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How Miss Peru Contestants Shined the Spotlight on Femicide

Latin America, Peru, Human Rights, women's rights, Violence Against Women

Picture this: Gorgeous women dressed in sequin gowns line up on stage. One by one, they step up to the microphone and introduce themselves.  

“My name is Camila Canicoba, and I represent the department of Lima. My measurements are: 2,202 cases of femicide reported in the last nine years in my country,” says the first.

“My name is Karen Cueto, and I represent Lima and my measurements are 82 femicides and 156 attempted femicides so far this year,” says the second.

No, this isn’t a UN Women gala. It’s the 2017 Miss Peru pageant. In a surprising twist, the 23 contestants broke the tradition of revealing their measurements (bust, waist, and hip) to announce far more important numbers: the statistics on violence against women in their homeland.

The numbers are easy to gloss over. (How many more women die in car crashes each year, you might ask.) True, statistics can come across as meaningless without the stories behind them, which is why the faces of battered women flashed behind the contestants as they spoke. But they didn’t end there. Each woman finished by answering the following: which law would they change to end violence against women?

Latin America's 'Woman' Problem

Pageant organizer Jessica Newton’s brilliant idea put women’s rights center stage and turned an old fashioned competition into a moment of solidarity. But why in Peru? And why now?

Resetting U.S.-Latin America Relations

President Obama in Havana, Cuba

President Obama made headlines in March with his historic visit to Cuba, but his less sensational trip to Argentina may prove to be equally important in repairing U.S.-Latin America relations.

The move to normalize relations with Cuba will no doubt become a central piece of the Obama legacy. However, it's only one aspect of the Administration's engagement with the region over the past two years, which has involved a strategic pivot from previous policies. It began in late 2013 when Secretary of State John Kerry proposed a new beginning during his speech to the Organization of American States, in which he declared that the Monroe Doctrine was "over." In the years since, inviting Latin America to the diplomatic table has already been a success. Throughout the region, left-wing policies are going by the wayside while global engagement and free markets are taking hold. And anti-American rhetoric is becoming less popular as leaders discover it's no longer the battle cry it once was.

Ending the Cuban Embargo

Latin America Cleans Up as Renewable Energy Deals Surge

The smog-laden skyline of Mexico City may not be a poster child for air pollution much longer. Demand for clean energy is on the rise in Latin America, particularly in Mexico, Brazil, and Chile.

Clean-energy acquisitions nearly tripled in the region last year--the highest growth rate in the world, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). An increasing demand for electricity coupled with stricter environmental policies has resulted in renewable energy deals valued at $7.6 billion, up from $2.7 billion in 2014, the consulting firm said in its annual Power & Renewables Deals report.

"There is increasing interest in the region," Arthur Ramos, a partner at PwC's strategic consulting unit Strategy& told BloombergBusiness. "Multinationals are taking stronger positions in Latin America where there is a perspective of lack of power supply in the long term. And many countries are offering low risk models of energy contracts for investors."

In total, mergers and acquisitions in Latin America shot up 56 percent to $12.4 billion last year. Only the Asia Pacific region brokered more deals.

China has already jumped on the investment bandwagon. The Chinese power company Three Gorges Corp. bought the Jupia and Ilha Solteria hydropower plants in Brazil for $3.7 billion, the largest acquisition in the region. Sempra Energy, the San Diego-based natural gas company, came in second with its acquisition of the remaining stake in its Mexican joint venture Gasoductos de Chihuahua for $1.5 billion.

Climate Change: An Opportunity for a 'New Era of Relations'

Photo by National Geographic Channels/ Rob Taylor

U.S. relations with Latin America have not always been exemplary, but climate change is an issue that presents an opportunity for the U.S. to cooperate with its southern neighbors and to provide the leadership that such a global threat requires.

According to the Pew Research Center data cited in Harrison’s blog, Latin America as a whole is a region very concerned with climate change. In each of the seven Latin American countries polled, climate change was the most widely recognized threat. Sixty-five percent of Latin Americans identify climate change as a threat to their respective countries, compared to 40 percent of people in the United States. In Brazil the percentage is as high as 76, and Argentina is not far behind at 71 percent. Furthermore, not a single Latin American country reported numbers below 50 percent. Even in the oil-rich country of Venezuela, 53 percent of the public recognizes climate change as a threat. This is significant considering that oil-exporting countries generally resist the implications of climate change.

A 2012 study by the World Bank shows that Latin America is at greater risk to the dangers of climate change than most of the world. To make matters worse, many regions within Latin America have insufficient capability to cope with these potentially devastating effects of climate change.

A New Role Model and a Promising Outlook

Photo credit: The London Evening Post

As of 10 a.m. yesterday, I have a new idol: María Corina Machado, member of the Venezuelan parliament. I attended her presentation on the current political situation in Venezuela, held at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. I was struck by the bravery and composure that she showed in the face of an increasingly repressive regime. María Corina is an opponent of Venezuela's President Maduro, who narrowly won the April 14th elections by a margin of 1.5 percent in the wake of President Chavez's death.

At the talk, I learned that María Corina was one of the victims of the April 30th assault at the Venezuelan parliament against opposition members. This assault left Corina badly hurt and in need of surgery.

Despite this assault and other threats made by Maduro and his supporters, María Corina is still fighting for democracy in her beloved Venezuela. In fact, Corina is here in D.C. on a diplomatic mission to appeal to the United States Congress. She would like to see Congress stand up for institutions and democracy and not ignore the tense political situation in Venezuela.

María Corina's experience drew my attention to two issues. First is the persistent need to end violence against women. I cannot imagine how violated I would feel if I were assaulted for standing up for what I believe in-either as a woman or as a human being. For me, any regime that promotes violence against women loses all sense of legitimacy.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Holds Hearing on Ahmadinejad's “Tour of Tyrants”

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on Iran entitled “Ahmadinejad’s Tour of Tyrants and Iran's Agenda in the Western Hemisphere” last Thursday.  The consensus of the committee was that Iran’s presence in Latin America is too close for comfort.  The “Tour of Tyrants,” which spanned Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Cuba, raised questions as to what intentions Iran has for Latin America.  Ahmadinejad continues to attempt to reach out to these counties, even recently releasing an Iranian Spanish channel.

Some committee members see Iran’s interest in Latin America as an attempt to gain new ground for plots against the United States.  The recent Iranian car bomb assassination attempt of the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States was seen as further evidence that an Iranian attack on U.S. soil is not a stretch of the imagination.  In a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Iran denied any responsibility for this assassination attempt. 

The real question is: what do these Latin American countries hope to gain from Iran? Representative Eliot Engel believes that these countries are looking for financial aid from Iran.  While this may be true, Iran has not been delivering on its promises of aid. When questioning the intentions of Venezuela, Representative Berman quoted President Obama in saying “it is up to the Venezuelan people to determine what they gain from a relationship with a country that violates universal human rights and is isolated from much of the world.”  Other countries in Latin America have turned their backs on the Iranian regime, including Brazil.  With the looming threat of a nuclear Iran, it will be important to keep a close watch on the dealings of this country in the Western Hemisphere.