Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas



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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Dilma First Woman Ever to Open UNGA

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff became the first woman in history to open the UN General Assembly. “It is with personal humility, but with my justified pride as a woman, that I meet this historic moment,” said Rousseff as she opened the general debate. “I share this feeling with over half of the human beings on this planet who, like myself, were born women and who, with tenacity, are occupying the place they deserve in the world. I am certain that this will be the century of women.” Rousseff can also be found on the cover of this week’s Newsweek, with a profile by Mac Margolis.

In conjunction with the opening of the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly, Americas Society and Council of the Americas are hosting multiple Latin American heads of state. Go to AS/COA Online for livestreams and a schedule of events.

LatAm Countries to Join U.S.-Brazilian Governance Partnership

Presidents Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and Barack Obama of the United States officially launched the Open Government Partnership (OGP) while in New York on Tuesday. The OGP’s goal is to give citizens tools to monitor elected leaders and achieve more transparent governance. Mexico is one of the six founding members and other Latin American countries that have pledged to sign on to the partnership are: Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, and Uruguay. “This is a smart program for U.S. policy in the hemisphere and a great leadership role for Brazil to play,” reports Bloggings by Boz, who links to commitments and plans from Brazil, Mexico, and the United States.

Palestine Can Expect Heavy LatAm Support at UN

Nearly every country in Latin America is set to support a vote for Palestinian statehood, which is anticipated at this week’s UN General Assembly. The only holdouts appear to be Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Panama. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas toured Latin America in 2009.

IMF: U.S. Slowdown Has LatAm Impact

Citing a slowdown in economic growth in developed countries, the International Monetary Fund cut 2011 GDP growth forecasts for Latin America to 4.5 percent this year, down from July’s prediction of 4.6 percent. While commodity exporting countries are expected to show strong growth—with Argentina leading the pack with an estimated 8 percent—the report warns that a global economic slowdown would have a negative effect on “economies dependent on trade, tourism, and remittances.”

Roubini Says Greece Should Follow Argentine Footsteps

Writing in the Financial Times, economist Nouriel Roubini of Roubini Global Economics urges Greece to default and abandon the euro in a move that would echo Argentina’s 2001 crisis. “Of course, this process will be traumatic,” says Roubini. “The most significant problem would be capital losses for core eurozone financial institutions. Overnight, the foreign euro liabilities of Greece’s government, banks and firms would surge. Yet these problems can be overcome. Argentina did so in 2001, when it ‘pesified’ its dollar debts.”

Brazil’s Mantega to Eurozone: Save Yourself

It always looked like a non-starter,” writes Jonathan Wheatley in Financial Times’‘ beyondbrics blog. “Now the Brics plan to save the eurozone has been buried by the man who launched it only last week.” Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega, who previously hinted that chief economy officials from his country, Russia, India, and China would meet in Washington this week to consider the possibility of helping the EU by buying German and UK government debt. But the idea got the thumbs down from Russia, India, and China. Mantega backpedaled yesterday in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, saying “Europe has to save itself.”

Troops Deployed to Brazilian Border to Fight Trafficking

Brazil deployed roughly 7,000 troops and 30 warplanes to its border with Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay in an effort to combat smuggling of drugs, arms, and contraband goods, reports Infobae.

Learning to Love São Paulo

Helen Joyceis, the São Paulo bureau chief of The Economist, profiles the challenges, changes, and hidden beauties of her adopted home in a profile for MoreIntelligentLife.com.

Venezuelan Opposition Politician Cleared for Presidential Run

Last week the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) cleared Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo López to run in the upcoming presidential elections. In 2008 Lopez was made inhabilitado, barring him from holding public office for five years after corruption allegations for which he was never convicted. Since 2007, this status has been imposed on over 800 Venezuelans, mostly from the opposition. While the ruling in López’s favor was widely expected, the ultimate decision to permit Lopez to reenter Venezuelan politics rests with the Venezuelan Supreme Court. For his part, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has denounced the ruling and the IACHR, declaring “What worth can that court have? To me it’s nothing—of no consequence.” If cleared, López will face Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, Zulia Governor Pablo Perez, and opposition lawmaker Maria Corina Machado in the opposition primary slated for February 12, 2012. Capriles Radonski currently leads in polls.

Read an analysis of the Leopoldo López v. Venezuela case on the Americas Quarterly blog by Javier El-Hage, general counsel of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation.

Ecuadoran Court Upholds Libel Case

An Ecuadoran appeals court held up a conviction against the owners and a columnist from daily newspaper El Universo, allowing them to be sentenced to three years in prison and face $40 million in fines for libel against President Rafael Correa. The president withdrew a request for compensation to be doubled to $80 million. The newspaper’s lawyers plan to bring the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists says Ecuador’s outdated defamation laws have been used to punish journalists critical of the government.

Read an AS/COA Online news analysis of the El Universo case.

Colombian Army Seizes 2,000 Landmines

The Colombian army has uncovered nearly 2,000 landmines planted by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the southern province of Putumayo, on the border with Ecuador and Peru. The region is especially important for the FARC, given that the dense jungle provides cover for guerillas and drug labs. Troops in the area have also recovered 3,882 kilos of explosives this year. The UN says landmines have been planted in 31 of Colombia’s 32 provinces.

Peña Nieto Throws Hat into Mexican Presidential Ring

Putting an end to months of speculation, Enrique Peña Nieto, former governor of the State of Mexico, announced his candidacy for president of Mexico on the country’s main television network, Televisa. He leads in the opinion polls. Peña Nieto’s election would mark the first time the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) would return to power after an interim of 12 years, before which it had governed Mexico for more than seven decades.

Mexican Presidential Race Seen through Twitter Lens

Ex-Governor Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) may be the favorite Mexican presidential candidate at the polls, but he’s trailing in the twittersphere. Animal Político lists Mexican presidential candidates on Twitter and finds that Marcelo Ebrard (@m_ebrard), mayor of Mexico City and possible candidate for the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), has over 202,000 followers.  Former—and potentially future—PRD presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (@lopezobrador_) comes in second with roughly 97,000. Deputy Josefina Vázquez Mota (@josefinavm) leads governing National Action Party candidates with over 60,000 followers. And even polls show PRI supporters back Peña Nieto (@EPNMexico) with 86 percent of support compared with 8.5 percent for Manlio Fabio Beltrones (@MFBeltrones), the senator has over 42,000 Twitter followers compared to Peña Nieto’s 28,000.

Major Mexican Dailies Drop Sex Ads to Fight Human Trafficking

Mexico’s two largest newspapers, El Universal and Reforma, announced this week that they would discontinue advertisements for sexual services that dominated the final pages of their publications. They opted to drop the ads as part of efforts to fight human trafficking.

El Salvador Added to U.S. Drug-Trafficking Blacklist

In addition to celebrating its independence on September 15, El Salvador was added to the U.S. blacklist for countries that produce and transport drugs.  Mexico’s drug cartels are thought to have formed alliances with local Salvadoran gangs such as the Maras Salvatruchas (commonly known as MS-13) and about two-thirds of all cocaine entering the United States is thought to pass through Central America.

Can Obama Count on Latinos in 2012?

A recent Gallup poll shows Latino support for Obama has reached the lowest point since he took office. The reasons for the decline echo those that have led to decline among other groups in the United States, and calls into question if the Latino vote is up for grabs in the 2012 election. Obama won 67 percent of the Latino vote in 2008. “Regardless of the reason for the erosion, the broader question looking ahead to 2012 is whether Hispanics will ultimately come home to Obama—despite some doubts—or whether the eventual Republican nominee will have a real chance at winning over a large swath of them,” writes Chris Cilliza in The Washington Post’s The Fix.

Exploring the Role of Receiving Communities in Immigrant Integration

A new report on immigrant integration from the Center for American Progress places particular emphasis on engaging “receiving communities” where new immigrants settle. Writes Cornell University’s Michael Jones-Correa: “The challenge for communities is to acknowledge the very real changes that are occurring within them and their potentially destabilizing nature, and to develop the right kinds of intervention to foster interaction and positive relations between native and foreign-born residents and their children.”

Learn more at AS/COA’s Hispanic Integration and Immigration Hub

Cuba’s Oil Drilling Prompts Concerns over Embargo

The Spanish oil company Repsol announced that it will begin drilling for oil in the Florida Straits between the Florida Keys and Cuba as early as mid-December. It is estimated Cuba may hold anywhere from 5 billion to 20 billion barrels of oil in offshore reserves. In a piece for CNN’s Global Public Square blog, Fareed Zakaria warns: “Our trade embargo on Cuba not only prevents us from doing business with our neighbor but it also bars us from sending equipment and expertise to help even in a crisis. So, if there is an explosion, we will watch while the waters of the Gulf Coast get polluted.”

Self-Employment Guidelines Relaxed in Cuba

This week the Gaceta Oficial de la República de Cuba published new rules guiding the self-employed in Cuba. The regulations brought the number of legal professions to 181, reduced taxes, and permitted small businesses to expand and hire employees.

Chile’s Student Strike in Pictures

Boston.com’s Big Picture offers a series of photos from the ongoing student and worker demonstrations in Chile. The demonstrations, which started in August, concern dissatisfaction over the management of public higher education in the country.

Artists Spoof Argentine Leaders

Just in time for the October 23 presidential election, an exhibition on display in Buenos Aires satirizes some of Argentina’s top presidential figures since the country’s return to democracy, reports GlobalPost’s ¿Que Pasa? blog. Called “The Kingdom of Bolonquia,” it features sculptures of ex-Presidents Eduardo Duhalde as a Renaissance cardinal and Carlos Menem as Louis XIV. The artists depicted current President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as “Goddess Nefrititis,” the god of eloquence.

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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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