Thursday, September 22, 2011

Brazil President Opens UN General Assembly

President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil gave the opening speech yesterday at the United Nations General Assembly, the first woman ever to do so. As expected, she argued that global financial institutions should be reformed in order to give “emerging” nations greater influence, outside the circle of G-7 countries.

To mark the occasion, McClatchy has some analysis on how the “technocrat” Rousseff has a markedly different leadership style from her “larger than life” predecessor Lula. The two are intent on expanding Brazil’s role in global politics, including the longtime goal of achieving a permanent seat for Brazil on the UN Security Council. In Lula’s case, at times this meant rubbing shoulders with governments hostile to U.S. policy, as occurred last year when he brokered a nuclear fuel swap deal between Iran and Turkey. So far into her term Rousseff has focused mainly on the domestic agenda, grappling with an ongoing corruption scandal which forced her chief of staff to resign. Still, she has already demonstrated that Brazil is prepared to continue pursuing a foreign policy agenda that may chafe against U.S. interests. Brazil has already stated that during UN discussions they will continue pushing for international recognition of Palestinian statehood, probably the most controversial issue facing this session of the UN.

Those interested can watch the UN General Assembly speeches stream live at Foreign Policy.

News Briefs

  • The LA Times reports on how the fallout from casino massacre in Monterrey is turning into a political battle. Mayor Fernando Larrazabal of the PAN party has been under attack ever since a video surfaced in the days following the attack, showing his brother accepting money in another casino. Since then, the PAN has been divided between those arguing for Larrazabal to step down and those insisting that there is no hard evidence of wrongdoing. The PRI, meanwhile, are focusing on the scandal as a means to distract attention from the corruption allegations facing their own party.
  • The Associated Press reports that a judge has rescheduled the hearing of a retired general arrested last June in Guatemala, accused of planning some 300 massacres during the country’s civil war. Hector Maria Lopez Fuentes served as Guatemala’s military chief of staff, the third highest ranking military official in the country, during the regime of de facto president Efrain Rios Montt, in office between 1982 to 1983. He is the first military official in Guatemala expected to stand trial for genocide. A judge in Guatemala City ruled Wednesday that Lopez, age 81, is too ill to attend the hearing, and rescheduled for October 3. As Central American Politics points out, this may well be a legitimate reason but “it is in no way going to reduce concerns that the court is simply acting to protect one of the men most responsible for designing and executing the government’s early 1980s scorched earth program.”
  • The Miami Herald published a declassified letter from the U.S. State Department revealing, for the first time ever, the identities of seven alleged Cuban spies expelled from the U.S. in 2003. A total of 14 Cubans were expelled from the U.S. that year on charges of espionage. It was among the strongest actions taken by the U.S. against alleged Cuban spies since the arrest and conviction of Ana Montes, a former analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, in 2001.
  • The Havana Note, via the Christian Science Monitor, asks whether Cuban energy officials are prepared to deal with another possible oil spill disaster, three months before the U.S. is set to begin deep water drilling in Cuban waters. Five exploratory wells are set to begin drilling in areas that could prove particularly damaging if there is another BP-like disaster. The first well to become active this December is located right where the Gulf Stream leaves the Gulf of Mexico towards the Atlantic Coast, meaning an oil spill here would not just affect Cuba, but far up along the eastern coast of the U.S.
  • The two detainees charged with “terrorism” in Mexico for sending out a series of alarmist tweets have been released, reports the LA Times. The two social media users were previously facing up to 30 years in prison, after they reportedly sent out a series of tweets alleging that gunmen were shooting up a primary school, causing panic in Veracruz. The Americas Society, writing before the two people were released, provides some background on social media use in Mexico and describes the new penal code modification which gives law enforcement the power to punish social media users who “provoke chaos or insecurity.”
  • UPI reports on Peru’s efforts to update their naval and air technology, part of the national strategy to step up the fight against drug-trafficking guerrilla group the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path).The air force in particular has been lobbying for the purchase of new, better equipment since the Shining Path shot down an army helicopter on September 14, killing two military officials.
  • At Global Post, John Otis has a report on violence related to Colombia’s upcoming municipal elections in October. More than two dozen candidates have been killed so far.
  • BBC Mundo examines the challenges of instituting stricter gun control laws in Venezuela, the mandate of a presidential gun control commission created last May. There are between 10 million to 14 million weapons in Venezuela, many of them circulating in the black market, says the BBC.
  • Colombian police have seized 301 properties with an estimated value of $250 million, thought to belong to Mexican drug capo Joaquin Guzman, alias “El Chapo.” It is not the first time that Colombian authorities have said they’ve detected links to the Sinaloa Cartel inside the country. In August, police arrested a woman accused of laundering money on behalf of the Mexican criminal organization.
  • In an interview with CNN en EspaƱol, Bolivian President Evo Morales asks for “some international organism” to “certify or decertify the U.S. on the issue of drug trafficking.” It is the latest of several pointed statements uttered by Morales, since the U.S. again declared that Bolivia had “failed demonstrably” to meet international counterdrug obligations.
  • The Telegraph has a brief note on how at least six Colombian informants died after British law enforcement agencies failed to sufficiently protect them from the drug cartels they were double-crossing. Between 2000 and 2004, an anti-drug operation based at the British Embassy tried to cultivate informants inside Colombian drug cartels, presumably the Norte del Valle Cartel, the most powerful organization at the time. The informants were pumped for information then insufficiently protected by their handlers, the Telegraph alleges. Another former head of the Norte del Valle Cartel is set to plea guilty to drug trafficking charges in the coming weeks.