Monday, March 16, 2015

Top Latin America Stories, March 16, 2015


MexicoLeaks, a platform released last week to anonymously send information to reporters, has resulted in a reporter being fired from her prominent position, late Sunday night, according to Reuters. Reporter Carmen Aristegui, ("possibly Mexico's most famous journalist, says the LA Times), clashed with MVS Radio over the weekend over her use of the anonymous complaints platform, according to Buzzfeed and the Wall St Journal (3/13). The station's earlier press release (3/12) made clear their discomfort but Aristegui responded to them directly on her program (Sopitas has the video). Last night, the station declared that they would not accept the "conditions and ultimatums" that Aristegui had placed for reinstating fired reporters from her staff. #EndefensadeAristegui has been trending all weekend and a petition collected more than 150,000 signatures supporting Aristegui. 

The Washington Post offers solid background on the back and forth leading up to her firing, including Aristegui's help in founding Mexicoleaks which confused some as to MVS' participation in this effort (they were not) though the station's ombudsman has since come out in the reporter's defense. A columnist in El Universal has called the station's response to their own reporter "unnecessary roughness," as if this were a game of American football.

It was Aristegui's team that uncovered the story about the First Lady's home last year (Nov 2014). And Buzzfeeds recalls that "Aristegui was temporarily fired in 2011, when she reported on then-President Felipe Calderón’s rumored drinking habits."

  • Yesterday marked Brazil's 30th anniversary of democracy and hundreds of thousands of protesters (more than a million, says the Wall St Journal) marched against government corruption, many calling for Pres Rousseff's resignation, according to the LA Times LA Times (3/15). Though impeachment still seems hard to imagine to most analysts, Rousseff's "maneuvering room grow more limited to deal with a range of urgent problems," according to the NY Times. And with the economy in recession, it will be challenging, expected budget cuts will only increase the pressure, according to the Financial Times (3/16). The president, who recalled her participation in many demonstrations, made a strong case in favor of participatory democracy, in a 90-second video response on her Facebook page (3/14). Anticipating these larger protests, there were some pro-government demonstrations  on Friday, reported Reuters (3/13).
  • WOLA's Adam Isacson outlines '5 Reasons Why Halting Bombing Raids Makes Sense for Colombia's Peace Process,' including: it eases FARC negotiators’ efforts to keep their rank and file supportive of peace talks, according to WOLA's Colombia Peace blog (3/13). A long essay in The Guardian (3/15) asks if the end is in sight for "the world's longest war" and reports that it is still "hard to gauge the voice of the FARC." Óscar Naranjo, the Ministro del Posconflicto highlights the two remaining pressing issues, in an interview he gave to El Espectador (3/15): the search for the disappeared and the definite, bilateral ceasefire. 
  • Mexico's overhaul of their judicial system is set to be completed by 2016, and aims to increase transparency in judicial investigations and make courtroom proceedings public, but "implementation remains piecemeal", according to Buzzfeed (3/11). The article compares Durango - where it is slowly working - with Sonora state, where it is much slower. Proyecto Justicia is tracking how the states are implementing the new system and notes that Chihuahua leads the effort. Separately, Rodrigo Aguilera (EIU) calls for decriminalization of drug use  and "a well-regulated legalization of some drugs," in an essay in the Huffington Post (3/13).
  • Mary Anastasia O'Grady's Wall St Journal column this morning criticizes Vice President Biden for "dangling $1 billion in aid" for Central America but says that the unacknowledged problem is "the voracious American appetite for illegal drugs." She says that "muscular mafias [overwhelm] local law enforcement" but affirms Gen. John Kelly's argument that "profits earned via the illicit drug trade have corrupted and destroyed public institutions in these countries, and facilitated a culture of impunity," according to his Military Times op-ed last year.
  • Nicaragua is purchasing of aircraft and gunboats from Russia "to intercept drug trafficking flights," according to Inter Press Service (3/14). Ricardo De León (American College University in Managua) says "it’s a mistake to believe they can fight drug trafficking by buying more arms; El Salvador already showed that police and military capacities are overwhelmed in the fight against transnational narco or crime, with its Mano Dura (Iron Fist) and Super Mano Dura (Super Iron Fist) plans." La Prensa republishes this article under the headline: Nicaragua Seeks Air Superiority.
  • Venezuela's Congress gave Pres Maduro executive "decree powers" through 2015 as a response to the U.S. declaration that Venezuela is a security threat, according to Reuters (3/15). The Center for Human Rights at the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello encouraged the U.S. to refrain from attacking the Venezuelan people or the economy but also pushed the government not to limit human rights in the name of national security, according to El Nacional (3/15). The foreign ministers of UNASUR met over the weekend in Quito without any announced conclusions yet - though a columnist for El Universal and reporters for the Financial Times try to distinguish between perception and reality in Caracas.
  • Brazil created a special police unit to prevent illegal logging in the Amazon, according to EFE (3/12). "A BNDES-administered international fund to preserve Amazonia will finance the costs of creating and equipping the new force.  ... The Amazonia Fund receives contributions from Brazilian state oil company Petrobras and from the governments of countries such as Norway and Germany."
  • Cuba jump-started a third round of talks with the U.S. and the NY Times (3/14) reported that State Dept's Roberta Jacobson was traveled to Havana on Sunday. "The two sides held talks in Havana in January and in Washington last month, reporting progress but no breakthroughs."

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