Brazilian Student Faces US$15,700 Fine for “Racist” Meme

Undefined Crime Opens the Door for Prosecution on a Whim

Scholars of constitutional law … will not find lessons on institutional architecture in the new text [of the Brazilian constitution]. Instead, they will find plenty of anecdotal material. What constitution in the world formalizes negligence, ensures immortality of the elderly, nationalizes disease, and, at the same time, gives the 16-year-old the right to vote and criminal immunity? Our claim to originality created a new constitutional theory: the “archaic progressivism.”
~Roberto Campos, 1988.

Local Brazilian news sources report that Santa Catarina Federal University student Igor Westphal could be ordered to pay over R$50,000 (US$15,700) for “collective moral damage” triggered by a Facebook post.

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Kirchner’s Critics Can’t See the Statist Forest for the Trees

Buenos Aires Boondoggle Gets Off Too Easy

El espacio, inaugurado recientemente en Buenos Aires, ha sido criticado por su alto costo. (Centro Cultural Néstor Kirchner)

The recently inaugurated cultural center has come under attack over elevated costs. (Centro Cultural Néstor Kirchner)

EspañolBy Alejandro Sala

Independent media in Argentina have lashed out at President Cristina Kirchner’s recent inauguration of the Néstor Kirchner Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, named after her late husband and predecessor.

While the political opposition remain silent, Argentinean daily La Nación writes: “The current cost almost triples the initial budget: in six years it went from AR$926 million to $2.469 billion,” while Clarín reports that “some 30 percent of the construction remains to be done. Private calculations put the final price tag at AR$4 billion,” some US$320 million all told.

Some have resorted to the same old comparison between the center’s total cost and what else the government could have done with the money. La Nación pointed out the Kirchner administration could have built instead “between 123 and 224 schools.” The underlying theme in these kinds of analysis is that if only the cultural center had been cheaper and the project had remained within budget, then it would have been okay for the government to do it.

This approach omits dealing with the substantive aspect of the whole enterprise. It remains stuck within the statist paradigm that reigns supreme over social planning considerations and intellectual criteria in Argentina, and indeed the rest of the western world. Those who criticize the scale of spending, the inefficient management of resources, and the lousy prioritizing, never stop to think whether the state should in fact be financing cultural activities or not.

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Is the Dubai of the Americas Running Out of Gas?

Panama's Varela Must Embrace Free-Market Ideals to Get Economy Back on Track

Panama, the Dubai of the Americas, has seen significant economic growth in the last few years, but the party may soon be over.

Panama, the Dubai of the Americas, has seen significant economic growth in the last few years, but the party may soon be over. (Flickr/Thibault Houspic)

EspañolPanama, the “Dubai of the Americas,” as it is sometimes called, seemingly has it all. Boasting one of the most important free-trade zones in the world, along with an enviable regional financial center, this Central American country has had years of incredible GDP growth, a relatively good ranking on the Social Progress Index, and significant advances in the expansion of one of its key assets, the Panama Canal.

Yet, Panamanians, by and large, feel something is amiss.

What could possibly be going wrong in a country that weathered the Great Recession almost unharmed, and that has one of the lowest unemployment figures in the world? To quote James Carville: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

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Pérez Molina Has No One Left to Lean On

Spate of Resignations Leaves Guatemalan President Adrift

Perez Molina

Interior Minister López Bonilla and President Otto Pérez Molina in happier times.  (Soy502)

EspañolGuatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina is facing the worst crisis of his administration since he took power in January 2012. Seemingly surrounded by corruption scandals, he told a press conference on Thursday that his cabinet “isn’t collapsing” and insisted that he will not resign his office.

Various groups have called for his removal since the customs corruption scandal known as The Line emerged, and several officials have even jumped ship from his administration, including members of his Patriotic Party (PP).

The resignations began on Friday, May 8, when Pérez Molina announced the resignation of Vice President Roxana Baldetti. Soon after followed the departure of Mining and Energy Minister Erick Archila, claiming that he was being blackmailed by the Renewed Democratic Liberty party (LIDER).

On Thursday, Guatemalan politics took an even more unexpected turn. Mauricio López Bonilla, one of the closest allies of Pérez Molina, resigned his position as interior minister, despite repeated denials in recent days that he was considering such a move. Also exiting the cabinet where Environment Minister Michelle Martínez and Vice Minister of Security Edy Juárez.

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Rand Paul All Alone in the Senate

Zuri Davis Delivers the Painful Truth about the Uphill Battle in Congress

US Senator Rand Paul continues on his quest to block renewal of the Patriot Act, and Zuri Davis was there to watch this evening’s standoff in Washington, DC. The liberty activist, who has made waves with her support for the elder Paul, posted a revealing and candid reflection.

This entire night was dedicated to whether or not the Senate would have a discussion to pass the Patriot Act. How sad that having a discussion before actions isn’t the norm. A discussion allows we the people to hear both sides of an argument and gives us time to contact our representatives and senators in order to ask them to vote one way or another.

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Correa’s Price Controls Disguise Tariff Tax Hike

Delay Tactic Pulls the Wool over Constituent Eyes

(Mauricio Torres)

Ecuadorian President Correa should come clean with his constituents and say outright that he believes the tariffs are fiscally necessary, rather than distract attention with divisive rhetoric. (Mauricio Torres)

EspañolBy David Wolverton

With the precipitous fall in oil prices that started during the latter half of 2014, many oil-producing countries are experiencing fiscal challenges. Ecuador is no exception, as oil revenue accounts for almost 40 percent of public revenues, not to mention a solid chunk of forex earnings.

In the first semester of 2015, the government of President Rafael Correa has been taking measures to counter the effects of the fiscal pinch. Some of these measures, such as curtailing the 2015 budget by 4 percent, have been necessary (and some might argue, insufficient). Other measures, on the contrary, are controversial and carry undertones of populist rhetoric that seeks to pit social classes against each other.

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Honduras: Victory for Human Rights, Defeat for the Rule of Law

Scrapping Reelection Ban Disregards Popular Sovereignty

Presidential term limits in Honduras should be decided by the people, not by a court.

Presidential term limits in Honduras should be decided by the people, not by a court. (El Diario)

EspañolThe recent ruling of the Honduran Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) regarding presidential reelection sparked joy among the ruling party and its supporters, and indignation on the part of opposition parties and many citizens.

However, the vast majority of Hondurans, whose only interest is to improve their economic situation and that of their children, received the ruling with an unperturbed apathy.

Without doubt, it takes only a brief analysis to see that much of the legislation on presidential reelection violates the right to free expression and dissemination of ideas, contradicting other constitutional articles along the way.

Moreover, it goes against international human-rights instruments, as the 15 congressmen who filed the appeal of unconstitutionality argued forcefully.

The appeal presented by former President Rafael Callejas, who argued that the ban on reelection is a violation of the right to elect and be elected, is somewhat less convincing.

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Why Puerto Rico is Rationing Water, Again

Political Expediency on Show, Not Weather Systems

Puerto Rico's Carraizo dam, in times of plenty. (Yarim Correa)

Puerto Rico’s Carraizo dam, in times of plenty: August 2014. (Yarim Correa)

EspañolI stood in the mud at the bottom of what was the Carraizo reservoir. It was my first official press conference as a news reporter for the WOSO radio station in San Juan. The year was 1994, and my wife and I were celebrating the recent arrival of our first child together, and trying to figure out how to take care of a baby without water for 24 hours every other day.

That was my first experience of water rationing in Puerto Rico. From then on, rationing seemed to happen all of the time, due to mysterious broken pipes, somewhere in a field, that were really hard to get to. At least that was the explanation we received weekend after weekend, nearly every weekend for two years, while living in Fajardo in the early 2000s.

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Electricity Bills Spike 1,400% in Rio de Janeiro Slums

Dilma's Tarifaço Regulatory Policy Backfires on Promises

The favelas of Rio de Janeiro are hardly home to people who can afford steep electricity prices. (David Schenfeld)

The favelas of Rio de Janeiro are hardly home to people who can afford steep electricity prices. (David Schenfeld)

EspañolIn Rio de Janeiro, favela residents have had a harder time paying their bills as of late.

According to news outlet G1, south-side residents have seen a 1400 percent increase in their electricity bills since new digital consumption monitors were installed. But while some residents with the new monitors have seen their bills go from R$60 to R$900 (US$20 to US$299), those still using the older systems have seen the same disproportionate increase.

Neighborhoods impacted include the Vidigal, Chapéu-Mangueira, and Babilônia, which consist of thousands of shacks and lowly homes where low-income workers reside.

According to the president of the local Residents Association André Luiz de Souza, “this is theft!”

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Guatemala Rises Up against Corruption

60,000 Take to the Streets Once More

EspañolOn Saturday, May 16, tens of thousands descended upon the streets of Guatemala to protest against endemic government corruption. Some even demanded that President Otto Pérez Molina step down. Others also called for the Electoral and Political Parties Law to be reformed.

The country made the first step in the right direction last week when public outcry forced Vice President Roxana Baldetti to resign. But as protestors were keen to point out, it was just the beginning.

We witnessed a historical event on Saturday. Differences were put aside and everybody joined in, because we’re all fed up with this and many other past corrupt governments. Of course this did not stop some people from instigating division.

Two suspicious Facebook pages, “A regular and conscious citizen” and “United Citizenship,” argued that “political and corporate manipulation” was behind the protests, claiming those who showed up had been “herded” by opposition parties. It seems someone is afraid.

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