Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mexico Transparency Effort Stalls in Congress; Costa Rica-Nicaragua Tensions Rise; Chile Split Over 1973 Military Coup

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen and NotiSur for September 18-20

After 40 Years, Chile Still Split Over 1973 Military Coup
If this month’s flurry of finger-pointing, public apologies, media exposés, and commemoration ceremonies was any indication, Chile’s 1973 military coup--and the brutal dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) that it unleashed--are nowhere close to fading from the country’s collective conscience. Critics of the military strongman lament that he was never made to answer for the multitude of human rights violations committed during his 17-year hold on power. Military and secret police arrested and tortured tens of thousands for their leftist leanings. More than 3,000 were killed or disappeared, according to government reports. But Pinochet also has his defenders. Some claim he saved the country from imminent civil war. Many more applaud his economic legacy: the World Bank now ranks Chile as the region’s richest in per capita Gross National Income (GNI). -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar   Read More

Cuba's Educational System Declines Amid Complaints from Government and Citizenry
Cuba's national education system, for decades one of the bastions of the communist project, is showing signs of a severe crisis, as indicated by the continuous complaints by the populace, including President Raúl Castro's administration, about the lack of teachers, low salaries, deteriorating schools, fraud scandals, and, in general, the decline of the country's moral values and social discipline. The island's state media started to publically air the issue after Castro voiced his own concerns, pointing out the loss of values, vulgarities heard in the streets, and criminal behavior ignored by the public. -Daniel Vázquez   Read More

President Enrique Peña Nieto Unveils Tax-Reform Plan
President Enrique Peña Nieto has set in motion the debate on tax reform, even though other important legislative initiatives are still pending, including the all-important energy-reform package. The Mexican president unveiled his tax-reform plan on Sept. 8, which aims to increase tax revenues by about 1.4% of GDP in 2013 and by 2.9% by 2018. The proposal would raise certain taxes on the wealthy and close tax loopholes while boosting the country’s growth rate. Peña Nieto’s plan avoids imposing a value-added tax (impuesto al valor agregado, IVA) on food and medicines, which might have won him support from the center-left Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD). The center-right Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) has come out against some elements of the plan on the premise that they would harm the middle class. -Carlos Navarro   Read More

Argentina's Polarization Continues Ahead of October Midterm Elections
On Aug. 11, amid an intense media campaign against the government, which more than once crossed the line to assume destabilizing characteristics, Argentines voted in the second simultaneous primary elections (Primarias Abiertas Simultáneas y Obligatorias, PASO) in the country's history. PASO is the process for choosing candidates for the Oct. 27 midterm elections, in which half (129) of the Chamber of Deputies and one-third (24) of the Senate will be elected. Although PASO's aim is to determine which groups are eligible to participate in the national election--the eligibility threshold is 1.5% of the vote--and which faction has the lead within each party, it is clear that, in the context of the unsustainable polarization, the results lend themselves to other speculations, including the impact on President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. -Andrés Gaudín   Read More

Costa Rica-Nicaragua Tensions Rise As Governments Escalate Exchange of Words
Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the frequently quarreling Central American bordering nations, are yet again at each other’s throats. As usual, the "Tico-Nica" quarrel is on sovereignty, and this time it refers to mainly two issues at the same time, the undefined territorial waters in both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean and the northwestern Costa Rican province of 
Guanacaste--bordering Nicaragua. Both add to the dispute focused on a spot on the eastern sector of the 309 km border the countries share, an issue dating back to October 2010 and now being studied by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). -  George Rodríguez    Read More

Effort to Reform Mexico’s Transparency Laws Stalls in Congress 
The two chambers of Congress in Mexico are feuding about measures to create a uniform transparency law in Mexico and expand the powers of the semi-independent transparency agency (Instituto Federal de Acceso a la Información y Protección de Datos, IFAI). The move to reform Mexico’s transparency laws began in the Senate in December 2012, when the upper house approved an initiative to strengthen the powers of the IFAI, giving the agency oversight of state governments, political parties, labor unions, and any entity that receives any federal funding. The Chamber of Deputies introduced some changes that the Senate deemed unacceptable, including giving the government veto power over what documents would be available to the public. The dispute has stalled the legislation. -Carlos Navarro  Read More

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