Thursday, February 28, 2013

Private Sector and Dirty War in Argentina; Chicago Declares Mexican Drug Capo Public Enemy #1; Honduries Tries to Restore Private-Cities Program

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen, and NotiSur for Feb. 27-March 1, 2013

City of Chicago Declares Drug Trafficker El Chapo Guzmán Public Enemy Number One
Confirming his status as a larger-than-life figure, Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán Loera was declared Public Enemy Number 1 by the Chicago Crime Commission (CCC) on Feb. 14, 2013, replacing the infamous gangster Al Capone as the city’s most reviled personality. While the declaration is symbolic, the commission decided to single out the notorious drug trafficker because a large share of the drugs sold on city streets are thought to come from the Sinaloa cartel, led by Guzmán Loera. El Chapo, who has made the list of the world’s wealthiest people, also made headlines in other places besides Chicago during February. There were rumors that he died in a shootout in Guatemala. And Mexican Interior Secretary Sergio Osorio Chong candidly acknowledged that the capture of El Chapo Guzmán was a top objective in President Enrique Peña Nieto’s crime-fighting strategy. -Carlos Navarro    Read More

Former Ford Executives Charged with Crimes Against Humanity in Argentina.
The Argentine judiciary has begun investigating former top executives of the Argentina subsidiary of US-based Ford Motor Company during the 1976-1983 civilian-military dictatorship for crimes against humanity: kidnapping, torture, murder, and disappearance of persons. The executives could face life sentences . On Feb. 18, the former president of the multinational Nicolás Enrique Courard and three former executives, Pedro Müller, Guillermo Galarraga, and Héctor Jesús Sibilla, joined the list of civilians under investigation for collusion with the military and benefitting from that collusion. During those bloody years, the regime's policies left 30,000 disappeared, thousands murdered, some 500 babies taken from their parents and given new identities, and tens of thousands of exiles. -Andrés Gaudín   Read More

Honduran Congress Passes Revamped Law to Build Private Cities; Opponents Gear Up to Bring It Down Again
In November 2012, Honduras' Supreme Court declared a plan to create private model cities in Honduras unconstitutional. But supporters of the notion appear to have come up with an alternative plan. In January 2013, a new, revamped private cities bill--Ley para la Creación de Regímenes Especiales de Desarrollo--landed in Congress. The ciudades modelos are now Regímenes Especiales de Desarrollo, instead of Redes Especiales de Desarrollo, changing one word in the label and keeping the acronym RED. Promoters insist tthat the new version eliminates the legal flaws that made it possible for the court to declare the first bill unconstitutional. But opponents are fighting the new effort. -George Rodríguez    Read More

Peruvian Women Say NO to Violence Against Women.
On Feb. 14, St. Valentine's Day, thousands of Peruvians, including many couples, celebrated the day of love and friendship by participating in a dance in 20 districts of the capital Lima and in numerous other cities to say "enough is enough" to violence against women. Peru thus joined the international One Billion Rising campaign to stop feminicide, which the Ministerio Público says claimed 97 victims in 2012, 93.8% of whom were killed by their partner, ex-partner, or a relative (intimate femicide), while 6.2% were killed by an acquaintance or by a stranger (non-intimate femicide). -Elsa Chanduví Jaña    Read More

Nicaragua’s Eight-Month-Old Femicide Law Slow To Deliver Results
A gruesome murder case in Nicaragua’s Matagalpa department has brought new attention to what--despite the implementation last year of a much-heralded femicide law--remains a serious problem for the Central America nation: violence against women and girls. Last year, 85 femicides (murders of women at the hands of men) occurred in Nicaragua, nine more than in 2011, according to the Red de Mujeres contra la Violencia (RMCV), a nongovernmental women’s rights group. -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar     Read More

Avian Flu Outbreak in Guanajuato Raises Concerns about Price Speculation for Eggs, Chicken
The dreaded avian flu has returned to central Mexico again this year, this time causing significant poultry deaths in Guanajuato state. The outbreak of the H7N3 virus--which had forced poultry farmers in the state to destroy more than 2 million birds as of the end of February—appears confined to the municipalities of Dolores Hidalgo, Juventino Rosa, and San Felipe in northern Guanajuato. The Servicio Nacional de Sanidad, Inocuidad y Calidad Agroalimentaria (SENASICA) said the outbreak originated at a poultry farm operated by the company Pilgrim’s, initially spreading to 17 farms owned by the firm Bachoco. The virus was later discovered on 20 other farms in the area. -Carlos Navarro    Read More

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Social Media Activist Threatened in Mexico; Racial Attack in Uruguay; Cubans Hoping for Better Internet Connection

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen, and NotiSur for Feb. 20-22

Criminal Organizations Target Social-Media Activist in Tamaulipas
Criminal organizations have managed to intimidate many journalists and media outlets in Mexico into suppressing coverage of drug-trafficking activities. Drug traffickers have also targeted citizens using social media, but have not been as successful in their intimidation efforts. In the same week in February that a coalition of international journalist organizations called on President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration and the Mexican Congress to step up protection for journalists in Mexico, a drug cartel in Tamaulipas offered a bounty on the person or persons who have managed Twitter and Facebook accounts dedicated solely to warning citizens in the state to stay away from areas of risk.  -Carlos Navarro     Read More

Uruguay Examines Hidden Racism Following Violent Attack on Afro-Uruguayan Woman
Peaceful Uruguay, a small corner of South America with slightly more than 176,000 sq km, fewer than 3.3 million inhabitants, and a progressive government, awoke on Dec. 16 to news that, before dawn in the capital Montevideo, four white women had attacked an Afrodescendent woman, screaming "black shit," kicking and punching her, and leaving her unconscious, bleeding, and with a perforated liver. More than a century and a half after Uruguay abolished slavery, 47 years after the country signed the UN's International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and having always lived in apparent peace with the descendants of the men and women brought like animals from Africa--slightly more than 8% of the Uruguayan population has African roots--the cultured and egalitarian country discovered that racism is widespread in its society. -Andrés Gaudín     Read More

New Arrests, Indictments In 40-Year-Old Case Of Slain Chilean Singer Víctor Jara
Protected for nearly four decades by a thick wall of military secrecy, a handful of former Chilean soldiers--including a retired Army lieutenant now living in the US--are finally being called to answer for the 1973 torture and murder of famed folk singer Víctor Jara. The musician, who was also an accomplished poet, theater director, and university professor, remains one of the most iconic victims of the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar    Read More

Cubans' Expectations Increase for Better Access to Internet, Information, and World Connection
The Cuban populace began 2013 under the impression that the island's connection to the world was increasing thanks to the first tests of the submarine fiber-optic cable linked with Venezuela, better access to international information through Latin American television network teleSUR, and the commencement of immigration reforms that reduce foreign travel restraints. -Daniel Vázquez   Read More

Billionaires Carlos Slim, Bill Gates Donate Millions of Dollars for Global Food-Security Efforts at Agricultural Research Center in México State>
Billionaires Carlos Slim and Bill Gates have joined efforts to promote long-term global food security by providing millions of dollars to fund research for improved varieties of corn, wheat, and other crops. The two tycoons--who are at the top of the Forbes list of the wealthiest people in the world—were on hand for the opening of a new agricultural research center in Texcoco, México state. Slim donated US$25 million for the effort through the Fundación Carlos Slim, while Gates pledged about US$90 million available over a five-year period through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The funds will be used to expand infrastructure and attract top researchers to the Texcoco facility managed by the Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo (CIMMYT). -Carlos Navarro    Read More

Indigenous Communities in Panama Commemorate March Against Open-Pit Mining in Which Two Protestors Were Killed
A mass celebrated by Father Adonai Cortés in the Iglesia de San Félix on Feb. 5 marked the beginning of a series of commemorative events held by Panama’s Ngäbe Buglé communities--the country’s largest indigenous group--to pay homage to the two protestors killed during an anti-mining march in 2012 . After the mass, indigenous people marched to the junction on the Inter-American Highway where protestor Jerónimo Rodríguez Tugrí was shot by police exactly one year ago.  -Louisa Reynolds    Read More

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cuba to Head Regional Group; Hati Quake Recovery Lags; Violence a Problem for Mexico Tourism

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen, and NotiSur for Feb. 13-15
Cuba to Head CELAC in Coming Year of Change
Santiago, Chile, was the stage, on Jan. 27-28, of two political events that will surely go down in the history of Latin American and Caribbean countries as noteworthy. First, the presidents and heads of state of the 33 countries of the region--speakers of Spanish, Portuguese, English, and French--participating in the first summit of the Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (CELAC), stood to pay an emotional tribute to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. And within hours, they applauded for more than two minutes when rightist Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, a conservative, handed the rotating pro tempore presidency to Cuban President Raúl Castro, a Marxist. - Andrés Gaudín     Read More

Is Ecuador's Social Participation an Illusion?
The Ecuadoran Constitution approved in 2008 is described as a guarantor or protective constitution because it incorporates various legal innovations to protect rights and social participation in political debate and public administration. Five years later, not all innovations seem to have met the objectives for which they were created, such as the two branches of government added to the traditional executive, legislative, and judicial branches that make up the general structure of the state.   - Luis Ángel Saavedra   Read More

Violence, Crime in Mexico Remain Obstacle to Growth of Foreign Tourism
While Mexican officials continue to put a positive spin on recent tourism trends, continuing violence remains a significant deterrent to potential foreign visitors. The contrast was especially clear in February, when Mexico received special recognition at the International Tourism Fair (Feria Internacional de Turismo, FITUR) in Madrid, Spain, for the design and effectiveness of its display. At the same time, two reports were releasd that month with updates that very much reinforced the perception of Mexico as an unsafe country. On top of that, an attack on a group of Spanish visitors in Acapulco, including the rape of six women, acted as a further deterrent to foreign tourists. - Carlos Navarro     Read More

Three Years After the Quake that Killed Hundreds of Thousands in Haiti, with 300,000 Still in Tents, a Question Arises--Where Is the Money?
On the third anniversary in January of the earthquake that killed 230,000 to 300,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless in Haiti, approximately 300,000 people are still lodged in tent cities. This, despite the international aid that profusely moved to this Caribbean island nation of some 9.1 million people, labeled the Americas' poorest country, where income for 78% of the people is less than US$2 per day. Reconstruction efforts, including massive housing, face obstacles because of the government’s lack of transparency and efficiency, as well as the absence of coordination between nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), according to various observers involved in assistance. - George Rodríguez   Read More

Guatemalan Army Colonel, Eight Soldiers Will Stand Trial for Totonicapán Massacre
Infantry Col. Juan Chiroy Sal and eight soldiers will stand trial for the killing of seven indigenous protestors in the highland department of Totonicapán, on Oct. 4, 2012. Angered by seemingly arbitrary price hikes imposed by British-owned electricity company ENERGUATE, indigenous leaders had erected two blockades on the Inter-American Highway Chiroy Sal, a member of the Segundo Escuadrón de Seguridad Ciudadana, did not heed a warning issued by deputy chief of police Hugo Catalán, who had informed him that the situation was already under control and that Army presence was not required. - Louisa Reynolds     Read More

Mexico Taking Low-Key Approach on Latest U.S. Immigration-Reform Initiatives
Momentum seems to have picked up in the US Congress for comprehensive immigration reform, but President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration appears content to take a wait-and-see stance in order not to rock the boat. This low-key approach was evident during Peña Nieto’s visit to Washington a few days before his Dec. 1 inauguration. At a joint appearance with US President Barack Obama, Peña Nieto said Mexicans "fully support" the idea of immigration reform. But he added, "More than demanding what you should do or shouldn't do, we do want to tell you that we want to contribute. We really want to participate with you." - Carlos Navarro    Read More

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Coca Leaf in Bolivia; El Salvador Fights Multinational Mining Company; Explosion at PEMEX Headquarters in Mexico

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen, and NotiSur for Feb. 6-8

Bolivia Rejoins UN's Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs
In an unprecedented recognition of the ancient culture of native peoples of the Americas, on Jan. 11, the UN accepted a demand from Bolivia, which had been working hard since mid-2011 for recognition of Bolivians' right to chew coca leaf (aculliar), a common practice among Andean communities. After the UN body refused to modify Article 49 of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs--which criminalizes coca-leaf chewing and classifies the plant as a narcotic--Bolivia withdrew from the agreement . After Bolivia modified its original demand, 169 of the 184 countries that signed the Single Convention agreed that, in Bolivia, chewing coca leaf is a cultural custom.  - Andrés Gaudín   Read More

Colombia's Attorney General's Office Reopens Investigation into Former President Álvaro Uribe's Links to Paramilitaries
In the midst of a relatively peaceful spring in which the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) observed a unilateral cease-fire, and, in Cuba, the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC rebels continued some auspicious conversations to cement the peace, the nefarious parapolitica scandal returned to the forefront of Colombian institutional life Parapolitica is a popular term coined to describe the murky intrigue in which the interests of rightist politicians and criminal groups (drug traffickers and paramilitaries) overlapped.  - Andrés Gaudín  Read More

El Salvador Seeks International Help to Block Gold Mine in Guatemala
Desperate to ward off what they claim is a "slow and sure danger" to residents in El Salvador, frustrated opponents of Cerro Blanco--a Canadian-owned gold and silver mine under preparation just across the border in Guatemala--are now hoping for help from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).Óscar Luna, El Salvador’s attorney for the defense of human rights, revealed last month that his office is seeking a "special audience" to broach the issue with the Washington, DC-based IACHR. Luna, a vocal opponent of the Cerro Blanco project, made the announcement while presenting a 100-page special report outlining the mine’s potential hazards. Benjamin Witte-Lebhar    Read More

Huge Explosion Rocks Administrative Headquarters of State-Run Oil Company PEMEX in Mexico City; Gas Leak Apparent Cause
A fatal explosion at the PEMEX administrative complex in Mexico City has raised new questions about the ability of the state-run oil company to provide a secure environment at its facilities—even those not directly involved in the production of hydrocarbons. The incident, which occurred on Jan. 31 in the basement of the B2 Building of the PEMEX Tower, destroyed three floors and killed at least 36 people. More than 120 people were injured, including some critically. -  Carlos Navarro     Read More

Geologists Discover Huge Aquifer in Southeastern Area of Mexico City
Mexico City Mayor Miguel Mancera’s administration started the year with a promising announcement for the beleaguered residents of the Mexican capital who have endured numerous water shortages and face the prospect of water scarcities in the future. On Jan. 21, the Mexico City government said a team of geologists had discovered a huge aquifer in the southeastern section of the city, near the city’s wholesale food and produce distribution center (Central de Abastos). The aquifer is 2,000 meters underground in the Iztapalapa borough, the most populated district in Mexico City. - Carlos Navarro   Read More

With Costa Rica at Its Helm for First Half of 2013, SICA Moves Toward Reform
The Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (SICA) has come a long way since its origin in the 1950s and, in a drastically different regional political scene, is now in need of undergoing thorough change to be efficient, transparent, and equitable. So said the regional bloc’s leaders in the Joint Declaration they signed at the end of the ordinary summit meeting on Dec. 13, 2012, in Managua, the Nicaraguan capital. They ratified that position in their resolution closing their special meeting on Jan. 27.  - George Rodríguez  Read More