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.
SOTU: Obama Announces LatAm Trip
During Tuesday night’s annual State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to travel to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador in March. “[T]his will be an important opportunity to recharge and reset U.S. relations with the hemisphere,” writes COA’s Eric Farnsworth in the Americas Quarterly blog, noting that immigration and trade were the two other regional issues Obama touched on. Despite the fact that the president suggested he would “pursue agreements” with Colombia and Panama, observers noted that Obama did not spell out a timetable to win congressional approval of the two free-trade deals.
Visit AmericasQuarterly.org January 27 to access the Winter 2011 issue covering free trade and market access.
SecClinton Travels to Mexico for Bilateral Boost
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Guanajuato, Mexico, January 24 for a meeting with Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa. According to the press conference held after the meeting, the two secretaries hit on a range of topics—from Mexico’s leadership on climate issues to bilateral economic ties to Haiti. Inevitably, the subject of Clinton’s comments on Mexico’s violent drug war attracted the greatest press attention. The secretary voiced support for the Calderón government’s offensive against organized crime, noted a $500 million commitment from Washington this year to support Mexico’s efforts, and compared Mexico’s struggle with crime to New York’s two decades ago. The Christian Science Monitor focused in particular on Clinton’s praise for Mexico’s efforts toward judicial reform.
Read an AS/COA Online analysis on Clinton’s latest trip to Mexico.
Mexican Reporters Seek Asylum
A report for the Texas Tribune follows the stories of two Mexican reporters who have applied for political asylum in the United States, saying that if they return to their country they will face death. One of them, Emilio Gutiérrez, spent seven months in detention because he entered the United States illegally, following a threat on his life. The decision in Gutiérrez’s case may come Friday, when he appears in an El Paso immigration court.
Rio Could Play Bond Game to Raise Cash for Olympics
Financial Times’ beyondbrics blog reports that Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes has signaled that he may ask Brasilia to let his city issue a $500 million bond offering as a way to pay for the cost of the Olympics. “The idea would require multiple approvals—including from the Central Bank and Finance Ministry—and even then might be refused outright,” writes Joe Leahy. “After all, Brazil shut down municipal bond issuance more than 10 years ago to prevent cities from becoming overly indebted.” Rio needs roughly $36 billion to finance hosting of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
Morales Reshuffles Bolivian Cabinet Deck
Bolivian President Evo Morales shook up his cabinet this week, replacing three of 20 ministers. The modifications may not be enough to satisfy the country’s social movements or political opposition, who demanded broader changes after a standoff over fuel subsidies. José Luis Gutiérrez became President Evo Morales’ sixth hydrocarbons minister since the head of state took office in 2006.
Lima Joins SouthAm Club on Recognition of Palestinian State
Peru became the latest Latin American country to recognize Palestine as an independent state on Monday, following similar declarations from the governments of Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and others. Paraguay is expected to fo the same, according to recent news reports. Colombia is the only South American country to say it will hold off on recognizing a Palestinian state.
China’s Rise in a Latin American Framework
A new report released by the Wilson Center for Scholars’ Latin America Program examines the impact of China’s economic rise on the Western hemisphere. China’s ascension has benefitted many Latin American economies by providing a market for minerals and raw materials. On the other hand, Latin American value-added exports have a harder time finding their way inside Chinese borders, according to the report.
Northern CenAm Now Most Violent Region on Earth
Though it’s received less attention than Mexico when it comes to security, the northern region of Central America—including El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—is now among the world’s most violent, according to a report from The Economist. The uptick in violence stems largely from organized crime. The Economist documents the flow of illicit drugs from Central America toward the United States in an interactive map.
Mexico and Honduras Partner against Crime
Honduras and Mexico plan to join forces to fight against organized crime. Following a January 22 bilateral meeting between top officials, the two countries announced they will implement 21 initiatives designed to coordinate communications and share intelligence regarding security and the kidnapping of migrants. In 2009, roughly 18,000 migrants were kidnapped in Mexico, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Honduras Sees Uptick in Investments
Costa Rica’s El Financiero covers the increase in investment seen by Honduras, with $800 million expected this year. Sectors experiencing a boom include telecommunications, call centers, coffee, energy, ports, and factories, report’s the paper’s Honduras correspondent.
Rousseff Balks over Warship Purchase
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff plans to hold off on a $6 billion purchase of 11 warships in order to cut back on government spending. The news follows the postponement until next year of a purchase of fighter jets, also reported to cost about $6 billion.
Read an AS/COA Online analysis about Rousseff’s plans to reexamine the fighter jet deal with France.
Energy to Top Agenda for Obama Visit, Says Chile
Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno responded to news that President Barack Obama will visit Chile in March by indicating that renewable and nuclear energy will serve as priority topics. Obama’s visit will be just the third to the country by a U.S. president in 50 years, reports the Associated Press.
Colombia’s Santos Jumps on Currency War Bandwagon
President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos criticized the tendency among developed countries to devalue their currencies in order to spur exports as a means of recovering from economic recession. Santos said Monday the policy is pushing Latin American currencies up in value and making the region’s exports less competitive.
Will Uribe Run for Mayor?
Though some of ex-president of Colombia Álvaro Uribe’s supporters in the Partido de la U insist he will run for mayor of Bogotá, he has yet to definitely confirm or deny his intentions, reports Spanish daily El País.
Making Credit out of Remittances
A new program hopes to leverage the $60 billion in remittances sent from the United States to Latin America to extend credit for infrastructure projects, according to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez. The initiative, called Bridge, will be launched in Honduras and El Salvador.
The Americas through a Human Rights Lens
Human Rights Watch issued its global report covering last year. See how the countries of the Western hemisphere fared from pages 203 to 273 in the downloadable report, which includes evaluations for 13 Latin American countries.
Chávez Beats the U.S. to Cuban Telecom Market
A venture by Miami-based TeleCuba Communications to build a 110-mile fiber optic cable from Key West, Florida, to Havana has been tripped up by a price dispute between the Cuban government and the Federal Communications Commission, according to Bloomberg. While the conflict has dragged on, Venezuela began constructing a 1,000-mile cable Saturday that will increase Cuban bandwidth.
Célestin out of the Race in Haiti
Governing party candidate Jude Célestin will drop out of the Haitian presidential elections, according to one of his associates, Senator Moise Jean Charles. The elections fell behind schedule when a first round of voting marred by allegations of fraud and ballot stuffing failed to produce two clear frontrunners for a runoff election.
Latin American Leaders Play Role in Rethinking Drug Policy
The Global Commission on Drug Policies made its official launch on Monday in Geneva. The new group aims to spark debate about reforming drug policies focused on the eradication of production and the criminalization of consumption. Latin American leaders taking part in the group include ex-Presidents of Brazil, Mexico and Colombia— Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Ernesto Zedillo, and Cesar Gaviria respectively—as well as Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru and Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes.