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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Western Hemisphere Drawn into Colombia-Venezuela Rift

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez cut diplomatic ties with Colombia after Bogota brought evidence to the Organization of American States (OAS) that Venezuela provides safe haven to Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) camps. After the OAS held the July 22 extraordinary session about the dispute, Colombia also pledged to bring its case against Caracas to the International Court of Justice. With tensions rising between the neighbors, Chávez warned that he would cut off oil exports to the United States if Colombia, a U.S. ally, took military action against Venezuela. Yet Venezuela, not Colombia, boosted troops on the border this week. “[Chávez] is trying to turn a very significant accusation against his country into a win for himself domestically,” commented COA’s Eric Farnsworth to The Christian Science Monitor.

Although the administration of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe sounded the alarm about the FARC camps, President-elect Juan Manuel Santos will inherit the diplomatic woes when he takes the reins on August 7.  Still, Latin American countries hope to help resolve the dispute. Santos met with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Monday and Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nicola Maduro traveled to Buenos Aires on Tuesday. On Thursday, Ecuador will host a Union of South American Nations ministerial meeting about the Andean rift.

Read an AS/COA analysis about the Colombian-Venezuelan dispute.

Judge Places Hold on Parts of AZ Immigration Law

A day before the slated implementation of Arizona immigration law SB 1070, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton temporarily blocked some of the most controversial portions of the legislation. On July 28, Bolton, charged with a U.S. Department of Justice suit against the law, issued a preliminary injunction until the full case can be heard. The portions of the law that will no longer take effect on July 29 require immigrants to carry documents at all times, prevented undocumented workers from seeking jobs in public places, and allowed police officers to check immigration status while in the process of enforcing other laws.

The new issue of Americas Quarterly—available online starting July 29—features a debate between Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and her New Mexico counterpart Bill Richardson about SB 1070.

Exploring the Hispanic Digital Divide

A new Pew Hispanic Center report finds that, in the United States, foreign-born Latinos fall well below U.S.-born Latinos when it comes to use of technology ranging from Internet use to owning cell phones. The survey finds that, while 85 percent of U.S.-born Latinos over 16 use the Internet, only about half of their foreign-born counterparts do.

Mexican Convicts behind Massacre Let out by Guards

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Mexican attorney general’s office revealed that those killed in last week’s massacre in the state of Coahuila were murdered by jailed criminals who were released for the night and armed with weapons by their guards. The motive for the attack is still unknown but believed to be connected to local drug gangs and organized crime. The prison director and four officials have been placed under house arrest.

Calderón Talks Environment at African Union Meeting

President Felipe Calderón became the first Mexican head of state to visit Uganda, joining U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Ralph Goncalves as representatives of the Americas at the 15th Ordinary Session of the African Union this week. Calderón appealed for cooperation on environmental protection and called for a resolution to the conflicts in Darfur and Somalia.

Santiago to Expand FTA with Mexico

Foreign Minister of Chile Alfredo Moreno announced this week that Santiago will seek to expand its free trade agreement (FTA) with Mexico as part of a strategy implemented by Chilean President Sebastián Piñera aimed at optimizing Chile’s 21 FTAs. Moreno said he expected bilateral trade to return to pre-banking crisis levels of nearly $4 billion in the coming year.

Chile Tops LatAm FDI Rankings

Overtaking Brazil for top position, the UN Conference on Trade and Development identified Chile as Latin America’s leading recipient of foreign direct investment, followed by Brazil, with Mexico in third place. Chile is also the region’s top foreign investor.

Piñera Rejects Pardon for Pinochet-era Crimes

After considering proposals from the Catholic and Evangelical Churches, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera decided against a general pardon for those imprisoned for crimes committed and part of the Pinochet-era dictatorship. The president stated that passing the law would stir old wounds and damage Chilean society. As a compromise, he will consider special presidential pardons, decided on a case-by-case basis. Human rights violators, convicted terrorists, and rapists would not be eligible for any form of amnesty.

China Ties Bolster LatAm Recovery

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) released a new assessment of Latin America’s economic performance post financial downturn, announcing that the region will register a growth rate of 5.2 percent this year. “A large part of this recovery can be linked to the region’s prospering commercial ties with China,” said Alicia Barcena, ECLAC’s executive secretary.

The Big Cheese in Brazil

The Financial Times takes a look at Brazil’s global economic rise, showcasing an entrepreneur’s attempts to create a thriving Brazilian mozzarella cheese industry as an example of the South American giant’s global potential. Economic stability, sound fiscal management, and debt reduction are given as explanations for the country’s recent dramatic economic expansion.

Brazilian Deforestation Declines

Illegal logging in the Brazilian Amazon declined 30 percent over the last year, says Ibama, the Brazilian environmental agency. The body, responsible for protecting Brazil’s forests, attributes its successes to access to greater manpower and the implementation of sophisticated satellite technology. However, critics argue that a deflated global economy is the real cause for the slowdown.

U.S Telecom Reforms Fall Short in Cuba

As a means of fomenting change and encouraging the flow of information, the Obama administration eased restrictions on U.S. telecommunication and I.T. companies operating in Cuba early last year. In an article for the Latin American Herald Tribune, Marcela Sanchez argues that, while cell phone usage on the island has seen growth, this increase can be traced mostly to policy coming out of Havana. The writer calls for greater U.S. telecom access and participation, citing recommendations from a report involving AS/COA collaboration entitled Empowering the Cuban People through Technology: Recommendations for Private and Public Sector Leaders, released July 16.

Journalists Continue to Face Dangers in Honduras

Seven journalists have been murdered in Honduras since the beginning of the year, says a new Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report assessing the condition of journalists operating in the Central American country. The report “found an alarming pattern of impunity in these cases, as evidenced by the authorities’ inability or unwillingness to take obvious steps to investigate the crimes and arrest the perpetrators.”

Ortega Focuses on Keeping Sandinistas in Power

GlobalPost offers a profile of the final year of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s presidential term and asks if he is pushing the country “toward a retro-tropical dictatorship with a God complex.” Tim Rogers writes that Ortega promised “more victories” next year for his ruling Sandinista party.

Canadian Politics Heat up

Though Canada has traditionally experienced less turmoil than many of its hemispheric neighbors, the country can claim its fair share of recent economic and political upheaval, according to a Foreign Policy Research Institute analysis that offers a mid-year look at issues facing Ottawa. Canadian politics, perceived as staid and seldom disturbed, are now a robust and lively arena where issues such as the war in Afghanistan, Quebecois secession, and the global recession have contributed to dramatic power shifts over the last 15 years.

Correa in a Corner

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa faces tough domestic political struggles as he tries to pass reforms on oil, water, and education, and recently had a bill knocked down by Congress for the first time since becoming president., reports Bloggings by Boz. Correan has threatened to dissolve the Congress and hold both legislative and presidential elections. In addition, Correa received the resignation of Ecuador’s ambassador to the OAS as head of the Permanent Council after Quito’s Foreign Minister attempted to stop Colombia from lodging a complaint against Venezuela at the OAS.

Keiko Fujimori Visits the Garden State

Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori traveled to Paterson, New Jersey, to meet members of the largest community of Peruvians living outside of Peru in anticipation of the 2011 elections. Fujimori, who currently leads in the polls, will push for a Peruvian congressional seat to represent the interests of her countrymen and women living abroad.

Greening Bogota

In Colombia, a government-sponsored program, Planta tu huella, (“plant your footprint) will attempt to turn Bogota into the greenest city in the country by planting one million native trees in the city’s eastern hills. The program will encourage long-term participation through a promotional campaign spanning advertising, public programs, and social media.

Cuban Village Takes on Green Credentials

The town of Cocodrilo on Isla de la Juventud, Cuba’s second largest island, is embracing a campaign of environmental protection and conservation as part of efforts to preserve the surrounding native wetland habitats. The fishing village, founded by English-speaking settlers from the Cayman Islands, is embracing green initiatives including a biomass gasification plant; new, more efficient fishing equipment; and a ban on sea turtle hunting.

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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
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