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Weekly Roundup: Brazil's Stand on U.S. Spying, Peru's Cybercrime Bill, Nicaragua's Territorial Disputes

September 27, 2013

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Brazil's President Sets Stage for Global Discussion on Internet Governance

During her opening speech of the General Debate of the UN General Assembly on September 24, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff placed Brazil at the center of the growing international debate on internet governance, writes Oliver Stuenkel, professor of International Relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation. Rousseff condemned U.S. spying as violating sovereignty and called for “multilateral mechanisms” to regulate the internet. “Brazil's credibility as a global actor will, to no small degree, depend on its capacity to follow-up on such promises and make a meaningful contribution to this highly complex debate,” he explains.

Watch Rousseff’s speech and those of other Latin American leaders in AS/COA’s guide.

Rousseff Returns to Twitter, Launches Instagram Account in New Social Media Push

After advocating for greater cybersecurity following revelations of U.S. spying in Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff herself is back on the web. On Friday she began tweeting again from her account, @dilmabr, which she stopped using in December 2010. Now, reports Folha de São Paulo, she’s back on Twitter in an effort to engage the public following mass protests in June. She also launched an Instagram account and will soon have an official Facebook page.

In her first spate of tweets today, Rousseff sat side-by-side and exchanged tweets with the author of a popular parody account, commenting with her alter ego on the government’s revamped website, a program to bring foreign doctors to Brazil, and The Economist’s new pessimistic report on the Brazilian economy. She also addressed U.S. spying, saying: “Friendly countries cannot live in mistrust. A different behavior from the U.S. with Brazil is necessary.”

A New Theory on Why the U.S. Spied on Brazil  

The Miami Herald interviewed a former U.S. ambassador to Brazil—who preferred to remain anonymous—to explain his views on why the United States government would want to spy on Brazil. “From Washington’s perspective, the Brazilian government is not exactly friendly,” said the ambassador. He noted that Brazil’s president and the Workers Party are associated with governments such as Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria, and that Brazil tends to side with China and Russia on “almost all conflicts.” He also noted that corruption and drug trafficking in Brazil pose threats to U.S. security.

Countries Vie to Host Colombia’s Peace Talks with the ELN

Brazil, Costa Rica, and Venezuela joined Cuba and Uruguay on the list of countries offering to host peace talks between the Colombian government and National Liberation Army (ELN), the Andean country’s second largest rebel group. Uruguayan President José Mujica met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on September 24 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to discuss the ELN talks, though Santos has yet to make a decision.

Browse AS/COA’s guide to the Colombian peace talks.

Pacific Alliance Leaders Meet on Sidelines of UNGA

On the sidelines of the opening of the UN General Assembly, the presidents of Chile, Colombia, and Peru spoke at a Pacific Alliance summit on September 25. Along with Mexico’s economy minister, the leaders agreed to liberalize 92 percent of their trade as a part of the regional bloc. Peruvian President Ollanta Humala also met one-on-one with Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, and the two agreed to respect the pending decision of the International Court of Justice regarding a maritime dispute between the two countries.

Nicaragua’s Territorial Disputes: A Regional Problem?

Several Latin American presidents submitted a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon this week, saying Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s “expansionist goals” are not solely bilateral problems, but constitute a regional one. Written by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the letter was signed by Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli. Chinchilla and Santos also met to discuss the issue. The three countries are in the throes of land and maritime disputes with Nicaragua, and these quarrels have affected trade, investment, and security throughout the region, wrote Andres Oppenheimer this week.

Mexico Embarks on Major Teacher Census

On September 26, Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Education and the National Institute of Statistics and Geography began the country’s first teacher census, amid an ongoing teacher’s strike. The survey will not only identify the number of teachers in the country, but also their level of schooling, their training, and where they work. The agencies plan to interview 26.2 million students and 1.2 million teachers. The census could identify corruption within the country’s school system, given a history of teaching positions being inherited, sold, or bartered.

Interactive Map: Mexico’s Self-defense Groups

This month, Southern Pulse published an interactive map detailing the locations and activities of Mexico’s self-defense groups, known as autodefensas. The map shows these vigilante groups in 10 states, and points out that while some are relatively new, self-defense groups in the state of Oaxaca have existed for two decades. 

Grim Figures on Domestic Violence in Latin America

The Economist covers Latin America’s poor showing when it comes not only to rates of violence against women, but prosecution of those who commit such acts. More than half of the 25 countries with high femicide rates are located in the Americas. “Activists say the problem is that most cases of violence against women are not investigated, let alone effectively prosecuted,” says the article. “Take El Salvador, which passed a law in 2011. In its first 16 months, only 16 of 63 reported cases were followed up.” On a positive note, 13 countries in the region set up police stations for women, with the goal of making it easier for victims to report crimes. UN research shows these stations have led to increased reporting of domestic violence crimes.

Latin America’s Disgruntled Democracies

In a piece for Project Syndicate, former Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Jorge Castañeda writes that recent protests in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru stem from dissatisfaction with institutions that have become “remarkably insulated from popular demands.” Because of discontent with these governments—especially among the middle class—these countries “have become examples of democracies without legitimacy or credibility,” argues Castañeda.

Controversial Cybercrime Bill Approved by Peru’s Congress

On September 12, Peru’s National Congress approved the country’s Information Crimes Law, which creates sanctions for online crimes such as unlawfully obtaining personal data, publishing personal data without authorization, and hacking computers. However, civil rights advocacy groups say the bill contains “deep and structural” errors and could negatively impact citizens’ right to due process, privacy, and freedom of expression. President Ollanta Humala has yet to sign the bill.

Peru to Restart Halted Mining Projects

A mining project that sparked mass protests in Peru last year will soon be resumed, reports The Los Angeles Times. On September 21, Peruvian Minister of Energy and Mines Jorge Merino announced that the $4.8 billion Conga gold mining project, as well as the $1 billion Tia Maria copper mining project—stalled in 2011—would begin operations again. Merino added that relations with the local communities have been improving.

Bolivia and Uruguay: Partners in Fighting Crime

On September 25, Bolivian Minister of the Presidency Carlos Romero and Uruguayan Minister of the Interior Eduardo Bonomi inked a pact for the two countries to share information and technology in the fight against drug trafficking. The ministers also discussed coordination between police forces.

High Court in DR Issues Controversial Citizenship Ruling

On September 26, the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court decided to strip citizenship from thousands of children of undocumented immigrants. The Court noted that officials will examine birth certificates of around 16,000 people, while the electoral commission must issue a list of those who will be excluded from citizenship within a year. Another 40,000 have been denied identity documents, the Court said. The ruling—which will largely affect Haitian migrants and cannot be appealed—says that all undocumented migrants who came after 1929 were “in transit,” and thus their children are not entitled to citizenship through birth.

Bogotá: South America’s Next Tech Hub?

Colombia’s capital is a rising star among innovation hubs, writes Mashable, as “strong government support and tax breaks for foreign investors [accelerate] Bogotá’s position as a hugely influential city in South America.” The city also graduates over 100,000 professionals and technicians annually, making it attractive to technology and innovation investment, says the article.

Heavy Pedal: Latin America’s Bike Use on the Rise

The bicycle phenomenon continues to gain traction in Latin America, writes the Financial Times’ Beyond Brics blog. With 1 million people taking bikes to work, Mexico City has twice as many bicyclists as London and three times the amount of New York. Bicycle use in Buenos Aires quintupled in the past five years, and cities such as Bogota, Montevideo, and Rio de Janeiro have popular bicycle-share programs.