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.

Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

As World Watches, Chilean Miners Rescued

After nearly 70 days trapped underground, Florencio Ávalos became the first of 33 miners rescued from a collapsed Chilean mine just after midnight Santiago time on October 13. At the time of this report, the miners were being rescued one at a time in a capsule called the “Phoenix” that takes up to 20 minutes to ascend a tunnel measuring 2,041 feet (622 meters long). The dramatic operation, compared to the first moon landing for its complexity and the global attention garnered, has been televised, livestreamed, and tweeted. La Tercera carries an interactive regarding the mine rescue, including the rescue plan and image galleries, while the Gobierno de Chile website offers biographies of the miners and official coverage of rescue efforts.

President Sebastián Piñera credited the operation with allowing a “true rebirth, not just for the 33 miners but also for the spirit of unity, strength, faith, and hope they have shown our country and around the world.” As the miners gain freedom, questions surface about next steps. The Christian Science Monitor reports that many who work in small mines could find themselves out of work “amid a new nationwide focus on workplace safety.” An AS/COA online analysis looks at the Piñera administration’s plans for reforms to the mining industry.

Abortion Roils Brazil’s Runoff Campaign

Folha de São Paulo’s latest poll shows presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff with 48 percent vote intention, over runoff opponent José Serra’s 41 percent. Serra has seized on the issue of Rousseff’s support for the loosening of abortion to create a wedge, reports Financial Times’ Beyond Brics blog, saying “The debate has turned religious.”

Community Policing Takes Bite out of Rio Crime

A feature in The New York Times, complete with images and video, explores how “peace police” in Rio’s favelas help build confidence between police units and local residents to help fight violent crime. “Their job is part traditional policing, part social work,” writes Alexei Barrionuevo. “They devote themselves to winning over residents scarred by decades of violence—some at the hands of the police. And the tips fed to them from those who support their efforts, officers say, help them keep the relative peace.”

Argentine Soybean Oil Returns to China

Beijing has eased restrictions on Argentine soybean oil, banned after a trade dispute in April. The move reflects a general improvement in relations with China’s largest soy supplier, reports Bloomberg.

Measuring “Water Footprints” in Chile

Chile leads the way in implementing a new metric, the “water footprint,” which measures the total volume of freshwater used to produce a good or service. The tool obligates companies to consider the effects of their water consumption on the sustainability of local water sources and their business.

Chile, Ecuador Prove PR Skills

Bloggings by Boz considers the parallels between the public relation campaigns that the Chilean and Ecuadoran governments have conducted surrounding the trapped miners and the September 30 police uprising, respectively. “Neither event was scripted ahead of time, despite conspiracies to the contrary,” argues the blog, but each government “saw an opportunity within the crisis to win some propaganda points and took it.”

Spain Requests Extradition of Venezuelan Accused of ETA Ties

Based on the testimony of two captured members of Basque Homeland and Freedom (better known as ETA), a Spanish judge has leveled charges against Arturo Cubillas, an official in Venezuela’s Ministry of Agriculture. The judge accused Cubillas of facilitating ETA training by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and requested Cubillas’ extradition to Spain for questioning, reports Venezuela’s El Universal.

UN Security Council Seat Goes to Colombia

The UN General Assembly elected Colombia to the rotating seat on the Security Council vacated by Mexico. It joins Brazil as the non-permanent members from Latin America.

Colombia’s Domestic Air Travel Jumps

Dinero.com reports that Colombia’s domestic air travel jumped by more than 36 percent from January through August 2010 compared with the same period last year. Colombia’s international air travel also rose by nearly 10 percent during the same period.

Evo Inks Controversial Anti-racist Media Law

On October 8, Bolivian President Evo Morales signed into law a bill allowing the government to fine or revoke licenses from media outlets that publish content considered racist. Journalists arguing in defense of freedom of speech protested the law, which seeks to protect the country’s indigenous majority in particular.

Mexican Govs, President Sign Pact to Unify Police Force

Nine of Mexico’s newly elected governors met with President Felipe Calderón in the state of Chihuahua on October 12 to sign a security pact to create a unified police force with hopes of combating crime, ending salary disparities, and fighting corruption. The deal requires those who signed the accord to implement the new state police force within six months.

AP Interviews Calderón: Tijuana a Security Success

In an interview with the Associated Press, Mexican President Felipe Calderón contrasted border cities Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, saying the latter “went from being a city seized by terror and focused only on questions of crime to a city motivated by hope and focused on being competitive.” The president commented that the improved security in Tijuana did not necessarily translate to less drugs flowing into the United States. He criticized the Californian ballot measure that proposed legalizing possession of small quantities of marijuana, saying the move demonstrated “inconsistency” in U.S. policy.

In the Spring 2010 issue of Americas Quarterly, Rio de Janeiro Governor Sergio Cabral explains how his state has targeted crime via the provision of social services by police to underserved communities.

Would California’s Possible Marijuana Legalization Impact Mexican Cartels?

A California ballot initiative up for vote on November 2 could legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. A new RAND paper studies the potential impact on the profits of Mexican cartels, arguing that the drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) would see revenue losses of as little as 2 to 4 percent. It also contends that the only way it would hit DTO profits is if California-produced marijuana “is smuggled to other states at prices that outcompete current Mexican supplies,” possibly cutting Mexican drug export revenues by 20 percent.

Report Shows No Immigration-crime Link in CA

A study by the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice argues that immigration does not contribute to violent crime in California. The report finds that, even as the state saw an influx of immigrants since 1991, violent crime rates have dropped. “[T]here is no evidence that California is in the midst of a crime emergency as a result of substantial migration of persons born in other nations,” concludes the report. “To allow this myth to guide public policy discussions about newly arrived noncitizens and future American citizens is harmful.”

Multimedia Tools Cover Immigration

Writing for Being Latino, Carlos Macías offers a look at nine multimedia reports exploring themes relating to immigration reform, as well as border security issues and concerns about racial profiling. Projects include immigration and border-related images by Alonso Castillo that were published by Nuestra Mirada, coverage of immigration detention in Arizona by Time, the BBCs report on the “vital role” of horses in border security, and The Arizona Republic’s images of the National Guard’s border presence.

DR, Central America Face off in Trade Dispute

Central American countries this week opted to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization against the Dominican Republic. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras argue that Santo Domingo violated the DR-CAFTA trade pact by levying protective tariffs of between 30 and 40 percent on dozens of Central American goods.

El Salvador to Get Entrepreneurial Boost

Bpeace, an organization that allows professionals to share skills with small- and medium-sized enterprises in violence-prone areas, selected El Salvador this month as the third country where it will begin operations. The program hopes to support crime reduction through job creation and already works in Afghanistan and Rwanda. (Hat tip: Tim’s El Salvador blog.)

Focus on Guatemala

The latest issue of Harvard University’s ReVista shines a light on “legacies of violence” in Guatemala through a series of articles and photo essays looking back at the country’s brutal civil war and covering current challenges stemming from narcotrafficking. The magazine also explores matters such as development, conservation, architecture, indigenous issues, and immigration.

Watch a video of a recent Council of the Americas program, “Guatemala at a Crossroads.”

Insulza on Canada’s 20 Years in the OAS

“Canada brought to the OAS [Organization of American States] its long tradition of embracing the democratic system of government, respect for the rule of law, and the promotion and protection of human rights for all,” writes OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, marking the twentieth anniversary of Canada joining the agency.

IMF: LatAm Growth to Remain on Upswing

In a new World Economic Outlook report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that Latin American growth rates will average 5.7 percent in 2010 and 4 percent in 2011. The IMF survey sees “robust recovery” in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay, as well as “steady recovery” in Mexico. However, Venezuela is one of only three major global economies that will see negative economic growth from 2010 to 2012. (The other two are Greece and Romania.)

Spanish Ranks Third Online

Mercopress looks at a Fundación Telefónica report documenting Spanish-language use online and reports that there are 136 million Spanish-speaking “internauts” around the globe. Internet connectivity ranks highest in Argentina, Chile, and Spain. Spanish ranks third behind English and Chinese in terms of number of users and web pages.

U.S.-Mexico Rivalry Deflated by World Cup Qualifying Change

It looks like Mexican and U.S. soccer fans won’t be able to revel in their rivalry during qualifying matches for the 2014 World Cup. A new plan by the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football that changes the World Cup 2014 qualification process means that the United States and Mexico will not face each other. “USA and Mexico will qualify for the tournament, without playing a competitive match that will remotely prepare them for it,” according to sports blog The Big Lead “Their only worry will be a potential injury from patting themselves on the back too hard after the seventh goal against Grenada.”

Like what you've read? Subscribe to AQ for more.
Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Sign up for our free newsletter