Monday, February 27, 2012

Haiti Loses Prime Minister, in Blow for Post-Quake Reconstruction

Haiti’s prime minister,  Garry Conille, resigned his post, in what appears to be another heavy blow for the country’s efforts to rebuild itself after a devastating earthquake two years ago.

According to the New York Times, Conille “said he knew his job was finished when he called cabinet ministers to a meeting a day earlier: None showed up.”

The Wall Street Journal described his departure as a “paralyzing blow” for the country’s reconstruction. The delay in appointing a prime minister when President Michel Martelly came to power was a major reason behind delays in reconstruction work. His first two choices for the position were struck down by parliament, meaning that there was effectively no government for the first five months of his term.

The Associated Press reports that the resignation could cause foreign donors to lose faith in the current government:
observers fear  [it] will prompt international donors to withhold aid pledges and prevent action on the contracts.
Despite large donations from foreign governments and individuals, aid efforts have been very slow and the subject of much criticism.

Conille’s departure was reportedly the result of clashes between him and President Martelly. According to the BBC, the UN has intervened in power struggles between the two men in recent weeks.

The AP said that there were two people in the running to take over,  Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Lamothe and Ann-Valerie Milfort, interim head of the now-defunct Interim Haiti Recovery Commission.

News Briefs 
  • Colombia’s FARC rebel group have announced that they will stop kidnapping civilians, and would free the 10 remaining soldiers and police who are being held, some of them for as long as 10 years. President Juan Manuel Santos said the move was "an important and necessary step, though not far enough, in the right direction." However, as the Wall Street Journal notes, the rebel group said it reserved the right to take “prisoners of war,” and did not make any mention of freeing civilian hostages. An unknown number of people are thought to be being held by the FARC, with some estimates putting the number in the thousands. The statement, published on the site of FARC-linked website Anncol, suggests that the group could be coming closer to opening talks with the government. Santos has said that the group must release all hostages and end the practice of kidnapping before negotiations can begin.
  • With President Hugo Chavez’s position looking increasingly precarious, Venezuela’s allies are beginning to make plans for a time when his oil-financed handouts could come to an end, reports El Nuevo Herald. The leftist leaderannounced last week that he was going to be operated on again for a growth in his pelvic that was probably cancerous, suggesting that the rumors that his cancer was more serious than he claimed may have some truth to them. The news comes at a very sensitive time for Venezuela’s politics, with the presidential election approaching in October. The opposition coalition MUD recently held a primary election to choose a single candidate to stand against Chavez, and chose Henrique Capriles with a higher-than-expected turnout. Capriles, who appears to stand a better chance than anyone else in recent years of unseating Chavez, is expected to roll back current aid levels to countries like Cuba and Nicaragua. Inter-American Dialogue’s Michael Shifter told the newspaper that Cuba’s free-market reforms were part of an effort to mitigate any future drop in Venezuela’s help to the island.
  • Mary Anastasia O’Grady has a piece in the WSJ on Guatemalan President Otto Perez’s proposal to discuss the liberalization of drug laws. She notes that “the rhetoric we are hearing against the drug war is not coming from anti-American, left-wing demagogues trying to promote populist, nationalist ideals by stirring up the mob. Today's most vocal proponents of a change in regional drug policy are center-right governments.”
  • Statistics from the Mexican government show that drug violence has “affected” just over half of the country’s municipalities. This is another demonstration of how localized the violence is, with some areas exceedingly violent and others peaceful, meaning that the country overall has a fairly low murder rate, at less than a third of that in El Salvador. In Monterrey, for example, there werereportedly 1,600 deaths in 2011 due to the dispute for control between the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.
  • A bus carrying a group of 22 cruise passengers was stopped by a group of armed, hooded men, and its pasengers robbed in the Pacific state of Jalisco, in a blow for the government’s efforts to advertise the country as a safe tourist destination.
  • Security think tank Stratfor has seemingly faced another attack from hackers, with WikiLeaks publishing what they say is a set of confidential emails between members of the organization. One interesting exchange relates to Chavez’s health, saying that sources had said his cancer had spread to the lymph nodes.
  • The New York Times profiles the work of an activist in Honduras whose son was murdered, allegedly by police. “Her biting criticisms have become as much a staple of daily newspapers as the crossword puzzle. She has called the police force a monster and said it would be the fault of the police chief if she were assassinated,” according to the report.
  • Ecuador is set to hold presidential elections in February 2013, having been put back a month to allow reforms to the electoral laws to take effect. Reuters reports that President Rafael Correa is the favorite to win, though he has not declared yet whether he will seek re-election.
  • Brazil has said that it will provide more funds to help ease the Eurozone debt crisis, but that this should be accompanied by more power for emerging nations in the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • The NYT has a piece by Paul Theroux on crossing the Mexico-US border at Nogales, in Arizona, accompanied by a wonderful photo essay.

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