Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

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From 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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Giuliani Advises Peru’s Fujimori as She Pulls ahead

Conservative Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori contracted former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani this week as an adviser to help design public security programs. The news came as polls indicated that Fujimori has begun to pull ahead of leftwing nationalist Ollanta Humala for the June 5 runoff election. A Datum released Sunday night found Fujimori leading over nationalist Humala by nearly six percentage points, with 46 percent against Humala’s 40.2. Another pollster, Ipsos Apoyo, released a figure the same day that found Fujimori winning by a smaller margin, with 51.1 percent compared to Humala’s 48.9 percent. 

Victims Law Reaches Final Debate in Colombian Congress

A law that would provide state compensation to victims of violence in Colombia’s civil conflict reaches its final debate in Congress today. Before passing the law, legislators will debate whether to legally recognize that Colombia faces an internal conflict with enemy combatants or to classify the FARC guerrilla army as a terrorist group for the purposes of the law. Colombian ex-President and FARC nemesis Álvaro Uribe explains to Foreign Policy why he supports categorizing the guerrillas as terrorists rather than combatants. Investigative website La Silla Vacía charts the positions of key Colombian politicians on the issue. 

Scandal-tainted Colombian Envoy to Venezuela Resigns

Eight months into his job, Colombia’s Ambassador to Venezuela José Fernando Bautista stepped down Monday after admitting he had ties to a Colombian construction conglomerate involved in bribing politicians for work contracts. He will be replaced by Ricardo Montanegro, who served as the Colombian business attaché in Caracas.

White House: No FTAs without Aid for U.S. Workers

The Obama administration said it would not send the Colombia, Panama, and South Korea free trade deals to U.S. Congress for approval unless House Republicans guaranteed benefits under trade-adjustment assistance for U.S. workers displaced by outsourcing. The Dallas Morning News’ Washington Bureau reported that “Republicans greeted the declaration mildly and said they were optimistic a package deal could be worked out soon.” 

Bolivia Requires Media to Support Maritime Claim

A decree published May 12 by Bolivian President Evo Morales requires the media to show support for the country’s maritime claim against Chile. Bolivia lost its access to the sea in 1871. The Morales administration hopes to press its claim in international courts.

Velasco: Will “Latin America’s Decade” End in Tears?

The Inter-American Development Bank says this will be “Latin America’s decade,” but former Chilean Finance Minister Andrés Velasco has some words of caution. Writing for Project Syndicate, he points out that Latin America’s boom owes largely to high commodity prices and easy access to international capital. “In the past, episodes of dirt-cheap money and commodity prices on steroids ended badly for Latin America. Will this time be different?” Velasco asks.

FDI Soars in Latin America

As foreign direct investment worldwide dropped in developed economies, it shot up 40 percent to $113 billion in Latin America, according to a May report by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Brazil ($48.5 billion), Mexico ($17.7 billion), and Chile ($15.1 billion) ranked highest. ECLAC expects FDI to grow another 15 to 25 percent over the course of this year. 

BRICS Economies Fuel World Middle Class Expansion

The Christian Science Monitor takes a look at how the emerging economies of Brazil, India, China, and South Africa are transforming the world by fueling the greatest expansion of the global middle class since the industrial revolution. About half of Brazil’s 190 million citizens now belong to the middle class. 

Amorim: Next IMF Head Should Come from an Emerging Country

In the wake of a breaking sexual-assault scandal involving the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Brazil’s former Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said the next IMF head should come from a developing country. Amorim said that the United States and Europe should not continue to monopolize the IMF or World Bank. Amorim also expressed support for polygamy—“Trade polygamy, that is.” The ex-minister stressed the importance of Brazil diversifying trade partners to support economic success.

More Yuan for Brazil

China’s Commerce Minister Chen Deming, accompanied by a delegation of 80 Chinese business representatives, traveled to Brazil this week and expressed Beijing’s intentions of boosting investments there. “The Brazilian economy is growing, per capita income is growing, Brazil is a country rich in water, land and sun,” he told reporters, according to Bloomberg. “Additionally, Brazilian culture is attractive to the Chinese.” Chen did not specify investment quantities. Chinese investments in Brazil totaled $17 billion in 2010.

Scallop Industry in Chile Battered by Japan’s Tsunami

The Guardian takes a look at how the Japanese tsunami delivered $6 million in damage to Chile’s scallop industry as a result of a powerful undercurrent. The timing is bad for the world’s second-biggest-scallop producer, which is already struggling with large-scale layoffs and facing stiff competition from Peru.

Forecast: Chile First LatAm Country to Eradicate Poverty

Grupo Santander head Emilio Botín predicts that Chile will become the first Latin American country to eradicate poverty. Botín visited Chile and met with the coutnry’s President Sebastian Piñera over the weekend.

AS/COA holds its Latin American Cities Conference in Santiago on May 26, focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship. Get more information and live coverage at www.as-coa.org/Chile2011.

Tear Gas Use in Chile Suspended to Assess Health Concerns

The Chilean government suspended the use of tear gas in protests after a study from the University of Chile said that exposure to the gas can provoke miscarriage. The decision came after police used tear gas to control a series of protests throughout the country against the construction of a hydroelectric power station by Hidroaysén in Patagonia. More protests are planned for this weekend. (Hat tip to The Latin Americanist, which points out that tear gas has also been used over the past week in protests in Egypt, Kosovo, and Uganda.)

Argentina and Brazil Agree to Smooth out Commercial Dispute

The heads of industrial policy for Argentina and Brazil will meet next week, either in Foz de Iguazu or Buenos Aires, to negotiate their way out of a commercial dispute that has disturbed bilateral relations. Argentina ran a $700 million trade deficit with neighboring Brazil as of the first trimester of 2011, according to the Argentine government, and hopes to convince the Brazilian government to lift tariffs on Argentine automobile imports. 

Uruguay’s Economy on the up and up

Though Argentines often view their tiny neighbor as little more than a renegade province, Uruguay is overtaking Argentina in some important economic areas, according to the Financial Times. Uruguay’s beef exports now outpace Argentina’s and Nomura Securities predicts that Uruguay will receive investment grade credit rating by next year.

CentralAm’s Taiwan Ties: China Rejected Panama’s Diplomatic Overtures

A cable made public by WikiLeaks last week revealed that China had rebuffed Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli’s attempts to establish diplomatic relations, in order to keep relations with Taiwan on good footing. The news prompted Foreign Policy’s Joshua Keating to wonder why Central American countries continue to recognize Taiwan rather than China, the world’s second-largest economy.

In Wake of Massacre Guatemalan Prez Declares State of Siege

On Monday, Guatemala’s President Álvaro Colom declared a week-long state of siege in the northern region known as the Peten after a weekend massacre of at least 27 dairy-farm workers there. The Mexican gang known as los Zetas, who left a threat for the ranch owner, are thought to be behind the killing. Guatemalan authorities reportedly captured suspects linked to the crime on Tuesday. 

El Salvador Presents Food Security Plan

Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes announced May 17 a new national food and nutrition security policy, which will provide subsidies to some 325,000 families of farmers in order to boost national food production. El Salvador imports 90 percent of its vegetables, 30 percent of its beans and corn, and 60 percent of its rice.

Obama’s Texas Investment: Winning the Latino Vote

The New Republic blogger Jonathan Chait writes about the Obama reelection campaign’s push to win long-term support for Democrats from Texas’ growing Latino population. “The Latino population there is as large a proportion as in California, but it’s heavily demobilized,” writes Chait. “A concerted campaign to register Latino voters could eventually change the dynamic.” The post looks at the Obama campaign’s outreach to Texan voters, the Democrats new calls to support immigration reform and the DREAM Act, and Texan Democrat Ricardo Sanchez’s bid for a Senate seat.

Inaugurated Martelly Taps Business Leader for PM Spot

Newly sworn in Haitian President Michel Martelly plans to appoint businessman Daniel-Gerard Rouzier to the position of prime minister, Martelly’s chief of staff said Sunday. Rouzier already serves as an adviser to Martelly. His nomination must be confirmed by the Haitian legislature.

Haitians Who Came to U.S. after Earthquake Qualify for TPS

U.S. immigration officials extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) —a program suspending deportation to countries experiencing disasters—to Haitian immigrants who left after the January 12 earthquake. Haitians who came after the quake will be eligible to apply for TPS until 2013; those who applied before Jan. 12, 2010, received an 18-month extension. 

Haiti Steps up Vaccinations

The Pan American Health Organization announced last week that Haiti has drawn up a plan to vaccinate 90 percent of its newborns by 2015 for diseases including Haemophilus influenza type B, hepatitis B, diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus. The plan is ambitious for a country that did not vaccinate efficiently prior to last year’s devastating January 12 earthquake and will require international support, The New York Times reports.

Cubans March against Homophobia in Havana

About 300 people marched in Havana on May 14 in anticipation of the International Day Against Homophobia. Mariela Castro, who heads the National Sexual Education Center, said the march aimed to raise awareness of discrimination against Cuba’s LGBT community.

Tehran Pitches “Ideological Legitimacy” via Cuban-Iranian LatAm News Initiative

Cuba and Iran teamed up last week to launch Hispan TV, a Spanish language news service aimed at raising awareness of what Iran state officials call the country’s “ideological legitimacy.” The network, which aims to provide original reporting, got off on the wrong foot by erroneously claiming that half the world speaks Spanish, reports Eliot Brockner at Latin American Thought.

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