Friday, October 14, 2011

The Uruguay-Argentina War That Never Was

In a surprise statement this week, former Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez announced he considered starting a war with neighboring Argentina while in office. Vazquez claims to have weighed the decision in response to a dispute between the two countries over a pulp mill that Uruguay had constructed on the Uruguay River border in 2007, and which Argentina claimed was polluting the waterway. From the BBC:
“The pulp mill row strained ties between Argentina and Uruguay for several years, and there were frequent demonstrations on the bridge linking the two countries. 
Speaking in public on Tuesday, Mr Vasquez [sic] said he had considered going to war over the issue and had even asked then US President George W Bush for support.”
The revelation was met with heavy criticism both domestically and in Argentina, and the current presidents of both countries have agreed to ignore the statement. According to MercoPress, Vazquez’s statement was meant as a blow to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, who is seeking re-election this year. The news agency alleges that Vazquez has close ties to Fernandez’s distant rival, Socialist Perty candidate Hermes Binner, and that the announcement was likely an attempt to portray her as weak.

Vazquez, meanwhile, has announced his resignation from politics in the country in order to avoid damaging his political party, the Frente Amplio. The announcement comes as a major upset for the Frente, as Vazquez was considered the party’s likely candidate in the 2014 elections.

News Briefs

·         The latest issue of the Economist has been published, with two articles on security in the region. The first takes a look at the work of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) over the past four years, with a focus on whether the project’s successes can be duplicated elsewhere in Central America. The second is a critical analysis of the UN peacekeeping forces in Haiti, and on the need for troop withdrawal to be accompanied by meaningful police reform in the country.

·         InSight Crime reports on the capture of a high-ranking Zetas leader in Saltillo, Coahuila. While rumors emerged yesterday that the individual arrested was Zetas kingpin Miguel TreviƱo, alias “Z-40,” these proved to be false.  According to InSight’s Patrick Corcoran, the arrest of Carlos Oliva Castillo is “part of a series of heavy blows to the Zetas.” Oliva was the alleged mastermind of the firebomb attack on a Monterrey casino in late August that killed 52.

·         On the topic of Mexican casinos, the Wall Street Journal reports on a growing casino scandal that is threatening President Felipe Calderon’s conservative PAN party. Just days after the Monterrey fire, a video emerged of the city’s PAN mayor receiving large sums of cash at a local casino, suggesting that that the establishment lacked a legal permit and was paying off officials to operate.

·         The L.A. Times profiles the security push in Mexico as the Pan American Games kick off this month in Guadalajara. According to the paper, the athletes will be guarded by “unmanned drones, infrared-equipped Black Hawk helicopters, hundreds of surveillance cameras and more than 11,000 police officers.”

·         Argentinean authorities claim to have been briefed about the supposed Iran-Zetas plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in the U.S. According to Reuters, this is due to the history of Iran-linked attacks on the country’s large Jewish population.

·         Guatemalan prosecutors have declared ex-president Oscar Mejia a “fugitive from justice” a day after a warrant for his arrest was issued on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. As the AFP notes, Mejia came to power after a military coup in 1983, and presided over one of the most bloody periods of the Guatemalan civil war.

·         AP reports on the second-ever Guatemalan army general to be arrested for alleged human rights abuses committed during the country’s brutal civil war. General Mauricio Rodriguez was detained yesterday, and charged with abuses during his tenure as the head of the country’s military intelligence force from 1982 and 1983. The first arrested general, Hector Mario Lopez Fuentes, is awaiting trial on genocide charges.

·         Bolivia is holding its first-ever national judicial elections this Sunday, in which voters will go to the polls to elect the 28 national judges that serve in the country’s four high courts. The elections were a pillar of the new 2009 constitution, and are seen as an opportunity to reverse a justice system that has historically favored the interests of rich white elites over the indigenous majority. Reuters offers a nice overview of the elections, with an outline of the procedure and its importance to the administration of President Evo Morales.

·         WOLA’s Geoff Thale has an interesting analysis of what the U.S. presidential elections could mean for U.S.-Cuba relations. Unfortunately, neither President Obama nor Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has recognized the changing trends on the island.