Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Brazilian senate passes labor reform (July 12, 2017)

The Brazilian senate passed a polemic labor reform last night, the first major overhaul of the system in 70 years, reports the BBC. The law aims to reduce labor costs for businesses, and is opposed by the country's most powerful unions.

The vote was carried out despite a long attempt by leftists senators to delay the debate, reports the Financial Times. The measure passed by 50 votes to 26.

The bill, which will now go to President Michel Temer to be signed into law, gives more leeway in collective bargaining and reduces the potential scope of labor-related lawsuits. It also gives more flexibility for part-time and temporary workers' contracts. The effect will be a reduction in labor security, say unions.

The new law is critical for efforts to pull the country out of a long recession, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The vote is a boost for Temer's embattled administration, but his political survival remains uncertain according to FT. The vote doesn't mean he will manage to avoid suspension on corruption charges, but it does indicate multi-party support for the president's economic platform, notes Reuters. The reform vote indicates support for economic reform, but not the president, according to the WSJ.

The lower house of congress is set to vote soon on whether to put Temer on trial for corruption allegations.

News Briefs
  • The growing list of inappropriate targets of government owned spyware in Mexico -- the list ranges from critical activists to international investigators with diplomatic immunity -- raises the issue of abuse by the government, or rogue factions within it, as well as the limitations the creators of the software face in controlling how it can be used, argues a New York Times editorial. "The government has denied responsibility for the espionage, but it acquired the weaponry, and using it against citizens raises profound legal and ethical questions, especially for a government already facing severe criticism over human rights." (See yesterday's post.)
  • An Associated Press feature uses the massacre of an entire family in Veracruz to illustrate the increasing violence in Mexico that is making this year the bloodiest on record so far. (See last Thursday's post.)
  • Mexican authorities are investigating the Sunday killing of a Honduran video journalist who had sought refugee status in the country, reports the Associated Press.
  • International mediators, led by former Spanish leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and including two former presidents, Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Republic and Martín Torrijos of Panama, played a key role in negotiating Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo López's release to house arrest last weekend, reports the Wall Street Journal. Sources close to the process say it is an indication that the government and the opposition could sit down and hold talks. 
  • In the meantime, "Venezuela’s ongoing street protests are increasingly looking like outright warfare," according to the Miami Herald.
  • Workers in Venezuela's general prosecutor's office are making plans to fight the attorney general's expected removal, reports Reuters. Luisa Ortega Díaz has been an increasingly vocal critic of the government from within, and has been the target of a spate of legal actions. A court appointed deputy-prosecutor has been prevented from entering the offices.
  • "The expansion of repressive actions, exercised with pseudo-legal appearances—for example the unconstitutional and illegal aggressions and failure to respect the Attorney General and the National Assembly—worsen the divisions within Venezuelan society and contribute to the failed state we are suffering. They incentivize the emergence of a parallel state on the part of those forces that are opposed to this totalitarian project. This context could favor massive episodes of violence in the struggle for resources and territory, episodes that are difficult to control and which could overwhelm institutional measures and lead to another of the intra-state conflicts and fratricidal wars that are occurring around the world," warns a statement by Aquí Cabemos Todos a group of Venezuela scholars and activists.
  • International coverage of "El Sistema" Venezuela's legendary classical music education program tends to be overly romantic. And reports that its musicians are rising up against the Maduro government are vastly exaggerated, argues Geoffrey Baker in the Conversation. The piece, which was picked up by the Guardian, says that in fact most musicians and their leadership are toeing the party line. "The recent attempts to paint Dudamel and El Sistema as heroes of the resistance are simply the latest in a long line of romanticised misrepresentations. A more representative figure would be the first Sistema musician to become a cause célèbre in this year’s protests, horn-player Frederick Chirino Pinto – who made it clear he was not in fact joining in, but simply on his way to a rehearsal."
  • Hundreds of Haitian factory workers protested a marginal increase in the country's minimum wage, and accused President Jovenel Moise of selling them out, reports AFP.
  • Repeated critical reports from U.N. special rapporteurs on prison conditions in Brazil, trampling of indigenous peoples' rights, and the negative long term effects of a recently passed spending cap are ignored, writes Vanessa Barbera in a New York Times op-ed. "My brave, dear friends: I understand your pain. Every time I do research into a serious local matter related to, say, education, the environment, police brutality, racism or women’s rights, I find a stern, accurate, fact-filled statement from a special rapporteur condemning the situation. Again and again."
  • Peru recalled its ambassador to Ecuador, the latest turn in a spat over a wall Ecuador is building along a canal that forms part of the international border between the two counties, reports Reuters.
  • Career diplomat Scott Hamilton is the new interim chief at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Argentina banned Odebrecht from bidding on public works for the next year, due to investigations of bribes the company paid in the country and elsewhere, reports the Associated Press.
  • Two Colombian towns voted to shut down mining in their territories, joining seven others which have already done so, reports TeleSUR.
  • Chile is seeking to manufacture lithium-related products in the country, a bid to add value to the country's mining exports, reports Reuters.
  • Community radio stations in Argentina give residents alternative access to news and allow the to unite around a common project, reports the New York Times.

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