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Colombian Protests Block Traffic to Ecuador and Venezuela

August 22, 2013

by AQ Online

On Wednesday, and continuing into Thursday, protestors across Colombia blocked traffic in 16 departments as part of a national protest that began earlier in the week. Tensions were triggered by the new Colombia–EU free-trade agreement (FTA), which went into force on August 1. On Tuesday, truck drivers, union leaders, health employees, and students joined the growing national protest.   Protesters are demanding increased land rights, fixed prices and subsidies for agricultural products, and improved access to potable water in agricultural fields, among other things.

The road blockades are in areas of the country with important transit links with Ecuador and Venezuela, as well as Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

In the department of Nariño, in the southeast of Colombia, five strategic points of entry to the Pan-American Highway have been closed off, limiting access into Ecuadorian territory.  The centrally located department of Boyacá also has been subject to extensive blockades.

According to Eberto Díaz, spokesperson for the Mesa Nacional de Interlocución Agraria (National Bureau of Agricultural Cooperation), about 200,000 trucks across the country halted operations on Wednesday. Similar demonstrations spread to the cities of Medellín and Cali. The protests damaged government property and 56 police officers have been wounded. Forty-six protesters from the Movimiento por la Defensa y la Dignidad de los Cafeteros Colombianos (Movement for the Defense and Dignity of Colombian Coffee Growers) have been arrested.

Tags: Free Trade Agreement, Colombia, European Union

Monday Memo: Colombia, FARC in Cuba – Honduran Presidential Candidates – Canada Negotiates FTA with European Union – and more

November 19, 2012

by AQ Online

Top stories this week are likely to include: Colombia-FARC peace negotiations move to Havana; 2013 presidential contest set in Honduras; Canadian trade minister in Brussels for free trade talks; and The Hague rules on the Nicaragua-Colombia maritime border dispute.

Colombia-FARC Talks Resume: Representatives from the Colombian government arrived yesterday in Havana, Cuba, ahead of the commencement of peace negotiations with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) rebels who had arrived in Havana last week. The talks began ceremonially in Oslo last month, but this week marks a renewed stage of direct negotiations between the two parties—mediated by Cuba and Norway, and observed by Chile and Venezuela. Upon landing in Havana yesterday, Humberto de la Calle, chief negotiator for the government, said that these negotiations would test whether the FARC guerrillas were “willing to reach concrete and realistic agreements.”

Reaction to Honduran Presidential Primaries: Yesterday, the three major political parties in Honduras selected their presidential candidates to compete in the November 2013 contest. The incumbent Partido Nacional de Honduras (National Party of Honduras) selected Juan Orlando Hernandez; the Partido Liberal de Honduras (Liberal Party of Honduras), to which former President Manuel Zelaya belonged, chose Mauricio Villeda; and the Partido Libertad y Refundación (Freedom and Refoundation Party—LIBRE) opted for Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro, who ran unopposed for the post. Now that the field is freshly set, expect significant chatter about the candidates and their backgrounds.

Canada-EU Talk Free Trade: Canadian Minister of Trade Ed Fast will arrive in Brussels, Belgium, today for an advanced round of negotiations on the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which will establish a large free-trade zone between the two economic giants. According to The Globe and Mail, CETA would “open up government procurement contracts to foreign bidders; toughen patent protection laws on pharmaceuticals; increase mutual access to financial services markets; lower some agriculture protections; and include a dispute-resolution mechanism to protect investors and governments.” A final deal is expected to be signed in late 2012 or early 2013.

Nicaragua-Colombia Dispute Ruling: The International Court of Justice will rule on a longstanding maritime border dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia over three islets in the Caribbean Sea—known as San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina. At issue is a 1928 treaty signed between the two countries that was annulled in 1980 by the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The Hague had ruled in 2007 that the 1928 treaty was still valid, but also agreed to review the maritime border—which will culminate in today’s ruling.

Tags: European Union

Monday Memo: AQ’s Top Expected Stories for the Week of September 17

September 17, 2012

by AQ Online

Top stories this week are likely to include: Enrique Peña Nieto tours Latin America; United Nations General Assembly gets underway; Venezuela’s presidential election intensifies; European Union continues free-trade talks with Canada; and Paraguay seeks reparations from Mercosur. 

Peña Nieto Visits Latin America: Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto departed yesterday evening for his six-country Latin America tour, which will take him to Guatemala, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Peru this week. Eduardo Sánchez, spokesperson for Peña Nieto, says that the trip’s purpose is to strengthen “the position that Mexico has in the region and the possibilities that it has as a country to build itself as a facilitator” in Latin American relations. Issue topics that are expected to dominate the agenda include security, migration and trade. AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak adds, “each visit will highlight how a Peña Nieto government will seek to elevate Mexico’s role in the region and in working with each country bilaterally. Strengthened cooperation with Guatemala is critical for improving security and migration flows, Colombia has important lessons learned in security, the Chile and Peru visits are linked to trade and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Brazil visit will likely seek to set the two countries on a path toward trade collaboration rather than trade competition.” Peña Nieto told Brazil’s Época magazine that “free trade, far from protectionism, is the path that we should take to make Latin America a thriving actor in the global economy.” 

UNGA Gets Underway: The sixty-seventh session of the United Nations General Assembly opens debate tomorrow afternoon at 3:00p.m. in the New York secretariat. Access the agenda here. Heads of state are expected to arrive next week, where they will make their plenary addresses. 

Venezuela's Presidential Election: In the lead-up to Venezuela’s October 7 presidential contest, it was revealed over the weekend that incumbent President Hugo Chávez would not select a running mate in spite of his widely speculated deteriorating health. Chávez’ challenger, Henrique Capriles, has not selected a likely vice presidential candidate either. Further, Venezuelan polling firm Consultores21 released a poll over the weekend putting Capriles Radonski two percentage points ahead of Chávez – 48 percent to 46 percent.

RelatedAmericas Society and Council of the Americas will host a discussion on September 18, titled “The Road to Venezuela’s Elections: A Look at the Media, Public Opinion, and the Economy.” The president of Consultores21 will speak on the panel.

EU - Canada Trade Talks Continue: Officials from the European Union will arrive in Ottawa this week for the penultimate round of negotiations with Canada on a free-trade pact. An agreement is farther behind schedule. As Americas Quarterly reported in early 2011, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement was anticipated to be signed in the middle of last year. 

Paraguay to Demand Reparations from Mercosur: The Paraguayan foreign ministry filed grievances with the Argentine, Brazilian and Uruguayan embassies in Asunción a few days ago on the charge of “grave arbitrariness” since its suspension from Mercosur following the ouster of former President Fernando Lugo. In a separate release, the foreign ministry noted that “Paraguay has the right to demand moral reparation for the offences infringed upon the dignity of the Republic, as a State and as a member of the international community, as well as claim compensation for the economic losses and damages suffered.” President Federico Franco has charged Mercosur as an “ideological club of friends,” and is intensifying his rhetoric against the South American trade bloc that does not recognize his presidency as legitimate. Expect Argentine, Brazilian and Uruguayan responses from the grievances this week. 

ExtraToday begins the first full week of National Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S., which lasts from September 15 to October 15. 

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Tags: Canada, Enrique Peña Nieto, European Union, Federico Franco, Fernando Lugo, Free Trade, Mercosur, Mexico, Paraguay

Monday Memo: AQ’s Top Expected Stories for the Week of September 17

September 17, 2012

by AQ Online

Top stories this week are likely to include: Enrique Peña Nieto tours Latin America; United Nations General Assembly gets underway; Venezuela’s presidential election intensifies; European Union continues free-trade talks with Canada; and Paraguay seeks reparations from Mercosur.

Peña Nieto Visits Latin America: Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto departed yesterday evening for his six-country Latin America tour, which will take him to Guatemala, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Peru this week. Eduardo Sánchez, spokesperson for Peña Nieto, says that the trip’s purpose is to strengthen “the position that Mexico has in the region and the possibilities that it has as a country to build itself as a facilitator” in Latin American relations. Issue topics that are expected to dominate the agenda include security, migration and trade. AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak adds, “each visit will highlight how a Peña Nieto government will seek to elevate Mexico’s role in the region and in working with each country bilaterally. Strengthened cooperation with Guatemala is critical for improving security and migration flows, Colombia has important lessons learned in security, the Chile and Peru visits are linked to trade and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Brazil visit will likely seek to set the two countries on a path toward trade collaboration rather than trade competition.” Peña Nieto told Brazil’s Época magazine that “free trade, far from protectionism, is the path that we should take to make Latin America a thriving actor in the global economy.”

UNGA Gets Underway: The sixty-seventh session of the United Nations General Assembly opens debate tomorrow afternoon at 3:00p.m. in the New York secretariat. Access the agenda here. Heads of state are expected to arrive next week, where they will make their plenary addresses.

Venezuela's Presidential Election: In the lead-up to Venezuela’s October 7 presidential contest, it was revealed over the weekend that incumbent President Hugo Chávez would not select a running mate in spite of his widely speculated deteriorating health. Chávez’ challenger, Henrique Capriles, has not selected a likely vice presidential candidate either. Further, Venezuelan polling firm Consultores21 released a poll over the weekend putting Capriles Radonski two percentage points ahead of Chávez – 48 percent to 46 percent.

Related: Americas Society and Council of the Americas will host a discussion on September 18, titled “The Road to Venezuela’s Elections: A Look at the Media, Public Opinion, and the Economy.” The president of Consultores21 will speak on the panel.

EU - Canada Trade Talks Continue: Officials from the European Union will arrive in Ottawa this week for the penultimate round of negotiations with Canada on a free-trade pact. An agreement is farther behind schedule. As Americas Quarterly reported in early 2011, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement was anticipated to be signed in the middle of last year.

Paraguay to Demand Reparations from Mercosur: The Paraguayan foreign ministry filed grievances with the Argentine, Brazilian and Uruguayan embassies in Asunción a few days ago on the charge of “grave arbitrariness” since its suspension from Mercosur following the ouster of former President Fernando Lugo. In a separate release, the foreign ministry noted that “Paraguay has the right to demand moral reparation for the offences infringed upon the dignity of the Republic, as a State and as a member of the international community, as well as claim compensation for the economic losses and damages suffered.” President Federico Franco has charged Mercosur as an “ideological club of friends,” and is intensifying his rhetoric against the South American trade bloc that does not recognize his presidency as legitimate. Expect Argentine, Brazilian and Uruguayan responses from the grievances this week.

Extra: Today begins the first full week of National Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S., which lasts from September 15 to October 15.

Tags: Enrique Peña Nieto, European Union, Federico Franco

Brazil's European Dream

March 21, 2012

by Eduardo J. Gomez

The news that Brazil has overtaken Britain to become the world's sixth largest economic power is being touted as a sign that that the longtime "country of the future" has finally arrived. While the celebrations have been somewhat muted by concerns over slowing GDP growth and the country's still-heavy dependence on high energy and food prices, Brazil is heading into the coming global showcases of both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics with more than its usual swagger.

But this emerging economic prominence is raising the question of just what kind of actor Brazil will be on the world stage. In the past 20 years, Brazil has become well known for turning crisis situations into geopolitical opportunities, becoming a leading voice in international forums devoted to AIDS, poverty, and even the environment. And now, it is doing it again with a challenge that Brazilians understand all too well: a debt crisis.

Only this time, it's Europe in need of a helping hand, not the former Portuguese colony in Latin America. At an EU-Brazil summit held in Brussels last October, President Dilma Rousseff told European leaders, who had asked for assistance: "You can rely and count on us." As an initial strategy, Rousseff and her finance minister, Guido Mantega, considered using their foreign exchange reserves—estimated at $352 billion—to purchase debt through treasury bonds. However, after consulting with her BRIC colleagues at a meeting in Washington last November, Brazil decided that buying EU bonds would be too financially risky, and proposed instead to indirectly assist Europe by donating an estimated $10 billion to the International Monetary Fund.

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Tags: Brazil, BRICs, IMF, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, 2014 World Cup, European Union, Dilma Rousseff, 2016 Olympics, Guido Mantega

Rousseff in Brussels for EU-Brazil Summit

October 3, 2011

by AQ Online

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff kicks off a week-long European tour in Brussels today and tomorrow, where she will address the Fifth EU-Brazil Summit. Key items on the agenda are the Euro debt crisis and the EU-Mercosur free-trade agreement (FTA).

Specifically, Rousseff is expected to announce that Brazil will not be contributing to the European Financial Stability Facility, as was once discussed among the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) bloc of advanced emerging economies. Also, as she did in her opening address to the United Nations last month, Rousseff will make the case for greater inclusion among developing nations in global growth schemes, and her opposition to economic policies among groups of developed countries—like the EU—that she considers protectionist.

Rousseff also seeks to advance dialogue on the EU-Mercosur FTA, where negotiations had been stalled for years but have progressed quickly since being re-launched in 2010. However, key sticking points remain, including recent measures by Brazil to raise import tariffs on cars and European concerns of losing market share in its agricultural industry—given Brazil’s strong farming sector. A deal is anticipated to be signed in 2012.

Rousseff will also discuss Brazil’s preparations for the 2014 World Cup with FIFA President Sepp Blatter while in Brussels. She will then continue to Bulgaria to visit her father’s homeland, and then conclude her visit in Turkey, a key ally in the Muslim world.

Tags: Brazil, Mercosur, 2014 World Cup, European Union, Dilma Rousseff, FIFA

EU Plans FTA with Mercosur

February 8, 2011

by AQ Online

European Union Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said on Monday that the EU was close to reaching a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Mercosur. De Gucht is currently on a diplomatic trip to Paraguay and Uruguay—both members of Mercosur. The commissioner’s statement that “the moment has come” for a trade relationship came shortly after a meeting with Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo in Asunción.

De Gucht’s remarks were strategically timed. March and May will see two bilateral meetings in Brussels. There is also a Mercosur summit in Asunción scheduled for June. In his comments, de Gucht mentioned that the EU has earmarked 130 Euros (US$177) for development until 2013 to facilitate trade and exchanges, with Mercosur being the top priority.

FTA talks between the EU and Mercosur were suspended for six years starting in 2004, but resumed in May 2010 due to the FTA’s potential to help both regions recovery from the global economic crisis. One issue that remains unresolved—and could further hold up the signing of an agreement—is competition between European and South American farmers and animal breeders. Mercosur currently has FTAs with Colombia (2005), Israel (2007) and Egypt (2010).

Tags: Mercosur, Free Trade, European Union

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

EU-Cuba Relations Deteriorate Following Death of Hunger Striker

March 12, 2010

by AQ Online

The European Union yesterday called on the Cuban Government to immediately release all political prisoners and urged EU institutions to give their “unconditional support to the launching of a peaceful process of political transition to multi-party democracy in Cuba.” The statement comes after the death last month of Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, due to hunger strike.

The National Assembly of Cuba did not wait to respond to the resolution saying the EU was, “manipulating sentiments, distorting facts, deceiving people and obscuring reality." The Cuban declaration stressed that medical efforts were made to save Zapata’s life.

One reprecussion of the EU resolution is being felt in Spain, where its representative to the European Congress Willy Meyer commented that the scenario will complicate Spain’s efforts to improve the EU relations with Cuba and the end the European common position on Cuba.

Tags: Cuba, Hunger Strike, European Union


 
 

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