Newly sworn-in Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said the Haitian government is drafting legislation to regulate the country’s nascent mining industry. His statement on Tuesday came shortly after the Associated Press reported findings in the northeastern mountain region of precious metals—including gold, silver and copper—potentially worth $20 billion.
According to Lamothe, the new legislation will lay out rules allocating a portion of royalties to the Haitian government and putting in place protections for the people and environment that could be affected by the mining. “The most important thing,” he said, “is to have the correct mining law.” The legislation is expected to be sent to Parliament soon.
Gold was last gathered in Haiti by the Spanish in the 1500s. After they moved on to Mexico, Haiti’s reserves remained largely unknown. In the 1970s United Nations geologists documented notable pockets of gold and copper, but foreigners remained unwilling to invest in the industry within Haiti because of the country’s long history of corruption and instability. Since the 2010 earthquake, though, U.S. and Canadian companies have invested $30 million in exploratory drilling, worker camps, new roads, and laboratory studies.
Haiti’s current mining laws date back to 1976, although in 1996 the firm SOMINE negotiated permits with President René Preval to extract metals out of the mountains. Lamothe said the legislation currently being drafted is designed to benefit Haiti while also attracting foreign investment with the promise of profiting from the mines. He said he hopes Haiti will receive “as much as possible” of the mining revenue “without hampering the profit motive of the mining company.
Lamothe officially became prime minister on Monday, after Parliament approved his Cabinet and policy plan. He filled a vacuum left by former Prime Minister Garry Conille, who resigned three months ago after only four months on the job, due to differences with President Michel Martelly. In addition to the mining legislation, Lamothe emphasized social investment, including garbage clean-up, better roads and programs to help mothers living in poor neighborhoods in the capital city of Port-au-Prince.
The West Indian Day Parade and its pre-dawn “J’ouvert” revelries have taken place every year on Labor Day in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn since the 1960s. Modeled on the traditional Carnival festivities of the Caribbean islands, the parade includes revelers painted black and red to evoke the devil, mas bands dancing to soca, calypso and steel drums, masqueraders dressed in elaborate feather and sequined costumes, and plenty of Caribbean food. Monday's event concluded a series of activities over the Labor Day weekend this year celebrating West Indian culture.
As an annual attendee myself, I was deeply saddened to hear of the violence that took place near and around the parade routes, both during and after it—not to mention the spate of shootings across New York City during the holiday weekend. All in all, from Friday through Monday, 52 shootings claimed the lives of 13 and wounded 54 others, according to police data. In a particularly devastating incident, a shootout on Park Place and Franklin Avenue around 9 p.m. on Monday left two men and an innocent bystander dead, in addition to wounding two officers. Fifty-six-year-old Denise Gay was sitting on her stoop with her daughter when she was struck by a stray bullet in a dispute between Leroy Webster and Eusi Johnson, both former convicts who lived nearby.
In processing this violence, I was disheartened to hear people blaming the West Indian parade, which I and many others experienced as a celebration that brought together the neighborhood’s diverse communities—with roots in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Guyana, and Haiti, to name just a few—to recreate a Caribbean tradition in New York.
I also tried to come up with an explanation—and perhaps more naively, a solution. What caused these acts of violence? Why were my neighbors and peers caught in crossfire and engaged in violence when I led a life of comparative security and ease? What could be done to prevent similar incidents in the future?
However you feel about big-box retail setting up shop in New York, Walmart’s announcement last week of a $4-million donation to New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) offered some cause for celebration. According to the New York City government, private funds donated by Walmart and other companies will enable the program to provide an additional 4,000 New York City youth (aged 14 to 24 years old) with summer employment and educational opportunities. This comes on top of the 24,000 slots the program had secured through public funds alone.
SYEP, which began in the 1960s, places youth in various minimum-wage jobs at camps, parks, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, retail companies, and small businesses across the five boroughs of New York City. It also offers career exploration opportunities, training in financial literacy and information about post-secondary educational opportunities. Though reduced from the 35,000 placements made in 2010 and the 52,000 made in 2009, the 28,000 jobs SYEP will offer youth this summer are good news at a time when 24.5 percent of 16- to 19-year olds and 14.5 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds are unemployed across the country. But still, with 131,000 young people filing applications to be a part of SYEP this year, there remains unmet demand by aspiring workers.
Jimmy Carter arrived in Cuba yesterday afternoon for a three-day visit to the island by invitation of the Cuban government. Carter’s travel to the island, billed as a private trip, will include meetings with Catholic and Jewish authorities as well as a meeting with Raúl Castro. The former President is expected to address U.S.-Cuba relations, Cuban economic reforms and the upcoming sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba scheduled to meet from April 16 to 19.
There is also speculation that the former President will also seek to gain the release of imprisoned U.S. government contractor Alan Gross, who was sentenced two weeks ago to a 15-year prison term for providing satellite communication equipment to Jewish groups in Cuba. Authorities claim this was an attempt to provide Internet access to dissidents to destabilize the island.
This trip marks the second time Carter has visited the island and he remains the only sitting or former U.S. President to visit Cuba since Fidel Castro took power in 1959. Carter’s last trip to Cuba was in 2002 during which he pressed Cuban authorities to improve human rights and to introduce democracy. Upon his return, the President urged U.S. authorities to lift the trade embargo against Cuba. As in 2002, Carter will once again be accompanied by his wife, Rosalynn.
Yesterday, Carter met with the head of the Council of the Hebrew Community of Cuba and with Cardinal Jamie Ortega of the Catholic Archdiocese of Havana. Today, he is scheduled to visit the Belen Convent in downtown Havana followed by a meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro. A press conference will be held at the Havana Palace of Conventions before returning to the United States.
In the 1980’s, the World Commission on the Environment and Development, now called the Brundtland Commission, coined the term “sustainable development” to illustrate the links among economic, social and environmental objectives. Since then, science has added support for the vision expressed by the Commission; holes in the ozone layer and emerging evidence about man-made contributions to climate change have made the environment part of the equation for policies promoting economic growth.
While the debate in the 1980s was originally framed in win-lose terms, in recent years policymakers have come to realize that economic growth and environmental protection do not have to amount to a zero-sum game if tied to social progress. Unfortunately, the Great Recession of 2008 produced a political dynamic in our democracies and societies in which we are once again returning to a win-lose proposition when it comes to discussing how to stimulate growth.
At a time when the Supreme Court has already ruled on the power and jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency, current battles in the U.S. House of Representatives over these issues hark back to an earlier period. Even in a country like Canada, where the environmental community has made sustained progress in the last two decades, some are once again sounding the alarm about a pushback. This has led to an increase in combative dialogue with government policymakers.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is in Paris this week before heading to the World Economic Forum and at the top of his agenda is expanding trade and investment ties with France and the European Union as a whole. Today, prior to meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday, Santos met with French business leaders to discuss commerce opportunities. The Colombian president called attention to Colombia’s economic growth and the importance of expanded trade opportunities: "For us, Europe is still fundamental. We have negotiated a free trade agreement with Europe, and I take this opportunity to ask everyone to help us so that this treaty will get adopted as soon as possible by the European Parliament and the parliaments of each country."
He later had lunch with French Senate President Gerarch Larcher and spoke about plans to "further expand [bilateral] cooperation." Santos is also scheduled to visit a ship-building yard in Saint-Nazaire.
In comments that will likely be echoed during a speech later this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Colombian president noted to French business leaders that "ten years ago Colombia was a country that many catalogued as a failed state" but "the country has changed 180 degrees.”
Meeting on Wednesday at the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, Presidents Sebastián Piñera of Chile and Alan García of Peru agreed to respect the ruling of the International Court of Justice regarding their dispute over maritime borders and to focus on greater economic integration. Appearing before reporters in a lengthy meeting and treating each other as friends, the leaders said their two nations are currently experiencing their “best period” in bilateral relations and that the lawsuit must not hinder their achievement of common goals, such as economic development and the protection of natural resources.
Piñera’s stance of separating the maritime dispute from the rest of Chile’s relations with Peru signals a departure from predecessor Michelle Bachelet’s approach. For his part, García praised Chile’s economic model and pointed out Peru’s own 9 percent growth and 2 percent inflation in 2010. Both he and Piñera said competition between the two countries on economic development and employment generation served as a healthy incentive for growth.
Economic partnership featured heavily in the meeting between the two leaders. Chile, whose investors have poured $9 billion into Peru since 1990, is the latter’s largest foreign investor and third-largest trading partner, after the United States and China. In 2010, trade between Chile and Peru reached $3 billion, up nearly 50 percent from the previous year. President Garcia said he was confident the economic alliance with Chile would have “enormous significance” for gross domestic product growth and employment generation in both countries.
Also during the meeting, the two heads of state signed a memorandum of understanding to carry out anti-drug measures and a second one to implement an integrated control policy for border traffic.
The Brazilian health ministry announced on Tuesday that the country’s drop in childhood malnutrition, coupled with other social progress initiatives, meet the criteria for eradication of extreme poverty under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Health Minister José Gomes Temporão pointed out that the proportion of underweight Brazilian children under 5 years fell to only 1.8 percent between 1989 and 2006. Together with substantial reductions in the number of people living on less than $1 per day, these are signs of having achieved the MDGs on the eradication of extreme poverty ahead of the 2015 deadline.
Minister Temporão also noted that the country is on target to achieve reductions in child mortality rates, another Millennium Development Goal, by 2012 if the country “stay’s its present course.” With infant mortality rates dropping by 58 percent between 1990 and 2008, equivalent to 22.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, the Minister expects the number to drop to 17.8 deaths per 1,000 live births within three years meeting the UN’s Millennium Development Goal.
Other notable achievements, according to Brazil’s health ministry, include reductions in maternal mortality rates of 56 percent over the last 18 years as well as a 75 percent drop in infant mortality rates (infants in their first year of life) to only 6 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Chilean President Sebastián Piñera cautioned Wednesday that if the United States did not move to strengthen its economic ties to Chile and other Latin American countries soon, others would fill the void shortly.
In a speech delivered at Americas Society and Council of the Americas, President Piñera urged the United States to pass long-pending free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. He also stated that China, with which a free-trade agreement has been in effect since 2006, is a principal business partner of Chile’s. In addition to copper, China has become a consumer of Chile’s wines and is poised to become the country’s biggest foreign investor.
Piñera used the speech to highlight Chile’s recent economic achievements. With an economy expected to grow 6 percent in 2010, Chile is currently in the midst of “a true economic renaissance,” he said. The country has the second-biggest economy in Latin America and weathered the economic recession well. From March to June 2010, Piñera’s government created 165,000 jobs, bringing the level of unemployment down from 9 percent to 8.3 percent. A net creditor, it is unlikely to borrow very much this year.
In spite of these successes, Piñera outlined a series of measures to address the economic challenges Chile faces. He hopes to create 200,000 new jobs per year and double public investment in education. He also emphasized the goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2010.
Researcher Russell Kerr is negotiating a profit-sharing deal with the Inuit living in Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost territory. Kerr, a chemistry professor at the University of Prince Edward Island, hopes to discover bacteria hidden in the mud of Frobisher Bay that can be used in commercial products like cosmetics or life-saving medicine.
Nothing is guaranteed, but an organism used in cosmetics could be worth tens of thousands of dollars. On the other hand, Kerr says, "At the upper end of the range, which is a real long shot, a cancer drug can generate billions of dollars.”
Kerr’s approach, which is “precedent-setting,” according to Jamal Shirley of the Nunavut Research Institute, could change how bioprospecting is done in the Arctic, where governments and the UN have been carefully watching the effects of climate change for years. In the upcoming issue of Americas Quarterly, to be released next Thursday, July 29, veteran journalist and AQ contributing blogger Huguette Young explores the geopolitics of the Arctic as melting land and sea transform the region’s geography and ecology.