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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Chile’s Miners Found, Long Rescue Mission Awaits

Via a note that read the 33 of us in the shelter are well, miners trapped 2,300 feet underground in a private Chilean copper mine confirmed they were alive on Sunday. The men occupy a space the size of a small apartment and will receive food and medicine via tubes as well as oxygen. Despite the good news, the rescue mission will take at least three months. Financial Times reports that Chilean President Sebastian Piñera fired mining regulators and pledged to clean up the country’s mining agency.

President Piñera will deliver remarks to Americas Society/Council of the Americas during a public program on September 22.

Six More Cuban Political Prisoners to be Released

The Cuban Catholic Church has announced that Havana will release six additional political prisoners from jail, allowing them to travel to Spain upon release. The announcement was made during Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos’ visit to the island.

Argentine Economy Booms

President of Argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced on Thursday that the Argentine economy grew 11.1 percent in June compared to the same period last year. Argentina’s economy is expected to grow 9 percent this year, the largest yearly growth in Latin America.

AS/COA will host its annual Buenos Aires Conference on August 26, featuring panels exploring Argentina’s economic and political outlook. Speakers include Economy Minister Amado Boudou, Chief of Staff Aníbal Fernández, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, and U.S. Under Secretary of State Judith A. McHale. Join us for liveblogging of the conference in English and Spanish.

First Online Presidential Debate Draws Clicks in Brazil

The August 18 online presidential debate between candidates Dilma Rousseff, José Serra, and Marina Silva attracted more than 1.7 million views. Eighty different sites offered simultaneous transmissions of Brazil’s first online debate, which was also available for smart phones. Access the debate.

Poll: Dilma Rousseff Could Win in First Round

A new poll conducted by Datafolha Instituto de Pesquisas shows that  current President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s hand-picked successor Dilma Rousseff could win in the first round of Brazilian presidential elections in October. The survey gives Rousseff a 17-point advantage over José Serra, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party candidate and former São Paulo governor. An Infolatam analysis explores why Serra falls short when it comes to connecting with voters.

Read an AS/COA Online hemispheric update on the presidential candidates.

Brazil to Become Eighth Largest Economy

Spanish business publication Expansion reports that Brazil has taken the spot of the eighth largest economy, overtaking Spain and Canada, which will occupy the ninth and tenth places respectively. The ranking, conducted by Bloomberg, places the United States in first place followed by China, Brazil’s main export market. Brazil’s Central Bank forecasts GDP growth of 7 percent in 2010 and 11 percent in 2011.

Tracking an Isolated Tribe Survivor in Brazil’s Amazon

Slate reports on Brazil’s policy toward the last surviving member of a tribe who lives in a 31-square-mile area of the Amazon and is described as the most isolated man on the planet. Since the government learned of his existence 15 years ago, he has been the subject of a policy of No Contact. While some question whether the man can remain off the grid as technology spreads, officials argue that tools such as mapping programs actually help preserve his isolation.

Chile to Participate in Brazilian Transport Jet Program

Chilean Defense Minister Jaime Ravinet signed a Declaration of Intention  with his Brazilian counterpart announcing Santiago’s wish to participate in the KC-390 military transport jet program, led by Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer. Ravinet said the project will allow Chile to “participate with Embraer in aircraft manufacture at a global scale.”

Colombia and Chile Commit to Spending Cuts

Amidst sustained growth and increased commodity prices, the governments of Chile and Colombia have declared a commitment to keep public spending under control. While Santiago has demonstrated sustained non-cyclical spending, Bogota’s new administration has proposed new fiscal discipline for the country, mandating its spending in line with growth.

Ex-DefMin Appointed Colombian Amb. to U.S.

Former Defense Minister Gabriel Silva was appointed as the new Colombian ambassador to the U.S. The Johns Hopkins graduate had already served as an ambassador to the United States in 1993 and his main tasks include strengthening bilateral ties and advancing passage of the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement signed in 2006 but languishing in the U.S. Congress.

UNASUR Rejects FARC Request

UNASUR turned down a FARC proposal for the organization to mediate between the left-wing guerilla group and Bogota. Ecuador, which holds UNASUR’s rotating presidency, rejected the proposal by the rebels, siding with the Colombian government in demanding that the terrorist group lay down its arms and release all hostages before beginning talks.

The FARC in Venezuela

In a report for ISN Security Watch, Sam Logan discusses the FARC’s presence in Venezuela. The Colombian narco-terrorist group, battered and decentralized over the last eight years by former President Álvaro Uribe’s Democratic Security policies, has increased its permanent presence inside Venezuela’s borders, leading to concerns about the guerillas may split into two groups.

Venezuelan Legislative Campaigns Begin

With less than a month left until Venezuela’s September’s 26 parliamentary election, campaigning has officially begun, with 2719 candidates vying for 165 seats. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced that he will suspend his weekly T.V. show “Aló Presidente” until October 3 in order to guarantee neutrality for the electoral process.

El Universal presents an interactive guide for the upcoming elections.

Panama, Peru to Start FTA Negotiations

Panamanian Minister of Trade and Industry Roberto Henríquez announced his country will begin negotiations on a free trade deal with Peru in October. Panama is Peru’s largest Central American trading partner, accounting for 49 percent of Lima’s trade with the region.

Salvadoran Business Group Increases Its Media Control

Samix Group, owned by former Salvadoran President Antonio Saca, purchased Salvadoran radio station channel 12 on August 20. The purchase gives Samix control of 12 national radio stations, the largest share of airwaves in the country. The purchase raised concerns, with critics saying it would not be the first time Saca could try to use the radio to influence Salvadoran politics.

Mexico Scales Back Junk Food Regulations

For some nutritionist and consumer groups, new Mexican guidelines that restrict junk food sales in schools fall short of tackling the growing obesity epidemic in the country, reports IPS News. Mexico is the country with the highest rate of childhood obesity, sparking rules for school-food sales that limit the distribution of snacks with less than 140 calories per serving and 40 percent fat. However, the new restrictions are less stringent than regulations included in the original proposal, which banned soda sales and fried foods.

Moroccan and Mexican Migration Compared

A feature story published by Migration Information Source covers similarities between Mexican migration to the United States and Moroccan migration to the European Union. About 10 percent of Mexican and Moroccan citizens live abroad and the analysis covers issues ranging from remittance dependency to the impact of migration on development.

Hispanic Soldiers Return from Iraq

New American Media reports on Latinos in the U.S. armed forces in Iraq. According to Census figures the group comprises roughly 12 percent of all U.S. military enlistees, a figure which under current projections is expected to double by 2020.

Latin America Shops its Lithium

Bolivian President Evo Morales travels to Seoul later this month to finalize a deal on developing his country’s immense lithium deposits. The metal, used in rechargeable electric batteries and fertilizer, has seen its demand skyrocket recently.

Mexico Backtracks on Bicentennial Tune

With Mexico’s September 16 bicentennial approaching, the Ministry of Public Education last week unveiled the milestone’s official song: The Future is Millennial, by Alexs Syntek. The song provoked widespread negative reaction from the public just one day after its release, prompting Syntek to temporarily shut down his Twitter account and forcing the Mexican government to backtrack, saying the song was never an official tune but rather intended to “motivate” bicentennial celebrations.

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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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