Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Peru's Humala to Meet With Top U.S. Officials

 Peruvian President-elect Ollanta Humala arrived in Washignton, DC late last night for his first high level meetings with U.S. officials since last month’s elections.  According to various media sources, Humala is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and will also meet with OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza.

Although Americas Quarterly claims there is a good chance that he will also meet with President Barack Obama “depending on his schedule,” WOLA’s Coletta Youngers told Peru’s El Comercio that he’ll likely meet with National Security advisor Tom Donilon instead.

At a press conference yesterday, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said officials will “welcome [Humala] gladly and we hope to continue strengthening our ties with Peru,” but would not confirm whether the president-elect will meet with President Barack Obama.

Humala’s U.S. trip is an interesting development for the leftist leader, and illustrates just how much Washington has shifted its view of him since 2006, when his U.S. visa was revoked over concerns that he was too close with Hugo Chavez and that he may have participated in his brother’s failed coup against then President Alejandro Toledo.

Perhaps predictably, the meeting between Secretary Clinton and Humala is likely to focus on economic relations and drug trafficking. Although he has stated his support for continuing Peru’s  free trade agreement with the U.S.,  the Peruvian leader is sure to find himself confronted with questions about his stated interest in raising royalties on foreign mining industries.

As Bloomberg notes, competition for Peru’s natural resources is heating up, and while the U.S. accounted for 16 percent of Peru’s exports and 19 percent of its imports in 2010, China overtook the U.S. as the biggest importer of Peruvian goods in the first five months of 2011. The UNODC’s 2011 World Drug Report, which characterized Peru as being on the verge of eclipsing Colombia as the world’s largest illicit coca producer, is another likely item of concern for U.S. authorities.

More on today’s meetings, and their significance to U.S.-Peru relations, in tomorrow’s brief.

News Briefs

·         Foreign Policy highlights a May 2011 study published by Mexico’s Citizens' Institute for the Study of Insecurity (ICESI) on the kidnapping epidemic in the country. According to the magazine, the country’s kidnapping rate is three times higher than Colombia's at its worst, making it the second-highest of any country in the world after Venezuela. Although President Calderon passed an anti-kidnapping law on June 30th which focuses on capacity-building and training investigators to better handle kidnapping cases, whether the government can fully implement the law in the country’s hardest hit regions remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Narco News reports on growing frustration within the country’s active anti-drug war movement with the administration’s treatment of the disappeared.

·         InSight reports on an investigation by Mexican daily La Reforma which claims that there have been 6,641 crime-related deaths in the first six months of the year, which is 16 percent higher than the same period the previous year. If this data is correct, the death toll in the country to around 40,000.

·         The L.A. Times recently published a profile of Mexico’s first female attorney general, Marisela Morales.  Although Morales has received high marks from U.S. officials on her desire to tackle the entrenched level of organized crime in the country, the paper says she is still struggling with an “enormous bureaucracy” in the judicial system.

·         El Universal says Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico City’s PRD mayor, has placed the blame for his party’s losses at the polls this weekend on the failure to allying itself with the PAN.  Ebrard voiced his support for a proposal by Jesus Zambrano, the current leader of the PRD, to form a coalition government in 2012 in order to beat the PRI to the presidency.

·         Venezuela celebrated Independence Day yesterday with a massive military parade, showcasing a whole host of new military equipment which was mainly procured from Russia and China. A video of the new technology is available on Venezuelan state TV. Despite the display of unity, AP says Chavez’s absence revealed cracks in the armed forces between those who support Chavez's goal for socialist transformation and those who do not. With the president’s prognosis uncertain, these divisions are likely to become more and more pronounced.

·         The Miami Herald is the latest to speculate on what exactly Chavez’s health could mean for his Vice President, Elías Jaua. Although several analysts have said Jaua lacks the charisma and power to be an effective successor, he does seem to have the support of the young and more hardline members of the PSUV.

·         Venezuela’s El Universal reports that the National Guard has prevented Amnesty International’s Rosalia Materano and two pastors of the Latin American Organization for Human Rights from delivering fresh water to inmates at the El Rodeo II prison. The human rights defenders also sought to recover the body of Esteban Solórzano, a prisoner who has been dead for several days. According to officials, the three were denied due to safety concerns.

·         The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas reports that Brazilian blogger Antuérpio Pettersen Filho has recieved death threats after accusing a police official in Espírito Santo state of being part of militia.

·         On Thursday of this week, the US Congressional Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence will hold a hearing entitled “Hezbollah in Latin America – Implications for U.S. Homeland Security.” Bloggings By Boz points out that while there can be no question the group operates in the hemisphere, the threat is likely to be sensationalized and over exaggerated.

·         In a July 4th interview with El Tiempo, the commander of the Colombian armed forces denied that the security situation in the country is worsening, despite the fact that 74% of Colombians feel this is the case. The paper claims that there were 144 “terrorist attacks,” while there have been 142 so far this year.

·         The Guardian’s Poverty Matters Blog points out on an apparent contradiction between Evo Morales’ proclaimed support for environmentalist causes and his desire todevelop in the Isiboro Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS).

·         Guatemalan police have arrested Luis Marroquin of the Renewed Democratic Freedom party (LIDER), who was running for mayor in San Jose Pinula, a town outside Guatemala City. According to La Prensa Libre, Marroquin ordered the murder of two rival candidates, and then faked an attack on himself in order to appear innocent. Central American Politics has more on the incident, which illustrates the level of corruption in Guatemalan politics.

·         El Faro reports that the Supreme Court has now officially disbanded the two longest running parties in El Salvador, the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) and the National Conciliation Party (PCN).

·         AP says that the U.N.'s Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang, has called for the creation of a truth commission in Haiti in order to bring to light abuses committed under the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier. Although more than 20 lawsuits have been filed against Duvalier since his January return to Haiti, progress is slow due to the weak nature of Haiti’s justice system.