Thursday, November 1, 2012

Argentina lowers voting age to 16

Argentina’s Congress has approved a government sponsored bill to lower the voting age from 18 to 16.

The fractious bill was fiercely debated late into the night in a session that descended into chaos with a mass walkout after a politician from youth movement La Campora accused the opposition of “narco-socialism,” referring to a recent corruption scandal (see a video here). Nevertheless government supporters managed to muster the required quorum of 129 votes and the measure passed by 131 for to 2 against.

The new measure will add nearly 1.5 million Argentines to the electoral roll in time for next year’s mid-term elections. However, voting for 16 and 17 year-olds will be optional, not mandatory as it is for the rest of the population.

The new law sees Argentina join other Latin American countries Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua in setting the voting age at 16. Its supporters say the bill will strengthen Argentina’s democracy by broadening participation.

However, critics have accused President Cristiana Fernandez Kirchner of trying to broaden her electoral base by capitalizing on her popularity with Argentina's youth.Some are speculating that the bill has been introduced in an attempt to help Fernandez Kirchner gain the two thirds congressional majority she would need in next year’s elections to modify the constitution to allow her to stand for a third time.

While Kirchner was comfortably reelected last year, her popularity has since dived over a sluggish economy, high inflation and unpopular currency control measures. She has so far refrained from commenting on whether she aims to stand again.

News Briefs
  • The LA Times World Now Blog looks at suspicions that people arrested in Veracruz, Mexico for the murder of local journalists have little connection to the real perpetrators of the crimes. Elsewhere, Reporters Without Borders has called for Mexican president-elect  Enrique Peña Nieto to tackle impunity in crimes against journalists.
  • Latin American Press examines the ongoing conflict between the Chilean government and indigenous Mapuche communities. The government had hoped to resolve the dispute by establishing an “Indigenous Development Area,” however five of the 42 Mapuche communities rejected the offer as an attempt to“cover up the real conflict, which is the complete recovery of the lands demanded by the communities, and to cover up a series of violent abuses.”
  • Telesur looks at a report from the Guatemalan Alba-Keneth Alert System, which has recorded the disappearance of 2,347 Guatemalan minors since it began operating two years ago.
  • The Inter Press Service examines a network of small and medium sized municipalities in Argentina that collaborates on policies for climate change adaption and mitigation.
  • Three people have been arrested in connection with the arson attack on Bolivian radio station Radio Popular earlier this week. According to Reporters Without Borders, the victims believe two local government officials ordered the attack to halt a program discussing smuggling cases
  • The AP reports on a new study from think-tank the Mexican Competitiveness Institute that looks at the potential impact of proposals to legalize recreational cannabis use in Colorado, Oregon and Washington on Mexican drug trafficking organizations. The disputed findings, based on several large assumptions, suggest the proposal could cut cartel profits by up to 30%.
  • Americas Quarterly looks at the Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Panama, which came into force on Wednesday.
  • The WSJ reports on yesterday’s arrest of Colombian drug trafficker Henry de Jesus Lopez, alias “Mi Sangre,” in Argentina, highlighting Colombian law enforcement’s increasing cooperation with foreign governments.
  • Merco Press reports on progress in a proposed referendum on the future of the Falkland Islands, known in Argentina as the Malvinas. The Islands’ government has opened a public consultation on the wording of the question, which currently reads: “Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?”
  • The Miami Herald reports on the Colombian military’s preparations for the possible end of its long running conflict with leftist guerrilla groups and its intention to develop the country’s arms export industry.