Monthly Archives: July 2011

IASW – Brazil Makeover Helped Humala Shed His Chávez Image

“Valter Pomar, the head of the Workers Party’s committee for international relations, said Mr. Humala would be “an ally in the process of continental integration.””

“Brazil’s interest in Peruvian politics reflects Peru’s growing strategic importance as a gateway to markets in the Pacific. As the economies of both countries have grown in recent years, business between Brazil and Peru has ballooned. Trade between the two countries, just $565 million at the end of 2000, by last year grew to $2.9 billion, according to Brazilian government figures. The increase in Brazil’s exports has been especially marked, soaring from $354 million a decade ago to just over $2 billion last year.”

“Brazil in recent years has increasingly been using Peruvian ports to ship goods to China, India, and other fast-growing markets in Asia. “Much of the relationship has to do with Brazil’s need to get across the other side of the continent,” said Paulo Fleury, a logistics expert and business professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.”

“Miguel Vega Alvear, a former Peruvian senator who is president of the Peruvian Brazilian Chamber of Integration and Commerce, said that the two countries signed a “strategic alliance” in 2005 to work on a series of infrastructure and energy projects and he was confident Mr. Humala would expand the partnership.”

“The two countries in recent years have worked to complete a transcontinental highway linking Brazil’s agricultural heartland and industrial south directly to Peruvian ports. The project, traversing the Amazon and scaling the Andes, remains under construction, but other, less direct links between the two countries are improving, too. Brazil’s government even commissioned a study, still underway, to determine the feasibility of a rail link between the two countries.”

“Meanwhile, Peru’s fast-growing economy presents a big opportunity for many Brazilian companies well-placed to take advantage of massive infrastructure and energy projects now planned or underway. Companies like Odebrecht SA and Camargo Correa SA, two big construction and engineering firms, are active in Peru’s ongoing building boom, while energy giant Petrobras SA pumps and explore for oil and gas in Peru’s Amazon and off its Pacific coast. Companhia Vale do Rio Doce has a port concession. Grupo Gerdau has steel operations in Peru.”

“Brazil’s interest in Peru fits with “its very mercantalstic model of foreign policy,” said William Summerhill, a University of California at Los Angeles historian. “Brazil is a country with global ambitions, and that’s no secret to anyone.”Mr. Summerhill said that by involving itself at the ground floor level of the Peru’s presidential campaign, Brazil “paves the way for the avoidance of future conflict.” By befriending Mr. Humala now, “Brazil solves problems before they become problems.””

“He notes that Brazil has been mired in continuing trade spats with Argentina. In Bolivia, the leftist government of Evo Morales government moved to abrogate contracts of foreign energy companies like Brazil’s Petrobras. “The first thing (Boliva) wanted to do was throw out gringos,” he said. “Well in Bolivia, the Brazilians were the gringos.””

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Reuters – Analysis: Peru’s Humala dares to go where Lula never went

“(Reuters) – Peru’s leftist President-elect Ollanta Humala, who takes office on Thursday, has dared to move further toward the center, if not the right, than the man he emulated during his campaign — Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.”

“… the cabinet Humala has assembled, by nearly every measure, is more conservative than the one Lula put together when he took office in Brazil in 2003. That suggests Humala will keep the existing economic model intact while intensifying the fight against poverty that afflicts a third of Peruvians.”

“Humala stunned skeptical investors last week by appointing a veritable “dream team” of two respected economists who are adored by Wall Street to lead the Finance Ministry (Luis Miguel Castilla) and central bank (Julio Velarde). Peru’s stock market rallied and its currency hit a three-year high on the news.”

“Both officials, who have doctorates in economics from top U.S. universities, worked for outgoing President Alan Garcia, a fervent believer in free markets Humala once railed against for benefiting the rich instead of the poor.”

“Humala also chose a prominent exporter to lead the Trade Ministry — a move that ensures the country’s many free-trade agreements with partners ranging from China to the United States will be honored.”

“So far, Humala has faced relatively little rancor in his party for moving toward the center, whereas Lula spent years taming hardliners in his Workers’ Party who complained he had sold his soul to capitalism after making three unsuccessful bids for the presidency as a strident leftist.”

“Lula’s first cabinet was stacked with party insiders, but in Humala’s 18-member Cabinet there are few people who could be regarded as leftists and only several hail from his Gana Peru party, which, unlike the Workers’ Party in Brazil, has a short history and little institutional depth. Most are technocrats, businessmen, or members of the Peru Posible party that Humala hopes will vote with his party in Congress to give it a majority.”

“Lula’s first chief of staff was Jose Dirceu, a former radical who spent time in jail before fleeing to exile in Communist Cuba. Humala’s cabinet chief is Salomon Lerner, a millionaire businessman who has collaborated with governments of virtually every political stripe since the 1970s.”

“But Humala did borrow at least one page from Lula’s playbook when he appointed his cabinet. He named as culture minister Grammy award-winning singer Susana Baca, an important figure in Afro-Peruvian music. She is a contemporary of Brazilian pop star Gilberto Gil, who was Lula’s first minister of culture and sometimes gave impromptu guitar performances after policy speeches.”

Peru’s new president: Promises and premonitions | The Economist

Peru’s new president: Promises and premonitions | The Economist.

Having shed his Chávez image with the help of a Brazilian makeover, Humala might indeed following Lula’s path, shunning the extreme left and adopting more conservative economic policies.

The clearest sign that he means this is embodied in his economic team, announced this week. Mr Humala named as his economy minister Luis Miguel Castilla, who was deputy minister in the outgoing government of Alan García and formerly worked at the World Bank. Another moderate, Salomon Lerner, will be prime minister. Mr Lerner, a businessman, was at Mr Humala’s side throughout the campaign. Julio Velarde, a liberal economist, is to remain as governor of the Central Bank for the next five years. His appointment was welcomed by investors: the Lima stockmarket index climbed by 4.6% the next day.”

Leaders of Mr Humala’s Gana Perú (“Peru Wins”) political coalition were disappointed. Javier Diez Canseco, a congressman-elect, said that one of the economists who drew up the president-elect’s campaign platform, a leftist document, should have been named to run the Central Bank. By contrast, Mr Velarde opposes the platform’s proposal to raise the minimum wage by more than 20%. He supports a new law allowing private pension funds to invest 50% of their portfolio abroad, which Gana Perú leaders want to scrap.”

Freedom of the press in Ecuador: A chill descends | The Economist

Freedom of the press in Ecuador: A chill descends | The Economist.

FOR a man who calls his country’s legal system dysfunctional and corrupt, Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s president, has fared remarkably well before the courts.” The articles explores how the Ecuadorian president uses the courts to silence his critics. Mr Correa, Ecuador’s most popular and powerful president in a generation, has long called independent television, radio and newspapers his worst enemies.”


BRICS PC – As Mudanças na Política Externa do Governo Dilma e a “Multipolaridade Benigna”

According to the report, the new Brazilian Foreign Policy under Dilma Roussef is being guided by the paradigm of “Benign Multipolarity” or “cooperative and inclusive multipolarity,” which is supposed to be distinguished from the competitive multipolarity that preceded the First and Second World Wars.

Besides continuing the pursuit of the South-South relations, the new Brazilian Foreign Policy is also going to emphasize the development of ties with the great powers and the defense of human rights. Moreover, the Roussef Government also wants to depersonalize the Brazilian foreign policy, which had been until then grounded on the person of the former President Lula. Brazil will instead to emphasize a less personal pursue of its foreign policy goals through institutional means and the international law. Finally, Brazil has voted in favor of sending a special UN envoy to assess the human rights violations in Iran. This is the first time in 10 that Brazil has voted against the Iranian interests in this matter.

Americas Quarterly – Mexico’s Supreme Court Versus the Military

Americas Quarterly – Mexico’s Supreme Court Versus the Military.

“Last week, Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) ruled that military personnel accused of human rights abuses will no longer be court-martialed and will now face a civil trial. Though the decision might seem like a triumph for human rights activists, a much larger problem looms behind this smoke screen.”

“Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s war against drug cartels has increasingly involved the use of Mexico’s military. In hot spots like Nuevo Laredo, the military police has virtually assumed all of the law enforcement responsibilities, after 900 local transit and police officers were suspended pending toxicology exams and criminal investigations. And it doesn’t end there. Mexican soldiers are posted in virtually all conflict-ridden areas in Mexico, cracking down on drug cartels in order to pursue a safer country where local law enforcement has proven ineffective. In this tenor, Mexico’s armed forces are provided with adequate resources to perform their duties.”

“This is all the more intriguing because in Mexico, ensuring domestic civil security is not part of the military’s responsibility. They have filled this gap due to their sworn allegiance to the President—one that they have not threatened to overrun since they committed to Mexico’s first post-revolution civilian government under Miguel Alemán in 1946.”

“The legislature and the SCJ have argued that since the military has essentially taken over control of policing local conflict areas in Mexico, military personnel should not be exempt from civil law and “protected” by military proceedings. It is unfortunate, however, that those in the lawmaking and justice system apparently have no knowledge of regional history or a reasonable political framework. ”

“Mexico’s armed forces have become, by default, the only trustworthy entity to which civil society has given the authorized monopoly to use violence. State and municipal law enforcement police bodies are plagued with cases of coercion, corruption, involvement in illicit activity, and ties to organized crime. While the military should be applauded for combating the war on organized crime, the very need for its involvement evinces the precarious state of civilian rule. This brings a possibility of a military coup into the picture—a fatalist option, of course, but the end result of analysis that has explained virtually all military seizures of power in Latin America for the last 100 years.”

“Comparative politics expert Martin C. Needler developed a framework comprised of five variables which if present, heighten the possibility of a military coup: (1) loss of military hierarchy; (2) loss of military prestige/status; (3) imposition of military budget restrictions; (4) internal order disrupted; and (5) national stability endangered. Needler has successfully applied his analysis to explain Pinochet’s Chile, the military junta in Ecuador, the unwillingness of the armed forces to protect Árbenz’ Guatemala from Honduras’ invasion, the removal of Villeda Morales in Honduras, the overthrowing of Arnulfo Arias in Panama and Víctor Paz in Bolivia—just to name some examples.”

“Few people would argue against the fact that Mexico faces unstable circumstances and that the ongoing conflict with drug cartels has spun into internal order disruption. We can already check two of Needler’s boxes.”

“Further, the Supreme Court’s decision second-guesses court-martial proceedings and undermines the very military legal system that military personnel honors and swears by every day. The SCJ ruling places Mexico’s soldiers at risk of becoming victims of the same failed justice system. The verdict hangs the military out to dry by placing them in the hands of easily corruptible judges and magistrates, some of which are on the payroll of the drug cartels. Clearly, this move affects the military’s position with regards to both hierarchy and status.”

“At least President Calderón is pouring funds into the military budget, so that excludes one of the variables in Needler’s model (Mexico’s current defense expenditures account for 0.5 percent of its GDP, third place in all of Latin America behind Brazil and Chile). Still, we end up having four out of five motivators for seizure of power. The least this should do is raise a few eyebrows in the highest levels of the three branches in Mexico’s government.”

“This is not just a question of who is in power. I firmly believe that the SCJ decision puts Mexicans at risk by placing hurdles in front of the forces asked to protect the citizenry. When a soldier pulls a trigger, the only thing going through his or her head should be the objective at hand—not the possibility of being considered a civil criminal. Mexico’s soldiers are trained to make those judgment calls, and if this needs improving then the system should work on training them better instead of tying their hands down.”

NYT – Chávez Puts His Trust in Castro for Care

“The Venezuelan leader’s illness and choice to fight it abroad have continued to compound his political problems at home, where the country is coping with high inflation, electricity shortages and a rise in violent crime.”

“Mr. Chávez appears to have given little thought to a possible successor, and key figures in his party and movement seem unsure of what to say or do without instructions from the president. On Saturday, he delegated various secondary functions to Vice President Elías Jaua and the minister of planning and finance, Jorge Giordani. Whether the splintered opposition can capitalize on his absence by next year’s elections remains to be seen.”

“Yet within the region, Cuba has the most to lose from a transition to a post-Chávez Venezuela, all the more reason why Cuba’s leadership has a strong incentive to do whatever it can to resolve Mr. Chávez’s medical situation, analysts said. Cuba’s economy is heavily dependent on Venezuela’s highly subsidized oil, which accounts for about two-thirds of Cuba’s oil needs. Without that subsidy, the Cuban economy “would not necessarily crash, but it would endure a devastating blow that it can hardly afford right now,” Mr. Shifter said.”