Venezuela Election – Nicolas Maduro, the hand-picked heir to late leader Hugo Chávez, has won a narrow victory in Venezuela’s presidential election, reports the BBC. The Socialist Maduro won 50.7% of the vote against 49.1% for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. But on Monday Capriles disputed the result, reported the local El Universal newspaper, and called for the country’s electoral commission to hold a re-count. Many Capriles supporters felt cheated by the result, noted the Guardian, as membership of the commission is skewed towards the ruling party. Maduro later claimed in a speech that Capriles had called him before the results were announced to suggest a “pact.” But Capriles refuted that such a conversation took place, saying, “I do not make deals with lies and corruption. My pact is with God and with Venezuelans,” writes El Universal.
Trudeau Leads Canada Party – Justin Trudeau won a landslide victory to lead Canada’s opposition Liberal Party, becoming its seventh leader in a decade, the Wall Street Journal reports. The eldest son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau collected about 80% of the votes, and is now faced with reviving a party that was once the dominant force in the country’s federal politics. It has since waned to the point that now, for the first time in the party’s history, it’s neither in government nor the leading opposition party in Parliament, the New York Times notes. Trudeau has been criticized by his opponents for his relative lack of experience in national politics; he entered parliament in 2008.
Guatemalans Testify – Mayan men and women have traveled from their villages to tell their stories for the prosecution in the first month of the genocide trial of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt in Guatemala City, according to the New York Times. Under Rios Montt’s 17-month rule during 1982 and 1983, the entire Mayan Ixil population was a military target, including children. Prosecutors made history by bringing the case against Rios Montt last year in a country that has delayed reckoning for the conflict that a U.N. commission estimates killed 200,000 from 1962 to 1996. The trial’s testimony is expected to conclude in the next two weeks.
Marrying to Please – The Guardian reports that about 80% of China’s gay and lesbian people are marrying to please their demanding parents and to save their careers. The newspaper cites an expert on homosexuality from Qingdao University, and said that most gay men and lesbian women in China are either wedding straight partners who are unaware of their spouses’ sexuality, or finding a homosexual partner of the opposite sex by asking friends or advertising. Until 1997, homosexuality was illegal in China, and remains a sensitive issue; however, the Guardian notes that the country does not seem to have the deep-rooted, vicious homophobia of many other places.
Gay Marriage in Ireland – Ireland is to hold a referendum on legalizing gay marriage, reports RTE. A special convention set up to reform the Irish constitution has recommended that the Republic, which legalized civil partnerships two years ago, recognizes the union of same-sex couples. Gay rights campaigners hailed the historic vote, reports the Belfast Telegraph, but Ireland’s ruling coalition has delayed the referendum until next year, as it considers issues including abortion and the abolition of the Seanad (the Irish parliament’s upper house), as well as opposition from the country’s Catholic bishops.
Afghan Opium Production – Afghanistan is heading for a near-record opium crop, as political instability in the country increases the amount of land planted with poppies, reports the Guardian. A U.N. report states that just 14 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces are now “poppy free,” down from 20 in 2010. Poppy cultivation is now not only expected to expand in areas where it already existed last year, but also in new areas or areas where poppy cultivation had been stopped. Farmers are more likely to plant the crop in areas of high violence or where they have not received government help or agricultural aid, the report said, as they are easily coerced by opium traders offering to provide seeds, fertilizers and advance payments to encourage crops.