Friday, March 20, 2015

Top Latin America Stories, March 20, 2015


A growing list of NGOs (over 90) signed up to a joint statement calling for the establishment of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy, at the UN Human Rights Council last week, in an effort led by NGO Article 19. This would include violations like "the use of surveillance techniques and technologies by business enterprises against trade unionists, human rights defenders and journalists, and the related states’ obligations to regulate their use and respond to abuses, notably in Brazil, Peru and Colombia," according to the International Federation for Human Rights last year (9/2014).

In a development that may create less transparency, Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank now rivals the American-led World Bank, according to the lead editorial in this morning's NY Times (3/20). BritainGermany, France and Italy have announced they would join the bank, and Australia and South Korea are expected to follow.  "Their decisions were proof that even Europe’s biggest economies, founders with the United States of the postwar global economic order, cannot resist the newest gold rush — into China." One possible impact is continued strain on standards of transparency, environmental sustainability, and labor and human rights, according to The Guardian last week (3/13). 

RELATED EVENT IN DC: The Wilson Center co-convenes 'China's Foreign Policy in a New Era of Sino-Latin American Relations' on Tuesday, March 24.

  • The Institute for Economics and Peace released their Mexico Peace Index with an interactive map yesterday which found that "Mexico's peace improved by 16% in the last three years driven by falling homicide rates," according to the headline in their press release and Reuters. In addition, the Index found that the cost of violence in 2014 was 3 billion pesos (or about US$200M, about 17% of GNP), according to Proceso.  The study examines the "dynamics of peace" which shows that Mexican's high expectations help create a "peace surplus" compared with countries such as South Africa, Colombia, and Israel, according to a positive editorial in the Christian Science Monitor (3/19). (Research partners included INEGI, Mexico EvalĂșa, CIDE and Jurimetria.)
  • Was the firing of Mexican investigative journalist Carmen Aristegui a labor conflict or a case of freedom of expression?, asks Proceso (they lean toward the latter). Aristegui gave a delayed press conference yesterday (video starts at 4:40) asking the MVS radio station to start a dialogue to review options or she would take legal measures. No thanks and best of luck, replied the station in a press release (with a 9 min video of their own) and reported by La Jornada. Few believe that is the whole story, according to an assessment by The Economist (3/21). Mexican media has "long been dominated by political power."
  • Outgoing OAS Secretary-General Insulza warned that the tension between the US and Venezuela may have "unpredictable consequences," according to EFE. While there were reports of clashes between the countries at the OAS meetings, the State Dept's Jacobson practiced Twitter diplomacy as she seemed to offer a conciliatory tone to the Venezuelan government, which was picked up by El Universal. An earlier tweet was mixed: "U.S. govt does not want #Venezuela unstable or impoverished. We want it to thrive, return to path of genuine democracy, prosperity." Separately: "Moving a shipment of milk is more profitable than cocaine," says a smuggler along the Venezuela/Colombia border, according to the Associated Press (3/18).
  • Brazilian Pres. Rousseff's reshaping of the oil industry under a nationalist vision is "now haunting her presidency," according to the NY Times (3/19). "There was this sense that oil would allow Brazil to solve all sorts of problems,” said Paulo Soter (Woodrow Wilson). One difference that Brazil has compare to its neighbors according to The Times: trusted institutions such as the Federal Police, which revealed the scandal to the nation, and the Supreme Court. Rousseff's new "Chicago-boy" Minister of Economy has earned a place in her inner circle, according to Reuters (3/18), and may be an asset "on matters beyond the economy and even leading talks with Congress." Bloomberg's editors go one better: Minister Levy is "the man who can save Brazil." Separately: Brazilian film director Fernando Meirelles (City of God) shares some exasperation in an op-ed in The Guardian (3/19): Rousseff is "isolated, trying to rein in increasing inflation and a water and energy crisis," as well as dealing with Petrobras.
  • Venezuela's neighbors should hold Pres. accountable despite the U.S. clumsy efforts, argues The Economist (3/20). "The left has much to gain by insisting that the rules of democracy should be the same for all." Counter Punch (3/19) blames the U.S. for maintaining different standards on human rights in Venezuela and Mexico.
  • Colombia's former Pres. Uribe is inching toward accepting the peace process with FARC by accepting to join conversations with the government about the issue, reports EFE and Noticias RCN (3/19). Separately, WOLA's Colombia Reports lists known outstanding extradition requests by the US which include at least 60 FARC members. "Much remains to be worked out here. The extradition issue needs more explanation and clarity from U.S. officials, who need to communicate to both sides what is, and is not, possible."
  • Colombian Uber drivers are threatened as a taxi war heats up, reports Bloomberg (3/20). "Caracas, Bogota and Mexico City are the most dangerous cities in the Americas in which to take a taxi," according to Steven Dudley (InSight Crime) and the U.S. State Department warns its nationals not to hail taxis in the street. That creates an opening for Uber.
  • Taiwan continues to make advances in a few select counties in Latin America: they are now Honduras' largest military aid provider, according to Sin Embargo (3/18)
  • Mexican Mayor Hilario Ramirez Villanueva of San Blas (Nayarit), who last June said he had stolen only "poquito" from the government treasury, but who was consequently re-elected, is profiled in the LA Times (3/20). Earlier in the week the Mayor made video headlines in the UK Mirror which was consequently condemned by Mexican senators.

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