Monday, November 19, 2012

Honduras Primaries See Return to Politics for Deposed President Manuel Zelaya

Hondurans voted on Sunday to decide on candidates for next year’s presidential and general elections - the first since 2009 when current president Porfirio Lobo won an election of disputed legitimacy following the coup earlier in the year that ousted previous president Manuel Zelaya.

Sunday’s vote marked a return to politics for Zelaya, who will stand for a seat in congress, while his wife Xiomara Castro, will be the presidential candidate for leftist Liberty and Refoundation party - known as Libre - after running unopposed.

Libre was founded after Zelaya, then a member of the Liberal party, was toppled in 2009 over plans to hold a referendum on constitutional reforms. "Libre will break the bi-party system," said Zelaya on the eve of the primaries. "Libre is peaceful, revolutionary, socialist and the hope for this country."

The ruling National Party elected Juan Orlando Hernandez, a former lawyer and current President of Congress. Hernadez’s victory was tainted by the arrest of an activist from his Movimiento Azules Unidos faction on suspicion of electoral fraud after, who was found in possession of 236 ID cards on Monday morning.

The Liberal Party prompted for Mauricio Villeda. Villeda is the son of  Ramón Villeda Morales, the first president to take power after the end of military rule in the 1950s and a commercial law lawyer who has also worked in the fields of education and human rights.

The elections were observed by a mission of 40 Organization of American States observers, who said the voting process had been "normal."

With the candidates for the main parties decided, a long electoral campaign will now get underway, with the vote not to be held until November 2013.

News Briefs

The AP reports on contradictory explanations for the attack on a car carrying two CIA officers by 14 federal police officers in Mexico. The police have claimed the attack was a case of mistaken identity since the officers were investigating a kidnapping of a government official in the area. However, the attorney general’s office have said although there was a kidnapping, "objectively it is unrelated to the investigation." Instead, they believe it was an intentional attack, perhaps ordered by a drug cartel. The investigation showed all the gunfire came from the gunmen, discounting versions that the embassy vehicle fired first. Arrest orders were issued for four commanding officers for allegedly planning the attack and ordering agents to lie, but they have sought legal protections and remain free. A fifth commanding officer accused of covering up evidence has given his declaration to a judge and been released on bail.

A group of Latin American leaders used the weekend’s Ibero-American Summit to criticize Europe’s austerity measures, claiming the harsh budget cuts will act as a drag on growth in the world economy, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Spanish prime minister meanwhile, used the summit to solicit investment from Latin American countries, according to the New York Times.

Argentina’s long-running dispute with bondholders seeking $1.45 billion for their piece of defaulted debt continues, the AP reports. A U.S. judge gave Argentina a midnight Friday deadline to say whether it would accept his remedy and begin paying the holdouts next month. However, Argentina's government said it was not giving up its appeals, arguing that the funds used to pay sovereign debt are immune from U.S. court judgments and that the judge's remedy threatens the value of trillions of dollars in debt issued by governments around the world.

Alan Gross, the U.S. contractor jailed in Cuba for illegally supplying internet equipment is suing the U.S. government and his former employer Development Alternatives Inc., the BBC reports. The complaint claims they "failed to take adequate measures" to train and protect him during his travels to Cuba and accuses them of ignoring "Mr Gross's repeated security concerns so that DAI could continue to generate significant revenue and the Government could continue to use Mr Gross as a pawn in its overall Cuba policy initiatives".

Colombian negotiators have arrived in Havana for the peace talks with the FARC, which are set to begin this week after being postponed for four days to allow both sides to work on "technical details to ensure the participation of civil society," the BBC reports. La Silla Vacia looks at the mechanics of the talks, which will see both sides operate with teams of 30, although only 10 will be allowed to enter the negotiating room and only five have the power to make legal commitments.

The Venezuelan government has announced that it will hold an assembly with the Yukpa indigenous group in order to resolve an ongoing conflict over land rights, which has already claimed the lives of 7 Yukpa this year, Venezuela Analysis reports. The government was supposed to pay compensation to the cattle ranchers currently occupying the land so they would transfer it to the Yukpa, but has so far taken no action.  ,

The L.A. Times features an article examining the failures of Brazil’s education system, which it argues, “has serious implications for Brazil's hope of becoming a global power.” According to the article, the system is plagued by underinvestment and under-trained teachers with high absenteeism rates.

The Miami Herald has a four-part series of reports looking at plans to double the capacity of the Panama Canal in a $5.25 billion dollar expansion. The articles look at what the expansion means for Panama, and also examines competition among U.S. ports in Miami, the Southeast, and Baltimore and Norfolk to handle the increased trade.

Also in The Miami Herald is a feature looking at the Cuban exile community, which often sees former members of or collaborators with the Cuban state security forces living side by side with the people they persecuted.

The UN International Court of Justice is set to rule on the long-running maritime border dispute between Colombia and Nicaragua, El Pais reports. The judges will decide on the future of the cays of Roncador, Quitasueño, Serrana y Serranilla - all currently in the hands of Colombia but claimed by Nicaragua.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs features analysis on Puerto Rico’s recent vote on its future and where the island may turn to next in the wake of the referendum, which, the article states, “provide a muddled message for Puerto Ricans regarding their future status.”

The AP reports on the election of Adela Hernandez, who recently became the first transgender person to hold public office in Cuba.