Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Woman's Day (March 8, 2017)

  • #NiUnaMenos: Women in fifty-two countries around the world are expected to participate in a women's day strike today, organized by Argentine Ni Una Menos, according to Página 12. They will gather in about 300 marches to reject femicides and machista violence, which they place in a context of gender inequality. In Mexico women's groups say they will be rejecting "Peña Nieto's machista government" as well as "Trump's wall" in addition to gender violence, reports Animal Político. The Ni Una Menos banner has successfully gathered women around the region (and further abroad as well) over the past two years, reports the BBC. 
  • "Our strike is about pushing back the insidious structures our world has created that murder, rape and beat women; that rob them of their land; that trap them in poverty and degradation," write Agustina Paz Frontera (one of Ni Una Menos' founders) and Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International executive director, in Al Jazeera. "This injustice that women and girls face daily comes from, at its core, the deep-rooted and senseless inequality between women and men. This inequality is fostered by the patterns we follow culturally and socially in our daily lives, which are informed by a long history of prejudice - and entrenched in today's education, culture, media, religion and law. At worst it supports men's sense of entitlement to, and control of, women bodies."
  • Gender cuotas for political elections have paid off dividends in Latin America, where women occupy an average of 25 percent of legislative seats. In Bolivia, Mexico, Cuba and Ecuador women occupy about half of the respective national congresses. But the region's private sector lags behind. An IADB study found that women are under represented in leadership roles in private companies, and in 73 percent of the companies analyzed, there was not a single female manager. IADB president Luis Alberto Moreno points to the organizations experience over the past decade in increasing women in leadership roles, arguing in a New York Times Español op-ed that it requires setting achievable but ambitious targets and honest reckoning of the unacknowledged advantages afforded to men. An interesting initiative he emphasizes involves "anonymous" curriculums, in which gender and nationality remain unspecified.
  • "The labor market is the master key to equality, and that is where the redistribution of income, and the guarantee of rights effectively occur," but, in Latin America, most women are stuck in low productivity sectors, writes ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena in IPS.
  • Across the region, female participation in science and tech sectors is also lagging -- though a number of projects are striving to improve access for girls and give them the skills and confidence to compete in those jobs, reports Reuters.
News Briefs
  • A year after Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres' murder, her nephew laments the lack of justice in the case and in homicides against activists in general. "In recent years, hundreds of social activists have been killed here. Very rarely are the killers caught. Corruption and criminality are widely believed to reach into the highest levels of government. Meanwhile, the United States, which maintains troops, equipment and trainers at several military sites in this tiny and poor country, has made matters only worse by shoring up the corrupt government of President Juan Orlando Hernández with hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance and overt political support," writes Silvio Carrillo in a New York Times op-ed.
  • A class-action lawsuit filed in the U.S. on behalf of Honduran farmers accuses he World Bank’s private sector arm of "knowingly profiting from the financing of murder," reports the Financial Times. The filing accuses the International Finance Corporation of ignoring more than 100 murders since 2009 in the Bajo Aguan region of Honduras, part of a campaign by palm oil producer Dinant to eliminate farmers' co-operatives, they say. Lawyers for the farmers say they are seeking compensation for alleged attacks and killings, including actions by the company’s private security forces, reports the Guardian.
  • The Odebrecht ripple effect continues: investigations around the region are unearthing a larger network of corruption, ensnaring former high-ranking officials and companies beyond the Brazilian construction giant, reports the Wall Street Journal. Brazilian prosecutors say the number of people investigated could more than double.
  • Reports of Odebrecht payments to Colombia's FARC (see yesterday's briefs) might just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to links between Brazilian business elites and illegal groups, according to InSight Crime.
  • Revelations of Odebrecht campaign donations around the region (see yesterday's briefs on Colombia, for example) are sparking calls for campaign finance reform, reports the Economist. But attempts to limit private contributions to political campaigns have backfired, and "risk prompting recourse to organized crime for money." The piece suggests reducing costs by shortening campaigns, and potential obligatory disclosure rather than outright bans on corporate donations. "In a region of great inequality of wealth, it is hard to disagree that corporate political donations should be tightly regulated. But campaign finance is a problem for which there are no panaceas, only hard choices and one incontrovertible truth: democratic politics costs money, and someone has to pay for it." (See Feb. 22's briefs on a Transparency International proposal to make political contributions via traceable virtual currency.)
  • Brazil's economy contracted 3.6 percent last year, following a 3.8 percent contraction in 2015, making the two year recession the worst on record and raising doubts over the potential pace of recovery, reports the Wall Street Journal. But some analysts say the downturn is "bottoming out" and point to slight improvements in certain sectors in the first two months of 2017, reports the Financial Times.
  • Over the past three years, Operation Car Wash has thrown Brazilian politics into turmoil, as politicians of all stripes and all levels are implicated in wide-ranging graft schemes. But strengthening the country's rule of law could be a potential silver lining, according to the Wall Street Journal. "Similar scandals are now unfolding at state and local governments across Brazil, where a surge of anticorruption investigations has landed hundreds of elected officials in jail, from Rio de Janeiro to the far corners of the Amazon rain forest."
  • Brazil's prosecutor general Rodrigo Janot will reportedly seek Supreme Court authorization to investigate senior Temer administration cabinet ministers and senators, according to Reuters.
  • The homicide rate is up in nine of the 12 Mexican states that chose a new governor last year. Reports of kidnappings increased in seven and extortions increased by more than 700 percent in five of them. Analysts say organized crime "tests" new governments and also benefits from change-over in authorities, reports Animal Político.
  • Trump's hostile stance towards Mexico might be the push the country's politicians need to unite behind a common enemy and leave behind the infighting that has characterized recent years to the detriment of the country's development, argues Sam Quinone in Foreign Policy.
  • In the meantime, politicians continue to rail against Trump. In the latest, former first lady and current presidential candidate Margarita Zavala argues that "the notion that criminals are streaming across the U.S. border is a fallacy put forth to win votes. Trump’s order to build a wall is offensive: a ludicrous solution to a nonproblem," in a Washington Post Global Opinions piece.
  • A leader of Honduran drug gang Los Cachiros testified in court that he repeatedly bribed former President Porfirio Lobos, an indication of corruption in the country's highest echelons, reports InSight Crime. Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga spoke in a New York court, in a drug trafficking case against Lobos' son.
  • The Heritage Foundation's annual economic freedom index has Venezuela just above North Korea, reports Forbes.
  • Bloomberg reports on Venezuela's passport shortage -- not as life threatening as the lack of food and medicines, "but it has the surreal effect of making people feel like they’re trapped, like they’re prisoners in their own dysfunctional land."
  • Cuba's population has become the oldest in the hemisphere, a challenge the country's increasingly inviable pension system and social services are ill prepared to face, reports the Miami Herald
  • A new study by the Centro de Economía Política Argentina found that over 249,000 jobs have been lost since Macri took office -- most concentrated in the industrial sector followed by construction, reports Página 12.
  • Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega suffered a brain hemorrhage following brain surgery. The 83-year-old was released from prison in January for the procedure, reports the BBC.

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