Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Weekly 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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Mexico, Germany Host Climate Talks

Germany and Mexico jointly hosted this week informal climate talks aimed at deciding what steps should be taken in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Cancun, Mexico, in December. The Petersberg Climate Dialogue held near Bonn, Germany, brought together representatives from 45 countries to discuss topics such as the carbon market, reducing emissions from deforestation, and technology. While the talks—initiated by Mexican President Felipe Calderón and German Chancellor Angela Merkel—did not produce any climate change agreements, they “built up trust” and helped to “bring movement to the climate talks,” Mexico’s Environment Minister Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada told Bloomberg. View a video of President Calderón speaking at the Petersberg Dialogue.

LatAm Governments Join Chorus against Arizona Law

The Latin Americanist blog takes a look at rising criticism from governments across the Americas against the Arizona immigration law. Mexico voiced its opposition to the law, and Colombia, Brazil, the OAS, and UNASUR have rejected the law as well. During this week’s summit in Argentina, UNASUR leaders issued a declaration rejecting the law for its “criminalizing of immigrants.”

Sports Officials, Athletes Condemn Arizona’s Immigration Law

Several sports organizations and athletes have opted to boycott sporting events in Arizona in response to the state’s controversial new immigration law approved April 23. The World Boxing Council and the Federation of Boxing Commissions of Mexico announced April 29 they have decided not to allow Mexican boxers to fight professionally in Arizona due to what they say is “the shameful, inhumane, and discriminatory anti-immigration law, which is no other thing than a flagrant violation to the basic principles of dignity and equality between races.” Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner issued a similar statement regarding the law, stating, “The recent passage by Arizona of a new immigration law could have a negative impact on hundreds of Major League players who are citizens of countries other than the United States.” Athletes such as San Diego Padres star Adrian Gonzalez also criticized the law, with Gonzalez saying on May 2, “If they leave it up to the players and the law is still there, I’ll probably not play in the All-Star Game [in Phoenix]. Because it’s a discriminating law.”

To top it off, the Phoenix Suns plan to wear “Los Suns” jerseys in the second game of the Western Conference semifinals, as GOOD blog reports. The Suns’ owner Robert Sarver said the jerseys, which the players are wearing on Cinco de Mayo, “honor our Latino community and the diversity of our league, the state of Arizona, and our nation.”

Read an AS/COA analysis of the Arizona immigration law.

New Arizona Immigration Law Being Considered in Other States

As Arizona’s new immigration law sparks debate over immigration reform, several states are considering following suit with similar legislation, a New America Media news report shows. Lawmakers in at least 10 states—including Utah, Oklahoma, Colorado, Ohio, Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, and Maryland—have advocated for laws that would allow local law enforcement officials to check immigration status. Marcelo Ballvé writes that states will likely continue “taking matters into their own hands” until U.S. Congress deals with immigration reform.

Data Shows Immigrants Can Spark Business Growth

A Poder piece examines American misperceptions about immigrants placing burdens on the economy and taking away jobs from citizens. David Adams points out that statistical research shows the opposite and that, “[f]ar from being a drag on the economy, immigrants are a vital engine of small business growth.” He mentions that minority-owned businesses accounted for over 50 percent of the 2 million new businesses launched over the past 10 years, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy.

Néstor Kirchner Named UNASUR Secretary General

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) gave unanimous support to the naming of former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner as the organization’s new secretary general. The decision was made during a UNASUR ministerial meeting held in Buenos Aires on May 4.

Argentina Overtakes Chile as Richest Per Capita Country in LatAm

The Latin Business Chronicle reports that Argentina surpassed Chile as the richest country in Latin America in 2009, as measured by GDP per capita purchasing power parity. The data, based on information from the International Monetary Fund, shows that Argentines had a GDP per capita of $14,561 last year compared to Chile’s GDP per capita of $14,341.

Gay Marriage Bill Approved by Argentine Lower House

The Chamber of Deputies in Argentina approved a gay marriage bill on May 5 in a session that ended with 125 votes in favor of—compared to 109 against—the proposed legislation. The bill now heads to the senate. If passed, Argentina will become the first Latin American country to allow gay marriage.

RSF Names Latin American Press “Predators”

International press freedom watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released a May 3 list of 40 politicians, religious leaders, militia, and criminal organizations that treat the press as “an enemy.” RSF refers to these predators as “powerful, dangerous, violent, and above the law.” Among the Latin American predators listed are Mexico’s Sinaloa, Gulf, and Juárez cartels; Cuba’s President Raúl Castro; the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia; and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.

Truth Commission Looks into Zelaya Ouster

Honduras launched a truth and reconciliation commission on May 4 to investigate the June 2009 ouster of ex-President Manuel Zelaya. The commission—supported by the UN, the United States, and the OAS—looks into the events leading to Zelaya’s exit, what happened following former interim-president Roberto Micheletti’s takeover of power, and recommendations for the future. The commission hopes to submit a final report by January 2011.

U.S. Extends TPS Visas to Hondurans

Honduras’ La Prensa reports that Honduran President Porfirio Lobo and U.S. State Department senior official Craig Kelly announced on May 5 the extension of temporary protected status (TPS) for 18 months to Hondurans residing in the United States.

Colombian VP Visits China, India to Strengthen Economic Ties

Vice President of Colombia Francisco Santos announced this week his forecast that Colombia will sign a free trade pact with China in less than three years. Santos stated that “trade with China is soaring” as the Andean country recovered 40 percent of its exports that were previously shipped to Venezuela by selling them to China. Before stopping in China to attend the opening ceremony of the Shanghai World Expo on April 30, Santos visited India where he met with Indian Vice President Mohamed Ansari and business leaders in a bid to strengthen bilateral trade relations. The number of Indian businesses investing in Colombia increased from five in 2007 to 26 in 2009.

Soldiers Sentenced in Colombian False Positives Case

A tribunal in Medellin sentenced 10 soldiers to 30 years in prison for their role in the deaths of two men as part of the “false positives” scandal. The crimes were uncovered in 2009, when it was discovered that hundreds of civilians had been killed and their bodies disguised as guerillas or paramilitaries slain in combat.

Lula’s Opportunity to Urge Release of U.S. Hikers Imprisoned in Iran

An Americas Quarterly blog post looks at Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s May trip to Iran and Lula’s efforts to expand Brazil’s influence in the international arena. Matthew Aho points out that Brazil could go far in achieving something for “the greater good” if, during his time in Iran, Lula secures the release of three American hikers arrested in Iran in July 2009. “[T]he Iranian leadership would never want to be perceived as making a concession to the United States by releasing the hikers without a reciprocal move by the U.S. government. But, a similar, almost insignificant gesture to their Brazilian ally…is an entirely different story,”  writes Aho.

Cuba, Venezuela Inaugurate Sucre Payment System

On May 4, Cuba purchased rice from Venezuela using the sucre system of payments for the first time since its 2009 inception by the member countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). The sucre is a virtual currency created by ALBA as an alternative to the U.S. dollar, with one sucre equaling $1.25.

Bolivia Announces Power Company Nationalizations

Financial Times reports on the Bolivian decision to expand state control of the electricity sector by nationalizing power firms controlled by French, British, and Bolivian firms. “We’re fulfilling the thunderous request of the people to recover and nationalize natural resources and basic services, which previously belonged to the state,” announced President Evo Morales.

Laborers Launch Nationwide Strike in Bolivia

On May 4, Bolivian laborers launched the first nationwide strike since President Evo Morales came to power in 2006. Two people were injured and 15 were arrested in the strike that was initiated by the Central Obrera Boliviana, which has demanded more than the 5 percent wage increase proposed by the government.

U.S. House Passes Trade Bill to Boost Haiti Recovery

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill this week giving Haiti more access to the U.S. market in efforts to help the Caribbean country recover from the January 12 earthquake. The clothing industry constituted 75 percent of Haiti’s export earnings and the bill makes it more appealing for clothing manufacturers to invest in Haiti while opening the U.S. market to clothes produced in the country. The bill next requires approval by the Senate, which is expected to pass it as well.

LatAm Multinationals Look to Corp Social Responsibility to Reduce Poverty

The University of Pennsylvania’s Universia Knowledge@Wharton looks at how Latin American corporations are using corporate social responsibility to lower poverty. “The founders of Latin American companies…have been committed to the development of their local economies. They wanted to—and, in fact, managed to—contribute to the technological progress of their countries and, at the same time, improve the lives of less-fortunate citizens,” says Lourdes Casanova, author of Global Latinas: Latin America’s Emerging Multinationals, in an interview.

Tags: Argentina, Arizona, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, Honduras, Immigration Law, Media, Mexico, UNASUR, Venezuela
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