Sep 15, 2013

Week in Review by Just the Facts

Friday, September 13, 2013

Week in Review

The following is a round-up of some of the top articles and news highlights from around the region over the past week.

New Just the Facts Report!

We'll be releasing a big new report next Wednesday on U.S. military and police aid trends. For those in the D.C. area, please stop by ourlaunch event that will be held Wednesday morning.

U.S. Policy

Biden's canceled trip to Panama

Vice President Joe Biden has canceled his meeting with Central American Presidents in Panama next week due to the situation in Syria, according to Panamanian Foreign Minister Fernando Nuñez. He will, however, still be visiting Mexico on September 19 and 20 to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto. This is Biden's fifth trip to the region as Vice President.

House of Representatives hearing on democracy in the region

The U.S. House of Representative's Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere held a hearing on Tuesday, "Challenges to Democracy in the Western Hemisphere." Former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe testified at the hearing and railed against countries in the Bolivarian Alliance: Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Argentina. Uribe referred to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's administration as a "dictatorship in disguise" and Cuba as a "failure." Several experts also testified, including Carlos Lauria, the Senior Americas Program Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists and Dr. Cynthia J. Arnson, Director of the Americas Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, among others.

Brazil-U.S. relations

National Security Advisor Susan Rice met with Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo on Wednesday to discuss the revelations of extensive NSA surveillance practices in the country that have rankled relations between the two countries. Rice reportedly conceded that the revelations raised "legitimate questions" for allies such as Brazil, but that the U.S. is “committed to working with Brazil to address these concerns." Adding to the already strained communications were reports that surfaced on Monday that the U.S. had been spying on the country's national oil company, Petrobras.

More from ReutersBloombergMercoPress and Bloggings by Boz, about recent proposals made by President Dilma Rousseff's administration for new policies to improve internet and telecommunication security. The most recent of which is a plan to force private international internet companies like Google and Microsoft that operate in Brazil to keep data centers in the country so that all data would remain in the country.

U.S. origin of drug planes in Central America

Honduras Culture and Politics blog pubished an interesting post about U.S.-made planes used by drug traffickers in Central America. According to analyst Russell Sheptak, "Like the US side of narco-weapons, the US side of drug planes remains largely uninvestigated by law enforcement, and largely unreported on by the US press."

Chile

Wednesday marked the 40th anniversary of the September 11, 1973 military coup in Chile that brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power. There was a lot of great coverage about the day that "democracy came to a violent end in Chile," as WOLA's Adam Isacson called it. Some highlights:

  • WOLA had an excellent podcast featuring co-founder Joe Eldridge, who was in Chile at the time of the coup. According to Eldridge, at the U.S. Embassy after the coup, "inference was we brought this on ourselves because of our sympathy for previous government."
  • The Associated Press featured a gripping first-hand account written by a former regional editor who was in Chile at the time of the coup, while the New York Times published an opinion piece by writer Ariel Dorfman, "9/11: The Day Everything Changed, in Chile"
  • The Economist published an article on how the coup continues to divide Chilean society today, noting, "Although three-fifths of the population was born after the coup, a survey taken by CERC, a pollster, suggested that three-quarters of Chileans believe the wounds opened in 1973 have yet to be healed."
  • The National Security Archives published the top ten declassified documents on the United States policy in Chile.
  • "How the Reagan administration broke with Chile's Pinochet in 1986," examined the often-overlooked political separation that took place between the United States and Chile in the mid-1990s.

Several protests were held to mark the anniversary, many of which resulted in violent clashes with police and ultimately the arrest of more than 260 people. According to the BBC, President Sebastian Piñera called on judges to punish those behind the clashes "with severity."

Colombia

Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzón said Tuesday the government would begin peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country's second largest guerrilla group, "in the coming days." Garzón said the talks would be separate from the current peace process with the FARC as to "not mix pears with apples" and that they would be "held in a different location than Havana, Cuba."

Honduras

  • The most recent polls show that there are two clear front-runners in the Honduran presidential election. Xiomara Castro, wife of ousted leader Manuel Zelaya and presidential candidate for the Libertad and Refundacion party, has a lead with 28%. The candidate of the ruling Partdo Nacional, Juan Orlando Hernandez, currently has 21.7% support. The Economist notes that neither candidate is expected to receive more than one third of the vote and that the Constitution does not hold a run-off clause, raising concerns about the potential for political instability. Christian Science Monitor has a profile of Castro.
  • 980 members of the Honduran army have started training to join the ranks of the country's new military police force, the creation of which was approved by the country's Congress late last month.

Venezuela

  • The Venezuelan government officially exited the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on Tuesday. The country announced its withdrawal from the Organization of American States- affiliated court in September 2012, but as the Pan American Post noted, it takes a year before denouncements go into effect. According to WOLA's Venezuela Politics and Human Rights blog, "Although Venezuela will remain subject to existing rulings, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will still be able to receive complaints from Venezuelan citizens, the IACHR will no longer be able to bring cases regarding Venezuela to the I/A Court H.R., nor will Venezuelan citizens be able to directly address it." Venezuelans can go to the United Nations with complaints as well.

    The move has been criticized by local and international human rights groups, like Amnesty International. President Nicolas Maduro tweeted, "The IACHR became a tool to protect the US geopolitical interests in America and to harass progressive governments." Nelson Camilo Sanchez of the Bogota-based human rights research group Dejusticia published a piece arguing that Venezuela could likely return to the body given regional politics.

  • The New York Times featured an overview of President Nicolas Maduro's ongoing list of conspiracy theories against his administration. As journalist William Neumann wrote, "Accusing unseen conspirators of subjecting the nation to a variety of ills is an art form in Venezuela."

    The latest of these schemes, according to the Maduro administration, was a power outage last week that left half the country without electricity that was the result of economic "sabotage." To target conspirators, on Thursday President Maduro announced the creation of a state council, to fight economic "sabotage." The new body will monitor private companies that produce food and basic consumption goods. As Reuters noted, Maduro claims opposition leaders are trying to limit food production, among other plots, to destabilize the country. President Maduro has also created a special hotline to call for anyone who witnesses any irregularities to file reports: 0-800- Sabotaje, or “Sabotage.”

Brazil

An article by Brazilian human rights organization Observatório de Favelas, translated by English-language blog Rio On Watch, reported that police in Rio de Janeiro have killed 10,000 people in the past ten years, between 2001 and 2011. The piece called for discussion about the militarization of police in the country as well as police and judicial reform.

By Sarah Kinosian at 09/13/2013 - 16:15

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