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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Political Fallout in Peru after Bloody Clash

Indigenous protesters and police forces clashed in Peru’s northern Amazon region over the weekend in a violent clash that claimed dozens of lives on both sides. The unrest followed months of demonstrations against a set of decrees that protesters said violated their ancestral claims on land and resources in the region. The Minister for Women and Social Development Carmen Vildoso resigned as a result of the controversy over the government’s handling of the clashes. Indigenous leader and head of the Inter-ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle Alberto Pizango was granted political asylum by the Nicaraguan government on June 8, after the government accused him of inciting violence against the police on June 5.

The BBC reports on claims by human rights groups that the police have hidden protestors’ bodies and kept those groups from entering the area to investigate. The government counters that the police were victims and that it guaranteed a huge parcel of land to indigenous groups. Writing for Infolatam, Professor Fernando Tuesta Soldevilla of Universidad Católica del Peru argues that the clashes have eroded President Alan García’s political capital.

Read an AS/COA analysis of the deadly clashes.

Cuba Rejects Offer to Rejoin OAS

The Cuban government rejected the notion of returning to the Organization of American States (OAS), arguing that the multilateral body serves as a puppet of the U.S. administration. Revista Perspectiva’s blog offers an analysis of the OAS decision last week to repeal the 1962 resolution that led to Cuba’s expulsion.

In an op-ed for El Diario/La Prensa, AS/COA’s Christopher Sabatini argues the decision to pave the way for Cuba to return to the agency “sealed the OAS’ irrelevance.”

U.S. Couple Arrested for Decades of Spying for Havana

A former U.S. State Department official and his wife were arrested last week for allegedly serving as spies for Cuba since the late 1970s. According to the State Department, the arrest came after three years of investigations. The San Francisco Chronicle profiles former official Walter Kendall Myers, saying unsealed court documents show it was “a deep and long-standing anger toward his country” that pushed the American to spy for three decades for Havana.

U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) responded to the news of the Myers arrests by urging the Obama administration to cancel recently approved bilateral migration talks with Cuba.

Havana Envisions Oil Bonanza

Cuba continues to move forward with plans to revamp and expand its oil producing and refining capacity by 2013. Havana has taken these steps with an eye to becoming a net supplier of fuel and oil byproducts to Caribbean countries and, in the case of the embargo ending, the United States, reports The Miami Herald.

Bogota Wants New Extradition Treaty with Washington

Colombian Interior Minister Fabio Valencia Cossio proposed changing the existing U.S.-Colombia extradition treaty. Valencia argued for streamlining the extradition process.

UN Special Envoy Examines “False Positive” Cases in Colombia

The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Phillip Alston arrived in Colombia on June 8 for a five-day investigation of the country’s 2008 “false positive” scandal. “False positives” are civilians killed by government forces and reported as guerrilla casualties of war. Alston will scrutinize ongoing trials and interview victims’ relatives.

Uribe Talks FARC, Trade in Canada

RCN News reported that during a June 8 visit to Canada, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe shared information with the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper about the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s (FARC) activities and contacts in Canada. The information was found in the laptops seized after the raid that killed FARC’s second-in-command Raul Reyes in March 2008. Uribe will also seek to gain support for the Colombian-Canadian free-trade agreement.

Microlending Bank Launched in Colombia

The 2006 Nobel Peace award winner and Grameen Foundation founder Muhammad Yunus and Colombian banker Luis Carlos Sarmiento Angulo signed an agreement to launch a lending institution for the poor called Grameen Aval Colombia. The new bank will be operated by Yunus’ Foundation and financed by Sarmiento’s philanthropic foundation using $5 million in seed money.

Universia Knowledge@Wharton profiles Grameen Foundation President and CEO Alex Counts.

Brazil Officially in Recession

Americas Quarterly’s blog reports that Brazil officially entered into a recession after the latest indicators show that the economy contracted by 0.8 percent in the first quarter of 2009. Despite the news, Brazilian officials expect positive growth in the next quarter.

Mexico City Offers Health Insurance to Tourists

In an effort to jumpstart tourism harmed by a flu outbreak, Mexico City’s Tourism Minister Alejandro Rojas announced that, starting July 11, all visitors will automatically be insured after registering in their hotels. The measure will allow foreigners to seek medical attention at private hospitals citywide. Also, Mexico will host a Swine Flu Summit from July 1 to the 3 in Cancun with delegates from more than 40 countries attending, as well as officials from the World Health Organization.

Thousands of Children Cross the U.S.-Mexico Border Alone

In 2008, more than 11,000 Mexican minors crossed the U.S. border by themselves, reports Mexico’s El Universal. Nearly two-thirds left in search of work and more than 3,000 were repatriated at least twice, resulting in a total of nearly 18,000 deportations of minors.

Wire Transfers Keep Money Flowing for Human Smugglers

The Los Angeles Times covers the billion-dollar business of human smuggling along the U.S.-Mexico border and how wire transfers from people living in the United States to family and friends fund the smugglers. The article looks at a controversy over whether Western Union provides sufficient information to authorities in clamping down on what Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard calls “blood wires.”

Ottawa Worried over Guns Trafficked from U.S.

Canadian authorities are concerned about the rising number of illegal guns flooding their streets from the United States. “The same pattern that allows guns from the U.S. to arm Mexican cartels—a disparity in gun laws, a porous border, and a thriving drug trade—is also sending guns into Canada,” reports The Christian Science Monitor.

Russo-Bolivian Ties Deepen

Between hefty arm deals and energy cooperation agreements, Bolivia and Russia are strengthening their bilateral relations. “[I]t is how the U.S. responds to relations such as that between La Paz and Moscow that will be telling of the new administration’s approach to the region,” argues the Latin American Thought blog.

The Saga Continues: Chávez Government vs. Globovisión

The government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez formally charged the head of news television station Globovisión Guillermo Zuloaga of “generic usury” after finding two-dozen cars parked in a residence he owned. Officials say the cars “were being hoarded for speculative purposes,” reports the Latin American Herald Tribune. Thereby breaking a new law on the books since April. The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas reports that a day later the media outlet was handed $2.3 million in fines for allegedly failing to pay taxes on public service announcements made in 2002-2003. The moves are the latest in a serried against Globovisión, which has been a vocal critic of the Chávez government.

Brazil’s Senate Weighs Venezuela’s Mercosul Membership

Columbia University’s Thomas Trebat writes for RGE Monitor about the dilemma facing the Brazilian Senate as it decides whether to ratify the Lula administration’s decision to allow Caracas Mercosul membership. “In this case, however, the Brazilian government would be well advised to postpone its decision.” Says Trebat. “It and the other Mercosul members should insist on alterations in Venezuela’s economic policies and anti-democratic practices before blindly endorsing them with full membership.”

China, Iran, Venezuela Use “Soft Power” to Promote LatAm Agendas

Freedom House reports on authoritarian countries using “soft power” to undermine democracies. The report underlines Venezuela’s use of its “oil wealth to build foreign alliances and bankroll clients abroad.” It also points out China and Iran’s growing influence in Latin America through signing commercial treaties based on non-interference agreements.

Guatemalan Reporter Assassinated

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urged the Guatemalan government “to conduct a transparent and thorough investigation” in the June 6 murder of television reporter Marco Antonio Estrada in the city of Chiquimula. According to CPJ, Estrada’s beat included coverage of organized crime and drug trafficking.

World Bank’s Scientists End Research of South American Aquifer

Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay chose not to renew licenses for World Bank scientists who spent the past nine years measuring of the Guarani Aquifer. The underground reservoir is the world’s third largest fresh water aquifer and lies beneath the surface of the four countries. Environmental journalist Ana Belluscio explains in an article for World Politics Review that the governments chose to stop working with the Bank after it witheld data about the aquifer. “South America holds one of the biggest water reserves, but for now, the information that is the key to exploiting it belongs to others,” she writes.

African Immigrants Head to Argentina

Recent estimates say that the African community in Argentina keeps growing, now adding up to more than 5,000 migrants from at least 29 countries. GlobalPost reports on the challenges faced by African immigrants trying to integrate as well as Argentines handling the new wave of immigration.

Older Hispanics May Alleviate Future U.S. Labor Shortages

A new AARP report highlights that Hispanics are one of the fastest growing groups of the older population and that they may help alleviating the expected scarcity of experienced workers. With the number of Hispanics between the ages of 50 and 69 expected to quadruple by 2050, the report lists a number of practices employers should put in place to widen employment prospects for Hispanics.

Learn more about AS/COA’s Hispanic Integration Initiative.

Tags: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Hispanic immigrants, Hugo Chavez, Immigration, Mercosul, Mexico, Microlending, OAS, Peru, Recession, Russia, trade, Venezuela
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