Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Top Latin America Stories, May 13, 2015

News Briefs

  • The Guatemalan Congress suspended the session called to pick a vice president, after a last minute change to the list of candidates they were picking from. President Otto Pérez Molina submitted three candidates to Congress, but changed one yesterday -- his Minister of Labor -- in order to conform to a constitutional requirement that no VP have served on the cabinet six months before assuming office.Lawmakers must pick a replacement for Roxana Baldetti, who resigned last week amid accusations of involvement in a massive customs fraud scheme. The session will continue today, reports the AP.
  • The Wall Street Journal examines the New Generation Jalisco Cartel in Mexico, which jumped to notoriety after a May 1 battle with the army led to 8 deaths and felled an army helicopter. The cartel's newfound strength is the result of President Enrique Peña Nieto's policy of targeting gang bosses in recent years. The government has managed to jail or kill 93 out of the country’s top 122 suspects, according to the piece. However, that has had the unintended effect of splintering the country's illegal organizations, creating new and deadlier ones in some cases. The New Generation Cartel formed in 2010 following the killing by federal forces of the Sinaloa Cartel’s regional boss, who controlled Jalisco. The gang has received strategic and paramilitary training from Mexican military veterans and Guatemalan special army forces vets. Officials say the gang has killed over 50 public servants in the past two years.
  • Nicaragua is facing financial difficulties as Venezuela has raised the interest rates it charges on oil sales.About half of Nicaragua's electricity is fueled by oil from Venezuela, which for many years has been highly subsidized, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Nicaragua is a member of Petrocaribe, a program in which Caribbean countries import Venezuelan oil, paying part upfront in cash or exports, and deferring payment on the rest for 25 years and with low interest payments. The program is threatened by Venezuela's tanking economy, and is forcing Nicaragua to reevaluate its energy scene. 
  • Brazil's government needs to implement austerity measures and control inflation, according to an IMF report.The IMF predicted in April that Brazil’s GDP would contract 1% in 2015 and grow 0.9% in 2016, reports the Wall Street Journal. Finance Minister Joaquim Levy said yesterday that fiscal discipline is a cornerstone of his policy.
  • Juntos Pelo Complexo — Together for the Complex — is a network of community activists, organizers and others who banded together to decry police abuse and insist on favela residents' rights, covered by the Los Angeles Times. Police violence is an important issue in Brazil, where every year officers kill at least 2,000 people. 
  • Cuban President Raúl Casto said ambassadors between Cuba and the U.S. could be named within a month an a half, once Cuba is off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. But U.S. officials were cautious yesterday, saying diplomatic negotiations are ongoing between the two countries, which suspended normal diplomatic relations over 50 years ago. Negotiations include freedom of movement for diplomats -- U.S. diplomats in Cuba are currently restricted to Havana, reports the New York Times.
  • The diplomatic thaw between the U.S. and Cuba has increased world interest in the island, reports AFP, pointing to visits from the Turkish president, Japan and The Netherlands' foreign ministers, the head of EU diplomacy, the governor of New York State, U.S. legislators and businesspeople, and a British business delegation. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit in September and Obama might go next year.
  • Haitian media is reporting that the National Bureau of Electoral Disputes (BCEN) has rejected first lady Sophia Martelly's senate candidacy. Martelly's candidacy has been challenged because of her American citizenship -- which conflicts with Haitian laws -- and lack of accountability with state funds, reports the Miami Herald.
  • The InterAmerican Press Association urged Mexican authorities to investigate the case of Bernardo Javier Cano Torres, a journalist for the Mexican radio station ABC, who was kidnapped, along with three companions, last week. Cano Torres disappeared on an Iguala road in Guerrero.
  • Ecuadorian police forces captured more than 2,2 tons of cocaine mixed with a mineral intended to throw off narcotics detecting dogs. The shipment was intended for the U.S. market, the largest in the world. While Ecuador does not produce important amounts of the drug, it's considered a transit country for cocaine produced in Peru and Colombia, reports AFP.

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