After just over 100 days in office, two story lines are emerging about Enrique Peña Nieto: one says that the new Mexican president is subtly continuing his predecessor’s "war on drugs;" the other that he is backing off, creating the conditions for a more "peaceful" underworld.
Statistically, there has been no significant change in homicides. In fact, according to Reforma's homicide count, released in mid-March, there has been a slight uptick in organized crime related murders around the country. According to the paper, there were on average 23 "drug-related homicides" per day during the first 100 days of Peña Nieto's administration, compared to 21 per day during the last 100 days of previous President Felipe Calderon (Reforma classes homicides as drug-related based on type of weapon; style of the execution; markings and messages near the body or bodies; presence of drugs; and official reports connecting the deaths to organized crime.)
Military troops are also present in similar numbers and in virtually the same areas as before Peña Nieto became president on Dec. 1. Federal police continue to patrol many of the same cities, and the administration says that it is continuing with its plan to create a gendarmarie, a 10,000-strong special police force. The government also continues to transform the country's justice system from a written inquisitorial to an oral adversarial system, purge police units, and centralize most security bodies into a single authority (under the Interior Ministry, instead of the now-defunct Public Security Secretariat - SSP).
The government has said it will shift its attention to prevention programs, but much of the funds assigned to these programs were already designated during the Calderon administration. In fact, it is difficult to tell which are the new programs and which are the old ones in what the government said was a $9 billion plan.
What has changed is the rhetoric that accompanies this strategy. The Peña Nieto administration is talking about "peace," and has almost completely stopped speaking about the fight against organized crime. About the only remnant of the past is this administration's penchant to deem the victims "criminals," language that got the previous administration in hot water with civil society organizations.
There are, however, some subtle shifts occurring that warrant continued observation, and may signal a more significant change from the last administration than just softer rhetoric.
First, the number of investigations into "crimes against health" is at its lowest point in the last 15 years. Most "crimes against health" are drug trafficking crimes. This is a federal offense in Mexico, and an increase in these cases under Calderon helped cause a spike in the federal prison population.
According to data collected by Carlos Vilalta, an investigator at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE), authorities initiated 783 investigations for "crimes against health" in December 2012, and 826 in January 2013.
Compare this with the Calderon administration's first two months in office, with 10,416 investigations for "crimes against health" initiated in December 2006, and 10,901 during January 2007. In fact, during his six year term, Calderon's administration averaged 6,567 investigations into "crimes against health" a month (See InSight Crime interview with Carlos Vilalta).
Two months is too little time to draw any definitive conclusions on this type of data, and, as is evident in the graph [see original post], the decline in drug investigations began before Peña Nieto took power. But Vilalta says the first two months is a good indicator of where this may be headed. It is possible that the government is lessening the pursuit of criminals on drug charges, perhaps as part of a strategy to draw back the war on drugs.
What's more, it may already be having an impact. While it may be difficult to imagine a "narco-pact" of the type that make Mexicans nostalgic about 1980s and 1990s, when criminals were broadly left to their own devices in exchange for keeping violence low, there are some strange narco-smoke signals that have emerged in recent days that give even the most skeptical amongst us pause.
Take the declarations of the Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios), via strategically placed narco-banners in their stronghold of Michoacan state. The Knights are one of the more combative of the large criminal organizations. They once organized a series of synchronized attacks on several police stations in Michaocan, which included rocket-propelled grenades and .50 caliber shotguns.
In their banners, the group said they were retreating. "Beginning today," the banners read, "we will leave the care of society in the hands of the municipal, state and federal authorities."
Also, in recent days, authorities announced a gang truce in Guadalajara between some of the city's toughest gangs. While very much a local initiative, the truce, if it is really in place, is another illustration that there may be another plan, one that most are not seeing or hearing, but one that may lead to a slight reprieve from the violence.
When he came to power, Peña Nieto promised lower levels of violence, and this week he appealed to the public to judge his policies after one year had passed. Still, we may be getting an early glimpse of how he plans on reaching his goals, which may be trying to please too many people at once and may end up pleasing no one at all.
These shifts, especially with regards to drug prosecutions, may delight those who are calling for "harm reduction" in Mexico's war on drugs but only if they are reducing arrests of petty drug offenders.
As the Transnational Institute (TI) describes it, harm reduction would mean prioritizing "interventions that reduce the harms associated with the existence of drug markets while avoiding those harms stemming from traditional supply reduction efforts themselves." In this case, less arrests of petty drug offenders would help reduce the harms associated with heavy-handed attempts to reduce the supply. (TI has a useful interactive map to show where harm reduction is being implemented worldwide.) To be clear, the harm reduction proponents are certainly not asking the Mexican President to stop jailing the big, violent narcos.
However, it is not clear that this is the current Mexican administration's strategy, and Peña Nieto is walking a fine line with both sides of the debate. On the other side of that debate is the United States, the world's policeman when it comes to drug policy. The United States was a big proponent of Calderon's strategy and perhaps his biggest fan in the region. Now, if the United States senses that Peña Nieto's strategy is less about a strategic shift in policy and more about capitulation to large drug trafficking interests, then relations could become more tense than they have been in years.
– Steven Dudley is a director at Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of his research here. Additional reporting provided by Andres Ortiz Sedano.
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, centralamericanpolitics.blogspot.com. The views expressed are the author's own.
The Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) is providing daily updates on the genocide and crimes against humanity trial against Efrain Rios Montt and Jose Roriguez Sanchez. From day three:
Hours of intense first-person accounts of violence and endurance left impressions of profound grief: "They killed our fathers, our mothers, and everything we loved," said one witness; as well as resolute purpose: "I am one of the few survivors. Perhaps I was sent to be the messenger of the story here."
In all 12 witnesses were called to the stand to be questioned by lawyers for the prosecution and the accused. Most spoke with the aid of court-appointed Ixil Maya translators; one witness, Alberto López, was unable to deliver his testimony due to the lack of a K'iche' Maya translator and will be given another opportunity to take the stand in a future hearing. Among the witnesses were leaders of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation, the survivors' organization which first opened the genocide case more than a decade ago, including current AJR board member Domingo Raymundo Cobo and former board members Francisco Raymundo Chavez and Gaspár Velasco.
The Open Society Justice Initiative is also providing regular updates here.
The Latin Americanist has Guatemala: Witnesses Recall Horror and Heartache at Rios Montt Trial.
Phil Neff has a post on the black humor surrounding the trial in Chapín black humor meets the Guatemala genocide trial.
James Rodriguez has photos of the trial at MiMundo.
Victoria Sanford has an opinion piece in Plaza Publica that originally appeared in El Faro on El genocidio no es un enfrentamiento armado. In it, she criticizes President Otto Perez Molina and other who deny that genocide occurred. But while Boz, Victoria, and I believe that genocide did occur in Guatemala, it's more difficult to prove than crimes against humanity. See Boz from a few weeks ago.
It's a legal question that the judges will have to decide.
Honestly, I hope that should the generals be found not guilty of genocide and/or crimes against humanity, people don't run to the hilltops shouting that this is another example of impunity in Guatemala. The lead judge, Jazmin Barrios, appears to be a judge of integrity who is committed to the law. She has already worked on cases in which human rights violators were found guilty and punished. She stuck to the court's timetable to have the case moved up five months. She and her fellow judges also played hardball with Efrain Rios Montt and his defense counsel as they tried to have her removed from the case.
– Mike Allison is an associate professor in the Political Science Department and a member of the Latin American and Women's Studies Department at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. You can follow his Central American Politics blog here.
Mexicans drink more refrescos, or soda, than people in just about any other country, according to new research.
Stacks of glass-bottled sodas – orange pop, purple non-alcoholic sangria, Coca-Cola – are omnipresent at food stands across Mexico City, where busy workers stop for quesadillas or tamales and are as likely to down a soda at breakfast as at lunch and dinner.
But too much soda is morbidly dangerous, the American Heart Association says, based on a new analysis of data collected during the 2010 Global Burden of Diseases Study. It linked consumption of sugary drinks to diabetes and obesity-related deaths, and Mexico ranks No. 1 in the world.
Researchers looked at the relationship between the quantities of sugary sodas, sports drinks, and fruit drinks consumed and the prevalence of obesity and diabetes. Latin America and the Caribbean topped nine world regions studied, with 38,000 fatalities annually.
The study linked sugary drinks with about 180,000 deaths worldwide each year.
Mexicans chug 43 gallons of soft drinks per person, per year, versus 31 gallons per person in the United States, the world’s No. 2 consumer, according to Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
More than 9 million Mexicans suffer from diabetes, according to the latest health ministry data. And nearly a third of the population is overweight or obese. A separate study earlier this month by Stanford University and the Universities of California at Berkley and San Francisco resulted in similar findings: that consuming just one bubbly drink per day could increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
The trend is not unique to Mexico. Across Latin America, both the low cost of sugared drinks and lack of public health education have been an issue. Parents will fill their babies’ bottles with “fruit” refreshments that may cost less than the real thing – fresh-squeezed orange or grapefruit juice, for example – and have few natural ingredients and far more sugar than meets the eye.
Mexico’s health ministry has been campaigning to educate Mexicans about the dangers of obesity and diabetes and is encouraging prevention through healthy eating habits and regular exercise. Although Mexican law prohibits the sale of sodas and junk food inside schools, vendors of fried snacks and sodas frequently roll their colorful carts up to the door before the end of the school day. In other countries, like the Dominican Republic, an emphasis has been put on getting citizens to exercise though free exercise classes in public parks.
While most developed nations struggle to weather financial storms, Latin America has been riding out the choppy economic waters thanks in large part to a wave of high commodity prices and active monetary policies.
But in a report released Sunday, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) is warning that the region faces weaker economic growth in the next five years as commodity process drop and governments face higher fiscal deficits.
The IADB’s top economists forecast annual growth for Latin America and the Caribbean over the next five years to be 3.9 percent, almost a full percentage point lower than the 4.8 percent growth seen in the five years before the 2007 global recession.
“Bonanzas are not eternal,” said IADB President Luis Alberto Moreno at the bank’s annual meeting in Panama.
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“Lower commodity prices imply a drop in the terms of trade for most countries in the region and, therefore, a negative shock to income,” the report said.
The rate of growth for investment is also projected to fall from 10 percent to just 5 percent annually, according to the report. Lower investment will make it harder for countries to tackle one of the main obstacles to economic growth – poor infrastructure – which could mean there's an additional risk that "growth would be lower than indicated in these projections.”
Many of the countries in the region relied on expansionary monetary policies, such as increasing the money supply or targeting interest rates, to spur growth during the worldwide economic downturn. But the IADB suggests that governments tighten fiscal policy in order to give themselves more wiggle room in a downturn.
“It is not a question of using fiscal and monetary policies today to counter a negative shock and bring growth in the region up to its potential,” José Juan Ruiz, the IADB’s chief economist said.
“We need to find measures to increase our potential rate of growth.”
Such measures to foster economic growth should include structural reforms, which the report says will vary from country to country according to particular needs. However, in general, the report suggests a focus on reforming labor markets to formalize the work of 56 percent of the Latin American workforce that functions outside the formal economy. Another suggested focus is on the region's “deficient infrastructure,” which is a “constraint on economic growth,” the report said.
• Carolina Acosta-Alzuru is a contributor to WOLA’s blog: Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. The views expressed are the author's own.
Venezuela will hold a presidential election in [less than] one month. Though the media are key actors in any political campaign, they are even more so in short campaigns such as the one leading up to April 14th. Analysis of Venezuela’s media landscape usually hovers around two poles:
Communication and information rights “have been under fire during the Chávez Era” (Cañizález, 2009).
“The vast majority of Venezuela’s media […] are constitutionally protected, uncensored, and dominated by the opposition” (Weisbrot & McChesney, 2007).
My comments here focus on television, a mass medium of tremendous importance in Venezuelan culture and everyday life. This is the television landscape in terms of average daily shares, i.e. the percentage of television sets in use tuned to each network or group of networks:
Venevision+Televen: 40-45 percent.
Cable: 30-35 percent.
State channels: 8-10 percent.
Globovisión: 4.5-6 percent.
Others (as defined by A.G.B.): 8-10 percent.
Oppositional network Gobovision’s mere existence serves as the perfect example to counter those who criticize compromised speech and press freedoms in Venezuela. But given its small share, Globovisión is not nearly as damaging to the government as many would like to think, or as the government conveniently contends. Moreover, while Globovisión provides conversation pieces for antichavistas it does not reach many of those Venezuelans that the opposition would like to convince of an alternative to chavismo or now, “madurismo.”
Ten years ago, analyses of Venezuelan television based on ownership patterns were telling of polarized content. Today, such assessments are limited and misleading. That the sum of state television outlets has a share of only 8-10 percent is not the whole story. Why? Because assuming that the private media are oppositional or that they give voice to dissidence is simply wrong.
It is necessary to ask: How much of the content presented by the two privately owned networks, that together have a share of 40-45 percent, is oppositional to the government? After the enactment of the 2005 media content law (Ley Resorte) and 2007 non-renewal of RCTV’s license, what content do Televen and Venevision broadcast out of fear? What do they not broadcast also out of fear?
Self-censorship, the Ley Resorte’s ultimate effect in the post-RCTV era has had chilling results and is an undeniable element in many Venezuelan media outlets. Unlike censorship, which is usually evident, self-censorship is difficult to trace. In my research on Venezuelan telenovelas, I have been able to witness and document the increasing presence of self-censorship (Acosta-Alzuru, C. in press. “Melodrama, reality and crisis: The government-media relationship in Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution.” International Journal of Cultural Studies). In many cases, self-censorship was more restrictive than the Ley Resorte itself. Self-censorship has become one of the two main survival strategies for the remaining television networks in Venezuela. The other one is strict obedience. In my research I have not seen a shred of resistance when these outlets receive an “exhortation” from the government to pull a show or ban a voice from being aired.
These networks argue that as entertainment producers they should stay away from the political fray. Government opponents call their behavior opportunistic and underscore television’s responsibility to inform. In Venevisión’s case, the contrast between 2003-2004, when it broadcast Cosita Rica (a telenovela that mirrored the rocky path to the presidential recall referendum and whose antagonist was a metaphor of President Chávez) and the network’s current strict self-censorship says volumes about the evolution of the media situation in Venezuela in the last decade.
In sum, to understand television’s landscape and how it contributes to the uneven political terrain in Venezuela, it is necessary to analyze more than ownership patterns. Content (presences and absences), shares, the use of mandatory cadenas by the government, and the presence of voluntary cadenas in major outlets are essential to understand the inextricable links between Venezuela’s political and media situations.
With state television in propaganda mode and the most important private television outlets in survival mode, what will be the future of Venezuela’s access to a plurality of voices in the media?
- Carolina Acosta-Alzuru @caa2410 is Associate Professor in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. She is the author of Venezuela es una Telenovela (Alfa 2007).
• A version of this story ran on the author's site, nicaraguadispatch.com. The views expressed are the author's own.
Opposition lawmakers in Nicaragua are lambasting an unannounced and unilateral decision by the ruling Sandinista Front to cut Internet service to all congressmen inside the legislative chamber of the National Assembly.
On Tuesday, lawmakers showed up to work to find that their computers in the legislative chamber no longer have Internet access. The restrictive measure, according to veteran Sandinista congressman José Figueroa, was implemented to prevent lawmakers from wasting time on Facebook or Cartoonnetwork.com.
“This is a measure to get all the lawmakers to focus only on their legislative work. All the social networks, personal emails and personal information can be looked at in their offices, because each lawmaker has his or her office,” Mr. Figueroa told El Nuevo Diario.
Figueroa said lawmakers in the legislative chamber will be limited to accessing the National Assembly’s webpage and their daily work agenda, which will be facilitated by a closed-circuit intranet system. Predictably, other Sandinista lawmakers have closed ranks and applauded the administrative decision.
But opposition lawmakers argue the move is an “absurd” and “authoritarian” attempt by Sandinistas to control access to information, limit lawmakers from interacting with constituents and deterring informed debate in the National Assembly.
“This is a form of censorship, similar to what you see from the governments of Cuba, Iran, and China,” says Liberal Party lawmaker Carlos Langrand. “Information is power; it helps inform debates in the National Assembly and allows lawmakers to connect with voters through social media, as well as remain up-to-date on what is happening in the world.”
Mr. Langrand thinks the Sandinistas’ decision to take the legislative chamber offline demonstrates the ruling party’s “fear of information flow” and is an attempt by Nicaragua’s establishment to “suppress the freedom of expression by cutting off communication with the outside world.”
In a country with less than 10 percent Internet connectivity, restricting Internet use in the National Assembly doesn’t seem to be consistent with national efforts to close the digital divide or modernize government, says Sandinista dissident lawmaker Victor Hugo Tinoco, of the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS).
“This is an absurd decision. The Internet is an important tool that we use to inform debate. When we are discussing economic matters, we often use Internet to refer to statistics published on the Central Bank’s webpage,” Mr. Tinoco says.
Tinoco noted that the international community has gone to great efforts to help Nicaragua’s National Assembly modernize with technology, computers, and Internet access. To now limit those advances makes no sense, he says.
“What’s next?” Tinoco demanded. “Removing Internet from schools and universities because it’s a distraction from learning?”
Langrand admits that there are some uninterested and disengaged lawmakers who waste their time fooling around online. But he claims those are mostly low-ranking Sandinista lawmakers whose job it is to vote piously and unquestioningly for their party’s position, which is handed down from the presidency and not subject for debate.
“Those are the lawmakers who spend all day on Facebook or playing online solitaire, because there is no room for dissent or debate in the ranks of the Sandinista Front. But the opposition is more interested in debating legislation,” he says.
Both Langrand and Tinoco say their opposition legislative blocs are scheduled to meet this week to file an official appeal or protest of the Internet ban.
– A version of this blog ran on the author's website, www.nicaraguadispatch.com
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
It is one thing to talk about El Salvador's gang truce, which celebrated its one year anniversary last weekend, in blog posts and newspaper articles. It is another thing to live in communities where crime is prevalent. How do the bulk of Salvadorans view the truce?
In polling by the University of Central America during mid-November 2012, there were high levels of skepticism about the truce. 66.4 percent of those polled believed that the truce had reduced the level of crime little or not at all. 89.4 percent of the respondents had little or no trust in the truce.
La Prensa Grafica (LPG) polling in February 2013 showed that 55.2 percent of Salvadorans had a negative opinion of the truce while only 29.7 percent had a positive view. The respondents were about evenly split over whether or not there should be negotiations with the gangs. And 70 percent said that one could not trust the gangs to fulfill their promises.
When LPG asked people for the reasons for the gang problem, 36.2 percent blamed the parents and the educational system of the country, while 30.7 percent focused on economic factors. According to LPG, respondents from the middle and upper classes were more likely to blame the breakdown of families, while persons from the lower classes were more likely to focus on economic forces behind young men joining gangs. Salvadorans are split on whether resolving the gang problem requires more iron fist policies including the death penalty, or whether there should be a focus on job creation, and re-insertion of gang members into society.
In short, the people on El Salvador's streets are uncertain about where this process is headed and whether it is even a good thing...
The governments of Central America and the Dominican Republic are planning measures to share information on criminal records and allow “hot pursuit” chases across borders, in an effort to fight transnational criminal groups.
Designed to target organized crime groups, the agreement will allow law enforcement agencies from one country to pursue suspects over the border into a neighboring country. The agreement will also see states share criminal records so suspects are prosecuted as repeat offenders for crimes they have committed in other countries.
Representatives of the governments agreed on the wording of the deal at a conference in Panama last week, reported EFE. Once the agreement is signed by justice ministers from each country, it will be taken to the mid-2013 Central American Integration System's (SICA) annual summit for signature by the presidents.
InSight Crime Analysis
Weak law enforcement cooperation between countries and lack of border controls has helped make Central America an attractive venue for organized crime with criminals able to move quickly into the next country in order to escape pursuit by the law. One example is offered by the case of Jose Natividad Luna Pereira, or “Chepe Luna,” a Salvadoran drug trafficker who in recent years has been hiding out in Honduras, where he also holds citizenship, after a series of failed police operations to capture him in El Salvador.
Those that do get caught may get away with relatively light sentences despite a long criminal history if it is their first offense in the country where they are arrested.
The Central American Parliament, which oversees SICA, has plans to expand the Central American Court of Justice to further coordinate law enforcement efforts in the region, currently a major corridor for trafficking drugs from South America up to Mexico and the United States.
The case of Facundo Cabral, an Argentine folk singer murdered in Guatemala in 2011, has also drawn attention to the importance of cooperation in the region. Costa Rican Alejandro Jimenez, alias "El Palidejo," allegedly ordered the hit, which was intended to kill Nicaraguan nightclub owner Henry Fariñas. Authorities in all three countries have been cooperating in the case, which has also led to arrests in Colombia.
– Hannah Stone is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of her research here.
José “Pepe” Palacios, a leading Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) activist from Honduras, recently visited the United States at the invitation of the Honduras Solidarity Network and the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN). Pepe is a founding member of the Diversity Movement in Resistance (MDR), created in the wake of the June 2009 coup d’état in Honduras that replaced the democratically elected government. He is also a program officer at the Swedish aid agency Diakonia. At events in Washington, DC that the Latin America Working Group helped arrange, Pepe spoke about the violence the LGBT community has faced after the coup and what they are doing to organize for change...
“June 28, 2009 we had a coup d’état. It is a really important date for the LGBT community of Honduras. June 28, 1969 was Stonewall. 40 years later we had the coup d’état and for us, the coup was our Stonewall. Prior to that date, we didn’t have a movement at all. But, on that date, we joined all the social movements in our country. We had a fight in common: we wanted democracy.
“It was really hard working together; there are 13 LGBT organizations. Before the coup, it was almost impossible to have even 2 LGBT organizations seated at the same table. There was a lot of transphobia and lesbophobia; we were just a ‘G’ organization. We called it LGBT but in reality it was not. Now, we have a common agenda. Our biggest allies are the feminists, union workers, indigenous organizations, afro-Hondurans, youth organizations, campesinos and even religious organizations, all of whom were against the coup.
“Honduran society is very conservative; there is a lot of homophobia. Being part of the resistance front doesn’t make you immune to homophobia immediately. But at least in this movement, the people are very supportive. Maybe it is because we have the same goal as them, but every time we accompany the resistance front, the people are very respectful. Others tolerate us, but they respect us. Between tolerance and respect, I prefer being respected.
“One of the things that has changed since the coup is that there is a lot of hate. In only 7 months after the coup, 26 LGBT persons were killed. In 2008, we only had 4 killed. We went from 4 to 26; that’s a big jump. From 1994-2009, we had 20 LGBT murders. After the coup, we have had 90. It went from being 1 per year to 2 per month. Why? We were living in a bubble before and if you’re invisible, you’re harmless. Since that day, the LGBT community became visible because we walked the streets protesting against the coup. Now we’re thechusma.
“The American embassy and State Department sent FBI agents to support the police and prosecutors in their investigations of these murders. Now, 18 of the 90 cases are under investigation with 2 people sentenced. The investigations have progressed because of the involvement of the FBI agents. I don’t see a possibility that the current government improves the legal system. If it wasn’t for the pressure of the American embassy and State Department, they wouldn’t do anything at all to investigate. The government excuse is that there are lots of murders occurring so why should they have to focus on these LGBT murders in particular. The government is investigating now not because they want to but because of international pressure.
“In 2011, the resistance movement decided to create a political arm in order to participate in general elections (LIBRE). We had two pre-candidates for Congress. One, Erick Martinez Avila, was nominated in April and on May 7, 2012 he was murdered. Traditionally, we have had two parties and now we have a third, and for the first time they will have real competition in an election. What I want to do here is to raise awareness because maybe many of you didn’t have any information on what’s happening in Honduras with the LGBT organizations. Also we need to have the support of human rights organizations to observe the electoral process in order to ensure it will be transparent.
“I would never ever leave my country because if I do that, I’m safe but others will still face threats. In every revolution there will be casualties, but we know we can’t stop. The positive thing is that we became visible and now we really are a movement, not a social club, not an NGO. We’re part of a movement that fights for the rights of everyone.”
- Jordan Baber is an LAWG intern.
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, bloggingsbyboz.com. The views expressed are the author's own.
Most of Brazil's oil output benefits the states of Rio de Janeiro, Espirito Santo, and São Paulo. Brazil's Congress voted to spread an increased amount of oil royalties across all the other states, raising the amount from 7 percent to 21 percent, cutting royalties to the three states and the federal government in the process. Presidenet Dilma Rousseff issued a partial veto so that the law would only affect new production, but the Congress overturned her veto last week. The law will now go to the Supreme Court to determine if it is constitutional.
As I wrote last year, this is a different take on the local vs. national debate that is seen throughout the region. Should oil and mineral wealth go to the local communities, the federal governments, or be spread around to the entire country's population?
It's different due to the scale and importance of the regions involved. The three states mentioned above, Rio, Espirito Santo, and São Paulo, have a combined population of 60 million people.
The Rio state government has suspended all payments other than salaries in protest of the dispute. The government is making a threat, with a bit of hyperbole, that the loss of funds threatens the city's ability to complete the construction it needs to host the World Cup and Olympic games.
– James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant who runs Bloggings by Boz.