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.
Honduran Congress Delays Decision on Zelaya
Legislators in Tegucigalpa revealed that they’ll wait until after the November 29 election to make a decision about whether deposed President Manuel Zelaya will regain office. The Honduran Congress will convene a special session to decide on December 2. Despite fighting for his reinstatement since his June 28 overthrow, Zelaya wrote a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama saying he would back out of a U.S.-backed deal. “From this date forward, whatever had been the case, I do not accept any agreement for returning to the presidency,” wrote Zelaya.
In the Americas Quarterly blog, Daniel Alschuler writes about the crisis’ impact on upcoming elections, including at the municipal level.
Access an AS/COA timeline highlighting important dates since the June 28 ousting of Zelaya.
Colombian-Venezuelan Tensions Heat up
Four Venezuelan National Guard soldiers captured on Colombian soil will be sent back to Venezuela in order to mitigate tensions between the two countries. Relations have suffered since Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez ordered the military to prepare for a potential armed confrontation with Colombia two weeks ago. On Monday, Venezuela’s ambassador to Bogota declared that there is a “pre-war situation” between the two countries in light of Colombia’s recent military pact with the United States.
Brazil Sets Emissions Targets
Last week, Brazil announced that it intends to cut carbon emissions by as much as 38.9 percent by 2020. Then Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva joined up with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to step up pressure on climate change negotiations in the run up to next month’s meeting in Copenhagen. A joint-document released by the French and Brazilian government calls for a cooperative effort between the United States and China to reduce carbon emissions.
Read a new AS/COA Energy Action Group working paper: Energy and Climate Change in Brazil.
The Fall 2009 issue of Americas Quarterly examines environmental issues in the lead-up to Copenhagen.
Recovery Lessons from Brazil
As the first Latin American country to begin to recover from the global economic crisis, there are lessons to be learned from Brazil, according to an article in the University of Pennsylvania’s Universia Knowledge@Wharton. “Following the response from global policymakers that pulled the world economy back from the brink, Brazil policymakers’ fiscal and monetary actions enabled the country to regain its footing in the first half of this year,” the article states.
APEC Eyes Trans-Pacific Partnership Model
Leaders in Singapore last week for the 2009 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit cited the Trans-Pacific Partnership—also known as the P4—as a model for expanding pan-Pacific trade. After traveling to Singapore, COA’s Eric Farnsworth discussed the APEC summit, progress in charting a trans-Pacific trade agenda, and China’s growing economic role in Latin America.
Trade Deal Could End Long-Lasting “Banana Wars”
Latin American and European trade officials could reach a settlement this week in which the European Union would cut tariffs on bananas and other tropical products. The settlement would mark the end of the “banana wars” sparked in 1993, which have become the longest enduring dispute in the history of the World Trade Organization. The resolution could facilitate future EU trade agreements with Latin American countries.
Peru Accuses Chile of Espionage
President of Peru Alan García cut his trip to Singapore for the APEC summit short after Peruvian authorities arrested a member of the country’s air force on charges that he spied for neighboring Chile. A Peruvian court also ordered the arrest of two Chilean military officers alleged to be involved and Lima recalled its ambassador to Chile. Santiago dismissed the charges and Chilean Air Force general Ricardo Ortega said Peru is seeking to provoke Chile over recent weapons purchases from the United States. Bloggings by boz raises questions about the regional dimensions of the scandal and notes that, “While neither country seems ready to fully break off diplomatic relations, or more significantly cut trade, this is the most tense they have been in several years.”
Chile to Buy U.S. Weapons and Radar Systems
Examiner.com’s Sylvia Longmire writes that Chile has requested to purchase U.S. arms and radar systems valued at around $665 million. According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the purchases will contribute to improving the Chilean military’s capability while also strengthening the “interoperability” between Chile and the United States. Latin America observers are concerned that weapons purchases made by Chile, as well as Ecuador, Venezuela, and Brazil, could lead to a regional arms race.
El Salvador Honors Priests Killed by Military Regime
On November 16, the Salvadoran government paid homage to six Jesuit priests slain 20 years ago by the national army during the country’s civil war. The priests were awarded the country’s highest honor. “We want this to be an act of recovering our collective memory,” President Mauricio Funes said. “For me, this act means [we] pull back a heavy veil of darkness and lies to let in the light of justice and truth. We begin to cleanse our house of this recent history.”
Peres, in South America, Warns against Iran, Venezuela
On Tuesday, Israeli President Shimon Peres concluded his trip to South America aimed at countering Iran’s influence in the region. Peres accused Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez of using oil reserves to consolidate their political power, saying that oil has clouded their thinking, and that “their own people are getting tired of them.” Peres’ stop in Brazil marked the first by an Israeli president in four decades and comes before Ahmadinejad heads there next week.
First Gay Couple Weds in Argentina
The Latin Americanist reports that two men tied the knot in Buenos Aires this week, making them the first gay couple in South America to marry legally. The historic milestone comes after an Argentine judge ruled that limiting marriage to strictly men and women violated the national constitution.
Canada Ranks High, Haiti Low in Corruption Index
Transparency International released its latest edition of the Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures and ranks perceived levels of corruption in 180 countries and territories throughout the world. Canada, Barbados, St. Kitts, and Chile fared well in the survey, but Nicaragua, Ecuador, Honduras, and Haiti placed near the bottom of the list.
India, Canada Seek to Boost Trade and Nuclear Energy Cooperation
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Mumbai this week in an attempt to jumpstart increased trade levels between his country and India, which he hopes to see triple within the next five years from the current level of $5 billion. “Where we are today is not where we ought to be,” Harper said in a meeting with Indian businessmen. “We are good friends and partners, but we could be better friends and partners. We should be better friends and partners.” On top of signing trade cooperation agreements, Harper suggested the two countries were on the verge of signing a civilian nuclear deal that would allow Canadian firms to sell nuclear material to India.
U.S. Lawmakers Support End to Cuba Travel Ban
Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee have called for an end to legislation that bans U.S. travel to Cuba. According to an op-ed they penned in The Miami Herald, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a meeting on the travel ban this week. “This ban has prevented contact between Cubans and ordinary Americans, who serve as ambassadors for the democratic values we hold dear. Such contact would help break Havana’s chokehold on information about the outside world,” write Lugar and Berman.
Raúl Elicits Public Comments on Cuban Socialist System
Cuban leaders requested public input on suggestions for reforms. An NPR report says that moving from a one-party system is not up for discussion. However, one major proposal would eliminate the rationing system that provides Cuban citizens with food at a heavy cost to the government as most of the food is imported. In 2007—the last time the Cuban government asked for public criticism—limited reforms were made.
SCOTUS Upholds Ban on Children’s Cuba Book
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on the ban of a children’s book that paints a positive picture of communist Cuba, following a federal appeals court ruling in 2006 that said the ban does not violate the First Amendment. The book was removed from a Miami-Dade County elementary school after a majority opinion agreed that it inaccurately portrays life under Fidel Castro. The appeal, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, claimed the book was banned without due process.
Morales Polling Ahead in Presidential Race
Cochambamba-based Democracy Center gives an overview of candidates in the race for the Bolivian presidency, with the incumbent Evo Morales competing against former Cochabamba Mayor Manfred Reyes Villa and the National Unity Party’s Samuel Doria Medina. According to a recent poll, Morales is in a strong lead over his contenders with 52 percent of respondents saying they would support his reelection on the December 6 election day.
Mexico City Transit Project Recognized
Harvard University honored Mexico City for innovative action to drastically reduce traffic congestion and pollution in the capital through the construction of several miles of express bus lanes. The Metrobús project cut carbon dioxide emissions by 80,000 tons a year with the help of new buses that use clean-burning, low sulfur fuel.
Enter the Venezuelan Rainmaker
Foreign Policy’s Passport blog reports that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez hopes to elicit rainfall on areas experiencing severe drought in his country. The president stated that he plans to fly with a Cuban team of scientists in an aircraft carrying special equipment intended to influence precipitation. “I’m going in a plane; any cloud that crosses me, I’ll zap it so that it rains,” Chávez said.
Due to the Thanksgiving Holiday, the Weekly Roundup will not be published on November 25. Look for the next issue on December 2.
*Editor’s note: The original version of the Weekly Roundup erroneously reported that the two Peruvian officers had been arrested. A Peruvian court ordered their arrest, but they were not arrested. At the time of publishing, only a member of Peru’s air force had been arrested.