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  • Colombia Cracking Down on Illegal Mining

    September 24, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Colombian authorities announced that police have shut down 40 illegal gold mines, confiscated heavy machinery and made 16 arrests for illegal mining linked to armed groups in targeted operations which began on September 11. Under orders from President Juan Manuel Santos, the crackdown took place across a wide area of the northwestern province of Cordoba and the Cauca region and included 400 police officers. The effort to “eradicate illegal mining in the region and harm the finances of the outlaw groups that foment violence with the resources derived from the mines” was coordinated jointly by the Minister for the Environment, Beatriz Uribe and director of the National Police, General Oscar Naranjo. 

    Illegal mining operations have not only funded criminal activity, but have also been responsible for severe environmental damage to surrounding ecosystems and communities.  In comments made at an Americas Society and Council of the Americas dinner in New York last night, President Santos said that his administration will continue to be proactive in eradicating illegal mining operations throughout the country and take the steps needed to repair damage to the country’s rich ecosystem. 

    Authorities say the illegal mining operations “began with the forced expropriation of land promoted by the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC),” which demobilized in 2006. 

    Tags: Colombia, Environment, Social and environmental concerns, Juan Manuel Santos, Illegal Mining

  • Piñera Urges U.S. to Deepen Economic Ties with Chile

    September 23, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Chilean President Sebastián Piñera cautioned Wednesday that if the United States did not move to strengthen its economic ties to Chile and other Latin American countries soon, others would fill the void shortly.

    In a speech delivered at Americas Society and Council of the Americas, President Piñera urged the United States to pass long-pending free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. He also stated that China, with which a free-trade agreement has been in effect since 2006, is a principal business partner of Chile’s. In addition to copper, China has become a consumer of Chile’s wines and is poised to become the country’s biggest foreign investor.

    Piñera used the speech to highlight Chile’s recent economic achievements. With an economy expected to grow 6 percent in 2010, Chile is currently in the midst of “a true economic renaissance,” he said. The country has the second-biggest economy in Latin America and weathered the economic recession well. From March to June 2010, Piñera’s government created 165,000 jobs, bringing the level of unemployment down from 9 percent to 8.3 percent. A net creditor, it is unlikely to borrow very much this year.

    In spite of these successes, Piñera outlined a series of measures to address the economic challenges Chile faces. He hopes to create 200,000 new jobs per year and double public investment in education. He also emphasized the goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2010.

    Tags: Chile, Economic Development, Sebastian Piñera

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    September 22, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    WEF Competitiveness Report: Chile Leads LatAm, Panama Makes Gains

    The World Economic Forum released its Global Competitiveness Report for 2010-2011, with Chile remaining the most competitive country in Latin America. Panama posted the largest improvements in the region, pulling ahead of Costa Rica as the most competitive country in Central America, and moving to 53 on the list with boosts to infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, and technological readiness. The report identifies the need to improve infrastructure as a challenge for the region’s competitiveness.

    DREAM Act Blocked by Republican Filibuster

    An attempt by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to push the DREAM Act through U.S. Congress fell apart on Tuesday. Democrats lacked the necessary votes to start debates on the annual defense authorization bill, on which DREAM Act amendments had been tagged. The legislation, first introduced in 2001 and rejected multiple times, allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before the age of 16 a path to citizenship by attending university or through military service. A Univision.com report argues that the damage done by denying this path to citizenship extends beyond the immigrant community.

    Border Governor Meeting Exposes Tensions

    Governors from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border wrapped up a tense meeting at the annual binational conference of governors on Monday, reports The New York Times. Arizona originally planned to host the meeting, but canceled it after all six of Mexico’s border governors threatened to boycott due to Arizona’s controversial immigration law. The conference relocated to New Mexico. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Texas Governor Rick Perry chose to skip the meeting, demonstrating the tensions underlying border issues.

    The Summer 2010 issue of Americas Quarterly features a debate between Governor Brewer and New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson regarding immigration reform.

    Access an AS/COA Resource Guide covering SB1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration bill.

    CentAm Countries Added to White House Drug List

    The White House announced its list of Illicit Drug Producing Countries for 2011, adding the Central American Countries of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. An Americas Quarterly blog post argues that the inclusion taps into the theory that drug traffickers are moving their operations into smaller countries to escape anti-trafficking efforts in Mexico and Colombia.

    Honduran President Requests UN Support

    On the sidelines of the opening 65th UN General Assembly this week, President of Honduras Porfirio Lobo met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and received Ban’s assurance of the UN’s continued support for Lobo’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee. The agency is investigating human rights issues in the run up to Honduras’ June 2009 coup.

    Nicaragua Reprints Constitution, Reenacts Old Law

    The Christian Science Monitor reports on a decision by the government of President Daniel Ortega to reprint the Nicaraguan Constitution during a national holiday period and, in the process, reenact a law taken off the books 20 years ago. The law allows public officials such as Supreme Court justices to retain office beyond term limits until new officials are appointed.

    Accord Brings S. Korean Factories to Haiti

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive signed an accord with a South Korean manufacturer, giving it the green light to build garment factories in Haiti. Bloomberg reports that “restoring Haiti’s once-profitable garment assembly sector has been a cornerstone of economic plans” since before the January 12 earthquake.

    South American Resources May Be Costly Deal for China

    A blog post for Reuters Breaking Views argues that aggressive Chinese investment in Latin American resource production may not be worth the costs, despite China’s large appetite for commodities. “The more finite resources China buys at exuberant prices, the higher the premium sellers will demand,” according to the post. “Japan learned that lesson when its 1980s foreign investment surge culminated in crazy bids for trophy assets like Rockefeller Center and Pebble Beach golf course. China’s conquistadores have a clearer strategic goal, but they too may leave behind more treasure than they haul away.”

    Chinese Firms Making Canadian Mineral Purchases

    In terms of Western Hemisphere investments, China isn’t just looking to Latin America for natural resources. Financial Times’ Beyond Brics blog reports that China’s largest producer of nickel and cobalt agreed to buy a Canadian metals explorer. The purchase comes on the heels of another Chinese bid, this time by chemicals group Sinochem to purchase one of Canada’s largest mining companies, PotashCorp.

    Canada and Russia Ask UN to Settle Arctic Dispute

    At a September 16 meeting, Russian and Canadian foreign ministers agreed to allow the UN to settle competing claims for a ridge under the receding Arctic polar ice. The issue has gained importance as global warming exposes new seaways and ocean resources.

    Rousseff Pledges to Continue Brazil’s Fight against Poverty

    In an op-ed written for TerraViva, Dilma Rousseff, the leading candidate in Brazil’s October 3 presidential election, touts Brazil’s record of meeting its Millennium Development Goals and promises to continue poverty reduction while promoting sustainable development upon assuming the presidency. Entitled “A Brazilian Promise,” the article emphasizes “Brazil’s new relationship with the rest of the world.”

    Brazil to Aid Cuba in Small Business Growth

    Foreign Minister Celso Amorim announced that Brazil aims to support economic development in Cuba by helping small and mid-sized entrepreneurs. Calling Cuba’s recent layoffs of 500,000 public workers “very courageous,” Amorim said that the move only pays off if these workers don’t “fall into the informal economy,” reports Reuters.

    Chile Celebrates Bicentennial

    September 18 marked Chile’s two-hundredth birthday as the bicentennial was celebrated across the country. The Chilean government’s official bicentennial website features photos and more information about this year’s independence commemoration.

    Argentina Mulls Chilean Guerrilla’s Fate

    Chile’s most wanted guerrilla, Sergio Galvarino Apablaza,of the Frente Patriótic Manuel Rodríguez, remains in limbo in Argentina as the government decides whether to extradite him to Chile or grant him asylum. MercoPress reports that the Supreme Court of Justice authorized the extradition last week. Argentine Senator Jovino Novoa said that “any other decision [than to approve the extradition], in my perspective, would be a grave offense to the rule of law.”

    Ecuador, Colombia to Meet on Refugee Issue

    Bilateral meetings begin Thursday to resolve the crisis of refugees crossing from Colombia into Ecuador. Two Weeks Notice blog reports that "this is one of numerous gestures President [Juan Manuel] Santos has made to neighboring countries" since his August inauguration in Colombia in August. Some 50,000 Colombians have fled to Ecuador, which expects another 15,000 this year.

    Colombian Military Strikes FARC Base

    The Colombian military carried out an attack on a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) base near the border with Ecuador on Monday. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called the strike “the biggest blow in recent times” to FARC rebels. The attack killed 27 guerillas, including a high-ranking political leader known as “Domingo Biojó.”

    Obama and Santos to Talk Trade and Defense

    U.S. President Barack Obama and his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos will meet on September 24 for the first time since Santos took office. Dinero reports that the two leaders will likely discuss the pending Free Trade Agreement between the two countries, as well as details of an agreement that allows U.S. forces to use bases inside Colombia.

    Caracas Considers Arms Ban as Crime Rises

    The head of Amnesty International (AI) in Venezuela criticized the government of Hugo Chávez for its inability to control illegal weapons, which AI estimates total 12 million, leading to roughly 15,000 murders in Venezuela in 2009. Carlos Lusverti made the comment as Venezuelan lawmakers contemplate a new law that would mandate citizens to surrender illegal firearms or face stiff penalties of up to 12 years in prison.

    Venezuela Closes Schools for Elections

    Latin American Herald Tribune reports that “an inopportune and arbitrary ruling by the Ministry of Education” has kept schools closed until five days after the September 26 legislative elections. The extended school vacation is problematic, the piece argues, because not all the schools will be used as polling stations and polling operators will be vacating the stations on September 27.

    Read an AS/COA analysis of Venezuela’s September 26 election.

    Ciudad Juarez Newspaper Asks Cartels for Truce

    An editorial published by Ciudad Juarez’s El Diario on Sunday directly asked drug cartels “What do you want from us?” and requested a “truce.” After the killing of another of its journalists, the piece argued that that it had no choice but to address the cartels because the government had failed to protect journalists and the gangs had become the city’s de facto authority. Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s security spokesman responded by saying “in no way should anyone promote a truce or negotiate with criminals who are precisely the ones causing anxiety.”

    Mexico Looks Back to 1985 Earthquake

    An El Universal interactive presentation commemorates the twenty-fifth anniversary of the earthquake that claimed thousands of lives and devastated the Mexican capital. The presentation contains images, testimonies, and before-and-after pictures showing damage and reconstruction.

    Women Lead Polls in Lima Mayoralty Race

    Lima could soon have its first female democratically elected mayor. The left-leaning Susana Villarán and former legislator Lourdes Flores Nano lead in the polls, with 42 percent and 28 percent respectively, according to a survey published by El Comercio. The elections take place on October 3.

    Puerto Rican Birth Certificates Stir Controversy

    Officials at the Department of Homeland Security announced that Puerto Ricans wishing to use their birth certificates as proof of U.S. citizenship have until September 30 to apply for an updated version of their original birth certificate. The move came after agencies in several U.S. states sparked controversy by refusing to accept birth certificates from the U.S. territory as proof of U.S. citizenship.

    U.S. Stamp Honors Puerto Rican Poet

    The face of renowned poet Julia de Burgos now graces the face of a new U.S. stamp. The poet, who penned 203 poems published in four books, moved to New York in 1940 and passed away in 1953 at the young age of 39. Daily News reports that the stamp draws on imagery from “Río Grande de Loíza, ”one of her best-known poems, which is “a sensuous ode to a river in Puerto Rico” where she was raised.

    Join Americas society for a presentation of the Norton Anthology of Latino Literature on September 30.

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  • No Elections in Turks and Caicos

    September 22, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The British Foreign Office minister, Henry Bellingham, announced yesterday that Turks and Caicos' elections set for July 2011 would be delayed to allow for anti-corruption measures and government reforms to take effect, sparking protests and increasing tensions on the Caribbean island.  Britain’s direct rule on the islands began in August 2009 after a probe into allegations of misuse of public funds and improper sale of government owned land found “urgent and wide-ranging systemic change” was necessary on the islands. 

    Following the dismissal of the local government and legislature, Britain appointed Gordon Wetherell as governor of the islands. 

    The People’s Democratic Movement, which previously welcomed British efforts to clean up the government, released a statement demanding “a return of power to the people of the Turks and Caicos islands,” and characterized the British announcement as a “blatant attempt to further separate Turks and Caicos Islanders from [their] inalienable rights to full democracy.” 

    Islanders’ frustrations with the British interim government have increased amid the economic downturn and continued political turmoil.

    Tags: corruption, Elections, protest, Turks and Caicos

  • Where is Salvadoran Civil Society?

    September 22, 2010

    by Julio Rank Wright

    The past few weeks have been tough on El Salvador and Central America. The tragic discovery of 72 murdered immigrants in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, generated widespread commotion given the fact that most were Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Honduran citizens. The news—beyond moving society due to the cruel and sadistic nature of the crimes—became an ironic reminder for most young Central Americans who constantly flee their nations to escape increased violence and lack of economic opportunities.

    Aggressive calls have been made by government officials and the alleged survivor of the massacre not to travel through Mexico due to increased violence and harassment toward immigrants. However, after the mourning of the deceased, everyone seems to have turned the page and recognize that these are no longer just isolated initiatives.

    El Salvador’s President Funes just came back from a meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderón where they first agreed on establishing a high-level working group on security and justice led by high-level political officials. Pessimism aside, the initiative will likely fail to deliver systematic changes in immigrant security. We all know that the situation in Mexico is complex, to say the least.

    A second highly publicized incident came with the three-day suspension of virtually all economic activity in El Salvador due to a massive public transportation system halt. Beginning September 9, a generalized threat from maras led Transportistas to go a 72-hour closure of services that brought the country to a complete stand still. The threat was accompanied by the murder of several transportation workers and the burning of some buses. The government called for prudence and calm while deploying 2,000 additional armed forces personnel to patrol the streets and accompany what few buses did work.

    In the midst of these two events, but particularly the second one, observers would expect an energetic outcry from civil society. However, aside from an estimate of economic loses made by the main business associations, civil society and the public in general had a very weak response to an ineffective public safety and crime stopping policy.

    Read More

    Tags: Felipe Calderon, Mauricio Funes

  • Ciudad Juárez’ Silent Cry of Dolores

    September 21, 2010

    by Arjan Shahani

    Mexico celebrated its Bicentennial Independence Day last week by honoring the Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores)—Miguel Hidalgo’s call for the people to join him in arms that is re-created across the country every Independence Day.  

    On the morning of September 16, 1810, Hidalgo rang out the Dolores bell and after a motivating speech yelled, "¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! ¡Abajo el mal gobierno, ¡Viva Fernando VII!" (Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe! Down with bad government! Long live Fernando VII!).  This act, referred to as el grito, is recognized as the beginning of the struggle for autonomy and independence in Mexico.

    In present day, the tradition is that at 11:00 pm the President, governors and city mayors each step out to a balcony in a public square, ring out a replica bell and honor the heroes of our independence through a modification of the Cry of Dolores.  Each chant for every hero mentioned is followed by a loud retort from the amassed people in the squares, yelling "Viva!"  In the major cities, these festivities are accompanied by popular concerts, pyrotechnic shows and gatherings of up to millions of people.  

    El grito is a manifestation of freedom and joy, and the Bicentennial was geared up to be a huge celebration nationwide.  Though security measures were heightened in access points to public squares and during the ceremonies, most of the country was able to honor this important occasion regally.  However, nine cities in the border state of Chihuahua fell hostage to fear from organized crime and drug cartels and were forced to cancel their celebrations.  The harshest case was Ciudad Juárez, a city in which rule of law has become as plausible as the tooth fairy.  

    Read More

    Tags: Mexico, Crime and Security, Mexican independence

  • Two Women and the Battle for One City

    September 21, 2010

    by Sabrina Karim

    The race for mayor of Lima has gotten a little more interesting over the last month. With the news that Alex Kouri, who was almost neck and neck with Lourdes Flores in the polls, is not eligible to run for mayor of Lima, because he does not live within the city limits. The race is now centered on two women: Lourdes Flores and Susana Villarán.

    Lima has never seen a female alcalde before (nor a female president). However, this year, the polls show that it is likely that one of these two women will win the mayoral race. While Lourdes has dropped in the polls, Susana has surged, gaining points weekly. She has presented herself to be the clean candidate, with no scandals or corruption charges, while Lourdes has been the target of a number of political games.

    Although both women have in the past advocated for women rights, in this campaign, neither has played up their gender. Despite being female and middle class, there is little else in common between the two candidates.

    Lourdes Flores leads the Partido Popular Christiano party. She has run for president twice before, coming in second place. She is a lawyer by training and has served in Congress. Susana Villarán leads the Fuerza Social movement and was Women’s Minister in 2002, and has served as the ombudsman for the national police. She has always been a champion for human rights and has run for President, coming in seventh place.

    Read More

    Tags: Peru, Election

  • Mexican President Visits Hurricane Devastation

    September 21, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Mexican President Felipe Calderón visited the state of Veracruz on Monday—the region hardest hit by flooding and mudslides caused by Hurricane Karl. President Calderón did a fly-over of the affected areas, accompanied by Veracruz Governor Fidel Herrera, National Defense Secretary Guillermo Galván Galván, and Social Development Secretary Heriberto Félix, among others. President Calderón later said in a public address that "the Army and navy have been instructed to tighten security" due to widespread reports of looting in city centers.

    More than 40,000 Veracruz residents took refuge in state shelters and schools, while many remain stranded on rooftops awaiting rescue. Between 250,000 and 500,000 are believed to be left homeless. The most devastated areas of the state include Veracruz, Boca del Rio, Cotaxtla, Medellín, and Jamapa.

    Hurricane Karl touched down as a Category 3 hurricane last Friday with 105 mph winds, and has killed 16 people—12 of the fatalities occurred in Mexico. Before Karl made landfall, the Interior Ministry declared a state of emergency in 62 municipalities. Laguna Verde Nuclear Power Station was preemptively shut down, while Pemex evacuated 14 of its facilities on the Gulf of Mexico. The red alert will remain in place for several weeks to keep the public informed of developments in the rescue effort.

    Tags: Mexico, President Felipe Calderon, Hurricane Karl

  • Four More Weeks Until Resumption of Omar Khadr Trial

    September 20, 2010

    by Huguette Young

    After eight long years of internment at the United States’ Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, the so-called Gitmo prison, Omar Khadr’s military trial is scheduled to resume on October 18, 2010.  This comes nearly two months after his trial was suspended on August 13—the first day of arguments. 

    There is no more room for delays. Since being interned at Guantánamo, Khadr has faced delays after delays, he has fired his lawyers and has seen his trial postponed while the Obama Administration reviewed the functioning of military commissions. Then, on the first day of Khadr’s trial, his freshly-appointed military lawyer, Army Lt.-Col. Jon Jackson collapsed in the courtroom, and was air-lifted from the base to the United States for medical treatment. It is thought his malaise might be linked to a previous gallbladder surgery.

    On top of that, Khadr has turned down a plea bargain, which would have limited his prison term to five years instead of the 30 years he faces.

    Either way, the trial is off to a bad start

    The military judge presiding over the 23-year-old Canadian citizen’s trial, Army Col. Pat Parrish, ruled that evidence obtained through interrogations while Khadr was 15 years old was admissible. His lawyers maintained those confessions were extracted under duress and torture. The Supreme Court of Canada, Canada’s highest court, had reached the same conclusion in its January ruling but stopped short of ordering Canada to ask for Khadr’s repatriation to Canada.
     
    “The whole thing was a disgrace in terms of the rule of law,” says Allan Hutchinson from the University of Toronto’s prestigious Osgoode Hall.

    Read More

    Tags: Canada, Cuba, Barack Obama, Guantanamo Bay, Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden

  • Haitian Presidential Debate Draws Criticism

    September 20, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Only four of Haiti’s 19 presidential candidates participated in the country’s first televised presidential debate—a two-hour event held this past Saturday. Forty people attended the discussion but many left frustrated by vague responses from the candidates and the fact that all questions were required to be submitted in writing. Elections will be held on November 28.

    Notably absent from the debate was Wyclef Jean, the hip hop artist ruled unable to run due to not meeting residency requirements.

    When announced, the debate was lauded as a noteworthy example of transparency in an electoral climate that has been marred with criticisms. Colin Granderson, Assistant Secretary General of the Caribbean Community and Common Market says there are “concerns that the electoral council is not independent and is being manipulated by the president.”

    Tags: Haiti, Elections, Wyclef Jean, Colin Granderson

  • White House Adds Central American Countries to Drug List

    September 20, 2010

    by Alex Leff

    The White House has named Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras for the first time to its list of 20 “major illicit drug transit or major illicit drug producing countries.” The list is effective for fiscal year 2011.

    The addition of these countries has further pushed the theory that drug runners are relocating their transit and operation centers to smaller Central American nations from countries like Mexico and Colombia that have pursued an all-out crackdown. This was reported by the U.S. Department of State in March.

    Panama and Guatemala were already on the list, while El Salvador and Belize somehow didn’t make the cut. (Please add your comments below as to why you think that might be.)

    The White House explains the new additions as follows:

    “As Mexico and Colombia continue to apply pressure on drug traffickers, the countries of Central America are increasingly targeted for trafficking of cocaine and other drugs primarily destined for the United States. This growing problem resulted in Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua meeting the threshold for inclusion in the Majors List,” reads President Barack Obama’s September 15 memorandum for the secretary of state.

    The Central American countries join a 20 nation list that now includes: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.

    Read More

    Tags: Barack Obama, Daniel Ortega, illicit drugs, US Department of State

  • Haiti to Hold First Televised Presidential Debate

    September 17, 2010

    by AQ Online

    On Saturday, September 18, viewers in Haiti and across the world can tune in to the country’s presidential candidates' debate at 9 a.m. on Radio Kiskeya, Radio Tele Ginen and Signal FM. International media have been invited to cover the event, and several universities, including New York University and University of Miami, will be streaming it live on the internet. To be broadcast from Pétionville, a relatively affluent suburb of Port-au-Prince, the debate will be the first in a series organized by the non-profit organization Haiti Aid Watchdog (HAW) in collaboration with the Interuniversity Institute of Research and Development (INURED). The theme of the series is, Nou pap vote moun men nap vote pwogram ("We are not voting for a person but a program").

    The 19 approved presidential candidates have been invited to present their platforms, and Haitian citizens within the country and in the diaspora are encouraged to participate via Skype, video conferencing, email, or SMS text.

    HAW monitors the Haitian government and seeks to educate voters and promote fair elections. It has organized the debates to foster dialogue and accountability from candidates on issues such as public services, international assistance, security, re-construction, and judicial reform.

    The debate series is welcome news of a measure of transparency and accountability. An August 16 meeting between President René Préval and members of Haiti’s election commission, CEP, led observers to wonder whether the commission four days later rejected certain candidates’ eligibility—including that of hip-hop star Wyclef Jean—on the basis of political considerations instead of constitutional law. An electoral observation mission run jointly by the Organization of American States and Caribbean Community has requested that the CEP disclose its reasons for dismissing candidates. However, most members of the international community—providing the bulk of the election’s $29 billion budget—are hesitant to interfere and slow down the election process.

    Tags: 2010 Haiti elections, candidates, presidential debates

  • Dominican Swims for Millennium Development Goals

    September 16, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Marcos Díaz, a 35-year-old ultra distance swimmer from the Dominican Republic, completed an aquatic tour across five continents when he arrived in New York City on Wednesday. The Santo Domingo native partnered with the United Nations on the “Swim across the Continents” tour to raise awareness for the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

    Díaz, nicknamed the “Dominican Dolphin,” began his journey on May 15 when he swam the 12 miles (19.5 km) from Papau New Guinea to Indonesia, crossing Oceania and Asia in four hours and 18 minutes. Over the next four months, he traveled from Jordan to Egypt; from Morocco to Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar; and from Russia to Alaska.

    Díaz completed the final leg of his trip in New York City yesterday, when he swam from the Statue of Liberty to Gantry Plaza State Park across from UN headquarters. There he presented UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with a petition signed by 200,000 people across the world, urging leaders to maintain their commitment to the MDGs. The end of the tour coincides with a UN summit commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the signing of the MDGs by every UN member country.

    The MDGs, which have a deadline of 2015, include freedom from extreme poverty and hunger, quality education, decent employment, adequate health and shelter, the right of women to give birth without risking their lives, environmental sustainability, and gender equality.

    Tags: United Nations, Dominican Repuiblic, Ban Ki-moon, MDG

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    September 16, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    Cuba’s Ideological About-face

    Former Cuban President Fidel Castro sparked controversy last week when he told The Atlantic that “the Cuban model doesn’t work.” He later said that he wasn’t maligning Communism, but actually meant “exactly the opposite,” claiming journalists misinterpreted his seemingly straight-forward comment. Despite Castro’s backtracking, the Cuban government announced Monday that it will cut half a million government jobs and encourage those workers to transition into the private sector, clearly suggesting a shift away from Cuban-style Communism.

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  • Las Confesiones del Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad

    September 15, 2010

    by Jenny Manrique

    Al tiempo que la Revista Semana se ganó el premio IPYS a la mejor investigación periodística en América Latina, por su brillante trabajo sobre las Chuzadas del DAS, nuevas revelaciones sobre cómo el aparato de inteligencia del Estado no solo grabó ilegalmente sino que persiguió y desprestigió a políticos opositores, magistrados y periodistas, están desmenuzando poco a poco la estructura criminal que se valió de tácticas impensables para conseguir información.

    El premio fue entregado en Buenos Aires al director de la revista, Alejandro Santos, durante la II Conferencia Latinoamericana de Periodismo de Investigación (Colpin) auspiciada por IPYS y FOPEA. Santos relató cómo una historia a la que uno de sus reporteros llegó siguiendo unos sobrecostos en la contratación de la compra de unas cafeteras en el DAS, terminó siendo uno de los mayores escándalos del gobierno saliente, que tendrá muchos ecos en el que acaba de comenzar si la justicia decide finalmente llegar hasta los culpables intelectuales de estos hechos.

    Las recientes confesiones de funcionarios involucrados parecen de novela. Ya son media docena los implicados que poco a poco, acogidos al principio de oportunidad con el ánimo de conseguir beneficios penales, han contado en extensas sesiones ante la Fiscalía, las ordenes que recibieron, las reuniones secretas que tuvieron en varias ciudades del país y la milimétrica puesta en escena de una operación de espionaje nunca antes conocida en Colombia.

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  • Chile’s Bachelet to Head New UN Agency

    September 15, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced yesterday the appointment of former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to head a newly created United Nations agency to promote women’s equality.  The UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, or UN Women for short, will focus on promoting equality issues in education, government and employment which, according to a UN study conducted this past June, has progressed slowly.

    The former President’s nomination was considered along with two other candidates. She was unanimously approved by a 26-member selection committee to head the agency following interviews with each candidate by the Secretary-General last week.  “I’m confident that under her strong leadership we can improve the lives of millions of women and girls throughout the world,” said the Secretary-General of Bachelet.  In congratulatory remarks, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted: “She has broken barriers for women in Chile and throughout the region, and I am inspired by her passion, her expertise, and her courage to speak out on difficult issues.”

    The creation of UN Women was approved unanimously on July 2 this year and will consolidate the activities of four UN agencies including; the Division for the Advancement of Women, the Development Fund for Women, the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, and the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender issues.  The new agency will have 41 members consisting of member countries from each region. 

    Tags: Chile, United Nations, Women's rights, Bachelet

  • Argentina to Become Brazil’s Second-Largest Trade Partner

    September 13, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim on Saturday in Geneva announced that Argentina is on track in 2010 to become Brazil’s largest trade partner behind China, replacing the United States in second position. The announcement was shared at the eighth annual International Institute for Strategic Studies meeting.

    Bilateral trade between the two Mercosur-member countries is projected to reach up to $34 billion by the end of this year. This comes despite trade relations between Argentina and Brazil being strained at times. Brazil has periodically been accused of using unfair non-tariff policies to favor its import-competing industries. Addressing the need for improved bilateral trade relations with Argentina, Amorim recently called for “a leap forward in [liberating] the services and investment sectors.”

    Amorim will continue trade discussions during his European tour and will meet with Pascal Lamy, director general for the World Trade Organization.

    Tags: Brazil, Celso Amorim, Mercosur, China, US, World Trade Organization, International Institure for Strategic Studies

  • Chilean National Deputies Join Hunger Strike

    September 10, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Four Chilean congressional representatives from opposition parties announced today that they are joining an ongoing hunger strike by 34 indigenous Mapuche prisoners, who are protesting the use of Pinochet-era anti-terrorism laws to charge indigenous civilians for their role in land disputes with the government. The protesters say they are political prisoners and should not be treated as terror suspects or have to face trial in military courts.

    According to congressional aides, the leftist lawmakers are members of a human rights commission in the lower house of the national congress and have demanded that President Sebastian Piñera's government begin talks with the inmates.

    Reports indicate that Mr. Piñera this week introduced legislation that aims to ensure that civilians cannot be tried in military courts, and to reduce sentences under the anti-terror statutes. The Piñera administration has so far declined, however, to enter direct talks with the protestors. In response to the lawmakers’ decision to join the hunger strike, Minister of the Interior Rodrigo Hinzpeter has said the legislators are acting like “kindergartners” and should return to congress to press their case.

    Tags: Chile, Human Rights, Sebastian Piñera, Mapuche

  • Bolivia to Invest Heavily in Lithium, Potassium Production

    September 9, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The Bolivian government is planning to invest $450 million in large-scale production of lithium carbonate and potassium carbonate, Morales aide and former mining minister Luis Alberto Echazu told Spanish news agency Efe last week. His announcement came just a few days after Bolivian President Evo Morales and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak signed an agreement to jointly develop a lithium mine and infrastructure for processing and refining.

    Lithium—as lithium carbonate—is the key component in rechargeable batteries that power electric devices, including electric and hybrid vehicles, while potassium carbonate is mostly used in fertilizers. As automakers and governments alike pursue alternatives to fossil fuels, they are likely to become increasingly dependent on mineral reserves such as lithium. For Bolivia, which is the poorest country in South America but possesses half of all proven lithium deposits on Earth, this could very well bring about an economic transformation.

    The Morales administration says some 100 million tons of lithium lie under the Uyuni Salt Flats in southwest Bolivia. Other estimates, such as one by the U.S. Geological Survey, suggest that the reserves number merely 5.4 million tons. Regardless, electric car manufacturers could draw on the reserves for decades to come. Companies from across Asia and Europe are eager to partner with the Bolivian government to secure access to the reserves.

    Echazu, the head of the evaporitic resources office of the COMIBOL state mining corporation, said he expects to have the $450 million in funds by 2011. In the meantime, a pilot plant will be launched to produce 1,000 tons of potassium carbonate per month and 40 tons of lithium carbonate per month. The office’s ultimate goals for annual production of these resources are 700,000 tons and 30,000 tons, respectively.

    Tags: Bolivia, energy, Lithium

  • Labor's Stand for Immigration Reform: An Interview with Eliseo Medina

    September 8, 2010

    by Daniel Altschuler

    Over the last decade, organized labor has become a major player in the movement for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).  With more members, resources and political clout than most other immigration reform supporters, union support has become a sine qua non for any potential legislation.  As part of an ongoing series of interviews on the current prospects for immigration reform, I spoke with Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of labor’s most outspoken advocates for immigration reform.  Mr. Medina spoke to me about various issues, including labor’s position in the pro-CIR movement, SEIU’s role in the boycott of Arizona, and the union’s efforts to increase Latino political strength throughout the country.

    Altschuler: How has Arizona SB 1070 affected SEIU’s organizing strategy on immigration issues?

    Medina: When SB 1070 was introduced, we spent a lot of time and energy trying to lobby the legislature, and then for the governor not to sign it. We felt it was unconstitutional, mean-spirited and divisive.  Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful.  From there, we switched to a strategy of trying to deal with the law and how it was introduced.  Our strategy built on the following components:

    Number one, challenge the law in the courts.  We joined with a number of other organizations in Arizona and nationally to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the initiative.

    Number two, we joined with the NCLR [National Council of La Raza], the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People], and a number of other groups supporting a boycott of Arizona, because we felt that the only way we were going to be listened to was if there was some economic pressure brought to bear on Arizona.  It became apparent to us that this was not a question of good, sound policy arguments, but rather a political and ideological battle.  If they weren’t going to listen to us with their minds, we felt maybe they’d listen to us with their pocketbooks.

    The third thing we did was campaign to bring together different groups in Arizona that were interested not only in fighting 1070, but also empowering the Latino community to advocate for its own interests.  We put together a table of 501c3 and 501c4 organizations with the goal of reaching out to the Latino community, giving them the information they would need to come out and vote in November, and actually getting them to vote.  This would help us deliver a powerful message at the polls.

    Because SB 1070 has begun to rear its ugly head [through potential copycat laws] in 21 or 22 other states, we’ve been working with partner organizations and individuals across the country, lobbying at the state level to stop legislation while trying to make the boycott as successful as possible in order to send a message to other states.

    Altschuler: You mentioned the boycott.  Decades ago, you worked on an organizing effort that led to the California grape boycott. Now you find yourself in a movement boycotting the state of Arizona.  What lessons from your earlier boycott experience can you apply to the current effort?

    Medina: Boycotts work, because economic pressure can really focus the mind.  They also allow the broader public to do something very specific in support of the movement and to express their opposition to SB 1070.  So we have organizations [that] have cancelled their conventions, musicians and artists who have cancelled their performances, individuals who have cancelled their vacations to Arizona—not going to that state is their statement.  A boycott is something that is very democratic, because it’s something in which everybody can participate.  They don’t have to be in the state of Arizona; they can be anywhere in the world and participate.  It helps to build a movement, while at the same time putting pressure on and ensuring that the message about this law is picked up. 

    Read More

    Tags: SB 1070, Service Employees International Union, National Council of La Raza, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    September 8, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    Petrobras Plans World’s Largest Public Offering

    Mercopress reports that the Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras plans to sell as many as $64.5 billion in shares at the end of September to fund the development of new oil reserves. The Brazilian finance minister made assurances that the government will “act strongly” to protect the integrity of the real from the pending currency influx. But the IPO is also a turning point for China, marking the “first time a Chinese investment bank is taking a key role in a major share issue outside the mainland China and Hong Kong market,” reports People’s Daily Online.

    Read More

    Tags: Cuba, Haiti, Iran, Citigroup Bond Index, Mudslides

  • Balancing the Economy and the Environment – A Winning Proposition

    September 8, 2010

    by John Parisella

    With all the recent talk about a slow economic recovery and rising unemployment in the United States, there is a real risk that major environmental concerns will once again get overlooked for the sake of achieving renewed growth. Worse still, the failure of the UN Copenhagen Conference of 2009 to achieve substantive gains and the inability of the U.S. Congress to pass climate change legislation could lead many observers to conclude that the push for sustainable economic development is losing momentum. Based on some recent trends and events, however, I believe neither is happening and that the general consensus of the past decade that economic prosperity must not be achieved at the expense of environmental conservation is holding firm.

    The quest for renewable energy sources and the development of green technology is generally supported by policymakers across the globe. The lack of progress at the Copenhagen summit had more to do with the process than an absence of conviction. Countries throughout the hemisphere, from Chile to Canada and Quebec realize the threat that global warming poses to our collective future.

    The emerging debate around the exploration of shale gas in the Northeast of the North American continent is evidence that the economic potential of this resource should not blind us to the concerns of local populations regarding the technology used and its possible impact on the environment. New York State is in the process of establishing a moratorium on shale gas exploration in order to conduct further studies on its environmental consequences. Pennsylvania, which has embarked on an aggressive initiative to explore shale gas, has also substantially increased the number of its environmental inspectors. Just recently, the Quebec government asked its environmental assessment agency to conduct a thorough study of shale gas exploration with the promise that legislation will follow that takes into consideration the studies’ results. 

    Read More

    Tags: Chile, Canada, U.S. Congress, UN Copenhagen Conference, Climate Week NYC, Ban Ki Moon, Tony Blair, Jean Charest

  • Puerto Rico Declares Dengue Emergency

    September 8, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Puerto Rican government authorities have declared a public health emergency following the deaths of 10 people from dengue fever. The emergency declaration will result doctors’ receiving a course in the detection and treatment of the disease.  A public awareness campaign is also being ramped up to prevent further spread of the disease. 

    Dengue infections are on pace to break historic records. The total number of deaths attributable to the disease may reach 32 so far this year in Puerto Rico, outpacing the previous high mark of 19 deaths and over 11,000 cases of diagnosed dengue in 1998. Total suspected cases of dengue this year have already totaled over 12,000. 

    Actions by both patients and doctors have been blamed for the increase in fatalities with officials noting that doctors have not been providing appropriate follow-up care, while patients have insisted on leaving hospitals while still infected with the disease or not seeking immediate help. Chief epidemiologist Carmen de la Seda calls the problem serious, but she has thus far rejected claims that the epidemic is out of control.

    Tags: Public Health, Puerto Rico, Dengue fever

  • Seven Suspects Identified in Mexico Massacre

    September 7, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Seven individuals were identified by Mexican authorities on Monday as suspects in the massacre of 72 migrants in northern Mexico, whose bodies were discovered during a raid on August 24. Three of the suspects were killed by navy personnel during the raid, while another three were found dead near a highway shortly thereafter. All suspects, including a seventh that was arrested last week are believed to be part of Los Zetas drug cartel and were identified by one of the three massacre survivors.

    The bodies of the 72 mostly Honduran, Salvadorian and Ecuadorian migrants were discovered in the town of San Fernando in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas on the Texas border. As of Tuesday, 27 victims had been identified and are being repatriated to their home countries.

    The massacre is the latest example of drug-related in northern Mexican states along the U.S. border. According to Alejandro Poiré, the government spokesman for security issues, the mass-murder “confirms that criminal organizations are looking to kidnapping and extortion because they are going through a difficult time obtaining resources and recruiting people willingly.”

    Mr. Poiré’s comments come less than a week after the U.S. government announced it would withhold about $26 million in funding to Mexico’s anti-narcotics efforts over concerns that Mexico has not done enough to protect its people from cartel and police abuse.

    Tags: Mexico, Immigration, Drug war, Massacre, Raid

  • Venezuelan Hunger Striker Dies

    September 2, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Franklin Brito, a farmer in the southern Venezuelan state of Bolivar, died Monday night while protesting the government sanctioned takeover of his farm in 2000 under President Hugo Chávez’s land reform policies.  Mr. Brito had failed to regain his land from the government for the past decade despite numerous appeals and several previous hunger strikes that began in 2005.  Mr. Brito passed away in a military hospital where he had been forcibly interned for his own safety, according to government officials.

    Brito’s claims had initially garnered the support of Chávez who publicly supported him and called for government officials to rectify the situation.  However, the government made no further attempts to satisfy Brito’s land dispute.  Eventually, the government turned against Brito and accused him of having mental health problems. Venezuela’s minister for agriculture and land, Juan Carlos Loyo, stated publicly that Mr. Brito was being used by opponents of Hugo Chávez and his administration for political ends

    Brito had been placed in a medically induced coma last Friday to treat a respiratory condition, according to government sources, and also suffered from severe liver and kidney damage.  Authorities claim he collapsed and that attempts were made to revive him before he was pronounced dead at 9 p.m. on Monday evening. 

    Tags: Venezuela, Hunger Strike, land policy, Franklin Brito, protest

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    September 1, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    Drug Lord La Barbie Captured in Mexico

    After a 14-month operation, on Monday Mexican security forces captured U.S-born kingpin Édgar Valdez Villareal, better known as La Barbie for his fair appearance. Valdez, reputedly one of Mexico’s most violent cartel leaders, controlled the Beltrán-Leyva gang in the states of Morelos, Guerrero, State of Mexico, and Sinaloa. The branch of the cartel he oversaw is thought to be responsible for smuggling roughly a ton of cocaine into the United States each month. Alejandro Poiré, Mexican security spokesman, declared the arrest as “a high impact strike against organized crime and an important step in the security strategy.” Valdez could be extradited to the United States, where he was indicted on drug trafficking charges. Also this week, the Colombian National Police arrested 11 people who served as liaisons between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and La Barbie’s gang.

    Read More

    Tags:

  • Hispanic Candidate Challenges Legislator Behind SB1070

    September 1, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The race for the seat of Arizona state senate Republican Russell Pearce, a key sponsor of the controversial immigration law SB1070, is heating up.  His newest opponent, Andrea Garcia, is a Latino woman running on the Libertarian Party ticket who is basing her campaign to unseat Pearce on his support of the controversial law. “My goal is to get Pearce out of the legislature. I believe the approval of state law SB1070 shows the damage his ideas can cause our communities,” says Garcia.

    Support for and opposition to SB1070 has become a major issue in this year’s state-wide elections in Arizona and has proven a polarizing topic pitting mostly Republican supporters of the law against all opponents, especially Democrats. However, by many indications, support for the law has helped candidates around the state including Governor Jan Brewer, who won the Republican primary with nearly 82 percent of votes cast. She now faces Democratic challenger Terry Goddard over whom she holds a significant lead.

    Garcia faces a formidable incumbent opponent with substantial financial backing and appears to understand that victory is a long shot. She says, however, “I hope that when [voters] realize that SB1070 has really done nothing to prevent undocumented immigration and that, on the contrary, it is hurting our communities, these people will change their minds.”

    State-led immigration enforcement has also been an important campaign topic in state elections in Minnesota, California, Florida, and elsewhere.

    Tags: Arizona, hispanics in U.S., Elections, SB1070, Jan Brewer, Senator Pearce, Andrea Garcia

  • Grassroots Efforts for Immigration Reform: Voices from Michigan, New York, and Colorado

    September 1, 2010

    by Daniel Altschuler

    Over the past several years, grassroots groups across the country have held mass marches, lobbied government officials and used civil disobedience to call for reform of the nation’s immigration system. As part of a continuing series of interviews on the prospects of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) and the pro-CIR movement, I interviewed grassroots leaders from Michigan, New York and Colorado to explore the strategies of—and challenges faced by—groups in different parts of the country:

    • Ponsella Hardaway is the Executive Director of Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES) in Michigan, a member of the Gamaliel Foundation's organizing network.
    • Andrew Friedman is the co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York
    • Julie Gonzales is an organizer at the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) and the Colorado State Director for the Reform Immigration for America (RIFA) campaign.

    MOSES, Make the Road, and CIRC have also signed on as member organizations of the broader Reform Immigration for America (RIFA) campaign to achieve national comprehensive immigration reform.

    Altschuler: How long has your organization been working on immigration issues, and how did it first get involved?

    Friedman: Make the Road has been working on this issue since its foundation in 1997 in the aftermath of unsuccessful national immigration reform and punitive welfare reform that targeted immigrants. Most of our initial organizing campaigns focused on local treatment of immigrants. Back in 2005-2006, it felt like there was some momentum emerging in the backlash to the Sensenbrenner bill [the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005]. That’s when we started to have substantive conversations about tactics and strategies for organizing committee meetings and participating in coalition work, both nationally and locally, on the issue. Since then, we’ve grown considerably, so this time around we were more active.

    Hardaway: MOSES has been working on the issue since the founding of our organization in 1997. One of our members, Holy Redeemer—probably the largest Latino congregation in the city—has been a part of MOSES since the beginning. Because of its involvement, we started out working on local neighborhood issues, like crime and the rise of gangs. Then, out of that, we began looking at the young people who were brought over as children—they didn’t necessarily see Mexico as their home, they went through the Detroit public school system, but they could not go to college without going back to Mexico and paying foreign rates for tuition. So our first big action, back in 2002, was around fighting for in-state tuition for undocumented students, so that they could at least go to college.

    Altschuler: What has your organization learned from the last failed effort for immigration reform in 2007?  How, if at all, are you approaching the current effort differently?

    Friedman: After 2007, we had considerable work to do with our allies—strong institutional allies like labor unions, nationally powerful Democrats—as well as with folks who were not necessarily with us on the issue. We came out of that thinking a couple of things: one, we really needed to build our political sophistication and muscle and two, we needed to ensure there wouldn’t be a split between the AFL-CIO and Change to Win—two major union partners—on the substance of the legislation.

    This time, we were just positioned differently. Our representative in Congress [Nydia Velázquez] was the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Senator Schumer was the third highest-ranking Democrat. So we have been working more on local actions and local relationships to make an impact on the national struggle.

    Hardaway: The biggest struggle in our organization was developing a relationship [with non-immigrant groups on this issue]. In 2007 we aggressively moved to immigration reform without building a strong multi-racial base. There were many African-Americans in our organization who didn’t understand—especially when we used the term ‘civil rights’ of immigrants. African-Americans said, ‘We’ve been fighting for civil rights for a long time. Why is this important for us [if we haven’t won our fight yet]?’  It’s important to have the conversation about how immigration impacts everyone and how we can find common ground around what’s being done to minorities in general in this country and the government’s role in that.

    One of the things that MOSES did do was take on racial profiling. We got together as an organization and discussed racial profiling, working towards an ordinance in Detroit. We also got together around affirmative action, which was a big issue in Michigan. That was where we got a multi-racial coalition. It didn’t focus necessarily on immigration reform, but it took up the common things that affected us all. And then [in 2007-2008] we had some dialogue about immigration from a faith perspective, simultaneous to working aggressively on immigration reform.

    Gonzales: Our coalition [in Colorado] began in October of 2006. Everybody understood the fight, but for us, it didn’t feel like there was necessarily a way to plug in. We weren’t doing the day-to-day lobbying. We needed to find a way to engage the local communities, to make sure everyone could participate, including young people. With the DREAM Act effort of October, 2007, there was creative, new, engaging, exciting work in which people could become involved. We did things in Colorado—like lobby visits with State legislators in Spanish—that helped gear us up for the latest efforts. The RIFA campaign [is focused on] trying to marry those two worlds of political lobbying and grassroots organizing. We don’t have everything figured out, but we’re doing better.

    Read More

    Tags: Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength, Make the Road New York, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Reform Immigration for America

  • Official Claims Venezuelan Military Armed FARC

    August 31, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Carlos Molina Tamayo, former national security advisor to President Hugo Chávez, told Miami’s El Nuevo Herald today that the Venezuelan military has, in the past, supplied arms to the Colombian Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). According to Tamayo, former Minister of the Interior Ramon Rodriguez Chacin asked him to help send rifles to the FARC, when he was in charge of the Venezuelan armed forces’ armory.

    Mr. Tamayo claims that Mr. Rodriguez Chacin asked him for 300 FAL rifles for an irregular operation and asked how they could be shipped out of Venezuela without being detected. Though Tamayo was never directly asked again to send more weapons, he claims that rifles, mortars and grenades and even anti-tank AT4 rockets would regularly “disappear” or were “stolen” from the Venezuelan caches.

    Tamayo’s on-the-record statements come only a month after former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe accused President Chávez of harboring 1,500 FARC guerrillas and funding the FARC movement in Colombia. Chávez responded by cutting all diplomatic ties with Colombia, raising the threat of a military clash along the countries’ shared 2,300km border. The tensions finally eased in mid-August when Juan Manuel Santos met with Chávez in the Colombian city of Santa Marta, shortly after succeeding Uribe.

    Tags: Colombia, Venezuela, Alvaro Uribe, FARC, Hugo Chavez, Juan Manuel Santos, Guerrilleras

  • Can anyone live on minimum wage in Mexico?

    August 30, 2010

    by Arjan Shahani

    In a quaint coffee shop in the heart of La Condesa  (one of Mexico City’s trendiest neighborhoods), Ana and Ricardo sit down and take a break from their jobs. One of them orders a shot of espresso, the other a soft drink and a muffin. Their bill exceeds 120 pesos ($9.10), excluding tip. After a while, they get up, pay and happily go on their way. 

    One block from the café another Mexican, Silvia, mops the floor of a local supermarket and earns minimum wage. A single mother of two she has to make ends meet with 345 pesos ($26.20) a week working six days.

    Her story is not an exception.  It is a reality shared by 12 percent of this country’s economically active population.  Another nine percent of our workers earn the sum of two minimum wages, 115 pesos ($8.74) daily.  This creates problems and challenges far greater than what these figures reflect.

    In the U.S., the minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour. At 13 pesos to the dollar and an 8-hour workday, this means that a minimum wage employee in the US earns 13 times as much as one in Mexico. Does this tell you a little bit about the risks migrants are willing to face in order to illegally cross the border?

    Politicians in Mexico love to relate purchasing power to the price of the tortilla. At current rates, one minimum wage is the equivalent of 6 kilos of tortilla per day. This sounds like a lot (this is why they love to use this figure). I guess politicians expect us to live off of tortillas (and people wonder why our country has one of the worst obesity problems in the world). Unfortunately, though tortillas are cheap, nothing else on the shelf is. If Silvia pays a really low rent, she will blow the rest of her income when she goes to the  supermarket once a week and buys a box of cereal, a carton of milk, a couple of cans of food and a 2 liter bottle of her soft drink of choice. Not nearly enough to feed a family, let alone provide a balanced diet… Wait, don’t forget your tortillas!

    Read More

    Tags: Mexico, Tecnológico de Monterrey

  • Cuba Enacts Reforms to Bolster Foreign Investment

    August 30, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Cuban President Raúl Castro and the Cuban National Assembly last week issued two new decrees that analysts believe could prompt a new flood of foreign investment to the country. The new laws will permit foreign investors to lease government land for up to 99 years for tourism projects and loosen state controls on commerce in key agricultural sectors.

    "This is probably one of the most significant moves in recent years relative to attracting foreign investment," said Robin Conners, CEO of the Canadian firm, Leisure Canada, which is currently developing a number of hospitality-related projects on the island. A number of firms also want to build golf courses on the island—a stated priority of the Communist government.

    Others are more cautious. John Kavulich, a senior policy adviser for the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council says it’s still way too early to herald a new Cuba and that the measures enacted last week are not likely to open a floodgate of investment. Rather, he says, "I think it may turn on a tap so that people know there's water."

    Tags: Raul Castro, Cuban National Assembly, John Kavulich

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    August 29, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    Chile’s Miners Found, Long Rescue Mission Awaits

    Via a note that read the 33 of us in the shelter are well, miners trapped 2,300 feet underground in a private Chilean copper mine confirmed they were alive on Sunday. The men occupy a space the size of a small apartment and will receive food and medicine via tubes as well as oxygen. Despite the good news, the rescue mission will take at least three months. Financial Times reports that Chilean President Sebastian Piñera fired mining regulators and pledged to clean up the country’s mining agency.

    President Piñera will deliver remarks to Americas Society/Council of the Americas during a public program on September 22.

    Read More

    Tags:

  • FOGWILL: A LA MEMORIA DE UN ESCRITOR PUNK

    August 26, 2010

    by Liliana Colanzi

    Con Rodolfo Enrique Fogwill (1941-2010) se va uno de los grandes escritores malditos latinoamericanos. Sus relatos (pienso en “Muchacha Punk”, “Help a él” o “La larga risa de todos estos años”) fascinan por su intensidad, su inquietante lucidez, su extraña textura poética, cualidades capaces de sumir al lector en una especie de trance. Pero en Fogwill la obra es tan importante como el personaje. Irónico e irreverente hasta el final, se hizo famoso por sus cáusticos comentarios sobre sus contemporáneos—su rivalidad con Ricardo Piglia fue legendaria—y por sus opiniones políticamente incorrectas, que lo llevaron a pelearse con las madres de la Plaza de Mayo y a cuestionar la existencia de los campos de concentración nazis. Le gustaba salir en las fotos con cara de alucinado: los cabellos en todas direcciones, los ojos desorbitados, la lengua afuera y, en ocasiones, hasta desnudo. Fue conocido como un lector inagotable que siempre estuvo tomándole el pulso a las nuevas generaciones. Su generosidad con los jóvenes era extraordinaria: leía con atención los manuscritos de los escritores noveles y se encargaba de encontrarles editoriales que los publicaran.

    Lo conocí el 5 de agosto en Montevideo, en un evento literario organizado por la revista Eñe. Esa noche, durante la cena, destrozó a la mayoría de los escritores argentinos contemporáneos consagrados; en sus ataques no sólo se metía con la obra, sino también con la persona: acusaba a muchos de haberse corrompido por el mercado. En cambio, habló con entusiasmo de aquellos escritores con un perfil más alternativo, o quizás menos mediático: Diego Meret, Fabián Casas, Pablo Ramos, Carlos Busqued, Alejandro Rubio. También recordó las campañas de publicidad que hizo para varias marcas de cerveza en Bolivia (antes de darse a conocer como escritor fue un publicista de prestigio) y elogió el poemario Muerte por el tacto, de Jaime Saenz, a quien consideraba un poeta de primera línea. Pese al frío polar de esa noche, no le importó salir del restaurante para encender un cigarrillo en la calle; más tarde regresó para utilizar su inhalador. Cuando le pregunté si tenía asma, contestó con una sonrisa traviesa: “No, es enfisema pulmonar”. Creí que estaba siendo irónico...

    Read More

    Tags: Latin American Authors, Liliana Colanzi, Rodolfo Enrique Fogwill, Escritores Malditos

  • Rousseff Widens Lead in Brazil Election

    August 26, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The latest polls out of Brazil show presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff winning the support of 49 percent of voters polled, with a 20 percentage-point lead over her nearest challenger, former São Paulo governor José Serra, who trails behind with 29 percent. Green Party candidate Marina Silva lagged at 9 percent. A candidate in Brazil needs at least 50 percent to avoid a runoff and these newest results make a first-round win in the October 3 election increasingly likely.

    Ms. Rousseff received a major bump in name recognition and popularity after last week’s launch of her national television campaign, which included prime-time ad spots clearly linking her to ever-popular President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva.

    An outright win for Rousseff may give the one-time energy minister a mandate for her legislative agenda, which some believe will stay close to Lula’s playbook of a strong state combined with market-friendly practices. Some economic analysts however, say Rousseff could be considering a much bolder policy agenda, including budget cuts to allow for lower interest rates, limits to the growth of public spending and reforms to the tax code.

    The Datafolha poll was based on a nationwide sample of 10,948 people and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

    Tags: Dilma Rousseff, Brazil elections

  • The Rise and Fall of Political Parties in Peru

    August 25, 2010

    by Sabrina Karim

    For the last two election cycles in which Lourdes Flores has run for president, polls have always shown her with strong leads in the weeks before elections, but come election night, she has lost. This time she is running for mayor of Lima on the Partido Popular Cristiano political party ticket and it looks like the trend will continue. Recent revelations of her close ties to Cesar Castano, the owner of Peruvian Airlines, who is currently under suspicion of narco-trafficking, have caused her numbers to slide in the polls with the October elections fast approaching.

    While this could signal yet another political disappointment for Lourdes, it also raises questions about the strength of her political party affiliation and Peru’s political party system overall. Perhaps, this is because the formal institutionalization of political parties under the Peruvian legal system did not happen until 2003. But there is also simply a culture of informality with political parties here. Parties are often created every election cycle to fill a vacuum of political institutions and ideas, but they are not sustainable. They are created out of necessity during elections years to organize campaigns rather than built over the long-term, based on political ideas and platforms.

    Often, candidates in high profile races like Lima mayor or president form party alliances and then find candidates in the provinces and local areas to carry the name of the party bloc. After the election, the political party disappears only to be resurrected using the same name or another name in the next election cycle. Also common: political parties field candidates only at the municipal level and do not have national candidates or they are only national and struggle to find municipal candidates.

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    Tags: Lourdes Flores, Partido Popular Cristiano, Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana

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