Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dominican-Haitian Immigration Dispute; Concerns Grow about GMO soy in South America; Mexico Holds 'Black Friday' Sales Weekend

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen and NotiSur for November 20-22

Chile's Former President Michelle Bachelet Zeroes In on Second Term with Decisive First-Round Win
Opposition candidate and former President Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010) cruised to victory in Chile’s Nov. 17 first-round presidential election, scooping up nearly twice as many votes as her closest rival, Evelyn Matthei of the governing Alianza coalition, and sending the rest of the crowded field packing. Bachelet, leader of the center-left Nueva Mayoría coalition, won nearly 47% of the vote, well ahead of Matthei (25%) but short of the 50% mark needed to win the presidency outright. "We knew the challenge of winning in just one round would be complicated. We gave it our all and came very close to doing it," she told reporters following the Nov. 17 vote. -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar Read More

Questions Raised Throughout South America Regarding Use and Abuse of Agrochemicals
What began as a straight-forward journalistic investigation into modern farming practices in Argentina has turned into something of a regional rallying cry for critics of the US-based firm Monsanto and other large multinational agricultural firms involved in the production of genetically modified (transgenic) seeds and potent agrochemicals, which tend to be used hand in hand with those seeds. Critics worry about the adverse effects Monsanto products such as Roundup--a powerful and widely used herbicide made with the chemical glyphosate--could be having on humans, animals, plant life, water supplies, and the environment in general.  -Andrés Gaudín  Read More

Haiti and the Dominican Republic at Odds Because Ruling Deprives Persons of Haitian Descent of Dominican Citizenship
Two months ago, after Juliana Disguise-Pierre, a Dominican national of Haitian descent and the mother of four, appealed for having been deprived by the Dominican Republic’s Junta Central Electoral (JCE) of Dominican identification and voter cards, the country’s Tribunal Constitucional (TC) issued a ruling that has placed that country and Haiti, its Caribbean-island neighbor, at odds. In its Sept. 25 decision, the TC does not recognize as Dominican citizens persons born as of 1929 of foreign parents "in transit" or with irregular immigration status in the Dominican Republic. The  measure overwhelmingly applies to daughters and sons of Haitian nationals, the largest foreign community settled on Dominican soil. Different estimates put the total of Haitian-Dominicans at more than 200,000, while the rest of citizens of foreign descent number some 35,000. -George Rodríguez   Read More

Mexico’s "Black Friday" Campaign Boosts Consumption Ahead of Holiday Season 
In what some observers have described as a "government-supported Black Friday," retailers in Mexico sponsored the third annual El Buen Fin sales-promotion weekend, offering deep discounts and favorable interest terms on consumer goods and services. The campaign, started in 2011 under President Felipe Calderón’s administration, was intended to revive the economy by encouraging consumption. The federal government supports the effort by providing some funding for promotional activities and giving government workers their Christmas bonus in advance. Any retailer can participate in the effort by simply registering on a Web site created by several business organizations and the Secretaría de Economía (SE). The program has its share of critics, which point out that the campaign causes many families to incur unnecessary debts. -Carlos Navarr Read More

Congress Includes Special Fund for Border States in 2014 Budget 
The inclusion of a special fund to help residents of northern states that border the US helped ensure easy passage for the 2014 expenditures budget (Presupuesto de Egresos de la Federación) in the Chamber of Deputies. The budget—approved by wide margin of 441 to 26 with four abstentions—obtained support from the majority of the deputies from the center-right Partido Acción Nacional (PAN). The PAN had adamantly opposed President Enrique Peña Nieto's proposal to charge a uniform value-added tax (impuesto al valor agregado, IVA) of 16% to all states in Mexico. The northern states were previously charged an IVA of 11%. -Carlos Navarro   Read More

Guatemalan Army Intervenes in Customs Offices to Curb Smuggling
With falling tax revenues attributed to smuggling, President Otto Pérez Molina decided that five of the country’s 12 customs offices would be temporarily taken over by the military in an effort to curb corruption. The legality of the measure has been disputed, and even business representatives, those most affected by smuggling, argue that this is not a viable long-term solution. -Louisa Reynolds   Read More

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Saving an Endangered Species in Nicaragua; Peru Disbands Human Rights Subcommittee; Mexico Strengthens Ties with Cuba, Venezuela

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

President Enrique Peña Nieto Grants Pardon to Teacher Wrongly Accused of Killing Seven Police Officers in 2000
In the first test of a new law that expands the power of Mexico’s chief executive to grant pardons, President Enrique Peña Nieto ordered the release of Alberto Patishtán Gómez, a teacher accused of participating in the murder of seven police officers in El Bosque, Chiapas state, in 2000. Patishtán—a member of the Tzotzil community—claims he was wrongly accused of a crime that he did not commit. The teacher was charged with the murders based on testimony from a single witness, the son of El Bosque’s mayor, even though many other eyewitness accounts placed Patishtán far away from the scene.  -Carlos Navarro  Read More

Costa Rica’s Election Campaign Gets Off to Rocky Start
Costa Rica’s election campaign, officially launched early last month, got off to a rocky start, with two presidential candidates resigning--one permanently, the other returning--and a congressional hopeful about to be kicked off of his party’s list. With 13 candidates nominated for this Central American nation’s top job and 27 political parties vying for the 57 seats up for grabs in the unicameral Asamblea Legislativa (AL), the election process is marked by what is seen as the definitive end of Costa Rica’s historic bipartisanship--a process started two elections ago when numerous parties entered the legislature.  -George Rodríguez   Read More

High Court Ruling, Secret Document Discovery Overshadow Argentina's Midterm Elections Results
Argentina’s governing coalition lost ground and yet held on to its congressional majority in midterm elections held Oct. 27. The governing coalition--just as it did four years ago, in the 2009 midterms--lost the country’s five largest districts, areas that together represent nearly 63% of the electorate. Within days of the vote, Argentina’s political scene was shaken by a pair of noteworthy incidents that quickly turned the public’s attention away from the election results: The Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ) ruled that a controversial media law,is constitutional and thus immediately applicable. Less than a week later, Defense Minister Agustín Rossi publicly announced the discovery of a complete and perfectly preserved archive of secret documents produced over the course of Argentina’s final civil-military government (1976-1983).  -Andrés Gaudín  Read More 

A Race To Save Nicaragua’s Largest Land Mammal
Born and raised outside Managua in Nicaragua’s Zoológico Nacional, Maya and Carburito will soon be traveling east--aboard a military helicopter--to the Región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur (RAAS)--where they will swap their familiar chain-linked enclosure for the leafy wilds of the Wawashang forest. Two-year-old Baird’s tapirs, the youngsters are unwitting protagonists in a public-private initiative to save the trunk-nosed herbivores from extinction. Using GPS (Global Positioning System) technology, researchers involved in the Proyecto Tapir Nicaragua will keep close tabs on the pioneering pair as they try to settle into their new environment. There is no guarantee the introduction will work. -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar    Read More

Human Rights Subcommittee Disbanded in Peru After Fujimorista Appointed to Head Group
The controversial appointment of fujimorista deputy Martha Chávez --who vowed to investigate alleged irregularities in Peru’s truth and reconciliation commission--as head of a congressional human rights subcommittee was ratified Nov. 11, days after it appeared that a previous vote in her favor had been overturned. But the subcommittee was later disbanded in what was considered a victory for human rights. Chávez was a party leader under Fujimori, who was condemned in 2009 to 25 years of prison for crimes against humanity. - Elsa Chanduví Jaña    Read More

President Enrique Peña Nieto Moves to Strengthen Relations with Cuba, Venezuela
President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration has taken steps to repair relations with Cuba and Venezuela, which deteriorated during the administration of ex-President Vicente Fox (SourceMex, Nov. 16, 2005) and were uneven at best during the government of former President Felipe Calderón . In early November, the Peña Nieto government reached a series of cooperation agreements with Cuba, including an accord to pardon about US$487 million of Cuba’s debt to Mexico. The administration also announced plans to begin trade talks with Venezuela in 2014. However, some complications developed in the effort to restore trade and diplomatic relations with Venezuela following reports that the Venezuelan military shot down a private Mexican plane flying over its airspace.    -Carlos Navarro    Read More

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Protests Continue in Brazil; Mexico Cancels Refinery Project; El Salvador Deals with Deaths of Sea Turtles

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen and NotiSur for November 6-8

Venezuela Opens Way for Paraguay to Return to MERCOSUR
After a 16-month rupture in diplomatic relations with Paraguay, the Venezuelan government has reopened binational dialogue. In mid-October Foreign Minister Elías Jaua traveled to Asunción to resolve the reopening of respective embassies and the naming of new ambassadors. In other gestures of rapprochement, on Oct. 30, Jaua invited the Paraguayan government to participate in a ministerial summit of the Southern Cone Common Market (MERCOSUR), and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro called Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes "to give him an embrace by phone." Maduro also urged other members of the trade alliance to "urgently bring the fellow nation of Paraguay back to the fold. -Andrés Gaudín   Read More

Rio Teachers Strike Sharpens Brazilian Protest Scene
Four months after the June protests in Brazil brought hundreds of thousands to the streets in a national airing of grievances, such mass demonstrations persist albeit on a smaller, more-focused scale. At the same time, marches continue to conclude with violent clashes between police and protesters. This trend is a result of both a tougher line by authorities as well as a proportionally larger use of black-bloc tactics, whereby masked protesters wearing black pursue direct action to destroy symbolic physical property such as banks, media vehicles, and police cars. The outcome has been widespread destruction of public and private property, mass arrests of civilians, injuries to protesters, and chaotic scenes on the streets of Brazil’s major cities, principally Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Brasília. -Gregory Scruggs Read More

President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Government Launches Major Operation against Caballeros Templarios Cartel in Michoacán State
In early November, the Secretaría de Defensa Nacional (SEDENA) and the federal police assumed control of the port of Lázaro Cárdenas in Michoacán state, in an effort to root out massive corruption and cripple the operations of the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) drug cartel at one of Mexico’s largest seaports. The federal operation at Lázaro Cárdenas came just days after assailants—presumably members of the Knights Templar--damaged several electrical power plants owned by the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), triggering blackouts in at least nine cities. The destruction of the CFE plants was followed by attacks on several gasoline stations. Analysts said the attacks might have been intended as a show of power by the cartels to citizen groups, which have risen in resistance to the cartel, and to the government. -Carlos Navarro Read More

Scores Of Endangered Sea Turtles Wash Up Dead Along Salvadoran Beaches
Conservationists and government authorities are pointing their fingers in very different directions following a recent die-off of sea turtles, hundreds of which have washed up on El Salvador’s shoreline in recent weeks. In mid October, fishers operating along the Pacific beach of El Pimental, in the department of La Paz, reported finding some 100 dead turtles in a single day. Partially decomposed corpses have also littered the beaches of San Diego, El Amatal, and Toluca in the nearby department of La Libertad. Officially, more than 200 turtles died during a troubling three-week span that began in late September, the Ministerio de Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (MARN) reported late last month. Environmental groups suspect the real number of turtle deaths is higher still. Most of the dead animals were olive ridley and green turtles, according to MARN. Two other sea turtle species, leatherbacks and hawksbills, are also present in El Salvador. -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar  Read More

President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Administration Apparently Cancels Construction of New Refinery in Hidalgo State
Without much fanfare, President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration appears to have put the brakes on an ambitious project to construct the Bicentenario refinery in Tula, Hidalgo state. The facility--one of the largest investment projects launched during former President Felipe Calderón’s administration—was to be constructed next to an existing refinery in Tula. The project was intended to boost Mexico’s capacity to refine crude oil and reduce reliance on imports of gasoline and other fuels. Mexico at present imports about 50% of the gasoline consumed domestically, even though the country is a major producer of crude oil. The fate of the project became apparent with the release of the 2014-2018 business plan for the state-run oil company PEMEX, which left out the facility. -Carlos Navarro Read More

Still Wounded by 2009 Coup, Honduras Heads for Elections that End Historic Bipartisanship
Honduras is headed for its first elections since the much-questioned vote four years ago, within the framework of widespread repression under the de facto regime set up through the bloody 2009 coup that shook this poverty-stricken country to its very foundations and caused deep, unhealed wounds. The vote was held five months after the illegal political-military action that on June 28, 2009, brought to an abrupt end to President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya’s populist government, constitutionally scheduled to finish the following January. Zelaya's wife, Xiomara Castro, is the only woman in the eight-candidate presidential race, which includes the coup’s military leader, former head of the Fuerzas Armadas of Honduras and retired Gen. Romeo Vásquez of the rightist Alianza Patrótica (AP). -George Rodríguez   Read More