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Weekly Roundup: Venezuela in the UNSC, Brazil's Debates, Bolivia's Election

Weekly Roundup AS/COA

October 17, 2014

Venezuela Elected to UN Security Council

On October 16, Venezuela won a two-year seat on the UN Security Council with the support of 181 member countries. Venezuela, which in January will take the seat left vacant by Argentina, was the only candidate country from Latin America and had the support of the region’s governments. Though unopposed, the country still needed the votes of two-thirds of the General Assembly. In a national address, President Nicolás Maduro called the vote a “victory” for deceased President Hugo Chávez, who failed to win a seat for Venezuela in 2006 after the United States campaigned against the bid. Venezuela joins one other Latin American country on the Security Council, Chile, which keeps its post for another year.

Read a U.S. News and World Report op-ed by AS/COA’s Christopher Sabatini on why Venezuela doesn’t deserve its seat on the Security Council.

A More Pragmatic ALBA?

This week’s Bello column in the The Economist suggests that some leaders from member countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) are becoming more practical in the stewardship of their countries. The article looks toward newly reelected Bolivian President Evo Morales, noting that he may continue to use the rhetoric of anti-imperialism, but has managed to run fiscal surpluses by making “peace with private business.” The article also notes that Ecuador’s Rafael Correa’s sound investments of energy revenues and mended ties with the IMF demonstrate a similar path. But the article concludes that both leaders face the challenge of a dwindling commodities boom and predicts that ALBA heads of state could fall victim of failing to groom successors.

Read a Huffington Post article by COA’s Eric Farnsworth on what a slowing commodities boom means for Latin America’s democracies.

State Department Hints at Changing View on Drug Policy

Comments from the State Department’s top drug official last week point toward a possible shift in U.S. drug policy and what could be a different role for the United States in international drug regulation, say some observers. Speaking to reporters on October 9, William Brownfield spelled out U.S. drug policy, which includes a “flexible interpretation” of existing UN Drug Control conventions and a tolerance for different national drug policies. This week, InSight Crime examined the implications of Brownfield’s speech. “Brownfield's remarks,” author David Gagne writes, “are another indication that the United States is beginning to look at illicit drugs as a public health problem and not just a criminal justice issue.” 

Watch COA’s Eric Farnsworth discuss the changing political landscape of U.S. drug policy in an interview with Al Jazeera.

Brazil’s Candidates Jumpstart Debates ahead of Runoff Vote

The Brazilian presidential campaign continued to be heated this week, with the debut of more than four hours of televised debate between President Dilma Rousseff and her rival Aécio Neves. Days away from the runoff vote on October 26, two debates took place on national television and online this week, with candidates exchanging personal attacks and accusations of corruption (including as a scandal regarding oil giant Petrobras) and nepotism. The latest polls still point to a tight race and the most competitive runoff the country has held since 1989.

Get the latest numbers in a poll update showing the two candidates in a dead heat to the finish line.

São Paulo Faces Severe Water Shortage

October marks the tenth month of an unprecedented water crisis in São Paulo. Bloomberg reported this week that Brazil’s largest metropolis may run out of water next month. Residents have reported shortages across the city after depletion of 96 percent of the Cantareira reservoir, which provides half of the city’s water. The city forbid its state-run water utility from further tapping the reservoir, but its chief executive officer says they only have enough water at hand to last to mid-November. Brazil’s current drought is its worst in eight decades, resulting in a surge in coffee prices and a steep decline in sugar production. 

Panama Demands to Be Removed from Colombia’s Tax Haven List

On Tuesday, Panamanian Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo demanded that Colombia remove Panama from its tax haven blacklist within a week, saying it would take retaliatory measures. Bogota deemed the Central American country a tax haven earlier this month after it did not sign an accord governing the exchange of tax information between the two countries. On Wednesday morning, the Colombian government said the tax haven status would be deferred until January in an effort to avoid damaging economic sanctions. Colombia Reports says Panama is Colombia’s top foreign investor after the United States. Ministers from the two countries will meet today in an effort to settle the dispute.

Read a World Politics Review essay by AS/COA’s Christopher Sabatini and Rebecca Bintrim exploring Panama’s economic rise and the political transparency issues that challenge that boom.

Poll: Latin Americans Say Respect for Women Falls Short in Their Countries

A Gallup poll published this week found that Latin Americans are least likely to say women are treated with respect and dignity in their countries. Only 35 percent of people polled in 17 Latin American countries say women receive this treatment—lower than any other region in the world. Ecuador scored the highest, with 63 percent of respondents saying women are treated with respect, while Peru and Colombia scored the lowest. Gallup notes that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos initiated a national day of dignity for women in response to the high rate of violence toward women in the Andean country.

Read a U.S. News & World Report article by AS/COA’s Carin Zissis on why the Americas as a region needs more women in leadership positions.

Photo Essay: La Paz Streets Laid Bare by Bolivia’s Compulsory Voting Laws

Commercial and transportation operations across Bolivia shut down this past weekend to facilitate participation in the national elections on October 12, which is mandatory. Roads and Kingdoms offers a photo essay by photographer Eduardo Leal showing how election weekend restrictions left the streets of capital city La Paz deserted, given that no one could drive vehicles without an official permit. Laws halted domestic bus, train, and air transportation and forbade anyone from buying alcohol between Friday and Monday morning.  

As predicted by polls, President Evo Morales was reelected to a third term with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

Read an AS/COA Online explainer on compulsory voting and voter turnout in the Americas.