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Weekly Roundup: LatAm Internet Freedom, Chile's Marine Energy, Costa Rica's Campaign Finance

Weekly Roundup AS/COA

October 04, 2013

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In Brazil, Presidential Contender’s New Party Blocked by Court

On October 3, Brazil’s electoral court vetoed the creation of a new political party, the Sustainability Network, by presidential contender Marina Silva. In a 6-1 vote, the court ruled that she had not received enough signatures to register the party in time. Silva, who came in third during the 2010 presidential elections, is polling second behind President Dilma Rousseff ahead of next year’s October vote, according to a September 26 survey. Silva will announce on Saturday whether she will run on a different party’s ticket. Other than Silva, Rousseff’s main opponents in the election are expected to be Aécio Neves, former governor of Minas Gerais state, and Pernambuco Governor Eduardo Campos.  With just these candidates in the running, Rousseff may be able to win in the first round of voting, reports Folha de São Paulo.

Venezuela Expels Three U.S. Diplomats; U.S. Reciprocates

On September 30, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro expelled three U.S. embassy officials, accusing them of sabotage and intervening in Venezuelan affairs, reports El Universal. The U.S. State Departments called the allegations “groundless” and took a reciprocal action on October 1, expelling three top Venezuelan diplomats from the United States. The following day, Maduro said he would not hesitate to kick out all U.S. officials if they become “too problematic.” The Los Angeles Times writes that Caracas’ actions are an attempt to divert attention from the “increasingly dire” economic problems facing the Andean country.

Report: Six Latin America Countries See Decline in Internet Freedom

Internet freedom is declining in six Latin American countries, says watchdog organization Freedom House in its newly released 2013 Freedom on the Net Report. Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, and Venezuela all showed decreases in the ranking this year. Venezuela saw a rise in censorship via cyberattacks and suspension of service during the April presidential elections, while Cuba was found, for the second consecutive year, to be one of the least free countries in terms of internet freedom. Argentina is the only country in the region designated as “free” in terms of internet and digital media freedom. Brazil went from “free” in 2012 to “partly free” this year, due to new laws restricting online content, as well as violence against bloggers and online journalists. Mexico’s ranking decreased slightly as a result of ongoing violence against journalists and revelations of phone surveillance. Ecuador ranked as “partly free” due to restrictive media and telecoms laws.

El Salvador’s Human Rights Records at Risk?

On September 30, El Salvador’s Tutela Legal—a legal counseling center that has focused on human rights violations and holds archives detailing abuses the country’s civil war—was unexpectedly closed. The Archdiocese of San Salvador, which has since backpedaled, explained that the center “no longer had a reason to exist.” Human rights groups raised concerns that the closure coincided with the Constitutional Court’s September decision to hear a challenge to the country’s amnesty law. On Friday, the country’s human rights prosecutor announced steps would be taken to ensure the safety of the archives.

Clashes Break out at March to Commemorate Mexican Student Massacre

October 2 marked the forty-fifth anniversary of the 1968 killings of unarmed student protesters in Mexico City’s Tlatelolco Square. Protesters marched to demand justice and in memory of the victims, but clashes broke out with riot police, leading to dozens of injuries and over 100 arrests. Animal Politico shares photos and videos of the march and clashes.

Survey: Mexicans Say Yes to Energy Reform, No to Private Investment

A survey released this week by research firm Buendía & Laredo found that 53 percent of Mexicans favor President Enrique Peña Nieto’s reforms of state oil company Pemex. However, 61 percent oppose foreign investment in Pemex, a key and controversial part of Peña Nieto’s plan.

Puerto Rico’s Economy and the U.S. Government Shutdown

Because the Caribbean island depends on federal funding for about 40 percent of its government revenues, Puerto Rico is bracing for the potential effects of the U.S. government shutdown that began this week. And because around half of Puerto Rico’s 10,000 federal workers are furloughed, the shutdown could impact wallets. About 27 percent of Puerto Rico’s personal disposable income depends on federal government payments. The shutdown adds to Puerto Rico’s economic woes, given a nearly 14 percent unemployment rate and sluggish growth.

LatAm Now Has Nearly 22 Million “Ninis”

A report released this week by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Lima indicates that in Latin America and the Caribbean, there are now 21.7 million “ninis,” youth who neither attend school nor work. It also found that the youth unemployment rate in the region stands at 13.7 percent, which is triple the adult average. “Feelings of discouragement by youth who can’t find work create anger and frustration, which affects the stability of societies, the credibility of institutions, and even perspectives on democratic governance,” said Elizabeth Tinoco, the ILO’s regional director for Latin America.

Pacific Rim Presidents Head to Indonesia for APEC

Several heads of states from the Americas are headed to Indonesia for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on October 7 and 8 in Bali. Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and Chilean President Sebastián Piñera traveled to Thailand this week ahead of the summit to talk trade; Piñera is expected to sign a free-trade agreement in the Asian country. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper both traveled on October 3 to Indonesia for the event. U.S. President Barack Obama will not attend due to the U.S. government shutdown, and Secretary of State John Kerry will go in his stead. These Western Hemisphere leaders will also participate in a meeting with heads of state from countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership on October 8.

MILA Integrates Foreign Exchange Markets

The combined stock markets of Chile, Colombia, and Peru known as the Latin American Integrated Market (MILA) will now integrate foreign exchange markets, the trio announced on October 2. MILA’s integrated platform will let administrators “better manage foreign exchange risk and break cost barriers,” said Alejandro Rubio, general manager of Peruvian stock exchange Datapec.

Argentina and Uruguay at Odds Again over Paper Plant

Uruguayan President José Mujica’s October 2 authorization of increased production by the UPM paper mill has again put the country at odds with neighbor Argentina. The paper mill, located in between the two countries on the banks of the Uruguay River, has been a source of contention between Argentina and Uruguay since 2005. Mujica gave UPM an annual production increase of 100,000 tons, pending environmental compliance requirements such as installation of a cooling tower. Argentina is set to challenge the decision before the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Paraguay’s Cartes Talks Mercosur in Brazil

Continuing his tour of the Southern Cone, Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes met with his Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff in a September 30 visit to Brasilia. Cartes told Rousseff that his country does not want to beg “for alms or favors” but just wants to “sit at the big table.” The two leaders discussed Paraguay’s full reinstatement into the Southern Common Market bloc, and Rousseff expressed support in the process, noting that Paraguay is a “strategic partner.”

USAID Closes up Shop in Bolivia

After President Evo Morales announced he would expel USAID in May, the U.S. development organization active in Bolivia for over 50 years announced this week that it was closing its offices and ceasing all activity in the Andean country. On September 30, USAID became “definitively” inactive, according to the U.S. embassy in La Paz.

New Legislation Reduces Campaign Finance Funds in Costa Rica

Presidential campaign season kicked off on October 2 in Costa Rica ahead of the country’s February 2014 election. But campaigns may be affected by legislation signed by the president this week. The law will reduce the government’s contribution to campaign financing by approximately $40 million and caps spending to no more than 0.11 percent of GDP. Unlike other countries, Costa Rica prohibits private-sector campaign contributions, and the president and legislature set the quantity of GDP reserved for campaign financing.

(H/T Central American Politics)

Colombian Defense Minister on CentAm and Caribbean Tour

From September 30 to October 4, Colombian Minister of Defense Juan Carlos Pinzón visited seven countries—the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago—to meet with defense officials and six heads of state. Pinzón discussed Colombia’s fight against transnational crime, and offered anti-trafficking technology training and support.

Chile: A World Power in Marine Energy?

With nearly 4,000 miles of coastline, Chile could become the next world power in marine energy through tidal and wave power, finds a study by the Inter-American Development Bank. Currently, the country imports 75 percent of its energy resources, but Chile’s marine energy potential is so great that one wave farm could generate enough energy to power 10,000 households per year. Two pilot projects on the country’s southern coast are already exploring how to harness tidal current energy and wave energy.