Press review : Latin America
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Press review
Angéline Gugler, Alicia Gradoz
After years on run, Sinaloa cartel chief 'El Chapo' Guzman arrested / 23.02.2014
Ex-Colombian president storms back into politics / 10.03.2014
Competing presidential candidates in El Salvador’s presidential runoff both claimed victory on Sunday
after a surprisingly close electoral contest / 18.03.2014
Air Canada suspends Venezuela flights over 'civil unrest' / 18.03.2014
Uruguay agrees to take in Guantanamo detainees / 21 .03.2014
New police crackdown as 20,000 march in Caracas / 23.03.2014
12 dead in Chile wildfire; 2,000 homes consumed / 14.04.2014
Venezuela endures two months of protests / 16.04.2014
Magnitude-7.2 earthquake strikes southern Mexico /18.04.2014
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Prize-winning author, dies at 87 / 21.04.2014
Honduran police: Man killed 4 siblings with machete / 06.05.2014
Ecuador rejects vote on Amazon oil drilling in Yasuni park / 7.05.2014
Hosts Brazil hit by anti-World Cup protests / 16.05.2014
Colombia and FARC agree to combat drugs trade / 17.05.2013
Since february 2014, we have been following the news in Latin America. Our main sources
were news websites such as CNN, France24 and BBC which are the most famous news channels. They
come from different countries : the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France; this
gives our insight an international view.
Many major events have occured in Latin America during our study such as the capture of
Guzman, the events in Venezuela, the presidential elections in El Salvador… We have tried to vary
between the events with the most media coverage and „more common“ events in Latin America:
murders, fires, drugs… Our review is therefore rather complete, with a diversity of subjects.
This exercice has been enriching for our team, it has given us an opportunity to study the news
of a region on a long period of time. We were then able to have a better knowledge of this area and
construct a personal opinion on the events based on facts. With all the various elements we obtained,
it gave us a real insight on what the political and social atmosphere is.
In this report, we will firstly explain the different events, and we will then analyze the different
topics. Finally we will give our predictions for the future.
A. Political topics
1) Elections and votes
The politics has been an important part of ours articles since the beggining of the press review
assignement. Indeed, in the different countries of South America, the politic has a particularly
important place in the population’s life. As we may know, the corruption in Latin America is definitely
a problem. The population often organises contestation mouvements to defend theirs rights. In fact,
through ours different articles on the politics, we can see that even though the population wants to
be heard it’s pretty difficult to have a real impact at the end.
Let’s take the example of the petition in Ecuador which has been a failure. In fact, since a few years,
different organisations are trying to preserve Amazonia by struggling against oil compagnies. The
Yasuni Park is one of the part of Amazonia which has been preserved since the beginning of the oil
exploitation (they are limited and take place only in some parts of Yasuni, which covers nearly 10 000
sq km since the 1970s.). But recently, oil compagnies have wanted to expand their productions. Some
activists have tried to collect a certain amount of signatures. They had to collect precisely 583,323
votes to obtain and force a referendum in order to stop developping the oil exploitation in the Yasuni
Park. Activists from the Yasunidos group (environmentalists and indegenious) were pretty confident
about the votes. They had announced before the results that they were sure about collecting all the
signatures. The problem was that after counting the votes, the National Electoral Council (NEC) had
confirmed that the number of signatures were insufficient. Only 359 781 of the 850 000 signatures
collected had been validated by the NEC. They proclamed that most of the signatures couldn’t be
approved (fake names, same names..). Therefore, the referundum couldn’t be put in place. Activists
have immediately denounced a fraud because almost seven out of 10 signatures were thrown in the
bin. Unfortunately the Yasunidos group couldn’t prove their suspicions. This example shows the real
problem of many elections and votes ; there is corruption and cheating. The population wishes it could
have more power.
Let’s take another example of the political problems in Latin America. During our research for this press
review, we were in the middle of the presidential elections in different countries like in Colombia or in
El Salvador for example. We were able to see that in these two countries some different political points
were not really clear. Indeed, recent events in El Salvador are typically common during presidential
elections in South America. Salvador Sanchez Ceren and his rival Norman Quijano both declared their
victories during the election in May. The two politcians had gotten similar votes (50.11% for Ceren and
49,89 for Quijano). They were really close to each other. In fact, since the beginning of the electoral
campaign, the favorite was Ceren, the candidate of Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN).
So why were the results so close? We can wonder if the elections or votes have been rigged. Quijano,
the rival of Ceren, has explained his discontentment. Indeed he thinks that his opponent was trying to
steal the election, and there were frauds. So the real question that we have to ask is why did Ceren
claim his victory whereas the result were not in his favor.
To finish this part about the elections in Latin America, it would be interesting to speak a little bit about
the legislative election in Colombia which took place last march. Colombia’s governing coalition won
the legislative elections. Indeed, this party has had the strong support of the ex président of Colombia,
Alvoro Uribe. This victory could be a problem and could complicate ongoing peace talks with Farc
rebels that the actual président Juan Manuel Santos is trying to apply during his presidency. To be
more precise, even though the Santos’ allies won 47 of the 102 seats in the Senate, Uribe was the top
vote-getter in the Senate elections. And his new Centro Democratico party won at least 20 Senate
seats, making it the main opposition force in the chamber. The most important problem is that their
vision of the Farc issue is not the same for both of them. Santos is more for peaceful solutions, whereas,
Uribe believes that the rebel army should be beaten militarily. So a political conflit could happen in the
next months between these two politicians and with the Farc too.
2) The venezuelian crisis
The Venezuelian crisis has been a major subject of the medias during these last months and therefore
we decided to study this issue through different articles.
We got interested in this subject when the company Air-canada decided to suspend all their flights to
and from Caracas due tu civil unrest in Venezuela. At that time, there had already been 29 people killed
during only 6 weeks of protests. These protests started with the inflation that went up, the high crime
rate and the shortages of many goods. Different airlines had already reduced their activity with
Venezuela because of the money the Maduro government owed them (close to 3 billion dollars). The
real problem comes from the lack of currency exchange controls and it needs to be reinforced.
A couple of weeks later, 20 000 people were marching in the streets of Caracas, to protest against the
government. It was called after two opposition mayors were arrested; another mayor had already been
arrested in mid-february for inciting the protest. His name is Leopoldo Lopez and he accused Nicolas
Maduro of being a dictator. The march in Caracas was for the most part peaceful, only a couple of
arrests took place. Other protests were lead in other cities were people had been killed for different
reasons. The protesters are mostly from the middle class. On the contrary Maduro still has the support
of the poor and marched that day among them in a separate event. The protesters claimed that they
want 100 of their fellows freed before discussing any solution with the government who consideres
them as terrorists and vandalists.
After two months of protests, the problems between the government and the oppostion still hadn’t
been solved. We had then reached 40 deaths and still no signs of Leopoldo Lopez being released even
though the opposition had asked many times for it. Nicolas Maduro had met twice with the opposition
but no solution had seemed to emerge from any of those confrontation. The opposition has accused
the President to control the entire government and to use repression for unjustified reasons. The
venezualian government didn’t seem to take much notice of what the opposition said.
The situation at the moment still doesn’t seem to be looking up.
3) Drugs and politics
As it is well known, drugs are a major problem in Latin America and cause a lot of crime, violence and
illegal activities in those countries. Furthermore, these problems are usually a lot more relayed by the
media than other subjects.
Joaquin Guzman, better known as „El Chapo“ was arrested in February 2014. He is one of the most
famous drug lords in South America and would be responsible for importing tons of drugs in the United
States. He had been arrested in the past but had escaped. As we can imagine, corruption might have
helped him escape, him being one of the richest man in the world. After various attempts to capture
him, he was finally arrested in a Mazatlan in Mexico in a hotel. The arrest took place without any
problems. He was wanted in the United States on federal charges of drug traficking and had just been
named Public Ennemy N°1. This capture ist he result of a cooperation between Mexico and the United
We can see that the governments are trying to take measures to limit the drug trafficking. Recently
the colombian government and FARC rebels have come to an agreement to combat drug traficking.
This deal occured just days before the elections while the FARCs have decided to cease fire during the
week before the votes. This agreement seems like a strategic political move to obtain votes. The actual
President’s campaign for reelection is, in fact, based on peaceful negociation with the FARC. It seems
to what the population wants even though many do not believe they could lead to anything. On the
contrary, the opponent of Santos, Zuluaga, is opposed to any kind of negociations with the armed
forces. Both campaigns are said to be dirty and corruption is suspected with many scandals that
occured such as undermining peace negociations for Zuluaga’s campaign, Santos receiving money in
exchange of refusing the extradition of a drug trafficker. The results of the elections are still unknown.
B. Social & cultural:
1) Justice related events
The crime rate is known to be very high in Latin America and we can find in this part of the world some
of the most „dangerous“ cities. There are a lot of murders, gangs, drug traficking and tourist
One of the examples of the crimes in Latin America is a murder which occured in Honduras. A 30 year
old man, who was living with a family killed all four children. He raped the eldest daughter, who was
13 and then killed her and her siblings (10 and 7 years old, and 18 months old) with a machete. The
mother was devastated and the reason of the murder had not yet been discovered even though the
man was arrested. Honduras is the world‘s murder capital with the highest murder rate. There a lot of
those which are perpetrated on youths with the killing of close to 4000 youths under 23 since 2010.
Even though there are high crime rates in Latin America, we can that it doesn’t make this part of the
world savages. Countries in Latin America have different agreements with each other to make the unity
work ( Mercosur for example). But some agreements could be more important and they could defend
Human rights. Let’s take the example of Uruguay. This little country which is the neighbor of Brazil and
Argentina has taken 2 months ago an important decision in ordert to defend the Human rights. Indeed,
Uruguay has opened his doors in order to take in detainees of the jail of Guantanamo. The deal is to
include a requirement where the former detainees would have to remain Inside Uruguay’s border for
at least two years. Uruguay is going to be the first country in South America to do this. It‘s a real
challenge for this country because it could be beneficient for the relation with the United States of
America and Uruguay. In fact during his campaign, Obama wanted to close this military prison at
Guantanamo Bay. This processus takes a lot of time and effort because there are still 154 prisonners
in the jail. The US has resettled 43 Guantanamo detainees in 17 countries since Obama took office and
released 38 others to their homelands. Mujica, the president of Uruguay defends this choice : « They
asked a lot of countries if they could give shelter, and I said yes »
2) Cultural news
Latin America and more precisely Brazil is waiting for an important event : the World Cup. Indeed, this
year, an event that is long-awaited by everyone is going to take place. Sao Paulo has been selected to
welcome different teams of the World. But this month a contestation movement has arisen in Sao
Paulo. In fact protesters were walking in the streets to show their disaproval and their rage about
injustices of the World Cup. Indeed the population are disagreeing about the enormous amount of
money which has been put in the World Cup. Some people think that this city and the entire country
should worry about other important problems that the population has been confronted to since a few
decades other than the World Cup. For them, the public money should go in other sectors like
education, medical, transport and not for the Cup.
We will finish this part with an important and emotional news in Colombia that occured last April. In
effect we have learnt the disappearance of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the famous colombian author who
had won Nobel prizes for « One hundred years of solitude » and « Love in the time of cholera ». The
death of this litterature giant was a real tragedy for everybody. He was treated in April for infections
and dehydration at a Mexican hospital. The best care has been transmitted but unfortunately it wasn’t
Latin America, by it’s geography, is the target of various natural catastrophes, such as hurricanes,
In these last few months, quite a few earthquakes have occured in different countries. We focused on
one of them that took place in Mexico close to Tepcan with an intensity of 7.2 which is quite high. The
earthquake was felt up to Mexico city, 170 miles away from the epicenter, but gladely there were no
casualties. There were a couple of electricity failures and very few old buildings which collapsed. It
could have been much worse. Mexico city is sitting on top of three tectonic plates which makes the
country a very sismically active place in the world.
Natural desasters doesn’t exist only in Mexico. Durign our researches, another country has been hitten
and has had terrible conséquences in Chile. Indeed in April 14, a wildfire swept through hundreds of
homes in the Pacific coastal city of Valparaiso, leaving at least 12 dead, according to an official. 1200
firefighters has tried to control and stop this. This incident has done a lot of victims, and many of the
survivors suffered burns. The fire superintendent declared that it was one of the worst fires in history
As we have described it in the first part, we have followed the news in Latin America and have divided
the events in different topics : political, cultural, environmental… They now allow us to analyse the
general situation in this part of the world.
As we’ve seen it with the politics, we have learnt that it is a very corrupted environment especially
during elections and votes, where they are often rigged. This causes people not to have the legislative
power they should have. In fact, the elections are not always a reflection of the actual votes. The
dictatorship is a big problem in Latin America with many governments which were elected in shady
ways and apply rigid politcs and repression. For example, what happens in Venezuela i a good example
of the repression that can be put in place in countries where the population is protesting. In this case,
the government treats the protesters like terrorists and the „best solution“ they have found is to arrest
people. The only reason they listen to the opposition’s arguments is to show the world that they’re
trying to negociate, which is in fact, not really the case since they don’t take notes of what is said.
These political problems are causing a lot of violence in these countries.
The drug issue is also linked to this, many of the drug lords, like El Chapo, are very powerful and
influent. They are part of the corruption in the politics and can easily be exempted from the laws. Many
of the gangs, which are very numerous, in Latin America have illegal activities such as firearm and drug
trafficking. This participate in raising the violence and crime rates in this area of the world. In fact,
many of the large Latin American cities are in the top most dangerous cities of the world. In these
countries, we can find the highest murder rates. Many people own firearms, machetes, knives… The
gang problem is in fact raising fear and is caused by the poverty in Latin America. Indeed, this is also
where you can find the poorest countries in the world such as Bolivia. The economical problems cause
illegal activities, crimes and revolts which then end up in repression. We can therefore say, that we are
facing a vicious circle.
As if the human issues weren’t sufficient, the nature isn’t always very concilient with Latin America. In
fact, this place is subject to many environmental issues. Of course, the pollution is one of the them,
but we can consider this to be caused by men ; here we’ll be talking about the natural catastrophes
that happen quite often in this continent. For example, Mexico, like many other of these countries, is
right on top of sismically active spots. This explains why there are earthquakes quite often, and they
can be rather intense. Being surrounded by water, Latin America can also encounter hurricanes. There
are also fires that happen quite regularly; these can hurt the natural environment but also the cities.
The material that is used to construct the buildings is not always adapted to these risks because of the
lack of budget. Compared to European or American cities, the norms are nothing close to being as
Hopefully, there are good aspects of Latin America. It has one of the most diverse culture due to the
original civilizations and the colonization which has evolved to become a melting pot of traditions,
histories and ways of living. This remains one of the most important ressource of this continent. As we
have seen in our articles, Gabriel Garcia Marquez was offered a nobel prize for his work. This proves
that charismatic people participated in enriching the culture and giving their countries an international
III. Predictions for the future
With these different articles that we have collected during these months, it was made possible for us
to make predictions for the future for the different countries in Latin America. Concerning the political
life, we can imagine that the problem of corruption will not be resolved quickly. In fact the corruption
is still an obstacle in the political life like we were able to see in Ecuador or in Colombia. It would be
difficult to change the actual position of these countries and to find solutions. We can definitely see
that the laws which have been put in place are not really respected. It’s quite difficult to initiate
changes in the political life of countries where the governments are corrupted.
As we could see previously in the analysis, drugs are one of the biggest problems in many countries of
South America. This is the cause of many problems like cartels, gangs, corruption… Everything is
connected. Furthermore poverty, which is extremely high in certain countries, is a serious issue too.
Latin America is way behind on an economical point of view and it doesn’t seem like the countries will
be looking up anytime soon. Indeed, this part of the world can hardly compete with North America,
Europe and now Asia. Even though they have a lot of natural ressources such as oil, agricultural goods
ect. It is not enough to have a real weight on the international scene. Also, because of all the social and
political issues, Latin America has had even more difficulties to open up to the rest of the World and
to develop their international exchanges.
In general, it doesnt’ seem like this continent is in a wave of changes at the moment. From an exterior
point of view, Latin America seems to be pretty much stuck with these issues with few ways to find
solutions. The mix of poverty, violence, trafficking and corruption makes it hard to envision any kind
of remede for the problems. Maybe revolutions would be a solution to think about.
To conclude we can affirm that our press review has been a real oppotunity to learn a little bit more
about all those countries. Although we used to a take a look at the daily news in the World before the
press review course started, we didn’t really know precisely Latin American news because they
disappeared in the amount of news that came out everyday. This way our subject has permitted us to
develop our knowledge and our culture of this interesting part of the World.