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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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OAS Sends Mission to Honduras

It’s been over two weeks since deposed Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya snuck back into his country and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy. Three months after his removal from power and with the clock ticking down to the November 29 presidential elections, a stalemate drags on between Zelaya and the de facto government headed by Roberto Micheletti. The Organization of American States (OAS) will give talks another try starting October 7, when a delegation arrives in Honduras. The OAS mission includes high-level officials from Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Canada, Jamaica, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Brazil, the United States, and Spain. OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza leads the delegation. The mission also includes Thomas Shannon, who continues to serve as U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs while awaiting his stalled confirmation to become U.S. ambassador to Brazil.

Read AS/COA analysis on the Honduran crisis, including coverage of related rifts in Washington.

Rio 2016: Celebration and Caution

Brazil’s Marvelous City rejoiced after the October 3 announcement that it will host the 2016 Summer Olympics, making it the first South American country chosen to host the Games. World Bank Vice President for Latin America Pamela Cox said in an interview that the 2016 Games will give Brazil’s economy a “shot in the arm.” positioning it to lead other Latin American countries out of the crisis. The International Olympic Committee's announcement on Friday sparked celebrations among the Brazilian delegation in Denmark as well as throngs of revelers on Rio’s Copacabana beach.

But some have expressed more caution in their assessment of Brazil's win. The Plank, a blog published by The New Republic, warns the Games could mean more woes for Rio’s poor in the case of irresponsible security crackdowns.

Read an Americas Quarterly blog post by COA’s Eric Farnsworth highlighting that Friday’s announcement shows “Brazil’s time has arrived.”

EU, Brazil Talk Climate, Iranian Nuclear Program

Meeting in Stockholm Tuesday for their third bilateral summit, EU leaders and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva put climate change and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions at the top of their agenda. Lula and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt emphasized the need for an agreement during the December Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. The summit’s declaration also urged dialogue with Iran about its nuclear program. During the recent G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, Lula rejected isolating Iran and said his country intends to ramp up commercial ties with that country.

Brazil's Fin. Minister Says BRICs Need More IMF Clout

At International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings in Istanbul over the weekend Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega described efforts to boost the influence of developing countries at the IMF as insufficient. Last week, G20 leaders pledged to transfer at least 5 percent of the IMF’s quota share to developing countries. However, Brazil, Russia, India, and China—the BRIC countries—are pushing for a 7 percent transfer. Mantega’s statements come in light of Brazil’s decision to buy $10 billion worth of IMF notes. On that subject, Mantega said: “This is historic, it's a radical change, Brazil no longer is a debtor nation, we are now creditors of the IMF.”

Colombia Confirms Presence of Two FARC Camps in Ecuador

Bogota revealed Tuesday that it would inform Quito about camps on Ecuadorian soil run by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). A day later, Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva confirmed that his government knows of at least two FARC camps and would pass data along to his Ecuadorian counterpart Javier Ponce. More than a year after a Colombian attack on a FARC camp on Ecuadorian soil, bilateral ties appear to be on the mend.

Uribe on Colombia's Fight against Narcotrafficking

In an October 4 CNN interview with Fareed Zakaria, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe defended joint U.S.-Colombian efforts to combat narcoterrorism. “Our aim is to liberate Colombia from this long nightmare,” said Uribe. He also dismissed critics who link right-wing paramilitary groups to his administration as “gossips,” arguing that his government has been the first in decades to dismantle such groups.

A constitutional reform is underway in Colombia that would allow Uribe to seek a third consecutive term. A new Semana poll found that support for his candidacy stands at 63 percent, up from 57 percent in May.

The president discussed the possibility of his future as a candidate during an AS/COA luncheon on September 24. Access video, audio, and transcripts of the discussion.

Correa in Talks with Indigenous Leaders

Members of the Ecuadorian indigenous group CONAIE met with President Rafael Correa in Quito in the wake of a demonstration that left at least one protestor dead. Indigenous groups blocked roads in protest of a pending water bill and mining activity in the Amazonian provinces of Morona Santiago and Pastaza. After first characterizing their demands as “infantile,” Correa later welcomed the indigenous leaders to talks with “open arms.” Protestors ended roadblocks after negotiations at the presidential palace began.

Bolivia Defends Chinese Aircraft Purchases

Walker San Miguel, Bolivia’s defense minister, backed his country’s purchase of six Chinese K-8 planes, which La Paz intends to use in its fight against drug trafficking. The minister said Bolivia spends far less on defense than other South American countries. The $57.8 million purchase comes out of a $100 million credit line extended by Moscow, reports MercoPress.

Ex-Costa Rican Prez Convicted of Corruption

A San Jose court sentenced former Costa Rican President Rafael Ángel Calderón to five years in prison for distributing, while in office, money from a Finnish loan given to the Costa Rican Social Security Fund. Calderón plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court and campaign for the February 2010 presidential elections.

Guatemalan Supreme Court Selections Draw UN Concern

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern over the election of judges to Guatemalan Supreme Court after an independent UN human rights expert said the process ignored "principles of transparency, objectivity, and expertise." The judicial elections, which Ban said were "of great importance to the fight against impunity," took place in a congressional plenary session September 30. Six of the 13 judges elected are under investigation by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, reports Bloggings by Boz. Guatemala’s Congress has until the judges are sworn in on October 13 to revisit the process.

Costa Rica, Panama Sandwiched in Drug Transit Routes

A new ISN Security Watch analysis explores how the hemispheric drug trade threatens to encroach on the security of Costa Rica and Panama. Although neither experience the kind of violence affecting other Central American countries, both have seen an upswing in massive drug seizures. “This surge dramatically underscores the growing importance of these nations in the cross-hemisphere drug trade,” write Samuel Logan and John P. Sullivan. “They have been caught in the crossfire of Mexico’s drug wars.”

Argentine Protesters Demand Changes to Media Law

Protesters demonstrated in Buenos Aires against a media law proposed by the government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Fernández, arguing in favor of the bill, says it would bring diverse voices to radio and TV, while opponents consider it an attempt to stifle media conglomerate, Clarín, whose outlets are vocal critics of her administration.

Asian Recovery Can Serve as Model for Latin America

In an article for Poder, COA Vice President Eric Farnsworth explores prospects for economic growth in Latin America. He writes that recovery will most likely come from Asia. "At the same time, Latin America’s ability to take full advantage of Asia’s recovery will hinge largely on attending to its own competitiveness," says Farnsworth.

Mexican Tourism Industry Hit Hard in 2009

The latest statistics from Mexico’s National Migration Institute show an 18 percent drop in the number of visitors coming to the country in the first eight months of 2009. The world economic crisis, swine flu scare, and narco-violence have been factors in the decrease, reports New American Media. Tourism pulled in $13 billion for Mexico in 2008, but that figure could drop to $10.5 billion this year. The industry accounts for 8.2 percent of Mexican GDP.

Jump in Chinese Migrant Arrests at U.S.-Mexico Border

The Los Angeles Times
reports that the number of Chinese border-crossers caught in Arizona’s desert rose tenfold this year when compared to 2008. Despite a drop in the number of undocumented immigrants arrested at the U.S.-Mexican border in 2009, Tucson’s Border Patrol alone arrested 261 Chinese migrants this year—a sharp increase compared to the annual average of 32 for the four prior years. The rise may be attributed to the ease with which Chinese travelers can attain visas for Ecuador, Honduras, and Venezuela coupled with the Sinaloa drug cartel taking advantage of growing Chinese demand for passage to the United States.

Demand for Cuban Cigars up in Smoke

Due to decreasing demand for Cuban cigars, the Cuban government plans to reduce the acreage used for growing tobacco by more than 30 percent. According to a report sourced in the Foreign Policy Association’s Cuba blog, cigar-rolling factories in Cuba operate below capacity with crop production set to decline.

Progress in Latin America, UNDP Survey Shows

The UNDP released its 2009 Human Development Report with Chile ranking as the most developed country in Latin American. Brazil placed second (behind Russia) of the BRIC economies. The Economist examines country progress since the 1990 launch of the index, which measures development in terms of education, health, and wealth. Of the Latin American countries the magazine surveyed, Guatemala was the country that showed the greatest improvement, followed by Brazil and Mexico.

Most Influential Hispanics Announced

Hispanic Business
magazine released its 2009 list of the 100 most influential Hispanics. Several Washington officials earned mention, reflecting the fact that 11 percent of U.S. President Barack Obama’s appointees are Hispanic. The list includes individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, from NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba to President of Fox Television Studios Emiliano Calemzuk to the U.S. Supreme Court’s newest Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: Costa Rica, Cuba, Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico, Organization of American States, Colombia, Panama, Honduras, Ecuador, Argentina, Tourism

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