Thursday, July 25, 2013

Zetas Leader Captured; El Salvador NGOs Seek Permanent Ban on Mining; Left Seeks Unity in Peru

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen and NotiSur for July 24-26

Lawsuits, Closed Trial, Threaten Documentary that Exposed Corruption in Judicial System
The producer and the director of the highly successful movie Presunto Culpable (Presumed Guilty) are facing a host of lawsuits that threaten to dilute the impact of their highly successful documentary and threaten freedom of speech in Mexico. Furthermore, the lawsuits are generally supported by many members of the judicial branch, including the judge hearing the case, which has led director Roberto Hernández and producer Layda Negrete to predict that they will not receive a fair trial. -Carlos Navarro   Read More

El Salvador Mining Opponents Determined Not To Let Guard Down
Anti-mining activists have enjoyed a fair share of success in El Salvador, where a five-year-old moratorium on metals extraction continues to keep would-be miners at bay. But, rather than rest on their laurels, organizations like La Mesa Nacional frente a la Minería Metálica, an influential umbrella group, remain active and alert, lobbying hard for policy changes that, in their opinion, would better protect the country from the still clear and present danger posed by corporate mining interests. For starters, argue industry opponents, the government would do well to replace the moratorium with an all-out mining ban. -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar   Read More

In Bold Operation, Government Arrests Top Leader of Zetas Cartel
In what could have been a scene from a movie thriller, the Mexican military conducted a bold operation to capture the leader of the notorious and brutal drug-trafficking organization known as the Zetas. The detention of Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, also known as Z-40, is a major blow to one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organizations, but the jury is still out on what impact the arrest will have on the overall drug-interdiction campaign. For now, the arrest leaves the Zetas without one of its top leaders.  -Carlos Navarro   Read More

The Peruvian Left Unites Once Again
After 24 years, the Peruvian left has, once again, regrouped in a new coalition, the Frente Amplio de Izquierda (FAI), through which it will participate in the 2014 municipal and regional elections and the 2016 presidential balloting. On June 4, at a tribute to the leftist leader and congressional deputy Javier Diez Canseco on the one-month anniversary of his death, leftist organizations promised to make the legislator's challenge to them--a united left--a reality. On June 26, six leftist organizations announced the formation of the FAI. The coalition held its first action against the administration of President Ollanta Humala; it was the only political group that participated in a massive mobilization rejecting measures supported by the central government. -Elsa Chanduví Jaña  Read More

Belize's Supreme Court Finds Offshore Oil Contracts Null and Void
Six oil-prospecting companies suffered a major setback when Belize's Supreme Court ruled on April 16 that all offshore oil contracts issued by the Belizean government in 2004 and 2007 and extended in 2009 are null and void. The decision, handed down by Justice Oswell Legall, was highly critical of the government’s actions, saying that "allowing oil exploration before any assessment of its effects on the environment is not only irresponsible but reckless, especially in a situation where Belize may not be fully capable of handling effectively an oil spill." -Louisa Reynolds  Read More

Uruguay's Right Fails to Overturn Law Decriminalizing Abortion
Uruguay's most conservative sectors and the Catholic Church tried to abolish a law that decriminalized abortion under certain conditions, but society rebuffed the efforts. The law's opponents resorted to a provision of the referendum statutes, but found extremely low support. For the law to be put to a plebiscite in October 2013, supporters had to collect 252,000 signatures, 25% of the electorate. When they failed to gather the required number of signatures, they resorted to a second constitutional provision, known as a prior consultation. If 25% of the electorate agreed, then a formal plebiscite would be held. The result--only 8.8% support in the June 23 consultation--left opponents far from their dream of abolishing the law. -Andrés Gaudín  Read More -

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Independent Candidate Wins in Mexico; Controversy Over Ecuador's New Communications Law; Opposition Candidate Leads Polls in Panama

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen and NotiSur for July 17-19

Forced Detour of Bolivian President Evo Morales' Plane Causes International Incident
An incident that played out in the theater of the Global North and whose actors are from there unexpectedly spilled over to the Global South and coalesced a group of countries that, in recent years, with greater or lesser intensity, has challenged US policies in the region. It all began in the third week in June, when Edward Snowden, a US National Security Agency (NSA) contract analyst, revealed that the intelligence service used a software program that allowed it to spy on US citizens and especially on diplomats and official agencies of its allies in the European Union (EU). -Andrés Gaudín    Read More

Ecuador's New Communications Law: Media Democratization or Gag Law?
Ecuador's new communications law, passed on June 14, purports to democratize the media, redistribute frequencies, and expand access to the radio spectrum. However, the creation of control agencies and new legal instruments that could undermine freedom of speech has called into question the government's affirmations that the law promotes communications rights in the country. -Luis Ángel Saavedra   Read More

Mexico Becoming Leading Producer of Methamphetamines
Mexico has surpassed the US as the country whose authorities have seized the largest amounts of synthetic drugs, in large part a result of a major crackdown in the US in recent years on the illicit production of drugs like ecstasy and methamphetamines. This trend is documented in reports published this year by Europol and the UN. Even though production of synthetic drugs has declined in the US, demand continues high, which is why Mexican producers—led primarily by the Sinaloa cartel—continue their high output. But the availability of large quantities of methamphetamines has also increased usage in Mexico, particularly in western cities like Guadalajara, according to recent studies. -Carlos Navarro    Read More

Panama's PRD Candidate Juan Carlos Navarro Leads in Polls
While Panama is in the midst of an unprecedented economic boom, the country’s political parties have already started to prepare for the May 2014 elections and are in the process of choosing the candidates who will compete in the general elections to succeed President Ricardo Martinelli. The center-left Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD), the country’s largest opposition party, was the first to hold its primary elections, choosing environmental activist Juan Carlos Navarro as its presidential candidate. The rightist Partido Panameñista (PPA), a former ally of Martinelli’s Cambio Democrático (CD), chose former foreign minister and Vice President Juan Carlos Varela. With Martinelli’s slogan of maintaining "change," the CD held its primary elections in May, choosing Housing Minister José Domingo Arias as its candidate. -Louisa Reynolds  Read More

Independent Candidate Wins Mayoral Election in Small Town in Zacatecas State
In 2011, the Mexican Congress approved reforms to partially overhaul Mexico’s electoral system, including a provision allowing candidates to run for office without having to represent any political party. The initiative, which required a change in the Mexican Constitution, was ratified by more than half of Mexico’s states, but not in time for the 2012 presidential elections. The new provision was in place for the July 2013 state elections, and several citizen candidates ran for office, primarily seeking to become mayors of small communities. One of those candidates, Raúl de Luna Tovar, was elected mayor of the community of General Enrique Estrada in Zacatecas state, defeating a rival representing a coalition of two established parties. -Carlos Navarro    Read More

Dominican Republic Encouraged that Petrocaribe Will Continue and Expand
On more than one occasion, Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina has stressed how important Petrocaribe is for his country. Despite the rumors that Petrocaribe would come to an end following the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, after only two summits, Petrocaribe members, including the Dominican Republic, have proposed the creation of the Zona Económica Petrocaribe (ZEP). The final declaration of the VIII Petrocaribe Summit, held in Managua in late June , pledges to do "an cross-cutting and multidisciplinary evaluation of trade, economic, financial, scientific, technological, and legal aspects under five structural programs: transport and communications, productive chains, tourism, trade, and social and cultural integration." -Crosby Girón     Read More

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Implications of Brazil Protests; Mexican Elections and Peña Nieto’s Pact; Nicaraguan Retirees Protest Lack of Pension Payments

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen and NotiSur for July 10-12

Brazilians Take to the Streets and Change 2014 Political, Electoral Landscape
Two weeks in June, marked by massive demonstrations in more than 300 cities, have completely and radically changed Brazil's political, cultural, and social landscape. The events will likely have repercussions on the 2014 elections, when Brazilians will choose a new president, a position now held by President Dilma Rousseff of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT). President Rousseff was the public figure whose image was most tarnished by the widespread street protests in the second half of June 2013. The latest Datafolha poll published in the newspaper Folha de São Paulo showed an unprecedented drop in the president's approval rating. Datafolha, which regularly tracks approval ratings for the president and other government officials, found that Rousseff's approval plummeted from 57% to 30% in the days following the massive demonstrations. The poll focused primarily on São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte, Brazil's largest cities. -José Pedro Martins  Read More

Chile's Ex-President Michelle Bachelet Cements Front-Runner Status With Landslide Primary Win
Former President Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010) remains the candidate to beat following presidential primary elections held June 30 for Chile's two principal political blocs: the governing Alianza and center-left Concertación coalitions. Bachelet won the Concertación primary easily, scooping up 73% of the vote to secure a place on the ballot for Chile’s Nov. 17 presidential election. Bachelet’s principal rival in the November election will be Pablo Longueira, who narrowly won the Alianza primary against Andrés Allamand of the center-right Renovación Nacional (RN). Longueira hails from the Unión Demócrata Independiente (UDI), the RN’s more conservative Alianza partner. Former senators, both candidates served as ministers under President Sebastián Piñera, Chile’s first conservative leader since dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar  Read More

U.S. Senate Immigration-Reform Legislation Draws Mixed Reactions; Initiative Not Expected to Prosper in House
The consensus in Washington and Mexico City is that the chances that the US will enact comprehensive immigration reform in the near future are very slim to practically nil. A major reason for this negative viewpoint is that key Republican legislators in the US House of Representatives have already publicly rejected the version of the immigration reform that the Senate approved overwhelmingly on June 27. Many ultraconservative Republicans in the House oppose any steps to provide a path for undocumented immigrants to legalize their status. The Senate bill would add 20,000 additional Border Patrol agents and erect 700 miles of additional fencing along the 1,900-mile line between the US and Mexico, but this might not be sufficient to sway conservatives in the House. -Carlos Navarro  Read More

Apparent PAN Victory in Baja California Election Leads to Rumored Back-Room Pact with
Governing PRI Despite conflicting polls suggesting that either the conservative Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) or the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) would win the gubernatorial election in Baja California, there was broad speculation that the results of the election had already been pre-ordained. Rumors circulated that the PRI and the PAN had struck a back-room deal by which the conservative party would continue to support President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Pacto por México political agreement if the PRI did not block PAN efforts to retain the Baja California statehouse in the July 7 election. And, if the rumors of a pact are true, the election appears to have followed the script closely. Preliminary results showed PAN candidate Francisco "Kiko" Vega winning the election over PRI rival Fernando Castro Trenti by a margin of 47% to 44%. -Carlos Navarro  Read More

Police, Pro-Government Mob Crack Down On Pension Protests In Nicaragua
An auxiliary bishop in Nicaragua’s Catholic Church is among those accusing President Daniel Ortega and his Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN)-led government of "state terrorism" following a series of chaotic protests regarding senior pension benefits. The turbulent events began on Monday, June 17, when a group of approximately 100 viejitos (old folks), as local media dubbed them, occupied the Instituto Nicaragüense de Seguridad Social (INSS) in Managua. The protestors are all members of the Unidad Nacional del Adulto Mayor (UNAM), who claim that roughly 15,000 retired Nicaraguans receive zero government pension money despite having paid into the system for at least five years. -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar  Read More

Pro-Poor Tourism: Boosting Haiti’s Tourism to Steer Away From Aid-Dependent Economy Risks Commodification of Culture
The traditionally idyllic destination for tourists seeking fun and sun, Haiti is seen now as a destination for people on tourist visas coming to help out in post-quake and other relief work, for low-income or working-class tourists, and for Haitians from among the nation’s diaspora arriving to visit with relatives. A recent study by Brazilian think tank Instituto Igarapé put at 950,000 the number of visitors coming to Haiti last year, compared with the 4.6 million going to the neighboring Domninican Republic--both countries sharing the island of Hispaniola. Igarapé’s figures indicate that this French-speaking, endemically poor country hosts anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 nongovermental organizations (NGOs) aiding Haitians after the quake.  -George Rodríguez    Read More

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bullfighting Controversy in Mexico; Slight Thaw in U.S.-Venezuela Relations; Honduras Continues to Suffer Consequences of 2009 Coup

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen and NotiSur for July 3-5

Guatemala Hosts 43rd OAS General Assembly
The drug problem should be tackled not as a security issue but as a public health question with policies for "prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation," delegations from the 34 countries participating in the 43rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) agreed. The theme of the three-day meeting, which opened on June 4 in the city of Antigua, Guatemala, was "For a Comprehensive Policy Against the World Drug Problem in the Americas." The final Declaration of Antigua said the drug problem should be fought "with an integrated, strengthened, balanced, and multifaceted approach, with full respect for human rights and individual liberties, incorporating public health, education, and social inclusion." -Louisa Reynolds   Read More

Is Argentina Going Overboard in Honoring Native Son Pope Francis?
Since March 13, when Jesuit Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio was elected to be the Catholic Church's 266th successor to the throne of St. Peter, many formal changes have taken place in his native country. Streets and avenues in the principal cities have been given his name, as have several large, medium-sized, and small plazas throughout the country. Schools and public offices throughout the country declared holidays, and 38 bills were introduced in Congress with a wide array of unique proposals for honoring the new pope. "It got out of hand, in a totalitarian attitude that the pope surely rejects. They are stomping on the rights not only of those who practice other religions but also those of all citizens who don't agree with using state resources to support the Catholic religion," said Fernando Lozada, an activist with the Coalición Argentina por un Estado Laico (CAEL). -Andrés Gaudín     Read More

Campaign to End Bullfighting in Mexico Draws Mixed Reactions
A growing number of states and municipalities in Mexico have moved to ban bullfighting, in part because of a strong campaign launched by the Partido Verde Ecologista de México (PVEM) in 2011 (SourceMex, Nov. 9, 2011). The list of places that recently banned bullfighting includes five municipalities in Veracruz state, the state of Sonora, and the community of Tangancícuaro in Michoacán state. However, some states—Aguascalientes, Tlaxcala, Zacatecas, and Guanajuato—are taking the opposite position, with state legislators and governors taking actions to protect bullfighting, commonly known as the fiesta brava, via declarations declaring the practice "cultural patrimony." - Carlos Navarro    Read More

Slight Thaw in Relations Between Venezuela and U.S
Despite the harsh language used by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and high-ranking leaders of the Revolución Bolivariana, the Venezuelan government is practicing a skillful diplomacy that even suggests the possibility for positive change in relations with the US. Diplomatic relations have been frozen since 2010, when both countries reduced their embassy missions to a minimal level. Although Caracas has not stopped accusing Washington of interfering in its internal affairs, Foreign Minister Elías Jaua and Secretary of State John Kerry--who, like Maduro when he speaks of the US, resorts to harsh rhetoric when referring to the South American country--held an amiable meeting during the recent Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Antigua, Guatemala. -Andrés Gaudín    Read More

Four Years Later, Fallout from Honduran Coup Still Felt in Various Ways, Including in Increased Refugee Requests
At dawn on June 28, 2009, just over four years ago, Honduran President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya’s Tegucigalpa home was stormed by some 200 soldiers in the beginning of a bloody coup that took the country--and Latin America with it--back to the somber, seemingly endless decades of ruthless military dictatorships ..In a worsened scenario of unbridled corruption, violence--including that of organized crime--and lack of opportunities, Hondurans have begun to seek ways to survive, and for some it means refuge abroad. These Hondurans' preferred destination is Costa Rica, a Central American nation that abolished its army more than sixty years ago and whose image as a democratic, safe country attracts an array of foreigners ranging from tourists to investors, and undocumented migrants as well as refugees.  -George Rodríguez    Read More

Foreign Tourism Shows Strong Signs of Recovery in Early Part of 2013
Things are looking up for Mexico’s tourism industry, which has had to overcome a continued sluggish economy in the US and reports of violence and increased crime in popular resorts to attract a steady flow of foreign visitors to the country. In a recent report, the largest organization representing Mexico’s tourism industry, the Confederación de Cámaras Nacionales de Comercio, Servicios y Turismo (Concanaco-Servytur), estimated that 12.8 million foreigners would visit Mexico during the peak summer period (July 5-Aug. 19). The international visitors were expected to spend about 28 billion pesos (US$2.1 billion) during this period. -Carlos Navarro  Read More