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  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    June 23, 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.

    Santos Wins Big in Colombia

    Former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos won Colombia’s June 20 runoff elections by a landslide, pulling in more than 69 percent of ballots compared to the 27.5 percent earned by his rival, ex-Mayor of Bogota Antanas Mockus. Santos also won a greater share of the vote than did popular President Álvaro Uribe in 2006. “The hour of national unity has arrived,” said the president-elect after his victory. Semana reports that Santos will have one of the largest mandates of any Colombian leader, given coalition support in Congress, and explores the solidity of that support base. La Silla Vacia analyzes some of Santos’ initial appointments, including his chief of staff, finance minister, and personal secretary. Santos will be sworn into office on August 7.

    Read an AS/COA analysis of Santos’ victory.

    Colombia’s Neighbors React to Santos Victory

    The Hemispheric Brief blog reports on reactions to the victory of Colombian President-Elect Juan Manuel Santos, paying particular attention to Quito and Caracas, both of which have had troubled relations with Bogota.

    Read More

    Tags: René Préval, Santos Wins, Peruvian Elections, Peru Brazil Energyy, Pinera's 100 days, Arizona Law Suit

  • Argentina Easily Advances to World Cup Knockout Round

    June 23, 2010

    by AQ Online

    After barely qualifying to play in the FIFA World Cup in South Africa this year, Argentina breezed through group play yesterday defeating Greece, 2-0 and securing a spot in the knockout round of the tournament.  The Albicelestes allowed only one goal in group play by the South Korean team, who will accompany the Argentines into the next phase of the tournament. 

    Argentina’s performance is a turn around for a team whose entry into the tournament wasn’t secured until their last match in the World Cup qualifiers. Stars like Lionel Messi, Carlos Tévez, and Javier Mascherano, have regained their form and have thus far fulfilled expectations.

    Arguably, however, Argentina faced no major challengers in group play. The next round will present tougher competitors like Mexico, where there will be no room for errors or slow starts. Overall, Latin America has performed better than most other regions, with six of seven teams either already advancing, or with good odds of advancing in the coming days.

    Tags: Argentina, Soccer, World Cup 2010, FIFA, Futbol, Albicelestes

  • Santos Presidente: Un triunfo de Uribe

    June 22, 2010

    by Jenny Manrique

    Como estaba previsto en las encuestas electorales y gracias a que el candidato presidencial Juan Manuel Santos se había erigido como el natural sucesor de Álvaro Uribe, los resultados de los comicios del domingo le dieron un triunfo arrollador al aspirante del partido de la U. Con 9 millones de votos, Santos alcanzó el 69% de la votación mientras su contendor Antanas Mockus, obtuvo el 27% y el voto en blanco el 3% restante.

    Juan Manuel Santos se convirtió en el presidente No. 70 de Colombia y se echó sobre los hombros la nada fácil tarea de reemplazar a uno de los mandatarios más populares del último siglo en Colombia. Tiene dos opciones, sin duda cabalgar sobre su popularidad o enfrentarse a las prácticas mafiosas que tanto se criticaron de su gobierno. Algunos analistas estiman que Santos se rodearía de un equipo más tecnócrata y menos politiquero aunque en su acuerdo de unidad nacional le dio la bienvenida a todos los sectores, y en ellos entraron colados algunos altamente cuestionados en el país como la bancada del PIN, un partido cuyo principal líder, Juan Carlos Martínez, está en la cárcel La Picota. De hecho fueron las adhesiones públicas de los partidos Conservador y Cambio Radical y la de algunos militantes del Partido Liberal, las que le permitieron aumentar su votación en 2 millones 300 mil votos.

    Read More

    Tags: Santos, Colombian Elections, Antanas Mockus

  • Report Criticizes Haitian President’s Reconstruction Leadership

    June 22, 2010

    by AQ Online

    U.S. Senator John F. Kerry, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, today released a report on Haitian President René Préval’s handling of earthquake recovery efforts. The report is critical of Mr. Préval’s reconstruction leadership, noting that ``key decisions remain in flux and critical humanitarian issues related to shelter and resettlement are not resolved.”

    The international community has also voiced concerns, particularly at the UN Security Council, that promises of aid by some countries for recovery assistance may not fully materialize.

    This is not the first time that U.S. lawmakers have criticized the Haitian government’s handling of the post-earthquake rebuilding process. Earlier this month Senator Richard Lugar, also on the Foreign Relations Committee, urged President Préval to move more aggressively on reconstruction so as not to lose the confidence of the United States.

    Tags: Haiti, Richard Lugar, René Préval, John F. Kerry, Foreign Relations Committee

  • Santos Wins Colombian Presidential Election

    June 21, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Former Defense Minister and Partido de la U presidential candidate, Juan Manuel Santos, won a resounding victory in Colombia’s second-round election yesterday against former Bogotá Mayor Antanas Mockus, winning 67 percent of the vote, compared to Mockus’s 27.6 percent, with a total of 9 million ballots cast. 

    The time has come for national unity, the time has come for harmony, the time has come for us to work together for the prosperity of Colombia,” Santos declared during his victory speech.

    The results underscore Colombian voters’ desire for a continuation of the policies of the administration of President Álvaro Uribe, whose government has been widely credited with achieving sustained economic growth and major security gains against guerilla groups. What lie ahead, according to Marcela Prieto of the Bogotá-based Instituto de Ciencias Politicas, are challenges of poverty and unemployment which remain among the highest in Latin America.

    Tags: Juan Manuel Santos, Antanas Mockus, Marcela Prieto

  • World Cup: The Year of Latin America?

    June 21, 2010

    by Eric Farnsworth

    Each World Cup brings a new storyline, and this one is no different.  The rise of African football, the year that Spain finally met expectations, the return of England to World Cup prominence; all of these and others have been mooted as possibilities for 2010.  But to this point, all have proven a bust.  In fact, having just watched Chile defeat Switzerland, the real story of this year’s competition is the dominance of the Western Hemisphere.

    Latin American nations, as well as the United States, have not lost one game yet in the preliminary rounds, except for Honduras’ 1-0 defeat by another Latin American nation, Chile, and 2-0 to Spain.  With the final game left to play in the opening round, it’s likely that no fewer than six or even seven of the eight Western Hemisphere representatives will go through, almost half of the final 16 in the quarter finals.  This contrasts with the underperforming Europeans, only one of which (Holland) is at the top of its group. England, Germany, and Italy have all underperformed, whereas the French have just been inept, poetic justice for the handball that brought them through qualifying against the Irish.  Portugal looked languid until a wipeout of North Korea; Spain needed to play the weakest team in the tournament from the Western Hemisphere to notch its first points.

    Head to head, Western Hemisphere against Europe, the results have so far been amazing.  Chile has knocked off Switzerland, which earlier beat Spain.  Paraguay defeated Slovakia and tied Italy; Mexico defeated France; the United States tied both England and Slovenia. 

    Read More

    Tags: Latin America, World Cup, FIFA, Europe

  • Legalidad vs. Continuismo: Un dilema resuelto en las elecciones de Colombia

    June 19, 2010

    by Jenny Manrique

    El día llegó. Y no precisamente porque se vaya a cumplir el estribillo de la canción que se convirtió en el tema de campaña del candidato del Partido Verde Antanas Mockus “Antanas llegó”. Lo que llegó fue el epílogo de una campaña emocionante que a pocos días de la primera vuelta se volvió predecible y que a vísperas de la segunda, no deja duda alguna de que el próximo presidente de Colombia será Juan Manuel Santos.

    El heredero natural de Uribe no obstante no la tuvo fácil. Se enfrentó a un candidato que encarna en buena medida, opuestos interesantes al gobierno actual que se marcaron como nunca en los últimos debates signados por la controversia. Mockus mostró su indignación por haber sido víctima de una campaña negra en la que se dijo todo sobre él: Que era ateo, que acabaría con la policía y algunos programas estatales, que no podría gobernar porque padece del mal de Parkinson. El aspirante, que impregnó su campaña de símbolos como el lápiz y el girasol, terminó andando bajo el brazo con un papel firmado ante notario en el que se comprometía a no hacer todo eso que estaban diciendo de él.

    Read More

    Tags: Colombia, Santos, Mockus

  • U.S. and Cuba Resume Immigration Talks Today

    June 18, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Delegations from the United States and Cuba will meet today to continue discussions on the Migration Accords initiated in 1994.  The immigration discussions are in keeping with the “Obama administration’s commitment to promote safe, legal, and orderly migration between Cuba and the United States,” noted U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  This marks the third time that the two countries will meet to discuss immigration since President Obama’s inauguration in 2009.  The discussions had been suspended by the Bush administration in 2003 and were reinstated by the Obama administraion in July 2009. 

    The resumption of talks comes as the U.S. is negotiating the release of Alan Gross, a contractor for a U.S.-based global consulting firm, who has been held by Cuban authorities under charges of espionage for the past six months for allegedly distributing telecommunications equipment to dissidents in Cuba.  The U.S. delegation is likely to use the meeting to press Cuban officials to release Gross.  Secretary Clinton noted that Gross’s continued detention “is harming U.S.-Cuba relations,” and despite the resumption in talks, expectations are low that any significant progress will be made on the 16-year-old accords.  "The migration talks have the potential to serve as a medium for resolution of the long-standing issues between the two nations," said Paul Wander of the Inter-American Dialogue "but they are unlikely to do so because real diplomatic developments remain stymied by the fact that both countries feel as though the ball is in the other's court."

    Tags: Cuba, Immigration, United States Cuba Policy, Cuban dissidents, Alan Gross

  • Insulza: Seven to Join OAS Commission on Honduras

    June 17, 2010

    by AQ Online

    At last week’s 40th General Assembly of the Organization of American States, member states agreed to form a commission to evaluate Honduras’s return to the OAS following the June 2009 coup and the election of President Porfirio Lobo. OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, who had expressed support for allowing Honduras to rejoin the organization but recognized pending concerns, has now indicated that the high level commission will be formed next week, and it will include two members from South America, two from Central America and one each from the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.

    The names of those participating have not yet been released, pending confirmation of the full slate of committee delegates.

    The commission will meet separately with representatives of the current Honduras government and with representatives of ex-president Manuel Zelaya. A report is due back to the OAS on July 30. Insulza has said that the main obstacle to readmission is Zelaya’s continued exile in the Dominican Republic and called for his being allowed to return “in a condition without humiliation.”

    For more on the Honduran situation, AQ’s own Christopher Sabatini and Eric Farnsworth offered their own takes before the Summit kicked off.

    Tags: Jose Miguel Insulza, Organization of American States, Honduras, Coup in Honduras

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    June 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.

    Colombians to Pick Next Prez in June 20 Vote

    Former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos polls well ahead of his rival Antanas Mockus ahead of Sunday’s second-round presidential election. A new Datexco survey undertaken for El Tiempo and la W  gives Santos a 37.1 percent advantage over the former mayor of Bogota. Polls inaccurately predicted a close result in the May 30 election, when Santos pulled in more than double the votes of Mockus and came within a few points of winning the necessary 50 percent majority to avoid a runoff.

    Semana offers profiles of the two candidates while La Silla Vacía takes a look at who is financing Santos’ campaign. Terra’s Votebien offers ongoing election reporting, from coverage of debates to candidate proposals. Colombia Reports offers English-language coverage, including polls and profiles.

    Read an AS/COA analysis of the upcoming election.

    The Outlook for Santos’ Economic Plan for Colombia

    Dinero takes an in-depth look at the economic proposals of Juan Manuel Santos, the frontrunner in Colombia’s presidential race. The article says Santos, an economist by training who has voiced opposition to tax increases, has pitched five areas for growth and job creation but that revisions to the tax system and labor market will be necessary for the country’s economic expansion.

    AS/COA hosts its annual Bogota conference, “Colombia in the Eyes of Wall Street,” on June 17.

    Read More

    Tags: Evo Morales, Meso-American Health Initiative

  • U.S. Lifts Block on Costa Rican Sugar

    June 16, 2010

    by Alex Leff

    As of June 15, Costa Rica can export 13,880 metric tons of sugar to the U.S. tariff-free, as stipulated under CAFTA-DR. But Washington had suspended Costa Rica’s preferential sugar treatment in January of this year. A move that the country’s sugar cane chamber said cost the sector an estimated $1 million in potential sales.

    Costa Rica joined the CAFTA-DR trade club in 2009, but only after supporters won a first-ever public referendum two years earlier. However, it hadn’t finished pushing through all the legislative reforms required to play ball and be a full partner.

    Even after the U.S. had granted two deadline extensions, one bill remained unapproved: a tougher intellectual property rights law. The U.S. imposed a block on the sweet sugar deal until Costa Rica approved the last bill.

    Legislators here finally passed it in April of this year—but not without a fight. Many loathed the intellectual property rights reform. It posed uncomfortable changes in areas ranging from agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals to textbook photocopying and music.

    Read More

    Tags: CAFTA-DR; Costa Rica

  • Liberación de rehenes en Colombia: De la celebración al show mediático

    June 16, 2010

    by Jenny Manrique

    El fin de semana fue de júbilo para las familias de cuatro miembros de las Fuerzas Militares secuestrados desde hace doce años por las FARC. El Coronel Luis Enrique Murillo y el General Luis Mendieta de la Policía, quien ascendió al máximo grado de esa institución estando en cautiverio y era hasta ayer el plagiado de mayor rango en manos del grupo guerrillero, recuperaron la libertad luego de la tristemente célebre toma del municipio de Mitú (Vaupés) el 1 de noviembre de 1998, incursión en la que al menos un millar de guerrilleros encabezados por el Mono Jojoy, dejaron a su paso 43 muertos, 47 heridos y 61 plagiados.

    También volvieron a la civilización el coronel de la Policía William Donato y el sargento del Ejército Arbey Delgado Argote, quienes habían sido plagiados el 3 de agosto de 1998 en la toma de esa guerrilla a la base antinarcóticos de Miraflores, Guaviare.

    El rescate bautizado como Operación ‘Camaleón’ fue ejecutado por un comando conjunto de policía y ejército el domingo 13 de junio en las selvas de Calamar, Guaviare, en un campamento ubicado a escasos 28 kilómetros de donde hace casi dos años la Operación Jaque también rescató sanos y salvos a 15 rehenes, entre ellos Ingrid Betancourt. Es más, algunos de estos hombres participaron también en la controversial Operación Fénix que dio muerte tras un bombardeo en territorio ecuatoriano al número dos de las Farc, Raúl Reyes.

    Read More

    Tags: FARC, El Coronel Luis Enrique Murillo, General Luis Mendieta de la Policía, Policía William Donato, Presidente Uribe

  • Violence Targets Another Honduran Journalist

    June 16, 2010

    by AQ Online

    News director for Channel 19 in El Paraíso, Honduras, Luis Arturo Mondragon, was assassinated last night as he sat with his son outside his home. This brings the number of media professionals killed this year to nine.  Mr. Mondragon had been the target of threats in the weeks leading up to his death for his work in exposing corrupt local and national officials.  All the journalists killed this year had been reporting on corruption as well as human rights violations and drug trafficking. 

    Violence against journalists in Honduras has increased since last year’s coup in June.  Both journalists and their families alike have been the targets of over 300 reported attacks including assassinations, abuse, intimidation, and censorship.  Honduran Security Minister Oscar Alvarez insists that the killing of journalists is not an organized effort to silence or intimidate the news media. However, only one murder case has plausible suspects while all other cases continue to go unsolved

    The violence has made Honduras one of the most dangerous places for journalists and has forced some to flee the country for their safety.  Last week, Karol Cabrera fled to Canada and sought political asylum after surviving two attempts on her life.  The first attempt in December left her pregnant 16-year-old daughter dead.

    Tags: Honduras, violence, Journalism, Coup in Honduras, media censorhip

  • Canada Passes Trade Agreement with Colombia

    June 15, 2010

    by Eric Farnsworth

    Some good news for Colombia on the trade front: Canada’s House of Commons passed the pending free trade agreement with Colombia on June 14, by a better than 2-1 margin.  The Senate will now vote on the accord for final approval.  Nonetheless, this is an important step for both countries, and a signal of support—both from Prime Minister Harper’s governing Conservatives and the opposition Liberals—for the priority effort to build Canada’s ties with the hemisphere.

    Two-way trade between the countries is already over $1.25 billion each year; expect that to expand, especially in agricultural products, now that Canada has a privileged position in Colombia’s economy vis-à-vis other trade partners, including the United States.  Expect the United States to continue to lose market share in Colombia, a market we have traditionally dominated, even as the White House calls for a doubling of U.S. exports over a five-year period.

    Many observers have complained that there is no trade agenda in the hemisphere.  In fact, that’s incorrect.  There is a huge trade agenda in the hemisphere.  It’s just that, for the first time in history, the United States is sitting on the sidelines.  Not only are we not leading the effort, we’re not even playing.  It’s difficult to win at anything, in fact, if you’re not in the game, which is where we are right now with U.S. trade policy in the Americas.

    Read More

    Tags: Canada, Colombia, Prime Minister Harper, Trans-Pacific Partnership

  • Gates, Slim Team Up on Health Care

    June 15, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The two richest men in the world joined forces on Monday for the cause of delivering basic preventative health care to marginalized populations of the Americas. Carlos Slim, Mexican telecom tycoon and founder of Instituto Carlos Slim de la Salud, and Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft and co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will join the Spanish government in each donating $50 million to the 2015 Meso-American Health Initiative for a total of $150 million.

    The initiative was announced at the Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Mexico City. It will target Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama. The health figures among these countries are staggering: 600,000 infants suffer from malnutrition, 500,000 of them do not have access to vaccination and 10 million adults and children are at high risk of disease. Over five years, the initiative aims to improve nutrition and maternal health and distribute vaccinations against dengue fever and malaria to 20 percent of the poorest population, or about 14 million individuals.

    This project is the largest of its kind to specifically address the health needs of the indigenous populations in Mexico and Central America, particularly women and children. An influx of on-the0ground health care investments, combined with the usual media storm that accompanies Slim and Gates, have the potential to drastically change the health conditions for the most marginalized populations in the region.

    Tags: Carlos Slim, Meso-American Health Initiative, Bil Gates, Preventative Health Care

  • All Aboard High Speed Rail

    June 14, 2010

    by John Parisella

    Shortly after his inauguration, President Barack Obama outlined a plan to develop America’s first nationwide program of high-speed intercity passenger rail service. Using the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Obama Administration made $8 billion available for developing or laying the groundwork for 13 corridors across the U.S. including the Northeast (where one out of five Americans live). Supporters of this initiative soon hailed it as the most significant infrastructure program since the Eisenhower Interstate Program of the 1950’s.

    Building high speed corridors provides numerous public advantages. In addition to providing greater interconnectivity between communities and developing transportation alternatives, the success of high speed rail offers new opportunities for manufacturing, the movement of goods and services and brings environmental benefits.  U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood sees this as a legacy project that will make America more competitive, more productive and more united. I agree and the early response from the investment program has been encouraging as the U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced that nearly $80 million in grants have already been delivered to states.

    The Northeast corridor is of special interest to Québec. In April 2009, the Boston to Montréal corridor was identified as one of the major corridors by the Obama administration. As recently as October 2009, Québec Premier Jean Charest met with New York State Governor David Paterson about the possibility of exploring a second Northeast option: the New York-Albany-Montréal corridor. The latter idea is not new as it was first advocated in the 1970’s by then Montréal mayor, Jean Drapeau. Finally, Secretary LaHood in a February meeting in Washington with Premier Charest agreed to support the creation of task forces to actively study that option. Just a few days ago, the Québec government appointed former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Raymond Chrétien to co-head the Québec-New York task force.

    Read More

    Tags: Canada, United States, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, high speed rail, Ray LaHood, transportation policy, Raymond Chrétien

  • Dilma Rousseff, José Serra Accept Candidacies in Brazil

    June 14, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Dilma Rousseff, the former cabinet chief for President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, accepted the formal nomination on Sunday of Lula’s Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) for the October presidential election. Among her opponents will be José Serra of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB) who also received his party’s nomination this past weekend.  

    In accepting her nomination, Rouseff pledged to continue Lula’s policy of reducing poverty and improve the tax system, but sought to distinguish herself from Lula as well, announcing that she would govern with the “heart and soul of a woman.”

    Serra, an economist who has long served in state and federal government, criticized the current administration for turning a blind eye toward corruption and announced his concern for human rights issues. Lula has engaged closely with Cuba and Iran, despite their poor track record on human rights.

    An Ibope poll released on June 5 reveals a close race, with each of the leading candidates registering 37 percent approval.  It also showed that Rousseff is more popular among female supporters than her counterpart, Serra.

     Lula is barred from a third consecutive term by the Brazilian constitution.

    Tags: Partido dos Trabalhadores, Lula, Jose Serra, Dilma Rouseff, Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira

  • Cuba Cuts Cell Phone Activation Fee

    June 11, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Cuban state-owned telecom company ETECSA has again cut the activation fee for cell phones. Yesterday’s reduction means that the overall fee has now dropped 80 percent since cell phones were first allowed on the island in April 2008.  The initial activation fee for pre-paid phone service has fallen to $43 from $120.  The price reductions come less than two weeks after ETECSA announced reduced rates for existing service to start June 1, 2011, including reductions to the price per minute for off-peak calls. 

    With nearly 1 million cell phones currently in use in Cuba, ETECSA expects that the cut in price of activating a cell phone will increase their accessibility to Cubans and usage.  ETECSA expects to exceed 1 million users by the end of this year and hopes to have 2.4 million users by 2015.  However, ETECSA communications director Luis Manuel Naranjo told Juventud Rebelde that the slashing of fees “is not enough” noting the expense of servicing a cell phone bill continues to be “a costly challenge in terms of investment and resources” for many Cubans. 

    Tags: Cuba, Information Technology, Cell phones, Telecommunications

  • Powerful Cartel Leader Arrested in Monterrey

    June 10, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Security forces in Mexico yesterday captured and took into custody Héctor Raúl Luna Luna, an alleged leader of the violent drug cartel known as Los Zetas. Luna Luna, also known as El Tori, was captured during a military operation in Ciudad Solidaridad, a neighborhood in Monterrey, in northern Mexico.

    In the wake of the arrest, gunmen temporarily set up at least ten narcobloqueos (roadblocks by drug gangs), in Monterrey using cars and stolen buses to block traffic. Attacks on police stations have also been reported. 

    Los Zetas are notorious for a failed 2008 grenade attack on the U.S. consulate in Monterrey, carried out in collaboration with the Gulf Cartel. (Explore our Spring 2010 AQ map of narco-networks in the Americas for more about the Mexican cartels).

    The U.S. has committed $1.6 billion in security assistance through the Mérida Initiative, which includes helicopters and police training, but during President Calderón’s visit last month to Washington, DC, he appealed to Congress for a different kind of help. “There is one area where Mexico needs your help,” Calderón said, “that is stopping the flow of assault weapons and other deadly weapons across the border.”

    Tags: Merida Initiative, Drug Cartel, President Felipe Calderon, Los Zetas

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    June 9, 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.

    Secretary Clinton Delivers Major Policy Speech in Quito

    Before an audience at El Centro Cultural Metropolitano in Ecuador, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a major policy speech in which she articulated the Obama Administration’s vision for U.S.-Latin American relations, with a focus on combating social inequity. Clinton spoke on a range of issues from access to education, to economic equality and social justice to the environment. During her remarks, Clinton paraphrased Latin American historical figures such as South American independence leader Simon Bolivar—a hero of U.S.-critic and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez—and Cuban national hero José Martí as she highlighted points about overcoming social inequities. But she stressed the role of the private sector as well, emphasizing five areas of "opportunity" to overcome impediments to social inclusion: education, reforming inefficient tax systems, empowering women, job creation, and public-private sector partnerships. "If you pit the government against the private sector, that’s a lose-lose proposition," she said. She rounded out her speech with a call to the future rather than the past. "Sometimes, we in America are accused of not paying enough attention to our history," she said. "But the obverse can also be true. Sometimes people are captives of their history. So let us resolve to meet in the present."

    Foreign Policy
    's Madam Secretary blog comments that Clinton charmed Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, who said during her visit: "[W]e are not anti-American. We love the U.S. very much. It is a trade partner. In fact, I spent the happiest four years of my life with my family in that great country."

    Read More

    Tags: Immigration, Secretary Clinton, Colombian Election, Falklands Oil, Antonio Cisneros

  • U.S. Rejects President Lula’s Iran Deal

    June 9, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The United States today dismissed a proposed agreement between Brazil, Turkey and Iran that would allow Iran to swap enriched uranium for reactor fuel.  The deal was brokered by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during his trip in May to Tehran.  The U.S., however, appears to think that the Brazilian agreement would leave Iran with enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.

    Brazil’s role in the nuclear negotiations is part of a broader effort to increase its profile on the international stage, but the U.S. has downplayed its diplomatic efforts on Iran.  Prior to Mr. Lula da Silva’s May trip to Tehran, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton repeatedly said that only UN Security Council action would be effective in curbing Iran’s ambitions.  When the Brazilian president succeeded in brokering the deal, Washington declined to recognize it as an important breakthrough.

    The UN Security Council is soon expected to approve a fourth round of economic sanctions against Iran, which Brazil has opposed.  U.S. officials met with the Brazilian deputy foreign minister on Monday in an effort to convince Brazil to abstain from voting against the sanctions at today’s Security Council meeting, rather than cast a “no” vote.  Turkey, which joined Brazil in the negotiations with Iran, and Lebanon are also expected to oppose the newest round of sanctions.

    Tags: Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Iran, United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton, UN Security Council

  • Timing is Everything in Diplomacy and Soccer

    June 8, 2010

    by Eric Farnsworth

    Word from the annual OAS General Assembly in Lima this week is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appealed to the hemispheric community to re-instate Honduras to full membership, but that a number of other hemispheric countries, notably Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, demurred.  After a year wandering in the hemispheric wilderness since being expelled from the OAS in 2009, Hondurans are wondering what they need to do, to paraphrase BP’s chief executive Tony Hayward, to get their lives back.  Indeed, duly-elected Honduran President Porfirio Lobo must be thinking right about now that he faces political difficulties approximating the Gulf oil spill, and that the clean-up efforts from last year’s coup ousting then-president Mel Zelaya are just as oily.

    Read More

    Tags: Organization of American States, Honduras, Hillary Clinton, Porfirio Lobo, OAS General Assembly

  • Lo que Agatha se llevo

    June 8, 2010

    by Julio Rank Wright

    Centroamérica es muy propensa a desastres naturales, muy pero muy propensa. Como si no fuera poco con la pobreza, incipiente institucionalidad y frágil democracia cada cierto tiempo uno o varios de los países del Istmo se ven afrontando algún desastre natural: huracanes, tormentas tropicales, terremotos, deslaves, erupciones volcánicas, etc.

    La más reciente es el paso de la Tormenta Agatha que dejó incalculable daño material en infraestructura, cultivos perdidos y pérdida de vida humana. Mas allá de las necesidades, de todos conocidas, que existen de impulsar políticas de gestión y mitigación del riesgo, sistemas de alerta temprana y capacidad de respuesta institucional; todos temas que se discuten con alguna frecuencia en este prestigioso medio en esta ocasión consideré compartir una historia que se repite todos los años en cualquiera de nuestros países latinoamericanos.

    Read More

    Tags: Tormenta Agatha

  • Bolivian Congress Approves “Indigenous Justice”

    June 8, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Bolivia’s national congress today passed legislation that officially codifies the application of “original” or “communal” justice in indigenous communities. The measure was approved in an early morning session of the Cámara de Diputados with strong support from President Morales’s Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party. According to some reports, however, the law was approved with little debate and in the absence of legislators from Bolivia’s opposition parties.

    Passage of the law comes only two weeks after four police officers were attacked by individuals claiming to uphold the principles of “indigenous justice.” Critics of the law, including Elizabeth Reyes of the Unidad Nacional party, argue that similar attacks are likely to occur in the future because the law does not sufficiently address when and where the application of “indigenous justice” would be permissible. Supporters contend the bill includes adequate provisions outlining when community justice could be applied.

    The law will now move to the Senate for approval where it is expected to pass and MAS officials have stated their belief that the measure will be approved by President Morales by the end of this week.

    Tags: Bolivia, indigenous, justice, MAS, law

  • OAS Holds its 40th General Assembly in Peru

    June 7, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Representatives from the 33 countries comprising the Organization of American States (OAS) convened in Lima, Peru on Sunday for its 40th general assembly. Top issues on the agenda include the readmission of Honduras into the hemispheric body and Arizona’s tough new immigration bill SB 1070, which numerous Latin American leaders have decried.

    Also high on the agenda are growing concerns throughout the region about large-scale arms acquisitions by numerous countries, which some fear could lead to an unintended arms race. In a speech yesterday, Peruvian President Alan García asked, “If we are the most peaceful region in the world, why have we purchased more weapons? It is foolish to see enemies where there are none.”

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is also in Lima for the OAS assembly, where she will hold bilateral talks today with the foreign ministers of Bolivia, Mexico and Panama. Secretary Clinton will then travel to Ecuador, Colombia and Barbados.

    Tags: Organization of American States, Peruvian President Alan García, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

  • Handling Dissent in the OAS: Can Hillary Clinton Negotiate Honduras' Return?

    June 7, 2010

    by Christopher Sabatini

    This week, from June 6 to 8, the Organization of American States (OAS) will hold its General Assembly with all the region’s foreign ministers and secretaries gathering in Lima to discuss affairs in the hemisphere....well, almost. Last year the theme of the General Assembly, held in Honduras, was supposed to be security, but the event was derailed by a movement to revoke Cuba’s suspension from the OAS. This year, it’s likely to be the return of the government of President Porfirio Lobo Sosa of Honduras to the OAS that will consume the attention of the gathered diplomats.

    Different country, same divisions, on different sides. As with the outcome at the last OAS General Assembly, some artful diplomacy could produce a positive step that will finally--for the good of regional diplomacy and Honduras--help to move this process along.

    Read More

    Tags: Honduras coup, U.S. Latin America policy, OAS General Assembly

  • Bagua's Indigenous Protest One Year Later

    June 7, 2010

    by Naomi Mapstone

    A year ago this past weekend 34 people died near a section of road in Peru’s Amazon known as “Devil’s curve.” 

    In many ways it was a typical Peruvian protest. The indigenous people who had congregated from all over the region to call for the right to be consulted over energy and mining projects on their land had blocked the road for several days.

    Pressure built as essential supplies into the town of Bagua ground to a halt, until finally a Peruvian cabinet ordered police to disperse the protest.

    It was at this point that Bagua departed from the normal pattern of protest in Peru and became the worst violent confrontation in Peru since the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru insurgencies of the 1980s and 1990s.

    Twenty-two people died in the ensuing clash, and protesters at an Imacita pumping station took hostage and later killed 12 police officers. The violence spilled over onto the streets of Bagua Chica and Bagua Grande.

    Read More

    Tags: Peru, Bagua, Social conflict

  • Canada Unveils Security Preparations for G8/G20 Summits

    June 4, 2010

    by AQ Online

    In advance of world leaders coming to Toronto and Huntsville, Ontario, on June 25, Canadian police have displayed the security measures that will be used to deter protesters, which will include thousands of federal, provincial and municipal police officers on horseback and motorcycles as well as officers in riot gear with SWAT and police snipers on high alert. 

    Police also have purchased Long Range Acoustic Devices, also known as sound cannons, to control the anticipated crowds. These are similar to those used at the last G20 summit held in Pittsburgh last year.  Preparations in Toronto—the site of this month’s G20 summit—have included adding 77 closed circuit security cameras in downtown Toronto as an additional safety measure. 

    Some members of the Liberal party as well as of the New Democratic Party have called for an investigation into thee cost of security for the G20 summit.  Slated to be the most expensive security operation in Canadian history, Auditor General Sheila Fraser will investigate the $800 million and rising price tag for the summit. Costs are estimated to reach nearly $1 billion at the summit’s conclusion.

    Previous G20 meetings have each been expensive but have varied widely in cost depending on location.  Security for last year’s summit held in London cost $30 million while the summit held in Japan two years ago cost closer to $300 million.  Security expenses for this year’s summit increased when Canada agreed to host both the G20 and the G8 summit (in Huntsville).

    Tags: Canada, Security, G20, protests, G8, Toronto, Ontario

  • Uruguay, Argentina Move Forward on River Dispute

    June 3, 2010

    by AQ Online

    In a meeting on Wednesday between President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina and her Uruguayan counterpart, José Mujica, the two countries agreed to jointly monitor and manage the water quality of the Río Uruguay, a river they share.

    The decision brings a four-year dispute over a pulp mill built on the Uruguayan side of the river closer to resolution. In April, the International Court of Justice ruled against Argentina, stating that Uruguay did not substantively violate environmental obligations under a 1975 treaty governing the use of the river. Argentina argued that the mill added to water pollution, a claim that Uruguay and the builder of the factory, Botnia, disputed.

    The April court decision also noted that Argentina and Uruguay have an obligation to “continue their cooperation” to promote equitable use of the river and environmental protection, an obligation reflected in Wednesday’s agreement. The two countries announced a 60-day timeline to collaboratively establish the monitoring system.

    It remains to be seen what will happen with the Argentine protestors who continue to blockade a bridge across the river. Mujica called on the Argentine government to take action, saying “Uruguay is not going to end the pickets . . . Argentina, its government and its people, must resolve it themselves.” Fernández de Kirchner also voiced her opposition to the protests but left the question of resolution unanswered.  In an interview with Radio 10, Argentine Minister of Interior Florencio Randazzo said only that the government would comply if the courts ordered that the picketers be removed.

    The wide-ranging meeting also led to bilateral agreements on trade, energy, health, education, and cooperation on security issues.

    Tags: Argentina, Uruguay, Pulp Mill

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    June 2, 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.

    Santos Surges in Colombia’s First Round as Polls Prove Inaccurate

    Despite the fact that polls forecasted a near-tie in the Colombian vote, Former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos pulled in more than double the votes of his top rival, the Green Party’s Antanas Mockus. Still, with 46.6 percent of the vote, Santos fell just short of the requisite majority needed to win in the first round. Pollsters defended their surveys, saying that the shift in support for Santos grew as a result of voter discomfort with comments made by Mockus in the final days before the election. Colombian law requires polls to close 10 days before elections. A lack of accurate polling in rural areas and abroad may also have played a role. Santos and Mockus face each other in the second round on June 20.

    AS/COA holds its annual Bogota conference on June 17, ahead of the second round of elections on June 20.

    Read an AS/COA analysis on the first round.

    Colombian Candidates begin Coalition ahead of Runoff

    La Silla Vacía offers an analysis of how Colombian candidates Juan Manuel Santos and Antanas Mockus are seeking to build alliances ahead of the June 20 elections. With the remaining candidates from Sunday’s vote out of the running, Santos initiated a “National Front” to win over politicians from and supporters of the traditional Conservative and Liberal parties. Third-place-finisher Germán Vargas Lleras could be another important ally for Santos’ U Party. Meanwhile, Mockus indicated he would pursue a “citizen’s alliance” and the support of voters who abstained in the first round, along with parties that would like to form an alliance with the Green Party. The Democratic Pole, whose candidate Gustavo Petro won nearly 10 percent of the vote to finish fourth, may seek a coalition with Mockus’ party.

    Read More

    Tags: Alan García, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Colombian Elections, Hurricane, SB1070, China-Cuba

  • Mexico Assumes UN Security Council Presidency, Warns Israel

    June 2, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Mexico warned Israel of possible United Nations Security Council action if they continued to block humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza only hours after assuming the UN body’s rotating presidency at midnight on June 1.  In a carefully crafted statement released yesterday, the council president, Ambassador Claude Heller of Mexico, condemned Israel’s actions against the Turkish aid flotilla, which resulted in the deaths of at least nine civilians and dozens other injured, and called for an impartial investigation of the operation.  The council also requested the immediate release of ships and civilians held by Israel.

    More aid ships are expected to attempt to reach Gaza today while Israel remains steadfast to keep ships from crossing their blockade.  Israel’s Defense Vice Minister Matan Vilnaí declared that the blockade would stand despite widespread condemnation of their actions on May 31.  The aid ships have been docked in Ashdod Port in southern Israel and Israeli authorities began transporting the ship’s humanitarian cargo to Gaza as of Tuesday afternoon.

    Mexico assumed the presidency of the 15-nation Security Council as it held closed door meetings to discuss a response to the Israeli action.  The previous Council presidency was held by Lebanon, which called the meeting on May 31, just before the expiration of their month-long presidency term.  The UN Security Council is charged with maintaining international peace and security in the world at large and this month marks Mexico’s second term as president since rotating into the council for its two-year term.  Mexico last held the presidency of the Security Council in April 2009.

    Tags: Mexico, Israel, UN Security Council, Humanitarian aid, Gaza

  • Candidates Turn to Alliance Building in Colombia

    June 1, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The two leading vote-getters in Sunday’s presidential election are now focused on building political alliances ahead of the June 20 run-off election.  Juan Manuel Santos of the Partido de la U (46.6 percent of the vote) and Antanas Mockus of the Partido Verde (21.4 percent) came in first and second, respectively, but neither secured enough support to prevent a second round of voting.  (See the full election results at VoteBien). With less than three weeks until the next vote, each candidate is now building out a larger base of support.

    Santos can be confident that a majority of voters endorsed the current governing coalition, whose main parties—the Partido Conservador (PC), the Partido Cambio Radical (PCR), and Santos’ Partido de la U—together earned over 62 percent of the vote.

    Expecting an endorsement from the Conservatives, Santos has already announced his willingness to form a “national unity” government. PCR candidate Germán Vargas Lleras, who came in third, has not indicated yet whether he will offer an endorsement in the second round of voting.

    The path to victory for Partido Verde candidate Antanas Mockus is much less clear. The former Bogotá mayor would need to win over nearly 8 in 10 of the votes cast for the four candidates no longer in the race.  Mockus will look for support from Polo Democrático Alternativo candidate Gustavo Petro, who won nearly 10 percent of the vote on Sunday. However, another potential ally, the Partido Liberal, has already announced that its supporters are free to vote as they choose.

    Evaluating his chances of winning the run-off election, Mockus said on Monday, “It’s obviously possible, not probable, but it is possible.”

    Tags: Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, 2010 Colombian Elections, Antanas Mockus

  • Contundente triunfo de Santos sobre Mockus: La ola verde se esfumó

    June 1, 2010

    by Jenny Manrique

    Nadie: Ni las encuestas ni los uribistas más optimistas vaticinaron el desenlace de las elecciones del domingo pasado en las que el candidato oficial Juan Manuel Santos, obtuvo un 46 por ciento frente a un 22 por ciento de su futuro contendor en la segunda vuelta, Antanas Mockus del partido Verde.

    Este resultado, si bien algo sorpresivo en términos numéricos, no es fortuito. Es una muestra más de que el país quiere conservar el legado de un mandatario como Álvaro Uribe quien se mantuvo con altos índices de popularidad durante sus ocho años de gobierno. Y Santos, su heredero, quien no perdió oportunidad para decir que en efecto lo era, supo capitalizar este sentir nacional de que aquel discurso de la seguridad democrática le convenía, que la confianza inversionista le convenía, que en cambio el “salto al vacío” con el que se relacionó al candidato Mockus, no le convenía.

    Mucho se especuló también sobre los llamados primivotantes, los entusiastas fanáticos de la ola verde que se movieron como nunca antes en las redes de Facebook y Twitter. Su existencia se quedó en la red pero no se vio en las urnas porque claramente no salieron a votar. El domingo en el centro más concurrido de votantes en Bogotá y el país llamado Corferias, la asistencia masiva hacia predecir que la juventud y los abstencionistas se tomarían la vocería de las elecciones y se harían sentir como lo habían hecho aparentemente en las encuestas y a través de manifestaciones y adhesiones espontáneas.

    Read More

    Tags:

  • Nueve opciones para los votantes en Colombia

    May 28, 2010

    by Jenny Manrique

    Colombia se acerca a la primera vuelta de una de las campañas presidenciales más emocionantes de los últimos años, pues tras la caída del referendo reeleccionista que le impidió al mandatario Álvaro Uribe aspirar a regir los destinos del país por otro periodo más, todas las predicciones resultaron desacertadas. Es cierto que el candidato que se muestra como su más fiel sucesor, Juan Manuel Santos, encabeza las encuestas de intención de voto y tiene un seguro lugar en la segunda vuelta del 20 de junio. Sin embargo, ni él, ni los gurús de la política, jamás imaginaron que el aspirante del Partido Verde, Antanas Mockus, le arrebatara de tal forma el electorado de opinión e hiciera tambalear a los estrategas de su campaña que optaron al final por traer al controvertido publicista venezolano J.J Rendón.

    La corta contienda que comenzó prácticamente a fines de febrero, cuando se supo que la imbatible popularidad de Uribe (según el último sondeo de la firma Gallup al final de su mandato todavía conserva el 73 por ciento de imagen favorable) no se podría en todo caso medir a las urnas, ha tenido de todo: Desde propaganda negra hasta innumerables debates con preguntas predecibles y otras inteligentes; desde cierres de campaña fastuosos hasta la participación de desprevenidos ciudadanos que regalaron a su candidato favorito su creatividad a través de jingles y camisetas; desde mítines en plaza pública a la usanza de los discursos de antaño hasta miles de grupos de Facebook creados por simpatizantes para promover o derrotar candidaturas.

    Sobre todas las cosas, algo que ha tenido esta contienda es un ramillete de aspirantes preparados quienes, salvo dos de ellos (Robinson Devia del Movimiento La Voz de la Conciencia y Jairo Calderón de Apertura Liberal) han tenido una larga carrera pública en el país y han demostrado ser opciones que entre gustos y disgustos, satisfacen a buena parte del electorado del país. Incluso Jaime Araujo candidato de la ASA, quien no aparece en las encuestas de intención de voto, fue un ilustre magistrado de la Corte Constitucional. La mayoría de ellos a excepción de Gustavo Petro, no proponen un cambio sustancial del modelo de país que dejará Alvaro Uribe a partir del 7 de agosto de 2010, pero por lo menos si quieren acabar con su mesianismo

    Read More

    Tags: Juan Manuel Santos, Gustavo Petro, Rafael Pardo, Germán Vargas Lleras, Antanas Mockus, Noemi Sanin, Colombia elecciones

  • Ortega Threatens to Dissolve Congress

    May 28, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega voiced the possibility on Wednesday evening of dissolving the Nicaraguan legislature if it continues to stall the confirmations of 25 executive-branch appointees.  "If you give me the word, I'll refound congress," Ortega said in comments that were republished by the president's communications office. "If the business council supports me, I'll rewrite it. I'll dissolve the National Assembly."

    The debate around the appointments has persisted for months because neither the governing Sandinista party nor the opposition party has a majority vote in the congress. Liberal Party spokesman Leonel Teller responded yesterday, saying the president's threat indicates dictatorial tendencies, and urged the Organization of American States (OAS) to intervene.

    Tags: Sandanista Government, President Daniel Ortega, Leonel Teller

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