Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Calderon Gives Last State of Union Speech

In the final State of the Union address of his six-year term on Monday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon defended his legacy on issues like crime and economic development. The AP reports that Calderon used the speech as an opportunity to list what he considers to be the main achievements of his presidency, including his efforts to reform the police and justice system, and the creation of 2 million jobs since 2006. After acknowledging that “many problems persist,” the president asserted that "Mexico has changed, and changed for the good. It has more solid and effective public institutions."

But not everyone sees Calderon’s presidency in such a positive light. Many are critical of his confrontational approach to organized crime, accusing him of fueling a bloody conflict which has killed 50,000 in the past six years. In February, an ambitious team of activists and human rights lawyers filed an official complaint against Calderon with the International Criminal Court, accusing him of crimes against humanity.

But the Calderon administration’s has not wavered from this strategy, despite criticism, causing some to accuse the president of despotic tendencies. The L.A. Times cites security analyst Educardo Guerrero, who believes that this presidency has been “very haughty, and very deaf" to calls to change its security policies. "Calderon ends his six-year term in a very sad way for him, and in a very tragic and worrisome way for the country, with very high homicide rates and with record rates of extortion and kidnapping," Guerrero said.

The full video of the speech, which is about an hour and a half long, is available on YouTube.

News Briefs

  • For the first time since rumors of negotiation surfaced, Colombia’s FARC rebels have acknowledged that they will be participating in peace talks with representatives of the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos, the BBC reports. The acknowledgement came in the form of a video clip released on a pro-FARC website, in which guerrilla commander alias “Timochenko” promised that the group would participate in the talks without any “ill-will.” The video also featured a puzzlingly lighthearted music video by FARC members in t-shirts bearing the image of Che Guevara, dancing and singing lyrics about their intentions to pursue a just peace process. Semana magazine has an interesting analysis of the video, claiming that it could represent the new face of the guerrilla movement in the future, as its members “trade in camoflauge uniforms for civilian clothing.”
  • The Venezuelan government has disputed reports from indigenous groups last week who said that as many as 80 members of the Yanomami tribe had been massacred by Brazilian gold miners. Venezuelan Interior Minister told local reporters that flyovers of the region found no evidence of the killings, but indigenous activists are calling for further investigation.
  • Colombian drug kingpin Griselda Blanco, who was dubbed the “Godmother of Cocaine” and seen as a symbol of Miami’s role in the hemispheric cocaine trade, was assassinated on Monday in Medellin.
  • Mexico, the country with the highest per-capita consumption of eggs in the world, is struggling with a shortage of eggs this year. Much of this is due to the fact that the country’s supply of eggs was hit hard by bird flu earlier this summer, according to the Washington Post.
  • Smarck Michel, former prime minister of Haiti from 1994 to 1995, died on Saturday in Port-au-Prince. Michel is best known for clashing with then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide over his proposals to privatize several industries in the country.
  • Cuba enacted an increase in customs duties on Monday, a move which (despite the fact that it was first announced two months ago) caught many travelers by surprise, the AP reports. 
  • Just weeks ahead of Brazil’s local elections, O Globo newspaper has found that 22 candidates have been murdered in the past 60 days, causing more than 400 towns to appeal to the national government to provide them with federal forces.

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