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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North American Leaders Meet in Guadalajara

The leaders of Canada, the United States, and Mexico met in Guadalajara, Mexico on August 9 and 10 for the North American Leaders’ Summit. The discussion centered on security, trade, coordinating response to the H1N1 virus, climate change, and clean energy. A Bloggings by boz post says that while all the leaders made a point of formally discussing these issues, “there weren’t any major new agreements.”

Read AS/COA coverage of the summit.

Obama Delays Immigration Reform

Speaking at the end of the summit in Guadalajara, U.S. President Barack Obama said immigration reform will have to wait until 2010. A blog post for the Houston Chronicle discusses Obama’s rescheduling of immigration reform, and the concern that “tomorrow” might never really come.

No Base Agreement at UNASUR Summit

Leaders at the August 10 Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) summit in Ecuador took up the issue of the pending U.S.-Colombia military base agreement. They remain divided on the issue, but Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez warned that “the winds of war are beginning to blow.” UNASUR will meet again about the matter on August 24. Monday’s summit meeting resulted in the Declaration of Quito, which addresses many common issues, including the creation of the Bank of the South.

Read AS/COA coverage of the UNASUR meeting.

Curfew Reinstated in Honduras; OAS Plans Delegation

The interim government in Honduras announced that it would reinstate a curfew after Tuesday protests in Tegucigalpa turned violent. Despite weeks of discussions and drama, a solution remains elusive in Honduras, where President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown and forced out of the country on June 28. OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza announced that he will send a delegation to meet with the de facto government in the Central American country at the end of next week. Two Weeks Notice responds with a post titled “tick tock,” noting that 44 days have passed since and the coup and 110 days remain until the country’s scheduled presidential election.

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

Correa Inaugurated for Second Term

During his speech at the inauguration for his second term, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said “we have concluded the first stage of our revolution,” and that the “socialist revolution” will continue with government investment in health, education, and programs for the county’s poorest citizens.  An infolatam article analyzes his inaugural speech, “[c]onvinced that he leads a revolution, [Correa] divides the world into supporters and enemies, with no middle ground.”

Napolitano on Border Security and Immigration Reform

In remarks at a border security conference, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said “our job is to enforce the laws that we have now.” Afterwards, she spoke with The Los Angeles Times and said more effective enforcement is a central part of current border security. She acknowledged that “[t]here is a big effort among many that we need comprehensive immigration reform.”

Washington Investigates Cross-Border Oil Scam

The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. government is investigating whether U.S. firms were knowingly part of a scam involving stolen Mexican oil. Two years ago, the United States and Mexico began working together to uncover an oil smuggling scheme carried out by the Gulf cartel. Mexican authorities arrested in April members of a smuggling ring who made $46 million off of stolen oil. In the United States, a Houston businessman who served as president of oil marketing firm Trammo Petroleum was arrested for his role in an oil smuggling plot. On Tuesday, Trammo compensated the Mexican government with $2.4 million for the stolen oil.

Sotomayor Approval Changes Court Dynamics

Sonia Sotomayor was sworn in on August 8 after the U.S. Senate approved her in what President Barack Obama called a “historic vote.” Taking a look at the new perspective that Sotomayor will bring to the Court, an article in Hispanic Business says, “unlike any other current justice, she has both tried cases as a prosecutor and presided over trials as a judge…giving her an up-close look at how the criminal justice system works.”

Will Venezuela and Colombia Reheat Ties?

A Foreign Policy article takes a look at Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s freezing of economic ties with Colombia and says that “there’s nothing new about any of this tension.” He suggests that economic necessity will bring about a reopening of trade between the two countries.

Argentina and Venezuela Sign Trade Pacts

During her visit to Caracas this week, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed agreements with Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chávez to pave the way for the Andean country to import $1 billion worth of products that include agricultural equipment, leather goods, and poultry. Mercopress also reports that one of the deals allows Venezuela to import up to 10,000 cars from Argentina rather than from Colombia.

Harper Inks Trade Deal in Panama

Prime Minister Stephen Harper traveled to Panama City on August 11 to conclude negotiations of a Canada-Panama free trade deal. Harper said: “Reaching a free trade agreement with a key hemispheric partner like Panama is the logical next step in our policy of pursuing deeper integration and closer co-operation throughout the Americas.”

Peru and Brazil Consider Dams

Edison Lobão, Brazil’s minister of energy, told reporters that the two countries are considering working together to build five new hydroelectric dams to meet Brazil’s soaring energy needs.

Brazil vs. Colombia on Affirmative Action Reforms

Latin American Thought blog compares affirmative action legislation making the congressional rounds in Brazil and Colombia. Brazil reforms would create racial and socioeconomic quotas in the country’s federal universities. The Colombian laws would be more far-reaching, including quotas in universities, the military, and government jobs as well as incentives for greater political representation of Afro-Colombians. Author Rachel Glickhouse looks at debate over the measures in each country and suggests Brazil and Colombia could learn from each other’s experiences.

Costa Rica’s President Catches Swine Flu

On Sunday, President of Costa Rica Óscar Arias came down with what his brother called a “mild” case of H1N1. Since April, there have been roughly 800 confirmed cases of and nearly 27 deaths from the virus in Costa Rica, reports the Tico Times.

More Bad Remittance News

The Inter-American Development Bank reported again that the economic crisis appears to be taking a bite out of remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean. The latest survey indicates that this year the flow of migrant money to the region could drop by as much 11 percent from the United States and 14 percent from Europe.

New Safety in Colombian Mountains

Writing for GlobalPost, John Otis describes his experience cycling through now-safe Colombian mountains where just a few years ago Marxist guerrilla abductions were common. “The trip was all about upsetting the conventional wisdom…and a new image of Colombia: a land of good security and bad coffee,” writes Otis.

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