Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Top Latin America Stories, April 8, 2015


Obama travels to Jamaica today before heading to Panama tomorrow for the VII Summit of the Americas, according to yesterday's White House conference call that included a detailed agenda for the President's trip.  
  • The best previews on the President's travels are probably from McClatchy (4/7) (which also runs in the Miami Herald) and the NY Times (4/8). Both briefly highlight the CARICOM meetings focused on energy security. "Six of the 11 nations in the Venezuela-led Bolivarian Alliance are Caribbean countries that receive crude oil at subsidized prices from Venezuela." In Panama, Obama meets first with Central American leaders, a forum on civil society and a roundtable with the presidents of Costa Rica and Uruguay. Cynthia Aronson (Woodrow Wilson Center) says, “the United States is a much less relevant actor in the hemisphere than probably at any time in history. The story from 2000 through 2015 is of Latin American countries vastly diversifying” their international relationships. 
  • Jamaica is running the most austere budget in the world which have brought public investment to a low, according to a new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in advance of Obama's trip to CARICOM. "The U.S. is imposing unnecessary pain on Jamaica through harsh austerity and a debt trap." 
  • Obama has an opportunity for renewed engagement with Latin America, according to Bloomberg and quotes former Mexican Pres. Fox saying, "We human beings and nations respond to dialog, respond to principals, respond to discussions." The main worry continues to be Venezuela overshadowing the Summit, according to NPR.
  • Washington Post (4/8) editorial casts a sour note: Four months after Obama's move to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba,"a short time, admittedly, there is no sign of ... benefits ... but the Castro regime has nevertheless reaped some substantial gains."
  • The host of the Summit, Panama's Pres. Juan Carlos Varela is "an unlikely champion of clean government ... in a country long perceived as one of Latin America’s most corrupt," according to a profile Associated Press. Varela is a Georgia Tech graduate and scion of one of Panama’s richest families.
  • 19 former Latin American leaders plan to present their Panama Declaration tomorrow, urging the Summit to help find an "alternative" solution to the Venezuelan crisis, according to EFE (4/7). The effort is led by former Spanish President and president of the Foundation for Social Studies and Analysis, Jose Maria Aznar.  
  • Democracy and Youth Regional Forum and the Civil Society Forum are already underway in Panama, and the PanAm Post (4/7) and Miami's WLRN review their agendas and many of their participants.

Several stories today report on nonprofits pressing the Mexican government on what they see as a deteriorating situation on human rights.  And violence between cartels and police escalated in a horrific way in Jalisco.
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross is "very worried" about the incidence of violence in different parts of Mexico, declared Peter Maurer during a presentation at UNAM's Law School, according to La Jornada.
  • Televisa and El Universal report that the U.S. State Dept's Roberta Jacobson does not agree with the UN's report and that Mexico is making important progress in human rights ("ha tenido importantes progresos en materia de Derechos Humanos").
  • 15 police officers were killed in an ambush by presumed drug traffickers and/or the New Generation gang in Jalisco on Monday, according to the LA Times. This appears to be a revenge attack by the cartel's and "could herald a military-style offensive against government authorities," according to the Associated Press and Sopitas.  The Commissioner for State Security, Alejandro Solorio Aréchiga, gave a measured radio interview (15 min), encouraging citizens to provide information to police.
  • The relationship in Mexico between  U.S. security assistance, organized crime and human rights abuses is the focus of an interview with Jesse Franzblau (Open Society Justice Initiative) in CPR's blog (4/7).

  • Colombia rebel groups the FARC and the ELN are calling the public to participate in a march for Peace on March 9, according to Semana. Separately, former Pres. Santos gave a hard line to the FARC saying they need submit to justice and pay appropriate penalties if they want peace,  in an interview with Reuters (4/8). Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense is working on plans for the police and the army in a post-conflict Colombia, according to El Espectador
  • Even as the U.S. announced they will investigate accusations sexual misconduct by the army in Colombia, they are denying the 2007 rape of a 12-year-old girl "in spite of compelling evidence and witness statements indicating the opposite," according to Colombia Reports (4/7). A report in The Daily Beast (4/8) gets a few comments from a U.S. Army spokesperson and does a broad assessment of the story until now. 
  • Colombia is now linked into the Inter-American Library on Drugs and Addiction (BIDA), an initiative of 10 Latin American countries which is part of COPOLAD and funded by EuropeAid, according to El Espectador (4/7)
  • Lilian Tintori, wife of Leopoldo López, a leader of the political opposition in Venezuela, has become "one of the biggest threats to the Maduro regime’s tight hold on power," according to Jorge Ramos (Univision) in an essay on Fusion and an interview on Univision (4/8). On a related note, Antonio Ledezma - mayor of Caracas and another leader of the political opposition - was formally charged for conspiracy, and he formally denied them, according to El Universal (4/7).
  • The NY Times' Tom Friedman's interview with Pres. Obama focused on Iran but included comments on Cuba and how it fits in the "Obama Doctrine' (starts around minute 26).
"For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies. ... You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.”
  • The media continue to report on and from Cuba.  Support of small business are stymied by "lingering questions about financial transactions and remaining provisions of the longstanding trade embargo," according to a report from Havana in the NY Times (4/8). Cuba's two graduating classes of MBAs, in partnership with Spain's Universidad Católica San Antonio de Murcia, are reviewed by Miami's WLRN (4/7). "Cubans with that learning could help U.S. companies understand not just products but body language and other cultural nuances." Technology experts will convene at Facebook for a Code for Cuba hackathon, organized by Miami-based nonprofit Roots of Hope, reports the Wall Street Journal. 
  • Bloomberg (4/7) has an ominous headline: Greece Brightens, Brazil Darkens.
  • Former Argentine economy minister wept in court as federal judges gave her a suspended prison sentence related to the discovery of $64,000 cash in her office bathroom, according to the NYTimes (4/8) and Clarin.

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