• Bogotá Mayor Under Investigation for Corruption

    December 23, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Samuel Moreno, mayor of Bogotá, and his predecessor Luis Eduardo Garzón are under investigation by Sandra Morelli, Colombia’s Controller General, for corruption in the awarding of contracts for Bogotá’s TransMilenio public transit system. Ms. Morelli moved Tuesday to freeze the financial assets of both the incumbent and ex-mayor.

    The TransMilenio dilemma began when Mr. Garzón paid Grupo Nule, a Colombian contracting firm, approximately $36 million in late 2007 to construct a route from downtown Bogotá to El Dorado International Airport, which serves the Colombian capital. Grupo Nule did not adhere to mandated specifications for the project’s insurance policy and subsequently went bankrupt in 2010 during Mr. Moreno’s administration, leaving the Colombian taxpayers with the roughly $104 million bill.

    Mr. Garzón is being investigated in part because Grupo Nule was paid only three days before the end of his mayoral term, which has raised suspicion. The Controller General’s investigation includes Moreno for what it quotes as “passive behavior” in not proactively monitoring irregularities that arose during the TransMilenio project that was mostly engineered during his term.

    Mr. Moreno has professed his innocence and has thus far rebuffed calls to step down from office.

    Tags: Colombia, Bogota, Samuel Moreno, Luis Eduardo Garzon

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    December 22, 2010

    by AS-COA Online
    Dear Readers: Weekly Roundup will take a winter break.
    Look for the next issue on January 12, 2011. Happy holidays!

    Chávez in Charge

    The Venezuelan National Assembly granted to President Hugo Chávez on December 16 the power to rule by decree for the next 18 months, in what El Tiempo calls legislators’ “fourth instance in 11 years of hari-kari.” The “Enabling Law” comes two weeks before the new National Assembly takes office, after which Chávez’s party will lack the needed two-thirds majority to enact new legislation. A Venezuelan archbishop came out against the law, saying it will turn the country into a “constitutional democratic dictatorship.”

    Legislators also approved on December 20 other laws extending Chávez’s power, including two that tighten regulations on the internet and telecommunications. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) warns these lawscould promote further censorship. “The reforms,” argues CPJ senior program coordinator for the Americas, “passed without any debate, are a clear attempt by the Venezuelan government to further its clampdown on critics and independent media.”

    Read More

    Tags: Venezuela, Haiti, Elections

  • Canada to Better Regulate Pollution from Oil Sands

    December 22, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration and Alberta’s regional government have pledged to develop a plan to correct “significant” flaws in the environmental oversight and pollution monitoring program of Canada’s vast oil sands within 90 days. The announcement follows a report from the federal Oil Sands Advisory Panel, which highlighted “significant shortcomings in the monitoring system as a whole” and forced Environment Minister John Baird to acknowledge that the administration has failed to adequately monitor the impact of oil sands exploitation on air, water and land resources.

    The oil sands industry plans to expand production to 3.4 million barrels a day by 2020. The proposed expansion of production in Canada is also meeting some opposition in the U.S. as environmental groups lobby to block the expansion of the pipeline that carries Canadian crude oil to refineries in Oklahoma and Illinois.

    Critics of the oil sands project and expanded production contend that the Canadian government should take a stronger role in protecting the environment under existing legislation, instead of leaving responsibility to regional governments that have thus far failed to adequately protect the environment, according to the report. 

    Tags: Canada, Environment, Steven Harper, Oil sands

  • Venezuela’s Formal Rejection of Ambassador-Designate Larry Palmer

    December 21, 2010

    by Liz Harper

    The long-running debate over how to deal with the irrational and impulsive strongman, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, has reached feverish pitch this winter. The latest casualty in this war of words has become U.S. Ambassador Larry Palmer, the Obama administration's nomination as ambassador to Venezuela. Worse yet, Chávez ultimately got what he wanted out of this latest battle: his choice of who will not be our next Ambassador in Venezuela. On Monday, Venezuela formally told the U.S. to not bother sending Larry Palmer as the next ambassador since he would be asked to return the moment he landed in Caracas.

    How did this all go down?

    Like Cuba, any U.S. move regarding Venezuela involves egos, politics and fortunately, some policy. Naturally, when Palmer went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over the summer, the career diplomat—characterized by some at the U.S. Department of State as "not a Washington man"—he already faced an uphill slog.

    Our domestic debate over Venezuela generally falls into two camps: engagement and confrontation. There are, of course, shades of gray and nuances between the two sides—though such voices are so often overpowered by the more extreme views.

    On one side, you have those espousing "strategic engagement," keeping in line with the Obama administration's stated foreign policy and national security objectives. In short and broadly speaking, these proponents might argue, with an irrational state, you shouldn't turn your back. Look where that got us with North Korea, Iran and Syria. Instead you want a seat at the table to start a dialogue based on mutual respect and to build on areas of mutual interest. You raise concerns discretely and express disapproval quietly or through third parties. As one person said, engagement should be “subversive," because you seek to assert positive influence by being present and through cooperation on areas such as business development, financial opportunities, or culture and sports. Indeed, Palmer was the right guy to carry out this mission.

    But, the engagement policy, as it is practiced with Venezuela, seems more like "appeasement," say people clamoring for a tougher approach. After all, for years now, we have witnessed a democracy's death by a thousand cuts. This past week, Hugo Chávez got one of his Christmas wishes with the approval of new decree powers, thereby further eroding the country's once well-established institutional checks and balances. Chávez threatens more than human rights and democratic norms; the U.S. has legitimate national security concerns, such as nuclear proliferation, terrorism and narcotrafficking. Yet, as Chávez runs roughshod over international norms, is the U.S. working to halt the downward spiral?

    Read More

    Tags: Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, democracy in Venezuela, U.S. State Department, Venezuela-U.S. relations

  • Report Finds Impunity in Post-Coup Honduras

    December 21, 2010

    by AQ Online

    A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, released yesterday, documents violence and a climate of intimidation in Honduras in the aftermath of the 2009 military coup. The 65-page report, titled “After the Coup: Ongoing Violence, Intimidation, and Impunity in Honduras,” identified 47 cases of threats or attacks—including 18 killings of journalists, human rights defenders and political activists—since the inauguration of President Porfirio Lobo in January 2010.

    According to the report, the lack of accountability has negatively affected freedom of speech and political participation in Honduras. José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at HRW, said that “until Honduran authorities take concrete steps to reduce impunity and stop the attacks, it will be very difficulty to restore trust in the country’s democratic system.” The report’s recommendations include the allocation of funds for the Witness Protection Program and the establishment of an International Commission of Inquiry to carry out thorough investigations into abuses committed after the coup and into ongoing attacks and threats.

    The June 28, 2009, coup that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya was denounced by much of the international community, including the United States. In the weeks after the coup, the OAS suspended Honduras’s membership.

    Tags: Honduras, Military, Impunity, Coup, Press

  • A Policy that Threatens to Derail Latin America

    December 20, 2010

    by Andrés Mejía Vergnaud

    Last November, in an unprecedented display of force, the Brazilian authorities performed a spectacular crackdown on criminal gangs operating in the Complexo de Alemao, a big system of favelas in the northern area of Rio de Janeiro. Such display of force is by no means excessive: some of the gangs in Rio's favelas are well-armed, equipped with assault weapons, rifles, and in some cases with anti-tank and anti-aerial rockets. All of those, of course, bought with the proceeds of the drug business.

    An interesting feature of this operation was the involvement of several agencies and forces. In addition to local police and the famous BOPE (portrayed in the acclaimed movie Tropa de Elite), military forces, including even the navy, participated in the crackdown. Reports say that the Army has been given the mission to preserve law and order in the favelas in the aftermath of the operation.

    Read More

    Tags: Drug Policy

  • Delay in Haiti’s Voting Results

    December 20, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The Haitian Electoral Council decided on Sunday to postpone the publication of the results of a recount of the November 28 presidential election. The recount, conducted by the Haitian government with the supervision of the Organization of American States (OAS), was a response to widespread allegations of fraud and ballot stuffing. In a statement, the council chose to "postpone publication of the results of the first round of voting until the contentious phase of the electoral process is over and an OAS mission requested by President René Préval finishes its work.”

    Responding to calls for a recount, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "If you ignore the legitimate questions raised about the election, you create conditions for longer-term instability.” The U.S. embassy in Haiti also expressed their concerns about the electoral disenchantment: “The United States, together with Haiti's international community partners, stands ready to support efforts to thoroughly review irregularities in support of electoral results that are consistent with the will of the Haitian people,”

    A run-off is scheduled for January 16, 2011. According to the preliminary electoral results, former first lady Mirlande Manigat and ruling party candidate Jude Celestin would face each other, leaving third-place candidate Michel Martelly out of the running.

    Tags: Organization of American States, Haiti elections, The Haitian Electoral Council

  • Migrantes Navideñas en Bolivia

    December 17, 2010

    by Cecilia Lanza

    El paisaje es desértico y frío. Sopla el viento y sólo oyes, apenas, la paja brava crecida en esas tierras sin agua. Lo único que se ve, con suerte, son llamas y alguna vez un campesino. Así es el altiplano en la región de Potosí y Oruro, cerca de Orinoca, allí donde nació Evo Morales. De regiones como aquéllas cada año llegan a las ciudades de Bolivia cientos de indígenas en busca de dinero, ropa y regalos para sus hijos pequeños. En sus tierras sólo hay pobreza, miseria y ancianos.

    Las llaman simplemente “potosinas”. Son mujeres. Los hombres se quedan en el campo, trabajando la tierra. Las mujeres parten con sus hijos de pocos meses cargados en la espalda, o con chiquillos de menos de 10 años a los que les enseñan a estirar la mano para pedir dinero en las calles de la ciudad. Sus rostros están ajados por el frío, parecen viejas y mastican coca como único alimento. Algunas son ancianas de más de 70 años. Algunas enseñan a sus hijos o nietos a cantar o bailar quizás para paliar un poco la vergüenza de andar mendigando.

    Y es que Potosí es, hace demasiados años, el departamento más pobre del país más pobre de la región (después de Haití). Una triste paradoja si pensamos que Potosí le dio al mundo las inmensas riquezas de aquél cerro rico que está hoy al borde del colapso de tanto horadar sus entrañas de plata. Ahora mismo, Potosí, donde se encuentra el Salar de Uyuni, explota para el país y el mundo el preciado litio como alternativa energética del futuro. Y por si fuera poco, hace algunos meses Potosí entró en seria disputa con su vecino Oruro por la propiedad de un retazo de territorio donde se prevé explotar uranio con la participación de Irán.

    Mientras tanto, Potosí continúa expulsando a su gente hacia las ciudades del interior del país, e incluso a países vecinos, en busca de mejores días. Hay  comunidades en las que quedan menos de una decena de ancianos. Nada más.

    Read More

    Tags: Bolivia

  • Cuban Dissident Wins EU Award

    December 17, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Earlier this week, Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas was awarded the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.  Mr. Fariñas, however, was unable to accept the award in person after Cuban authorities denied him papers to leave the country.  In his place, the presenters of the Sakharov Prize left Mr. Fariñas chair empty with just a Cuban flag draped over it and his prize.

    The Sakharov Prize is awarded to each year to “exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression.”  In awarding this year’s prize to Mr. Fariñas in absentia, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek noted that the purpose of the prize was to eliminate exactly the situations that prevented Mr. Fariñas from traveling to the award ceremony.  “Even though activists like Guillermo Fariñas are persecuted and are imprisoned, their voice cannot be silenced.  The role of the European Parliament is to amplify that voice,” President Buzek said.

    Mr. Fariñas was able to address the attendees at the award ceremony through a recorded video message in which he urged the EU to “not allow themselves to be deceived by the siren songs of a cruel regime practicing ‘wild communism.’”

    This year’s award to Mr. Fariñas marks the third time in the past eight years that the award has gone to Cuban citizens.  Mr. Oswaldo José Payá  Sariñas won the prize in 2002 and the Ladies in White won the award in 2005.

    Tags: Human Rights, human rights in Cuba, European Union

  • Cuba's Guillermo Fariñas Prevented from Receiving European Prize

    December 16, 2010

    by Frank Calzon

    The European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Guillermo Fariñas, a psychologist and independent journalist from the City of Santa Clara in central Cuba. Fariñas has been imprisoned 11 different times for his advocacy for a peaceful transition to democracy and the rule of law on the island. He received worldwide attention after the death of Orland Zapata Tamayo, a political prisoner who died during a hunger strike calling for better treatment for Castro's political captives. The Cuban authorities denied Tamayo water during the last 18 days of his life.

    On December 10 the Cuban government refused to permit Guillermo Fariñas to travel to Strasbourg, France, to receive the award. An empty chair draped in a Cuban flag was placed on stage to represent his absence. Fariñas recorded an acceptance speech in Cuba, which was played for members of the European Parliament at the ceremony. According to Fariñas, the Cuban government's refusal to let him travel was "the most irrefutable witness to the fact that unfortunately, nothing has changed in the autocratic system ruling my country...In the minds of Cuba's current rulers, we Cuban citizens are just like the slaves from whom I am descended, kidnapped in Africa and brought to the Americas by force. For any other ordinary citizen to be able to travel abroad, I need a Carta de Libertad, that is a Freedom Card, just as the slaves did; Only today it is called a Carta Blanca, a White Card."

    Read More

    Tags: Cuba, Freedom of Speech

  • Argentina’s Poor Wreak Havoc

    December 16, 2010

    by Janie Hulse Najenson

    Last week, thousands of poor families (13,000 people according to initial government counts), mostly non-citizens from bordering countries, took over a huge Indoamericano park nearby the Buenos Aires city town of Villa Soldati, and began constructing makeshift homes. The lack of immediate government response to the public park squatters, led angry neighbors to attempt to forcibly kick them out. The result was dramatic civilian riots and clashes reminiscent of 2001 that led to three dead, two Bolivians and one Paraguayan. More than just an embarrassing scene for both national and city governments, the act, which has led to a propagation of similar take-overs, reveals major socioeconomic deficiencies and highlights real concerns over political extortion and sabotage.

    Shortly after the Villa Soldati riots, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner acquiesced to demands to send the Gendarmerie and Navy Prefectorate to control the park. The president, however, refused to clear the park and decided instead to erect barricades to protect the protestors as the government conducted a census. Somewhat ironically, televised reporting revealed caged, angry squatters demanding provisions like food and water from the government as if they were being held prisoners.

    If he had the equipment and manpower at his disposal, the city´s conservative mayor, Maurcio Macri, would have cleared the park, but his newly created metropolitan police force does not have mob control capacity. In the initial stages of the fiasco, the mayor argued that the national government is responsible for maintaining public order. But the president refused to treat the squatting as illegal, referring to it rather as a protest and demanding that the mayor provide suitable housing for the masses.

    The episode was so dramatic and disturbing, that shortly thereafter that President Fernández de Kirchner ordered the creation of a new security ministry and appointed the acting minister of defense since 2005, Nilda Garré, at its helm. She then appointed the former governor of Santa Cruz Province, Arturo Puricelli, as the minister of defense. Most of the political opposition criticized the move as rash decision-making, but most agree that the country is in desperate need of a clearly defined security policy. According to the local media, the first mission of the newly created ministry will be to purge the federal police and create strict government control of the forces to ensure a focus on human rights and transparency. Ms. Garré has also announced the creation of a “citizen participation” commission to incorporate representatives from civil society to control security forces.

    Read More

    Tags: Argentina, Buenos Aires

  • Why Voters Like Bipartisanship

    December 16, 2010

    by John Parisella

    Power sharing, coalition, divided, or minority government are usually terms associated with democracies in Europe or Asia.  Left- or right-wing coalitions usually dominate the political alignments in those countries.  In North America, political parties are usually broad-based coalitions with progressive, moderate and conservative wings.  Even the Conservative Party and Liberal Party in Canada represent a more divergent scope of views than their labels suggest.  In the U.S., Democrats and Republicans have similar characteristics that have evolved over time.  But trends, as observed in recent elections, indicate that democracies in general are witnessing wider electoral coalitions and consequently greater power sharing in their governance.

    In Canada, the parliamentary system is currently composed of four parliamentary party caucuses including the ruling Conservatives, the official opposition Liberals and third parties such as New Democratic Party and Bloc Québécois.  Canada is now entering a sixth year of minority rule under Conservative Stephen Harper’s leadership.  The last period in Canadian history with such a long run of minority government occurred in the 1963-1968 period under Liberal Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson.

    Having personally served in successive majority governments in Québec (1985-1994) and worked in a minority government (2007), I concede that a majority government has obvious advantages in terms of pushing its agenda.  However, with party allegiances more fragile than ever in Canadian history, one can expect to have more minority governments or power-sharing arrangements.  The latest polls indicate that Canadians seem at ease with the current minority government situation.

    Read More

    Tags: Quebec

  • National Assembly on Verge of Awarding Chávez Decree Powers

    December 16, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Venezuela’s National Assembly announced this morning that it is prepared to pass the Enabling Law, (Ley Habilitante) that will award President Hugo Chávez the power to legislate by executive decree once the new Congress convenes on January 5. The Assembly’s declaration is a nod to Chávez’ stated intention to seek such authority.

    President Chávez insists that he needs to bypass typical legislative procedure to respond swiftly to the recent national floods that have resulted in 40 deaths, 130,000 displaced persons and tens of millions of dollars in damages. He has previously indicated that he will use his expanded decree to further regulate the Internet and increase the national value-added tax. Analysts also suspect additional measures that will precede the 2012 presidential election, for which Chávez has already announced his candidacy for re-election.

    The current Assembly has entered a lame-duck phase after parliamentary elections in September saw a large shift in voter preferences. Chávez’ party, Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), lost 41 seats while a coalition of opposition parties—under the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) label—gained 61. Although the PSUV will remain in the majority come January, a two-thirds consensus is required to pass sweeping reforms. The MUD will occupy over 40 percent of seats in the next Assembly, effectively blocking such measures.

    The passage of the Enabling Law would mark the fourth time in 11 years that President Chávez has been granted such authority. Chávez has noted that the latest decree may last up to 18 months.

    Tags: Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, 2010 Venezuela Elections

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    December 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.

    Come Again: Recount or Revote in Haiti?

    With concerns running high about electoral fraud in Haiti’s November 28 presidential vote, some observers—including former U.S. President Bill Clinton—have called for a ballot recount. But third-place finisher Michel Martelly believes electoral officials should take it a step further and hold a revote on January 16, the date slated for a runoff between Mirlande Manigat and Jude Célestin. Martelly finished less than 7,000 votes behind Célestin, who was endorsed by current President Réne Préval. PBS NewsHour spoke with Joel Dreyfuss, native of Haiti and editor of, about a potential recount and suspicions about the neutrality if Haiti’s electoral commission.

    Read an AS/COA Online analysis about the Haiti’s disputed presidential vote.

    Read More

    Tags: Haiti

  • DREAMing of Citizenship: An Interview with Gaby Pacheco

    December 15, 2010

    by Daniel Altschuler

    With the House passing the DREAM (Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act last Wednesday and the Senate set to vote on it as soon as this Friday, now is a good time for a personal account of what’s at stake with DREAM. 

    Gaby Pacheco, a 25 year-old undocumented immigrant whose parents brought her from Ecuador to the United States at age 7, has been an outspoken advocate for DREAM since 2004.  In addition to her work with Students Working for Equal Rights and the Florida Immigrant Coalition, she joined three other undocumented students on the Trail of Dreams earlier this year—a four-month walk from Miami to the nation’s capital—to call attention to the plight of the roughly 2 million undocumented people brought to this country as minors.  We spoke about her experience as an undocumented child, her involvement in DREAM advocacy and some of the difficult compromises involved in getting the DREAM Act through the Congress.

    Altschuler: I was hoping you could start out by telling me a bit about your personal story and how you became aware of the immigration issue.

    Pacheco: I’ve been in the United States for 18 years.  I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, but I was raised in Miami, Florida.  I started in the 3rd grade, and I scored really high in math and science, so I was put in a gifted program.  That gave me confidence to believe in myself, and my teachers instilled in me a great desire to achieve and persevere, with the idea of achieving the American dream—that if we work really hard, we can achieve anything that we set our minds to. 

    At elementary school, I was in the choir, and I would stay after-school helping the teachers grade papers.  I guess you could call me a teacher’s pet, but I just really loved school.

    In middle school, I started getting into honors classes.  In high school, I took AP classes, and I was part of the cross-country, basketball and the track-and-field teams. I was part of the ROTC program with the Army and the Navy and was one of the top students in the school. 

    The first time I started finding out that there was something wrong was in the 8th grade.   One of my two sisters had finished high school, but she wasn’t able to go to school and continue her path—she wanted to be a nurse.  It shocked me, so I started working even harder.  And then in 10th grade, I took Drivers Ed, and I took all the paperwork that they’d given us.  They told me, “All you need to do is fill out these papers and they’ll give you your learner’s permit.” So I did do that, and I was really happy, but then I got turned down.  And then my dad said, “That’s OK, we’ll just go to another office.”  But then I kept getting turned down.  I was missing a paper that was going to stop me—not only from driving, but also potentially from going to college.

    In 12th grade, when I graduated from high school, I confronted that issue.  But, thankfully, Miami-Dade College opened the doors to me and other students.  I was able to excel.  I was student government president—not just of my college, but of the 28 colleges in the whole college system in the state of Florida.  In 2006, I was representing 1.1 million students and had the opportunity to meet with the governor and senators and promote legislation that actually became law.  I was really proud of myself.  When I graduated from college, I thought I had proven everybody wrong, and maybe there was some way that I was going to be able to somehow find a reprieve.  But I went to lawyers, and they told me that wasn’t going to happen. 

    Altschuler: How did you get involved in advocating for the DREAM Act?

    Pacheco: I became an advocate for the DREAM Act in 2004.  And now, more than ever, it’s crucial that we get the DREAM Act passed. 

    I’m formally connected to, which does online organizing.  And I came from the Florida Immigrant Coalition, and I was one of the founders of Students Working for Equal Rights in the state of Florida.  From four of us that used to meet to try to pass the DREAM Act, we now have 16 chapters throughout Florida.  Students Working for Equal Rights is part of the United We Dream network, which is led by students and represents 26 states.

    This year, along with Felipe, Carlos and Juan—we walked from Miami to DC. And last week, I was able to witness passage of the DREAM Act from the House gallery.  This week, we’re looking forward to talking to our senators to try to get a favorable vote either this week or next week for the DREAM Act.

    Altschuler: Could you share with me your position on the DREAM legislation in its current form, after negotiators opted to reduce the age limit (from 34 to 29 years old) and the extension of the waiting period for citizenship (10 years before one can apply for citizenship) to get the bill through the House?

    Pacheco: For me, it was really tough to see the DREAM Act change, and change in such a dramatic way.  Now it will leave out my sister, for instance.  The reason I’ve been fighting so hard has been for her.  Actually, December 14, is her birthday—she turned 31.  And so I thought that the legislation would have passed by now, and I thought that if the legislation changed, it would be for 30 or under.  She was fighting so hard, is so bright—she wants to be in the Air Force—and now will be left out, unable to do anything. 

    But at the same time, it’s still good legislation, and it would still allow potentially 1 million students to fulfill their dreams.

    Altschuler: Can you tell me about the discussions between the pro-DREAM groups about the compromises that were on the table?

    Pacheco: For us, the compromises and the changes came at a high cost.  But, at the same time, we understood that they were needed to push forward and have the bill where it is today.  For us, that was the bottom line.  We don’t want the legislation to change anymore, because we don’t want to lose any more students.

    So, as a collective, at all the different stages, we did have a call where we discussed it, and everybody took a vote.  The majority—and it was almost unanimous—felt that this was what we needed to do, and that we needed to move forward.  But making sure that we are keeping our leaders responsible—making sure that these changes would allow more senators to vote for it.

    Altschuler: How concerned are you about the possibility of there being further concessions to DREAM—for instance, on enforcement provisions—to get it passed in the Senate?  Would you and other pro-DREAM groups stay on board?

    Pacheco: There are definitely concerns about what might get attached to it.  And I think a lot of people are aware of where the limits are going to be.  But, because we haven’t seen the language yet, we’re just worrying about pushing it forward.  At the same time, we respect the decisions that the organizations from border states make.  They’re the ones that will be most affected, and their voices will be crucial in how we want to move the legislation forward.  Because we do not want to hurt people in the process of helping others.  And that’s one of the beautiful things about being united—that we can have these conversations and say, “Arizona, how do you feel about this?  Texas, how do you feel about this?  California, how do you feel about this?”  Because we’re a family, we’re a community, and we need to make sure that everyone’s going to be OK.  So there will probably be a time when we have to talk if the legislation comes with extreme things that we cannot allow.  And I think we’ll stand together if it does have things that are unacceptable to our community.

    Altschuler: Can you tell me about the recent activities in which you’ve been involved to promote DREAM?

    Pacheco: Tuesday was an incredible day.  We had faith leaders from all different religious backgrounds and states come to DC.  In the morning, we had a press conference, and the different religious leaders had the opportunity to speak to say why it’s important for DREAM to pass.  We had organizations that represent millions of people saying that this is something they want.  Also, the faith leader who was leading the press conference said, “If the senators don’t pass this, they’re going to have to deal with us, and all the Christians, Muslims, and Jews that are represented here.  We’re going to open our universities and colleges, and we’re going to go against the laws, because they’re going against the will of God.”  And it was really amazing to see older preachers saying, “We’re going to do civil disobedience and they’re going to have to go through us to get to these students.”  It fills our souls and our hearts. Having people from the faith backgrounds supporting us is really key.

    There is also the Jericho Walk around the Senate by the students.  And the faith leaders joined, and they went to every single one of the buildings and the Capitol, where they had the students in the middle and the religious leaders praying around them.  And, before that, all the students got together and sang the national anthem.  And after that, we walked into the Senate Hart building, where there were prayers, and then the religious leaders did pray-ins in Senate offices with the students.  We went to the offices of Senators Sessions, Lemieux, Hutchinson, Landrieu, McCaskill, Brownback, and many others.

    Altschuler: One final thing—assuming the DREAM Act passes, what would becoming a citizen mean to you?

    Pacheco: It would be a golden key for success.  It would be the ability to use the talents and gifts that I have to give back to this country.  The DREAM Act would mean the realization of the dreams that I have, and unleashing the potential of hundreds of thousands of students throughout the United States.

    *Daniel Altschuler is a contributing blogger to  He is a Copeland Fellow at Amherst College and a doctoral candidate in Politics at the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. His research focuses on civic and political participation in Honduras and Guatemala.

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    Tags: Immigration Policy, U.S. Congress, DREAM Act

  • Millennium Development Goal Achieved in Brazil

    December 15, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The Brazilian health ministry announced on Tuesday that the country’s drop in childhood malnutrition, coupled with other social progress initiatives, meet the criteria for eradication of extreme poverty under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Health Minister José Gomes Temporão pointed out that the proportion of underweight Brazilian children under 5 years fell to only 1.8 percent between 1989 and 2006. Together with substantial reductions in the number of people living on less than $1 per day, these are signs of having achieved the MDGs on the eradication of extreme poverty ahead of the 2015 deadline. 

    Minister Temporão also noted that the country is on target to achieve reductions in child mortality rates, another Millennium Development Goal, by 2012 if the country “stay’s its present course.”  With infant mortality rates dropping by 58 percent between 1990 and 2008, equivalent to 22.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, the Minister expects the number to drop to 17.8 deaths per 1,000 live births within three years meeting the UN’s Millennium Development Goal

    Other notable achievements, according to Brazil’s health ministry, include reductions in maternal mortality rates of 56 percent over the last 18 years as well as a 75 percent drop in infant mortality rates (infants in their first year of life) to only 6 deaths per 1,000 live births.

    Tags: Brazil, Economic Development, Poverty and inequality, UN Millennium Development Goals

  • Cuba Launches Version of Wikipedia

    December 14, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The Cuban government unveiled—its version of Wikipedia—on Tuesday, but its debut was complicated by connectivity issues. Only about 1.6 million Cubans have Internet access, out of a population of 11.2 million, and many found it difficult to navigate away from the site’s homepage.

    The website has over 19,600 entries, and claims to provide visitors with “a democratizing, not-for-profit, objective, non-colonial” viewpoint. Unlike Wikipedia, EcuRed users must be pre-approved by site administrators before creating new entries or editing existing ones.

    The entry on the United States describes it as “the empire of our time” and a country that "has taken by force" territory and natural resources from other nations, to put at the service of its businesses and monopolies. Meanwhile, the entry on former U.S. President George W. Bush describes “a long family history of dirty business, tricks and government intrigue.”

    As of today, the encyclopedia has no entries on President Raúl Castro's controversial economic reforms, Damas de Blanco, or on well-known dissident Guillermo Fariñas, who this year was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

    Tags: Cuba, Wikipedia

  • Justicia y Derechos Humanos en Argentina

    December 14, 2010

    by Jenny Manrique

    Cinco años después de la declaración de inconstitucionalidad de las leyes de Obediencia Debida y Punto Final que reabrió los Juicios por crímenes de lesa humanidad cometidos en la dictadura argentina, son gratificantes los avances para las víctimas que de a poco van encontrando las anheladas justicia y verdad, pero también muchos los retos que enfrenta un sistema judicial desbordado que juzga a represores que se están muriendo sin siquiera tener condenas firmes.

    El 29 de abril de 1977 el Diario la Opinión registraba un enfrentamiento entre subversivos y Ejército, con un saldo de cinco guerrilleros muertos. El pasado 16 de noviembre Patricia Bernardi, una de las fundadoras del Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (EAAF), entró al tribunal donde se sigue el juicio a los represores del Centro de Detención el Vesubio y pruebas periciales en mano, demostró que no, que no eran subversivos, que habían sido secuestrados y luego asesinados a balazos en Juncal y Rivadavia a las 2:30 a.m., según consta en sus actas de defunción.

    “Era mostrarle a la justicia que eso que se leyó como un tiroteo, era un traslado y un asesinato de gente”, cuenta Patricia quien por cuarta vez declaraba como testigo pericial en los juicios reactivados en 2005, en algunos de ellos incluso frente a represores, a quienes paradójicamente les tiene que explicar qué es un orificio de bala. “Me parece que son una madera, nada los moviliza. Pero no es mi objetivo sensibilizarlos, sino que el juez crea que la prueba científica es válida y el familiar crea en la identificación”.

    Patricia habla desde las oficinas del EAAF, creado en 1984, en las que a partir de perfiles biológicos de los esqueletos (exhumados en fosas comunes de cementerios municipales o predios militares), evidencias balísticas, análisis de documentación (libros de cementerio, testimonios y archivos policiales que registran simples NN o nombres de guerra), y el avance de la genética, se ha logrado hasta la fecha la identificación de 300 personas. De un promedio de 1000 exhumaciones aún hay 600 restos sin identificar que reposan en el laboratorio de Buenos Aires y otras provincias como Córdoba y Tucumán donde la represión fue fuerte.

    Read More

    Tags: Human Rights, Argentina, Argentina human rights

  • Bolivia Only Country to Reject Environmental Accord

    December 13, 2010

    by AQ Online

    On Saturday, world leaders hailed a breakthrough in the latest round of UN-sponsored talks on climate change. At the summit in Cancún, Mexico, the parties reached an agreement that mandates developed countries to allocate $100 billion to help developing countries combat global warming and high emissions. Mexican President Felipe Calderón hailed the deal as the beginning of “a new era of cooperation in climate change.” But that euphoria was not shared by the Bolivian delegation—the sole voice of opposition to the measure among 193 countries. 

    Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations, Pablo Solón, referred to the agreement as “hollow,” and claimed it did not go far enough in accountability for industrialized economies. Ambassador Solón saw many of his original demands unfulfilled at the talks, known as COP16. His requests included the creation of an International Court of Climatic Justice and a reduction of the target rise in global temperature for the twenty-first century to 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit—half of the agreed amount at last year’s talks. Angered on Saturday, Solón issued a warning: “[the Cancún agreement] will bear human and natural casualties.”

    Ambassador Solón also lamented the lack of overall progress during COP16 in renegotiating the Kyoto Protocol, originally signed in 1997 and set to expire in 2012. The Kyoto Protocol imposes limits on greenhouse gases for 37 developed nations and the European Union. Because the Cancún accord did not address any reforms to the Kyoto Protocol, or even mention its possible extension, those core issues will presumably be discussed at COP17—to take place in South Africa in late 2011.

    Tags: Bolivia, Mexico, Global Warming, United Nations Climate Change Conference

  • Key Questions as DREAM Debate Heats Up

    December 13, 2010

    by Daniel Altschuler

    Last week, immigration reform advocates cheered as the DREAM (Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act passed the House of Representatives. DREAM, which would provide a path to citizenship to undocumented youths brought to the U.S. by their parents conditional upon them attending college for two years or serving in the military, was all but certain to fail in the Senate. But the passage in the House gave advocates new life. Now, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has tabled the Senate version of DREAM with the hopes of passing the House version before the lame-duck session ends. Passing the House bill would skip the “conference” process that is required when the House and Senate pass substantively different versions of legislation. The obvious question for now is: does DREAM have a chance? Things are moving very fast in Washington these days, so, while DREAM remains a long shot, it’s hard to make any determinations with any certainty. But certain key questions have become clear, and the answers to them may prove the determining factors in the days to come.

    The most obvious and over-arching question is whether Democrats can get enough of their conservative members and Republicans on-board. Dick Lugar (R-IN) is the first and only Republican who has said he will support DREAM in its current form. But he, like all his Republican colleagues, pledged not to support any legislation before a tax deal was resolved. So, DREAM’s fate is tied to whether and how a tax deal materializes. But there’s also a content issue—namely, how much would DREAM advocates have to concede to Republicans to get the bill passed. This raises a few more questions.

    The second key question is: what concessions might DREAM advocates be willing to make on immigration enforcement to get the bill passed? Republicans have long made the dubious “enforcement-first” argument—namely, that the government must massively increase enforcement (which it has done under Presidents Bush and Obama) before Republicans will talk about legalizing undocumented people (which they consistently refuse to do). So, one way to try to appease Republican senators would be to add punitive measures to DREAM that would threaten more deportations and/or greater militarization of the border. But, as Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, acknowledged to me in September, “the risk [of a piecemeal strategy] is that the enforcement measures are disproportionate”. Already, the Reform Immigration FOR America Coalition has been criticized from the Left for giving up too much on enforcement in its unsuccessful pushes for a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007 and 2010. More recently, Democrats and pro-immigrant advocates made sacrifices on DREAM—e.g. reducing the age maximum from 34 to 29 and increasing the period for legalization to 10 years—to increase its chances of passage. As this week unfolds, tension will rise between A) conceding on their ideals vis-à-vis enforcement and B) the pressure of knowing that this will be the best opportunity to pass immigrant-friendly legislation for the next two years.

    The third critical issue will be whether there is enough time to make a deal on DREAM. The lame-duck session is tentatively scheduled to end on Friday, December 17. With the tax cut debate still raging and the START Treaty and defense authorization issue still on the debate, time is in short supply. The clock could quite easily run out before DREAM advocates get enough senators on their side. That said, the Democratic leadership could alternatively opt to extend the session, which could improve DREAM’s odds. Last year, the Senate was still in session on Christmas Eve, and the stakes seem at least as high this time around.

    Finally, there is the question of whether a longer lame-duck session could prompt another surge from supporters of the AgJobs Bill. Already in this lame-duck session, House Democrats considered pairing DREAM and AgJobs— which would offer legalization for undocumented farmworkers and ensure a more stable workforce for this country’s growers—when they feared DREAM alone would not pass. The thinking on this combination is that AgJobs would increase the votes in favor by bringing in conservative Democrats and Republicans with rural constituencies. Ultimately, House Democrats opted for DREAM only and managed to get it through the lower chamber. If DREAM looks sure to fail in the Senate, though, and advocates have extra time in the lame-duck session, it is conceivable that the AgJobs lobby (growers and farmworkers) could try a final push for a DREAM / AgJobs combination. After all, if they fail to get anything this December, they—like the DREAM advocates—will likely have to wait at least two years for another chance at anything as appealing as what has been on the table this month.

    Given all these questions, DREAM clearly remains a long-shot to pass the Senate in the lame-duck session, but there are still various moving parts that will determine its ultimate fate. So hang on to your hats—the next week or two could make for a wild ride.

    *Daniel Altschuler is a contributing blogger to  He is a Copeland Fellow at Amherst College and a doctoral candidate in Politics at the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. His research focuses on civic and political participation in Honduras and Guatemala.

    Tags: Immigration, Congress, DREAM Act

  • From Cancún. Latin America’s Own Climate Change Diversity

    December 10, 2010

    by Gonzalo Moyano

    Over the last two weeks in Cancún, some Latin American countries have shown openness to exploring private funding sources and market mechanisms to address climate change, while a small number of others have staked an ideological opposition to market-based climate solutions with little interest in compromise.

    Those that are more flexible in their approach will find themselves better positioned to move ahead with climate initiatives, and will speed along a global greenhouse gas agreement as well.

    The magnitude of funding that is necessary will exceed the capacity of wealthier governments (especially in a time of large deficits) to assist developing nations. Therefore, those countries that don’t accept a broader set of tools for financing mitigation and adaptation measures will have inadequate access to financial resources.

    Even before coming to Cancún, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (a group that includes Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Venezuela) issued a joint statement saying that market mechanisms were not acceptable. Bolivian officials have even declared that capitalism is the root cause of the current climate crisis. At a press conference yesterday, Bolivian President Evo Morales went so far as to say: “Before we said country or death, now we say planet or death. It will be the death of capitalism or the death of the planet. If we try to look for middle ground, we deceive the people of the world.”

    Read More

    Tags: Climate change

  • Chileans Have Poor Diets, Study Finds

    December 10, 2010

    by AQ Online

    For a country fiercely protective of its access to the ocean, Chile is not taking full advantage of its access to abundant seafood—which, it turns out, is one cause of poor nutrition among a majority of its population.

    According to a new study by the Catholic University of Chile and Banmedical Foundation, 62 percent of Chileans are considered to have a “poor diet” and 29 percent an “unhealthy diet.” The study attributes the poor performance to the low proportion in Chileans’ diets of protein- and nutrient-rich foods—such as fish, beans, fruits, and vegetables—and the excessively high proportion of sugary foods. Sixty-three percent of Chileans eat more than the recommended amount of sweets, while only 5 percent and 10 percent eat fish and beans, respectively, more than twice a week.

    Federico Leighton, director of the Center for Molecular Nutrition and Chronic Diseases at the Catholic University, said part of the reason for the lack of foods like beans and lentils in Chileans’ diet is that, “despite their nutritional value, [these foods] are mistakenly seen as ‘poor people’s foods.’” Leighton also noted that “bad eating habits go hand in hand with low levels of physical activity and smoking,” increasing the risk of chronic disease.

    Other experts concur, finding that, as Chile and other Latin American countries transition to higher-income economies and “modernize,” people’s changing eating habits, exercise and lifestyles, are having serious implications for their health. Chronic noncommunicable diseases (NDCs), such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer, used to be seen as “diseases of the rich” but have now overtaken the traditional diseases of developing countries—infectious diseases, maternal mortality, malnutrition—as leading killers worldwide. According to Pan American Health Organization data from 2002, NCDs now account for two out of every three deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Tags: Chile, nutrition, Health, Noncommunicable diseases

  • Haitian Presidential Candidate Contests Election Results

    December 9, 2010

    by AQ Online

    On Tuesday, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced former first lady Mirlande Manigat had won 31.4 percent of the November 28 presidential vote and that construction company chief Jude Célestin had earned 22.5 percent. The two candidates will compete in a runoff election on January 16.

    Third-place finisher Michel Martelly, a popular singer who is known locally as “Sweet Micky” and “Bald Head,” did not advance to the runoff, having earned 6,845 votes less than Célestin.

    The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince responded to the CEP announcement with a statement of concern. Locally, thousands of Martelly supporters took to the streets in violent protest. They set fire to Célestin’s party headquarters, blocked streets with rubble from the January 12 earthquake, and ignited hundreds of tires. As a result, four deaths have been reported, businesses and schools were closed and the international airport shut down. In an interview with Haitian radio, Martelly urged his supporters to protest nonviolently—arguing that the only way to challenge the results was through the legal process. However, he added that he would not participate in the runoff if Célestin remained a candidate.

    CEP’s ruling was questioned by international monitors who did not expect Célestin to advance past the first round of voting due to his relatively unknown status among the electorate. Célestin was widely known as incumbent president René Préval’s handpicked successor, and observers allege fraud and ballot-stuffing on the part of the CEP.

    Tags: Haiti, 2010 Haiti elections

  • WikiLeaks and Ecuador

    December 9, 2010

    by Lindsay Green-Barber

    Reactions to the WikiLeaks revelations have ranged from dismissal (Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva), to outrage (Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez) to “I told you so” (Bolivian President Evo Morales). In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa and his administration instead seem to be walking a fine line between outrage and acquiescence.

    Early last week Ecuador’s vice chancellor, Kintto Lucas, extended an invitation to WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange to come to Ecuador. Lucas claimed that Assange would have no problems obtaining residency in Ecuador. Furthermore, Lucas argued that Assange could teach the Ecuador media establishment a thing or two about good journalism.

    President Correa responded the following day saying that Lucas’ invitation did not have the approval of the chancellor or of the President. In his rebuttal, Correa also noted that the Ecuadorian government respects U.S. law and would support any charges against Assange for violations of the law. Correa simultaneously stated that his administration was unhappy with the content of the leaked documents and would be carefully reviewing those relevant to Ecuador, as well as those relevant to actual or attempted golpes in the region.

    Read More

    Tags: Ecuador, Rafael Correa

  • Weekly Roundup From Across the Americas

    December 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.

    Haitian Presidential Election Outcome Sparks Riots

    Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council announced late Tuesday a runoff would be needed to choose between two presidential candidates, former first lady Mirlande Manigat and Jude Célestin, outgoing President Réne Préval's handpicked successor. Célestin narrowly edged out Michel Martelly to finish second in a vote that took place November 28 and was seen by many critics as tainted by fraud. After the results were announced, Martelly’s supporters took to the streets across the country in violent protest, denouncing the election results as fraudulent.

    Read More


  • Hispanics Account for 25 Percent of U.S. Youth

    December 8, 2010

    by AQ Online

    According to 2010 U.S. Census projections released this week, Hispanics under the age of 20 make up between 21.8 percent and 25 percent of the total youth population in the U.S.—a significant increase over the 17 percent calculations derived from the 2000 U.S. Census.  The 2010 figures are based on birth, death, Medicare registrations, and new immigrant population statistics as of April 1, 2010, and highlight the demographic impact of the largest minority group in the country.  Without the growth in the Hispanic-youth segment, the non-Hispanic youth population would have shown a decline of between 1.25 and 2.9 million. 

    The announcement comes on the heels of the DREAM Act, which could come up for a vote in both chambers of Congress later today.  The “Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors,” or DREAM Act, would create a conditional pathway to legal residency for thousands of young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents.  Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office show that passing this bill would bring between 300,000 to 500,000 of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and potentially boost military recruitment and give employers access to a larger pool of motivated young workers.

    Similar legislation failed to pass in 2007. 

    Tags: Immigration, hispanics in U.S., U.S. Census

  • Argentina, Brazil Recognize Sovereign Palestinian State

    December 7, 2010

    by AQ Online


    The Argentine government officially recognized Palestine as a free and independent state, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman said on Monday. In a letter to the president of the National Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner recognized Palestine’s borders as they were defined in 1967, before Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza during the Arab-Israeli War. Argentina’s announcement follows a similar statement of recognition made by Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Relations last Friday.

    Only months after Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed over settlement issues, Argentina and Brazil’s statements were drew both praise and condemnation. The Palestine Liberation Organization said the support from the South American powers sends a message of respect for international law and against colonialism. The Israel government, on the other hand, condemned the recognition of Palestine as deceiving, lamentable and counterproductive to peace negotiations.

    Several Middle Eastern nations have been working to build stronger diplomatic ties with Latin America. Perhaps the best example is the relationship between Brazil and Iran which is centered on energy cooperation. Uruguay, a sovereign member of Mercosur along with Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, has publicly announced its plans to recognize Palestine in early 2011. However, Israel remains a key partner for Latin America, and is the first non-Latin American nation to sign a free-trade agreement with Mercosur.

    Tags: Brazil, Argentina, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Recognition, Statehood

  • Mexican Heroes We Shouldn’t Have

    December 7, 2010

    by Arjan Shahani

    On November 13a group of drug dealers approached Don Alejo Garza Tamez in his ranch on the outskirts of Ciudad Victoria, in the troubled border state of Tamaulipas. They threatened Don Alejo and demanded that he hand over his land, which given its strategic location would have been used to harbor narcotic trafficking operations. They told him he had 24 hours to vacate the premises on his own free will or they would take the ranch using deadly force.

    After the criminal group left, the 77-year-old businessman rounded up all ranch workers and asked them to go home for a couple of days, assuring them that nothing bad would happen. A hunter by trade, Don Alejo spent the rest of the day cleaning his guns and rifles and transforming the ranch into a trench.

    When the drug dealers came back the next day expecting Don Alejo to give up at the sight of their heavy artillery, they faced a fierce combatant who gunned down at least four of them before taking a deadly hit. The criminals who survived the exchange escaped in their trucks leaving a dirt trail and the bodies of their friends behind.

    What is most relevant of this story is not the fact in itself, but what it inspired and what it symbolizes for a tired and disenfranchised nation. The story of Don Alejo made the headlines of all major national newspapers. Respected journalists like Denise Maerker and Ciro Gomez Leyva were quick to hail him as a folk hero. In just a couple of days, stories about him hit the usual social media websites and today the letters “don a” are enough to bring up his full name as the first hit in Google Mexico’s instant search bar. Norteño music bands have already dedicated at least three songs to him and his story has spurred up a national debate about the right to carry weapons for self-defense.

    Read More

    Tags: Mexico, Crime and Security

  • Venezuelans Cast Ballots in Regional Elections

    December 6, 2010

    by AQ Online

    On Sunday, Venezuelans cast their votes for the governors of Guárico and Amazonas states and for 11 mayoral seats including that of Venezuela’s second largest city, Maracaibo.  This was the first vote since President Hugo Chávez’ Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) lost its two-thirds majority in parliamentary elections last September.

    In all, the opposition won in four municipalities and in one state. This brings their control of governorships to six of a total of 24.

    In Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second-largest city, Eveling Trejo de Rosales will become the city’s first female mayor winning 58.68 percent of ballots cast. Her victory against against PSUV candidate Gian Carlos Di Martino is an especially symbolic pick-up for the opposition. The mayor-elect is the wife of former Maracaibo mayor Manuel Rosales, who is currently in exile in Peru. “Manuel returns to the mayorship because Eveling Trejo arrives with him,” she exclaimed in her victory speech.

    Elections were held with "complete normality," according to Socorro Hernández, head of the National Electoral Council (CNE), despite heavy rains that have left 30 dead and more than 72,000 homeless.

    View the results for the remainder of the regions.

    Tags: Mayor elections, Eveling Trejo de Rosales, Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela

  • Deforestation in the Amazon at All-Time Low

    December 3, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The Brazilian government announced this week that deforestation in the Amazon fell 14 percent in the August 2009 to July 2010 period compared with the previous year. Satellite monitoring showed that 6,450 square kilometers (2,490 square miles) of the world’s biggest rainforest were cleared during this latest reporting period—a stark decline from a peak of 29,100 square kilometers (11,235 square miles) in the 1994 to 1995 period.

    The government’s announcement coincided with a United Nations global climate conference in Cancún, Mexico, in which Brazil wants to showcase its progress and reiterate its commitment to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Isabella Teixeira, Brazil’s Minister of the Environment, said the achievement means Brazil is well on its way to achieving its self-imposed goal of reducing deforestation—a major contributor to the country’s overall carbon emissions—by 80 percent over historic highs by 2020. Brazil is likely to use the news to seek a bigger role in climate negotiations, especially under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), where it could potentially get paid billions for slowing deforestation.

    At a ceremony Wednesday in Brasília, the Brazilian government criticized industrial nations for not doing their part to commute greenhouse gas emissions. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said news of the reduction showed Brazil was “keeping its promises” on addressing global warming, while advanced countries “are still not doing anything.”

    Environmental groups, including Greenpeace International, celebrated the announcement as proof that deforestation can be halted—and accompany a period of economic expansion. The low rate of deforestation can be attributed both to increased policing and pressure from consumer groups, with the government fining illegal cattle ranchers and loggers and confiscating their products, and the beef and soy industries voluntarily banning products from illegally deforested areas.

    Tags: Brazil, Amazon, Climate change, Deforestation

  • Paraguay to Support Venezuela’s Mercosur Bid

    December 2, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Paraguay’s Senate is expected next week to vote in favor of Venezuela’s bid to join Mercosur—Mercado Común del Sur or Southern Common Market. The anticipated approval will be Venezuela’s final hurdle before assuming full membership of Latin America’s preeminent trade bloc, completing the process it began in 2006.

    Mercosur nations are divided into three categories: full members, associate members and observers. Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay are the founding signatories and full member nations; Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru comprise the associate members, while Mexico is the only observer. The parliaments of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have already ratified Venezuela’s bid. The Paraguayan Senate needs 23 of 45 senators to support the measure, and observers predict that the simple majority will favor it despite the Senate being controlled by the opposition Colorado party.

    Venezuela’s robust supply of oil and energy commodities is attractive to Paraguay, although Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’ indifference to Mercosur’s “democratic clause” is a point of concern to Paraguayan senators who oppose the bid. It has also been reported that President Lugo’s administration, which strongly favors Venezuela’s accession, has promised high-level political appointments to undecided senators—particularly those in the UNACE party, a former faction of Colorado.

    Tags: Venezuela, Mercosur, Paraguay, Hugo Chavez, Fernando Lugo

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    December 1, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

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

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    Waiting for the WikiLeaks Shoe to Drop in Latin America

    WikiLeaks continues to reveal U.S. government cables, which The Miami Herald says are “fueling a wave of rumors and resentment in Latin America.” A few hundred of the 251,287 confidential cables have been released so far, leaving many countries waiting for the other shoe to drop. For example, 2,836 of the cables are relevant to Mexico, but it’s not clear yet when the records will go public.

    Still, news relevant to the hemisphere has been trickling out , with some of the latest documents revealed on December 1 showing that the “United States saw big opportunities in helping Brazil boost its military capabilities as a way of ‘supporting U.S. interests,’” according to AFP. Other leaks range from topics such as Bolivian President Evo Morales purported sinus tumor to a description of the interim government that led Honduras after the 2009 coup as “totally illegitimate” to Cuban spies advising the Venezuelan government in what one diplomat called an “Axis of Mischief.” Global Voices looks at blog coverage of a range of leaked cables relevant to the Americas.

    Speaking to The Christian Science Monitor, AS/COA Senior Policy Director Chris Sabatini said “I think most of what is going to be found will embarrass other leaders but will not do much to embarrass U.S. leaders.”

    Read More

    Tags: Haiti, Weekly Roundup, Wikileaks, Mexican Drugs

  • Poverty in Latin America Decreases

    December 1, 2010

    by AQ Online

    According to the Social Panorama of Latin America 2010 report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) released today, poverty in Latin America has fallen in 2010 to levels not seen since 2008. This is a result of a strong economic recovery fueled by higher commodity prices.  Alicia Barcena, head of ECLAC, said Latin America was once again on track to reducing poverty as it had been since 2003. That was briefly interrupted with the economic crisis that began in 2009. 

    The report, presented in Santiago, Chile, highlights poverty reductions in Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Panama of nearly 10 percent due largely to newly implemented income distribution policies in those countries.  However, Argentina, Peru and Venezuela experienced even greater reductions in poverty of between 20 percent and 30 percent.  Only Costa Rica had no measured improvement in reducing poverty. 

    In all, nearly 41 million Latin Americans will have managed to get out of poverty this year reducing the total number of Latin Americans in poverty to 180 million or 32.1 percent of the total population.  Latin Americans living in extreme poverty also fell to 2008 levels of 72 million people or 12.9 percent of the population.

    Tags: Chile, Peru, Brazil, Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Social Panorama of Latin America 2010, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean poverty

  • Post-Election Prospects For High Speed Rail

    November 30, 2010

    by John Parisella

    The votes were barely tallied and already the politics of high speed rail had begun. Some Republican gubernatorial candidates, freshly elected, were already asking that high speed rail (HSR) funds be reallocated to other transport priorities.

    Democratic Governors-elect like Andrew Cuomo of New York, Pat Quinn of Illinois and Jerry Brown of California were soon requesting that the rejected funds be reallocated to their states. Against this backdrop, the advocacy group U.S. High Speed Rail Association (USHSR) held a first post-election conference with a who's who of HSR including Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and former Transportation Secretary Norm Minetta, forging more consensus. By mid-November, it was certain the Administration remained solidly behind their HSR vision, but Republicans were sending mixed messages.

    Is the Obama-Biden initiative in danger? With Spain and China currently making significant investments in HSR, would America once again stand back while other countries are forging ahead? There are no simple answers to these questions.

    Read More

    Tags: transportation policy

  • WikiLeaks Targets U.S.-Latin America Ties

    November 30, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Many of the 250,000 diplomatic documents and cables leaked on Sunday by whistleblower site WikiLeaks address U.S. relationships with Latin American heads of state. And while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is characterizing the leaks as “an attack on the international community” as well as on American foreign policy interests, Ecuadorian  Ecuadorian Deputy Foreign Minister Kinto Lucas has extended an invitation to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to come to Ecuador.

    On Tuesday, Lucas told Ecuadorinmediato, “We are ready to give him [Assange] residence in Ecuador, with no problems and no conditions… We are going to invite him to come to Ecuador so he can freely present the information he possesses and all the documentation, not just on the Internet, but in various public forums.”

    Venezuela, Argentina and Honduras are the subjects of some of the most noteworthy leaked documents concerning Latin America.

    One document was issued one month after the 2008 military coup in Honduras. In the cable, U.S. Ambassador  to Honduras Hugo Llorens calls the ouster of former President Manuel Zelaya “clearly illegal,” and the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti “totally illegitimate.”

    Venezuela is the subject of 2,300 of the leaked cables, most of which concern President Hugo Chávez. In a 2009 cable, a French official named Jean-David Levitte called Chávez “crazy” and said that "Brazil was not able to support him anymore." Levitte goes on to say that "Chávez is taking one of Latin America's richest countries and turning it into another Zimbabwe.” The Venezuelan President responded on Monday evening: “Somebody should resign ... I'm not saying [President Barack] Obama, but they should do it out of shame ... It is their empire left naked.”

    Argentina was the subject of 2,200 cables. In one exchange in late 2009, Secretary Clinton questions the mental state and decision-making of both President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late-husband, former President Néstor Kirchner.

    The whistle-blowing website has also reportedly obtained 2,836 U.S. documents concerning Mexico, but most of those have yet to be released.

    WikiLeaks also revealed that the U.S. offered millions of dollars worth of incentives to countries like Slovenia and Kiribati in exchange for taking detainees out of Guantanamo Bay. In an interview with the BBC, Amb. John Negroponte, who has served as U.S. ambassador to Mexico and Honduras, said today that the release of WikiLeaks cables “will damage [the U.S.’s] ability to conduct diplomacy.”

    Tags: President Hugo Chavez, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Wikileaks



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AQ and Efecto Naím: NTN24 Partnership

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