Wednesday March 7: Latin America News Briefing

Argentina lawmakers present bill to legalize abortion, Top Brazil appeals court denies Lula bid to stay out of prison, and more



Every morning the PanAm Post gives you a briefing on the most important news from the Americas.

These are the top stories this morning:


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Kushner heading to Mexico to meet with Peña Nieto

The ‘Presidential Apprentice’ ratings are guaranteed to stay strong if the Trump administration keeps this up.Trump dispatched members of the State Department, National Security Council, and son in law Jared Kushner to meet with the Mexican president after a heated phone call resulted in a canceled state visit.

Why the white house is shipping Jared off to Mexico in the middle of a scandal involving meetings he’s held in the white house, that may or may not have influenced loans given to his company, is abundantly clear.

Mexico left-wing candidate lead widens as rivals bicker – poll

Christine Murray| 2 MIN READ

Lopez Obrador’s sizable lead just got more daunting. The presidential candidate is now leading by anywhere between 15 and 16 points depending on the poll you look at. What’s worse is that the center-right candidate José Antonio Meade continues to languish in the 16 to 18% range. The center left candidate, Ricardo Anaya, is the closest to AMLO, with 21% approval in the polls.

PRI and PAN inter-party fighting has been intense this cycle. Both Presidential candidates have lobbed accusations of corruption at one another. In some cases, fist fights between representatives of the two parties have broken out in regional voting events.

Top Brazil appeals court denies Lula bid to stay out of prison

Reuters Staff | 2 MIN READ

The Supreme Court of Justice denied Lula Da Silva’s request to avoid going to prison before using up all his appeals. As things stand, it’s likely the politician will begin his 12-year sentence within weeks. Ironic, given he’s currently considered the most popular presidential candidate in Brazil.

Argentina lawmakers present bill to legalize abortion

Nicolás Misculin | 2 MIN READ

In not so surprising turn of events, a collection of Argentinian lawmakers is looking to pass a bill legalizing abortion in the country. The bill specifically aims to reduce the need for a judge’s ruling to be able to undergo an abortion at any point before the 14 week period.

The trouble with this bill is not so much on its merits but the future that could come with it. Certainly, the 2/3 of maternal deaths that take place because of clandestine abortions need to be abated. But that’s not what the Argentinian left is after. Without assurances in the form of another bill prohibiting funding for abortions by the state, there are no guarantees this bill won’t open the floodgates for a Planned Parenthood type organization in the country.

Furthermore, Macri is taking an enormous chance by leaving the issue up to a referendum. Expending political capital on this issue could prove disastrously advantageous to the opposition.

Norway’s State Visit to Argentina – Day 1

King Harald and Queen Sonja spent their first day in the country at the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace, and ate with the Macris.

Colombia senator arrested on domestic abuse charges 5 days before elections

The Senator, Bernabe Celis, was arrested in Bogota on charges that appear to claim he abused his wife. Neighbors could hear her screaming. An associate of the Senator, former Governor Hugo Aguilar, was recently arrested on suspicion of money laundering.

Over half of young Venezuelans want to flee as the economy collapses, poll

Emma Graham-Harrison and Mariana Zúñiga in Caracas | Tue 6 Mar 2018 02.00 EST

The Guardian adds it’s very capable reporting staff to the group of reporters profiling the long-suffering Venezuelan youth looking for a better life abroad. The article states 53% of young Venezuelans wish to leave the country.

It’s a shame The Guardian didn’t have these young Venezuelans in mind back when Chavez “reformed” the constitution to remove term limits. Surely, if anything, that should have been an omen of the totalitarianism that was to follow. But better late than never I suppose.

Venezuela’s National Assembly Declares Petro Cryptocurrency Illegal

Pete Rizzo | Mar 7, 2018, at 00:45 UTC

The Venezuelan assembly continues to barrage the Maduro regime with decrees that it knows it has no hope of enforcing.

It’s a bizarre way to “resist” the authoritarian regime, but with most of the opposition leaders either in jail or Maduro’s pocket, these paper decrees are one of the few ways left for them to put pressure on the regime.

Their hope with this statement is to scare international entities away from trading the nascent cryptocurrency, hoping that, even if unenforceable within the country, the United States might use the declaration as an avenue to litigate against those who do trade in “Petros”.

Voting tech company Smartmatic Announces Cease of Operations in Venezuela

BusinessWire India

The beleaguered voting tech company, whose image was hurt by last years election farce in the country (when it was forced to come out and say it’s machines had given different results than Venezuelan officials did), is looking to mitigate further damage with this move. No one expects the upcoming presidential elections called for by Maduro to be fair. The move has been a long time in the making, their machines have not been used since that last fraudulent election, despite regional several elections having taken place since then.

Gary Cohn Resigns After Losing Battle Over Tariffs

How does this affect Latin America? Cohen was the leader of the pro-trade faction. Without him, no matter how often Treasure Secretary Steven Mnuchin goes on TV to say Mexico is getting an exception if it reaches new NAFTA deal, the markets won’t buy it and neither will the Mexican electorate. A tariff now would be a huge boon to AMLO and Morena election prospects in Mexico. Trump is playing a very dangerous game with trade.

How Colombia has dealt with the Venezuelan exodus

The Economist writes on the “over half a million” (non-official sources place that number far higher) Venezuelans testing Colombia’s ability to provide humanitarian aid. It gives the reader a refreshingly historically accurate portrayal of the unique history with immigration between these two countries, and does well to highlight the fact that ending the transitory border-card scheme, that allowed Venezuelans to cross for the day to buy food and other supplies, has done little to stem the flow of illegal immigration.

How to Stop the U.S.-Cuba Backslide


The American University professor, LeoGrande, writes an insightful brief on the current state of American-Cuban relations. This article pushes the notions that both nations need to do more to give one another assurances that neither had anything to do with the attacks that left scores of U.S. and Canadian diplomats with severe brain damage.

The professors call for normalizing relation once more, however, will probably fall on deaf ears. Cuba’s reticence on changing internal political machinations of oppression alongside the brazenness of these attacks makes a return to normalcy that he envisions all but impossible. As LeoGrande himself points out, this is even more unlikely given Raul’s short time left in office.

Brazil can improve education by copying its own successes

Martin Raiser Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Brookings Institute claims that Brazil’s education disparity with the rest of the world is not quite as dire as perhaps the OECD would have us think. Rather than taking 260 years to catch up to the European and American education levels, Brazil should, the article says, simply copy the number of success it’s already had at home.

Source: World Bank estimates based on SIOPE and Prova Brasil. IDEB is a summary index of the state of compulsory education.
Source: World Bank estimates based on SIOPE and Prova Brasil. IDEB is a summary index of the state of compulsory education.

Among its obstacles is the political will to reform the system. But the article highlights that the biggest challenge might instead be resource allocation, with massive and wasteful spending taking place on schools in brazil’s wealthier neighborhoods. The worst offense at the inefficient Brazilian schools is that they spend over 35% of their time on non-teaching tasks, says Raiser.


What is populism, and what does the term actually mean?

By David MolloyBBC News | 6 March 2018

The BBC does a commendable job here educating readers on the danger of populism. It (finally) makes it clear that populists lead almost invariably to authoritarian states, and, to their credit, they cite Chaves and Venezuela often as an example of this.

The downfall of this piece is ultimately the cover it tries to give Britain’s own populist, Jeremy Corbin. He’s named and just as quickly brushed aside without much reasoning. The reasoning behind why the BBC doesn’t think he’s a populist has left the imagination. Why it’s in their interest to not label him as much? Well, that’s pretty self-explanatory.

Bolivia Doesn’t Want a President for Life

By Mac Margolis | March 5, 2018, 11:00 AM EST

 “Three terms is already more than enough for Evo,” says Margolis. He pulls no punches in this takedown of Morales, calling him a “caudillo” and a “populist”. The articles delves into the Bolivian people’s attempts to rid themselves of this autocrat, lamenting the passing of “anti-defamation” laws, similar to those imposed by Maduro, that will lead to only further unrest and arrests.


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