Thursday, August 30, 2012

Aug. 29-31: Are Tonton Macoutes Returning in Haiti?; Venezuela's Chávez Confident Before Election; Mexican Electoral Reforms Expected to Gain Momentum

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SourceMex, August 29, 2012

Calderón Administration in Nasty Dispute with Media Company in Effort to Recover Broadband-Spectrum Concessions

A nasty dispute between President Felipe Calderón’s administration and media giant MVS Comunicaciones regarding the allocation of radio spectrum has reopened a recent controversy dealing with freedom of speech and the dismissal and rehiring of a popular radio journalist.

Electoral Reforms Expected to Gain Momentum

Mexico’s high court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, SCJN) set the stage for the Mexican Congress to begin discussions about political and electoral reforms with a decision to allow Veracruz state to expand the term in office for mayors and other municipal elected officials to four years from the current three years. The SCJN’s decision could open the door for other changes in Mexico’s electoral and political structure when the Congress convenes in September. Some proposals that have been put forth in the past include the possibility of re-election, a runoff for the presidential election, and new laws that add transparency to campaign financing and establish severe penalties in cases of vote-buying.

NotiCen, August 30, 2012

Haiti’s complex internal-security situation has been stirred by the bold surfacing of a paramilitary group, an actual irregular army that is demanding that the Haitian armed forces--disbanded but not constitutionally abolished in 1995--be reinstated. Created in 1959 by François "Papa Doc" Duvaliet (1957-1971), the Tonton Macoutes (Haitian Creole for uncle bogeyman) came to life because of Duvalier’s fear that, after an attempted coup a year into his ruthless and corrupt régime, the military could eventually succeed in overthrowing him. Tonton Macoute is a Haitian mythological character who kidnaps children he catches in a burlap bag and later eats them.

Three months and seventeen rounds of negotiations later, things are finally back to "normal" in El Salvador, where a disagreement on high-court judge appointments triggered a drawn-out and debilitating showdown between the legislature and judiciary. President Mauricio Funes announced an end to the impasse on Aug. 19, explaining in a late-night press appearance that lawmakers had finally come up with a formula allowing the two protagonists in the crisis--the Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ) and the Asamblea Legislativa (AL)--to return to business as usual. The AL made the agreement official two days later, at last heeding CSJ demands that it reappoint two-thirds of the court’s judges. The agreement followed nearly a month of talks between party leaders.

NotiSur, August 31, 2012

Federico Franco, who replaced Fernando Lugo after a coup in June of this year, failed to take into account was that the three main rightist parties--the Colorados, the Unión Nacional de Ciudadanos Éticos (UNACE), and the Partido Patria Querida (PPQ)--staged a coup not to benefit him and his Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (PLRA) but rather to reposition themselves with eyes on the April 2013 presidential elections and try to rid the field of any candidate that Lugo might back. .
Thirteen years after Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez first took office in February 1999, Venezuelans are poised to elect a new head of state for the 2013-2019 term. On Oct. 7, nearly 19 million Venezuelans will cast their ballot for one of seven candidates, although only two have a chance of being elected: Chávez, who has won 12 of the 13 elections, plebiscites, and referendums held during his 13 years in office, and Henrique Capriles Radonski, the candidate for the opposition Mesa de Unidad Democrático MUD) coalition..

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Aug. 22-24; Corn Production in Mexico; U.S. Pressures Nicaragua; U.S. Gradually Expands Military Presence in Latin America

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SourceMex, August 22, 2012

A new report on corn production in Mexico has put the country’s food-security prospects in a more positive light for the near term, but strong concerns remain about the negative impact of global commodity prices because of a severe drought in the US.

President Felipe Calderón Acknowledges Threat Against His Life Early in His Administration 

Having lost two of his Cabinet secretaries to aircraft accidents during his administration, President Felipe Calderón revealed a bombshell on his 50th birthday: that he could have met the same fate during his early years in office. In a candid address to guests at his party, the president said military intelligence had warned him that there was information that the presidential airplane would be sabotaged during a planned tour of Tamaulipas state.

NotiCen, August 23, 2012

Wake Up Call? U.S. Uses Waivers to Warn Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega

The administration of US President Barack Obama sent Nicaragua a volley of economic warning shots in recent months, withholding several million dollars of aid money and threatening even bigger "sanctions" should the government of President Daniel Ortega fail to improve its tarnished democratic credentials.

Fallout from Costa Rican Tax Scandal Ceases after Congress-Government Tug of War

President Laura Chinchilla's decision not to prosecute some members of her administration who got caught in a tax-fraud scandal in March created tensions with the unicamiera Asamblea Legislativa (AL). , which delayed a couple of important financial bills that the executive was promoting. After intense negotiations, an agreement was reached on passing bills both sides were promoting.
NotiSur, August 24, 2012

U.S. Slowly Expanding Military Reach in Latin America

The US military has taken some steps to expand its presence in Central and South America, despite recent efforts by Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rafael Correa of Ecuador to convince other government sin the region al to declare a ban on allowing foreign military bases in Latin America. Agreements have been reached to expand the US presence in Uruguay, Paraguay, Panama , Peru, Chile, and Colombia Conversely, Argentina's central government nixed a deal that the US military had reached with a provincial government in 2009.

Studies Look at Labor Situation, Tax Havens in Latin America

Amid a global crisis that has converted the world's largest economies into labor exporters, Latin America continues showing enviable employment indices, and, in 2012, its performance is expected to continue improving. That is the asssmessment of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) in the joint report in the May 2012 bulletin The Employment Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean. The two UN agencies say that this year the region will reduce its unemployment rate by 0.2%, from the 6.7% of the economically active population (EAP) posted in December 2011 to an average of 6.5%. The rate could be even lower for the 12 South American countries.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Aug. 15-17: Mexican and Colombian Extradition Policies; Increase in Undocumented Cubans to U.S.

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SourceMex, August 15, 2012

 Mexico’s high court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, SCJN) is considering a number of individual cases that would uphold an earlier decision to give civilian courts jurisdiction in cases where military personnel are alleged to have violated the rights of civilians. The court is using the current session to consider 30 cases related to its July 2011 decision that initially allowed civilian courts jurisdiction over military violations of human rights. In that decision, the SCJN ruled that Mexico’s judiciary branch was obligated to comply with international rulings barring the investigation and prosecution of human rights abuses under the military justice system.

Former Quintana Roo Governor Villanueva, Sinaloa Cartel’s 'Queen of the Pacific' Appear in U.S. Courts to Answer to Drug-Related Charges

Two high-profile Mexicans accused of drug-trafficking offenses had court dates in the US in early August. On Aug. 2, former Quintana Roo governor Mario Villanueva Madrid pleaded guilty in a US Federal District Court in New York to charges that he conspired to launder millions of dollars of drug profits in the US. A week later, Sandra Ávila Beltrán, a high-ranking lieutenant in the Sinaloa cartel, appeared in a US Federal Court in Miami after her extradition to the US. Ávila Beltrán, commonly known as the Reina del Pacífico (Queen of the Pacific), was scheduled to be arraigned on drug-trafficking charges, after allegedly controlling cocaine traffic from Colombia to the western US for years.

NotiCen, August 16, 2012

The flow of undocumented immigrants from Cuba to the US has increased in recent months, most entering through points along the US-Mexico border, within a context of skepticism about reforms promised by the government of President Raúl Castro and unease regarding the economic collapse of other traditional Cuban migratory destinations such as Spain.

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli was forced to withdraw two controversial bills from the unicameral Asamblea Nacional (AN): one that would have sold off state assets in mixed public utility companies, and another that would have granted him full control of the Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ), following widespread protests throughout the country and a fistfight between lawmakers in the AN.

NotiSur, August 17, 2012

Some 1,500 Colombians have been extradited to stand trial in US courts since 1987, when a US-Colombia extradition treaty went into effect. The treaty was intended primarily to bring leaders of drug-trafficking organizations and their paramiitary allies to the US. But the extradition policy has not had its intended effect, and the failure of the official strategy has increasingly led to voices--in the judiciary, political circles, social organizations, and the press-- suggesting that the treaty be revised or even rescinded.

A ruling by judges of the Sala Penal Permanente of the Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ) that reduced the sentences of members of Grupo Colina, the military death squad that during the administration of ex-President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) committed selective assassinations as part of the government's countersubversive operations, was repudiated by survivors of the massacres, jurists, human rights organizations, and even President Ollanta Humala.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Aug. 8-10: More Women in Mexican Congress; Dominican Republic's Controversial Immigration Law; Brazil to Boost Defense Capability

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SourceMex, August 8, 2012

Increase in Women Elected to Congress in July Improves Mexico's Gender-Equity Ratio

The number of women serving in the Chamber of Deputies and Senate will increase in the next session of Congress as a result of an agreement between the political parties and the electoral court. A total of 183 women will serve in the 500-seat lower house, just short of the 40% target. There will be 42 women serving in the Senate, or about 33% of the total. The totals include both the directly elected legislators and the at-large representatives, who are appointed based on the percentage of the vote received by each party.

Accidents at Two Coal Mines in Coahuila State Renew Safety Concerns

Concerns about safety in Coahuila’s coal mining region resurfaced following two separate explosions at two facilities in the span of 10 days. Only one of the accidents was fatal, but the incident brought reminders of the disaster at the Pasta de Conchos mine in February 2006 and resulted in renewed demands that the mining companies place a higher priority on implementing safety measures.

NotiCen, August 9, 2012

Global Financial Crisis Takes Toll on Central America

In the past few months, the global economy has been increasingly sluggish, mainly as a result of the deep crisis that has hit the eurozone. The report "Central America and the crisis. Can we do more than just wait?" published in March by the Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Fiscales (ICEFI) says the global economy will continue its downward spiral due to the European recession and slow economic growth in the US and in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). ICEFI predicts that this year, Central America’s economy will grow by approximately 4%, mainly as a result of steady growth in Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.

Wave of Haitian Migrants Causes Tensions with Dominican Republic

For many years, migration has caused friction between the Dominican Republic and neighboring Haiti. In an attempt to reach a solution, former President Leonel Fernández (1996-2000, 2004-2012) ratified a new immigration law in late 2011, which had been debated for several years. However, both human rights groups and business organizations have argued that the new law, which went into full effect on June 1, is so draconian that it is unfeasible.

NotiSur, August 10, 2012

Ecuadoran Government Will Modify Laws to Favor Mining

It has become customary for large transnational mining companies to pressure governments to modify national legislation to suit company interests. However, this was not expected to happen in Ecuador since its Constitution specifically protects the rights of nature and is very clear on the control the state must have of extractive activities as well as on the state's share of earnings from this industry. In July, the Ecuadoran government caved in to pressure from the Canadian company Kinross Gold Corporation and sent the Asamblea Nacional a package of reforms to the mining law (Ley de Minería) and the internal tax law.

Brazil Plans to Expand Defense Industry

After consolidating its economy and moving to a prominent position on the world stage during the eight-year administration of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2002-2010), Brazil under the leadership of President Dilma Rousseff has begun to think and act like a major global player. It is now the world's sixth-largest economy, and both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the British Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) predict that by 2015 it will overtake France to become the fifth-largest economy, topped only by China, the US, Japan, and Germany.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Aug. 1-3: Drug Policy in Uruguay; Guatemala Dictator to Face Second Trial; Journalists Continue Under Siege in Mexico

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SourceMex, August 1, 2012

Human Rights Commission Report Criticizes Government for Failure to Protect Mexican Journalists

Despite promises by the Mexican Congress and the executive branch to protect the news media against violence by organized crime, journalists remain extremely vulnerable because of the government’s ineffective efforts to prosecute perpetrators. In June, the semi-independent Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH) reported that journalists have suffered 126 attacks since 2000, and prosecutions have occurred in only 24 of those cases. Only two of the prosecutions resulted in convictions. Meanwhile nearly a dozen journalists have either been murdered or disappeared since the beginning of 2012.
Mexico Urged to Prepare to Transition out of Export Market that is too Reliant on Oil

In late July, the government’s statistics agency (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, INEGI) released what appear to be very favorable trade-balance statistics for Mexico. INEGI reported Mexico’s trade surplus at nearly US$3.3 billion for the first six months of 2012, compared with surpluses of US$3.1 billion in January-June 2011 and US$288 million in the first six months of 2010. But some exonomists point out that Mexico’s trade balance remains too dependent on oil exports, with sales of hydrocarbons accounting for more than 14% of all exports.
NotiCen, August 2, 2012

Political Trial That Toppled Paraguay’s President Is Inspiring Idea in Honduras Three Years after Coup

Hours after the June 22 political trial that removed Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, and just over three years after a bloody coup toppled Honduran President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya , the head of Honduras’ unicameral Congreso Nacional Juan Orlando Hernández began promoting a constitutional reform to introduce the same mechanism in this Central American nation. But the PN legislator’s efforts sparked warnings against the idea on the grounds that Honduras is not ready for such a mechanism and that its eventual implementation could damage more than strengthen this country’s battered democracy.

Dos Erres: a Second Trial for Guatemalan Former Dictator Efraín Ríos Montt
A second trial on genocide charges awaits former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-1983), after Judge Carol Patricia Flores ruled on May 21 that he could be prosecuted for ordering the Dos Erres massacre, committed by the Guatemalan Army on Dec. 7, 1982. Ríos Montt, 85, took power through a military coup and ruled throughout the bloodiest phase of Guatemala’s 36-year-long civil war. He already faces trial on separate charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for 11 massacres, committed in the highland department of Quiché between 1982 and 1983, in which 1,771 Mayan Ixil civilians were slaughtered.

NotiSur, August 3, 2012

Uruguayan President José Mujica extended an "invitation to reflect on the value of life," which was followed by a document with certain fundamentals to give the country a "strategy for life and living together harmoniously." Mujica then added the broad outlines to facilitate the collective writing of a bill to establish "controlled and regulated legalization of the production and sale of marijuana." His proposal opened an internal debate and turned the eyes of the world toward Uruguay.

"Mapuche Conflict" Flares Up In Chile’s Araucanía Region

A flurry of arson attacks, land occupations, and violent police raids have refocused public attention on Chile’s long-simmering "Mapuche conflict," which is once again showing signs of boiling over. So-named for the involvement of ethnic Mapuches, Chile’s largest indigenous group, the conflict also involves non-Mapuche farmers and rural business magnates, as well as heavily armed carabineros [uniformed police], which maintain a constant presence in and around certain ‘hotspot’ communities in the Biobío and Araucanía regions. Fueling tensions are issues of poverty, land ownership, and racism