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  • New Data on Children of Undocumented Immigrants as U.S. Increases Border Patrol

    August 19, 2010

    by AQ Online

    A new analysis of U.S. Census data by the Pew Hispanic Center reports that while undocumented immigrants make up approximately four percent of the adult population in the U.S., their children represent eight percent of the newborn population and seven percent of the child population (younger than age 18). Factors explaining the difference include the relative young age of immigrants and their greater likelihood of having large families.

    The report comes amid growing calls by conservative lawmakers in Washington to consider repeal of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which endows citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. The debate began in early August following comments made by Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, who told Fox News that the amendment no longer serves its original purpose and should be re-examined. He and other politicians argue that fewer people would cross the border if they no longer had the incentive of giving birth to U.S. citizens.

    The report also arrives as 224 U.S. National Guard troops prepare to deploy along California’s southern border on September 1. The troops will assist with counter-narcotics, anti-illegal immigration and other border security operations.

    Tags: Border patrol, Immigration Reform, Undocumented immigrants, U.S. Census

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    August 18, 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.

    Colombian Court Freezes U.S. Base Deal

    Semana reports on the Colombian Constitutional Court’s decision to suspend a pact with Washington that allowed U.S. access to Colombian military bases for counternarcotics and anti-terrorism operations. The Court questioned the constitutional legality of the manner in which the deal was passed and is now requiring President Juan Manuel Santos to gain congressional approval. The military accord, negotiated in 2009 between the Obama administration and Santos’ predecessor Álvaro Uribe, has been a source of debate in South America and a sore subject for some of Colombia’s neighbors, particularly Venezuela.

    Read More

    Tags: Colombia, United Stattes, Military Base, Rousseff, LAN Chile

  • Los cocaleros: la novia de Evo

    August 18, 2010

    by Cecilia Lanza

    Hay mujeres de esas que se pegan como chicle. A veces son mujeres obsesionadas que buscan a su presa sin parar, esperando en vano un amor recíproco. Otras veces el asunto es consentido. Ambos se quieren así, colados el uno al otro. Y otras veces, casi sin darse cuenta, sus espacios se confunden de tal manera que ya no saben si son uno o el otro y terminan así, colados.

    El Presidente Evo Morales no tiene novia. Pero tiene un capricho. Desde que en los años 1980 llegó al Chapare, en el trópico de Cochabamba, se enamoró del movimiento cocalero. Como todo amor de juventud, el suyo fue un enamoramiento apasionado y genuino. Pero además, aderezado con lucha política en defensa del valor cultural de la hoja de coca, el suyo fue un amor radical, incondicional.

    Dos décadas después, Evo Morales llegó al gobierno gracias al movimiento cocalero que arrastró, por identificación étnica y de clase, al resto de los indígenas, campesinos y excluidos del país. Un amor así, apasionado, compañero de luchas y cárceles, no podía sino ser un amor cómplice. Evo Morales, aún siendo ya Presidente del país, nunca dejó de ser el máximo dirigente de las seis federaciones de productores de hoja de coca del Chapare. Y es que el soporte político de Morales son los cocaleros del Chapare, su novia incondicional.

    Veinte años de noviazgo y cuatro en el poder, hicieron de aquélla una relación de interés mutuo. Evo necesita a los cocaleros como sustento político y ellos necesitan a Evo como padrino que proteja sus intereses cocaleros. Evo saca a la DEA (control antinarcóticos estadounidense) del Chapare y el resultado es el abuso. El narcotráfico en Bolivia se ha multiplicado y ese no es ningún secreto para nadie. Pero Evo lo niega.  Evo ya no distingue los límites. Evo no quiere ver que su novia se ha corrompido y abusa. Evo se lo permite porque la necesita ahora más que nunca, ahora que los indígenas del país se han empoderado y son cada vez más capaces de enfrentarlo y, acaso, de disputarle el poder.

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    Tags: Evo Morales, DEA.Movimiento al Socialismo

  • U.S.-Colombia Pact Ruled Unconstitutional

    August 18, 2010

    by AQ Online

    An agreement between the U.S. and Colombian government, which allows the U.S. military access to and use of at least seven military bases in Colombia has been ruled unconstitutional in a 6-3 decision by Colombia’s constitutional court. The court ordered the government to submit the agreement to the Colombian congress for ratification as an international treaty subject to congressional approval to comply with constitutional rules. 

    The ruling comes after a group of lawyers filed in March 2010 a complaint with the court arguing against its validity based on the fact that it was approved by the government of former President Álvaro Uribe without the consent of Congress.  The Uribe administration had countered the accusations by calling these accords an extension of a 1974 military pact and not a new pact.  It also increased tensions between Colombia and neighbors Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia who were all highly critical of the pact fearing a shift in the balance of power of the region.

    The court’s decision does not affect the use of bases permitted by previous agreements and any U.S. personnel at the seven bases in question may be transferred to those bases while the government decides whether or not to send the latest accords to Congress for approval.

    Tags: Alvaro Uribe, U.S. military bases in Latin America, US Colombia Military Pact, Treaty

  • In Mexico, Corporations May Be Better Poised to Address Social Concerns

    August 17, 2010

    by Arjan Shahani

    According to Keynesian economics, the state (and specifically government) was created to step in, regulate and control market abuses. The idea was that laissez faire gave profit-seekers the power to sidetrack certain aspects of organized societal living, such as fair distribution of wealth, worker conditions and education so government involvement was necessary to tame the private enterprise beast.

    Ironically enough, today in Mexico (and one could argue the world), large companies are making it part of their business strategy to get involved and address those problems in which government has faltered. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming much more efficient than state action and the past 15 to 20 years have seen visionary companies embrace this concept, creating a partnership and bonds with communities that politicians have never been able to nurture.

    Large companies like Banamex, Bimbo, CEMEX, Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma, FEMSA, and even Telmex have been setting up ambitious projects and foundations to promote development, alleviate poverty and improve health and welfare. They are also finding a business logic to self-regulation and obtaining efficiencies in their processes that deal with carbon emissions and use of natural resources.

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    Tags: Mexico

  • France Refuses to Pay Back Haiti’s “Independence Debt”

    August 17, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The French foreign ministry announced on Monday that it will not comply with a request to return $22 billion that Haiti was forced to pay France in exchange for its independence in 1804. The request was published as an open letter to President Nicolas Sarkozy in the French daily Libération. Its signatories, including Noam Chomsky, Eduardo Galeano, Cornel West and Naomi Klein, called the debt “illegitimate” and “illegal.”

    The Foreign Ministry defended its decision, arguing that France has already cancelled $72 million of Haiti’s debt. This is in addition to the $418 million it has committed to the recovery effort following the January 12 earthquake. However, the international relief aid pledged by nations like France and the United States has been dreadfully slow to arrive. Eight months after the disaster, only 10 percent of aid announced at the international donor’s conference in March has been delivered.

    According to the 90 academics, politicians and writers who signed the open letter, if the $22 billion “independence debt” was returned to Haiti, it could fill the current aid gap, stimulate the reconstruction effort and put pressure on the international community to deliver the money that was promised.

    Tags: Haiti, France, Debt, Earthquake

  • Organizing for Immigration Reform: An Interview with Deepak Bhargava

    August 17, 2010

    by Daniel Altschuler

    As part of a series of interviews on the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform, I recently spoke with Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change (CCC). (Disclosure: I worked as a consultant for CCC on a different issue in 2008.) CCC has been a core group in the movement for comprehensive immigration reform over the past several years, playing a central role in the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR) through 2007 and the current Reform Immigration for America (RIFA) campaign. Mr. Bhargava sits on RIFA’s management team, and he spoke with me on issues ranging from the prospects for reform this year, the potential impact of Latino voters and grassroots mobilizations, and the challenges facing progressive groups in the wake of Arizona’s controversial immigration law and in the run-up to the mid-term elections.

    Altschuler: How did you first get involved with the movement for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR)?

     

    Bhargava: I was there pretty much at the beginning, around 1998-1999. In that period, a group of immigrant leaders approached me and the Center for Community Change with the idea of doing a national campaign to win legalization for the growing population of undocumented people in the US. At that time, the topic was unspeakable in polite Washington conversation discourse—no politician, no national advocacy organization would tackle it. Partly because of the extraordinary quality

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    Tags: Immigration

  • New Poll Reveals Tie Eight Months Ahead of Peru’s Presidential Election

    August 16, 2010

    by AQ Online

    A survey conducted by Ipsos Apoyo Opinion y Mercado, commissioned by Peru’s El Comercio, revealed today that Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori and Lima Mayor Luis Castañeda Lossio are tied at 20 percent of voter approval for Peru’s presidential election. Voters will go to the polls on April 10, 2011.

    Castañeda is neck-in-neck with Fujimori despite him not yet officially declaring his candidacy. Meanwhile, Fujimori is often seen on the campaign trail.

    Following the two front-runners are former President Alejandro Toledo (14 percent support) and Ollanta Humala (12 percent), who lost to President Alan García in a run-off election in  2006.

    The poll also revealed that 50 percent of people support the investigation of Attorney General Gladys Echaiz to find out if Keiko and her brothers funded their U.S. university expenditures with state money. But 38 percent believe that the objective of the investigation is to discredit her.

    Tags: Peru, Keiko Fujimori, Luis Castañeda Lossio

  • Protests Shut Down Bolivian Mining Town

    August 12, 2010

    by AQ Online

    A mountain once infamous for trapping miners is today becoming famous for trapping tourists. Anti-government protesters have blocked roads, rail and air routes out of Potosí, Bolivia, leaving over 100 foreign tourists stranded, food supplies dwindling and tempers flaring. Operations at the San Cristóbal mine were halted Thursday, following protesters’ Tuesday takeover of the hydroelectric plant that powers it. The San Cristóbal mine is one of the world’s largest producers of silver and zinc. Its shutdown will cost Japanese owner Sumitomo Corp. an estimated two million dollars a day in lost export revenue. The output at other mines has also been disrupted.

    Residents, miners and peasants from Potosí have been on strike and engaged in anti-government protest for the past two weeks. Some are on hunger strike, including provincial governor Félix González. They are demanding that President Morales commit greater investment to their region, particularly in the way of airport expansion, road construction, and creation of a cement factory. They also demand that the government resolve a boundary dispute with neighboring Oruro province over a limestone deposit.

    Presidential spokesman Iván Canelas has said the government will not use force to break the blockade around Potosí, insisting that a solution will be reached instead through dialogue. The United Nations has issued a call for such dialogue to take place immediately, warning that the blockade and strike are causing “grave and massive human rights violations.”

    Tags: Bolivia, mining, Potosi

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    August 11, 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.

    Uribe out, Santos in, Chávez Back

    Speaking before his country, outgoing-Colombian President Álvaro Uribe bid farewell after eight years in office, apologizing for his administration’s mistakes and urging Colombians to defend their freedoms and support incoming President Juan Manuel Santos. Upon assuming office on August 7, Santos began efforts to restore ties with Venezuela, sent into a tail spin after the Uribe administration accused Caracas of harboring FARC rebel camps within its territory. Meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez three days into his presidency, Santos and his counterpart agreed to restore bilateral ties, improve military patrols along the border, and initiate a joint security commission to help monitor terrorist groups.

    Read More

    Tags: Arizona, Castro, Gay Marriage, Colombian Exports

  • Former Mexican President Supports Drug Legalization

    August 11, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Vicente Fox, Mexico’s president from 2000 to 2006, recently announced his support for the legalization of marijuana and criticized the use of the Mexican Army to support local police forces as they attempt to clamp down on drug cartels in the country.   President Fox’s views on drugs and Mexico’s continuing war on drugs were posted on his personal blog.

    His comments come just days after President Felipe Calderón hosted a security conference at Los Pinos, the presidential residence, in which Calderón indicated that he did not support legalization but understood that such a move would “significantly reduce criminals’ cash flow.”  Fox echoed those remarks by noting that legalization was “a strategy to weaken and break the economic system that allows cartels to earn huge profits.” 

    The former president’s comments add to the growing number of voices in Latin America calling for a change of strategy in dealing with the scourge of the drug trade.  Last year, three former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, César Gaviria of Colombia, and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico endorsed a change in the approach currently taken to stemming the flow of drugs.

    President Calderón supports continued debate on legalization, but is personally against such legislation. 

    Tags: Mexico, Felipe Calderon, Legalizing Marijuana, Drug Policy, Vicente Fox

  • Wycelf Jean Defends Presidential Bid

    August 10, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Musician-turned-politician Wycelf Jean lashed out at Sean Penn on Monday, defending his qualifications as a presidential candidate and his role in the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake. Shortly after Jean registered his bid, Penn said in an interview with CNN that “For those of us in Haiti, [Jean] has been a non-presence,” and called into question Jean’s financial management as chairman of Yéle Haiti.

    In a series of interviews, Jean defended his charity, claiming that it has raised $9 million since the earthquake, and played an instrumental role in decreasing violence following the ouster of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. The Haitian-born artist the also characterized himself as a crucial liaison between the Haitian people and the 600,000 Haitians living in the United States. AQ interviewed Jean on his role in Haiti prior to the earthquake in the Spring 2009 issue on the environment.

    The public row with Sean Penn raised several questions about Jean’s political credentials, his chairmanship of Yéle Haiti, and even his legal eligibility as a presidential candidate. However, the publicity that has resulted from the back-and-forth could ultimately prove beneficial to Jean’s campaign by raising his profile as a politician, especially among the Diaspora. The final list of candidates will be announced on August 17, three months before the national elections on November 26.

    Tags: Haiti, Wyclef Jean, Haitian President

  • Promesas y retos de la era Santos

    August 10, 2010

    by Jenny Manrique

    Muchas cosas pasaron el sábado por primera vez en el cambio de mando presidencial en Colombia. Es la primera vez que un presidente se posesiona ante unas tribus indígenas: En la mañana el electo mandatario Juan Manuel Santos fue investido en una ceremonia espiritual en un territorio llamado Seyzhua, tierra sagrada para cuatro pueblos indígenas asentados en la norteña Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta: Los kogui, los wiwas, los kamkuamo y los arhuaco. Los aborígenes le entregaron un bastón de mando y cuatro "Tumas", piedras sagradas que representan el mar, la tierra, el agua y la comida, al tiempo que lo comprometieron con la defensa de sus etnias y del medio ambiente.

    Es la primera vez también que se pone una alfombra roja en la Plaza de Bolívar, al frente del Capitolio Nacional y que se invita al presidente saliente a estar en la ceremonia de asunción pues éste generalmente espera a su sucesor en la Casa de Nariño, donde se da el relevo. Semejante reconocimiento al ex mandatario Álvaro Uribe fue potenciado por espacio de unos minutos en los discursos que dio tanto Santos, como el presidente del Senado, Armando Benedetti, quien fue el encargado de poner la banda presidencial. “Quiero hacer un homenaje desde el fondo de mi corazón a un hombre que brillará en la historia como aquel que devolvió la esperanza al país, un colombiano genial e irrepetible”, dijo el primero. “Los colombianos han sido seducidos por el nivel de compromiso que Uribe asumió. No hay caso así en Latinoamérica. Uribe es un fenómeno universal de opinión política literalmente irrepetible”, sostuvo el segundo, quien no obstante le advirtió a Santos que “sentirá el rigor y el riesgo de parecer distinto al carisma arrollador de Uribe, pero no hay clones en política”.

    Cinco mil personas invitadas, entre las que se encontraban 15 jefes de Estado, rompieron en vítores ante lo que Uribe se puso de pie y agradeció. La reverencia al mandatario que deja el poder después de ochos años, no podría ser de otra forma: Juan Manuel heredó directamente su capital político y sus votos, pues nunca antes había aspirado a un cargo de elección popular. No obstante en los discursos que dieron comienzo a la era Santos, en medio del sol y la lluvia de una Bogotá vigilada por 22 mil hombres, las promesas no fueron más que el sinónimo de los fracasos del gobierno Uribe.

    Read More

    Tags: Alvaro Uribe, Juan Manuel Santos, Rafael Correa, Néstor Kirchner, Nicolás Maduro, Armando Benedetti

  • Costa Rica’s Open-Pit Gold Mine

    August 9, 2010

    by Alex Leff

    Opponents of open-pit mining in Costa Rica have been delivered yet another blow. After their hopes had risen that recently elected President Laura Chinchilla would strike down any attempt to dig here, the Chinchilla administration refused to repeal an executive decree issued by her predecessor, Óscar Arias, green-lighting a gold mine project near the border with Nicaragua.

    The Crucitas gold mine has caused contention for years. Environmentalists claim that the mine would cause serious harm to the land and to families in surrounding villages if it goes forward. Nicaraguan authorities are also up in arms over the possible danger an open-pit mine near its Rio San Juan could cause. Concerns focus not only on clearing forest but also on the use of cyanide in open-pit mining. Environmentalists have said that a cyanide spill would cause irreversible harm.

    But then President Arias surprised the country’s fervent environmental community and neighbors by decreeing in October 2008 that the Crucitas mine is of national interest.

    The project went forward, chopping down trees that conservationists note are vital to endangered species such as the great green macaw. Then a high court halted the project while it mulled over complaints. The project remains at a standstill, tied up in courts amid a pile of environmentalists’ legal action.

    Read More

    Tags: Oscar Arias, Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla

  • Chávez to Meet with Colombia’s New President

    August 9, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin announced that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez will meet in Colombia with newly inaugurated President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday to discuss their countries' diplomatic and trade relations.

    Chávez expressed hopes of restoring the neighbors’ ties. “We have much hope that the new government will begin to construct all that Uribe's government destroyed.” Mr. Chávez severed ties with Colombia in July after accusations were brought forward by then President Uribe that Venezuela is giving refuge to Colombian guerrillas.

    In his efforts to show some support for Santos, Mr. Chávez announced on his weekly radio and television show, “Just as one proposes that Colombia's government seek the path to peace, the guerrillas also must do it.”

    Tags: Alvaro Uribe, Hugo Chavez, Juan Manuel Santos

  • El legado de Uribe

    August 6, 2010

    by Jenny Manrique

    A pocas horas de que el mandatario que por más años ha estado en el poder en Colombia deje finalmente el palacio presidencial, vale la pena hacer una retrospectiva sobre lo que hereda su sucesor Juan Manuel Santos. Aunque el recién elegido presidente llegó al poder gracias a la maquinaria del Partido de la U, que valga recordar se nombró precisamente en honor al apellido de Uribe, Santos ha marcado ciertas distancias por lo menos en lo que a sus primeros nombramientos se refiere. Su gabinete de ministros parece por ahora tecnócrata y competente aunque aún le quedan muchos puestos por repartir en el Estado. En el sistema presidencial colombiano, la falta de leyes claras sobre meritocracia, hace que el habitante de la casa de Nariño nombre a dedo cientos de puestos. Con ello, puede pagar cientos de favores políticos y cuotas burocráticas.

    Por ahora como toda luna de miel de los nuevos gobiernos, Santos mantiene una popularidad del 75 por ciento según una encuesta de Invamer Gallup, la misma con la que se va Uribe a pesar del desgaste de dos periodos de gobierno. Lo que logró el mandatario saliente fue que un país tradicionalmente conservador y católico, girara aún más a la derecha y se convirtiera en uribista profeso gracias al miedo que, estratégicamente, Uribe logró manejar a su favor: el miedo a que la guerrilla se tomara el poder y convirtiera en Estado fallido al país. Un miedo no infundado que tuvo un poderoso impulsor en los gobiernos precedentes: el de Ernesto Samper (1994-1998) infiltrado a más no poder por el narcotráfico y el de Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002) quien con el ánimo de conseguir la paz, abrió los diálogos con la guerrilla y les entregó una zona de distensión en la que no hicieron otra cosa que fortalecerse militarmente.

    Semejante terreno casi árido de gobernabilidad, permitió prontamente que Uribe, quien llegó al poder por primera vez en la disidencia de un partido tradicional, el Liberal, y quien se inscribió como independiente con un millón de firmas, sedujera con su estilo proselitista tradicional en plena era cibernética: Uribe volvió a los pueblos más remotos usando carriel y poncho y aquel lema de trabajar, trabajar y trabajar fue pronto un hecho del que no se salvaron ni siquiera los domingos. Los famosos consejos comunales televisados—que superaron los 300 durante su gobierno—similares a los que aún hace el presidente Hugo Chávez en Aló Presidente, permitieron que ejerciera un gobierno en permanente campaña.

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    Tags: Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, Juan Manuel Santos, 2010 Colombia elections, Colombia politics

  • Why American Democracy is Alive and Well

    August 6, 2010

    by John Parisella

    Just recently, I listened to a PBS documentary entitled Looking for Lincoln. It was very revealing to witness how America evolved from the time of slavery to the race relations of today. We observed how a constitution is a living document and how leaders and moments of leadership can converge to advance a society and reinforce a nation’s character.

    In democratic nations, we benefit from differences and divergent views. Whether living under the principles of the U.S. Constitution or a parliamentary system like in Canada, we grow stronger from the heated moments of passion to the cool resolution of an issue. In recent months, political debate has heated up and some have gone so far as to question the health of the American political system.

    Americans will soon begin the final stretch of the mid-term electoral season. As I recently discussed in other posts, political observers, pundits and partisan operatives have been weighing in about the polarization of U.S. politics, the ideological divide, the strong anti-incumbent sentiment, and how “dysfunctional” the system is.

    To an outsider listening in, you would think that American democracy is in its death throes. But, as a Quebecer living in New York, my take is that the last few weeks have shown quite the opposite. The debates remain as lively as ever, but very much in conformity with the values of the American political system and its constitutional precepts.

    Read More

    Tags: United States, Canada-U.S. relations

  • Aging Boats Compromise Canada’s Navy

    August 6, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Canada’s naval prowess may soon be undermined by its aging oil tanker supply ships, compromising its maritime ability to act independently around the world, a report released yesterday in Ottawa warns. According to the leaked document, the 40-year-old ships could be barred from both European and American ports by 2015 due to their outdated, single-hull design, which violates standards adopted to prevent major oil spills.

    Without being able to send out supply ships, Canada will not be able maintain an independent navy, says Ken Bowering, a retired navy commander: “The support ships, the tankers, provide that ability to stay at sea for extended periods with fuel, with spare parts, food, ammunition.”

    Canadian naval capabilities have come under growing scrutiny in recent years as the naval forces of Russia and northern European shipping fleets have increased their Arctic presence in anticipation of global warming. In July, prior to the public release of yesterday’s report, the Conservative government in Canada announced in that it will spend $2.6 billion to replace the navy’s two auxiliary oil replenishment vessels.

    Tags: Canada, Environment, Arctic, Military and defense spending

  • "Fantastic" Mercosur Summit Ends in Landmark Agreements

    August 5, 2010

    by AQ Online

    South America’s Mercosur trade bloc on Tuesday concluded in San Juan, Argentina what Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva called “the best summit” in 15 years. After six years of negotiations, Mercosur members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay finally reached consensus on the distribution of customs revenue and the elimination of double taxation on goods imported by member countries. The agreement will expedite and reduce the cost of commerce across South America and effectively establishes Mercosur as a customs union capable of negotiating with third parties.

    In addition to progress on the Common Customs Code, Mercosur members agreed on a plan to grant commercial benefits to Haiti and to protect the Guaraní aquifer, one of the world’s largest drinking water reservoirs. Perhaps most notably, the bloc also signed a free trade agreement with Egypt, which is expected to open a market of 76 million consumers to primary and industrialized products from Mercosur countries, including pharmaceutical, automotive and agricultural goods.

    Ahead of the summit, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro had sought Mercosur support for his country’s requests for membership in the bloc, which are opposed by Colombia. The response by Mr. da Silva and other leaders that Venezuela should not seek to resolve a bilateral issue at a multilateral trade summit resulted in President Chávez’s decision not to attend the meetings.

    Read More

    Tags: trade, Venezuela, Mercosur

  • ‘El Peje’ to Run Again in Macondo, Mexico

    August 5, 2010

    by Arjan Shahani

    On July 25, Andrés Manuel López Obrador emerged from his long self-imposed silence, took to a stage in the heart of Mexico City and announced his intention to run for president in 2012. It was not unexpected, as ridiculous as his candidacy may seem to many.

    Plaza Zócalo was filled with supporters welcoming “El Peje,” as López Obrador is known, and chanting “Es un honor, estar con Obrador” (It’s an honor to support Obrador). Confetti flew, arms raised in unison and slogan-covered signs flourished among a group that, once again, threw their hearts and hope at the once and future candidate.

    This scene brings to mind the magical town of Macondo, created by Gabriel García Márquez in Cien años de soledad, where the whole population loses its ability to remember.  And as in the Macondo of Cien años, it seems we in Mexico need our own José Arcadio to figure out how to get the population to remember again.

    Read More

    Tags: Mexico, Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), Andrés Manuel López Obrador, 2012 Mexico elections, Gabriel García Márquez, Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD)

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    August 4, 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.

    U.S. Files Labor Law Complaint against Guatemala

    The U.S. government filed a complaint against Guatemala on grounds of labor law violations under the Central America Free Trade Agreement. The complaint, filed by the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations and six Guatemalan unions, accuses the Guatemalan government of not enforcing labor rights or doing enough to protect union leaders. The Guatemalan government denied the allegations but said it was willing to seek a solution to the issue.

    Guatemalan union leader Juan Fidel Pachecho’s body was found July 30, showing signs of torture. Since 2007, 46 union leaders have been found dead in Guatemala.

    Read More

    Tags: Bolivia, Mexico, Ecuador, Haiti

  • Bubonic Plague Re-Appears in Peru

    August 4, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The death of a 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome on July 26 signals a fresh outbreak of bubonic plague in Peru, Minister of Health Oscar Ugarte revealed this week. A total of 33 cases have been linked to the disease, which so far has been limited to the northern province of Ascope.

    Bubonic plague is spread by rats and other rodents, which are abundant in sugar cane plantations where, according to the health ministry, the newest epidemic started. The disease itself is transmitted by flea bites. Doctors working with the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center Detachment have also identified four cases of pneumonic plague, which can be transmitted through the air.

    The government has shipped six metric tons of Carbaryl, an insecticide, to the region to head off the disease’s continued spread. It is also fumigating homes and ports in the region, and blocking shipments from the north to Lima. The last time an epidemic of the plague swept through Peru, in 1994, 1,104 people were infected and 35 died.

    Tags: Peru, Public Health, Bubonic plague

  • Shark Fishing in Brazil Stirs Controversy

    August 3, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The Brazilian environmental group Instituto Justiça Ambiental (IJA) this week released a report alleging that illegal commercial shark fishing is causing severe damage to Brazil’s offshore ecosystems. According to IJA,  300,000 sharks have been killed in the past year for their fins, which are clandestinely exported to Asia where shark fin soup and other shark-based dishes are a popular delicacy.

    It is a crime in Brazil to separate a shark’s fin from its body. According to the group’s allegations, however, this has not stopped the Brazilian seafood company, Sigel do Brasil Comercio, from illegally exporting millions of dollars worth of shark fins to China and other Asian markets where a growing middle class has caused a surge in demand for the products. IJA’s claims have been substantiated by the Brazilian Environment Ministry, who has stepped up pressure on Sigel and even raided their offices in May.

    The killing of so many predators has severely imbalanced the ecosystem off Brazil’s coast, says Cristiano Pacheco, director of IJA, "The massive and illegal fishing is doing irreversible harm to the ocean's ecosystem, because sharks are at the top of the food chain.” In the group’s view, that impact is worth $790 million, which is the amount of a lawsuit that IJA has brought against the seafood company on Monday. Any legal award resulting from the suit will go to Brazil’s national environment fund.

    Tags: Brazil, Environment, Shark, Protection, Asia, Lawsuit

  • Mexico, Chile to Re-Establish Ties with Honduras

    August 2, 2010

    by AQ Online

    More than a year after former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was forcibly removed from power in Tegucigalpa, Chile and Mexico on Saturday joined a growing number of Latin American countries to re-establish diplomatic ties with Honduras.

    Although he did not offer a definitive timeline, Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno announced that Chile would soon resume full diplomatic relations with the Tegucigalpa government. Mexico, on the other hand, announced its decision to send its ambassador back to Honduras as early as next week. The decisions came in the aftermath of a 12-page report released last Thursday by the Organization of American States highlighting improving conditions in Honduras.

    Other countries, including Ecuador, Brazil, and Venezuela are reluctant to re-establish relations with Honduras. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been supportive of reintegration and said in June, “President Lobo has done everything he said he would do,” “He has been very committed to pursuing a policy of reintegration.”

    Tags: Chile, Mexico, Organization of American States, Honduras, Hillary Clinton, Manuel Zelaya, Porfirio Lobo

  • Mayo Clinic Goes Social

    July 30, 2010

    by AQ Online

    This week Mayo Clinic announced the launch of a Center for Social Media. The first of its kind, the Center aims to deepen Mayo’s use of social media tools to promote better communication among health care professionals and improve patients’ quality of care. As discussed in depth in the newly released summer issue of Americas Quarterly, communications technology is revolutionizing the way patients receive health information and even services.

    Long a pioneer in social media, Mayo Clinic has a popular channel on YouTube, active Twitter and Facebook accounts, and 12 blogs, the topics of which range from cancer to safe sex to patient anecdotes. While thus far it has primarily used these tools to enhance internal communication among employees—fostering collaboration on patient care, education, research and administration issues—it now seeks to accelerate adoption of them for health-related purposes. Patients will be able to research specific diseases, learn more about Mayo Clinic doctors and even access reference material from CNN Health.

    The bottom line? “To help patients,” says center leader Lee Aese, by both providing information directly and integrating communication channels among the medical community.

    Tags: Health care, Mayo Clinic, Information and communications technology

  • Demand for Antidepressants Tests Chilean Health Care System

    July 29, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Five months after the 8.8-magnitude earthquake, the Chilean Ministry of Health reports that the demand for antidepressants like Diazepam, Alprazolam and Clonazepam has increased by 33 percent compared to pre-earthquake levels. At the same time, according to the Unidad de Trauma, Estrés y Desastres de la Universidad Católica, 7.5 percent of the Chilean population is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the disaster.

    Clearly, the earthquake is testing a system that Philip Musgrove describes in the newly released AQ as being increasingly “more complete and more equitable through reforms that are also politically acceptable.”

    Besides, placing tremendous pressure on the system, the earthquake and resulting spike in antidepressant consumption also leads to problems of self-prescription and counterfeit medicine. According to Marv Shepherd, “Latin America currently rank second behind Asia as having the highest number of counterfeit drugs ‘incidents.’” If this trend continues, Chilean authorities will face the added challenge of cracking down on a growing black medicine market.

    Tags: Americas Quarterly, Chile, Health care, Antidepressants, Marv Shepherd, Philip Musgrove

  • Linchamiento y Justicia Comunitaria en Bolivia

    July 28, 2010

    by Cecilia Lanza

    Cómo ser (indígenas) modernos sin morir en el intento

    En Bolivia suceden, en temporada alta, es decir, Carnavales, feriados y fiestas populares, hasta ocho linchamientos por semana. En días corrientes son aproximadamente seis por mes. Las cifras varían dependiendo del contexto. Eso dicen estudiosos y periodistas ante la ausencia de datos oficiales porque el linchamiento no forma parte de las categorías policiales que registran estas golpizas en masa como “asesinato” o “intento de asesinato”.

    Temporada alta porque resulta que en épocas festivas la gente viaja, baila, se emborracha y entonces, para unos, los motivos y oportunidades de delinquir aumentan, para otros, un nuevo robo o violación es razón suficiente para “hacer justicia por mano propia”.

    Hasta aquí, nada nuevo. Ni siquiera el hecho de que Bolivia comparta con Ecuador, Perú o Guatemala, los miles de linchamientos que suceden en América Latina. La novedad, sin embargo, está en dos datos aparentemente dispersos. Por una parte, lo obvio: la importante población indígena que tiene cada uno de esos países. Por otra parte, la constatación de que el linchamiento es un fenómeno urbano vinculado a la inseguridad ciudadana. Porque según investigadores y especialistas, que son quienes llevan la cuenta, el 70% de los linchamientos sucede en las ciudades, 20% en áreas urbanas y 10% en otros lugares. Datos relevantes porque no sólo se revierte la opinión dominante que cree que los linchamientos son exclusividad de las áreas rurales o una suerte de patrimonio de los indígenas, sino porque muestran, casi como una analogía, el fenómeno migratorio boliviano, del campo hacia las ciudades, como una de las explicaciones posibles del linchamiento. Porque desde los años ´80, la pobreza arrastró grandes migraciones a las ciudades en busca de mejores días. Hoy, casi el 70% de la población total vive en las ciudades, ya no en el campo.

    Y del campo llegan a las áreas periurbanas, marginales y pobres. Allí donde suceden los linchamientos. Como suceden también en aquellos poblados fronterizos entre el campo y la ciudad. Allí donde las autoridades originarias ya no tienen el control porque todo cambia y la modernidad llega. Y los pueblos crecen y aparecen desconocidos y las suyas se hacen ciudades de paso hacia la gran ciudad y, muchas veces, lugares de tránsito para el contrabando y el narcotráfico que toca con sus garras las costumbres más originarias y las corrompe.

    Los sectores indígenas están en crisis. Así lo prueba el reciente linchamiento de cuatro policías a manos de indígenas en una comunidad de Oruro (en el Altiplano) que reavivó dos preguntas pendientes: ¿El linchamiento forma parte de la llamada “justicia comunitaria”? Rotundamente no. Entonces ¿qué es “justicia comunitaria” y hasta dónde llega? Eso se verá con una ley (de deslinde jurisdiccional) que delimitará ambos sistemas jurídicos- indígena y ordinario- reconocidos en la nueva Constitución Política con el mismo rango. Entonces, si linchamiento no es justicia comunitaria ¿por qué los indígenas usan la justicia comunitaria como pretexto para el linchamiento? Porque la corrupción ha tocado su paraíso y en medio de la pobreza la modernidad es algo con lo que hay que aprender a lidiar. Sino ¿cómo ser indígenas modernos sin morir en el intento?

    ** Cecilia Lanza Lobo is a guest blogger to Americas Quarterly based in La Paz, Bolivia.

    Tags: Bolivia, Indigenous Rights

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    July 28, 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.

    Western Hemisphere Drawn into Colombia-Venezuela Rift

    Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez cut diplomatic ties with Colombia after Bogota brought evidence to the Organization of American States (OAS) that Venezuela provides safe haven to Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) camps. After the OAS held the July 22 extraordinary session about the dispute, Colombia also pledged to bring its case against Caracas to the International Court of Justice. With tensions rising between the neighbors, Chávez warned that he would cut off oil exports to the United States if Colombia, a U.S. ally, took military action against Venezuela. Yet Venezuela, not Colombia, boosted troops on the border this week. “[Chávez] is trying to turn a very significant accusation against his country into a win for himself domestically,” commented COA’s Eric Farnsworth to The Christian Science Monitor.

    Although the administration of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe sounded the alarm about the FARC camps, President-elect Juan Manuel Santos will inherit the diplomatic woes when he takes the reins on August 7.  Still, Latin American countries hope to help resolve the dispute. Santos met with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Monday and Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nicola Maduro traveled to Buenos Aires on Tuesday. On Thursday, Ecuador will host a Union of South American Nations ministerial meeting about the Andean rift.

    Read an AS/COA analysis about the Colombian-Venezuelan dispute.

    Read More

    Tags: Colombia, Venezuela

  • Haitian Presidential Race Takes Shape

    July 28, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Haiti's Ambassador to the United States, Raymond Joseph, said today that next week he will formally announce his candidacy for President in the Haitian national elections later this fall. In an interesting twist, some observers are predicting that Mr. Joseph will be running against his nephew, and world-famous performing artist, Wyclef Jean. Mr. Jean—a socially responsible celebrity as discussed with AQ—has been involved extensively in Haiti’s reconstruction and is rumored to be completing the paperwork required to run for public office and has until August 7 to complete the process.

    In response to the possibility of Wyclef joining the race, Ambassador Joseph commented: “We are family. And we won’t allow politics to divide… No, I wouldn’t say running against, I would say running parallel.”

    "I think he [Joseph] would be a strong contender," "I’m not endorsing him, but I am saying that he does fit the profile of what many expect to see in the next round: someone able to engage the international community." says Eduardo Gamarra, a political science professor at Florida International University who has extensive knowledge on Haitian affairs.

    Tags: Wyclef Jean, Raymond Joseph, 2010 Haiti elections

  • Colombia-Venezuela Dispute Gets Hearing in Argentina

    July 27, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner met this week with both sides of the simmering dispute between Colombia and Venezuela. Colombia has alleged that the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) is operating out of bases on the Venezuelan side of the border, and in response, President Hugo Chávez has cut off all diplomatic relations with the Uribe government.

    On Monday, Kirchner saw Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos, who is visiting heads of state in Latin America before his August 7 inauguration. The two leaders pledged to work to “strengthen the Latin American union,” according to a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Acknowledging the Colombia-Venezuela schism directly, Kirchner also said, “We’re trying to establish a dialogue, very quietly, with great patience but with the strong will that Argentina and the rest of the region will always contribute to peace.”

    Then just before lunch today, Fernández de Kirchner received Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro at the presidential residence. Following the meeting, Maduro thanked the Argentine President and praised her role as mediator, saying, “The only solution to this conflict is peace.”

    On Thursday, the region’s foreign ministers will meet in Ecuador to discuss the dispute, under the auspices of UNASUR, the organization of South American countries.

    Tags: Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Juan Manuel Santos, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Colombia-Venezuela relations, Nicolás Maduro, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC)

  • In Honduras, Rural School Jobs Handed to President’s Supporters

    July 26, 2010

    by Daniel Altschuler

    In “Power to the Parents,” an article in the Summer AQ, Daniel Altschuler looks at community run schools in Honduras and Guatemala.

    --------------------------------

    Recent Honduran press reports have honed in on a spate of partisan teacher firings in the country’s primary education program for remote, rural communities, PROHECO (Honduran Community Education Program, Programa Hondureño de Educación Comunitaria). Journalists have documented how President Lobo's Partido Nacional has replaced field staff with party activists, canceled teachers' contracts to install party supporters and undermined parent organizations' autonomy.

    These reports suggest that the new ruling party has used PROHECO to divert resources and jobs to its followers, undermining the program's ability to realize its stated objectives. Just criticizing the Partido Nacional, however, ignores the broader problem with PROHECO, a program that reflects the pervasive clientelistic politics upon which both dominant Honduran political parties rely.

    PROHECO emerged in the late 1990s as an alternative education model to expand education coverage in remote rural areas. PROHECO, like other community-managed school (also known as school-based management) programs in Central America, gave parents the right to hire and fire teachers in new rural schools and pay salaries based on attendance. The program aimed to increase accountability and empower parents to take on roles of responsibility within their communities. Recent reports in the major Honduran newspapers, however, have highlighted how the Partido Nacional has replaced all of PROHECO's field staff and tried to force out teachers hired under the previous administration. Reporters have documented local party and program officials, all of whom are partisan activists, cancelling teachers' contracts that were signed for the entire 2010 school year and forcing parents to elect new leaders if the current school council members refuse to replace the current teacher with a Partido Nacional loyalist.

    Read More

    Tags: Honduras, Education, Manuel Zelaya

  • Ecuador and UNDP to Sign Amazon Conservation Agreement

    July 26, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Following four months of negotiations, the Ecuadorian government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are expected to sign an agreement on August 3 that will create a trust fund to manage international contributions to the Yasuni – Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini (ITT) initiative.  The Yasuni-ITT Trust Fund will allow Ecuador to receive monetary compensation in exchange for not extracting oil deposits in the Amazon’s Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oilfields—a region of high biodiversity located in the Yasuni National Park. 

    As part of the agreement, Ecuador will receive at least 50 percent of the revenue it would have otherwise received for extracting the resources found in the ITT oil reserve.

    This initiative is the first of its kind and presents Ecuador as an example of a “post-petroleum” country positioning itself to fight global climate change. The initiative has received political support, but it now faces the challenge to secure donors. Only Germany has pledged an exact monetary figure to the initiative (50 million euros annually over 13 years).  Ecuador hopes to receive funding from other Euro-bloc nations as well as the Arab nations of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the United States, public and private companies, inter-governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and the general public. 

    Tags: petroleum, Ecuador, Climate change, land preservation, UNDP, Yasuni

  • Venezuela to Exhume Remains of Bolívar's Sister

    July 23, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The Venezuelan government confirmed this week that it will exhume the remains of María Antonia Bolívar, the older sister of the South American political hero Simon Bolívar.  DNA from María Antonia’s remains will be tested against those of her brother as part of an investigation ordered by President Hugo Chávez to determine whether he was murdered. 

    Most historians believe Bolívar died of tuberculosis, but recent research by an infectious disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine suggests the cause of death was arsenic poisoning.  President Chávez points to these findings as support for his theory that Bolívar was killed by Colombian oligarchs.  Researcher Dr. Paul Auwaerter, however, said he thought murder was unlikely and his findings were more consistent with chronic poisoning—perhaps the result of drinking contaminated water in Peru.

    Last week President Chávez announced the exhumation of Simon Bolívar’s supposed remains on Twitter, saying he “wept with emotion” upon seeing the bones of the man who inspired his Bolivarian Revolution.  María Antonia’s remains will be exhumed at the end of August. 

    The forensic investigations take place amid heightened tensions between Venezuela and Colombia.  President Chávez said Thursday he had “no choice” but to sever relations with Colombia following the latter’s accusations that 1,500 Colombian guerrillas are hiding in Venezuela.

    Tags: Venezuela; Hugo Chávez; Colombia-Venezuela relations; Simon Bolívar

  • Mud Bug Deal in Nunavut Could Set Precedent

    July 22, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Researcher Russell Kerr is negotiating a profit-sharing deal with the Inuit living in Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost territory. Kerr, a chemistry professor at the University of Prince Edward Island, hopes to discover bacteria hidden in the mud of Frobisher Bay that can be used in commercial products like cosmetics or life-saving medicine.

    Nothing is guaranteed, but an organism used in cosmetics could be worth tens of thousands of dollars. On the other hand, Kerr says, "At the upper end of the range, which is a real long shot, a cancer drug can generate billions of dollars.”

    Kerr’s approach, which is “precedent-setting,” according to Jamal Shirley of the Nunavut Research Institute, could change how bioprospecting is done in the Arctic, where governments and the UN have been carefully watching the effects of climate change for years. In the upcoming issue of Americas Quarterly, to be released next Thursday, July 29, veteran journalist and AQ contributing blogger Huguette Young explores the geopolitics of the Arctic as melting land and sea transform  the region’s geography and ecology.

    Tags: Canada, Indigenous Rights, Climate change, Economic Development, Nunavut

  • Latin America Focuses on an Arizona Courtroom’s Decision on SB 1070

    July 22, 2010

    by Jason Marczak

    The courtroom of U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton will be at the center of the U.S. immigration debate at 4:30 pm (eastern) today. That’s when Edwin Kneedler, the U.S. deputy solicitor general and the lead lawyer for the Justice Department, will square off against John Bouma, a private lawyer representing Governor Brewer and the state of Arizona.

    Both legal teams are coming to the Sandra Day O'Connor Courthouse in Phoenix with their battle lines already drawn. But what is at stake is much, much more than just another legal case.

    Set to take effect next Thursday (July 29), the misnamed Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act will give law enforcement the power to question the immigration status of anyone suspected of being in the state without authorization and mandate that immigrants carry their papers on them.

    Bolton seems to be the right person for the job. Nominated by then President Bill Clinton and praised by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), she is highly regarded for her ability to handle complex legal questions.

    Representing Arizona, Bouma will likely argue to the judge that SB 1070 does not conflict with federal law and that states have the right to enforce federal law. The Justice Department will argue that the law is pre-empted by federal statutes and that the government has “preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters.” Translation: the Arizona law cannot go into effect.

    Read More

    Tags: Immigration, Arizona

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