Cuba and Chile Open the Door to Gay Civil Unions

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera presented a proposal to his coalition on July 11 to allow civil unions for gay couples who have lived together for at least one year. The proposal marks the first step toward fulfilling a promise Piñera delivered on the campaign trail in 2010. Meanwhile, Mariela Castro of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education says the Communist Party will consider legalizing civil unions at its next conference on January 28.

LatAm Countries Take Steps to Kick Smoking Habits

Costa Rican legislators are debating a bill that could raise tobacco taxes and lead to a ban on smoking in some public spaces, reports GlobalPost’s ¿Qué Pasa? blog. The article explores where other Latin American countries stand in terms of anti-smoking legislation and what percentage of the adult population smokes in each of those countries.

Bolivia’s President Demands Child Trafficking Report

President of Bolivia Evo Morales ordered the local authorities in the city of Potosí to submit a detailed report regarding child trafficking. Morales’ request was prompted by Rolando Villena, a Potosí official who said Monday that the city had received several complaints alleging that children are being sold for the equivalent of $3 to $7.

Did the Incas Write?

As Machu Picchu marks its hundredth anniversary on July 24, Slate explores the “Inca paradox”—the conventional wisdom which has it that the Inca civilization was the only major Bronze Age civilization that did not develop a writing system. Author Mark Adams explores new evidence indicating the quipu system may have amounted to a writing system.

Tags: Chavez, Chilean mining, Codelco, Colombia, Humala, Rousseff, Venenzuela
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