Thursday, December 12, 2013

Police Strikes Linger in Argentina

Ten days have passed since riots first broke out in the Argentine province of Cordoba following a police strike to demand higher pay. Since then, police strikes and subsequent looting spread across 20 of Argentina’s 23 provinces before dying down yesterday, according to La Nacion. The Buenos Aires-based daily notes that a total of 12 people have died in the resulting violence, and that the conflict persists in four provinces and in parts of the Buenos Aires metropolitan area.

As The Guardian reports, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez first blamed the police strikes as a ploy by her political opponents, but as violence continued to spread it became clear that provincial police have real grievances related to their base pay. Several governors have struck deals with police, while others are still negotiating. At least four governors have refused to negotiate as long as the strikes continue, however.

In some areas, the public has lost patience with provincial authorities and security forces alike. According to local press, some 15,000 residents of the northwestern province of Tucuman took to the streets of the provincial capital last night to counter protest the police strike. Demonstrators also gathered in the central plaza to demand the resignation of Tucuman Governor Jose Alperovich, a member of Fernandez’s party.

The national government, for its part, has remained critical of the protests. Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich told the press yesterday that President Fernandez was in contact with governors of the affected provinces, and that the situation was under control. He also defended the government’s decision to continue with planned celebrations of the 30th anniversary of Argentina's return to democracy, and blamed the security crisis on police “extortion.”

This sentiment has been echoed by elements of civil society. The Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), for instance, issued a statement on Tuesday denouncing the police strikes as “extortive actions” and calling on law enforcement authorities to adopt negotiating methods that do not endanger citizen security. According to the human rights group, “these episodes show that the design and practices of the institutions responsible for the security of our country are still not in keeping with the rule of law.”

News Briefs
  • After Mexico’s historic energy reform bill was passed in the Senate early Wendesday, lawmakers in the lower house held a marathon session on the bill, eventually giving it a vote of general approval late yesterday. An article-by-article debate on the bill is ongoing, having been delayed by opposition congressmen who have raised objections over each of its provisions.
  • El Heraldo reports that Honduras’ Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has re- declared National Party candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez the official winner of the country’s presidential election, rejecting the complaints filed by the opposition LIBRE and Anti-Corruption parties.
  • In a ruling with clear consequences for the future of natural resource conflicts in Guatemala, El Periodico and the AP report that the Guatemalan Constitutional Court this week ruled that municipal governments must honor the results of local referendums before approving mining projects.
  • The UN International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) weighed in on Uruguay’s marijuana law once again. According to Reuters, INCB President Raymond Yans told the press he was “surprised” that Uruguay “knowingly decided to break the universally agreed and internationally endorsed legal provisions” of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
  • Meanwhile, noting that crime in Uruguay is “likely to be a focal point for the international community” in the wake of the country’s marijuana legalization initiative, InSight Crime has an overview of the latest crime statistics in the South American country. According to the Ministry of the Interior, violent and non-violent robberies decreased last month in comparison to the same period last year, while the number homicides in Uruguay are stable.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that the coalition of environmental groups opposed to President Rafael Correa’s plan to open up the Yasuni Amazon Reserve to oil drilling have obtained about half of the necessary signatures to force a referendum on the move. In January, the coalition plans to submit half of the 680,000 signatures needed to trigger a vote, and give the rest to election officials before an April deadline.
  • Reuters offers an in-depth analysis of the failure of Brazil’s opposition to successfully capitalize on this year’s mass demonstrations, as evidenced by polls giving President Dilma Rouseff a comfortable lead ahead of the October 2014 elections.
  • Colombian news site La Silla Vacia takes a look at the impact that the destitution of Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro by Colombia’s inspector general has had on peace talks with FARC rebels in Havana. In a statement released earlier this week, the FARC Secretariat maintained that the ruling breeds mistrust in the Colombian government, saying: “We have always stated that it is precisely the intolerance, the absence of guarantees for the exercise of political opposition and the recurrent state violence which fuel the long armed conflict being waged in our country. The ruling by the inspector general simply confirms this.”
  • A new poll on voter intention conducted by El Salvador’s University of Jose Simeon CaƱas gives the ruling FMLN party a seven-point lead over the opposition ARENA party ahead of the February 2014 presidential election there, La Pagina reports. Still, Mike Allison of Central American Politics points out that the winner must take over half of the votes, and polls actually give ARENA a slight advantage in a subsequent runoff election.
  • Writing for the New Yorker blog, Jon Lee Anderson argues that “there was more at work than mere politeness between heads of state” in U.S. President Barack Obama’s handshake with Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. This despite Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent attempts to minimize the incident.
  • IPS features an interesting column by acclaimed Cuban writer Leonardo Padura, who offers a somber take on the recent economic reforms on the island. While Padura sees the shift as positive, he also cautions that they have fueled uncertainty among those who live on the island. He argues: “Cubans continue to see it as impossible, despite the planning, to create their own life projects because each time they must modify them, reformulate them, or forget about them depending on what comes down to them from the heights of political decision-making, and on the form and intensity with which the planners of the updates decide, with their lofty macroeconomic or macrosocial scrutiny, on these plans or variations that often arrive without Cubans having the chance to make their own updates and new plans.”