Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Weekly News Roundup from Across the Americas

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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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Uribe Makes SouthAm Tour to Discuss U.S.-Colombia Military Deal

President Álvaro Uribe began a tour of South America this week to discuss an accord that would allow U.S. military to operate out of Colombian bases for cooperation on antinarcotics efforts,
reports MercoPress. The agreement, which would create a substitute for the closed air force base in Manta, Ecuador, has drawn concern from presidents across the continent, including the presidents of Brazil and Chile. Uribe succeeded in garnering support from Peru’s President Alan García, but received a firm rejection from Bolivian President Evo Morales, reports Bolivia’s Los Tiempos. Uribe gores to Chile Wednesday to speak with President Michelle Bachelet while he will travel to Brazil on Thursday.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said he planned to raise concerns about the military agreement at a UNASUR summit, reports Colombia’s El País. Chávez’s protests agains the accord come at a tough time, when Chávez “froze” relations with Bogotá over allegations that the his military supplied rocket launchers to Colombian guerrillas. An editorial in the Financial Times urges Brazil to take up “the mantle of regional leadership” and help soothe troubled ties between the two Andean countries.

Read AS/COA coverage of the U.S.-Colombia military base deal.

Quito-Bogota Tensions: Reading Raúl Reyes’ Diaries

A number of documents have come out linking the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to the Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s presidential campaign. Spain’s El País reports on the recently released set of personal diaries belonging to now deceased FARC second-in-command Raúl Reyes. The notebooks refer to his secret meetings with members of Correa’s administration and suggest that FARC gave $400,000 to Correa’s presidential campaign. In an interview with Colombia’s El Tiempo, Correa said “I have never met with any member of the FARC.” The diaries indict Ecuador’s former Minister of Security Gustavo Larrea, according to El Universo.

Attacks on the Press Ramped Up in Latin America

The Venezuelan Attorney General’s office introduced a bill last week that would open the door to journalists receiving jail time for publishing “manipulated” information against state interests. But the country’s National Assembly tabled the bill. Assembly Secretary Ivan Zerpa said the Attorney General’s office “has no legislative powers.”

Still, over the weekend, the government closed down 34 radio station for not complying with regulatory issues, reports The Christian Science Monitor’s global news blog. In the wake of the closures, Chávez supporters attacked the offices of Globovision. The private station has criticized the government and been subjected to repeated—and what some consider questionable—investigations. However, the Chávez government condemned the attack.

On the heels of Venezuela’s media closures, Ecuador’s government announced intentions of shutting down “many” television and radio stations.

The Los Angeles Times reports on threats to press freedom in Nicaragua, focusing on Carlos Fernando Chamorro, a member of the Sandinista Revolution’s old guard and now an outspoken critic of the Ortega government.

Meanwhile, a judge in Colombia issued an arrest warrant for the editor of Cambio over a retraction issued by the magazine that the judge said failed to comply with a February court ruling. The retraction was for a November 2008 article covering interactions between a Colombian judge and an Italian drug trafficker. Numerous press organizations criticized the issuing of the arrest warrant.

Government Seizes Coffee Plants in Venezuela

The Venezuelan government took three-month control of two of the biggest coffee companies’ processing plants. Authorities said the move was designed to ensure continual coffee supply and that the companies could face nationalization if “monopolistic practices” were uncovered.

Narcoterrorists Stage Attack on Police Base in Peru

A group of 60 narcoterrorists attacked a police base in central Peru, leaving three police officers and two civilians dead. Rumors link the resurgent Sendero Luminoso to the assault. Peru’s El Comercio notes that what distinguishes this attack from other recent ones was those involved ambushes while the most recent one involved a planned operation against a base used by elite security forces.

Peru Asks for Canadian Generosity on PanAm Games

Canada’s Embassy reports that Peru sent a letter requesting that Canada withdraw its bid to host the 2015 Pan-American games in Toronto and to support Peru’s bid to host the international games. Responding to the request, Canada’s Sport Minister Gary Lunn said, “I’ve responded through the ambassador that that’s not something we can entertain.”

Panama-Canada Leaders Could Ink Trade Deal

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads to Panama next week to meet with President Ricardo Martinelli. The Toronto Star reports that the two leaders will likely sign a bilateral free trade pact. The accord continues the expansion of Canada’s economic ties in Latin America, given that its trade deal with Peru went into effect on August 1.

The White House’s Hemispheric Policy

COA’s Eric Farnsworth writes that the White House has built good will within the Americas by playing host and visiting regional leaders. With six months of leadership under its belt, the White House should now make solid moves: “Concrete policy proposals and actions are required in order to keep the momentum and show the hemisphere, through deeds as well as words, that we really have embarked upon a new path in hemispheric affairs.”

Middle Class Boosts Brazilian Economic Recovery

The Miami Herald reports that Brazil’s growing middle class has played a major role in the country’s ability to rise from the global financial downturn. Nearly 28 million Brazilians joined the country’s consumer economy while, from 2001 to 2007, the country’s poorest 10 percent saw real income grow by 49 percent, according to data provided by Rio’s Getulio Vargas Foundation.

A Roadmap to Brazil’s Senate Scandals

GlobalPost’s Seth Kugel interviews University of Brasilia’s David Fleischer about the scandals leaked about Brazil’s Senate since February. Fleischer offers an overview of Senate leader and former President José Sarney’s involvement, the role of Brazilian investigative journalists in uncovering the dirt, and what the scandals could mean for the country’s 2010 presidential election.

Buenos Aires Makes $2.25 Billion Debt Payment

Argentina’s Economy Minister Amado Boudou announced Monday that Argentina would use $2.25 billion worth of reserves to pay down interest on Boden bonds issues to compensate creditors who incurred losses from the 2001 freezing of bank accounts. Boudou expressed hopes that the move would help Argentina return to international credit markets.

Raúl Castro Signals Willingness to Talk with U.S.

While addressing Cuba’s National Assembly on Saturday, President Raúl Castro said his government would be willing to respond to overtures from Washington with diplomatic talks. Castro credited the Obama administration with a “diminution of the aggression and anti-Cuban rhetoric” but he also suggested that Cuba would do little to change its political system. “I have to say, with all due respect to [U.S. Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton…they didn’t elect me president to restore capitalism in Cuba, nor to hand over the revolution.”

Morales Apologizes to Argentina, Chile

After Santiago accused La Paz of meddling in its political affairs, Bolivian President Evo Morales apologized to Argentina and Chile for comments he made earlier in the week about elections in both countries. During a Monday speech, Morales described the right-leaning coalition supporting Chilean presidential candidate Sebastian Piñera as “pinochetista.” He also expressed concern that “fascist” leadership could return in Argentina. Chile’s Foreign Minister Mariano Fernández accepted Morales’ apology.

Bolivia Starts Assessment of Lithium Reserve

Latin American Herald Tribune reports that Bolivia’s state-owned mining company began drilling this week to assess the quantity of lithium lying below the salt desert located in the southwest region of the country. Prior reports came up with differing quantities of the precious mineral, which can be used in electric car batteries.

Read AS/COA coverage of Bolivia’s development of its lithium industry.

Glacier Disappears in Bolivia, Kills World’s Highest Ski Run

A Bloomberg feature looks at the vanishing of Bolivia’s 18,000-year-old Chacaltaya glacier, which melted away six years earlier than scientists predicted. The glacier’s disappearance threatens the water supply of 2 million people in La Paz and also ends the world’s highest ski run.

Mexico to Bring Carbon-Cutting Plan to Copenhagen

The Foreign Policy Association blogs that Mexico plans to bring a detailed proposal for cutting carbon dioxide emissions to December’s climate change summit in Copenhagen. “There are obstacles ahead for Mexico, as for other rapidly industrializing economies, political and otherwise, but the will really does seem to be evidencing itself,” writes Bill Hewitt. “Significant action by our friends in Congress and down the street at the White House prior to Copenhagen will certainly boost the efforts of the major developing nations.”

U.S.-Mexican Co-Responsibility Era Takes Shape

The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Andrew Selee writes in The Houston Chronicle about new collaboration between Mexico and the United States to combat drug violence, money laundering, and arms trafficking. “At the same time, while stepped-up enforcement on the border is certainly welcome, it can hardly be the primary solution to dealing with southbound flows,” he writes. This article was excerpted from an essay in the Summer 2009 issue of Americas Quarterly.

Calderón Backs Zelaya’s Reinstatement Bid

Weeks after a coup—and multiple summits later—little progress has been made in carving out a solution to the Honduran crisis. As Bloggings by Boz puts it, “there has been no significant change for about a week.” On August 4, deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya met with Mexican President Felipe Calderón. The Mexican leader expressed support for Zelaya’s peaceful return to power in Honduras, reports Mexico’s El Universal.

Access AS/COA resource guide to the Honduran crisis.

New Protest Tactics in Honduras

La Prensa reports that Zelaya supporters have begun stamping Honduran money with statements opposing the military coup. A representative for the Honduran Central Bank said that the act “will cause serious damage to the national economy.”

Read AS/COA coverage of the crisis.

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