Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Latin America at the U.N. (Sept. 20, 2016)

Brazil exemplifies a working democracy says Temer

Newly reaffirmed Brazilian President Michel Temer used his New York visit to try to bolster investor confidence in his country. He is seeking to boost an economy going through the biggest recession since the Great Depression. 

He faced a difficult balancing act, reassuring investors of a change after 13 years of Workers' Party rule, while attempting to ease fears of an austerity agenda at home, reports the New York Times. But, his lack of political ambition gives him a freer hand to push ahead with electorally unpopular measures, Temer told Bloomberg in an interview. "Now that I’ve definitively taken office, I’m taking a tougher stance in politics and economics."
Temer's U.N. speech aimed to counter doubts about his predecessor's ouster. He assured fellow heads of state that former President Dilma Rousseff's recent impeachment was conducted with "absolute respect" for the rule of law, reports Reuters. In fact, he emphasized that Brazil is undergoing a process of "political depuration" that shows the strength of its institutions, reports Folha de S. Paulo. The country could even be seen as an example to the world, he said, according to El País.

Immigration can't be stopped says Peña Nieto

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said barriers against immigrants and attempts to keep cultures separate are futile. He spoke at a summit on migrants and refugees yesterday, ahead of today's General Assembly meeting. "We are a proudly mestizo, multi-cultural and diverse nation," Pena Nieto said, referring to Mexican of mixed descent. "We Mexicans firmly believe that this mestizo fusion is the future and destiny of human kind." His comments come as Mexican migration is a focal point of the U.S. presidential campaign, reports Reuters.

Peña Nieto promised that Mexico will continue to work to recognize "migrants as agents of change and development." Activists criticized this stance in light of Mexico's onslaught of deportations of migrants, coupled with low rates of accepting asylum requests, reports Animal Político. Last year authorities detained 198, 141 migrants, mostly from Central America.

A new WOLA report found that thousands of migrants in transit through Mexico meet with abuses and severe measures. The Frontera Sur program has successfully prevented nearly half a million migrants -- mostly Central American -- from reaching the United States in the past two years. Yet the increase in migration operations and the travel risks in Mexico have not dissuaded migrants, according to the report. "Many of them are fleeing violence, risks and crime in their own countries. Central America's Northern Triangle is one of the most violent regions in the world."

Peña Nieto seems to be right, immigration can't be checked with barriers.

More from the U.N.
  • U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed regret over the organization's role in Haiti's 2010 cholera outbreak, and said the U.N. has a moral responsibility to alleviate the disease, which has killed over 9,000 people and infected about 800,000. Though experts have pinned the epidemic on U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal infected with the disease, the organization has not accepted legal responsibility, reports Reuters. (See Aug. 22's post, for example.)
  • Mercosur foreign ministers met up in New York, but excluded Venezuela. Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay's move comes after they agreed to deny Caracas the trade bloc's rotating presidency, and promised a review of it's membership for December, reports AFP. (See last Thursday's briefs.) The four foreign ministers said the Venezuela conflict will not interfere with upcoming negotiations with the European Union, reports the Associated Press.
  • Over in Geneva, Brazilian NGO Conectas Direitos Humanos denounced São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin before the U.N. Human Right Council for repression of protesters against Temer's government, reports El País.
News Briefs
  • Brazilian lawmakers attempted to quietly amnesty politicians who had accepted illegal funding for their campaigns. The bill, which would have pardoned politicians involved in the massive Petrobras graft scandal, was pushed forward by leaders of Brazil's main parties, including the ruling PMDB and the Workers Party. The amnesty was included in a last-minute amendment to a 2007 bill, reports Folha de S. Paulo.
  • Argentine President Mauricio Macri's swift moves to "normalize" his country's economy after assuming office late last year --including ending a drawn out debt dispute "holdout" bondholders -- have yielded disappointingly little in terms of actual investment, reports the Financial Times.
  • Nonetheless, Macri insisted that things are going "quite well" in an interview with the Financial Times. "I really believe that finally we have learnt from our mistakes."
  • Amnesty International's Argentina branch is pressuring the country to follow through on promises to welcome more than 3,000 Syrian refugees, reports the Associated Press.
  • "Venezuela’s petroleum industry, whose vast revenues once fueled the country’s Socialist-inspired revolution, underwriting everything from housing to education, is spiraling into disarray," reports the New York Times.
  • U.S. Republican candidate Donald Trump and the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez "share the same telegenic vocation. They both built a career via television spectacle," argues Alberto Barrera Tyszka in a New York Times op-ed. The two populist style politicians share other elements, such as expert provocation, a tendency to bend facts to fit their narrative and use of controversy. "Their narrative is also very similar. They both denounce an unfair present and invoke a glorious destiny that has been taken from us by an enemy force. It’s a flattering fantasy, but it’s also a dangerous story: It legitimizes violence." The parable of what happened to Venezuela when citizens believed "the mirage of magical solutions and the triumph of television over politics" should warn U.S. voters, writes Barrera.
  • The U.S. presidential campaign -- more specifically, Trump's strength -- has pushed down the value of the Mexican peso. "Economists have long said that when the United States catches a cold, Mexico gets pneumonia. But analysts said Monday that Hillary Clinton's pneumonia has given Mexico's peso something worse," reports the Associated Press. The peso has become a sort of barometer of Trump's chances of winning, according to the Financial Times.
  • Mexico's 2014 junk food tax has reduced consumption of affected items by an average of 5.1 percent, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Low and medium income households were more affected, though the study did not show if families purchased healthier alternatives, lowered calorie intake or bought street food alternatives.
  • "Making peace is much more difficult than making war because you need to change sentiments of people, people who have suffered, to try to persuade them to forgive," the president, Colombian Juan Manuel Santos said in an interview with the New York Times.
  • Humberto de la Calle, lead negotiator in the peace talks for the Colombian government, has become an unlikely hero in a country where he was virtually unknown by younger citizens, and remembered by older ones as a fleeting vice president who quit following allegations that President Ernesto Samper's 1994 campaign was financed by the Cali cartel, reports the Associated Press.
  • Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said China's exclusion from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership is "worrisome," but he'll nonetheless seek ratification of the trade deal, reports Reuters.
  • U.S. Senator Marco Rubio questioned the start of commercial flights to Cuba without security agreement that would allow air marshals onto flights, reports the Miami Herald.
  • AFP profiles Latin America's first "totally green" public school in Uruguay. Built with recycled tires, bottles, and cans (as well as cement, glass, and wood), the school is unconnected to the electric grid, and produces no waste.

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