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.
Zelaya Sneaks Back into Honduras, Catapaults Brazil into Center of Crisis
Three months after the military forced him out of Honduras, deposed President Manuel Zelaya reentered the country and gained sanctuary in the Brazilian embassy on September 21. Since then—and at the time of this report—the country remains in a tense standoff. The interim government of Roberto Micheletti closed airports, declared a curfew, and cut water supplies and electricity to the embassy. Police forces broke up protests with tear gas, with some canisters falling inside the embassy’s compound.
Such moves did little to please Brasilia, where the House approved a motion repudiating Honduras’ blockade of the embassy. While Brazil said it did not play a role in bringing Zelaya back into Honduras, officials allowed him to take shelter and reiterated support for his reinstatement. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in New York for the UN General Assembly, urged an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on the crisis and requested to be present at the meeting.
In a Christian Science Monitor article exploring Brazil’s role in the center of the crisis, COA’s Eric Farnsworth explains why Zelaya chose that country to turn to. “Seeking asylum with Brazil shows that [Zelaya] thinks Brazil is the neutral voice in the crisis, not the U.S., Costa Rica, [or] Venezuela. He's essentially throwing in his lot with the party he thinks has the best chance to get him restored to power,” said Farnsworth, “It's a tangible representation of a power shift in the region.”
Fears run high that the interim government will refuse to accept an agreement, such as the San José Accord negotiated by Costa Rica’s president that would allow Zelaya’s reinstatement and a coalition government. “Micheletti may actually be less likely to accept a settlement now, given what a bitter pill Zelaya's return is for him to swallow,” explained AS/COA’s Christopher Sabatini in TIME.
Lula: “You Have to Hit the Road and Sell Your Country”
Newsweek’s Mac Margolis talks with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva about Brazil as a rising star among emerging markets, the country’s oil discoveries and new energy law, trade, the environment, and economic development. “Once in a while, people ask me: Lula, are you a leader in Latin America? I say, no. No one chose me to be leader,” says Lula “But I am absolutely certain that Brazil's relations with Latin America has never been so clear, transparent, and honest as it is today.”
Brazil Charts New Course with Oil Regulations
World Politics Review offers an analysis of Brazil’s new oil regulations and the creation of state firm Pre-Sal to increase control of the country’s oil and gas industry. The new regulatory model was designed to handle the massive offshore oil reserves discovered in recent years. The Institute of the Americas’ Jeremy Martin looks at the debate over whether the new laws will be seen as a nationalistic move that could hurt investment or create a clear set of rules while honoring existing contracts.
Moody’s Gives Brazil Investment Grade Rating
Brazil’s short recession and solid banking system got a nod from Moody’s Tuesday, when the firm raised Brazil’s bond ratings to Baa3, or investment grade. Moody’s also indicated the possibility of further upgrades for Brazil’s ratings in the future. Brazil previously earned investment grade from Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings.
Ecuador, Colombia in Talks to Bury Hatchet
Foreign ministers of Colombia and Ecuador met at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas in New York on Tuesday night to take another step toward normalizing relations. Ties soured a year and a half ago following a cross-border raid on a guerrilla camp staged by Colombia. El Tiempo reports on the five-hour talks, saying both sides indicated future meetings are expected.
Venezuelan Opposition Leader Seeks Asylum in Peru
Oscar Perez of the Bravo Pueblo Alliance Party became the fourth opposition leader to seek political asylum in Peru this year, reports Poder’s Page One Daily News. Perez arrived in Lima this week and faces charges in Venezuela for holding an August protest against the Organic Law of Education.
Lugo Says “No” to U.S. Military Agreement
Bloggings by Boz takes a look at Asuncion’s decision to cancel a military cooperation pact that would have allowed joint, Southcom-sponsored military exercises in Paraguay next year. President Fernando Lugo described the timing as “inconvenient” and his move may be in response to the debate over a U.S.-Colombian military deal. However, not all Paraguayan officials agree with Lugo’s choice. As the blog post points out: “The legislature passed a resolution questioning Lugo's decision and Vice President Federico Franco publicly disagreed with Lugo's decision, saying the country should not turn down projects that would have helped rural areas.”
Puerto Rico Left Out in the Cold in Health Care Reform?
The Hill reports that, with controversy surrounding health care reform, the 4 million U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico might not be able “to participate in a health insurance clearinghouse intended to reduce costs for Americans living in the 50 states.” As the article points out, another layer of complexity comes with the fact that, while campaigning, U.S. President Barack Obama promised Puerto Ricans equal access to health care.
New U.S.-Mexico Border Czar Nominated
The Washington Post’s 44 blog covers the nomination of Alan Bersin as adviser on U.S.-Mexico border issues to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Bersin, currently Napolitano’s special representative on border affairs, needs Senate confirmation for his new post in which he will run “the nation’s front-line border agency.”
Should he win confirmation, his job will undoubtedly come with challenges. Late on September 22, U.S. authorities were forced to close the busy San Ysidro border crossing after suspected human traffickers opened fire on border agents. Three people were injured.
The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute offers a recent fact sheet on U.S. Southwest border security initiatives.
Uphill Battle for Tax Proposal in Mexico
In hopes of heading off declining revenue from oil, Mexican President Felipe Calderón has included a new 2 percent sales tax in his 2010 budget plan. The idea faces opposition from business and opposition leaders including Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who threatens protest marches. The Institutional Revolutionary Party has rejected the idea as well. Finance Minister Agustin Carstens defended the measure before Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies Monday, saying the tax would help boost anti-poverty programs. Legislators must decide on the proposal by the end of October.
Argentina Signs Nuclear Energy Pact with Jordan
Buenos Aires signed a nuclear power cooperation agreement with Jordan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week. The deal involves Argentina, which currently has two plants and is building a third, offering support in research and development.
China Makes Satellite Pledge to Bolivia
Bolivia’s state news agency reported that, during a meeting in New York, Chinese President Hu Jintao reaffirmed Beijing’s cooperation in helping La Paz build and put a satellite into orbit. The communications satellite is expected to be built within three years with the help of Chinese financing and will be named Túpac Katari to honor an eighteenth-century indigenous hero, reports Infolatam.
Profiles of Hispanic Immigrants Based on Nationality
New research by the Pew Hispanic Center offers background data on Hispanics based on the five main points of origin: Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic. The analysis compares differences in terms of what portion of each population is foreign born, has citizenship, is English-speaking. Age and location data is given as well.
Colombian Lessons for Journalists Covering Afghan Kidnappings
Writing for GlobalPost, John Otis looks at the recent high-profile case involving New York Times correspondents whose kidnapping at the hand of the Taliban was kept under wraps by the paper. Since then, writes Otis, news outlets debate whether media blackouts or saturation help a hostage’s cause. He examines cases where the overload of news coverage about journalists kidnapped by guerrilla groups in Colombia aided hostage releases.
A Turnaround on the Security Situation in Buenaventura
The Los Angeles Times’ Chris Kaul writes about Buenaventura, Colombia, which had one of the world’s highest homicide rates just two summers ago, but has seen public security improve and an inflow of funding for development and infrastructure. The murder rate is now down by two-thirds. Despite continued threats, “an official in Colombia's armed forces, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, insisted the recent busts have ‘cracked the facade of the narco's untouchability.’”
Overhaul of Cuban Army No Easy Feat for Moscow
The Miami Herald’s Cuban Colada blog follows up on its coverage of a visit by Russian General Nikolai Makarov. New Russo-Cuban agreements will pave the way for Moscow to train Cuban military and help the country overhaul its military arsenal. However, says the blog, a report finds that while the island has a large army and arsenal, its weapons are “of Soviet vintage and in disrepair.” The bilateral deal comes as newly released documents show the Soviet Union talked Fidel Castro out of a nuclear strike on the United States in the early 1980s.
Aid Pours into Guatemala to Ease Hunger Woes
Since Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom raised alarm bells about a hunger crisis affecting 54,000 people, the country has seen millions of dollars worth of food aid flow in. The crisis stems from an extreme drought. Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, and Venezuela have contributed aid while the European Union earmarked $22 million in UN funds for Guatemala. ReliefWeb takes a look at agricultural training projects that could help stave off future famine in the Central American country.
In the Americas Quarterly blog, Daniel Altschuler writes about the hunger crisis facing Guatemala.
Juanes Concert Draws Sea of Camisas Blancas in Havana
As many as 1.15 million people filled Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución Sunday for the “Peace Without Borders” concert featuring Colombian rock star Juanes. NBC Miami carried coverage of divisions between Cuban Americans who said Juanes’ concert supported the Castro regime and a younger generation that viewed the event as a way to bring about change. In the end, according to the report: “The pro-Juanes Cubans had the bigger flags. They also had the numbers. And they had youth.” Havana Times offers an online photo gallery of the concert in Havana.