Thursday, June 20, 2013

Corruption Cases in Mexico, Costa Rica; Nicaragua Cracks Down on Press; Outgoing Chile President Urges Political Continuity

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen and NotiSur for June 19-21

Uruguay Strengthens Ties With U.S.
News about military-cooperation programs between the US and Uruguay is making headlines, especially the political debates on the issue, in this small country with a long history of clearly anti-US sentiment. While the assistance plans, troop training, provision of materials, and even the possibility of building a military base have come into the spotlight in recent months, they have been developing since 2005, when, after nearly two centuries of institutional life, the left and political progressives took power for the first time, through the Frente Amplio (FA) and President Tabaré Vázquez.   -Andrés Gaudín    Read More

Nicaraguan Authorities Criticized for Press Crackdown
Rights groups are sounding the alarm about a pair of apparent press-freedom violations, both involving news photographers who--on separate occasions last month, just days apart--were prevented from completing their respective assignments after being pushed around up by Nicaraguan security personnel. On May 24, photographer Manuel Esquivel was forcibly removed from Managua’s Complejo Judicial (central courthouse) while attempting to cover an event involving Zoilamérica Narváez Murillo, the estranged stepdaughter of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. In a second incident, Agence France-Presse photographer Héctor Retamal of Chile was deported--after being held incommunicado. Retamal was seized by security personnel while trying to cover a meeting between President Ortega and Palestine Foreign Minister Riad al Malki.  -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar    Read More

In Final State Of The Nation Address, President Sebastián Piñera Makes A Pitch For Political Continuity
Taking the podium last month for his fourth and final State of the Nation speech, President Sebastián Piñera delivered a resounding toot of his own horn, citing an array of facts and figures to make the case that Chileans are better off now than they were when he took office three years ago. The approach looks to have paid dividends: a poll released in early June showed a six-point bump in Piñera’s approval rating. But with Chile’s next election just five months away, the president’s conservative coalition still has some convincing to do if it hopes to stay in power beyond March 2014, when Piñera is set to leave office.   -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar   Read More

Charges Against Ex-Tabasco Governor Andrés Granier Test President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Commitment to Fight Corruption
The governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) has once again been linked to charges of massive corruption, which could affect efforts by the party and President Enrique Peña Nieto to regain the trust of the Mexican public. The latest case involves former Tabasco Gov. Andrés Granier Melo (2007-2012), who is under investigation, along with several associates, for embezzling billions of pesos. The ex-governor is said to have diverted about 20 billion pesos (US$1.5 billion) in public funds for personal purposes, with the whereabouts of US$1.9 billion pesos (US$143 million) still unknown. But the discontent with the governing party might not necessarily translate into votes against the PRI in upcoming elections, particularly the July 7 gubernatorial race in Baja California state, because the alternatives, including the opposition parties, are considered part of a corrupt political establishment. Rather, citizens are finding other ways to demonstrate displeasure with the government, including registering animals as candidates in upcoming mayoral elections. -Carlos Navarro   Read More

Borrowing Private Plane for Costa Rican Presidential Trips Abroad Backfires for President Laura Chinchilla
On May 11, the Presidencia de la República issued a brief communiqué reporting that Costa Rica’s President Laura Chinchilla was on her way to a private visit in Peru and was scheduled to meet with that nation’s President Ollanta Humala. The high-level talks would include strengthening the bilateral diplomatic link and the passage in May by the Costa Rican unicameral Asamblea Legislativa (AL) of the Costa Rica-Peru free-trade agreement (FTA), according to the official report. The president returned two days later, and 24 hours after that, a series of events began to unfold that would rock the local political scene. On May 14, several opposition legislators, both rightist and center-left, requested that the Ministerio Público (MP) and the Procuraduría de la Ética Pública, part of the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR), investigate the trip.   -George Rodríguez   Read More

Mexico, ILO Sign Agreement to Help Boost Formal Jobs, Increase Social Benefits for Workers
The Mexican government and the International Labor Organization (ILO) have entered into a five-year agreement to develop greater social protections for workers in Mexico, expand the job market to create more alternatives for workers in the informal economy, and bring Mexico in line with international labor standards. Mexican Labor Secretary Alfonso Navarrete Prida and ILO secretary-general Guy Ryder signed the agreement at the ILO’s annual meeting in Geneva in mid-June. -Carlos Navarro   Read More

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