By Susana Hayward Soler
In Mexico, the presidential election of July 1 heats up with front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in heavy campaign mode. The former governor of the state of Mexico, the country’s most populous, is hanging on to this lead in the polls but he had a bruising welcome Friday at Mexico City’s Universidad Iberoamericano, where students shouted “Fuera, fuera!” and carried signs calling him a murderer.
Some sectors view the candidate as being a handpicked choice of ex-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, whose term from 1988-1994 was marked by violence and unrest.
Behind Pena Nieto are Josefina Vazquez Mota of the governing National Action Party (PAN) and Manuel Lopez Obrador, ex-mayor of Mexico City, running for the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party, (PRD).
The fourth contender, Gabriel Quadri of a new coalition party called PANAL, picked up some steam after his performance in the May 6 presidential debate, overshadowed by beautiful model Julia Orayen, an edecan who walked onstage in a revealing white dress, stealing headlines around the world.
It wasn’t enough to distract from the drug war violence that grips Mexico. On Mother’s Day, celebrated on May 10, about 300 women and relatives from around the country marched in Mexico City to demand the government find out the fate of their missing loved ones. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights says 5,000 are reported as missing.
Meanwhile, fighting among cartels isn’t letting up. On Thursday, May 9, police found 18 dismembered and beheaded bodies inside two vans near a tourist area in Guadalajara, capital of Western Jalisco state, where allies of the Sinaloa cartel called Jalisco New Generation are fighting the Zetas.
In Venezuela, a former Supreme Court judge who fled the country a month ago could prove to be bad news for President Hugo Chavez. Eladio Aponte is collaborating with the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency, implicating government officials with drug ties, allegations the Venezuelan government denies.
In Argentina, the Senate passed two landmark laws: a gender identity law that allows people over 18 to legally change the sex assigned at birth if they want and a “dignified death” law giving the terminally-ill and their families power to refuse treatment for incurable illnesses or injuries.
The Congress in Chile approved an anti-discrimination law after a gay man, Daniel Zamudio, was brutally killed in March
In futbol-mad Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff is expected to sign a Senate bill that gives the world soccer-body FIFA guarantees to organize the 2014 World Cup.
Political unrest grips Bolivia, with union and indigenous protests breaking throughout the Andean nation, challenging the left-wing government of Evo Morales.