Obama should think North America

Despite a lot of upbeat talk about upgrading US-Mexican economic relations, there will be one big issue that will be off the table during President Barack Obama’s visit to Mexico starting Thursday — Mexico’s request to be part of ongoing US-European free trade talks.

Venezuela lags behind in social gains

Latin View

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s endorsement of Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro in last Sunday’s elections has perpetuated one of the biggest myths in Latin American politics — that the Venezuelan government, despite its mistakes, has done more than others to help the poor.

Five scenarios for Venezuela — most of them bad

Latin View

Most polls show that Venezuela’s government candidate Nicolás Maduro is likely to win today’s elections thanks to an unfair election process in which the government controls an overwhelming share of TV time, but — even if he wins — Maduro’s future is gloomy.

Surprise! Mexico backs human rights cause!

Latin View

What a pleasant surprise! Mexico, whose government routinely supports human rights violators throughout the region, played a key role in thwarting an effort by a group of countries to weaken the region’s most important human rights commission.

Ecuador: Dictatorship of the 21st Century?

Latin View

Many people are surprised by Rafael Correa’s sweeping victory in last Sunday’s Ecuadorean presidential election, despite his government’s massive corruption scandals and his record of repression against the media and political opponents.

Latin America’s corruption starts at top

Latin View

A new study on corruption in Latin America contains some alarming figures — an average of about 20 per cent of the region’s people say they have been asked to pay a bribe by a policeman or another public official in the past year, compared with 5 per cent in the United States and 3 per cent in Canada.

US shouldn’t create underclass of immigrants

Latin View

House Republicans don’t seem to get it. After getting pummelled by Hispanic voters in the 2012 election, they now want to create an underclass of 11 million people — mostly Latinos — by denying undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.

Argentina-Iran deal makes a mockery of justice

Latin View

Argentina has crossed a line by making a sweet deal with Iran to jointly investigate a 1994 terrorist attack against the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which according to Argentine prosecutors and Interpol was masterminded by top Iranian officials.

Let’s put gun violence in focus

Latin View

When President Barack Obama made a brief reference to gun violence in his second-term inauguration speech, he should have mentioned a new map of gun violence — it shows that Washington, DC’s murder rate is almost twice as high as that of violence-ridden Mexico.

Latin America’s new leader: Raúl Castro

Latin View

It sounds like a joke, but it isn’t: At the end of this month, the 33-country Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) — a two-year-old organization that lists promoting democracy among its top goals — will swear-in Cuban dictator General Raúl Castro as its new chairman.

Argentina’s leader populist, but no longer popular

Latin View

BUENOS AIRES — Things are not going well for Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner — only fourteen months after winning re-election by a landslide, barely a week goes by in which she doesn’t do something that raises questions about her political wisdom and emotional stability.

US, Venezuela may be exploring post-Chávez thaw

Latin View

While Venezuela’s announcement that President Hugo Chávez’s bout with cancer has taken a turn for the worse is making big headlines, there is another development in the Venezuelan drama that has gone almost unnoticed: high-level US-Venezuelan talks preparing for a post-Chávez future may have already started.

The really important news of 2012

Latin View

Most media lists of the most important events of 2012 are led by headlines such as the re-election of President Barack Obama, the appointment of China’s new leader Xi Jinping, the revolt in Syria, the return to power of Mexico’s ruling PRI party and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s battle with cancer.

South American bloc increasingly anti-Israel

While both the European Union and South America’s Mercosur bloc had condemned the latest round of violence in Gaza before Wednesday’s cease-fire, there was a big difference in their respective statements: One was reasonably balanced; the other was shamefully biased against Israel.

Early Latino turnout could swing vote

Judging from what President Barack Obama’s campaign manager David Axelrod told me in an interview this week, early voting figures show that Latinos nationwide are turning out in larger numbers than in 2008, which is great news for Obama’s reelection bid.

Latin America’s growing media conspiracy

Latin America’s growing media conspiracy We must give credit to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and several of his colleagues in Latin America for doing a masterful public brainwashing job – they have somehow convinced millions of people that there is a huge world capitalist media conspiracy out there, which needs to be urgently crushed through greater government press controls.

Win or lose, Capriles may win in Venezuela

Anything is possible in Venezuela’s elections today, but there is a good chance that opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski will do better than any of his predecessors in the polls, and that — win or lose — he will put President Hugo Chávez’s 14-year-old regime against the ropes.

UN picks wrong education partners

While the speeches by President Obama, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew the biggest headlines at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week, there was a major event that went almost unnoticed: UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s launch of a plan to put education at the centre of the world’s political agenda.

Colombia’s peace talks may impact US-Cuba ties

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ peace negotiations with his country’s FARC Marxist guerrillas could have widespread international repercussions: If the talks succeed, they could, among other things, drive the US government to remove Cuba from its list of terrorist nations.

Republicans tilt right on Latin America

The Republican platform approved by the party’s convention earlier this week — a blueprint of what a Romney administration would do if it is elected — makes no bones about its hard-line policy toward Latin America.

Ecuador’s crusade for Assange is all about power

While Ecuador’s populist President Rafael Correa steps up his international offensive to grant political asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, an exiled Ecuadoran journalist seeking political asylum has some very interesting insights into what’s behind the Ecuadorian leader’s latest quest for international attention.

Romney should heed Payá’s message

It’s very nice of US politicians to express their grief over the death of Cuban dissident leader Oswaldo Payá, but if they really want to honour his memory, they should stop making aggressive statements that play directly into the hands of the Castro brothers’ dictatorship.

Obama’s outsourcing ad is demagogic populism

President Barack Obama’s campaign ad slamming Gov Mitt Romney for allegedly heading companies that “were pioneers in outsourcing US jobs to low-wage countries,” and claiming that “President Obama believes in insourcing” is unfair, hypocritical and dangerously deceptive.

Vargas Llosa makes good case against ‘Show’ culture

Nobel Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa says in a new book that we are living in a “culture of entertainment” in which everything — including literature, journalism, politics and sex — is becoming increasingly trivial, and that this phenomenon can have disastrous consequences for mankind.

Obama, Romney should take up regional agenda

Outgoing World Bank President Robert B Zoellick, who is being mentioned as a possible candidate for US Secretary of the Treasury or State if Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wins in the November elections, is trying to resurrect an ambitious idea: a hemispheric free trade area.

UN Rio+20 summit misses the point

The 120 heads of state and some 50,000 environmentalists, social activists, and business leaders gathered this week in Brazil for the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development deserve credit for trying to save the planet, but they may be missing the point about the best way to do it.

New ‘Pacific Alliance’ bloc may have a chance

When I interviewed Chilean President Sebastian Piñera last week after the signing of an agreement to create the four-country ‘Pacific Alliance‘ trade bloc and he said it’s Latin America’s most ambitious economic integration project, my first reaction was of respectful scepticism.

Leaders lie blatantly about OAS rights group

All politicians lie, or sometimes play games with the truth, but the Presidents of Bolivia and Ecuador were so off the mark when they asked the Organization of American States to effectively kill its Human Rights Commission that one can only wonder whether they were being ignorant or blatant liars.

Uribe v Santos feud could cripple Colombia

It’s not unusual in Latin American politics for presidents to clash with their predecessors who once helped elect them, but the current feud between former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and President Juan Manuel Santos goes beyond anything I’ve seen in a long time.

Mexico’s boring election won’t be a bore

MEXICO CITY — Polls show that centre-left opposition leader Enrique Peña Nieto is likely to easily win the July 1 presidential elections and put an end to 12 years of centre-right governments, but after several days in this country I haven’t found anybody who is really excited about his widely expected victory.

Region’s one laptop per child plan has a future

- but has not improved maths, reading skills

Four years after Latin America made headlines by becoming a world leader in giving out free laptops to millions of schoolchildren — an idea that has since been embraced by more than 20 African, Asian and Eastern European countries — the first results are in, and they give some reasons for hope.