On Monday, President Michelle Bachelet signed a law creating five new national parks to protect land in Patagonia, the execution of a March 2017 agreement. This 10 million acre land, roughly the size of Switzerland, was donated to the nation by former Patagonia Chief Executive Officer Kristine McDivitt Tompkins and Doug Tompkins, the late founder of clothing company North Face. The Chilean government has recently stepped to the forefront of international conservation efforts, and in 2017, Bachelet sealed an agreement with Easter Island residents to create one of the biggest marine parks in the world.
Fabricio Alvarado, ex-television host and member of the evangelical National Restoration Party, is expected to be in the lead of the presidential elections. Alvarado has taken an aggressive anti-gay rights stance in speeches following the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling in favor of gay marriage. Analysts claim that Alvarado is currently beating the National Liberation Party (PLN) candidate Antonio Alvarez by 3% and that other candidates trail him by an even greater margin. A February 4th primary vote will reveal if these predictions are correct.
Conservative Juan Orlando Hernández was sworn in as president for a second term on Saturday surrounding a disputed election with allegations of fraud. An estimated 30 people were killed during protests following the announcement of election results, but the electoral tribunal eventually ratified the results of the vote.
In December, President Pedro Pablo Kucynzski pardoned former president Alberto Fujimori on medical grounds, allowing the 79-year old, who was serving time for human rights abuses, to leave prison. Suspicions that the pardon was part of a political deal with Congressman Kenji Fujimori, Alberto Fujimori’s son, have arisen, but the politicians have denied allegations. Read our December commentary on the topic here.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has started a Latin America tour in Mexico. This comes during one of the weakest points of bilateral relations between the two nations, with Donald Trump’s looming threats to build a border wall, renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and continue to deport Mexican-born migrants from the US. Tillerson will continue on to Peru, Colombia, Argentina, and Jamaica over the next week.
Maduro plans to deal with Venezuelan's economic crisis through the introduction of a new cryptocurrency. Each coin of currency will represent one barrel of oil. Maduro plans to release 100 million of these coins, which will amount to $5.9 billion.