Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Weekly News Roundup from Across the Americas

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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.

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Signs of a Solution to the Long Honduran Impasse?

It’s been three months since the overthrow of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and two months remain until the presidential election. This week’s episode of the Honduran telenovela saw de facto leader Roberto Micheletti issue a decree silencing the opposition media and suspending civil liberties. He also gave Brazil a 10-day deadline to take a position on Zelaya’s status in Brazil’s Tegucigalpa embassy, where the overthrown leader took refuge last week. But, as AS/COA’s Christopher Sabatini blogs for Americas Quarterly, Micheletti seems to have “overplayed his hand.” Honduras’ Congress voiced opposition to the coup and Honduras’ top military commander predicted a resolution within a few days. The Los Angeles Times reports on a meeting held at U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens’ residence Sunday at which even coup backers’ support for the de facto government appeared to waver.

Read an AS/COA analysis about the external players working to forge a solution.

Honduran Presidential Candidate Urges Elections

In an interview with PODER360.com, Honduras’ National Party candidate Porfirio Lobo Sosa says that elections can help the country move beyond the current polarizing political climate. The candidate says that those who question the legitimacy of the elections should recognize the legal process in place to move elections forward.

Hispanic Immigrants: Younger, Healthier, Uninsured

A new study from the Pew Hispanic Center finds stark differences in coverage of undocumented Hispanic immigrants and the general U.S. population. Sixty percent of Hispanics without citizenship or permanent residency lack health insurance and almost half do not have a regular place to go when sick. Most say they do not have a regular healthcare provider because they do not need one, which may relate to the fact that the Hispanic immigrant population is younger and healthier in comparison the overall national population.

Latin America Could Light Path for World Recovery

The World Bank’s top economist for Latin America Augusto de la Torre warned that the global financial crisis could mean that as many as 10 million people in the region could plunge into poverty. However, de la Torre told attendees of the Americas Conference in Miami that many countries in the region “are coming out of this crisis without systemic damage and as more attractive destinations for investment.” He described the Latin American recession as “less pronounced” and attributed economic successes to open markets, sound macroeconomic policies, and a resilient banking system.

Access additional materials from the Americas Conference, where speakers included former U.S. President Bill Clinton discussing international policy related to Haiti and Costa Rican President Óscar Arias offered his perspective on the Honduran Crisis.

Chávez and Gaddafi Seek to Redefine Terrorism

Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi joined Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez at a South America-Africa summit this week and called for a redefinition of terrorism so that it excludes “legitimate” struggles of people “for liberty and self-determination.” Chávez honored the Libyan strongman at a rally on Venezuela’s Margarita Island with a replica of a sword allegedly used by Simón Bolívar in his fight for Latin American independence.

Venezuela Donates Military Jets to Ecuador

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa will accept six donated military jets courtesy of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Quito is also exploring the possibility of purchasing jets from South Africa and fighters from Brazil.

Read a recent AS/COA analysis on South American weapons purchases.

Iran to Help with Uranium Hunt in Venezuela

Venezuelan officials are working with Iranian scientists to conduct research about the South American country’s possible uranium deposits. “This, combined with President Hugo Chávez’s close ties with Iran and Russia, leads to concerns about transfer of the material for fuel, perhaps in exchange for nuclear technology,” writes David D. Sussman on the Foreign Policy Association’s Venezuela blog. The post points out that Caracas is a signatory of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, prohibiting Latin American countries from having nuclear weapons.

Brazilian VP Voices Nuclear Aspirations

Vice President of Brazil José Alencar says his country should make advances to secure nuclear weapons “as an instrument of deterrence.” The former defense minister, who does not belong to the ruling party of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, made the statement despite a ban on nuclear weapons in the Brazilian constitution. A presidential spokesman said the comments “do not reflect the position of the government,” reports the National Journal Group’s Global Security Newswire.

Lula and Ahmadinejad to Pay Each Other Visits

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Friday, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defended Iran’s ambitions “with respect to nuclear energy.” Lula, who said he plans to travel to Tehran in 2010, downplayed criticism of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust and withheld judgment on allegations of fraud in Iran’s elections earlier this year. Ahmadinejad, who canceled a May trip, plans to travel to Brazil in November.

Brazil’s Finance Minister on Economic “Stress Test”

In an interview with Fundação Getulio Vargas’ Brazilian Economy, Finance Minister of Brazil Guido Mantega lays out his perspectives on the current state and the future of the country’s economy. Mantega says that, during the global economic downturn, Brazil faced a “real stress test.” In a conversation on topics including investment, job creation, and discontent over inflation, the minister says, “The Brazilian economy was put to the test and has overcome the obstacles.” (Hat tip: Brazil Political and Business Comment).

IEDs Hit Targets in Mexico City

Stratfor reports on the growing use of improvised explosive devices in Mexico City, where banks are often targets. A group called the Subversive Alliance for the Liberation of the Earth, Animals, and Humans claimed responsibility for a September 25 attack on a Banamex ATM. This IED bombing—one of five in the Mexican capital during the month of September—was the latest in what the analysis describes as “a wave of anarchist, animal rights, and eco-protest attacks.”

Salves for Mexico’s Aging Population

“Long known for big families with numerous children, Mexico is going gray,” says a USA Today article, reporting that the country’s over-60 population is growing twice as fast as in the United States. In Mexico, the number of people in that age group stands at 9 percent, compared with 5.7 percent in 1975. Meanwhile, birth rates have steadily declined. The article looks at programs—from a new university to shopper discount cards to free Viagra dispensation—aimed at accommodating the growing elderly population.

Latin America on Path to Desertification?

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore brought his message on climate change to Mexico this week, warning that Latin America is especially vulnerable to the effects of global warming, reports Infolatam. Without serious measures to reverse patterns of environmental destruction, the Nobel Prize winner said Latin America is prone to become an arid, desert-like zone with shortages of potable water.

State Department Official Made Unpublicized Trip to Cuba

The U.S. State Department revealed that in recent weeks it sent a high-level envoy to meet with officials in Cuba. The Associated Press (AP) broke the news that Bisa Williams, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs met with Cuba’s Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez during a six-day trip that included a tour of a hurricane-affected area. “Williams met with host government officials and a wide range of representatives from civil society to gain a full appreciation of the political and economic situation on the ground,” State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly told AP.

Panama Mourns President Who Oversaw Democratic Transition

Guillermo Endara, who served as president of Panama from 1989 to 1994, died in his home Monday at the age of 73. Endara won the May 1989 election, but then-leader General Manuel Noriega refused to recognize the victory. Seven months later, a U.S. invasion toppled Noriega and Endara assumed the presidency. He lost later bids for reelection.

Peru Invests in Sports to Fight Narcotrafficking

Latin American Herald Tribune reports that the Peruvian government will spend more than $850,000 on new sporting facilities in areas where guerillas and drug traffickers operate. The proposal involves building 15 complexes across three provinces.

Paraguayans Protest to Reclaim Moonie Land

Two thousand Paraguayans blocked a national highway to demand that President Fernando Lugo mediate the distribution of 30,000 acres of land donated by Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, reports The Latin Americanist. The religious group originally acquired more than 1.48 million acres of land in 2000 for an environmental and tourism project in northern Paraguay. The church donated the 30,000 acres to residents of Puerto Casado after a series of land disputes came before Paraguayan courts.

Funes, Lula, Bachelet Win Presidential Popularity Contests

A new report by Mexico’s Consulta Mitofsky compiles approval ratings for a number of leaders in the Americas and finds that El Salvador’s President Mauricio Funes ranks highest with 84 percent. Presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Michelle Bachelet of Chile garnered 81 percent and 78 percent respectively. Fourth and fifth place went to Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe. The lowest spots went to by Peru’s Alan García and Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Presidents Bachelet and Uribe joined AS/COA for remarks during the week of UNGA. Access video, audio, and transcripts of the remarks for the programs with Bachelet and Uribe.

Tags: Brazil, Cuba, desertification, Ecuador, global financial crisis, Hispanic immigrants, Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, Mexico, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, presidencial popularity, Roberto Micheletti
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