Thursday, April 30, 2015

Top Latin America Stories, April 30, 2015

Tweeting from the presidency

Spanish is the most tweeted language among world leaders, according to "Twiplomacy," a study by P.R. firm Burston Marsteller. Though Spanish-tweeting world leaders are a minority, they make up for their lack of numbers with frequent tweets: the 74 Spanish language accounts sent 853,503 tweets to a combined following of 36 million followers. Two hundred forty one world leaders tweet in English and have posted 737,057 tweets to a combined following of 115 million followers. The study covers 669 government accounts in 166 countries, and found that 86 percent of U.N. member states have Twitter presence.

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Latin American leaders make their impact on the twitter-sphere in a variety of ways.

The world's second most followed leader is Pope Francis (a sort of Latin American leader at-large), who posts in 9 different languages, including Latin. He's also the "most effective" world leader, according to the study, that is to say the one who gets the most retweets. Nicolás Maduro is the third most retweeted leader, averaging 3,198 retweets per tweet, which dwarfs Obama's average rate of 1,210 per tweet.

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In terms of followers, Mexico's Enrique Peña Nieto is in the lead, closely followed by Colombia's Juan Manuel Santos and Argentina's Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

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Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa leads the region in responding to his followers, and comes in third at a world level. His twitter handle means "Comrade Rafael" in Quechua.

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News Briefs

  • Organized crime is further destabilizing Venezuelan democracy, according to a study by local NGO Paz Activa. Unlike its Central American neighbors, the gangs in question are not well established, but rather feed off of opportunities presented by public corruption, reports theMiami Herald. Venezuela has one of the world's highest murder rates, and over 50 percent of people surveyed for the study said there were murders near their home. The penal system is particularly problematic -- convicts run elaborate business enterprises from jail and there is a high level of internal violence.
  • Venezuela is cutting public servants' hours in an attempt to save energy, as Caracas is hit with a heat wave that has spiked energy use. Large private consumers, such as malls and hotels, will be required to generate their own electricity in peak hours, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Victims of the 1994 terrorist bombing attack of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) will receive a one-time government compensation. The measure passed by lawmakers is similar to the benefit awarded to victims of Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship, and a 1992 attack on the Israeli embassy, reports AFP.
  • Nicaragua's parliament authorized the establishment of a Russian satellite ground station yesterday. The base will permit the use of the Russian version of GPS for peaceful uses, such as the mitigation of natural disasters, reports the AP.
  • Chilean President Michelle Bachelet wants to make battling corruption one of her government's legacies. She announced a series of measures yesterday to make campaign financing more transparent, including prohibiting anonymous donations to political campaigns and eliminating corporate donations to politicians, reports the Wall Street Journal. She has even proposed rewriting the constitution, though she did not provide more details. The current constitution was implemented during Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship. The initiative could impact the investment climate, according sources quoted in the piece.
  • Public support for the Colombian peace process plummeted after a FARC attack earlier this month killed 11 soldiers. Support for the government's decision to negotiate with FARC guerrillas dropped by 15 points to 57 percent, while President Juan Manuel Santos' approval rating dropped by 14 points to 29 percent, reports EFE.
  • Florida public universities still won't be able to visit Cuba for educational purposes, reports theMiami Herald, though the legal basis for the prohibition is unclear. Though national restrictions on travel to the island are being lifted, the Florida Board of Governors told Florida International University that the state's ban will only be lifted once the two countries resume normal diplomatic relations, despite a state law linking the prohibition to Cuba's place on the State Department's list of countries that sponsor terrorism. The State Department will be removing Cuba from that list shortly. FIU unsuccessfully sued to overturn the ban.
  • A proposed mega-port in the Brazilian state of Bahia threatens an ecological corridor, according to activists who are resorting to court action to stop the 50 sq km project. The project’s environmental impact study, carried out in 2013, identified 36 potential environmental impacts, 42 percent of which could not be mitigated. Some of them will affect marine species that will be driven away by the construction work, including dolphins and whales, reports Inter Press Service.
  • The Vatican will open its files on Argentina's Dirty War disappeared. The Vatican collected large amounts of information regarding the 30,000 victims of the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1976-1983. Families of the disappeared often turned to the Church for assistance in locating their loved ones. The Vatican's representative in Argentina had close ties to the military junta, reports the Guardian.

  • Mexican politicians get their moves on in campaign spots that plagiarize popular music videos, reports The Guardian. Cheer up your Thursday morning with  PRI congressional candidate Antonio Tarek's version of "Happy."

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