Thursday, December 12, 2013

Latest Brazilian Response to U.S. Spying; Mexico Approves New Electoral Reforms; Racial Discrimination in Panama

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen and NotiSur for December 11-13

Brazil Responds to U.S. Spying with International Diplomacy and Domestic Lawmaking
The September revelations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) included Brazil on its list of spy targets continue to fuel political drama in the country’s foreign and domestic policy, including a UN resolution on the right to digital privacy and congressional debates about a landmark Internet privacy bill. The spying scandal’s most immediate outcome, the unprecedented indefinite postponement of President Dilma Rousseff’s official state visit to the US, initially slated for Oct. 23, remains in limbo. Political analysts speculate that it is unlikely to be rescheduled before the end of Rousseff’s first term, which concludes in January 2015. -Gregory Scruggs  Read More

Central American Migrants Remain Under Siege in Mexico
As Mexico awaits movement in the debate on immigration policy in the US, some changes are in the works on Mexico’s own policies toward immigrants, including a proposal to strengthen the rights of persons about to be deported. Some see the proposal from President Enrique Peña Nieto as a shallow move intended to benefit a Peruvian-born television commentator who has come under fire for her  reporting tactics, while others view the change as a tactic to improve the business climate in Mexico for foreigners. Regardless, critics are urging the administration to take on a more urgent immigration-related matter: protecting the rights of migrants from Central America and other countries in Latin America who travel through Mexico to attempt to cross into the US. These migrants are often kidnapped and robbed, or worse—they are killed by criminal organizations following failed extortion schemes. By some estimates, 400,000 to 500,000 Central and South Americans cross illegally into Mexico every year. Some are seasonal farm workers, but the vast majority are passing through on their way to the US. -Carlos Navarro  Read More

Racial Discrimination: a Crime Without Punishment in Panamanian Society
Panama has made progress in the fight against racial discrimination but still lacks the necessary legal framework to bring perpetrators to justice. This was the main conclusion of a report published by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Panama’s Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores on Nov. 14. The report, based on an OHCHR visit to Panama in January this year, highlights a number of significant steps taken toward eradicating discrimination but also lists omissions and failings. The OHCHR welcomed the creation of the Comisión Nacional contra la Discriminación (CND), in 2002, and the approval of a law against discrimination in the workplace, as well as the creation of the Secretaría del Consejo de la Etnia Negra, a government bureau that works to advance the rights of Afro-Panamanians and defend the preservation of their culture. -Louisa Reynolds  Read More

Congress Approves New Set of Electoral Reforms
The Mexican Congress has approved another set of electoral reforms that would make the legislative branch more effective and open up the country’s political institutions to more democratic participation and scrutiny. The latest reforms, approved in early December, allow sitting members of Congress to run for re-election, eliminating the previous restriction that limited legislators to a single three-year term in the Chamber of Deputies and a six-year term in the Senate. Under the reform, states would be given the option to decide whether to allow direct re-election of mayors and deputies in state legislatures. The changes would also replace the Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE) with a more powerful and independent agency, the Instituto Nacional Electoral (INE). This reform is intended to create greater oversight of state elections, which have been managed by state electoral institutes. -Carlos Navarro  Read More

Nicaraguan Legislature Ready to Ratify President Daniel Ortega’s Constitutional Rewrite
At the behest of President Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s Sandinista-controlled legislature has given initial approval to a series of made-to-order constitutional reforms that together amount to an overhaul of the country’s political system. Among other things, the changes clear the way for Ortega--who has already won the presidency three times (in 1984, 2006, and 2011)--to seek indefinite re-election. The Ortega administration says the reforms will give Nicaragua a more "direct democracy" and institutionalize a model of government it now calls "evolving constitutionalism." Unveiled in late October, the proposals were "inspired by the values of Christianity, the ideals of socialism, and the practices of solidarity," the administration went on to say. -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar  Read More

Uruguayan Politics Heats Up 11 Months Before Election
Although Uruguayan political parties still have seven months to select candidates in open, obligatory, simultaneous primaries, and the general election is 11 months away, people are already talking about who might rule the country for the five years from March 2015 to March 2020. Both upcoming elections are already hot topics with pollsters hazarding predictions of victors in both the internal party and general elections. The possibility that the progressive Frente Amplio (FA) could continue governing the country for a third consecutive term has sparked worried conservative and rightist sectors--the traditional Partido Nacional (PN or Blanco) and Partido Colorado (PC)--to spring into action. In addition, seven small parties have filed to register for the elections. -Andrés Gaudín   Read More

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