Thursday, November 29, 2012

Climate Change Affecting El Salvador; Lima Mayor Faces Recall; U.S., Mexico Reach Agreement on Colorado River

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen and NotiSur, November 28-30

Signs That Climate Change Is Already Spelling BigTrouble For Tiny El Salvador
Sobering studies by development organizations, government offices, and UN agencies continue to underscore what many in El Salvador say they have already learned firsthand: climate change is a real and present danger for the disaster-prone Central American country. El Salvador contributes a relatively tiny share of the global output of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse-gas emissions thought to be responsible for rising temperatures and dangerous shifts in weather patterns. -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar

Lima Mayor Faces Recall
Lima Mayor Susana Villarán insists that she does not fear the recall referendum that the Jurado Nacional de Elecciones (JNE) has scheduled for March 17, 2013, which will decide whether she and 39 municipal councilors keep their jobs. The law does not specify the conditions for carrying out a Consulta Popular de Revocatoria, although such a process must be based on serious legal grounds, although not necessarily on evidence. Marco Tulio Gutiérrez, promoter of the recall effort, says that the main reason is the Villarán administration's "extreme incompetence," but at no time has he given solid arguments for the measure. -Elsa Chanduví Jaña

Ghana, US Court Side with Argentina's "Vulture-Fund"Bondholders
In October,a Ghanaian judge unexpectedly upheld the claim of a "vulture fund" of US financial speculators and, consequently, impounded the Frigata Libertad, the Argentine Navy's training ship, at the port of Tema. The judge took the action at the request of the investment group NML Capital Ltd. , which had made several unsuccessful attempts to take over Argentine assets to cover 100% of the debt bonds that it bought at junk prices (5% of their value) in 2001 when the Argentine economy tumbled and the country defaulted on its debts. NML is an investment firm belonging to US hedge fund manager Paul Singer, who for the past 11 years has tried in every way possible to pressure Argentina. -Andrés Gaudín

U.S., Mexico Sign Landmark Water-Sharing Agreement forColorado River
The US and Mexico have signed a landmark agreement by which the two countries will share and manage water from the Colorado River, allowing them to better respond to drought and other environmental challenges. The agreement also offers opportunities for cooperation in border infrasturcture and restoration of the Colorado River Delta. -Carlos Navarro

Cuba Alert to Possible Brain Drain with IncreasedMigratory Flexibility
Cubans’ eagerness to travel off the island may lead to a stampede of professionals leaving the country beginning on Jan. 14, the date when, after decades of waiting, a more flexible immigration policy will finally come into force, despite warnings from the government of President Raúl Castro that restrictions will be maintained for individuals deemed important for national security and development The "brain drain" and the departure of the skilled work force has been one of Cuba’s most controversial subjects since 1959, when Fidel Castro took power and the country headed toward communism. -Daniel Vázquez

Mexican Senate Overwhelmingly Approves Two Nominees for SupremeCourt
In late November, the Senate overwhelmingly confirmed two candidates proposed by President Felipe Calderón to replace Justices Guillermo Ortiz Mayagoitia and Sergio Aguirre Anguiano on Mexico’s high court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, SCJN). The two retiring justices both completed their 15-year terms. Their replacements, Alfredo Gutiérrez Ortiz Mena and Alberto Gelacio Pérez Dayán, will assume their new posts on Dec. 1, the same day that President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto will be inaugurated. Pérez Dayán will replace Ortiz Mayagoitia, while Gutiérrez Ortiz Mena will take the spot vacated by Aguirre Anguiano. -Carlos Navarro

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mexico Overhauls Labor Law; Municipal Elections Held in Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua

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These articles were published in SourceMex, NotiCen, and NotiSur on Nov. 14-16

After a few weeks of acrimony, the Mexican Congress approved the first overhaul of Mexico’s labor code (Ley Federal del Trabajo, LFT) in 42 years. The measure--considered generally friendly to employers and the business sector--was introduced by President Felipe Calderón and endorsed by President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto as an instrument to help Mexico become more competitive in the global market.  -Carlos Navarro

Brazil's municipal elections, held in October, ended with significant numerical growth nationally for the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), the party of President Dilma Rousseff and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010). The elections also showed a certain voter disillusionment with leaders of party politics and a desire for renewal, for change, for the future. -José Pedro Martins 

President Daniel Ortega’s Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) mauled the reeling opposition in nationwide municipal elections earlier this month, leading Nicaragua closer toward one-party-state status with wins in more than 80% of the country’s towns and cities. Sandinista candidates drew approximately 68% of the votes cast in the Nov. 4 contest, giving the leftist party control of all but one of the country’s 17 provincial capitals, including Managua, where Mayor Daysi Torres was re-elected in a landslide. -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar

President Sebastián Piñera’s center-right Alianza coalition stumbled in municipal elections, held late last month throughout Chile, dropping tight mayoral races in several conservative strongholds. But, while most pundits and political leaders agree the elections were a "defeat" for the Alianza, few are clear on what the results mean for its traditional rival, the still influential but increasingly fractured Concertación coalition. -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar

The Mexican mining industry, already beset by accusations of environmental violations, territorial fights with local indigenous communities, and safety concerns, is facing a relatively new threat—connections with drug-trafficking organizations like the Zetas in Coahuila and La Familia in the central state of Michoacán. There are reports that the Zetas are extracting coal illegally, many times in collusion with local mining companies, and selling it to the state utility, the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), through an intermediary, primarily the Promotora de Desarrollo Minero (PRODEMI).  -Carlos Navarro

Representatives of 18 Ibero-American nations, meeting in Costa Rica during the 17th Annual Assembly of the Federación Iberoamericana de Ombudsman (FIO), agreed to push for all countries in the regional bloc to pass legislation to fight violence against children--the meeting’s main topic. The idea is to review legislation, where it exists, and to promote it in countries where it does not, as a means to penalize child aggression, Defensoría de los Habitantes spokesperson Ahmed Tabash told NotiCen. -George Rodríguez

Friday, November 9, 2012

Guatemalan Army Cracks Down on Protestors; Paraguay Parties Posed for 2013 Election; Mexican Remittances Down

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These six articles were published in this week's issues of SourceMex, NotiCen, and NotiSur

The slow US economic recovery in the construction and services industries has contributed to a steady decline in remittances sent home by Mexican expatriates during the summer months and into the early fall. In a report published in early November, the Banco de México said remittances during September fell for the third-consecutive month relative to a year ago. The central bank, also known as Banxico, said September remittances amounted to only US$1.66 billion, down 20% from US$2.08 billion in September 2011. That was the largest decline since October 2009, when the amount of money sent home by expatriates declined by 36%. -Carlos Navarro

An independent review of the result of the July 1 presidential election shows that a large percentage of the voters who are considered extremely poor may have actually cast their ballots for the conservative Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) and not the PRI or the center-leftMovimiento Progresista. A vote for the governing party was an endorsement of government public-assistance programs implemented under President Felipe Calderón’s administration. The leftist coalition, which received about 32% of the vote in the presidential election, appears to be headed for a split with the formal decision by Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (Morena) to become a political party. -Carlos Navarro 

After electricity costs in the northwestern department of Totonicapán doubled in less than a year to almost US$12, Mayan K'iche' community leaders decided that enough was enough, and protestors occupied the ENERGUATE electricity company’s office in the departmental capital. The day before, indigenous leaders had already announced theirintention to block the the Inter-American Highway, and they were met by dozens of police vehicles and at least two Army vehicles. What happened next is currently under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office as different versions of events have emerged.   -Louisa Reynolds

In recent weeks, the issue of fiscal reform has caused tensions in the Dominican Republic, especially because some have argued that public spending spiraled out of control under the administration of outgoing President Leonel Fernández (1996-2000, 2004-2012), who has been accused of causing the country’s huge public debt, a debt that newly elected President Danilo Medina seeks to curb. Medina’s fiscal-reform proposal seeks to raise RD$46 billion (Dominican pesos)--slightly above US$1.17 billion--has met with negative reactions. However, the Senate approved it with 30 of 32 votes, all of which, with one exception, belong to the official Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD). -Crosby Girón
What is indigenous justice? Does an indigenous justice system really exist? Should indigenous justice be subordinate to a country's ordinary (national) justice system? These and other questions are perplexing legal experts trained in Western law as they analyze and try to put into practice the mandate in the Ecuadoran Constitution's Article 171. The article recognizes the competence of indigenous authorities to apply their own norms and procedures that are appropriate for resolving internal conflicts and not contrary to the Constitution or human rights. This article also requires that mechanisms be designed for coordination and cooperation between indigenous justice and ordinary justice. -Luis Ángel Saavedra

The coup that toppled the democratic government of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo (2008-2012) and installed Federico Franco as de facto head of state has accelerated the electoral calendar, revealing the ambitions and needs of some and the political immaturity of others. -Andrés Gaudín

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mexico Removes Corrupt Judge; Private Cities Ruled Unconstitutional in Honduras; Uruguay Decriminalizes Abortion

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SourceMex, October 31, 2012

On Oct. 25, Mexico’s judicial oversight council (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal, CJF) announced that federal Judge Efraín Cázares López would be permanently relieved of his duties for "serious offenses in his judicial duties." Judge Cázares, who was suspended in June pending an investigation, issued a controversial ruling ordering the release of 10 mayors and dozens of public officials in Michoacán state accused of collaborating with La Familia drug cartel in 2009. -Carlos Navarro

In late October, President Felipe Calderón inaugurated three new wind-power projects in Oaxaca, adding another 300 megawatts of wind-generated capacity to the state. With the three new facilities—Piedra Larga, Oaxaca I, and La Venta III---the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, known for its favorable wind conditions, now has more than a dozen power plants. The expansion of wind energy is part of the Calderón government’s plan to greatly expand the use of renewable energy in Mexico and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. So far this year, Mexico has more than doubled its installed wind-power capacity to about 1.3 gigawatts from 519 MW last year. In contrast, Mexico produced only 6 MW of wind power when Calderón took office in December 2006. -Carlos Navarro

NotiCen, November 1, 2012

In general, women--and girls, for that matter--in Haiti have historically been, at best, second-class citizens, culturally seen as fit only for household work and assigned the role of sexual object with no rights, a context in which abuse comes naturally and goes unpunished. Gender-based violence in homes has been coupled with sexual violence as political repression by dictatorial régimes in this French- and Creole-speaking Caribbean island nation. Years of violence were the framework for "widespread and systematic rape and other sexual violence against girls," according to the international nongovernmental organization (NGO) Human Rights Watch (HRW). UN reports also revealed that criminal gangs used threats and actual sexual violence to terrorize Haitian communities. -George Rodríguez  

The idea to build private cities began gathering momentum early this year, after the Congress passed the bill in 2011 creating the Redes Especiales de Desarrollo (RED)--better known as ciudades modelos (model cities)--opening the way for foreign investors to come in and start building what, in their English version, are known as charter cities. But the RED was struck down by the Honduran Supreme Court, which ruled that the law was unconstitutional. -George Rodríguez

NotiSur, November 2, 2012

Argentina's Corte Suprema de Justicia de la Nación (CSJN) put an end to the legal delays by powerful media conglomerate Grupo Clarín and set Dec. 7 as the deadline by which it will have to comply with provisions of the communications law (Ley de Servicios de Comunicación Audiovisual). This means that, instead of 254 stations (over-the-air and cable TV channels, AM and FM radio stations), it will have only 34. The media giant will have to decide which outlets it will retain and which it will dispose of, and the government will auction off broadcasting licenses for the freed-up frequencies to individuals and nonprofit entities. -Andrés Gaudín

 Both houses of the Uruguayan legislature have now passed an abortion law (Ley de Interrupción Voluntaria del Embarazo, IVE) allowing any woman--adolescent or adult--to have an abortion during the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy by making her decision known to the national health care system (Sistema Nacional Integrado de Salud, SNIS), which includes public and private health providers. The law, which the Senate approved on Oct. 17, was signed five days later by President José Mujica and lacks only its enabling regulations to go into effect. -Andrés Gaudín