Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Dominican Republic

After Leonel

The new president risks governing in his predecessor’s shadow

Fernández, Cedeño and Medina keep the party going
ECONOMIC storms have battered the Caribbean of late, blowing away the tourists and remittances on which most islands depend. Most of the region has barely seen any growth since 2009. Several governments have been washed away by the slump: in the past six months unhappy voters have kicked out the ruling parties in Jamaica and the Bahamas. But the sun still shines in the Dominican Republic, where growth has continued at over 5% a year. On May 20th Dominicans duly rewarded the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). But only just: Danilo Medina, its presidential candidate, won 51% of the vote, amid allegations of fraud.
Mr Medina faced a weak opponent in Hipólito Mejía of the Dominican Revolution Party, who campaigned under the enigmatic slogan “Here's Daddy”. Mr Mejía mishandled a banking crisis when he was president between 2000 and 2004. He cried fraud this week. Observers from the Organisation of American States certified the election result but confirmed reports of vote-buying. Participación Ciudadana, a local NGO, says that both main parties offered between 500 and 2,500 pesos ($13 to $65) to buy people's voting cards. No one knows the scale of the fraud, but the electoral authorities received 400,000 applications for duplicate cards in the weeks before the poll. The government's vote-buying appeared greatly to exceed that of the opposition, claims Francisco Álvarez of Participación Ciudadana.
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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mexico's drug war

Storm clouds with silver linings

A series of choreographed horrors belies an overall drop in killings

MURDER has become so common in parts of Mexico that gangsters craving attention must go to ever more appalling lengths. The 49 or so mutilated bodies dumped on May 13th on a roadside close to Monterrey, a wealthy city near the Texan border, were enough to make the front pages. The massacre was the worst since last August, when 52 people were killed in an arson attack on a casino in the same city. The latest outrage may be even deadlier: investigators are still not sure how many victims the body parts add up to.
The horror diverted attention from a rare drop in Mexico's overall murder rate. The opening quarter of 2012 saw the first year-on-year fall in killings since the government's assault on the gangs got going in 2007. The 5,037 murders (which include ordinary killings as well as mafia hits) represented a 7% drop compared with the same period last year, and a 17% decline compared with the worst three months of last summer. The government no longer breaks out mafia-linked murders, but Reforma, a newspaper, reckons that so far this year these are 10% down on last year.
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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Central America's gangs

A meeting of the maras

Precarious truces between gangs have lowered the murder rate in two of the world’s most violent countries—but for how long?

MEMBERS of El Salvador's maras, or street gangs, make little effort to hide their affiliations: they can be spotted easily thanks to their head-to-toe tattoos. Formed in Californian jails and exported back to Central America by deported migrants, the mobs have made El Salvador one of the world's most violent countries. Last year 4,374 murders were committed, as the gangs fought for territory—a rate per head 15 times higher than in the United States.
But now quiet reigns in the country's roughest districts. In March the two main gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha and the Mara 18, declared a truce, cutting the murder rate by two-thirds overnight (see chart). Police say May has been even calmer. The rate is now close to that of fairly stable Brazil.
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