Over 70 members of Argentina’s Congress unveiled a bill last week to legalize abortion. The bill would allow women to have abortions within the first 14 weeks of their pregnancy. This is a significant change to the current law, which only allows abortions in cases of rape or when the mother’s health is at risk. Abortion has been debated in Argentina before, but the issue gained new momentum since President Mauricio Macri stated he would not stand in the way of any debate on abortion, despite his personal opposition. While the bill seems likely to pass in the House, it could meet more opposition in the more conservative Senate. Women’s groups throughout the country are optimistic, but remain cautious knowing the history of abortion debate in the deeply Catholic country.
On Wednesday, an influential human rights defender and city councillor, Marielle Franco, was killed in her car in central Rio de Janeiro in what seems to be an assassination. Franco has made a name for herself as a defender of LGBTQ, women’s, and black rights, and has spoken out against police brutality within Brazil’s favelas. Franco’s driver was also shot dead and her press secretary was injured by bullets. Following the announcement of her death, Brazilians from all over Rio - feminists, union members, residents of the city’s poor communities, and leftists - gathered in front of the city’s council chamber to protest the targeted killing.
A week ago, Sebastián Piñera was sworn in as President of Chile for the second time. Piñera was previously Chile’s President from 2010 to 2014. He was elected President this time around from his past successes maintaining and developing Chile’s economy. However, his past presidency was plagued by protests demanding education reforms. Former President Michelle Bachelet leaves office with the economy slipping, but remains popular for her work on social issues during her tenure.
President Jimmy Morales announced earlier this month that Guatemala will officially move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move is set for May 16, two days after the US is scheduled to move its embassy. Guatemala was one of a handful of countries that backed the US in their decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the first to follow the US in setting a moving date.
The UN Human Rights Office released a report
on Thursday accusing Mexican authorities of torturing dozens of citizens and covering up significant portions of the investigation into the 2014 disappearance of 43 students in the southwestern city of Iguala. The report points to the pattern
of “committing, tolerating, and covering up torture” in investigations by the Office of the Attorney General. The initial
government investigation found that the students’ bus was stopped by corrupt police, who handed them over to the criminal group Guerreros Unidos, which killed the students and burned their bodies. However, the UN investigation found
torture and arbitrary detention associated with how the Mexican government investigated the kidnappings. These findings will likely influence voters, as presidential elections are set for July and the candidate running for the incumbent Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) remains third
in electoral polls.
Peru’s Congress voted Thursday to start impeachment trials for President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. This is the second time the President has been up against impeachment for allegedly lying about his involvement with the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. Kuczynski remains that he is innocent and has nothing to hide in the case. Congress will hear the President’s defense on March 22 and will debate and hold a final vote following the session. If impeachment maintains the 87-congressional-member support that Thursday’s vote had, the first vice president Martin Vizcarra will assume office. Despite statements from Kuczynski that his two vice presidents would resign in solidarity to the “legislative coup,” Vizcarra stated that he has no intention of stepping down and would do his duty and govern Peru until the 2021 elections.
The White House announced last week that President Donald Trump will make his first visit to Latin America for the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru next month. During his trip, Trump will meet with Peru’s Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos. US presidents have attended this summit in prior years, but no president has sparked such controversy with the region prior to attending. Trump will be expected to negotiate matters such as his intended steel and aluminum import tariffs, the US-Mexico border wall, and drug cultivation.
Earlier this month, the State Department announced that last year’s decision to cut staffing at the US Embassy in Cuba will remain permanent. The embassy currently operates with one-third of the staffing required due to the unresolved health issues of past US diplomats who served in the Havana embassy. The embassy will become an “unaccompanied post,” and will only offer emergency services to US citizens in Cuba. Cubans seeking visas to the United States are forced to acquire them from a different country.