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Weekly 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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Fernández Pushes for New Central Bank Head

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has sought to replace Central Bank Governor Martín Redrado after he turned down a presidential order to use $6.6 billion in reserves to pay off debt. Former Central Bank head Mario Blejer was named as a potential replacement. However, Redrado rejected the notion that he will resign and said that, according to the Bank’s charter, the decision to dismiss him lies with the Argentine Congress.

Buenos Aires Mayor Announces Presidential Bid

Mayor of Buenos Aires Mauricio Macri announced intentions of a 2011 presidential bid this week. A member of the conservative Propuesta Republicana (PRO) party, Macri hopes to face Néstor Kirchner in a second round and insists the former president “could never win” a one-on-one election.

Looking Back on Washington’s 2009 LatAm Policy

Writing for the State Department’s Dipnote blog, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela reflects on U.S. engagement in the Americas during the first year of the Obama administration. After recounting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Mexico in March and the launch of the Inter-American Social Protection Network, Valenzuela concludes “2009 has been an exciting year in terms of our relationships—both bilaterally and multilaterally.”

Is Latin America’s Pink Tide Receding?

In an op-ed published by Canada’s Globe & Mail, Peru’s Alvaro Vargas Llosa suggests that Latin America’s leftward turn may be drawing to an end. “There has been abundant talk about Latin America's tilt to the left this past decade, but such chatter will soon become antiquated,” writes Vargas Llosa. “Presidential contests in key countries are almost certain to move the region in the opposite direction.”

Big Predictions for Latin America in 2010

Latin America was included in three of Newsweek’s ten “World Predictions for 2010.” The magazine forecasts that, within a year, Fidel Castro will die, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez will face another coup, and Brazil will replace China as the world’s most envied rising economic powerhouse. In response, Chávez mocked the notion of a coup threat and joked that Fidel Castro would outlive both his brother Raúl and himself.

2009 Marks Record for Brazil’s Reserve Growth

Brazil’s Central Bank announced this week that its reserves leapt by 23.4 percent over the course of 2009, hitting $239 billion by the end of the year. Mercopress reports that Brazil experienced the highest percentage growth in foreign exchange reserves among BRIC countries.

U.S. Envoy Seeks to Heal Political Wounds in Honduras

Craig Kelly, a senior U.S. State Department official, traveled to Honduras Tuesday in hopes of spurring the creation of a national unity government outlined in the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord. The Hemispheric Brief blog takes stock of the current situation in the Central American country, three weeks before Pepe Lobo’s inauguration. Deposed President Manuel Zelaya remains holed up in the Brazilian Embassy but an amnesty bill under consideration by the Honduran Congress may serve as a get-out-of-jail-free card for the overthrown leader.

Access AS/COA’s timeline of the Honduran crisis.

Washington Warns of “Unholy” al Qaeda-FARC Alliance

A U.S. official told Reuters this week that Africa-based Islamic militants—including al Qaeda members—and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have joined efforts to traffic cocaine. Bloggings by Boz writes that the narco ties have more to do with business than beliefs: “Illicit trafficking networks find and work with each other regardless of ideology, not because of it. The FARC and al Qaeda are just cogs in a supply chain that can easily be replaced by any number of groups.”

More Hispanics Go Online

A study from the Pew Hispanic Center finds Internet use jumped among Hispanics between 2006 and 2008, bridging the digital divide with the general U.S. population. Internet use among Latino adults rose from 54 percent to 64 percent, which makes Hispanics 12 percent less likely to go online than whites.

The Winter 2009 issue of Americas Quarterly examines the digital divide in the Latin American context.

Record Immigration Cases Reach Courts in 2009

As Hispanic lawmakers and activists press for action on immigration reform, Chief Justice John Roberts' annual year-end report finds that the number of immigration cases reaching the judiciary hit record levels in 2009. Nearly 27,000 people faced federal charges related to immigration—up 20 percent from the prior year.

Remittances Ease Business Financing

Drops in remittances
not only mean less cash to meet everyday needs for Latin American families, but also less start-up capital for entrepreneurs to invest in businesses. But an article in The Miami Herald offers hope in its coverage of an initiative that allows clients to use remittance history to access financing at affordable rates.

2010 U.S. Census to Count Indigenous Latin Americans

The U.S. Census Bureau will count indigenous Latin Americans in this year’s national population survey, tabulating indigenous heritages such as Maya, Nahua, Mixtec, and Purepecha for the first time. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 17 percent of the country’s farm workers are indigenous.

Spotlight on Hispanic Pentecostalism Surge

The Orlando Sentinel features a report on the rise of Pentacostalism among Hispanics. A growing number of Puerto Ricans and immigrants are adopting the faith in Central Florida, reflecting a rise in conversion in Latin America. "This may well be the most dynamic religious movement in the world today in terms of growth and breadth and scope," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in Washington.

Fujimori Sentence Upheld

On January 3, the Peruvian Supreme Court revealed it would uphold former President Alberto Fujimori’s 25-year sentence for charges related to government-led killings and kidnappings under his command.

Morales Asks for U.S. Extradition of Ex-Mayor

The Bolivian government asked Washington Wednesday for the extradition of former presidential candidate and ex-Cochabamba Mayor Manfred Reyes Villa, who fled via Peru to the United States after December elections. Bolivian President Evo Morales warned during presidential campaigns that Reyes Villa could face prosecution for misuse of governments funds. 

Uruguayans Want More of Vázquez

More than half of Uruguayans want current President Tabaré Vázquez to return to politics after President-elect José Mujica, also of the governing Broad Front party, takes over in March, according to a poll by Equipos MORI.

Quito to Host UNASUR Headquarters

Ecuador is set to build the headquarters of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) just outside the capital in the community of Mitad del Mundo, according to statements from Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Fander Falconí. "Our challenge is to consolidate UNASUR’s internal structure," said Falconí. This includes appointing a secretary general and ratifying the treaty to establish the Union for the twelve member states.

Cuba Irks Spain, Denies Entry to EU Parliamentarian

Spain is demanding answers from Cuba when a European parliamentarian for Spain's ruling Socialist Party was refused entry after landing in Havana on Monday. Cuba has offered “no explanation” for the incident, which occurred as Madrid sought a new bilateral agreement to strengthen the European Union’s ties with the island.

Black Activists Take Issue with Cuban Human Rights Record

The Los Angeles Times reports on a statement by 60 African American artists and intellectuals condemning human rights abuses in Cuba, particularly against black activists. The new U.S. administration may be one reason for the heightened concern. Before Obama, “no human rights groups, which largely come from the left, wanted to be seen as lackeys for George W. Bush,” AS/COA’s Christopher Sabatini told the newspaper.

Tracing the Gulf Cartel’s Rise

“Ronald Reagan was in the White House. 'Eye of the Tiger' was on the radio. Cocaine cowboys roamed Miami. And the seeds for what would become perhaps the largest and most powerful crime syndicate in the hemisphere were quietly being sowed in Houston,” reports The Houston Chronicle in a profile of how the Gulf Cartel has thrived over the last quarter century.

In related news, Mexican authorities arrested the brother of recently killed drug lord Arturo Beltrán Leyva. The Beltrán brothers are said to have links to the Zetas, which are in turn linked to the Gulf Cartel. A chart by El Universal examines the Beltrán Cartel family tree.

Dominicans, Haitians Coordinate Fight Against Malaria

PBS’ World Focus takes a look at efforts carried out by the Dominican Republic and Haiti to end malaria. The island of Hispaniola is the only place in the Caribbean where the disease persists.

Check out an interview and slideshow in which AQ’s Danielle Renwick speaks with musician Wyclef Jean about humanitarian efforts in Haiti.

LatAm Coffee Growers Drop Organic Production

Latin America produces 75 percent of the world’s organic coffee, but farmers are abandoning organic farming methods as price premiums have not materialized for beans grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers reports The Christian Science Monitor. At least 10 percent of coffee growers defected from organic coffee farming in the past three years.

Photo Gallery: 14 Natural Wonders of South America

Just back from holiday break? Enjoy Matador’s photos series of natural wonders in South America for ideas about future travel destinations.

Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: Cuba, Brazil, Colombia, Immigration, Honduras, Evo Morales, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, Fujimori, Economy, Remittances, Malaria

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