Weekly Round Up - Stories from the Americas

Here are a couple of very interesting stories that took place last week across the Americas and the Caribbean. Please feel free to send us stories that we might have overlooked that touch on a wide-ranging policy issues affecting constituencies, civil society organizations and businesses with operations and ties to both regions. 

  • Dominican President Leonel Fernández hinted Sunday that he that he might seek a third consecutive presidency, despite constitutional term limits that seem to bar such a move. 

The Dominican Republic restricted re-elections in the mid-1990s to prevent repeat campaigns in the style of former President Joaquin Balaguer, who held power for more than two decades and was known for jailing critics. Allegations of fraud were widespread during his tenure. Leaders of President Leonel Fernandez's party have been promoting his candidacy while lobbying for constitutional reform that would allow him to run next year. They presented Fernandez Sunday with a petition apparently signed by 2.2 million people calling for his re-election in the Caribbean nation of 6.3 million registered voters.

  • The LA Times takes a look at President Obama’s visit to the tomb of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero:"a cleric and human rights champion who was assassinated at the outset of a civil war by the side U.S. governments would come to support." Moreover, Greg Grandin from The Nation raises a provocative question about the pilgrimage's meaning:

Today, El Salvador is led by President Mauricio Funes, head of a center-left coalition government that includes the FMLN, the insurgent group turned political party Ronald Reagan wasted billions of dollars and over 70,000 lives trying to defeat in the 1980s. By lighting a candle for Romero, Obama, it might be said, was tacitly doing in El Salvador what he wouldn’t—or couldn’t—do in Chile: apologize for US actions that resulted in horrific human tragedy.

  •  According to The Washington Post, leading Mexican media companies announced new guidelines designed to limit the use of gruesome and terrifying images of drug violence, and “pledged to work together to protect their reporters from harm” due to growing threats from criminal organizations. An excerpt below:

The journalists noted that the public displays are designed to terrorize the populace, intimidate authorities, and send chilling, coded threats to opposing drug organizations.

The nonbinding guidelines allow for continued use of bloody images. But in an apparent nod to complaints from President Felipe Calderon’s government that things are not as bad as the media report, the news groups pledged to “always present information in the right context and proportion” and to report “how it compares to what has happened, or is happening, in other regions and countries.

Journalists took note that Mexico’s democracy is threatened by unprecedented violence and that the country is one of the most dangerous in the world for reporters. In conflict zones in Mexico, many news outlets have stopped reporting daily killings, including street battles between government forces and alleged gangs.

“The places where it is really important to report the news, and the context, are the very places where the cartels have most of the power and will not allow the journalists to do their jobs. In fact, they will kill them for doing their jobs,” said Mike O’Connor, the Mexico representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

  • The Associated Press reports that the group of university protesters ended their month-long hunger strike in Venezuela after the government reportedly met their demands of increased public spending on universities.
  • Jimmy Carter arrived in Cuba yesterday for a three day trip. The former American president is expected to meet Cuban President Raúl Castro and press for the release of imprisoned American contractor Alan Gross. The BBC and Spanish El Pais cover the story.
  • Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez stressed the need to strengthen regional integration in Latin America upon his arrival to Argentina

Thank you to everyone that attended the NDN-SAIS joint forum on Public Diplomacy and Social Media in Latin America;we got a lot of positive feedback from the audience, and #LAConnect was a trending topic in DC for the two hours of the event. We will be creating a page on our website devoted to the event and the subjects discussed today—we hope the conversation will continue there.

We would also love to have you at our major day-long conference looking at how this fast-changing region might be able to do more to move forward together in the years ahead.  The day will feature major addresses by influential thought leaders, including Governor Bill Richardson, the Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere at the National Security Council Dan Restrepo, the Ambassador from Mexico to the United States Arturo Sarukhan, border region mayors and much, much more. Forward Together/Avanzando Juntos/Avançando Juntos– A Conference Looking at the Changing Politics of the Americas will take place at the Newseum on April 11th. Please make sure to RSVP!