Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top Latin America Stories, March 17, 2015

Expect more sparks in U.S./Venezuela relations, suggests David Smilde in WOLA's Venezuela blog (3/16) who writes that a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing scheduled for today will "surely provoke the Maduro government to respond." Smilde quotes sub-committee Chairman Marco Rubio saying "it is necessary to give more and more attention to this humanitarian crisis which threatens regional security." A Washington Post headline this morning puts it bluntly: For Marco Rubio, Venezuela Matters in 2016.  

"Yes, Venezuela is a security threat," argues a Miami Herald columnist (3/16) who uses a chapter by Joseph Humire (Center for a Secure Free Society) in the just-published Reconceptualizing Security in the Americas in the Twenty-First Century to bolster his argument. Despite their own travails, Brazil has offered to help guarantee basic supplies for Venezuela, according to Folha do Sao Paulo (3/17). 

Brazil's Petrobras scandal inches closer to Pres Rousseff as prosecutors filed corruption charges against 27 more individuals including the PT party treasurer, according to Veja (3/16) as well as the NY Times and the Wall St Journal.  The investigation is now being dubbed Operação "Que País é Esse", according to O Estadao. Rousseff is "a president virtually under seige," according to The Guardian which quotes an analyst suggesting impeachment is a "30% possibility." Bloomberg concludes that the Brazilian Congress would rather exploit the situation for their own political gains than seek impeachment. 

There is a positive interpretation to the street demonstrations, according to the Christian Science Monitor: they are keeping the government on its toes. "Rousseff’s justice minister responded to the demonstrations by promising a new package of anti-corruption measures." Where is democratic accountability this strong? asks Matthew Taylor (Woodrow Wilson Center). Comedian John Oliver also offered his own take on the Petrobras scandal.

  • The firing of Mexican investigative journalist Carmen Aristegui by MVS Radio (related to her use of Mexicoleaks), dedicated to the probing of corruption, is the cover story in Proceso (3/16) and reported in the LA Times and the NY Times.  One of the articles in Proceso connects Airstegui's firing to Pres Peña Nieto while a second reports on protestors calling for the reporters' return and still another focuses on the potential of MexicoLeaks.  The Guardian also writes about the viability of MexicoLeaks. A columnist in Reforma writes today that 'Aristegui Will Continue' and indeed, she still has a prime-time talk show on CNN Español, a column in Reforma, and a news website.
  • Guatemala Pres Pérez Molina "refuses to renew CICIG's mandate", although former president and future candidate Alfonso Portillo is open to some version of its implementation, according to Americas Quarterly blogger Luisa Reynolds (3/16). Even as it is debated, CICIG is increasingly active in investigations by state and civil society actors, according to a front-page headline in yesterday's La Hora. Former Pres Portillo is the dark-horse candidate in the upcoming elections, according to a Boston Globe op-ed, also by Luisa Reynolds (3/17) and a recent poll by Contra Poder and Canal Antigua (3/15) points to his strong chances. Oceana Azul tries to quantify the value of media exposure Portillo has received since his recent return to Guatemala. Portillo was "tried for embezzlement but walked free in 2011 after a Guatemalan court determined there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction," writes Reynolds in her Globe article.
  • Mexico's marihuana smokers want U.S. and European products, reports the Associated Press. "So far, reports of U.S.-grown marijuana making its way south have been only anecdotal but enough to raise concern, according to Alejandro Mohar, a Mexican physician and member of the U.N. International Narcotics Control Board."
  • The U.S. 'Partnership for Growth' is part of a U.S. strategy to influence and limit progressive governments in the region, and in particular El Salvador, argues an essay in NACLA. With Salvadoran presidential election later this year, "the U.S. government delayed final approval of the Millennium Challenge Corporation aid in an effort to weaken the FMLN and impose changes that might otherwise be impossible."

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