Top Latin America Stories, April 6, 2015
THE SUMMIT IN PANAMA, April 10-11
The 7th Summit of the Americas takes place April 10-11 in Panama (see agenda; Twitter; Facebook) with the theme, 'Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas,' and for the first time will include Cuba. Other parallel meetings will take place including the Hemispheric Forum on Civil Society and Social Actors.
The Woodrow Wilson Center hosts a conference call briefing on the Summit this morning (Monday) at 10am (EST).
On Friday, Brookings (audio, 1hr) hosted Assistant Sec of State Roberta Jacobson and Richard Feinberg for a discussion on the Summit. Jacobsen outlined four U.S. priorities: Democracy and Human Rights; Global Competitiveness; Social Development; Energy and Climate Change. She also tried to explain the Venezuela fracas that had been “blown way out of proportion.” The discussion included a review of Better Than You Think: Reframing Inter-American Relations (19pp), a Brookings report released in March.
WOLA says they will be on-hand in Panama and reviews their take on the major issues including: Venezuela’s polarized politics; the billion-dollar U.S. aid proposal for Central America, and the current state of the drug policy reform debate in the Americas.
The first non-analysis news seems to be Rosa María Payá, daughter of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, who was briefly detained on Sunday at Panama’s airport and "threatened with deportation to Cuba if she caused any public disturbances", according to her tweet, and repeated in the Miami Herald (4/5). She received a personal apology from the Panamanian government.
"The big elephant in the room is not going to be the long awaited reunion of Cuba ... but rather President Obama’s latest act of aggression against Venezuela," according to Telesur (4/2). Separately, Fidel appeared with Venezuelan tourists (after a year of not being seen i npublic), according to Juventud Rebelde (4/3) - an event which merits a dedicated story in the NYT (4/4).
The Miami Herald started a series on the Summit yesterday including generally positive predictions on the Summit from Ted Piccone (Brookings) and Richard Feinberg (University of California, San Diego) and more skeptical takes from Susan Kaufman Purcell (University of Miami), Eric Farnsworth (Council of the Americas) and Jason Marczak (Atlantic Council). "Obama’s prospects of emerging a big winner look bleak," writes Andres Oppenheimer in his column in the Miami Herald (4/4). "While U.S. media attention will be focused on the Obama-Castro embrace, much of Latin America’s attention will be focused on the U.S. sanctions against Venezuelan officials." Today's Miami Herald starts off counter-intuitively: "the Summit of the Americas was supposed to mark the United State’s return to the fold."
Right/Left Responses: Cuba's Prensa Latina sounded like an historic anachronism: "the Cuban President made it clear his country will not ever return to the OAS, considered by Havana as a ministry of colonies under the orders of the United States." Obama is only rehabilitating the Castro brothers, writes Mary O'Grady in her column this morning in the Wall St Journal (4/6)."Repression is on the march in the Americas, and U.S. ambivalence is part of the problem."
At the 2012 summit, exiting OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza's "most rebellious act" was to publish “Scenarios for the Drug Problem in the Americas: 2013-2025,” in which the OAS openly suggested countries to try “alternative legal and regulatory regimes, starting with cannabis," according to a COHA editorial (4/2) written by Gonzalo Escribano (Iberoamericana University, Mexico).
The NGO Mexican Commission for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH) is pressuring the authorities into officially recognizing Mexico’s displaced as victims of the violence, "in order to help them get access to government support as they struggle to rebuild their lives," according to a profile of their work in The Guardian (). CMDPDR recently counted 281,418 people have been internally displaced in Mexico since 2011. This total includes 141 “mass displacements” of 10 families or more. Separately, their executive director, José Antonio Guevara, has been a critic of the government's response to the U.N Rapporteur on Torture, according to La Jornada (4/3).
The arrival of Mexican soldiers failed to reduce the number of homicides and in some cases "the murder rate soared in the year after soldiers were put on the streets," according to 'Did the Military Interventions in the Mexican Drug War Increase Violence?,' a study in The American Statistician, reported by the New York Times (4/4). The study is limited to short-term results, according to the journal's press release. Separately, a new book, 'A Narco History: How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the Mexican Drug War' (O/R Books, 2015), suggests that the War on Drugs began with prohibitive drug policies enacted by the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, according to a review in InSight Crime (4/6). The authors "argue the creation of Mexican drug cartels and the violence they have spawned is inextricably linked to proscriptive drug policies developed by the US and later adopted by Mexico."
As of March 1, Uruguay marijuana growers can no longer register their "existing plantations" with the Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA), according to El Observador (4/6). The newspaper says that this went unnoticed because it coincided with the presidential inauguration.
U.S. Army criminal investigators plan to probe allegations with officials in Colombia that American soldiers and contractors sexually assaulted civilians there, according to USA Today (4/3). A report in March said that "US soldiers and military contractors sexually abused at least 54 children in Colombia between 2003 and 2007," and reported that "the suspects have allegedly not been prosecuted due to immunity clauses in bilateral agreements," according to Colombia Reports.
Police in Rio de Janeiro killed a 10-year-old boy last week, "apparently because they thought the cellphone he was taking out of his pocket was a gun," according to The Guardian (4/5). And Sao Paulo's morgues are a morass of confusion, making it even harder for families the missing persons to navigate, according to the LA Times (4/5). "There is no way to cross-reference information held by different entities, including the six city morgues, the coroner's office, the police department and other organizations." Still, Otavio Frias Filho, an editor at Folha do Sao Paulo writes, "however brutal the denouement of Ms Rousseff’s tenure, it is unlikely to do lasting damage to the institutional stage on which it unfolds," in an op-ed in the Financial Times (4/5)
Mexico’s sex-slave trade is viewed through the state of Tlaxcala where trafficking is detected in 35 of its 60 municipalities, according to NGO Fray Julián Garcés Center, and reported on in The Guardian (4/5). Separately, Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has secured a meeting with the Chamber of Deputies' Human Rights Committee, "in order to address 15 topics of high priority, given the deterioration of respect for individual rights in the country," according to La Jornada - version in English (4/6).
Mexico's 'mirreyes' are "a generation of spoiled, entitled children of the ruling elite is running wild," and are the countries' future leaders. as profiled in the Canadian magazine, Macleans (4/3). "'Mirreyes' have started mimicking the children of narcotics traffickers. [They] don’t have anything to do with narcos ... seem like they’re competing with them to see who has more."
Acapulco is one of the early tests of a special federal police force created by President Peña Nieto to be deployed to crisis spots, according to the Washington Post (3/4). Domestic tourism has replaced international tourists on Acapulco beaches which now have "assault-rifle-toting Mexican marines on foot patrols." Acapulco's 'Comandante Operativo' of Acapulco's Municipal Police was assassinated, according to Excelsior and Milenio (3/4). Proceso suggests that the policeman had connections with drug lords.
Mexico's crackdown on Central American immigration through its 'Southern Border Plan' shows stepped-up enforcement: in the first two months of 2015, Mexico deported 95% more than in the corresponding months of 2014," according to a review of government data by WOLA (4/3). 15,000 Hondurans have been deported by Mexico and the U.S., according to Milenio (4/5).
Several stories examine changes inside Cuba. "The biggest change to the island’s economy isn’t the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations," but currency exchange, according to Bloomberg which includes beautiful photographs. The next revolution is in Cuba's real-estate, reports the Wall Street Journal, with a video and a list of 'What You Need To Know About Real Estate' (4/3), "as ordinary citizens are starting to buy and sell their homes." Wildlife is set to be affected by the oncoming changes as Cuba’s "long isolation ... has been a blessing for other living creatures," including the the bee hummingbird, found only in Cuba, according to an op-ed in today's Int'l NYT (4/6). Finally, the British paper The Telegraph (3/28) takes a look at how Fidel's hometown of Biran may change.