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U.S. Department of State People Governments
Of Latin American Countries

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--  Argentina (12/05)
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Democracy returned to Argentina in 1983, with Raul Alfonsin of the country's oldest political party, the Radical Civic Union (UCR), winning the presidency. Three general elections followed in the next 16 years--a remarkable feat in Argentine political history--with the Justicialist Party (PJ) candidate Carlos Menem winning two and the UCR's Fernando De la Rua one.

President De la Rua was forced to resign in December 2001 after bloody riots. A legislative assembly elected Adolfo Rodriguez Saa to serve out the remainder of De la Rua's term, but he too failed to garner political support in the face of continued unrest and resigned that same month. Yet another legislative assembly then chose Eduardo Duhalde to succeed Rodriguez Saa. Duhalde took office on January 1, 2002, in the midst of a profound economic crisis and a widespread public rejection of the "political class" in Argentina, a rejection directed at all three branches of government. Another factor contributing to the perception of institutional instability in Argentina was conflict between the three branches of government in early 2002, culminating in the legislature's attempt to impeach the members of the Supreme Court.

Despite widespread concern, democracy and democratic institutions survived the crisis, and Nestor Kirchner has taken firm hold as President. Since taking office, he has focused on building his political strength from the 22% popular vote he received in national elections April 27, 2003.

Argentina's constitution of 1853, as revised in 1994, mandates a separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches at the national and provincial level. Each province also has its own constitution, roughly mirroring the structure of the national constitution. The president and vice president are directly elected to 4-year terms. Both are limited to two consecutive terms; they are allowed to stand for a third term or more after an interval of at least one term. The president appoints cabinet ministers, and the constitution grants him considerable power, including authority to enact laws by presidential decree under conditions of "urgency and necessity" and the line-item veto.

Since 2001, senators have been directly elected, with each province and the Federal Capital represented by three senators. Senators serve 6-year terms. One-third of the Senate stands for reelection every 2 years. Members of the Chamber of Deputies are directly elected to 4-year terms. Voters elect half the members of the lower house every 2 years. Both houses are elected via a system of proportional representation. Female representation in Congress--at nearly one-third of total seats--ranks among the world’s highest, with representation comparable to European Union (EU) countries such as Austria and Germany. Female senators include Christina Fernández de Kirchner, who was a nationally known member of the Senate for the Province of Santa Cruz before her husband was elected President, and was reelected on October 23, 2005 as a Senator for the Province of Buenos Aires.

The constitution establishes the judiciary as an independent government entity. The president appoints members of the Supreme Court with the consent of the Senate. The president on the recommendation of a magistrates' council appoints other federal judges. The Supreme Court has the power to declare legislative acts unconstitutional.

Political Parties
The two largest political parties are the Justicialist Party (PJ--also called Peronist), founded in 1945 by Juan Domingo Peron, and the Union Civica Radical (UCR), or Radical Civic Union, which claims 1890 as its founding date. Traditionally, the UCR has had more urban middle-class support and the PJ more labor support, but both parties have become more broadly based. Smaller parties, such as the center-right Propuesta Republicana (PRO) and the more-leftist-leaning Argentina for a Republic of Equals (ARI), occupy various positions on the political spectrum, and some are active only in certain provinces. Historically, organized labor--largely tied to the Peronist Party--and the armed forces also have played significant roles in national life. However, labor's political power has declined somewhat, and the armed forces are firmly under civilian control. Repudiated by the public after a period of military rule (1976-83)--marked by human rights violations, economic decline, and military defeat in the 1982 Falkland/Malvinas Islands conflict--the Argentine military today is a downsized, volunteer force.

Since taking office in 2003, President Kirchner had been engaged in a struggle with former President Eduardo Duhalde and other party leaders for control of the PJ. The President's candidates in the October 2005 legislative elections, many running under the banner of Frente Para la Victoria (FPV), won roughly 40% of the vote nationwide, nearly three times the 15% won by the Radical Civic Union (UCR). President Kirchner's victory was decisive enough to leave him largely in control of the political direction of the country and the PJ. The UCR, although still the second most powerful political party after the PJ on a national scale, has declined significantly since UCR President de la Rua was forced from office in December 2001. In the April 2003 presidential elections, the UCR received only 2% of the national vote, the lowest tally in the party's history. The UCR continues to retain significant strength in many parts of the country and governs roughly one-third of the provinces. The UCR is the only opposition political party with a nationwide structure.

Government Policy
The reform agenda remains incomplete and has been on hold since the late 2001-early 2002 acute political and economic crisis. The Central Bank's independence is weak, and the reform of the state has not yet been completed. Although the government's broad policy remains one of allowing private initiative to operate, President Kirchner’s government has said it would increase the role of the state in an effort to boost economic growth and recovery.

Principal Government Officials
President--Nestor Kirchner
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Jorge Taiana
Ambassador to the United States--Jose Bordon
Ambassador to the Organization of American States--Rodolfo Gil
Ambassador to the United Nations--Cesar Mayoral

Argentina maintains an embassy in the United States at 1600 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington DC 20009; tel (202) 238-6400; fax (202) 332-3171. It has consular offices in the following locations: 245 Peachtree Center Ave., Suite 2101 Atlanta, GA 30303, tel. (404) 880-0805, fax (404) 880-0806; 205 North Michigan Ave., Suite 4209 Chicago, IL 60601, tel. (312) 819-2610, fax (312) 819-2612; 1990 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 770 Houston, TX 77056, tel. (713) 871-8935, fax (713) 871-0639; 5055 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 210 Los Angeles, CA 90036, tel. (323) 954-9155, fax (323) 934-9076; 800 Brickell Ave., PH1 Miami, FL 33131, tel. (305) 373-7794, fax (305) 371-7108; 12 West 56th St., New York, NY 10019, tel. (212) 603-0400, fax (212) 541-7746; 1600 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20009, tel. (202) 238-6460, fax (202) 238-6471.


--  Belize (10/05)
GOVERNMENT
Belize is a parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster model and is a member of the Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II is head of state and is represented in the country by Governor General Dr. Colville N. Young, Sr., a Belizean and Belize's second governor general. The primary executive organ of government is the cabinet, led by a prime minister (head of government). Cabinet ministers are members of the majority political party in parliament and usually hold elected seats in the National Assembly concurrently with their cabinet positions.

The National Assembly consists of a House of Representatives and a Senate. The 29 members of the House are popularly elected to a maximum 5-year term. The governor general appoints the Senate’s 12 members. Six are appointed in accordance with the advice of the prime minister, 3 with the advice of the leader of the opposition. The Belize Council of Churches and the Evangelical Association of Churches, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Business Bureau, and the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee each advise the Governor General on the appointment of one senator each. The Senate is headed by a president, who is a nonvoting member appointed by the governing party.

Members of the independent judiciary are appointed. The judicial system includes local magistrates, the Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeal. Cases may, under certain circumstances, be appealed to the Privy Council in London. However, in 2001 Belize joined with most members of the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM) to work for the establishment of a "Caribbean Court of Justice," which is expected to come into being in 2006. The country is divided into six districts: Corozal, Orange Walk, Belize, Cayo, Stann Creek, and Toledo.

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Currently, the Belize Government is controlled by the People's United Party (PUP), which was elected to a second consecutive term in office on March 5, 2003. The PUP won 22 of the 29 seats in the House of Representatives, while the United Democratic Party (UDP) won the other seven seats. However, the PUP lost one seat in Parliament during a by-election held after the death of a minister in October 2003, but still maintains a comfortable majority. Dean Barrow is the leader of the opposition. The PUP has governed Belize from 1998 to the present; the UDP from 1993-98; the PUP from 1989-1993; and the UDP from 1984-89. Before 1984, the PUP had dominated the electoral scene for more than 30 years and was the party in power when Belize became independent in 1981.

Prime Minister Said Musa has embarked on an adjustment program, which calls for short- and medium-term fiscal and monetary policy changes. These policy changes seek to (1) increase revenues, (2) narrow the fiscal deficit, from a high of 9% of GDP to 3%, (3) improve the balance of payments, particularly on the current account side, (4) increase foreign reserves, from less than one month’s worth of the country’s import bill to at least 3 months’ worth, and (5) improve the country’s ability to service its huge, unsustainable foreign debt, which stands at close to Belize $2.4 billion or almost 100% of its GDP (Belize $2=U.S. $1). Belize traditionally maintains a deep interest in the environment and sustainable development. A lack of government resources seriously hampers these goals. On other fronts, the government is working to improve its law enforcement capabilities. A longstanding territorial dispute with Guatemala continues, although cooperation between the two countries has increased in recent years across a wide spectrum of common interests, including trade and environment. Seeing itself as a bridge, Belize is actively involved with the Caribbean nations of CARICOM, and also has taken steps to work more closely with its Central American neighbors as a member of SICA (Central American Integration System).

Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Sir Colville N. Young, Sr.
Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, National Development, and the Public Service--Said Musa
Minister of Home Affairs and Public Utilities--Ralph Fonseca
Attorney General and Minister of Education and Culture, Youth and Sports--Francis Fonseca
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Tourism--Godfrey Smith

Ambassador to the United States and the OAS--Lisa Shoman
Ambassador to the United Nations--Stuart Leslie

Belize maintains an embassy in the United States at 2535 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel: 202-332-9636; fax: 202-332-6888) and a consulate in Los Angeles. Belize travel information office in New York City: 800-624-0686.

--  Bolivia (03/06)
GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION
The 1967 constitution, revised in 1994, provides for balanced executive, legislative, and judicial powers. The traditionally strong executive, however, tends to overshadow the Congress, whose role is generally limited to debating and approving legislation initiated by the executive. The judiciary, consisting of the Supreme Court and departmental and lower courts, has long been riddled with corruption and inefficiency. Through revisions to the constitution in 1994, and subsequent laws, the government has initiated potentially far-reaching reforms in the judicial system and processes. In August 2006, Bolivia will revisit its constitutional organization in the first "Constituent Assembly" since 1938, with many interested groups calling for sweeping constitutional change.

For the first time in history, Bolivians chose their departmental prefects (similar to governors) by popular vote on December 18, 2005; the prefects were then formally appointed by the President. Bolivia's nine departments received greater autonomy under the Administrative Decentralization law of 1995, although the lowland departments--especially Santa Cruz and Tarija--are seeking increased autonomy. Bolivian cities and towns are governed by directly elected mayors and councils. Municipal elections were held in December 2004, with councils elected to 5-year terms. The Popular Participation Law of April 1994, which distributes a significant portion of national revenues to municipalities for discretionary use, has enabled previously neglected communities to make striking improvements in their facilities and services.

Principal Government Officials
President--Evo MORALES Aima
Vice President--Alvaro GARCIA Linera
Minister of Foreign Affairs--David CHOQUEHUANCA
Ambassador to the United States--vacant
Ambassador to the Organization of American States--Maria TAMAYO
Ambassador to the United Nations--Erwin ORTIZ Gandarillas

Bolivia maintains an embassy in the United States at 3014 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-483-4410); consulates in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, New Orleans, and New York; and honorary consulates in Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, Mobile, Seattle, St. Louis, and San Juan.

 

--  Brazil (04/06)
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Brazil is a federal republic with 26 states and a federal district. The 1988 constitution grants broad powers to the federal government, made up of executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The president holds office for four years, with the right to re-election for an additional four-year term, and appoints his own cabinet. There are 81 senators, three for each state and the Federal District, and 513 deputies. Senate terms are eight years, staggered so that two-thirds of the upper house is up for election at one time and one-third four years later. Chamber terms are four years, with elections based on a complex system of proportional representation by states. Each state is eligible for a minimum of eight seats; the largest state delegation (Sao Paulo's) is capped at 70 seats. This system is weighted in favor of geographically large but sparsely populated states.

Fifteen political parties are represented in Congress. Since it is common for politicians to switch parties, the proportion of congressional seats held by particular parties changes regularly. The major political parties are:

Workers' Party (PT-center-left)
Liberal Front Party (PFL-right)
Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB-center)
Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB-center-left)
Progressive Party (PP-right)
Brazilian Labor Party (PTB-center-right)
Liberal Party (PL-center-right)
Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB-left)
Popular Socialist Party (PPS-left)
Democratic Labor Party (PDT-left)
Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB-left)
President Lula was elected with the support of an alliance composed of his own leftist Workers' Party (PT), the center right Liberal Party (PL), the leftist National Mobilization Party (PMN), which currently only has two Deputies in the Chamber, the leftist Popular Socialist Party (PPS, formerly the PCB), and the leftist Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB). The PPS as well as the large PMDB party left the PT-led governing coalition in December 2004. With these withdrawals, the coalition has a small majority in the Chamber of Deputies and a minority in the Senate.

In June 2005, a domestic political scandal surfaced which has absorbed most parliamentary attention and derailed the legislative agenda and schedule. Several senior administration and PT party officials, most notably President Lula’s Chief of Staff Jose Dirceu, stepped down in connection with corruption charges. The scandal has also led to a number of party switches by parliamentarians and at least three congressional investigations. Party loyalty is weak, and deputies and senators who belong to the parties comprising the government coalition do not always vote with the government. Conversely, the government may also attract support from members who are not in the governing coalition. For example, a substantial wing of the PMDB continues to vote with the government coalition and the PMDB has ministries in Lula's cabinet.


Because of the mandatory revenue allocation to states and municipalities provided for in the 1988 constitution, Brazilian governors and mayors have exercised considerable power since 1989. Presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial elections last took place in October 2002. President Lula won the election with 61% of the vote. His challenger in the run-off was Jose Serra of the PDSB, former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's party. Municipal elections occurred in October 2004. The next national elections, including for the presidency, will be held in October 2006. Although candidacies have yet to be formally announced, it appears that President Lula will seek reelection. Frontrunner opposition candidates include Sao Paolo mayor Jose Serra and Sao Paulo state governor Geraldo Alckmin.


Chief of State and Cabinet Members
President--Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
Vice President--Jose Alencar Gomes da Silva
Minister-Chief Casa Civil (Chief of Staff)--Dilma Rousseff
Secretary General--Luiz Dulci
Secretary for Economic and Social Development--Patrus Ananias
Minister for Institutional Security--Gen. Jorge Armando Felix
Inspector General--Jorge Hage Sobrinho
Secretary for Fishing--Altemir Gregolin
Secretary for Political Coordination--Tarso Genro
Secretary for Racial Equality--Matilde Ribeiro
Secretary for Women’s Affairs--Nilceia Freire
Solicitor General--Alvaro Ribeiro Costa
Minister of Agrarian Development--Guilherme Cassel
Minister of Agriculture--Roberto Rodrigues
Minister of Cities--Marcio Fortes
Minister of Communication--Helio Costa
Minister of Culture--Gilberto Gil
Minister of Defense--Waldir Pires
Minister of Development, Industry, & Trade--Luiz Fernando Furlan
Minister of Education--Fernando Haddad
Minister of Environment--Marina Silva
Minister of Finance--Guido Mantega
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Celso Amorim
Minister of Health--José Agenor
Minister of Justice--Marcio Tomaz Bastos
Minister of Labor and Employment--Luiz Marinho
Minister of Mines and Energy--Silas Rondeau
Minister of National Integration--Pedro Brito
Minister of Planning and Budget--Paulo Bernardo
Minister of Science and Technology--Sergio Rezende
Minister of Social Development--Patrus Ananias
Minister of Social Security--Nelson Machado
Minister of Sports--Orlando Silva
Minister of Tourism--Walfrido Mares Guia
Minister of Transportation--Paulo Sérgio Passos
Central Bank President--Henrique Meirelles
Ambassador to the United States--Roberto Abdenur
Ambassador to the United Nations--Ronaldo Sardenberg
Ambassador to the OAS--Osmar Vladimir Chohfi

Note: The Offices of Political Coordination and Human Rights, and the Secretariat of Communications have been consolidated into the Ministry of Economic and Social Development, Justice, and the Chief of Staff, respectively.

Brazil maintains an embassy in the United States at 3006 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-238-2700). Brazil has consulates general in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and consulates in Miami, Houston, Boston, and San Francisco.

--  Chile (07/06)
Government
Type: Republic.
Independence: September 18, 1810.
Constitution: Promulgated September 11, 1980; effective March 11, 1981; amended in 1989, 1993, 1997, and 2005.
Branches: Executive--president. Legislative--bicameral legislature. Judicial--Constitutional Tribunal, Supreme Court, court of appeals, military courts.
Administrative subdivisions: 12 numbered regions, plus Santiago metropolitan region, administered by appointed "intendentes," regions are divided into provinces, administered by appointed governors; provinces are divided into municipalities administered by elected mayors.
Political parties: Major parties are grouped into two large coalitions: 1) the center-left "Concertacion", which includes the Christian Democrat Party, the Socialist Party, the Party for Democracy, and the Radical Social Democratic Party; and 2) the center-right "Alliance for Chile", which includes the National Renewal Party and the Independent Democratic Union. The Communist Party joined the Humanistic Party and a number of smaller parties to form the "Together We Can" coalition in 2004, but none of these leftist parties have recently elected congressional representatives.
Suffrage: Universal at 18, including foreigners legally resident for more than 5 years.

--  Colombia (02/06)
Government
Type: Republic.
Independence: July 20, 1810.
Constitution: July 1991.
Branches: Executive--President (chief of state and head of government). Legislative--Bicameral Congress.
Judicial--Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Council of State, Superior Judicial Council.
Administrative divisions: 32 departments; Bogotá, capital district.
Major political parties: Conservative Party of Colombia, Liberal Party, and numerous small political movements (most of them allied with one or the other major party).
Suffrage: Universal, age 18 and over.

Principal Government Officials
President--Alvaro URIBE Vélez
Vice President--Francisco SANTOS Calderón
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Carolina BARCO Isakson
Minister of Defense--Camilo OSPINA Bernal
Ambassador to the United States--Andrés PASTRANA Arango
Ambassador to the Organization of American States--Alvaro TIRADO Mejía
Ambassador to the United Nations--María Angela HOLGUIN Cuellar

Colombia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2118 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-387-8338). Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, San Juan, and Washington.

 

--  Costa Rica (06/06)
Government
Type: Democratic republic.
Independence: September 15, 1821.
Constitution: November 7, 1949.
Branches: Executive--president (head of government and chief of state) elected for one 4-year term, two vice presidents, Cabinet (15 ministers, two of whom are also vice presidents). Legislative--57-deputy unicameral Legislative Assembly elected at 4-year intervals. Judicial--Supreme Court of Justice (22 magistrates elected by Legislative Assembly for renewable 8-year terms). The offices of the Ombudsman, Comptroller General, and Procurator General assert autonomous oversight of the government.
Subdivisions: Seven provinces, divided into 81 cantons, subdivided into 421 districts.
Political parties: National Liberation Party (PLN), Citizen's Action Party (PAC), Libertarian Movement Party (PML), Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), Costa Rican Renovation Party (PRC), and other smaller parties.
Suffrage: Universal and compulsory at age 18.

--  Cuba (12/05)

GOVERNMENT
Cuba is a totalitarian state controlled by Fidel Castro, who is chief of state, head of government, First Secretary of the PCC, and commander in chief of the armed forces. Castro seeks to control most aspects of Cuban life through the Communist Party and its affiliated mass organizations, the government bureaucracy, and the state security apparatus. In March 2003, Castro announced his intention to remain in power for life. The Ministry of Interior is the principal organ of state security and control.

According to the Soviet-style Cuban constitution of 1976, the National Assembly of People's Power, and its Council of State when the body is not in session, has supreme authority in the Cuban system. Since the National Assembly meets only twice a year for a few days each time, the 31-member Council of State wields power. The Council of Ministers, through its 9-member executive committee, handles the administration of the economy, which is state-controlled except for a tiny and shriveling open-market sector. Fidel Castro is President of the Council of State and Council of Ministers and his brother Raul serves as First Vice President of both bodies as well as Minister of Defense.

Although the constitution theoretically provides for independent courts, it explicitly subordinates them to the National Assembly and to the Council of State. The People's Supreme Court is the highest judicial body. Due process is routinely denied to Cuban citizens, particularly in cases involving political offenses. The constitution states that all legally recognized civil liberties can be denied to anyone who opposes the "decision of the Cuban people to build socialism." Citizens can be and are jailed for terms of 3 years or more for simply criticizing the communist system or Fidel Castro.

The Communist Party is constitutionally recognized as Cuba's only legal political party. The party monopolizes all government positions, including judicial offices. Though not a formal requirement, party membership is a de facto prerequisite for high-level official positions and professional advancement in most areas, although a tiny number of non-party members have on extremely rare occasions been permitted by the controlling Communist authorities to serve in the National Assembly. The Communist Party or one of its front organizations approves candidates for any elected office. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. In March 2003, the government carried out one of the most brutal crackdowns on peaceful opposition in the history of Cuba when it arrested 75 human rights activists, independent journalists and opposition figures on various charges, including aiding a foreign power and violating national security laws. Authorities subjected the detainees to summary trials and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 6 to 28 years. Amnesty International identified all 75 as "prisoners of conscience." The European Union (EU) condemned their arrests and in June 2003, it announced its decision to implement the following actions: limit bilateral high-level governmental visits, reduce the profile of member states' participation in cultural events, reduce economic assistance and invite Cuban dissidents to national-day celebrations. See also the Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Cuba.

Although the constitution allows legislative proposals backed by at least 10,000 citizens to be submitted directly to the National Assembly, in 2002 the government rejected a petition known as the Varela Project, supporters of which submitted 11,000 signatures calling for a national referendum on political and economic reforms. Many of the 75 activists arrested in March 2003 participated in the Varela Project. In October 2003, Project Varela organizers submitted a second petition to the National Assembly with an additional 14,000 signatures. Since April 2004, some prisoners of conscience have been released, seven of whom were in the group of 75; all suffered from moderate to severe medical conditions and many of them continue to be harassed by state security even after their release from prison. Moreover, in response to a planned protest by activists at the French Embassy in Havana in late July 2005, Cuban security forces detained 33 opposition members, three of whom had been released on medical grounds. At least 16 other activists were either arrested or sentenced to prison since 2004 for opposing the Cuban Government. There has also been a resurgence of harassment of various activist groups, most notably the "Damas en Blanca," a group of wives of political prisoners.
 
--  Dominican Republic (06/06)
Dominican Republic - Last Minute Packages
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy with national powers divided among independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The president appoints the cabinet, executes laws passed by the legislative branch, and is commander in chief of the armed forces. The president and vice president run for office on the same ticket and are elected by direct vote for 4-year terms. Legislative power is exercised by a bicameral congress--the Senate (32 members), and the House of Representatives (150 members).

The Dominican Republic has a multi-party political system with national elections every 2 years (alternating between presidential elections and congressional/municipal elections). Presidential elections are held in years evenly divisible by four. Congressional and municipal elections are held in even numbered years not divisible by four. International observers have generally agreed that presidential and congressional elections since 1996 have been free and fair. Elections are supervised by a Central Elections Board of 9 members chosen for a four-year term by the newly elected Senate. Its decisions on electoral matters are final.

Under the constitutional reforms negotiated after the 1994 elections, the 16-member Supreme Court of Justice is appointed by a National Judicial Council, which is comprised of the President, the leaders of both houses of Congress, the President of the Supreme Court, and an opposition or non-governing-party member (one other Supreme Court Justice acts as secretary of the Council, a non-voting position.) The Supreme Court has sole jurisdiction over managing the court system and over actions against the president, designated members of his cabinet, and members of Congress.

The Supreme Court hears appeals from lower courts and chooses members of lower courts. Each of the 31 provinces is headed by a presidentially appointed governor. Mayors and municipal councils to administer the National District (Santo Domingo) and the 124 municipal districts are elected at the same time as congressional representatives.

Principal Government Officials
President--Leonel Fernández Reyna
Foreign Minister--Carlos Morales Troncoso
Ambassador to the United States--Flavio Dario Espinal Jacobo
United Nations--Erasmo Lara Peña
Ambassador to the Organization of American States--Roberto Alvarez

The Dominican Republic maintains an embassy in the United States at 1715 22d Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-332-6280).

--  Ecuador (06/06)
Government
The constitution provides for 4-year terms of office for the president, vice president, and members of Congress, although none of the last three democratically-elected presidents have remained in office much beyond two years. Presidents may be re-elected after an intervening term, while legislators may be re-elected immediately. The executive branch includes 15 ministries. Provincial governors and councilors, like mayors and aldermen and parish boards, are directly elected. Congress meets throughout the year except for recess in July and December. There are twenty 7-member congressional committees. Justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by the Congress for indefinite terms.

Principal Government Officials
President--Alfredo PALACIO
Vice President--Nicanor Alejandro SERRANO Aguilar
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Francisco CARRION Mena
Minister of Defense--Oswaldo JARRIN
Ambassador to the United States--Luis GALLEGOS Chiriboga
Ambassador to the Organization of American States--Mario ALEMAN
Ambassador to the United Nations--Marcelo Fernandez de CORDOVA

Ecuador maintains an embassy in the United States at 2535 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-234-7200). Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Jersey City, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Political Conditions
Ecuador's political parties have historically been small, loose organizations that depend more on populist, often charismatic, leaders to retain support than on programs or ideology. Frequent internal splits have produced extreme factionalism. No party has ever elected more than one president in recent years. Although Ecuador's political elite is highly factionalized along regional, ideological, and personal lines, a strong desire for consensus on major issues often leads to compromise. Opposition forces in Congress are loosely organized, but historically they often unite to block the administration's initiatives. Currently a majority coalition of three of the main parties holds 53% of the seats in Congress, and effectively controls congressional leadership.

Constitutional changes enacted by a specially elected National Constitutional Assembly in 1998 took effect on August 10, 1998. The new constitution strengthens the executive branch by eliminating mid-term congressional elections and by circumscribing Congress' power to remove cabinet ministers. Party discipline is traditionally weak, and routinely many congressional deputies switch allegiance during each Congress. However, after the new constitution took effect, the Congress passed a code of ethics that imposes penalties on members who defy their party leadership on key votes.

Beginning with the 1996 election, the indigenous population abandoned its traditional policy of shunning the official political system and participated actively. The indigenous population has established itself as a significant force in Ecuadorian politics, as shown by its early participation in the Gutierrez administration.

2006 will see the next scheduled presidential and congressional elections, according to the following timetable: Congressional election and First Round of Presidential Election- October 14, 2006; Runoff presidential election - November 26, 2006; Congressional inauguration - January 5, 2007; Presidential inauguration - January 15, 2007.

--  El Salvador (12/05)
Travel to El Salvador:
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
El Salvador is a democratic republic governed by a president and an 84-member unicameral Legislative Assembly. The president is elected by universal suffrage and serves for a 5-year term by absolute majority vote. A second round runoff is required in the event that no candidate receives more than 50% of the first round vote. Members of the assembly, also elected by universal suffrage, serve for 3-year terms. The country has an independent judiciary and Supreme Court.

Political Landscape
Roberto D’Aubuisson and other hard-line conservatives, including some members of the military, created the Nationalist Republican Alliance party (ARENA) in 1981. D’Aubuisson's electoral fortunes were diminished by credible reports that he was involved in organized political violence. ARENA almost won the election in 1984, with solid private sector and rural farmer support. By 1989, ARENA had attracted the support of business groups. Allegations of corruption by the ruling Christian Democratic party, poor relations with the private sector, and historically low prices for the nation’s main agricultural exports also contributed to ARENA victories in the 1988 legislative and 1989 presidential elections.

The successes of Alfredo Cristiani's 1989-94 administration in achieving a peace agreement to end the civil war and in improving the nation's economy helped ARENA--led by former San Salvador mayor Armando Calderon Sol--keep both the presidency and a working majority in the Legislative Assembly in the 1994 elections. ARENA's legislative position was weakened in the 1997 elections, but it recovered its strength, helped by divisions in the opposition, in time for another victory in the 1999 presidential race that brought President Francisco Guillermo Flores Perez to office. A young and serious leader, Flores concentrated on modernizing the economy and strengthening bilateral relations with the U.S. by becoming a committed partner in anti-terror efforts, sending troops to aid in the reconstruction of Iraq, and by playing a key role in negotiations for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

Taking advantage of both public apprehension of Flores’ policies and ARENA infighting, the chief opposition party, the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN), was able to score a significant victory against ARENA in the March 2003 legislative and municipal elections. The FMLN won control over 31 seats in the 84-seat Legislative Assembly as well as a number of key mayorships including those in most major population centers. ARENA, with only 29 seats in the 84-seat Legislative Assembly, was forced to court the right-wing National Conciliation Party (PCN), with 14 seats, in order to form a majority voting bloc. However, in 2003 the PCN entered into a loose partnership with the FMLN, further limiting ARENA’s ability to maneuver in the legislature.

Despite these constraints, ARENA made a strong showing at the March 2004 presidential election, which was marked by an unprecedented 67% voter turnout. ARENA candidate Elias “Tony” Saca handily defeated the FMLN candidate and party head Schafik Handal, garnering 57.71% of the votes cast. Nevertheless, Saca faced a complex political environment.

The defeat of FMLN’s presidential candidate Schafik Handal rekindled an FMLN internal struggle between party hardliners allied with Handal and more moderate party members who saw the party’s 2004 defeat as a call for reform. In addition, the PCN and the two parties that comprise the center/center-left coalition, the United Democratic Center (CDU) and the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), faced dissolution for failing to each capture at least 3% of the votes. Members of all three parties, whose deputies continued to hold seats in the legislature, publicly discussed creating new parties or aligning with existing ones. It remains to be seen how the reorganization of political parties, or the internal disputes of the FMLN, will affect voting blocs in the assembly.

El Salvador will hold legislative and municipal elections on March 12, 2006.

Human Rights and Post-War Reforms
During the 12-year civil war, human rights violations by both the government security forces and left-wing guerillas were rampant. The accords established a Truth Commission under UN auspices to investigate the most serious cases. The commission reported its findings in 1993. It recommended that those identified as human rights violators be removed from all government and military posts, as well as recommending judicial reforms. Thereafter, the Legislative Assembly granted amnesty for political crimes committed during the war. Among those freed as a result were the Salvadoran Armed Forces (ESAF) officers convicted in the November 1989 Jesuit murders and the FMLN ex-combatants held for the 1991 murders of two U.S. servicemen. The peace accords also established the Ad Hoc Commission to evaluate the human rights record of the ESAF officer corps.

In accordance with the peace agreements, the constitution was amended to prohibit the military from playing an internal security role except under extraordinary circumstances. Demobilization of Salvadoran military forces generally proceeded on schedule throughout the process. The Treasury Police, National Guard, and National Police were abolished, and military intelligence functions were transferred to civilian control. By 1993--9 months ahead of schedule--the military had cut personnel from a war-time high of 63,000 to the level of 32,000 required by the peace accords. By 1999, ESAF strength stood at less than 15,000, including uniformed and nonuniformed personnel, consisting of personnel in the army, navy, and air force. A purge of military officers accused of human rights abuses and corruption was completed in 1993 in compliance with the Ad Hoc Commission's recommendations. The military's new doctrine, professionalism, and complete withdrawal from political and economic affairs leave it the most respected institution in El Salvador.

More than 35,000 eligible beneficiaries from among the former guerrillas and soldiers who fought the war received land under the peace accord-mandated land transfer program, which ended in January 1997. The majority of them also have received agricultural credits. The international community, the Salvadoran Government, the former rebels, and the various financial institutions involved in the process continue to work closely together to deal with follow-on issues resulting from the program.

National Civilian Police
The civilian police force, created to replace the discredited public security forces, deployed its first officers in March 1993, and was present throughout the country by the end of 1994. The National Civilian Police (PNC) has about 16,500 officers. The United States, through the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), led international support for the PNC and the National Public Security Academy (ANSP), providing about $32 million in non-lethal equipment and training since 1992.

Judiciary
Both the Truth Commission and the Joint Group identified weaknesses in the judiciary and recommended solutions, the most dramatic being the replacement of all the magistrates on the Supreme Court. This recommendation was fulfilled in 1994 when an entirely new court was elected, but weaknesses remain. The process of replacing incompetent judges in the lower courts, and of strengthening the attorney generals' and public defender's offices, has moved more slowly. The government continues to work in all of these areas with the help of international donors, including the United States. Action on peace accord-driven constitutional reforms designed to improve the administration of justice was largely completed in 1996 with legislative approval of several amendments and the revision of the Criminal Procedure Code--with broad political consensus.

Principal Government Officials
President--Elias Antonio “Tony” SACA
Vice President--Ana Vilma Albanez DE ESCOBAR
Minister of Foreign Relations--Francisco LAINEZ
Ambassador to the United States--Rene Antonio Rodriguez LEON
Representative to the OAS--Margarita ESCOBAR Lopez
Representative to the UN--Victor Manuel LAGOS Pizzati

El Salvador maintains an embassy in the United States at 2308 California Street NW, Washington, DC, 20008 (tel: 202-265-9671). There are consulates in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco.

--  Guatemala (11/05)
Government
Type: Constitutional democratic republic.
Constitution: May 1985; amended November 1993.
Independence: September 15, 1821.
Branches: Executive--president (4-year term). Legislative--unicameral 158-member Congress (4-year term). Judicial--13-member Supreme Court of Justice (5-year term).
Subdivisions: 22 departments (appointed governors); 331 municipalities with elected mayors and city councils.
Major political parties: Gran Alianza Nacional (GANA--a coalition of three parties), Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG), National Advancement Party (PAN), National Union for Hope (UNE), New Nation Alliance (ANN), Unionists (Unionistas), Patriot Party (PP)
Suffrage: Universal for adults 18 and over who are not serving on active duty with the armed forces or police. A variety of procedural obstacles have historically reduced participation by poor, rural, and indigenous people.

--  Honduras (01/06)
GOVERNMENT
The 1982 constitution provides for a strong executive, a unicameral National Congress, and a judiciary appointed by the National Congress. The president is directly elected to a 4-year term by popular vote. The Congress also serves a 4-year term; congressional seats are assigned the parties' candidates in proportion to the number of votes each party receives in the various departments. The judiciary includes a Supreme Court of Justice, courts of appeal, and several courts of original jurisdiction--such as labor, tax, and criminal courts. For administrative purposes, Honduras is divided into 18 departments, with municipal officials selected for 4-year terms.

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Reinforced by the media and several political watchdog organizations, human rights and civil liberties are reasonably well protected. Organized labor now represents approximately 8% of the work force and its economic and political influence has declined. Honduras held its seventh consecutive democratic elections in 2005 to elect a new president, unicameral Congress, and mayors. For the first time, voters were able to vote for individual members of Congress rather than party lists.

Political Parties
The two major parties are the slightly left-of-center Liberal Party and the slightly-right-of-center National Party. The three much smaller registered parties--the Christian Democratic Party, the Innovation and National Unity Party, and the Democratic Unification Party—hold a few seats each in the Congress, but have never come close to winning the presidency.

Principal Government Officials

President—Jose Manuel "Mel" ZELAYA Rosales
Minister of Foreign Relations—Milton JIMENEZ Puerto
President of Congress—Roberto MICHELETTI
Ambassador to the United States—Norman GARCIA Paz
Ambassador to the United Nations--Manuel ACOSTA BONILLA
Ambassador to the OAS--Salvador Enrique RODENZO
Honduras maintains an embassy in the United States at 3007 Tilden Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-966-7702).
 
--  Mexico (12/05)
All of Orbitz best deals to Mexico

GOVERNMENT
The 1917 constitution provides for a federal republic with powers separated into independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Historically, the executive is the dominant branch, with power vested in the president, who promulgates and executes the laws of the Congress. The Congress has played an increasingly important role since 1997 when opposition parties first made major gains. The president also legislates by executive decree in certain economic and financial fields, using powers delegated from the Congress. The president is elected by universal adult suffrage for a 6-year term and may not hold office a second time. There is no vice president; in the event of the removal or death of the president, a provisional president is elected by the Congress.

The Congress is composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. Consecutive re-election is prohibited. Senators are elected to 6-year terms, and deputies serve 3-year terms. The Senate’s 128 seats are filled by a mixture of direct-election and proportional representation. In the lower chamber, 300 deputies are directly elected to represent single-member districts, and 200 are selected by a modified form of proportional representation from five electoral regions. The 200 proportional representation seats were created to help smaller parties gain access to the Chamber.

The judiciary is divided into federal and state court systems, with federal courts having jurisdiction over most civil cases and those involving major felonies. Under the constitution, trial and sentencing must be completed within 12 months of arrest for crimes that would carry at least a 2-year sentence. In practice, the judicial system often does not meet this requirement. Trial is by judge, not jury, in most criminal cases. Defendants have a right to counsel, and public defenders are available. Other rights include defense against self-incrimination, the right to confront one’s accusers, and the right to a public trial. Supreme Court justices are appointed by the president and approved by the Senate.

Principal Government Officials
President--Vicente FOX Quesada
Foreign Secretary--Luis Ernesto DERBEZ Bautista
Ambassador to the U.S.--Carlos DE ICAZA
Ambassador to the United Nations--Enrique BERRUGA Filloy
Ambassador to the OAS--Jorge CHEN Charpentier

Mexico maintains an embassy in the United States at 1911 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20006 (tel. 202-728-1600). Consular offices are located at 2827 - 16th St. NW, 20009 (tel. 202-736-1012), and the trade office is co-located at the embassy (tel. 202-728-1686).

Besides its embassy, Mexico maintains 48 diplomatic offices in the U.S. Consulates general are located in Chicago, Dallas, Denver, El Paso, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Antonio, San Diego, and San Francisco; consulates are (partial listing) in Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, and Tucson.

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
On July 2, 2000, Vicente Fox Quesada of the opposition "Alliance for Change" coalition, headed by the National Action Party (PAN), was elected president, in what are considered to have been the freest and fairest elections in Mexico’s history. Fox began his 6-year term on December 1, 2000. His victory ended the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) 71-year hold on the presidency.

The introduction of proportional representation has made the bicameral Mexican Congress a more pluralized institution. Currently, no party holds an absolute majority in either house. As competition among Mexico’s three major parties in Congress increases, the legislative branch is playing an increasingly important role in Mexico’s democratic transformation.

Recent Elections
The 2000 elections marked the first time since the 1910-20 Mexican Revolution that the opposition defeated the party in government. Vicente Fox won the election with 43% of the vote, followed by PRI candidate Francisco Labastida with 36%, and Cuauhtemoc Cardenas of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) with 17%. Despite some isolated incidents of irregularities and problems, there was no evidence of systematic attempts to manipulate the elections or their results, and critics concluded that the irregularities that occurred did not alter the outcome of the presidential vote. Civic organizations fielded more than 80,000 trained electoral observers; foreigners--many from the United States--were invited to witness the process, and numerous independent "quick count" operations and exit polls validated the official vote tabulation.

Numerous electoral reforms implemented since 1989 aided in the opening of the Mexican political system, and opposition parties have made historic gains in elections at all levels. Many of the current electoral concerns have shifted from outright fraud to campaign fairness issues. During 1995-96 the political parties negotiated constitutional amendments to address these issues. Implementing legislation included major points of consensus that had been worked out with the opposition parties. The thrust of the new laws has public financing predominate over private contributions to political parties, tightens procedures for auditing the political parties, and strengthens the authority and independence of electoral institutions. Alongside these more general, legal reforms, political parties are experimenting with more open procedures for selecting candidates at all levels of government. The court system also was given greatly expanded authority to hear civil rights cases on electoral matters brought by individuals or groups. In short, the extensive reform efforts have "leveled the playing field" for the parties and opened new opportunities for citizen participation in politics.

Even before the new electoral law was passed, opposition parties had obtained an increasing voice in Mexico’s political system. A substantial number of candidates from opposition parties had won election to the Chamber of Deputies and Senate. As a result of the 2000 and 2003 elections, the Congress is more diverse than ever. In the Chamber, 223 seats belong to the PRI, 154 to the PAN, 96 to the PRD, 17 to the Green Party, and the remaining seats are split among smaller parties. In the 128-seat Senate, the upper house of Congress, the PRI still holds the most seats at 60, but the PAN holds 46, the PRD 16, the Greens 5, and one senator is an independent. Senators serve 6 years in office and Deputies 3 years; neither can be elected to consecutive terms.

Although the PRI no longer controls the Presidency, it remains a significant force in Mexican politics, holding 17 statehouses. In state congressional and mayoral contests since July 2000, the PRI has fared better than the PAN.

Congressional and presidential elections are scheduled to take place in July 2006. Candidates have been selected by all three major parties. Signaling the strength of the opposition parties going into the 2006 presidential elections, both the PRD and PRI won important gubernatorial elections in late 2004 and early 2005. The Mexican Congress has approved absentee voting by mail-in ballot for citizens residing outside the nation’s borders.

Other Reforms
Constitutional and legal changes have been adopted in recent years to improve the performance and accountability of the Supreme Court and the Office of the Attorney General and the administration of federal courts. The Supreme Court, relieved of administrative duties for lower courts, was given responsibilities for judicial review of certain categories of law and legislation. Additional judicial reforms presented by President Fox remain pending before Congress.

Chiapas
An unresolved sociopolitical conflict exists in the southernmost state of Chiapas. In January 1994, insurgents in the state of Chiapas briefly took arms against the government, protesting alleged oppression, neglect of the concerns of Mexico’s indigenous peoples, and governmental indifference to poverty. After 12 days of fighting, a cease-fire was negotiated that remains in effect. Since 1994 sporadic clashes have continued to occur between armed civilian groups, usually over disputed land claims.

As a presidential candidate, Fox promised to renew dialogue with the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) and address unresolved problems in the state. Following his inauguration, he ordered many troops out of Chiapas, dismantled roadblocks, closed military bases, and submitted revised peace accords to Congress. In August 2001, the peace accords became law, after having been passed by Congress and ratified by more than half of the state legislatures. However, the EZLN contended that amendments made to legislated provisions of the accord diminished their impact, and broke off talks with the Government.

--  Nicaragua (11/05)
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Nicaragua is a constitutional democracy with executive, legislative, judicial, and electoral branches of government. In 1995, the executive and legislative branches negotiated a reform of the 1987 Sandinista constitution, which gave impressive new powers and independence to the legislature--the National Assembly--including permitting the Assembly to override a presidential veto with a simple majority vote and eliminating the president's ability to pocket-veto a bill.

The president and the members of the unicameral National Assembly are elected to concurrent five-year terms. The National Assembly consists of 90 deputies elected from party lists drawn at the department and national level, plus the defeated presidential candidates who obtained a minimal quotient of votes.

The Supreme Court supervises the functioning of the still largely ineffective, often partisan, and overburdened judicial system. As part of the 1995 constitutional reforms, the independence of the Supreme Court was strengthened by increasing the number of magistrates from 9 to 12. In 2000, as part of the PLC-FSLN pact, the number or Supreme Court justices was increased to 16. Supreme Court justices are elected to five-year terms by the National Assembly. Led by a council of seven magistrates, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) is the co-equal branch of government responsible for organizing and conducting elections, plebiscites, and referendums. The magistrates and their alternates are elected to 5-year terms by the National Assembly. Constitutional changes in 2000 expanded the number of CSE magistrates from five to seven and gave the PLC and the FSLN a freer hand to name party activists to the Council, prompting allegations that both parties were politicizing electoral institutions and processes and excluding smaller political parties.

Freedom of speech is a right guaranteed by Nicaragua's constitution and vigorously exercised by its people. Diverse viewpoints are freely and openly discussed in the media and in academia. There is no state censorship in Nicaragua. Other constitutional freedoms include peaceful assembly and association, freedom of religion, and freedom of movement within the country, as well as foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government also permits domestic and international human rights monitors to operate freely in Nicaragua. The constitution prohibits discrimination based on birth, nationality, political belief, race, gender, language, religion, opinion, national origin, and economic or social condition. All public and private sector workers, except the military and the police, are entitled to form and join unions of their own choosing, and they exercise this right extensively. Nearly half of Nicaragua's work force, including agricultural workers, is unionized. Workers have the right to strike. Collective bargaining is becoming more common in the private sector.

Political Parties
Though 35 political parties participated in the 1996 elections, under new, more restrictive electoral laws passed in 2000, only three parties participated in the 2001 national elections--the PLC, the FSLN, and the PC. As a result of those elections, of the 92 seats in the National Assembly, 44 are held by the PLC, 38 by the FSLN, seven by the Azul y Blanco and one by the Camino Cristiano.

Principal Government Officials
President--Enrique BOLANOS Geyer
Vice President--Alfredo GOMEZ Urcuyo
Foreign Affairs Minister--Norman CALDERA Cardenal
Finance Minister--Mario ARANA Sevilla
Trade Minister--Alejandro José ARGÜELLO Choiseul
Defense Minister-- Avil Ramirez Valdivia
Ambassador to the United States--Salvador STADTHAGEN Icazza
Ambassador to the United Nations—Eduardo Sevilla Somoza
Ambassador to the Organization of American States--José Luis VELAZQUEZ Pereira

Nicaragua maintains an embassy in the United States at 1627 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-387-4371).

--  Panama (01/06)

Government
Type: Constitutional democracy.
Independence: November 3, 1903.
Constitution: October 11, 1972; amended 1983 and 1994 and reformed in 2004.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state), two vice presidents. Legislative--Legislative Assembly (unicameral, 78 members). Judicial--Supreme Court.
Subdivisions: Nine provinces and five (Indigenous) territories.
Political parties: Former President Mireya Moscoso belonged to the Arnulfista Party (PA--now known as the Panamenista Party). The PA in coalition with smaller parties held a slim majority in the Legislative Assembly. The Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) was the primary opposition. Represented by its presidential candidate, Martin Torrijos, the PRD on May 2, 2004 won the presidency and a legislative majority and took power on September 1, 2004.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

-- Peru (06/06)
Government
Type: Constitutional republic.
Independence: July 28, 1821.
Constitution: December 31, 1993.
Branches: Executive--President, two Vice Presidents, and a Council of Ministers led by a Prime Minister. Legislative--Unicameral Congress. Judicial--Four-tier court structure consisting of Supreme Court and lower courts.
Administrative divisions: 25 departments subdivided into 180 provinces and 1,747 districts.
Political parties: Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA), National Unity (UN), Peru Posible (PP), Popular Action (AP), Union for Peru (UPP), Solucion Popular, Somos Peru (SP).
Suffrage: Universal and mandatory for citizens 18 to 70.

--  Paraguay (03/06)
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Paraguay's highly centralized government was fundamentally changed by the 1992 constitution, which provides for a division of powers. The president, popularly elected for a 5-year term, appoints a cabinet. The bicameral Congress consists of an 80-member Chamber of Deputies and a 45-member Senate, elected concurrently with the president through a proportional representation system. Deputies are elected by department and senators are elected nationwide. Paraguay's highest judicial body is the Supreme Court. A popularly elected governor heads each of Paraguay’s 17 departments.

Principal Government Officials
President--Nicanor Duarte Frutos
Vice-President--Luis Castiglioni Soria
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Leila Rachid de Cowles
Ambassador to the U.S.--James Spalding Hellmers
Ambassador to the OAS--Manuel Maria Caceres
Ambassador to the UN--Eladio Loizaga Caballero

Paraguay maintains an embassy in the United States at 2400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-483-6960). Consulates are in Miami, New York, and Los Angeles.

--  Uruguay (03/06)
Government
Type: Republic.
Independence: 1825.
Constitution: First 1830, current 1967, most recently amended December 1996.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state and head of government). Legislative--General Assembly consisting of a 99-seat Chamber of Deputies and a 30-seat Senate. Judicial--Supreme Court of Justice.
Administrative subdivisions: 19 departments with limited autonomy.
Political parties/coalitions: Colorado Party, Blanco (National) Party, Encuentro Progresista-Frente Amplio, Nuevo Espacio.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.


--  Venezuela (03/06)
Government
Type: Federal Republic.
Independence: July 5, 1811.
Constitution: December 30, 1999.
Branches: Executive--President (head of government and chief of state; 6-year term); Council of Ministers (cabinet, appointed by president). Legislative--unicameral Congress (5-year term). Judicial--32-member Supreme Court (elected by Congress; 12-year term). Electoral--National Electoral Council (elected by Congress; 7-year term). Citizen Power--Attorney General, Ombudsman, Comptroller General (elected by Congress; 7-year term).
Subdivisions: 23 states, one federal district (Caracas), and one federal dependency (72 islands).
Major political parties: Fifth Republic Movement or Movimiento V Republica (MVR), Democratic Action or Accion Democratica (AD), Christian Democrats or Comite Organizador Politico por Elecciones Independientes (COPEI), Homeland for All or Patria Para Todos (PPT), Movement to Socialism or Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), Radical Cause or La Causa R, First Justice or Primero Justicia, and the National Convergence or Convergencia.
Suffrage: Universal, age 18 and over.


Copyright 2006 LatinoStories.com design and content by John S. Christie and Jose B. Gonzalez
Copyright 2006 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature, Pearson Education, Inc.
Copyright 2006 Latino Fiction and the Modernist Imagination, John S. Christie

 
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Last Updated: February 26, 2011