In the latest in a series of changes to Peruvian President Ollanta Humala’s cabinet, his second vice president, Congressman Omar Chehade, resigned yesterday. Chehade stepped down from his largely ceremonial position as a backup to the first vice president in the wake of a corruption scandal. He allegedly asked a police commander to evict protesting workers outside of a food processing plant without a court order as a favor to his brother, who has ties with a company that wants to take it over.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, these accusations were a major annoyance to Humala, who campaigned on a platform of reducing corruption. The president, who does not have the authority to dismiss either of his vice presidents, first called on Chehade to resign in a public announcement in November. Since then, he has clung to office, insisting upon his innocence.
La Republica reports that Chehade, who is a congressman with Humala’s Gana Peru party, will return to his seat after a temporary ban on holding public office ends in late May.
As mentioned in the December 12th post, Humala reshuffled his cabinet late last year, replacing his prime minister with ex-army officer Oscar Valdes. This, paired with Humala’s decision to declare a state of emergency in Cajamarcas in response to anti-mining protests there, sparked fears that his government was becoming more “militarized.”
However, it seems that the move has been popular amongst the general population. Reuters cites a new Ipsos Apoyo poll, Humala’s approval rating has shot up seven points since the shakeup. According to the news agency, the pollster also claims that the “decision to declare a state of emergency in Cajamarca for several days, giving the police and army special powers to quash an environmental protest against the project was broadly backed by Peruvians.”
· After Colombia’s El Tiempo and Semana leaked emails found on the “Raul Reyes” seized computer which detail connections between current FARC leader “Timochenko” and Venezuela’s newly-appointed military chief Henry Rangel Silva, Hugo Chavez has spoken in defense of his choice. According to him, the allegations are nothing more than a smear campaign, intended to undermine the "independence, stability, development and greatness of the republic." As reported in the January 10th Post, Rangel was s added to the Treasury’s list of international drug dealers, known as the “kingpin list,” in 2008.
· The Associated Press has an analysis of the recent decision by the United States to pull its Peace Corps volunteers from Honduras. Apparently the decision was made after a female volunteer was shot in the leg on December 3rd during an armed robbery on board a bus in San Pedro Sula. The AP says the withdrawal of the volunteers amounts to “the latest blow to a nation still battered by a coup and recently labeled the world's most deadly country.”
· The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas reports that Ecuador’s national assembly has approved changes to its laws which would limit reporting on election campaigns, at the request of President Rafael Correa. According to El Diario, the changes will prohibit news media from broadcasting favorable or harmful messages about candidates.
· The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, who is a well-known gay rights activist in the country, has said that lawmakers will consider legalizing same sex civil unions this year. In an interview with Cubadebate, Mariela Castro said that the proposal to change the “Family Code” is on the legislative agenda for the year. She also claims that the state has paid for fifteen sexual reassignment surgeries.
· The BBC reports on the Mexican government’s response to a food crisis among the indigenous Tarahumara. The group, which has historically farmed in the north of Chihuahua state, has witnessed an extended drought followed by freezing temperatures, causing a massive famine.
· The Mexican Navy has seized 195 tons of precursor chemicals in the western port of Lazaro Cardenas. According to El Universal, the chemicals were intended to be make methamphetamine and process cocaine.
· Reuters explores the attitudes of Nicaraguans in response to the foreign policy of President Daniel Ortega. Despite the president’s ties to Iran and Venezuela, the people of Nicaragua maintain largely positive views of the U.S.
· The Washington Post takes a look at Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s current luxurious lifestyle in Haiti, one year after returning from exile. Though he is charged with crimes against humanity and is technically inder house arrest, he enjoys significant public support and regularly attends events with a police escort.
· The AP reports on suspicions about the death of poet Pablo Neruda, who died while seeking cancer treatment just 12 days after Augusto Pinochet took power. Neruda’s former driver has come forward and accused the Pinochet regime of having him poisoned in order to rid itself of a powerful critic. The Chilean Communist Party is currently fighting in court to have his body exhumed and tested, and a ruling on the request is expected to come soon.