Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chavez Seeks Cancer Treatment in Cuba, Again

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez has returned to Cuba for a second round of chemotherapy.  In a special session on Saturday, the National Assembly unanimously voted to allow the president to take a temporary leave of absence from the country, despite calls by some sectors of the opposition that Vice President Elias Haua temporarily take office in his stead.  According to El Universal, the opposition supported the measure only on the condition that Chavez did not govern from the island. As Jon Lee Anderson pointed out in The New Yorker’s News Desk yesterday, this is not entirely a baseless concern, as the Venezuelan leader has spoken on more than one occasion about the eventual merger of the two countries into one “Venecuba.”

Still, the president has transferred some of his duties to Jaua and Finance Minister Jorge Giordani in his absence, which is the first time in Chavez has ever done so.  In an announcement yesterday, Jaua sought to downplay this delegation of power, saying that he had only been granted “a set of administrative authorizations that are mostly ministerial responsibilities.” The AP reports that this remark was accompanied by similar claims from Giordani, who said there is no doubt that Chavez will run in the 2012 elections.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Chavez’s main opposition in the upcoming elections, Henrique Capriles Radonski, is facing charges that he abused his position as Governor of Miranda state to award contracts to companies owned by his relatives.  On Friday the Supreme Court ordered the attorney general's office to investigate the allegations, which were first made by a pro-government politician two years ago.

Ironically, Venezuelan press reported yesterday that a new investigation into the death of Chavez’s idol, Latin American independence leader Simon Bolivar, reveals he may have died as a result of a colon infection, and not tuberculosis as originally believed.  Although Chavez has still not released details of his cancer diagnosis, it is thought that he suffers from colon cancer
, which caused the infection that led to his first operation.

News Briefs
·         The Global Post takes a look at the progress that Chavez’s administration has made on reducing poverty and inequality in Venezuela.  Over the past 12 years, Chavez has cut unemployment and poverty in half, and reduced the rate of extreme poverty to two-thirds.  Meanwhile, investment in community health clinics and social services has significantly lowered the infant mortality rate.  Still, the article notes that insecurity and rising inflation threaten to offset these gains.

·         Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, after facing snowballing opposition from student protestors and the national miners’ union in recent weeks, has announced eight changes to his cabinet, including at the economy, energy and justice ministries, FT reports. Mercopress says that one of the most notable changes is the appointment of the popular Justice Minister Felipe Bulnes to the embattled Education Ministry.  According to the news agency, Bulnes is under heavy pressure to  resolve grievances by students concerning equal access to education in Chile.

·         The BBC reports that the Colombian armed forces have raided a “FARC rebel arms factory” in Cauca province, capturing mines, 300 mortars and more than a ton of explosives materials were also recovered, he said.

·         University of Hawaii professor Suzanna Reiss profiles Bolivia’s international campaign to normalize traditional use of coca leaf for NACLA. The country withdrew from the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics late last month, after attempts to alter the treaty were opposed by the United States and 16 other countries, who said that any amendment would threaten the “integrity of the convention.”

·         The Miami Herald reports on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s re-election campaign, which makes use of significant amounts of religious imagery. As a result, the Nicaraguan church has pressed for more separation of church and state in the country.  The auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Báez, called the Ortega government’s slogan -- “Nicaragua: Christian, Socialist and in Solidarity” -- “a bit abusive.” 

·         Nicaraguan Admiral Róger González, leader of the country’s navy, has told El Nuevo Diario that drug trafficking organizations are actively seeking to permeate the armed forces.

·         On the seventeenth anniversary of the1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires yesterday, survivors and relatives of the victims expressed criticism of both Iran and Argentina for failing to solve the case.  The Guardian and AFP report that on Monday, Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman praised Iran for preparing an investigation into the attack as "an unprecedented and very positive step."

·         Honduran President Porfirio Lobo has claimed that he has received death threats from business elites in the country, according to El Heraldo.  Although he has not provided specifics, apparently the threats came in response to his proposed  plan to raise taxes in order to fund increased security measures. The AP reports that In June, the Honduran congress approved a five percent tax on bank accounts containing more than $5,000, as well as a series of tax hikes on cellphone sales, mining exports and casinos. Over the next five years, the taxes are expected to raise $400 million, which will be used to provide further resources to fight organized crime in the county.

·         Mexico’s El Universal claims that some 7.5 million Mexicans between the ages of 12 and 29 neither study nor work, only 5 states have programs for these “ni-nis.” Chiapas and Michoacan, where youth unemployment is higher than 25 percent, are not among them.

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