Top Latin America Stories, March 11, 2015
SHARING (AND LEAKING) INFORMATION SAFELY
Mexico Leaks was released this week as a tool that allows individuals to send information of public interest to media through secure technologies that guarantee the anonymity, according to El Universal, which covered the launch event. Their twitter feed already has over 20k followers. It was set up by Free Press Unlimited and funded by the Dutch government, the European Union and private enterprise, according to Fusion. It is a partnership of eight organizations (update: seven) including Animal Politico, Proceso and Emeequis (3/10).
WOLA joined the ACLU and others in challenging the National Security Agency’s (NSA) use of so-called "upstream data collection techniques", which involve the mass surveillance of global internet communications, according to a press release (3/10). Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales co-authored a related op-ed asking for an end to the NSA's "dragnet surveillance of Internet traffic", in the NY Times (3/10).
The World Bank released Left Behind, Chronic Poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean (44pp) which focuses on "the region’s entrenched poor, who and where they are, and how policies will need to change to more effectively assist them," according to a press release and an accompanying video (3/9). The "Five Facts about Chronic Poverty" includes "1 of 5 Latin Americans lives in chronic poverty" and "Economic growth was not sufficient to lift the chronic poor out of poverty." Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala have rates of chronic poverty significantly higher than the regional average of 21%, ranging from 3% in Nicaragua to 50% in Guatemala. A related NYT editorial blog suggests this report supports the Obama's administration's call for aid to Central America.
Vice President Biden calls for support from Capitol Hill for Central American aid in another op-ed, this time in The Hill (3/11). He outlines the outcomes of his recent visit to the region and the "time frames, benchmarks and a first set of measurable commitments" that have already been made. Separately, CICIG is "indispensable" for columnists in Guatemala's La Hora (3/6) and Prensa Libre (3/8) while Contra Poder magazine tries to explain why Pres. Pérez remains opposed to it.
Brazil's ruling party, the PT, received $US200 million, skimmed from Petrobras contracts over 10 years, says ex-Petrobras executive Pedro Barusco, according to Exame (3/10), the BBC and The Guardian. In return, the companies allegedly received inflated contracts. Barusco gave US$300,00 to Pres. Rousseff's last campaign, says the Folha do S. Paulo.
A Paraguayan senator and sitting President of Congress is proposing the de-criminalization of marihuana "like in Urugauay," according to ABC in Asuncion (3/3). A PanAm Post editorial (3/10) calls this a "PR stunt" as a front against narco-politics in their upcoming municipal elections. Separately, "A Sensible Bill on Medical Marijuana" declares the lead editorial in the NY Times editorial this morning, referring to a congressional bill in the U.S. that would "allow patients to use marijuana for medical purposes in states where it is legal, without fear of federal prosecution for violating narcotics laws." The proposed law would still not repeal the federal ban on marijuana.
Colombia President Santos said in a national address yesterday that he ordered a pause in attacks on FARC camps, as part of the momentum in the peace progress, according to Bloomberg (3/10). Ex Pres Uribe has come out strongly against this case-fire, according to El Espectador (3/11) while ex Pres Pastrana has been appointed to join the new Comision Asesora por la Paz, according to El Espectador (3/10)
A columnist takes Conan O'Brien to task for taking his late-night show to Cuba last week, and suggests he is but a "useful idiot," in the Miami Herald (3/10). She cites another critic who declared it an "80-minute infomercial for the Western hemisphere’s longest running and bloodiest dictatorship." Separately, Havana is associated with espionage, weapons trading, Iran, and al-Quaida, in a column by Frank Calzon (Center for a Free Cuba) in the Miami Herald (3/10).
Brazilian President Rousseff signed a law on feminicide, designating the gender-related killing of a woman or girl and imposes tougher punishments, according to Reuters. A woman is killed every two hours in Brazil and is "a widespread problem across Latin America." Separately, the NY Times offers a social-media recap of unrest directed at Rousseff including calls for her impeachment.
Opposition Venezuelan leader Henrique Capriles suggests that the Maduro administration could suspend upcoming elections (likely in September) since "an opposition victory could facilitate a 'recall referendum' that could force Mr Maduro from office," reports the Financial Times. Last week, five ex-presidents from Latin America sent a letter to Pres. Maduro, encouraging him to dialogue with the opposition. The five former presidents are Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Óscar Arias, Alejandro Toledo, Felipe Calderón and Ernesto Zedillo.
Guatemala's PLANEA initiative that helps young women avoid unwanted pregnancies and finish their education was lauded by the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, according to Inter Press Service and a government press release. The Abriendo Oportunidades program has reached over 6,000 girls and 97% "remained childless. Vice President Baldetti is the country’s first female vice president and she has set up "a Specific Cabinet for Women – the only one of its type in Latin America."