Thursday, March 28, 2013

Parguay's Upcoming Election: Mexico Telecom Reform; Nicaragua Gold Mining Controversy

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen, and NotiSur for March 27-29

Lima Mayor Wins Partial Victory in Recall Referendum
Mayor Susana Villarán, the first woman to govern Peru's capital city, emerged victorious from a March 17 recall referendum, but several members of her coalition on the metropolitan council were ousted by the voters. About 82% of eligible voters participated in the recall of Villarán and 39 council members. Preliminary results show that 21 of those councilors will be recalled, most of them from the leftist coalition Fuerza Social (FS).     Elsa Chanduví Jaña    Read More

UN Rebuts Allegations Its Nepalese Blue Helmets Brought Cholera to Haiti
Despite the dire poverty of its population, Haiti had not been hit by cholera until nine months after the January 2010 earthquake ravaged this French-speaking Caribbean island nation. The outbreak has since killed some 8,000 people and affected hundreds of thousands more, dramatic figures that add to the 230,000-300,000 killed by the quake, which also left around 1.5 million homeless. About 300,000 are still lodged in tent towns in this country of 9.1 million people--described as the poorest in the Americas--where daily income for 78% is less than US$2       George Rodríguez    Read More 

Chamber of Deputies Approves Comprehensive Reforms to Telecommunications Sector
The Chamber of Deputies set in motion major reforms to Mexico’s telecommunications and media industries with the overwhelming approval of a version of the Telecommunications Reform Law proposed by President Enrique Peña Nieto. The measure, approved by a 393-98 vote, still requires approval by two-thirds of the Senate because at least part of the initiative requires amendments to Mexico’s Constitution. The Senate, which will consider the measure after the Mexican Congress returns from the Easter recess, is likely to approve the reforms, but only after extensive debate.  -Carlos Navarro  Read More

Nicaraguan Gold Rush Spells Profits, Protests, And Police Repression
A recent police crackdown on protesting guiriseros (artisan miners) in the central Nicaraguan town of Santo Domingo has raised new questions about the government’s "come-on-down" approach to foreign gold-mining firms, which have been raking in riches of late thanks to increased production and soaring prices. Early on the morning of Feb. 9, several hundred anti-riot police confronted a group of guiriseros at a roadblock the latter had erected months earlier at the entrance of Santo Domingo, roughly 190 km east of Managua. The artisan miners had been using the barrier to block the passage of vehicles and equipment owned by Canadian mining company B2Gold, which--through the acquisition of new government concessions--has expanded operations in recent years and begun exerting control of areas traditionally mined by guiriseros.     Benjamin Witte-Lebhar  Read More

Paraguay's Partido Colorado Likely to Return to Power in Upcoming Elections
On April 21, ten months after the June 22, 2012, coup that toppled democratically elected President Fernando Lugo and installed the de facto government of Federico Franco (NotiSur, July 13, 2012), Paraguayans will return to the ballot boxes. They will do so with the certainty that the Partido Colorado (Asociación Nacional Republicana, PC), in power from 1947 to 2008, including throughout the dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989), will return to power and that the new president will be Horacio Cartes. Cartes is a powerful businessman with no political past but with alleged links to the smuggling, drug trafficking, and laundering money of the mafias. Moreover, this will be the first time in his life that the 56-year-old Cartes will vote.    Andrés Gaudín Read More

Despite Six-Month Investigation, Mexican Authorities Have Not Determined Motive for August 2012 Attack on U.S. Diplomatic Vehicle
The case involving the attempted murder of two members of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a Mexican Navy captain in Morelos state last summer remains only partially resolved despite intensive investigations conducted by the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) during the past six months. The armored sports utility vehicle came under attack as it traveled on a dirt road to a military installation in Morelos state. Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam confirmed that 14 assailants who participated in the attack were taken into custody, but investigators have not been able to determine a motive.  Carlos Navarro Read More

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mexico Reacts to New Pope; Central America Farmers in Dire Plight; Uruguay Court Turns Back Human-Rights Gains

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen, NotiSur for March 20-22

Mixed Reactions in Mexico to Election of New Pope
The election of Jorge Bergoglio, a Jesuit cardinal from Argentina, as the next pope elicited many positive reactions in Mexico. The general consensus was that it was a good sign that Bergoglio came from a Latin American country, and the move by the new pontiff to take the name Pope Francis was also seen as positive because it signaled his commitment to put solidarity with the poor at the top of his agenda. But reactions were mixed on what his election meant for the future of the Catholic Church. There were questions about his age, and uncertainty of the stances he would take regarding other controversial matters.   Carlos Navarro   Read More

Lack of Investment in Rural Development Leaves Central American Farmers in Dire Plight
A lack of effective policies to boost rural development and allow farmers to find a place in the global economy has exacerbated inequalities between urban and rural areas in Central America, experts say. The solutions lie in a series of integral policies that include strategies to boost crop yields, improve access to credit, and democratize access to land.
  -Louisa Reynolds   Read More

Uruguay's Supreme Court Overturns Law Allowing Prosecution of Human Rights Violators
In just eight days, between Feb. 14 and 22, Uruguay's Suprema Corte de Justicia (SCJ) steamrolled over human rights, destroying what little had been accomplished in 28 years of democracy to judge crimes against humanity committed by state terrorism during the worst civilian-military dictatorship (1973-1985) in the country's history. First, the SCJ demoted without cause Judge Mariana Mota, who specialized in human rights, transferring her from criminal court to civil court. It then ruled unconstitutional Ley 18.831, according to which no statute of limitations could be applied to crimes committed during the dictatorship.   -Andrés Gaudín   Read More

Summertime Service Cuts Spur Talk Of "Renationalizing" Chile’s For-Profit Water Companies
Millions of Santiago residents were left high and quite literally dry in recent weeks by a series of water-service cuts that some Chilean citizens groups and politicians are calling a wake-up call on the perils of privatization. The first disruption hit the Chilean capital Jan. 21-22 after flooding from a heavy rainstorm flushed copious amounts of sediment into the Río Maipo, Santiago’s principal source of drinking water. The event forced Aguas Andinas, the city’s primary water-utility company, to temporarily shut three of its treatment plants and thus cut the water supply to an estimated 2 million residents. Complicating matters was the timing of the problem--at the height of the southern summer.
-Benjamin Witte-Lebhar    Read More 

Report Confirms Illegal Exports of Weapons to Mexico Have Continued at Steady Pace in Recent Years
A new report from the California-based Trans-Border Institute (TBI) has found that an increasing percentage of firearms sales in the US are actually smaller caliber weapons destined to be smuggled into Mexico. Furthermore, the study concluded that the number of weapons acquired in the US and headed south of the border increased significantly in the past decade. The TBI, housed at the University of San Diego (USD), and its research partner, the Brazil-based Instituto Igarapé, released the report just days after the US Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would make straw purchases of firearms a felony.  -Carlos Navarro   Read More

Honduran Former Police Chief Accuses Successor of Ordering his Teenage Son’s Murder, Revealing Tensions Within Security Force
The 17-year-old son of former Policía Nacional (PN) chief Ricardo Ramírez del Cid and two police bodyguards of the élite Batallón Cobra were gunned down last month by a group of heavily armed assailants. The surprise attack on Óscar Roberto Ramírez and the two security agents took place the evening of Feb. 18 at a small, middle-class restaurant in Tegucigalpa’s southern suburb of Colonia Lomas de Toncontín, near the Toncontín International Airport. The incident was initially attributed to local gang activity, but sources later said the clash derives from an ongoing feud between the former police chief and his successor.  -George Rodríguez   Read More

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Colombia Peace Talks; French Award for Mexico Journalist; Third Candidate in El Salvador Election

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen, and NotiSur for March 13-15

Ecuador Re-Elects President Rafael Correa
The results of the Feb. 17 Ecuadoran elections, more than just re-electing President Rafael Correa for a third four-year term and electing a legislature under his control, reveal the total fragmentation of leftist political forces and threaten advances in protecting rights achieved through the 2008 Asamblea Constituyente. Correa achieved an overwhelming victory, capturing 57.79% of the votes, while conservative Guillermo Lasso polled a distant second, with 22.26%. The other six presidential candidates together took only 19.88%. Among them was Alberto Acosta, representing the Unidad Plurinacional de las Izquierdas, who received just 3.22%. The results eliminated the need for a runoff, re-electing Correa in the first round.  -Luis Ángel Saavedra    Read More

ILO Lauds Dominican Republic's Effort to Eradicate Child Labor 
The steps taken by the Dominican Republic to eradicate child labor served as a good example during a meeting by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Colombia in late February. These actions include Decree 144-97, which was enacted to set up local, provincial, and municipal committees to prevent and eradicate child labor. Local media reported that the Unidad para Combatir el Trabajo Infantil, a Ministry of Labor dependency to combat child labor, explained its good practices (Buenas Prácticas para Prevenir el Trabajo Infantil) in Colombia. The Ministry of Labor said these policies have been applied through the 43 local committees that have been set up "so that local communities can rally around the issue and can be empowered in the fight against child labor." -Crosby Girón Read More

El Salvador's Ex-President Antonio Saca To Compete For His Old Job
Ex-President Antonio Saca (2004-2009) has maneuvered his way back into political relevancy as head of a new "movement" bent on breaking the duopoly of El Salvador’s primary parties. During a rally held Feb. 25 in San Salvador, Saca announced plans to represent the nascent Movimiento Unidad in next February’s presidential election, when he will test his luck against popular San Salvador Mayor Norman Quijano of the far-right Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA) and current Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén of the leftist Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN). Quijano, who enjoys an early lead in the polls, and Sánchez Cerén were selected to represent their respective parties late last year   Benjamin Witte-Lebhar Read More

Governing Party Now Open to Adding Value-Added Tax to Food and Medicines in Fiscal-Reform Package
In a move that could signal President Enrique Peña Nieto’s strategy on tax reform, the governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) removed language from its statutes that prohibited imposing a value-added tax (impuesto al valor agregado, IVA) on food and medicines. The decision, which followed a vote by delegates attending the PRI’s national congress in early March, provides the president with a free hand in determining how to move forward with reforms to Mexico’s outdated tax structure. But the PRI was careful to note that the decision in no way suggested that the party was going forward with an increase in the IVA for food and medicines. -Carlos Navarro Read More

Despite Stumbling Blocks, Colombian Peace Talks Limp Along
While Colombians continue to show their commitment to ending an internal armed conflict that has lasted a half century and cost hundred of thousands of lives, the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) guerrillas continue conversations toward that end, but without any signs of wanting to open the dialogue to all actors in the drama. -Andrés Gaudín   Read More

French Government Recognizes Mexican Journalist Lydia Cacho for Her Work to Promote Rights of Women and Girls
On International Women’s Day on March 8, the French government awarded Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho the prestigious Knight of the Legion of Honor for her work on behalf of children’s and women’s rights and for her contribution to freedom of expression. The recognition of Cacho is one of the few bright spots for Mexican journalists, who remain under siege from drug traffickers and organized crime. In early March, the Zócalo newspaper group, which publishes several dailies in Coahuila state, said its coverage of organized crime would stop to avoid further risk to members of the editorial staff and their families. The decision came the same day a statement was released by the Miami-based Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), which said attacks on journalists have not diminished during the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto. -Carlos Navarro  Read More

Friday, March 8, 2013

Xenophobia Among South American Neighbors; Union Leader Arrested in Mexico; Costa Rica-Mexico Accords & Regional Integration

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen, and NotiSur for March 6-8, 2013

Xenophobia Complicates Better Relations Among South American Neighbors
Xenophobic tensions have arisen among several South American neighbors. In early February a video was made public on which Chilean sailors were seen marching while chanting xenophobic slogans against Bolivians, Peruvians, and Argentines, their only three neighbors. As the days went by, it became known--through corroborating videos--that Bolivian, Peruvian, and Argentine cadets also chanted slogans against Chileans that were equally xenophobic. Thus an old South American tragedy was recurring--a confrontation among peoples, emerging almost always as a product of defending sectoral interests. -Andrés Gaudín   Read More

Catholic Church in Brazil Prepared for Changes with Election of New Pope
With the largest number of Catholics in the world, Brazil is watching especially closely the process to replace Pope Benedict XVI, who is now pope emeritus but will retain the name Benedict XVI. Expectations center not so much on whether the new pope will be from Europe or from another continent but rather on the changes that the new head of the Catholic Church will carry out at a time when the church is being hit with various serious accusations, including corruption and covering up cases of pedophilia. Brazil will have a direct presence at the conclave through the five Brazilian cardinals who will participate in the election. -José Pedro Martins    Read More

President Enrique Peña Nieto Orders Arrest of Teachers Union President Elba Esther Gordillo on Corruption Charges
In a dramatic but low-risk move, President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration arrested powerful politician and teachers union leader Elba Esther Gordillo Morales on charges of corruption and racketeering. Gordillo, who has led the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, (SNTE) since 1989, has been accused of embezzling more than 2 billion pesos (US$156 million) in union funds. -Carlos Navarro   Read More

Two Mexico-Costa Rica Agreements Set Stage for Mexico-Central America Accords in Trend to Strengthen Mexico-Regional Bond
Almost two decades ago, Mexico pioneered a groundbreaking free-trade agreement (FTA) with Costa Rica, its first with a Central American nation. Fourteen years later, both countries reached an association agreement, centered mainly on bilateral political dialogue, also a first in this region. The bilateral FTA eventually opened the way for a similar accord between Mexico and the Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica (Central America’s Northern Triangle)--made up of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras--to be followed by a Mexico-Nicaragua pact. -George Rodríguez  Read More

Guatemala Reports False Rumors of Death of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán
Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, considered Mexico’s most powerful drug kingpin, did not die in a shooting in northern Guatemala, as was mistakenly reported by the Guatemalan authorities. Rumors of Guzmán’s presence in Guatemala were sparked on Feb. 20 by a leaked email from Texas-based global intelligence firm Stratfor that stated, "We believe El Chapo is currently hiding out in Petén, Guatemala, near the Mexican border." Giatemalan authorities initially gave credence to the report, suggesting that someone resembling "El Chapo" had been killed. They later recanted, apologizing for what they described as a "misunderstanding." -Louisa Reynolds  Read More

Business Organizations Join Forces to Urge Government to Curb Sale of Counterfeit Products
A study from one of Mexico’s top business organizations indicates that counterfeit products are gaining increasing popularity among Mexican consumers. The study by the Confederación de Cámaras Industriales (CONCAMIN) indicated that nearly one-tenth of Mexican consumers knowingly use pirated products, which are smuggled into the country illegally or manufactured in Mexico. These products have increased their share of the Mexican consumer market by about 20% since 2008, the year the global economic crisis hit Mexico, the US, and other countries. -Carlos Navarro   Read More