Thursday, June 30, 2011

Guatemalan Electoral Court Rejects Torres's Presidential Campaign

An electoral court in Guatemala yesterday refused to recognize ex-first lady Sandra Torres’s bid for presidency in the country, citing a constitutional ban on family members of the president taking power. According to Guatemala’s Prensa Libre, the court has ruled that Torres divorced her husband in order to evade the constitutional prohibition, which disqualifies her as a candidate.

 The leadership of Torres’s National Union of Hope (UNE) held a press conference last night in which they claimed the party will appeal the ruling. According to UNE leader César Fajardo, the court’s decision was based primarily on media accounts, and amounted to speculation rather than a pure analysis of the legal facts of the case.

ElPeriodico reports that Guatemalan law requires an appeal to the electoral court to be resolved within 72 hours. If the ruling stands, then Torres and her party will be forced to appeal to the country’s Supreme Court. Even if Torres wins an appeal, however, her chances at winning the September elections are pretty slim.  As I noted in yesterday’s post, Torres is trailing her Partido Patriota rival Otto Perez in the polls by more than 30 points (41.2% to 15.1%). 

News Briefs

·         A study published in the July issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases (the journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has found evidence which “strongly suggests” that Haiti’s cholera epidemic was transmitted by Nepalese members of the UN peacekeeping force. As the AP notes, the report’s release coincides with a major spike in the number of cholera cases in the country.
·         The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit, which was slated to occur on July 5 in Venezuela, was canceled yesterday due to Chavez’s poor health.  As Reuters reports, the summit will be postponed until later in the year. According to El Universal, the postponement comes as a major blow to Chavez. The paper claims that this demonstrates the “excessively centralized” nature of the international organization. While it’s true that the leader was a major driving force behind the organization, several other countries in the region expressed significant support for it, in the hopes that it could counter the regional hegemony influence of the United States.

·         As Mexico State prepares for its gubernatorial elections this Sunday, El Universal has the PRI’s Eruviel Avila way ahead of the other candidates, with polls predicting that he’ll win nearly 60% of the vote. Meanwhile, el Excelsior reports that the country’s Federal Electoral Institute is downplaying the pervasiveness of “narcocampaigns.”

·         New details have emerged about the June 24th kidnapping of several Central American migrants in Veracruz.  The priest who initially brought the case to the attention of officials says the group included 46 Salvadorans, 40 Hondurans, 39 Guatemalans, six Nicaraguans and several natives of Chiapas, Mexico, according to La Tribuna. The Mexican government, however, has found no evidence to support this claim. According El Milenio, the interior department's deputy secretary, Rene Zenteno, witntesses could only confirm that said two women, two men and a child were kidnapped.

·         ATF director Kenneth Melson has said he will testify before Congress about his role in the controversial Fast and Furious gun sting which allowed guns to cross the border into Mexico. Apparently the testimony was reached as part of a deal between Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and the committee’s top Republican, Iowa's Charles Grassley. In exchange for the testimony, the Republicans will stop blocking three Obama administration nominees. The Daily Beast has more on this maneuver.

·         Responding to Florida Republican congressman Connie Mack’s oft-made claims that Venezuela should be added to the list of state sponsors of terror, this Tuesday the Venezuelan National Assembly voted to send an official statement of rejection to the lawmaker. According to El Universal, the opposition did not vote on the measures, saying the bill was “incomplete.”

·         AP says that Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli has announced that Noriega’s old mansion will be bulldozed and replaced with a memorial park for those who suffered under his dictatorship. Meanwhile, France is set to announce whether it will extradite the former ruler back to Panama by the end of June.

·         Honduran President Porfirio Lobo has announced that he is willing to consult various social and political leaders (including members of the political opposition, apparently) next month over whether the country should hold a constitutional assembly to rewrite the constitution, and to identify what specific changes need to be made. According to El Heraldo, Lobo has scheduled a national dialogue on constitutional reform for Saturday, July 9th.

·         José Graziano da Silva used his first press conference since being elected head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to warn against “demonizing” biofuels. According to him, the use of biofuels does not necessarily have to compete with production for food. As FT points out, this is a reversal of the FAO’s traditional position on biofuels, which it frequently blames them for contributing to the rising cost of food worldwide.

·         Peruvian President Alan Garcia has inaugurated the giant Rio-style statue of “Christ the Redeemer” outside of Lima yesterday, despite objections by Lima Mayor Susana Villaran. According to La Republica, the statue is 22 meters tall and is illuminated at night by 26 multicolored lights. Although Garcia has referred to the statue a parting gift to the capital city, it was mostly paid for by OdebrechtWall Street Journal pointed out recently.

·         Peruvian President-elect Ollanta Humala met with Colombian head of state Juan Manuel Santos yesterday in Bogota, at as part of a series of meetings with his South American counterparts. According to La Republica, drug trafficking was at the top of their agenda.

·         Filling in for Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner at yesterday’s Mercosur summit, the country’s chief diplomat accused the UK of maintaining an "anachronistic colonial situation" in the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. As the BBC notes, Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman was responsing to recent remarks made by the British Defense Minister Liam Fox about his country’s willing to use force to defend their claim to the islands.