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.
Petrobras Plans World’s Largest Public Offering
Mercopress reports that the Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras plans to sell as many as $64.5 billion in shares at the end of September to fund the development of new oil reserves. The Brazilian finance minister made assurances that the government will “act strongly” to protect the integrity of the real from the pending currency influx. But the IPO is also a turning point for China, marking the “first time a Chinese investment bank is taking a key role in a major share issue outside the mainland China and Hong Kong market,” reports People’s Daily Online.
Brazil Discovers New Iron Deposits
The Brazilian state of Mato Grosso announced the discovery of a gigantic iron ore reserve, which may be the biggest deposit in the world, reports Bloomberg. The reserve could hold 11.5 billion metric tons of the metal. Officials have yet to determine the commercial viability of the deposits.
Chile’s Miner Rescue Efforts Pump Piñera’s Popularity
PBS News Hour offers footage of the 33 Chilean miners trapped thousands of miles underground, showing them shouting “long live Chile” to a camera sent down through an emergency shaft. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Piñera administration’s response to the tragedy has increased its popularity among Chileans from 46 percent in July to 56 percent in August.
President Piñera will be speaking at AS/COA on September 22.
Ahmadinejad Draws Rebuke from Fidel over Israel Stance
In an interview with The Atlantic, Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro voiced fears about a potential nuclear conflict between Iran and a U.S.-backed Israel, and expressed his concerns about Iranian anti-Semitism. Castro “criticized Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and explained why the Iranian government would better serve the cause of peace by…trying to understand why Israelis fear for their existence.”
Fidel's Internet Addiction
The Los Angeles Times says that Fidel Castro claims he “has been reincarnated as an internet junkie,” blogging regularly and reading hundreds of news stories a day. The editorial reports that, despite the aging ex-president’s love of the web, Cuba has “the lowest level of Internet penetration in the hemisphere, plus severe government restrictions and censorship affecting those who do have access.”
Empowering the Cuban People Through Technology, a Cuba Study Group paper written in collaboration with AS/COA and the Brookings Institution explores how U.S. policymakers can craft legislative and regulatory changes that help Cubans gain access to IT and social media tools.
Mexico to Join Exclusive Citigroup Bond Index
Come October, Mexico will join the Citigroup’s World Government Bond Index (WGBI), becoming the first Latin American country to do so. Financial Times’ Beyond Brics blog notes that Mexico’s inclusion in the WGBI had led to $10 billion in foreign investment in peso bonds.
Pemex Struggles under Cartel Pressure
Drug traffickers are now a plague for Mexican state-oil firm Pemex, committing millions of dollars in theft, as well as intimidating workers with violence and kidnapping, reports The Los Angeles Times.
Sec. Clinton Likens Mexican Security to Colombia's in 1980s
In a speech at the Council of Foreign Relations, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Mexico is “looking more and more like Colombia looked 20 years ago, when narcotraffickers controlled certain parts of the country,” reports Milenio. Clinton also compared the drug cartels to an insurgency, and said that Mexico needs a “combination of improved institutional capacity” and political will to contain the problem.
Flooding Sparks Deadly Mudslides in Guatemala
Some of the heaviest rain in 50 years caused mudslides across Guatemala, taking out major highways, interrupting communication, and causing up to 150 deaths.
LatAm Exports Expected to Rise in 2010
A new report by the UN Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean estimates that Latin American exports will rise by 21.4 percent this year, buoyed by the strength of primary goods exports. However, the report also finds that exports grew slower in this past decade than in the 1990s and slower than other developing regions, pointing to problematic growth disparities within the region.
Call for UK-LatAm Friendship
A Guardian commentary decries British disinterest in Latin America. “If Britain is to escape recession, it needs to trade with those parts of the world that are getting richer,” it argues, suggesting the need for more effort to establish ties with Latin American countries.
Undocumented Immigrants Boost Social Security
Writing in The Washington Post, Edward Schumacher-Matos argues that illegal immigrants provide valuable financial support for social security. According to the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, without illegal immigrants, who often pay into the system but rarely receive any benefits, “we would have entered persistent shortfall of tax revenue to cover [payouts] starting [in] 2009.”
Radio Makes Waves in Haiti
In post-earthquake Haiti, radio journalists report on issues facing the country, including deteriorating security, halting recovery efforts, and governance and transparency. GlobalPost reports that journalists continue to face risks when reporting on politics, crime, and corruption in Haiti, but that radio informs a population that has very little access to other forms of media and continues to suffer from high illiteracy rates.
El Salvador Criminalizes Gang Membership
A new law passed in El Salvador has made gang membership a criminal offense. Bloggings by Boz discusses the legal challenges the law will face as well as the continuing problems challenging the government in its attempt to improve security and decrease violence.
Taking the Pulse of Venezuela’s Parliamentary Vote
September 26 marks the date for Venezuelan legislative elections. The Hemispheric Brief blog takes a look at polls on voter intention as well as the current mood regarding President Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarianism. The blog reports on a Keller and Associates survey showing “a body politic divided neatly into three almost even political parts—30 percent of Venezuelans identifying themselves as chavistas, 33 percent as anti-chavistas, and 37 percent as neutral.”
Venezuelan Food Card Feared Rationing Tool
President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez introduced a new food card dubbed the “Good Life Card” that he claims will help people to buy “just what they need.” Critics fear the card could lead to food rationing in a system similar to Cuba’s, reports The Miami Herald.
Prisoners’ Hunger Strike in Venezuela
Four thousand Venezuelan prisoners from four prisons have begun a hunger strike to protest dangerous prison conditions and poor treatment, including imprisonment without a sentence and death due to guard violence or murder, reports El País.
Caracas Sends New Envoy to Bogota
As Caracas and Bogota work to repair ailing ties, Venezuela appointed Iván Rincón, a former president of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, as its ambassador to Colombia. The neighbors have fostered rapprochement following Colombia’s July election of Juan Manuel Santos.
Colombian Anticorruption Law Targets Extortion
Infolatam reports on Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ efforts to curtail corruption through a new initiative, which criminalizes the act of making extortion payments. The new law considers those who give in to these types of demands as accessories to the crime, regardless of circumstances.
Peru, Xstrata Ink Landmark Copper Deal
Latin American Herald Tribute reports that Peru and Switzerland’s Xstrata Copper signed a $4.2 billion agreement giving Xstrata mining rights to Peru’s Las Bambas copper mines, a 35,000 hectare territory. Peruvian President Alan Garcia called the deal “the contract of the century.”
Read an AS/COA analysis of Peru’s recent spate of free-trade pacts with Asian countries.
Argentine President Opens Twitter Account
Argentina’s president joined the ranks of leaders with Twitter accounts, reports El Tiempo. Thus far, she has posted about government and political issues with a personal tone.