Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Morales Declares 2014 Re-Election Bid Despite Constitutional Concerns

Bolivian President Evo Morales’ Movement towards Socialism (MAS) party formally nominated the president as its candidate for the 2014 presidential elections in a controversial move yesterday, despite disagreement over the legality of his candidacy.

La Razon reports that the president accepted his party’s nomination at a MAS convention in Cochabamba yesterday. He also voiced optimism at the party’s prospects of strengthening its majority in both houses of the Legislative Assembly next year, setting a goal of a 74 percent victory for MAS candidates.

Despite the nomination, the legality of Morales’ run is unclear. The Bolivian opposition contends that a victory in 2014 would give the president a third term in office, which is illegal under the Bolivian constitution. But Morales and his party dispute this, claiming that because the constitution was changed by a national referendum before he was re-elected in 2009, another five year term in office would technically be his second under the new constitution.

According to Telesur, the Bolivian Senate asked the country’s Constitutional Court to study the legality of Morales’ re-election, and the court has ten days to issue a ruling on the matter.

Meanwhile, an Ipsos poll published last week suggests that 54 percent of the Bolivian public supports Morales’ re-election, meaning that if the MAS’ nomination is allowed the country would likely see Morales in office until 2020.

News Briefs
  • The 2014 election season has gotten off to an early start in Brazil as well as Bolivia. Reuters reports that last week former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva laid to rest rumors about a potential bid for office next year, endorsing President Dilma Rousseff’s candidacy.
  • With the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) facing an overhaul of its independence and responsibilities in the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly next month, the Americas Society/Council of the Americas convened a group of media professionals, human rights advocates and regional experts yesterday in Washington to discuss the implications of these changes. La Nacion reports that the OAS ambassadors from Brazil, Peru, Mexico and Chile attended the event, and offered their countries’ positions on reforming the IACHR. A full video of the conference is available via the AS/COA website.
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has authorized the Red Cross and a committee of academics and former politicians to facilitate the release of two German tourists kidnapped by Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN). The committee, which includes former governors Horacio Serpa and Antonio Navarro, was created in 2000 with the intention of serving as an intermediary between the rebel sand the government, and Caracol Radio reports that its members hope that the hostages’ release will serve as a first step towards involving the ELN in the current peace process.
  • El Tiempo and the Financial Times report on an escalating coffee growers’ strike in Colombia, the world’s fourth-largest coffee producing country. Thousands of coffee growers have gone on strike and organized protests across the country, demanding increased subsidies in response to falling coffee prices and the strengthening of the Colombian peso. President Santos has been critical of the demonstrations, calling them "unnecessary and inconvenient.” The president also claimed that protestors refused a dialogue with his government when it was offered last week. As such, Santos announced yesterday that that he would only negotiate with the official coffee growers’ union, which, according to La Vanguardia, opposes the protests. BBC Mundo looks at the unlikely coalition which supports the coffee growers, which includes members of the left-wing Democratic Pole party and former President Alvaro Uribe.  
  • Recently-re-elected Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa has announced that he will use his new term in office to promote large-scale mining projects in the country, a decision which could put him in conflict with indigenous groups in the country and pave the way for the kind of anti-mining protests that have made life difficult for the president of neighboring Peru, Ollanta Humala. The AFP notes that the Correa government’s decision last year to allow copper mining in the Amazon basin province of Zamora-Chinchipe was met by major demonstrations by indigenous groups, who organized a high-profile march from the Amazon to Quito.
  • Reuters profiles the newly-appointed Cuban vice president, Miguel Diaz-Cane. At 52, he is the youngest non-military official to join the government’s top leadership, which the news agency suggests is indicative of a change in which officials in Cuba are promoted.
  • Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of the Uruguayan Supreme Court yesterday to protest a Friday ruling which effectively reinstates amnesty for dictatorship-era human rights abuses. The government’s will to challenge the ruling, however, seems to have faded. While the largest party within the ruling Broad Front coalition, the Popular Participation Movement (MPP), announced last week that it would seek to impeach the Court, El Pais reports that the Broad Front has distanced itself from this statement. If the impeachment moves forward, it now appears that it will be limited to the Court’s controversial relocation of a judge who was leading investigations into the abuses. The apparent backpedaling is likely in response to strong criticism from opposition leaders, who released a statement yesterday accusing the government of not respecting the principle of judicial independence and warning of a “return to anti-democratic attitudes” in the Broad Front.
  • BBC Mundo has an interesting report on the latest addition to the Hugo Chavez-themed memorabilia being sold to Chavistas on the streets of Caracas: the recently-released image of the president lying in a Havana hospital bed and flanked by his daughters. Chavez has yet to make a public appearance since returning to Venezuela a week ago, and Venezuelan National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello told reporters yesterday that the president would appear and resume his normal duties “whenever he deems it appropriate.”
  • While representatives of the Mercosur trade bloc and the European Union are currently in preliminary negotiations over a long-stalled free-trade deal, a final agreement may not be possible until Paraguay is readmitted to Mercosur. In an interview with Paraguayan daily ABC, German ambassador to Paraguay Claude Robert Ellner said that the EU would not be able to sign a trade agreement without Paraguay’s involvement in the negotiations. According to Ellner, “for us Paraguay continues to be a Mercosur member, end of story.” The country was suspended from the trade bloc last year after the ouster of former President Fernando Lugo, which many in the region saw as an illegal coup.
  • Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a major education reform bill into law yesterday, which will weaken the control that the powerful teachers’ union currently has on hiring and firing new teachers, El Universal reports. As the AP notes, the move is a major blow to teachers’ union boss Elba Esther Gordillo, a high-profile figure who has held the position for more than 20 years. While the reform is the biggest overhaul of the education system that Mexico has seen in seven decades, CNN Mexico reports that Congress must pass a number of supplementary bills in order for it to take full effect.
  • The five commissioners of Mexico’s transparency agency, the Institute of Access to Information and Protection of Data (IFAI), testified before the Senate yesterday. According to CNNMexico, the commissioners acknowledged that internal division exists in the IFAI, but they claimed this does not impede their job and rejected the necessity of a bill which would dismiss and replace them, which is currently being debated in Congress. The transparency body also reported that it saw a 20 percent increase in access to information requests last year compared to the same period in 2011. Animal Politico reports that IFAI Commissioner Sigrid Arzt Colunga also used her appearance before the Senate to deny accusations that she filed information requests under a pseudonym last year
  • In a New York Times op-ed, senior health and policy advisor at Partners In Health Louise C. Ivers criticizes the United Nations’ recent rejection of a legal claim for compensation by victims of the cholera outbreak in Haiti. The disease was almost certainly introduced by UN peacekeepers, and Ivers argues that the UN has a “moral, if not legal, obligation” to help address the country’s health crisis.

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