Friday, May 24, 2013

Ecuador's Correa Begins Third Term

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa is set to swear in today and begin his third presidential term, which he has vowed to make his last. El Comercio reports that expectations are high for Correa’s new term, and interviews several figures across the political spectrum on their hopes for the next four years, including an indigenous leader, an archbishop and business elites. A common theme among all of them is the desire for more engagement with different sectors of society, as well as members of the opposition.

Considering that his Alianza Pais party gained a comfortable majority in Congress (100 of 137 seats) in the last election, however, it is unlikely that dialogue with the opposition is high on his priority list.

While Correa has said he will not implement any “big changes” in this next term, his party is set to take up debate on a number of major initiatives in the coming weeks. According to The Wall Street Journal, this includes reforms to the mining sector and social security systems, a land redistribution bill and an overhaul of communications sector regulations.

This last measure is particularly controversial, as Correa has been heavily criticized for his combative relationship with private media in the country. He has aggressively pursued lawsuits against outlets accused of printing defamatory claims, even winning a multi-million dollar suit against two journalists last year. Although he later pardoned them, such incidents seem aimed at intimidating the Ecuadorean media as a whole.

According to the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, this tacit intimidation may also contribute to violence against private journalists in the country by Correa supporters. The Center claims that despite even though there have been 657 attacks and threats against private journalists and bloggers since 2008, the government has repeatedly minimized or denied these incidents.  

News Briefs
  • The AP reports that the Qom indigenous people in northern Argentina held a formal meeting with Supreme Court justices on Wednesday in which they asked President Cristina Fernandez to back their bid to reclaim ancestral land.  
  • Venezuela’s attorney general has announced an investigation into alleged recordings between a Cuban intelligence officer and state TV personality Mario Silva, a prominent member of the United Socialist Party (PSUV), El Nacional reports. The recordings were leaked earlier this week by the opposition, and suggest that tensions are high between the rival faction in the party which supports President Nicolas Maduro and those aligned with National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello.
  • Yesterday President Maduro announced the creation of the “Bolivarian Workers’ Militia,” a plan to arm organized workers in the country. "The working class is increasingly respected. It will be respected even more if the workers' militias have 300,000, 500,000, one or two million working men and women in uniform, ready and armed for the defense of the Fatherland,” Maduro said, according to a VTV press release.
  • Mexican officials investigating corruption allegations against the former governor of Tabasco state have allegedly discovered boxes containing $8 million in cash in the home of the former finance minister of Andres Granier, the state’s mayor from 2007-2012. El Universal notes authorities believe the former official was involved in a money laundering scheme.
  • A Canadian entrepreneur accused of engaging in corrupt business practices in Cuba, including paying government officials to obtain contracts, has gone on trial nearly two years after he was first detained.
  • The Wall Street Journal looks at mining-related social conflicts in Mexico, especially in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. The article frames it as part of a regional trend fueled by increased investment, as mining exploration in Latin America jumped by 150% from 2006 to 2011.
  • Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes met with Pope Francis yesterday to press the pontiff to move towards beatifying assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero, thereby moving him one step closer to sainthood. The AP reports that the president presented the pope with “a bloodstained piece of the priestly vestments Romero was wearing” when he was assassinated by a right-wing death squad in 1980.
  • Bolivia’s main trade worker federation, the Bolivian Workers' Center (COB), has ended a two-week general strike in the country after a round of successful negotiations with government officials. According to the AFP, the strike proved costly to the nation, particularly the mining industry.
  • The New York Times has an editorial which is critical of the Guatemalan Supreme Court’s recent annulment of the guilty verdict against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt for crimes against humanity and genocide. The NYT argues that the U.S. "should urge that the case be pursued through an independent process."
  • James Bosworth of Bloggings by Boz offers up a brief overview of the recent Pacific Alliance summit in Colombia this week, in which Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala assessed potential integration into the four-nation bloc.

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