Top stories this week are likely to include: Dilma Rousseff’s possible veto of Forestry legislation; The search ends for Cuban actors who defected; the vote on drug victims compensation law in Mexico; construction resumes on Peru’s Conga mine.
Brazil’s Forestry Laws: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is facing extreme pressure from environmentalists, who believe that a new forestry bill, which last week passed both legislatures after fierce lobbying by agroindustry, will speed up deforestation of the Amazon. Current laws establish that 80 percent of private land in the Amazon region is off limits for development. The new law will allow for the development of vast areas that were previously off limits. According to observers, the changes threaten 270,000 square miles (690,000 square kilometers) and will prevent Brazil from reaching its deforestation reduction goals. “It’s fitting—if a bit ironic—that this is playing out in the country that will soon host the Rio+20 Conference,” says Chris Sabatini, editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly.
Cuban Defections: Two young Cuban actors who disappeared last week while making their way to the New York-based Tribeca Film Festival for the U.S. premiere of the film Una Noche have resurfaced and announced their intention to apply for asylum in the United States. The actors, both in their 20s, went missing during a brief stopover in Miami and had not been heard from in nearly a week. “Defections from Cuba are common;” says AQ editor Matthew Aho, “they result from a combination of accommodating U.S. asylum policies for Cubans and the lack of real opportunities for Cuban youth.”
Conga mine construction to resume: The largest-ever mining investment in Peru’s history will be allowed to move forward this year, after months of construction delays caused by local protestors’ fears of environmental damage and water contamination. The Conga protests were the first major crisis of President Ollanta Humala’s administration. His decision to allow the project to proceed will be another major test of his government and could spark a wave of similar protest in the Cajamarca region. “For many who questioned Humala’s commitment to a market economy and investment, his actions in this case demonstrate that the Peruvian President—at least when it comes to mining—is a pragmatist, says Sabatini.
Drug Crimes Compensation: A bill that would provide victims of drug violence passed Mexico’s Senate last week and is poised to advance through the legislative process this week. The measure, which would provide victims of drug violence with up to $70,000 in financial compensation, along with a variety of specialized social services, is a central demand of a growing piece movement being led by poet Javier Sicilia. The bill’s sponsors, Senators Fernando Baeza and Tomas Torres, are optimistic about its passage, saying it “lays the foundations to reconstruct the social fabric which has been so gravely affected by violence.”
With today’s release of its Spring 2012 issue, Americas Quarterly has unveiled a new index that measures social inclusion in the Americas. This ranking evaluates 15 different indicators and compares them across 11 countries in the hemisphere. The variables include a country’s economic competitiveness, percent of national GDP spent on social programs, level of political and civil freedoms, and citizen perception of personal empowerment and government responsiveness in that country.
Out of a maximum of 100, Chile came out on top with a score of 71.9, while Guatemala ranked lowest at 7.5. The index praises Chile’s “consistently high rankings across almost all indicators” and cites “severe inequalities by race and ethnicity” in the case of Guatemala, adding that “Indigenous and Afro-Guatemalans lag far behind” socioeconomically. Uruguay and Brazil ranked second and third, respectively.
For four variables—enrollment in secondary school, percent of population living on more than $4 per day, access to adequate housing, and percent of population with access to a formal job—Americas Quarterly uses data collected by the World Bank in household surveys and disaggregated by race and gender.
According to the index, social inclusion is defined as “the concept that a citizen has the ability to participate in the basic political, economic and social functioning of his or her society. It includes not just economic empowerment, but also access to basic social services, access to infrastructure (physical and institutional), access to the formal labor market, civil and political participation and voice, and the absence of legally sanctioned discrimination based on race, ethnicity or gender.”
Access the full results of—and methodology behind—AQ’s social inclusion index.
Top stories this week are likely to include: continued fallout over YPF expropriation; Leon Panetta to South America; Humala approves controversial mining project; and IMF warns of protectionism in Latin America.
Global Response to YPF Seizure: Repsol has threatened to take legal action against any company that invests in YPF SA, its Argentine subsidiary that was nationalized last week. This will complicate efforts by Argentine Planning Minister Julio de Vido to elicit investments in YPF. Beyond Repsol’s response, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner faces continued condemnation from Spain and the European Parliament, which is looking at the possibility of imposing trade sanctions on Argentine imports. Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned oil corporation, has pledged to expand cooperation with Argentina. Look for further official reaction from Europe this week.
Panetta in South America: U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta departs today for a five-day tour in South America, where he will visit Colombia, Brazil and Chile. A defense official reports that Panetta will stop in Bogotá to evaluate U.S.-funded Plan Colombia and discuss further measures to combat the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Then, he heads to Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro to discuss potential military deals, including Embraer’s participation in a now-cancelled military aircraft contract for the U.S. effort in Afghanistan. AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak notes, “Although the Embraer deal was worth less than $400 million, getting it back on track would be a huge plus for U.S.-Brazil relations.” Panetta and his Brazilian and Chilean counterparts will also discuss drug interdiction measures off the coasts of Africa and Central America—two of the world’s worst drug transit points.
Peru Approves Conga Mine: Peruvian President Ollanta Humala gave conditional approval last week to the controversial Conga mining project, constructed by U.S.-owned Newmont Mining Corporation. Previously, it had been stalled due to environmental concerns and protests by local Indigenous peoples in the Cajamarca region. Independent environmental auditors recommended a series of changes including larger artificial reservoirs that would allow for the adequate supply of water to local populations; Humala gave Newmont the green light for construction on the condition that these suggestions be met. Cajamarca President Gregorio Santos remains unconvinced, so watch out for the possibility of further local backlash.
IMF Warns of Protectionism: During its spring meetings over the weekend, the International Monetary Fund predicted 3.75 percent growth for the Latin America and Caribbean region this year. The IMF also warned emerging economies against adopting protectionist measures in response to the “accommodative monetary policy” adopted by the U.S. and other developed countries. The 3.75 percent figure represents a moderation of the region’s 4.5 percent growth in 2011. Given Brazil’s criticism of the United States’ monetary behavior, pay attention to whether Latin American economies heed the IMF’s advice.
*RELATED – Angelina Jolie Visits Refugees in Ecuador: In her capacity as a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ambassador, Angelina Jolie visited displaced Colombian refugees in Ecuador over the weekend. Read an Americas Quarterly dispatch on refugees in Ecuador from the Winter 2012 issue.
La minería aurífera ilegal nos deja un paisaje lúgubre, producto de operaciones que degradan y transforman los ecosistemas amazónicos. Así mismo, organizan la sociedad alrededor de puestos de trabajo en condiciones deplorables. Parte de este negocio también corrompe los asentamientos aledaños y da lugar a un ambiente de desgobierno. La realidad de los campamentos mineros ilegales es el típico modelo del negocio furtivo que daña al medio ambiente, se preocupa sólo de los beneficios económicos que este genera y se aprovecha de la necesidad laboral de los peones (gente de bajos recursos y de escaso nivel educativo).
Las consecuencias de la actividad minera se reflejan en la organización de los espacios comunes dificultado el ordenamiento territorial, la conservación de la naturaleza y desestructurando modelos de organización comunal. A consecuencia de esto los bienes comunes no se pueden ubicar dentro de la perspectiva de una buena gobernanza social y la posibilidad de gobernabilidad estatal. Queda como desafío impulsar propuestas participativas que hagan del concepto de desarrollo sostenible una herramienta indispensable para planificar el futuro, garantizar la continuidad de los ecosistemas y proteger la autonomía de la organización social propia de las comunidades nativas; así como la participación de todos los grupos sociales que conviven en un mismo medio ambiente. (Fotos y pies de foto cortesía de Daniel Valencia.)
The Amaury Sports Organization (ASO) announced Wednesday that the 2013 Dakar Rally will be held once again in Latin America. The off-road race first staged from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal, in 1979 will take place from January 5-20, 2013, starting in Lima, Peru, passing through Argentina (crossing the Andes mountains twice) and finishing in Santiago, Chile.
Peru’s National Chamber of Commerce estimates that the 2013 Dakar Rally will generate around $600 million for the Peruvian economy alone. José Luis Silva, minister of foreign commerce and tourism, stated that all expectations were surpassed during the 2012 race, including 1,200 hours of television exposure and millions of dollars in publicity around the world. “We hope to surpass the number of spectators from 2012 [in 2013],” Silva told Agencia Andina.
The prestigious competition of cars, trucks and motorcycles was moved from Dakar, Senegal, in 2008 to Latin America, because of the dangers encountered along the route in Africa. According to Etienne Lavigne, director of the rally, it is the organization’s intention to return to Africa at some point. But until violence and insecurity in the region subsides, Latin America will remain the host continent.
En el Perú, las aguas de la Amazonía que viajan en forma de ríos, que bañan las riberas de los bosques, que traen la vida desde las nubes hasta las sombras de un árbol, que aseguran un hogar a las especies animales o que se deslizan cuenco adentro en las manos de una niña a orillas de una comunidad nativa son las venas de este mundo; el eje de comunicación de muchas poblaciones y la fuente de sustento para pescadores, transportistas, albergues turísticos y operarios de algunas actividades extractivas.
En la Amazonía Peruana, las áreas naturales protegidas buscan salvaguardar que los ríos, bosques, hábitats de especies animales y de comunidades nativas; puedan perpetuarse en el perfecto equilibrio de los ecosistemas amazónicos. Las actividades económicas, sin embargo, que se desarrollan dentro del espacio amazónico no viven, ni dependen del equilibrio amazónico, aparentemente. Es decir, madereros que depredan el bosque sin respetar planes de manejo o mineros artesanales que contaminan las aguas con una visión de corto plazo no asumen que si el ecosistema se rompe, no habrá donde realizar las actividades que los sustentan.
Peruvian Minister of Development and Social Inclusion Carolina Trivelli yesterday concluded a three-day visit to Washington DC during which she met with Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Maria Otero, as well as other senior officials from the Departments of State, Education, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services. The purpose of Trivelli’s trip was to deepen the U.S.–Peru relationship on economic and social development issues.
According to State Department sources, Trivelli’s delegation discussed a range of topics including early childhood education, nutrition, women’s empowerment, and boosting social inclusion for Indigenous and other marginalized groups.
An early outcome of Trivelli’s U.S. visit was the announcement of a $1 million commitment by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for a three-year pilot program on early childhood education. Since taking power in 2011, President Ollanta Humala’s government has stressed the need to accelerate and improve assistance to those still living in conditions of extreme poverty. As head of the government ministry charged with achieving poverty-reduction goals, Trivelli hopes to attract increased development assistance from bilateral aid agencies and multilateral donors alike.
Yesterday Peru’s government shared plans to increase investment in social programs and infrastructure in the country’s impoverished center—a region with the world’s highest coca-leaf production. These investments will complement a renewed military offensive against narcotrafficking.
Speaking at a press conference, Peruvian Minister of Defense Alberto Otárola admitted that the government had previously neglected the area. “The state has had its head turned the other direction,” he told reporters, but now recognizes that one solution to narcotrafficking is in increasing social spending in zones heavily influenced by coca production. According to private reports, the area with the highest concentration of coca cultivation in Peru is the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (known as VRAE), a high jungle region in the south-central part of the country.
Otárola’s announcement followed one made last month by Peru’s new cabinet chief Oscar Valdés, who said that the government would tackle drug trafficking by increasing development and state presence in the VRAE region. This would include building new roads and bringing in the Agriculture Ministry and other organizations to promote crop substitution.
After Colombia, Peru is the world’s second largest producer of cocaine, though analysts predict it could soon surpass its northern neighbor if it doesn’t take steps to combat the drug trade. Though Otárola insisted that the solution to the problem in the VRAE region “is not a military but a political one,” Peru’s armed forces are likely to continue playing a role in the fight against narcotrafficking. This will include seeking the capture of former Shining Path members who now play an armed role in the drug trade, as well as the mass eradication of coca-growing fields. Last week President Ollanta Humala replaced drug czar Roberto Soberon—who had previously suspended manual coca plant eradication, arguing it hurt poor growers—with Carmen Masias, who said in an interview that Peru had “let down its guard” on eradication last year.
Otárola also confirmed yesterday that two U.S. surveillance planes will assist Peru in combating drug trafficking and hunting down former Shining Path guerrillas, flying over the coca-growing regions in the VRAE and Upper Huallaga Valley.
Omar Chehade, Peru’s second vice president, resigned from his post on Monday evening in the midst of questions over his role in an influence-peddling scheme. The move, coming the night before a congressional vote on whether to suspend him from political office for five years, may have been a calculated attempt to keep his congressional seat, according to Peru21. If so, it appears to have worked. On Tuesday evening, after four hours of debate, the Permanent Comission of the Peruvian Congress rejected a motion (by only one vote) that would have removed him from Congress and temporarily banned him from political office.
The prime minister, Óscar Valdés, said that Chehade’s resignation earlier this week was a strictly personal move.
The vote last night came after opposition members like Congressman Mauricio Mulder said the move to push aside Chehade was actually an effort by the ruling parties to preserve their power in Congress. “It is a fabricated scene, so that this Tuesday the public opinion does not turn against the decision of Gana Peru and Peru Posible to protect him.”
In December, Chehade was suspended for 120 days over allegations that him, his brother Miguel Chehade, three police generals, and a businessman attempted to help another agricultural company gain control of the Andahuasi sugar plantation. This is a particular embarrassment for President Ollanta Humala who has vowed to fight corruption but yet has watched numerous cabinet officials face corruption allegations in recent months.
Peruvian President Ollanta Humala today declared a state of emergency in the northern Peruvian department of Cajamarca in the wake of protests last week that led to the suspension of the multi-billion-dollar Conga gold-mining project. Humala’s press office tweeted last night that the measure would take effect at midnight today and last for 60 days. This decree will affect the provinces of Cajamarca, Celendín, Contumazá, and Hualgayoc.
Last week’s clashes were biggest challenge to date of Humala’s nascent presidency and saw the resignation of his vice-minister of the environment, José de Echave. Humala has blamed the impasse on local Indigenous leaders, stating, “Every possible means has been exhausted to establish dialogue and resolve the conflict democratically, but the intransigence of local and regional leaders has been exposed.”
According to government statements, the emergency declaration is designed to mitigate violence and allow the restoration of basic public services. Police will now have the authority to issue arrests without warrants as well as to limit the right of assembly. Cajamarca’s governor and protest leader, Gregorio Santos, referred to Humala’s pronouncement as an unnecessary provocation and pledged to “continue with our fight.”