Monday, March 9, 2015

Top Latin American Stories, March 9 2015

CAN DEMOCRACY BE SAVED? Several stories wonder about the longevity of democracy. Some suggest women leaders may be a critical component in this debate - if corruption is not an overwhelming debilitating force. 

Can Liberal Democracy Survive?, asks Robert Kuttner in his "dispassionate review" of democratic values in the new American Prospect (3/6). In Latin America, there are more democratically elected governments than in a generation "but it also has several nominal democracies that are illiberal, or prone to coups, or simply corrupt." He calls Mexico the epitome of 'illiberal democracy'. Still, the U.S. is also "becoming more like the illiberal pseudo-democracies and kleptocracies." Don't expect UNASUR leaders to expound on democratic values after their visit to Caracas, opines Bloomberg's (3/8) Mac Margolis. "Sovereignty trumps human rights" even though several presidents have first hand knowledge of human rights abuses. Mario Vargas Llosa's column in El Pais (3/8) argues that the "betrayal of democratic ideals" by Latin American governments' acceptance of the Maduro government in Venezuela demonstrates a deficit of civic and cultural development.  Offering an even more rigid tone, the director of Cuba Archive publishes a letter in the Wall St Journal (3/8) protesting the Members of the Foro de São Paulo (which includes the parties of most Latin American governments) which have cast a blind eye to abuses in their support of Cuba. 

Latin American women can be the game-changers in making positive political and economic transitions, suggests Sri Mulyani Indrawati (COO, World Bank and former Indonesia Finance Minister) in a Miami Herald oped (3/5), anticipating the U.N. annual Commission on the Status of Women meetings this week.  The Guardian reports the Women's Rights Caucus is lobbying for "unequivocal commitments toward fully realizing gender equality, the human rights and empowerment of women and girls." In Latin America, "the largest gap to gender equality in Latin America is cultural," according to a 3-page report by Latinobarometro (2/26).  Still, Indrawati suggests the success of the Women’s Caucus in Brazil's congress can be a model of success in gender parity.

Charges of corruption in Brazil's political leadership is becoming a case-study in the failure of deliberative democracy as both Speakers of Congress and 30+ Members of Congress from five parties will be investigated in connection with the Petrobras scandal, (including Progressives: 21 members; PMDB: 6; PT:5 and the opposition PSDB party: 1), according to Bloomberg (3/6). (The leaders of Congress deny the allegations, according to Bloomberg, 3/7). The investigation could take years, reports Reuters, in the context of an economy that is already contracting. The Wall St Journal (3/6) highlights five things to know including that Petrobras' value is down 62% in six months; that the probe has ruled out Pres. Rouseff but a national protest on March 15 will include calls for impeachment; and that punishing white-collar crimes is difficult (though defending them can be lucrative). The U.S. could have played a more constructive role with Brazil, but even through the Obama administration, it "continue[s] to penetrate the power game in Brazil, seeking to manipulate personnel and policy outcomes," argues Prof Jane Knippers Black in an essay in NACLA (3/6). Which may frame Brazil's current outreach to the U.S., highlighted in the Wall St Journal (3/8).

  • Latin America should analyze violence and insecurity as the central elements in the dynamics of surveillance, but also demonstrates how surveillance acts as a major component on the dynamic of violence in the region, writes Nelson Arteaga (FLACSO, Mexico) in the new issue of Surveillance & Society (2015). The article explores three surveillance regimes in Mexico (state, social and criminal surveillance) in order to identify how the dynamics of insecurity and violence have impacted each.
  • Last week, the International Narcotics Control Board declared that US and Uruguay are breaking drug treaties with their drug legalizations, according to The Guardian (3/3). Uruguayan NGOs Proderechos and Asociación Civil Intercambios offered their responses in Cosecha Roja (3/6). Separately, Uruguayan Diego Pieri (Proderechos) explains how Law 19.172 that regulates marihuana has so far been implemented, in an interview with PanAm Post (3/6), and his continued hope for a "regulated drug market."
  • Lawyers who have carved out a niche suing multinational corporations on charges that they violated human rights overseas are being stymied, reports The New York Times (3/6). The story is largely pegged on Terrence Collingsworth, a lawyer who has accused companies doing business in Colombia, like Chiquita Brands and Dole Food, "of mistreating workers or conspiring to kill labor activists." Marco Simons (EarthRights International) said companies are increasingly fighting back against the human rights lawyers. The article concludes that these lawyers, more often than not, do not succeed.
  • Honduras' new Minister of Security may be part of the turning point in the most violent country in the region, according to Steven Dudley (InSight Crime) and his interview with former General Julian Pacheco, in the Christian Science Monitor (3/6). Pacheco is the first non-civilian in this post and says his first priority is criminal investigation. The interview covers political will, the underworld, gangs, police reform, and the militarization of citizen security.
  • The Colombian government and the FARC agreed to remove land mines, a positive sign in the peace progress, according to Reuters (3/7). Separately, the U.S. has sent a second top official to attend Colombia’s peace talks, according to Colombia Reports (3/6) and the State Dept (3/5). Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, Sarah Sewall’s arrival "underscores a continued US presence in the complex peace process." Colombia had the second largest number of child casualties by land mines in 2013, reports the Financial Times (3/7).
  • Micah, a Mexican transgender advocate, is profiled in the NY Times Magazine (3/8) who says "I lived in a binary world ... Gender is a spectrum. Nonbinary. No binario.  In Spanish there is no gender-neutral pronoun. Whenever you speak, you have to give yourself a gender."  The story was adapted from a Radio Ambulante podcast to be released this week.
  • Peru recalled its ambassador from Chile in a growing diplomatic dispute according to the BBC (3/7) and La Republica (3/7).  Peru is prosecuting two of its navy officers and investigating a third for allegedly spying for neighboring Chile.
  • Francisco Toro of CaracasChronicles co-authors an op-ed on Venezuela's "currency crisis" in the NY Times (3/7). A new Toyota Corolla retails for about 1.9 million bolívars — which they calculate is either about $300,000 (at one exchange rate) or around $7,200 (at another). He offers an addendum to the oped in Caracas Chronicles. One of the government's responses to this appears to be fingerprint scanners in supermarkets as a way of rationing basic goods, reports the BBC (3/9). Another response is appealing to Chinese investors, according to COHA (3/4).
  • A trove of over 40,000 audio files collected by Argentine Alberto Nisman was published online on March 1 by Infobae, according to La Nacion (3/2). The late prosecutor remains an important factor in the elections to be held in October, according to a column in El Analista (3/8).

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