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Posts Tagged ‘Latin America’

Defending Assange, Ecuador’s President Kindles a Controversy over Defining Rape

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 24, 2012

The decision to help keep Assange out of Sweden shines light on Latin America’s problematic attitude toward rape
image: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange prepares to speak from the balcony of Ecuador's embassy, where he is taking refuge in London Aug. 19, 2012.
CHRIS HELGREN / REUTERS
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange prepares to speak from the balcony of Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he is taking refuge, on Aug. 19, 2012

This isn’t exactly International Male Sensitivity Week. First we had Missouri Congressman and Dark Ages darling Todd Akin sparking a global firestorm of criticism, and calls from his own Republican Party that he drop his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, by suggesting that “legitimate” female rape victims rarely get pregnant. Akin later apologized and said he meant to say “forcible” rape — but that still betrayed the backwardly narrow definition of rape that Akin and so many other anti–abortion rights conservatives hold.

Now we have Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, who last week granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, reminding us just how at home Akin would likely feel in Latin America, even in countries run by leftists like Correa. Talking to reporters on Wednesday in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Correa noted with a disturbingly matter-of-fact air that the sexual assault two women in Sweden accuse Assange of committing against them in 2010 “would not be considered in any case a felony in Latin America.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Is Ecuador Julian Assange’s Choice for Asylum?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 20, 2012

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has appealed for asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. It’s a curious choice: under President Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s free speech record has been dismal.
Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

DAN KITWOOD / GETTY IMAGES

Julian Assange, the controversial Australian founder of Wikileaks, walked into Ecuador‘s London embassy on Tuesday to request political asylum. He may have picked just the right kind of government to accept him.

The South American country in April 2011 became the only one to officially expel a U.S. ambassador over the scandal generated by the thousands of leaked diplomatic cables. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa—a populist firebrand whose thin-skinned response to the stolen cables’ detailing police corruption in Ecuador prompted U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges’ dismissal—has faced global criticism over his track record on free speech and could see in Assange just the character to help him restore some of his tarnished credentials.

(READ: Out of Ecuador—a U.S. ambassador bites the Wiki-dust.)

The UK’s top court last week refused Assange’s final appeal against being sent to Sweden to face charges of rape and sexual harassment, which he claims are politically trumped up. “Death threats, economic boycott and the possibility of being handed over to the authorities of the United States by British, Swedish or Australian authorities have led me to seek asylum on Ecuadorean territory and protection to allow me to continue with my mission,” he said in a letter read to the media in Quito by Ricardo Patiño, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister. Assange says that he could face the death penalty in the U.S. for having published confidential government cables, along with thousands of Pentagon documents earlier. Patiño said that Ecuador hasn’t yet granted him asylum, but he may stay at the embassy until the Correa administration makes its decision. Last year, Quito fumed over the leaked cables, insisting their contents – which suggested that Correa had knowingly named an allegedly corrupt chief of police in order to be able to control him better – were completely untrue. Read the rest of this entry »

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Salbuchi: Putin a break against neo-colonial West

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 5, 2012

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Most Violent Cities In The World (PHOTOS)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 18, 2012

Mexico claims the unfortunate dishonor of having five of the top 10 most violent cities in the world, according to a study published by the Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Penal (Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice), a private organization and wing of COPARMEX, the Mexican Employers’ Association.

The rankings come as little surprise, given the rash of violence associated with Mexico’s war on drugsEl Periódico de Catalunya reports that on Thursday a group of hitmen allegedly murdered a man outside of an elementary school as classes let out in front of dozens of parents and teachers in Ciudad Juárez, the No. 2 most-violent city. Read the rest of this entry »

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Latin America unites in new bloc, US not invited

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 4, 2011

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos, Bolivia's President Evo Morales, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Cuban President Raul Castro (From Lto R, first row) pose for the family picture of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit on December 2, 2011 in Caracas (AFP Photo / LEO RAMIREZ)

Thirty-three Latin American leaders have come together and formed a new regional bloc, pledging closer economic and political ties. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) pointedly excludes the US and Canada.

On the second day of a summit in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, all Latin American leaders, both right and left, officially signed into effect the formation of the CELAC bloc. The foundation of the bloc has been praised as the realization of the two-centuries-old idea of Latin American “independence” envisioned by Simon Bolivar.

Analysts view CELAC as an alternative to the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) and as an attempt by Latin American countries to reduce US influence in the region.

“As the years go by, CELAC is going to leave behind the old and worn-out OAS,” Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said at the inauguration of the bloc on Friday.

“It’s the death sentence for the Monroe Doctrine,” said Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega said.

However Washington does not see CELAC as a replacement to OAS. US Department of State spokesman Mark Toner said the US will continue “to work through the OAS as the pre-eminent multilateral organization, speaking for the hemisphere.”

Political analyst Omar Jose Hassan Farinas told RT’s Spanish channel the US views CELAC as a potential threat to its hegemony in the region.

Chavez also read out statement opposing the US trade embargo on Cuba. Havana, which is not a member of the OAS, has joined the new regional bloc.

“No more interference. Enough is enough! We have to take shape as a center of the world power and demand respect for all of us as community and for each one of our countries,” Venezuelan leader said.

The 33 leaders pledged to withstand the financial crisis that has struck Europe and other developed countries.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Cristina Fernández a Safe Bet to Continue As Argentina’s Leader – But Not Latin America’s

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 21, 2011

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Like most Latin America correspondents, I’ve marked my calendar for October 23: Argentina’s presidential election. Then

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner waves to supporters after winning the primary elections in Buenos Aires on August 14, 2011, ahead the general elections to be held on October 23. (Photo: Alejandro Pagni / AFP / Getty Images)

again, maybe I can just watch NFL games that day, since the race actually seems to have been all but decided last Sunday, Aug. 14. Argentina held its first (and compulsory) open primary voting; but since most parties had already picked their candidates, it turned out instead to be a dress rehearsal for October’s general election. And the result stunned everyone: President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner trounced the field, scoring more than 50% of the vote compared to just 12% for her closest October competitors, former President Eduardo Duhalde and Ricardo Alfonsín, son of former President Raúl Alfonsín.

Given how tumultuous her first term has been, few expected Fernández, 58, of the populist Peronist party, to sweep Sunday’s balloting so convincingly and make herself a seeming shoo-in for re-election. But a number of factors favor her. She continues to draw on a huge wave of sympathy resulting from last year’s death of her husband and presidential predecessor, Néstor Kirchner, whose leadership most Argentines credit with rescuing them from one of the worst economic crises in their history. Today, despite growing inflation and a host of other fiscal dangers, Argentina’s economy is robust, and Fernández can claim it’s because she opted for Peronist-style investment and social spending over IMF-style austerity. Lastly, her opposition is just plain lame.

And yet, it’s hard from abroad not to feel a certain sense of disappointment. Not because Fernández looks all but assured of a second four-year term. But because, at this juncture anyway, she seems to have fallen decidedly short of the regional and hemispheric leadership potential we all saw in her four years ago, when she campaigned for her first term. Read the rest of this entry »

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Latin America’s housing boom: It’s not all froth

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 28, 2011

Big price hikes at the top end reflect a new, richer reality

DINNER-PARTY conversations about house prices, newspapers packed with ads for glitzy show-homes and properties changing hands for twice their price three years ago: recently Brazil’s business capital, São Paulo, has felt a lot like pre-bust London or New York. The property fever there and in other Latin American countries makes some fear that the region’s economic renaissance may have become over-exuberant. But the housing boom is grounded in rising prosperity rather than excessive debt.

In select parts of Brazil’s big cities, property prices are certainly racing ahead. IBOPE Inteligência, a research firm pioneering the country’s first statistically sound house-price index, says that in 2010 the average price of a new apartment in São Paulo rose by around a quarter and by much more in the poshest areas. Estate agents claim prices in such choice locations are up by 80% in three years; and that in similar parts of Rio de Janeiro, boosted by the discovery of huge oil reserves off the coast and the prospect of hosting the Olympics in 2016, they have doubled.

The property boom is being driven by a hefty increase in the number of potential buyers. During the past eight years the number of Brazilian households with incomes higher than ten times the minimum wage rose by more than half, to around 18m. The purchasing power of the newly well-off has been boosted further by greater availability of mortgages. Read the rest of this entry »

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