Thursday, December 20, 2012

Peña Nieto's Anti-Crime Strategy; Latin American Economic Growth; Institutional Crisis in Costa Rica

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen, and NotiSur for Dec. 19-21

President Enrique Peña Nieto Presents Anti-Crime Strategy
In mid-December, just two weeks after taking office, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a public-safety strategy that adopts a regional focus and creates a national police force to replace the Army and Navy in drug-interdiction efforts. Peña Nieto’s strategy includes several central concepts: planning, crime prevention, respect for human rights, coordination, revamping law enforcement and the judiciary, as well as a process of continual evaluation.  -Carlos Navarro
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Latin America, Caribbean Nations Have Economic Lessons for World Powers
Beginning in October, documents from the World Bank, the European Union (EU) statistics office, various UN agencies, and private organizations made clear the unimaginable gap that has opened between the dominant countries of the Global North and the always-disdained nations of the South, in this case those of Latin America and the Caribbean. Contrary to what has been a historic constant, however, this time the US and the floundering European economies have observed Latin America's healthy economic indicators. Those indicators show that the inclusive policies applied by progressive governments that came onto the scene with the new millennium produced employment growth and the capacity to generate new jobs and, consequently, a significant drop in poverty and food-insufficiency indices. -Andrés Gaudín    Read More

Costa Rican Congress-Supreme Court Clash as Magistrate’s Re-election Sparks Institutional Crisis
Costa Rica’s Constitution states that the unicameral Asamblea Legislativa (AL) elects the 22 magistrates making up the Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ) and decides whether to re-elect them or not--the latter requiring an affirmative vote of at least 38 of the 57 AL deputies. It has been customary to re-elect magistrates as their eight-year terms near their end, But within the context of an increasingly agitated political scene, this tradition took a turn this year. The term of Magistrate Fernando Cruz, a member of the CSJ's Sala Constitucional (also Sala IV), ended in October, and, a month later, a 38-vote majority made up of the 24 deputies of the governing social democratic Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN) plus allies from minority blocs decided not to re-elect the judge. -George Rodríguez   Read More

Salvadoran Gangs Willing To Extend Truce, On One Condition
Nine months after agreeing to an historic truce, jailed leaders from El Salvador’s largest street gangs say they are ready to curb more than just killings--at least in a handful of strategic "peace zones." Before moving ahead with the experimental plan, however, the notoriously violent maras, as the groups are known, want the government to do something in return: repeal its repressive "anti-gang law." -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar   Read More

Mexico Mends Trade Relations with Argentina; Officials Reach New Auto Agreement
After a six-month disruption, Mexico and Argentina have mended fences and agreed to resume trade in automobiles. On Dec. 14, the two sides announced a 27-month agreement that allows exports of Mexican automobiles to enter Argentina duty free, although a new smaller quota was imposed in the near term.
Under the new agreement, which became effective on Dec. 18, 2012, the two countries agreed to establish an annual limit of US$575 million for Mexican auto exports to Argentina in the first year, US$625 million in the second year, and US$187.5 million in the three-month period between December 2014 and March 2015. On March 2015, the two countries will return to free trade in automobiles, as established under Mexico’s agreement with the Southern Cone Common Market (MERCOSUR).  -Carlos Navarro    Read More

Investigation of Forced Sterilizations in Peru
The decision of the criminal prosecutor's office in Lima to reopen investigations of forced sterilizations was hailed by women victims of the practice, carried out during the administration of ex-President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), who now see the possibility of justice being done after 15 years of struggle. The Primera Fiscalía Penal Supraprovincial de Lima headed by Dr. Edith Chamorro has 53 pieces of evidence based on 1,700 pages of memoranda and official letters, as well as reports from government ministers addressed to Fujimori informing him about the sterilization "quotas" that were fulfilled, and other evidence confirming that what was happening was a state policy. - -Elsa Chanduví Jaña   Read More

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mixed Ruling on Colombia-Nicaragua Dispute; Controversial Fisheries Law in Chile; Passenger Trains Returning to Mexico

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen, and NotiSur for Dec. 12-14

World Court Wades Into Nicaragua-Colombia Maritime Border Dispute
                                  A long-anticipated International Court of Justice (ICJ)ruling that was supposed to settle a decades-old maritime boundary dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia has instead riled relations further still for the two countries. When it came to the water around those islands, however, the ICJ ruled very much in favor of Nicaragua, nearly doubling the country’s Caribbean claims by extending its maritime border well east of the 82nd meridian, a de facto boundary line imposed for years by Colombia.

 -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar     Read More

Colombia President Negotiates With Rebels but ContinuesMilitary Offensive
Since Nov. 18, and after a half century of a bloody internal war, the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) guerrillas have been in Havana negotiating the terms by which they might finally end the fighting and return the country to longed-for peace. In addition, since March, a few days after the secret meetings in Havana began, the government has been pushing for congressional passage of a constitutional reform to expand military jurisdiction, transferring to military courts all crimes involving military personnel. In the end, the government gave in on some points, but that did not satisfy any of the agencies and organizations that harshly criticized the idea. -Andrés Gaudín   Read More

Chile: Corporate-Friendly Fisheries Bill Sparks Protests, Divides Opposition
Against the objections of artisan fishers, environmental groups, and some opposition lawmakers, Chile’s Congress is inching closer toward approving a controversial government-backed overhaul of the country’s fisheries regulations. Following its approval late last month in the Senate, the new Ley de Pesca now heads back to the Camarade Diputados, which approved an earlier version of the bill in July. President Sebastián Piñera is hoping the lower house will complete the parliamentary Ping-Pong process by the end of the year, when Chile’s current fisheries law--in place since 2001--is set to expire. -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar    Read More

President Enrique Peña Nieto Proposes Plan to Restore Passenger Trains to Mexico

President Enrique Peña Nieto has proposed an ambitious plan to restore intercity passenger-rail service in Mexico after a hiatus of nearly two decades. Under the president's plan, the government will begin by establishing three rail routes, one connecting Mexico City with the industrial hub of Querétaro, a second one linking the capital with Toluca, and a third high-speed line that would span a large portion of the Yucatán Peninsula. -Carlos Navarro    Read More

Government Offers Major Reform to Public Education; Measure Would Also Curb Power of Teachers Union

A constitutional reform addressing education is not a topic that normally would make the top headlines of Mexican newspapers. But the changes proposed on Dec. 10 in the Congress have far-reaching political implications, not only because of the broad support from all major political parties but also because the initiative has the effect of ending the stranglehold that the powerful teachers union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, SNTE), and specifically its longtime leader Elba Esther Gordillo, has had on Mexico’s educational policies. -Carlos Navarro   Read More

Leaked Emails Lift Lid on Corruption in Administration of Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli

Exactly one year ago, the Panamanian media published a series of incriminating emails detailing how government officials had accepted bribes from Italian businessman Valter Lavítola, CEO of the Finmeccanica corporation, which was awarded a US$250 million contract to refurbish the country’s decaying prisons. The coverage was based on leaked emails from opposition leader Balbina Herrera of the leftist Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD). Herrera and Mauro Velocci, CEO of the Italian corporation Svemark now face prosecution for leaking the information to the press and are accused of committing a breach of secrecy and violating President Ricardo Martinelli’s right to privacy.  -Louisa Reynolds    Read More

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mexico's Peña Nieto Forges Agreement with Opposition; Guatemala Report Called 'Superficial'; Bolivia Opposition Unable to Unite

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen, and NotiSur for Dec. 5-7

President Enrique Peña Nieto Starts New Administration by Signing Political Agreement with Opposition Parties
The election of Enrique Peña Nieto marked the return of the long-governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) to the highest office in Mexico, but the jury is still out on whether the old authoritarian party is back in office or whether a transformed party will be governing Mexico for the next six years. Shortly before and after taking office on Dec. 1, 2012, Peña Nieto took steps to try to convince Mexicans that this is a new era for the PRI and that his administration would be politically inclusive and employ a more efficient style of governance. One of the new president's first moves was to bring together representatives from his party and the two major opposition parties to hammer out an agreement to promote reforms to strengthen democracy, address social inequalities, and foment economic growth in Mexico. -Carlos Navarro   Read More

Civil Society Organizations Brand Guatemalan Government’s Report to U.N. Superficial"

On Oct. 24, the UN’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC) assessed Guatemala to establish whether the 43 recommendations made by its members in 2008 had been heeded, a process known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Guatemala’s official delegation listed the country’s achievements in advancing human rights in the country. However, civil society organizations said that the presentation was "superficial" and "incomplete" as it failed to include a number of key issues such as indigenous rights -Louisa Reynolds     Read More

Bolivian Opposition Has Little Success Uniting Ahead of 2014 Presidential Election

Although Bolivia's next presidential election is still two years away, the opposition is already focused on it, with all that implies in countries like this one in the South American altiplano, where party, personal, business, and even racial interests carry more weight than concern for the nation. In recent weeks, the leadership of parties in opposition to President Evo Morales began negotiations to create an electoral front to be able to go into the December 2014 elections with a chance of defeating the president. -Andrés Gaudín    Read More

Honduran Election Authority Claims Primary Voter Turnout Rose from 2008 to 2012; Human Rights Activist Says Results Grossly Manipulated

Honduras’ Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE)--the country’stop election authority--has released results for last month's primary elections by the Central American nation’s parties for next year’s presidential, congressional, and municipal contenders. TSE figures indicate that voter turnout this year exceeded that of 2008, a trend that, by those estimates, dramatically lowered absenteeism from almost 62.8% to 54.9%. But human rights activist Bertha Oliva contends that the final results were manipulated, and that center-left candidate Xiomara Castro receeived many more votes than reported. George Rodríguez   Read More

Venezuelan Voters Head to Polls Again
Amid warring polls, which Venezuelans learned to not take seriously given their unreliable performance in the Oct. 7 presidential elections, voters will return to the ballot boxes on Dec. 16. This will be the fifteenth election (constituent, general, regional, legislative, referendum, recall) since President Hugo Chávez set the Revolución Bolivariana in motion in 1999. Voters will choose governors in the country's 23 states and elect 237 deputies for state legislative councils. -Andrés Gaudín 
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Despite Challenges, Tourism Sector Grew Under Former President Felipe Calderón

One of the top accomplishments of President Felipe Calderón’s government was to keep the tourism industry afloat despite significant challenges that slowed the influx of foreign visitors and inhibited the ability of Mexicans to travel to popular destinations. Among other problems, the administration had to deal with an outbreak of the H1N1 flu in the spring of 2009 and drug-related violence that escalated out of control during the president’s six-year term. In mid-November, then Tourism Secretary Gloria Guevara Manzo reported that 201.7 million foreign tourists visited Mexico during the six years of the Calderón government, an increase of almost 25% from the total of 162 million tourists recorded during the previous administration of ex-President Vicente Fox (2000-2006).-Carlos Navarro Read More