Around Latin America

June 18, 2012

-In Mexico’s presidential race, a new poll shows PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto’s support staying steady at 42%, with PAN candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota at 29% and Manuel Lopez Obrador at 27% heading into the July 1 election. Unlike elections in other Latin American countries, a candidate only needs a plurality of the vote to win the presidency in Mexico, so there will be no run-off should Peña Nieto not receive 50% of the vote.

-Shell subsidiary Raizen, which produces ethanol for Shell, has announced it will not purchase sugar from farmers who grow sugarcane on indigenous lands that non-indigenous farmers encroach upon. The decision is an important victory for indigenous activists in Brazil.

-Chile’s House of Deputies has unanimously passed a bill that would change the country’s notorious “copper law,” a law on the books since 1958 that guarantees 10% of the nation’s income from copper go directly to the military. However, as Greg points out, the bill has angered some former government officials who point out that it still fails to allow flexibility and greater civilian control over defense spending or to allow more money to go to other social programs.

-Colombia has passed a law that establishes guidelines for peace talks between the government and leftist guerrillas. While the bill is an important step towards ending the 48-year-old civil war, there are still many places where plans for talks could break down, so while this is an encouraging first step, there is still a long way to go towards peace in Colombia.

-While many have lauded to Brazil’s economic successes in the first two decades of the 21st century, there are constant reminders of the ongoing inequalities millions of Brazilians still confront every day. A new report only reinforces how far the country is from socio-economic equality, as the Instituto Brasileiro  de Geografia e Estatísticas (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics; IGBE) reports that 19 million urban Brazilians (or 10% of the country’s entire population) still live without access to drinking water or sewage systems.

-A new survey claims that corruption in Latin America is dropping (though report certainly has its methodological issues – for starters, having only 439 respondents for 1 and 1/3 continents certainly raises flags about “representation”).

-Paraguay has sent its army into the northern part of the country after fights between police and landless farmers have left 17 people dead. This is not the first time in the past several months that the social struggle for access to the land for the poor has led to violence, as similar conflicts have taken place in the eastern part of the country.

-After mounting pressure from environmental groups and an increasing expenses, Mexico has cancelled plans for a massive resort near the only coral reef in Baja California.

-In the past several years, China has increasingly become involved in trade and finance in Latin America, and in that context, Margaret Myers has another excellent post up that looks at recent Chinese headlines on Latin America, providing some small insight into the issues that Chinese media focuses on.

-While many Latin American countries have done a good job in diversifying their trade partners and moving away from a reliance on Europe and the US in the last 15 years, that does not mean that they are completely unaffected by financial problems in the so-called “developed world”; at least one new report suggests that the growth prospects for the region may drop by 40%, showing how globalized economies can still slow down (though not yet shrink) Latin American economies.

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