Latin American courts are increasingly deferring to the “whims of the powerful in censoring journalists” as leaders in various countries have attempted to restrict critical media coverage. This according to the New York Times’ Alexi Barrionuevo who writes, be it an attempt to limit corruption investigations in Brazil or censor critical opposition in Venezuela, leaders are “reacting with a lot of intolerance to criticism in the media,” in the words of Carlos Lauría of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Other countries where the media has come under fire include Nicaragua, Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina, and Ecuador [where President Rafael Correa said over the weekend that he was considering shuttering the television network Teleamazonas for airing a private conversation between him and an Ecuadorean lawmaker.] According to HRW’s José Miguel Vivcano, Venezuela, however, may stand in its own category when it comes to press freedom, calling the country a “notable exception” to what has been Latin America’s “gradual but sustainable progress” in the area of free speech. [An aside: AFP reports that Chavez has called street protests against his new education law, the legal equivalent of a “rebellion,” adding that participants in such protests could be charged and tried.] The leadership of the courts has been central to such progress, says Vivcano, as have access to information laws, the latest of which was passed in Chile last April.
Also, on Friday, leaders from around the region gathered in Bariloche, Argentina for a special UNASUR summit on U.S. plans to expand its military presence in Colombia. The Washington Post reports that while the rhetoric was fiery, in the end leaders signed on to a “vague resolution that says no foreign military force should be allowed to threaten the sovereignty of a South American nation.” [For full text of the resolution, click here.] But, as the Post’s Juan Forero writes, the summit itself “underscores the hurdles President Obama faces in trying to improve relations with countries that have distanced themselves from Washington in the past decade.” “It's certainly the case that Chávez and his allies in the region have been the most vocal opponents,” says the Wilson Center’s Cynthia Aronson. “But it says a lot that countries like Brazil and Chile were also opposed to this." The NYT adds to reporting on the Summit, saying both Colombian and American officials insist the U.S. presence will consist of no more than 800 military personnel (currently some 250 U.S. soldiers are present in Colombia). For more analysis of agreement and the summit, at the Huffington Post Adam Isacson asks: “Will today's meeting be seen as the moment when the continent got together, independently of the United States, to reduce tensions and increase cooperation to solve common problems? Or will it be viewed as the moment when things really began to unravel, as the U.S. basing deal in Colombia - and the Obama administration's failure to explain it - became the catalyst for years of acrimony and instability?” And finally, Uribe’s job of selling the military agreement got more difficult over the weekend as it is now reported that the Colombian leader has been stricken with swine flu.
In other news, the AP reports on a major shooting in Mexico which took the lives of 8 young people in northwestern Mexico’s Sinaloa state. The area is a hotspot for drug cartel activity but there are yet no reports on the motive of Saturday’s killers. Also, the four men accused of killing some 200 individuals for the Juarez cartel were arrested over the weekend while relatives of missing persons in Tijuana held protests over frustration with the prosecutions led by Attorney General’s office. In Mexico City, the LA Times reports that President Felipe Calderon lost a dispute with PRI lawmakers, agreeing to delay his state of the nation speech until after the President’s office informs the Congress, in writing, about the address’s contents.
On Haiti, the Miami Herald has an interesting report on youth in the Caribbean country and a new U.S.-Haiti initiative to stimulate young people’s participation in developing their country. “The basic premise is for first-, second-, or third-generation Haitians to travel to the country during their junior or senior year of college, or after graduation. The in-the-trenches work ranges from teaching computer skills to planting trees,” writes the paper.
Finally, two opinions this morning on Honduras on a day when there is little else to report on the crisis there. First, in the Wall Street Journal, Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes critically of Obama administration policy on Honduras. “Though it won't admit to coercion, [the Obama administration] is fully engaged in arm-twisting at the OAS in order to advance its agenda.” O’Grady concludes that “A lot of Hondurans believe that the U.S. isn't using its brass knuckles to serve their ‘democratic aspirations’ at all, but the quite-opposite aspirations of a neighborhood thug.” And second, in the LA Times, CIP’s Bob White and Glenn Hurowitz take a different view of Obama administration policy, writing that “unexpectedly, in the age of Obama, democracy is in retreat.” The two argue that Obama is “drifting toward perilous inaction” on the Honduras situation. Unlike Iran or China, White and Hurowitz contend, Honduras “is a place where we can make a stand and do so with U.N. backing, at the invitation of the country's legitimately elected president and in a friendly country.”