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Western Hemisphere Review

With all the talk of Mandela over the past two weeks, most interesting news pieces about other topics have been relatively ignored.

In the western hemisphere, I've posted about several topics affecting Canada, from social problems in Quebec, "war with Russia" in the high arctic, and postal service (the Economist ran an interesting piece on the issue, for what it's worth...).

Elsewhere in the hemisphere, my local paper (in French) has been running a series of articles about the rebuilding process in Haiti - some progress but still lots of work to do.

One of the bigger topics that dominated Canadian politics over the past month is negotiations for a Free Trade deal with the EU.  This has been followed by a $1 trillion deal negotiated at the WTO.  It also seems that MERCOSUR, the South American association of countries, is moving towards its own deal with the Europeans, after years of stalling.

Coming back to Mandela, a symbolic handshake between US President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro took place during the events surrounding his funeral.  Can this be seen as a diplomatic opening between the two long-time antagonists?  The linked articles seems to think so, but the White House downplayed the impacts.  Mid-term elections are coming up you know...

Stability reigns in Chile after outgoing progressive Socialist Bachelet won a convincing runoff victory over her conservative opponent and maintained a majority in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

Uruguay became the first country to official legalize marijuana.  The Switzerland of the western hemisphere has taken a daring step forward in what I consider a very progressive direction.  Costs associated with the illegal and criminal nature of marijuana production and possession, and the potential tax benefits of legalizing, are a debate that needs to be undertaken.  Can Canada, under a Justin Trudeau government in 2015, take the same bold step, removing control of this product from organized crime, better control its consumption, and raise important tax revenues for social programming and important infrastructure investments?  Here's hoping...

Will do a year in review for the hemisphere before 2013 runs out!


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