Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas



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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Secretary Clinton Delivers Major Policy Speech in Quito

Before an audience at El Centro Cultural Metropolitano in Ecuador, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a major policy speech in which she articulated the Obama Administration’s vision for U.S.-Latin American relations, with a focus on combating social inequity. Clinton spoke on a range of issues from access to education, to economic equality and social justice to the environment. During her remarks, Clinton paraphrased Latin American historical figures such as South American independence leader Simon Bolivar—a hero of U.S.-critic and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez—and Cuban national hero José Martí as she highlighted points about overcoming social inequities. But she stressed the role of the private sector as well, emphasizing five areas of “opportunity” to overcome impediments to social inclusion: education, reforming inefficient tax systems, empowering women, job creation, and public-private sector partnerships. “If you pit the government against the private sector, that’s a lose-lose proposition,” she said. She rounded out her speech with a call to the future rather than the past. “Sometimes, we in America are accused of not paying enough attention to our history,” she said. “But the obverse can also be true. Sometimes people are captives of their history. So let us resolve to meet in the present.”

Foreign Policy
‘s Madam Secretary blog comments that Clinton charmed Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, who said during her visit: “[W]e are not anti-American. We love the U.S. very much. It is a trade partner. In fact, I spent the happiest four years of my life with my family in that great country.”

Honduras Recognition Takes Center Stage at OAS Summit in Peru

Foreign ministers from across the hemisphere met on Monday in the Peruvian capital of Lima to discuss a range of issues, although recognition of the Honduran government became a central issue. The Western Hemisphere remains divided over whether to recognize the government of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, elected in November 2009, as a result of the June 2009 overthrow of then-President Manuel Zelaya. During remarks, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocated for Honduras’ return to the OAS, but major economies such as Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico have been reluctant. In an Americas Quarterly blog post, AS/COA’s Senior Director of Policy writes: “The ALBA countries have no interest in seeing this resolved. But moderate countries should, and objective and skillful diplomacy can get them there; it’s up to the U.S., its Brazilian colleagues, and the much-criticized leadership of the OAS.”

The 40th OAS General Assembly produced the Declaration of Lima, a document reaffirming each country’s commitment to peace and rejection of military force except for in self-defense. The Declaration also promotes arms controls, environmental preservation, and the strengthening of inter-American cooperation.

Polls Show Santos Winning in Second Round of Colombian Vote

A new poll places former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos well ahead of his rival ex-Mayor of Bogota Antanas Mockus in advance of the second round of Colombian elections on June 20. The survey by CM& gives Santos 61 percent against Mockus’ 29.8 percent. However, doubts remains surrounding Colombian polling given their failure to accurately predict the outcome of last month’s first round; during the May 30 election, polls predicted a tight race but Santos pulled in more than twice the votes of Mockus.

Read an AS/COA analysis on Colombia’s first round.

China Finances Major Ecuadoran Dam Project

Quito revealed that it will begin construction of its hydroelectric dam project in two weeks, thanks in part to Chinese financing to the tune of $1.68 billion. Once completed, the Coca Codo plant, which drew close to $2 billion in investments, will serve as Ecuador’s largest power plant.

Post-Secondary Educational Challenges in Venezuela

A non-profit Venezuelan organization published an analysis of data received from the Education Ministry of Caracas, indicating that only 13 percent of secondary schools in the capital offer diversified, post-secondary, or vocational training. A closer examination of that minority reveals that an overwhelming 75 percent of those that do offer post-secondary training are private schools. Of those that did not offer any training, 60 percent are part of Caracas’ public education system. The data also indicated a disparity between the provision of and demand for higher education, leading some to suggest that a possible solution would be to empower more local governance over education.

Venezuela Purchases Chinese Military Jets

Caracas announced it will spend $82 million on 18 Chinese light-attack, training aircraft. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has said he aims to eventually have a fleet of 40 of the K-8 military training aircraft to replace the aging fleet of F-16 fighter jets, which Venezuela has been unable to obtain parts for as a result of a U.S. arms embargo. Chávez approved the deal with China after a similar deal to purchase military aircraft from Brazil collapsed under pressure from the United States because the aircraft contained U.S. components.

Learning Chinese in Mexico

The Los Angeles Times reports on a pilot program subsidized by the Aguascalientes state government that paves the way for students the learn Chinese. The program, launched in this central Mexican state, coincides with new Chinese investments in areas such as car-part factories and electronics. Students involved in the program, who mostly come from low-income families and single-parent homes, can take the course from fourth to sixth grade.

Mexican Initiative Seeks to Boost Country’s Standing

On June 8, business leaders unveiled the Mexico Initiative, a program that seeks to uncover new projects with the goal of improving the country and with a particular focus in five areas: community development, environment, justice and human rights, and governance and accountability.

Exploring New Migration Patterns in the Americas

Jacqueline Mazza and Eleanor Sohnen of the Inter-American Development Bank write: “The large stock of Mexican migrants in the United States…has continued to overshadow more recent and more ground-shifting trends of migration within Latin American countries.” In an article for the Migration Information Source, the authors argue that the Latin American and Caribbean labor markets are experiencing a process of globalization and growing intraregional migration. The shift could lead to a reshaping of some Latin American sectors, they argue. The top five originating countries are Colombia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile and Nicaragua while the top destination countries are Argentina, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Chile.

Anti-Corruption Efforts in Guatemala Stalled as UN Official Resigns

After more than two years, the head of the UN International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) Carlos Castresana resigned, citing broken government promises of reform and pointing the finger at newly appointed Attorney General Conrado Reyes for his alleged relationship with organized crime in Guatemala. In a statement issued Monday night, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon thanked Castresana for his service and signaled his continued support for CICIG, which has been tasked with restoring rule of law to Guatemala’s justice system.

Chile’s Sooner-than-Expected Economic Recovery

The February earthquake caused close to $30 billion in damage in Chile, leading to some gloomy economic forecasts. However, as the Financial Times Money Supply blog reports, official data shows that the economy has grown at a rapid pace. From March to April, the economy grew by 8.2 percent—a growth spurt not seen since 1996. Chile’s Economy Minister Felipe Larraín forecasts that GDP growth could be stronger in the second half of the year.

Supreme Court Reports on Pinochet’s Secret Fortune

On June 4, the Chilean Supreme Court issued a report about the fortune of the former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet, estimated at $20 million. Less than 10 percent of his military salary accounts for the total. The report comes after a prior one, released in September 2009, which found that Pinochet accumulated approximately $26 million in accounts outside Chile, 75 percent of which came from government funds.

Free Trade as a Tool for U.S.-Canadian Success

Writing in the Diplomatic Courier, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada David H. Wilkins argues against the U.S. trend toward protectionism, arguing that “when it comes to the U.S.-Canada relationship, the very last thing we need is obstacles standing in the way of what has long been the world’s greatest trade relationship.” Bilateral trade runs at $1.6 billion per day, notes the ambassador.

Dissidents Arrested, Released in Cuba

On June 3 and 4, the Cuban government arrested 37 members of two major Cuban dissident groups, Transition Agenda and Liberal Unity of the Republic of Cuba. The Miami Herald reports that the temporary detentions were an attempt to prevent two meetings scheduled at a dissident’s home.

Havana Split into Two New Provinces

The Cuban Colada blog reports that the Cuban government approved a measure by President Raúl Castro designed to split the province of Havana into two smaller provinces, Artemisa and Mayabeque, by January 2011. The provinces will each have new capitals, with the goal of decreasing time spent commuting to work for provincial employees and improve accessibility of government services for more citizens.

Cuba Prepares for Oil Spill to Reach Its Shores

With oil from the recent British Petroleum spill spreading around the Florida peninsula and up the U.S Eastern seaboard, Cuba began preparations for the oil entering its territorial waters and impacting its coastline. Diplomats at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana have begun informing the Cuban government of the latest details of the oil spill, reports ABC News’ Political Punch blog. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez also announced deployment of a team of oil experts to Cuba to help deal with any effects from the oil spill.

Falklands Oil Deposits Larger than Expected

Rockhopper Exploration announced June 4 that the Sea Lion well north of the Falkland Islands contains 42 percent more oil than originally estimated and could produce between 170 and 242 million barrels of oil. The Stanford Review’s Bellum blog argues that the discovery—and corresponding promise of high profits—could hamper Argentina’s sovereignty claims.

Brazilian Candidates Tied in Polls

According to a new survey by the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics, presidential candidates Dilma Rousseff and José Serra are tied with 37 points each ahead of October elections. The poll also finds that, in the case of a second round, Rousseff and Serra would tie again with 42 percent of the votes (with 8 percent of undecided electors and a margin of error of 2 percent). The new poll shows Rousseff, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s former chief of staff, closing the gap with ex-São Paulo Governor Serra, who at one point was 13 percentage points ahead of his rival.

Surge in Growth for Brazil’s Economy

Figures published the Brazilian government show the country posted a 9 percent GDP growth rate during the first three months of 2010, marking the country’s fastest growth rate since 1996. “However, higher interest rates and the withdrawal of some tax breaks are expected to cool growth eventually,” reports the BBC.

Taking Bets on the Next World Cup Champion

In a forthcoming article for PODER Hispanic, COA Vice President Eric Farnsworth forecasts Brazil as the next World Cup champion. The reasons? Top talent and “the largest improvement in year-on-year economic competitiveness rankings.”

With an eye to the beginning of the World Cup on June 11, Goldman Sachs published its fourth edition of “The World Cup and Economics.” The publication aims to be a guide for competition, but includes insights into the economies of all the contending countries and includes contributors such as Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes.

South Africa Detains Argentine Soccer “Hooligans”

With less than a week left for the World Cup to begin, the host country began taking precautionary measures to avoid security problems at the stadiums. The Latin Americanist blog reports that 10 Argentine fans were detained for deportation and considered a threat by immigration officials.

Peruvian Poet Awarded Chile’s Top Prize

The Chilean Ministry of Culture awarded the Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Poetry Prize—given annually to a writer from the Americas, Spain, or Portugal—to Peruvian Poet Antonio Cisneros. Described by the selection committee as “a poet with notable influence over the younger generations,” Cisneros will be presented the prize, worth $30,000, by the Chilean president at an award ceremony in Santiago later this month.

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