Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Weekly News Roundup from Across the Americas



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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After the Summit

The Summit of the Americas took place over the weekend, featuring high-profile handshakes, star treatment of U.S. President Barack Obama, and much discussion of an absent Cuba. The summit concluded without unanimity on the declaration, but ended with “hope,” said Barbados’ Caribbean360. Voice of America reports that the summit gave Washington a “fresh start” with the 33 other countries in attendance. The Miami Herald asks readers to consider “the genuine progress that was achieved in healing the breach between the United States and its neighbors.”

Cochabamba-based Democracy Center checks in on U.S.-Bolivian relations, from the Bolivian foreign minister pushing for Washington to restore the Andean country’s trade preferences to La Paz’s hesitation to restore diplomatic ties. Revista Perspectiva’s blog says Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stepped up to the plate as a regional leader. Colombia Reports covers the “power lunch” between Obama and his Colombian counterpart Álvaro Uribe, whom the U.S. president invited for a White House visit.

So what’s next? Eric Farnsworth writes in the AQ blog that the summit “was cathartic” but that “some very real issues in the hemisphere have not gone away, and they require group attention.”

Read AS/COA coverage of the summit

Venezuelan Opposition Leader in Peru

Peru’s foreign minister revealed Tuesday that Venezuelan opposition leader Manuel Rosales arrived in the country and has 100 days to seek political asylum. Rosales, who is the mayor of Maracaibo, says he faces political persecution by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who in turn has accused Rosales of corruption and being behind an assassination plot.

Investigating the Bolivian Assassination Plot

In Santa Cruz last week, elite Bolivian police forces killed three and arrested two said to be behind a squelched assassination attempt on Bolivian President Evo Morales. Bloggingz by boz takes a look at the “twists and turns” since then, including the Morales back and forth on calls for an international investigation. The Irish Times reports on the controversy surrounding the shoot-out and the death of one of the alleged assassins, who was an Irishman. One of the other men killed was a Hungarian citizen and the third was Bolivian but had a Croatian passport and fought in the Balkan conflict.

Ahead of Election, Ecuador Unveils Debt Buyback Proposal

The government of Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa declared on Monday that it plans to pay debt bondholders 30 cents on the dollar. Dow Jones suggests this will lead to a spate of lawsuits. Correa made the announcement ahead of Sunday’s presidential election, which polls indicate he will likely win. World Politics Review takes a look at Ecuador’s election and recent political stability

Uribe Reelection Watch

El País reports that Colombian President Álvaro Uribe this week told former U.S. President Jimmy Carter that he doubts he will present himself as a presidential candidate in 2010, despite legislators’ moves to open the door to just that possibility.

Brazil Seeks Greater Say in IMF Spending

A debtor nation to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) half a decade ago, Brazil has pledged to advance the IMF as much as $4.5 billion. Bloomberg reports that Brazil hopes to increase its influence over the fund’s spending and was among countries that pressured the IMF to ease its loan conditions last month.

Interview with Lula in Argentina’s La Nación

In a 90-minute interview with Argentina’s La Nación, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva gives his perspective on topics ranging from indefinite reelection to social equality to his post-presidency future.

Lugo’s Electoral Victory: A Year Later

Latamblog checks in with the presidency of Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo a year after he beat the Colorado Party, which held power for six decades. The blog post warns that Lugo won on a wave of hope in which voters wanted to see an end to the corruption of the past, yet his administration has been plagued by infighting and a lack of direction. Moreover, his government has also been affected by a string of recent paternity suits, which have harmed his approval ratings.

“The Economic Crisis: What’s Next?”

The latest issue of Americas Quarterly hit newsstands this week, offering an in-depth look at the global economic crisis and what it means for the Western Hemisphere. Authors include former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Harvard’s Ricardo Hausmann, and the Economist’s Michael Reid. Visit www.americasquarterly.org for more.

LatAm Continues to Draw Investors

“These days, the global financial market offers little opportunity for investors. But there are oases in every desert, and in this case, manna can be found in Latin America,” according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Universia Knowledge@Wharton. A new analysis looks at why the region is suffering less than others when it comes to attracting investment dollars during difficult financial times.

Despite Crisis, Chile Gets Investment Grade Boost

Financial Times reports that “self-insurance” helped Chile become the first investment-grade country to receive an upgrade from Moody’s since the beginning of the global financial crisis.  Stashing cash from high copper prices during the commodity boom helped prepare Santiago for harder times. Moody’s also raised the foreign currency ratings of four major Chilean banks.

Chile Approves Transparency Law

A new transparency law was enacted April 20 in Chile, giving the general public access to a wide range of information, from salaries for government posts to service contracts. Citizens can also gain access to information paid for through public funds. The law covers the military and police forces, ministries, and provincial governorships and municipalities.

Debating U.S.-Cuba Policy

PostGlobal panelists debate whether the White House’s recent easing of some restrictions on some travel to Cuba goes too far or not far enough. Cuban-born columnist Carlos Alberto Montaner suggests U.S. President Barack Obama’s next move should come “after Fidel, the principal obstacle to the country’s natural political evolution, disappears.” Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab calls the recent moves “pragmatic” and suggests the White House take similar steps in the case of Iran.

Obstacles in Immigration Reform’s Path

Migration Information Source’s “Policy Beat” takes a look at prospects for immigration reform to move forward, the Department of Homeland Security’s new security program on the Mexican border, and an update with the “Family Unity” tour. U.S. President Barack Obama met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in March to discuss reform, but “the faltering U.S. economy and the political risk of engaging the contentious immigration debate could keep any major immigration reform legislation from making it to a vote in Congress in 2009.”

A New America Media article covers new state legislation focused on stepping up the arrest and deportation of undocumented immigrants.

In a CFR.org podcast, former Latin America Bureau Chief of Newsweek Joe Contreras warns that U.S. concern about the drug war are on the rise, displacing immigration as a priority.

Mexican Immigrants Outnumber Others Nationalities

Pew Hispanic Center published a new fact sheet on Mexican immigrants, which found that 12.7 million Mexican immigrants lived in the United States as of last year. They make up 32 percent of all immigrants in the country, vastly outnumbering the second-largest foreign-born group, Filipinos, who make up 5 percent of all U.S. immigrants. More than 10 percent of Mexicans live in the United States.

From Guerilla to Guide in El Salvador

The Christian Science Monitor’s Global News blog reports on efforts in El Salvador to memorialize the country’s war-torn past through tourism. Former Marxist guerillas provide tours of the hills outside San Salvador where they were based, dugouts where families hid for days, and bomb craters as big as 50 feet in diameter.

Jump in U.S. Latinos’ Internet Usage

Vivirlatino blog reports that the February 2009 figures place the number of U.S. Latino Internet users at roughly 20 million. This represents a growth of 5.8 percent compared to the same period of the previous year and is higher than the 3.9 percent growth in the general web population.

The Hemispheric Popularity Contest

A recent Mitofsky poll takes a look at approval ratings for hemispheric heads of state. Unsurprisingly, Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva tops the list with a 70 percent with Colombia’s Álvaro Uribe and Mexico’s Felipe Calderón taking the second and third spot. Manuel Zelaya of Honduras took last place with a 25 percent approval rating.

Hat tip to Inca Kola News blog, which updated the figures to reflect another increase (up to 61 percent) in Michelle Bachelet of Chile’s approval rating. As the blog post commented on the Brazilian president’s high ranking, “Lula: He is Yoda. The end.”

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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.

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