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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PDVSA Hit with U.S. Sanctions over Iran Ties

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro said Tuesday he could not guarantee the supply of oil to the United States after the Obama administration sanctioned Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA over its dealings with Iran’s energy sector. Venezuela exports one million barrels of oil per day to the United States, which amounts to 10 percent of U.S. imports. The Chávez administration threatened to cut exports in the past, but did not do so.  

Colombia’s Senate Passes Victims Law

The Victims Law, which would provide a system of state reparations and means to recover illegally usurped land to victims of the country’s civil conflict, passed Colombia’s Senate. The House and Senate versions must now be reconciled. La Silla Vacía outlines the main points that require clarification before the Colombian Congress decides to approve the legislation. 

LatAm, Asia Still Leading the Way on Global Econ Recovery

The UN’s mid-year update to the World Economic Situation and Prospects Report found that Asia and Latin America continue to aid a global economy on the mend. “The strong recovery continues to be led by the large emerging economies in Asia and Latin America, particularly China, India, and Brazil,” according to the report. However, the survey also warns of potential bumps in the road for these growth economies: “[C]oncerns include persistently rising inflation and emerging domestic asset price bubbles, fuelled by large capital inflows and related upward pressure on their exchange rates.” 

Latinos Like Mobile

In February, the Pew Hispanic Center released a report finding that Latinos were less likely than non-Hispanic whites to use the internet, have a home broadband connection, or own a cell phone. A new study by the Hispanic Institute, however, found that English-speaking Hispanics have “emerged as the most avid users of wireless services,” and that they are more likely than non-Hispanics to own a cell phone, send text messages, and use a greater variety of mobile features. 

U.S. State Legislatures Drop Immigration Bills as Sessions Wrap up

“As many state legislative session wrap up for the year, more lawmakers are jumping ship on controversial enforcement measures targeting undocumented immigrants,” according to a Seth Hoy in a post for Immigration Impact. States that have dropped or seen delays on such legislation include Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. The post points out that some states may view the expenses racked up by Arizona as a warning; that state has spent $1.9 million in legal fees defending its immigration law and lost $141 million due to conferences stemming from the controversy. 

An AS/COA Online news analysis looks at steps taken by state on immigration legislation. 

Obama Plans Puerto Rico Trip; First U.S. Prez to Visit since JFK

President Barack Obama will visit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico on June 14. He will participate in a town hall and attend an interagency meeting to follow up on the issues raised in the Task Force report on Puerto Rico’s status, released in March. It will be the first time a U.S. president has visited the island since John F. Kennedy’s trip 50 years ago. 

Americans Will Soon Travel to Cuba, but Not for Tourism

The Obama administration issued the new rules regulating U.S. travel to Cuba that permit educational travel as part of a policy to ramp up “people-to-people” contacts. Any Americans can travel to Cuba under the new rules, provided they travel with a licensed operator. Tens of thousands went to Cuba when people-to-people contacts were first authorized from 2000 to 2003. 

Diplomatic Sources: U.S. Envoy in Afghanistan Choice for Mexico Post

The Houston Chronicle reports that, according to diplomatic sources, the Obama administration has selected U.S. Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan Earl Anthony Wayne as its candidate for the top U.S. envoy to Mexico. The White House has not yet confirmed the appointment, which requires approval by the U.S. Senate and Mexican government. Wayne’s foreign-service career spans more than 35 years and, during the George W. Bush administration, he served as U.S. ambassador to Argentina.

Mexico’s Central Bank Head in Running to Lead IMF

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s resignation from the International Monetary Fund’s top post on May 18 paved the way for challenges to Europe’s stranglehold over the Fund’s highest position. Mexico nominated former Finance Minister Agustín Carstens for the position on May 23, but he faces stiff competition from top-contender French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.

Read an AS/COA Online News Analysis about Latin America and the call for a non-European IMF Director. 

OAS to Decide June 1 on Reversing Honduras’ Suspension

The Organization of American States (OAS) has slated June 1 as the date to decide on Honduras’ return as a member. The Central American country’s OAS membership was suspended following the June 2009 overthrow of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. An agreement signed over the weekend in Colombia by Zelaya and current Honduran President Porfirio Lobo opens the door for the deposed leader’s return home

Read an AS/COA Online analysis of Zelaya’s possible return to Honduras. 

Six Decades Later: Guatemala to Recognize Árbenz’s Legacy

More than 50 years after a U.S.-led coup that resulted in the resignation of democratically elected President Jacobo Árbenz, Guatemala has decided to rewrite his chapter in the country’s history. Árbenz, who was deposed in 1954 and died in exile in 1979, will gain “treatment afforded to historical heroes,” writes Elizabeth Malkin in The New York Times. The government will name a highway and museum wing after him, issue stamps in his honor, and revise school curriculum regarding his presidency. The government will also admit its role in the coup and compensate the Árbenz family.

Guatemalan President Colom Warns of Cartel Infiltration

President Álvaro Colom of Guatemala said in an interview with Spanish daily El País that previous governments coordinated with cartels to facilitate drug trafficking over the country’s northern border with Mexico. Lamenting the drug cartels’ infiltration of the government, Colom said Central America needs “some kind of NATO against organized crime.”

Femicides on the Rise in El Salvador

Brutal killings of women are on the rise in El Salvador, due to a mix of gender inequality, organized crime, and gang activity, In Sight Crime reports. El Salvador saw 160 femicides during the first three months of 2011, according to nongovernmental organization Salvadoran Women for Peace.  

Business, Govt Leaders Meet in CentralAm to Talk Renewable Energy

Central America’s drive to develop renewable energy is about survival more than principles, according to the Financial Times’ beyondbrics blog. The region hardly produces any oil, coal, or natural gas and its yearly oil import bill totals $7 billion. On Monday and Tuesday, some 600 business, government, and NGO representatives will meet at the Clean Energy Summit in Guatemala to advance renewable energy and discuss investment options, including the possibility of courting China in a region that still largely maintains relations with Taiwan. 

Peruvian Protesters Block Bolivian Border over Mining Project

Globalpost’s ¿Qué Pasa? blog reports on tensions building at Peru’s border with Bolivia, where thousands of Peruvians have protested and set up roadblocks in response to a Canadian firm’s plans to build a silver mine near Lake Titicaca’s shores. The roadblocks left some 600 trucks stuck on the Bolivian side of the border and caused as much as $20 million worth of losses, according to estimates from Bolivian businesses. Mining concessions are among Peru’s most controversial political issues as the country heads into a second-round presidential election on June 5, in which conservative Keiko Fujimori holds a narrow lead.

Paraguayan Senate Debates Whether to Let Ex-Prez Take Seat

The Paraguayan Senate will debate the fate of ex-President Nicanor Duarte Frutos’ legislative seat tomorrow. Opponents say he did not resign from the presidency in time to campaign for his Senate seat back in 2008. Paraguayan ex-presidents receive a non-voting Senate seat for life, but if confirmed, Duarte would be allowed to cast legislative votes because he won the position in an election. 

Chile Hopes to Close Chapter on Allende Controversy with Exhumation

Chilean authorities exhumed the body of former President Salvador Allende—ousted on September 11, 1973—to assess whether he committed suicide or was killed by security forces the day of the coup. Chile’s Centro de Investigación Periodística gives a detailed overview of the four-decade controversy surrounding his death, based on the testimony of the surviving witnesses and a newly unearthed military file containing reports from the death scene.

Uruguayan Emmigrants Return Home

About 140,000 Uruguayans left their country from 2000 to 2008, largely due to the 2001 financial crisis. Now, as Uruguay’s economy bounces back with 8.5 percent growth in 2010, many emmigrants are returning. The country’s government estimates that more than 4,000 Uruguayans will go home this year. 

Argentina’s President Plans Commercial Trip to Mexico

President of Argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will lead a delegation of 200 business leaders to Mexico on Sunday with a goal of ramping up bilateral commercial ties valued at $3 billion last year. The trip was originally scheduled for April but was postponed due to health problems she suffered at that time. 

Brazil’s Forest Code Reform Advances

A proposal to reform Brazil’s forest code passed the country’s lower house. The law would give small farmers more freedom to cultivate protected lands in the Amazon and give amnesty to those who cut down trees illegally before July 2008. Brazilian Vice President Michel Temer says the Rousseff administration wants to facilitate negotiations between environmentalists who oppose the reforms and the rural lobby that backs them. 

Whites a Minority for First Time in Brazil’s Latest Census Count

The Miami Herald reports that figures from a 2010 Brazilian census show, for the first time, that whites became a “majority minority,” with fewer than half of those surveyed self-identifying as white. “Experts say the shift reflects a growing comfort in not calling oneself white in order to prosper in Brazil and underscores the growing influence of popular culture,” writes Taylor Barnes.

Read Americas Quarterly’s Issues in Depth page on Afro-Latinos in the Americas

Abdías do Nascimento Passes away at 97

Brazil’s prominent black activist, Abdías do Nascimento, died in Rio de Janeiro on May 23 at the age of 97. Nascimento served as a congressman who pushed for legislation guaranteeing Afro-Brazilian rights. He also worked as a writer, a poet, a scholar, and an actor. Beginning in the 1940s, he edited the newspaper Quilombo (a Portuguese word for fugitive slave settlements) and founded the Experimental Black Theater group. His work earned him a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2010.

Tags: Cuba, IMF, Immgiration, Mexico, PDVSA, Puerto Rico, Sanctions, Venezuela
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