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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
In brief
10/31/2017
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Latin America and the Caribbean, Argentina, Ecuador, Haiti and Venezuela.

Latin America and the Caribbean are losing the battle against hunger, says the report “Panorama of Food and Nutritional Security in Latin America and the Caribbean 2017,” published on Oct. 10 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in the context of the International Food Day celebrated every Oct.16. The document estimates that by 2016, 43 million people — 6.6 percent of the 650 million Latin Americans and Caribbean people — were undernourished, 2.4 million more than the previous year. In Central America, hunger affects 6.5 percent of the population, while in The Caribbean the figure is 17.7 percent. In South America hunger grew from 5 percent in 2015 to 5.6 percent in 2016. If this trend does not change, FAO and PAHO warned, the region will not meet the goal of eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030, as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mid-term legislative elections were held in Argentina on Oct. 22 in which 127 of the 257 deputies were elected for the 2017-2021 term and 24 of the 72 senators were elected for a six-year term that will start on Dec. 10. Cambiemos (Let’s Change), the ruling party, won the elections by winning 42 percent of the national vote, increasing their number of senators from 17 to 25 and their number of deputies from 89 to 107. Unión Ciudadana (Citizen Unity), an opposition group that was created by former president Cristina Fernández (2007-2015) for these elections, obtained 31 percent of the national vote. Fernández was elected senator in the province of Buenos Aires with 37 percent of the vote. Although the Unión Ciudadana-Frente para la Victoria  (Citizen Unity-Front for Victory) bloc, led by Fernández, came in behind Cambiemos with 66 deputies, they tied with 25 senators each. Other political forces will divide the remaining seats in the dual-chamber Parliament. Former president Carlos Menem (1989-99), 87, was re-elected senator for the province of La Rioja for the Frente Justicialista Riojano (Riojan Justicialist Front).

The National Court of Justice, at the request of the Attorney General of Ecuador, ordered pretrial detention on Oct. 2 for former Vice President Jorge Glas, who is accused of receiving bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. Glas was removed from the post in August by President Lenín Moreno after the accusations against Glas came to light. The judicial measure was based on the testimony of José Conceiçao dos Santos Filho, a former Odebrecht executive in Ecuador, who testified that Glas had received US$14 million through a family member. Glas has denied the accusations and maintains that this is Odebrecht’s revenge for having expelled the company from the country in 2008 after refusing to repair the structural defects in the San Francisco hydroelectric plant that forced its stoppage. In December 2016, the US Department of Justice revealed that between 2007 and 2016 Odebrecht paid $33.5 million to Ecuadorian government officials to secure public works contracts.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (UNSTAMIH) ended its operations on Oct. 15, which began in 2004 at the request of the United Nations Security Council following the overthrow of then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991, 1994-95, 2000-2004) through a military intervention. The Security Council decided in April to phase out UNSTAMIH within six months and to remove all the peacekeeping blue helmets. The United Nations Justice Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), consisting of seven police units comprising 1,275 troops and 350 civilians, was deployed the day after the phase-out of  UNSTAMIH was completed, for an initial period of six months ending on Apr. 15, 2018. The mandate of the MINUJUSTH is to strengthen the operational and administrative capacity of the Haitian police, promote the rule of law and to monitor the respect for human rights. Haiti has a 15,000 member police force and the government is currently working on establishing a new army.

The Gran Polo Patriótico Simón Bolívar (Great Patriotic Pole Simón Bolívar), formed by the ruling Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) and several related political organizations, won in 18 of the country’s 23 states in the elections for governors for the period 2017-2021, held on Oct. 15. The opposition candidates, grouped in the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (Democratic Unity Table-MUD), won the states of Anzoátegui, Mérida, Nueva Esparta, Táchira and Zulia. MUD denounced fraud and irregularities and announced that the five opposition governors-elect would not take an oath before the National Constituent Assembly, which dissolved the MUD-controlled National Assembly in August. However, four of the opposition governors, belonging to the traditional Acción Democrática (Democratic Action) party, swore in their offices on Oct. 24, while Juan Pablo Guanipa, elected governor of Zulia, assured that he would not do the same in front of the Constituent Assembly. The National Electoral Council could convene new elections within 30 days to replace the elected governor of Zulia.

 


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