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Weekly News 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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Second Round of Talks Falls Short in Resolving Honduran Crisis

This latest round of mediated talks between representatives of Honduran interim leader Roberto Micheleti and deposed President Manuel Zelaya ended with little solution. Costa Rican President and negotiations mediator Óscar Arias’s proposed a seven-point plan to peacefully reinstate Zelaya, but the Micheleti delegation firmly rejected it. The New York Times’ Ginger Thompson reported Wednesday that a new round of talks would be postponed after Honduras’ current Foreign Minister Carlos López Contreras failed to convince the de facto government to accept terms that would allow Zelaya’s return to power.  Rumors of another attempt by Zelaya to return to Honduras repeatedly crop up; CNN Expansión reported Wednesday morning that Zelaya himself is planning his return in upcoming days.

In an AQ blog post, AS/COA’s Christopher Sabatini takes a look at the negotiations, Arias’ plan, and the increasingly isolated situation Honduras finds itself in as countries and multilateral institutions cut large swathes of aid. On Monday, the European Union followed suit, suspending $92 million in financial aid to Honduras, reports the European Voice.

Access AS/COA’s resource guide to the Honduran crisis.

Confirmation Delayed for Obama’s Hemispheric Nominees

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee postponed the July 21 voting on the confirmation of Arturo Valenzuela for the post of assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) used the delay as a means to register his and 16 other Republican senators’ dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s response to the Honduran crisis. Demint termed Valenzuela’s responses on Honduras as unsatisfactory and that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should not have refused to meet with Honduras’s interim government. The confirmation of Thomas Shannon as U.S. ambassador to Brazil was also delayed.

Nicaraguans Commemorate Revolution's Anniversary

July 19 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, which overthrew the Samoza dictatorship. President Daniel Ortega used the celebrations to repeat his call for for a referendum to reform the constitution and open the door to consecutive presidential reelection, reports Revista Perspectiva magazine’s blog.

Nicaragua's La Brújala offers a timeline of major events since 1979 revolution, including the Sandinista literacy campaign and the Reagan administration's support for the Contras.

Read an AS/COA analysis of the anniversary and Ortega’s reelection hopes.

Human Rights in the Americas

Since its creation, the Inter-American system of human rights has exceeded its founders’ expectations. But can it evolve to address new challenges facing the Americas? The Summer issue of Americas Quarterly looks at human rights successes and challenges in the Western Hemisphere. The issue includes a feature by former President of Peru Alejandro Toledo.

The Decline of U.S.-Venezuelan Counternarcotics Cooperation

Earlier this week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report about U.S.-Venezuelan counternarcotics cooperation. The report says Venezuela serves as a major transit route for Colombian cocaine and that, in recent years, the Chávez government refused to cooperate with Washington on couternarcotics efforts. The recent restoration of bilateral diplomatic relations could open the door to “greater technical cooperation with the United States if the government of Venezuela were to allow it.”

Chávez’s Troops Seize Police Station

Clashes between protestors and Venezuela National Guard troops erupted on Wednesday July 15, after the troops seized the state police station in Venezuela by force and ousted local police. The Latin American Herald Tribune reports that protestors set up barricades and set car tires on fire, to which the National Guard responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Tensions have been high between President Hugo Chávez and Miranda’s Governor Henrique Capriles since he defeated Chávez’s governing-party candidate last year.

Capriles, along with two other governors and the mayor of Caracas, spoke at a July 20 AS/COA program. View the video and read coverage in Venezuela’s Noticias24.

PDVSA’s Bond Auction Detailed

Petróleos de Venezuela South America (PDVSA), a state-owned oil company and one of the top exporters of oil to the United States, succeeded on July 15 in selling bonds to meet its goal of raising $5 billion. In the Venezuela Report by Robert Amsterdam, El Maestro offers up a chronology and detailed analysis of the auction, examining impact on Venezuela and the global market.

Brain Drain in Venezuela

In an article for Newsweek, Mac Marolis considers the effects of President Chávez’s policies on Venezuela’s intelligentsia and resulting “brain drain.” “[T]ens of thousands of disillusioned Venezuelan professionals have had enough,” he writes. “An estimated 1 million Venezuelans have moved abroad in the decade since Chávez took power.” The article looks at similar trends in other parts of Latin America.

FARC Video Links Guerilla Funds to Correa Election

Colombian officials released a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) video they say proves the guerilla group helped fund Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s campaign, though Al Jazeera says the hour-long video does not prove Correa knew of the funding. Ecuador’s government has strongly denied any such ties but many remain unconvinced, reports Semana.

In related news, Venezuela canceled a high-level meeting scheduled with Colombian ministers this week. El Espectador reports the decision comes in response to the FARC video release as well as Venezuelan concern over the possibility that U.S. military forces will operate out of Colombian bases.

Read an AS/COA analysis about the possible U.S.-Colombia deal in the wake of the closure of a U.S. Air Force base in Manta, Ecuador.

Britain’s Trash Sent to Brazil

Recycling companies in Brazil thought they were getting plastic from Great Britain. Instead, reports El Espectador, they received 1,200 tons of garbage, including dirty diapers and used syringes. The Brazilian government requested “repatriation” of the trash.

On July 23, AS/COA hosts a discussion on the threat of Amazon destruction. Panelists include former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt and The New York Times science reporter Andrew Revkin. A free live webcast of the event will also be available.

São Paulo Busses Go Pollution Free

The first hydrogen-fuelled bus in Latin America began service in São Paulo. Hydrogen busses, powered by a totally clean source of energy, cost more to run. But the bus’s creators tell Inter Press Service that “savings are made in other ways.”

How About Those Gem-Encrusted Uzis?

Drug lords amass sometimes-absurd extravagances including solid gold guns, famous paintings, and exotic animals. Writing for The Wall Street Journal, John Lyons considers the activities of a Mexican agency tasked with seizing such goods and details some interesting finds, such as frozen sharks.

Mexico’s Visa Tit-for-Tat with Canada

On July 13, the Canadian government announced new visa restrictions on Mexican nationals. Mexicoreporter.com covers the Mexico’s response; the foreign secretary announced suspension of Canadian diplomatic visa exemptions but refrained from a broader requirement, which could have affected Mexico’s tourism industry.

U.S. and Cuban Troops Conduct Joint Exercises

Last week, U.S. and Cuban armed forces crossed a decade-old boundary in a set of joint drills and training exercises. According to a Miami Herald article, a U.S. Navy spokesman said that the U.S. Navy base in Cuba “has fostered a positive relationship with the Cuban Frontier Brigade.”

Graphic Novels Offer Cuba Insight

In a Foreign Policy Association blog, Melissa Lockhart considers the perspective that a few Cuban graphic novels offer: “[The artists’] objective is to shed light on individual experiences that are sometimes lost in the churning of historical and political drama.”

Looking for Change in Cuba

Writing for the World Affairs Journal, National Public Radio correspondent Tom Gjelten takes a look at Cuba’s potential for change. Considering the impact of U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for a “new beginning” Gjelten, who has traveled to Cuba 14 times in 15 years, writes: “I will know Cuba has changed when there is a new ideological tone in the official discourse.” He discusses former Cuban President Fidel Castro’s role and how he lost touch with many younger Cubans, quoting Cuba singer Pablo Milanés, who said, “I don’t trust any Cuban leader who is older than seventy-five.”

Santiago’s Dark Side

Though The Economist Intelligence Unit identified Santiago as the second best Latin American city to live in, a study by Chile’s Centro de Investigación e Información Periodistica (CIPER) found that more than 660,000 citizens of Santiago live a very different experience. The CIPER investigation examines the most at-risk communities in the city and details the myriad of problems they face, from lack of basic services to assaults and shoot-outs.

Payoff Admission Leads to Fujimori’s Third Sentencing

After admitting to paying $15 million to former intelligence czar Vladimiro Montesino, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori received his third sentence—this one for seven and a half years on July 20. Peru’s El Comercio reports that Fujimori plans to appeal the sentence.

In April, Fujimori received a 25-year sentence for his government’s involvement in human rights abuses.

Argentine Statistics Agency Seeks to Boost Credibility

In an effort to address the Argentine government’s reputation for misreporting national statistics, Argentina proposed changes to its national statistics and census agency, including increased control by the country’s Economy Ministry. As Economy Minister Amado Boudou told reporters: “We do not see it as a reform. We see it as a strengthening of an organism surrounded in controversy.”

“Where’s the Beef?” Asks Argentina

WorldFocus covers beef shortages in Argentina, saying the carnivorous country finds it may need to start importing beef to supplement its domestic supply. “It’s tough to swallow for Argentines, whose 41 million people eat about 143 lbs per capita of beef every year, 50 percent more than the second biggest beef-eaters in the world—that would be people in the United States,” writes Peter Eisner. Even though the government denies any shortage, La Nación reports cattle supplies are at their lowest since 1964.

Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: Chile, Human Rights, Peru, Canada, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador, Argentina, President Obama

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