Friday, April 15, 2016

Daily Headlines: April 15, 2016

* Panama: Panamanian authorities reportedly agreed to follow international tax reporting standards outlined by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development chief Angel Gurria even though they had blasted him for comments made following the Panama Papers leak.

* Brazil: The lower chamber of the Brazilian Congress began three days of debating today over whether President Dilma Rousseff should be impeached over money laundering allegations.

* U.S.: The crisis hitting newspapers in the U.S. might lead to the end of El Diario/La Prensa, the longest-running Spanish-language daily and in circulation for 102 years.

* Puerto Rico: The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the surviving Puerto Rican soldiers of a U.S. Army regiment known as the “Borinqueneers” who fought both World Wars and the Korean War.

YouTube Source – BBC News (Video uploaded on April 3, 2016).

Online Sources – Deutsche Welle, the Latin Americanist, USA TODAY, Fox News Latino, CNN

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Colombian High Court Continues Push to Expand Gay Rights

Thus far Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay were the only three Latin American states to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. Colombia could soon be added to that list depending on the actions of the country’s Constitutional Court (CC).

According to reports from the Colombian press, CC judge Alberto Rojas Ríos is planning to introduce for debate a project that would recognize same sex marriages. The measure would also reaffirm an April 7th high court decision stating that marriage doesn’t apply exclusively to unions between men and women, and established a path that would allow Congress to legalize same sex marriage.

Rojas’ project argues that the decision last week is constitutional and based on a 2011 CC edict recognizing homosexual couples as a family and ordered the legislature to create rules to ensure the non-discrimination of civil unions for gay and heterosexual couples. Congress failed to do so, however, which led to confusion starting in 2013 among public notaries designating civil unions as marriages or refusing to do so.

One of the main points for debate in the plan by Rojas is interpreting marriage, be it by couples of the same or different sex, as “fundamental right” based on the constitution allowing for the right to create a family. Doing so would not only grant greater leeway for Congress to reform marriage laws but also recognize marriage as beyond the religious framework exclusively as a method to facilitate procreation.

Additionally, the project would contend that the CC must guarantee the basic rights of gay Colombians taking into account twenty-one legislative bills on the subject of same-sex marriage. The document would also support gay marriage based on the continued jurisprudence by the high court in favor of protecting the rights of minority groups.

Daily Headlines: April 14, 2016 (Updated)

* Cuba: Cruse ship giant Carnival has come under fire in the Cuban-American community after it emerged that the firm complied with a law in Cuba barring those who were born on the island to return there by sea.

Update: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry entered the fray and criticized the "discriminatory policy" by the Cuban government.
* Argentina: A tribunal gave the green light for Argentina to move ahead with its first international bond sale in more than a decade as the country hopes to end to a legal battle over repaying debt from its $100 million default in 2001.

* Puerto Rico: Delays have hit a proposal in the U.S. Congress that could alleviate the Puerto Rican debt crisis and prevent an economic catastrophe on the commonwealth but that some legislators criticize as a bailout.

* Mexico: Is President Enrique Peña Nieto “putting his head in the sand”, as one critic claimed, by skipping a special U.N. General Assembly session on drug policy next week?

YouTube Source – Miami Herald (“A small group of protesters including Ramón Saúl Sánchez, president of the Democracy Movement, demonstrate outside the Carnival Corp. in protest of the ban by the Cuban government of Cubans and Cuban-Americans traveling to Cuba by sea.”)

Online Sources including Update – USA TODAY, ABC News, Reuters, Vice News, Fox News Latino

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Brazil’s Rousseff Assails “Treacherous” Vice President

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” says an old adage. In the case of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, however, former allies have turned into adversaries that are a little to close to her as she faces an impeachment process that could see her deposed from the country’s top political office.

“We are living in strange and worrying times, times of a coup and pretending and treachery…(On Monday) they used the pretense of a leak to give the order for the conspiracy,” declared Rousseff in reference to legislative leader Eduardo Cunha but also Vice President Michel Temer. She accused both men of organizing a coup to “destabilize a legitimately elected president.”

Rousseff did not directly name Temer, but her comments came following a recording purportedly leaked accidently where the person who would succeed her should she get ousted. On the tape he gives what would be his welcoming speech to Brazilians if he were to become president. Though he claimed that the message was only to be heard by advisors and doesn’t wish to “generate false expectations,” Rousseff was certainly not to pleased with the development.

“Like many Brazilians, it came to my knowledge and I confess I was shocked with the shamelessness of the farce of the ‘leak’…trying to disguise the announcement of a premature inauguration, underestimating the intelligence of Brazilians,” an irate Rousseff mentioned.

Both Temer and Cunha belong to the PMDB political party that recently dropped out of the ruling coalition led by Rousseff. They have also been implicated in the corruption scandals that have shaken Brazil’s political elite and could sink the Rousseff regime. (In fact, a Supreme Court judge on April 5th ordered impeachment proceedings to start against Temer).

Daily Headlines: April 13, 2016

* Nicaragua: Nicaragua legislators rejected a “citizens bill” based on a petition with some 28,000 signatories seeking to stop a planned interoceanic canal

* Cuba: The Cuban government loosened restrictions on some cooperatives as part of a “cautiously implemented market reform program” but stopped short of granting more flexibility to private restaurants.

* Latin America: The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean believes Latin America’s economy will shrink by 0.6% this year in a report published days after the Inter-American Development Bank revised their outlook to a 0.3% contraction.

* Mexico: Mexico is allegedly preparing a plan to bid for the 2026 soccer World Cup, which could affect the chances of the U.S. hosting the event and might impact the joint invite for the 2030 tournament by Argentina and Uruguay.

YouTube Source – AFP

Online Sources – The Guardian, Reuters, Nearshore Americas, Fox Sports

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Daily Headlines: April 12, 2016

* Venezuela: The Venezuelan Supreme Court overturned a law approved weeks ago by the opposition-controlled legislature that would’ve granted amnesty to political prisoners including anti-government activists.

* Peru: Keiko Fujimori may have won in the first round of Peru’s presidential election but will surely face a very stiff challenge from runoff rival Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and voters wary over the controversial legacy of imprisoned ex-leader Alberto Fujimori.

* Honduras: “We demand the investigation and trial of those responsible for the deaths of those journalists,” said a protester at a demonstration in Tegucigalpa to call attention to the twenty-two members of the press killed since 2014.

* Brazil: The impeachment process against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff continues after a Congressional committee recommended the process head to a vote by the lower chamber.

YouTube Source – France 24 English (Last month “Venezuela's opposition-led legislature approved an amnesty bill for political prisoners, setting up an epic political clash with embattled President Nicolas Maduro, who opposes the move.)

Online Sources – NBC News, Fusion, The Latin Americanist, Fox News Latino, BBC News

Monday, April 11, 2016

Daily Headlines: April 11, 2016

* Panama: As part of Panama’s campaign to save face in light of the “Panama Papers” leak, President Juan Carlos Varela in a New York Times op/ed piece tried to shift attention towards tax evasion as a “global problem.”

* Latin America: The Inter-American Development Bank anticipates a 0.3% contraction of the Latin American regional economy in 2016 and weak growth in the next few years.

* Argentina: Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner might be charged in relation to an investigation into alleged money laundering.

* Puerto Rico: Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla ordered emergency financial measures aimed at preventing a default on a debt payment scheduled for May 1st.

YouTube Source – AFP (Over the weekend “police raided the El Salvador offices of the Panama-based law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers scandal that has revealed how the wealthy in many countries stashed their riches offshore”.)

Online Sources – Reuters, MercoPress, The Economic Times, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Peru: Unofficial Results Show Keiko Forced Into Presidential Runoff (Updated)

Unofficial quick counts of the votes in Sunday’s Peruvian presidential election shows gave Keiko Fujimori the advantage but not enough to prevent a runoff on June 5th.

According to Ipsos, the daughter of imprisoned former president Alberto Fujimori received 39.1% of the vote with 71.1% of the vote tabulated. Keiko got 38.5% backing with 77% of ballots counted based on an analysis from GfK. As a result, she would gain a plurality but not the majority required to be rewarded with an outright win.

Earlier in the evening, exit polls from both Ipsos and GfK showed economist and ex-Prime Minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in a statistical dead heat for second place with legislator Verónika Mendoza. Yet the quick count results have given Kuczynski a thin but widening margin of roughly 3% over Mendoza.

Update (April 11th): A Keiko-Kuczynski runoff will surely be held in about two months following an official count of nearly 83% of votes.
Polls in the weeks prior to today’s election have demonstrated rising support for Mendoza, the 35-year-old leftist candidate of the Frente Amplio who has pledged to “tighten environmental supervision of mining companies and…proposed ditching Peru's constitution for one that enshrines access to water as a right, protects the environment and weakens a ‘corrupt’ business elite.” Yet a CPI study conducted from March 25-27 demonstrated that the former energy and economics minister commonly known as PPK would be the only hopeful able to beat Keiko in a one-on-one electoral matchup.