Saturday, May 3, 2008

Today’s Video: Bolivia’s autonomy vote

The Bolivian region of Santa Cruz is preparing for a referendum on Sunday that may lead to further divisions in the country. The autonomy vote pits factions against the government’s reforms versus President Evo Morales who has declared the referendum as illegal.

In the following video, AlJazeeraEnglish examines the differing sides arguing for and against increased autonomy in Santa Cruz:

Sources- BBC News, Reuters UK, YouTube, Associated Press

Daily Headlines: May 3, 2008

* U.S.: “Drug czar” John Walters praised Mexico and Colombia for their respective counternarcotics efforts.

* Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez will raise the country's fixed minimum wage by 30% to $372.

* Ecuador: Could the “pursuit of sexual happiness for women” be a new amendment to the country’s constitution draft?

*South America: Peer pressure amongst doctors can help erase outdated practices, according to a study conducted in 19 Argentine and Uruguayan hospitals.

Image- Daily Mail

Sources-, Reuters, International Herald Tribune, Associated Press

Friday, May 2, 2008

Bolivia Nationalizes Telecommunication, Promises More State Control

Bolivian President Evo Morales nationalised the country's leading telecommunications company and announced plans to return four foreign-owned gas companies to state control.
"Today, May 1, 2008, we are consolidating the energy nationalization," he said at a public ceremony.
"The Bolivian state has 50 per cent plus one share of the capitalist, or so-called capitalist, companies."
At the ceremony, Morales also signed an agreement to purchase a majority share in the gas production company Andina from its Spanish company, Repsol YPF.
Gas production company Chaco, pipeline company Transredes and German-Peruvian owned distribution company CLBH will also all be returned to state control.

Source : Al Jazeera

Daily Headlines: May 2, 2008

* Peru: Anger over rising food prices led to a protest by more than 1000 women banging empty pots and pans in Lima.

* U.S.:
Latinos have become the largest minority group in the U.S. and make up 15.1% of the country's total population, according to Census Bureau data.

* Caribbean: Swedish-based furniture retailer IKEA supposedly wants to open its first Latin American store in the Dominican Republic.

* U.S.: Argentina, Chile, and Venezuela are some of the countries placed on a White House list of states that are weak in preventing intellectual property crimes.

Sources- Reuters, Bloomberg, International Herald Tribune, Wall Street Journal
Image- International Herald Tribune

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Former president eschews U.S. policies

Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso told Reuters yesterday that Latin America needs to step away from failing U.S. anti-drug policies.

Regional cooperation, changing public attitude and new policies are better ways to fight the narcotics trade, he said, than leaning on the United States.

Constant narcotics trade and international drug networks are maintaining the drug business.

Cardoso spoke during the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy.

Source: Reuters, Photo: WatsonInstitute

Fewer families receive U.S. cash

The New York Times allotted above-the-fold, front-page space to a story reporting that fewer U.S. immigrants are sending money home to Latin America.

Reuters, The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times also wrote about the survey from the Inter-American Development Bank, which reporter that 3 million fewer people send money back to families. This equates to 10 million fewer people who will benefit from cash sent from the United States.

All report this signals the economic slowdown is affecting everyone.

Daily Headlines: May 1, 2008

*Argentina: French firm Alstrom won a contract to construct a high-speed rail line between Buenos Aires and Cordoba.

* South America:
Local currencies did not do well in trading yesterday as the Brazilian real and Chilean peso fell by 0.95 and 1.39%, respectively.

* Colombia: There may be rhetoric over "Hollywood liberals" yet the head of the Motion Picture Association of America is strongly in favor of a U.S.-Colombia free trade deal.

* Cuba: How have Cubans reacted to reforms under Raul Castro? Al Jazeera looks into it:

Sources- Reuters UK, Reuters, International Herald Tribune, YouTube

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Colombian Police Kill Major Drug Leader

Colombian police claim that they have killed Victor Manuel Mejia Munera and two bodyguards. Mejia Munera was the most sought-after fugitive outside the country's rebel leaders.
Mejia Munera and his brother, Miguel Angel Mejia Munera, known as "Los Mellizos," or "the Twins," have been accused of running major drug rings in Colombia. The brothers also have faced narcotics-trafficking charges in the United States.
The two had been indicted in the U.S. on narcotics-trafficking charge.

Source : CNN

Today in Venezuela : Blackouts and Expropriation

Yesterday there were blackouts throughout Venezuela. Blackouts aren't uncommon nationwide, but they are rare in the capital of Caracas, which was also impacted.
``The problem is being resolved, and there's no emergency,'' Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin said in comments broadcast by state television.
Today's outage was caused by a technical failure in a transmission line in the state of Aragua because of nearby forest fires, Izquierdo said in comments broadcast by state television. Caracas and the states of Zulia, Merida, Tachira, Trujillo, Lara, Falcon and Aragua were most affected, he said.
Blackouts couldn't stop lawmakers in Venezuela from declaring Sidor — Venezuela's largest steel maker — a "public utility" on Tuesday, a legal prerequisite to expropriation. The Luxembourg-based company has had problems with the Chavez government, that claims that the company was demanding excessive payment.
Chavez says that state control over key industries is essential in steering this South American country toward what he calls "21st-century socialism."

Sources : Bloomberg, AP

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hispanic Congressmen chastise Dobbs

Hispanic members of Congress are condemning CNN for host Lou Dobbs' anti-immigration views.

Joe Baca, chairman of the congressional Hispanic caucus, said CNN should be held accountable for its content.

Baca and Hispanic senator Robert Menendez said they are deeply offended by a lack of response from Time Warner after requesting a meeting.

Dobbs has called illegal immigrants "aliens" who are "invading" America to steal jobs, The Guardian reported.

Source: The Guardian, Photo: MSNBC

Apple plans iPhone sales

In plans to begin selling the iPhone in Latin America, Bloomberg reports today that Apple is considering offering the phone through the countries' phone companies.

This differs from how the phone is sold in Europe and is reported originally by Spanish newspaper Cinco Dias.

Source: Bloomberg, Photo: Mac

Monday, April 28, 2008

Chavez pledges to help kidnapped U.S. contractors

We're at their service” said Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez yesterday as he promised to help free three U.S. contractors held hostage by Colombian guerillas. Chavez remarks came a day after meeting with ex-U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson who traveled to Caracas on behalf of the hostages' families.

After returning to New Mexico, Richardosn expressed hope that Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell could eventually be freed after spending five years in captivity:

"This is a very difficult negotiation because you're dealing with a rebel group that's out in the jungle," the governor told a brief news conference Sunday on his return to New Mexico. "You don't know where they are. You don't know what they want"…

Richardson said he will put forward a proposal for the release of the trio in the coming weeks and that Chavez is willing to work with him as a "primary mediator." Chavez confirmed his willingness to help.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is expected to meet with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe today and with Chavez on Wednesday in order to urge for the release of Ingrid Betancourt.

Sources- Reuters, International Herald Tribune, Associated Press, The Latin Americanist

Image- CBS News

Chilean strike boosts copper prices

The prices of copper rose in trading today partly due to a thirteen-day strike at Chile’s Codelco mines. Though one mine reopened on Saturday, two belonging to the world’s largest copper producer have remained closed as subcontractors demand a larger share of profits:

The strikes are the latest in a series of protests by subcontractors over the past two years to demand a bigger share of windfall revenue because prices have jumped nearly seven-fold this decade.

The strike at Codelco, which produces about 1.7 million tones of copper per year, has pushed global copper prices to near-record highs of about $4 per pound as markets grow nervous about inventories that are already stretched thin.

No love has been lost between management and workers; Codelco has hired at least 1500 workers to cross picket lines while other unions have threatened to join the strike.

Sources- Mineweb, Reuters, Bloomberg

Image- New York Times

Did Fidel Castro predict the world food crisis?

It's probably exaggerated to consider former Cuban president Fidel Castro as a prophet, but over a year ago he warned about problems that have led to rising food prices. As we posted in March 2007, the convalescing Castro wrote the following in Granma:

  • The sinister idea of using food as fuel was definitely established as the economic component of U.S. foreign policy.
  • The tragedy is not in reducing energy but in the notion of converting foodstuffs into fuel.
  • Give financing to poor counties to produce ethanol from corn or some other crop and there won’t be a single tree to defend humanity against global warming.
  • In our country, lands that are used for alcohol production would be more suitable to produce food for the people and to protect the environment.
Castro might have been correct in at least one respect; U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted that the increasing use of biofuels has had “apparently some effect” on food prices.

Sources- Reuters Africa, AFP, The Latin Americanist

Image- MSNBC

Daily Headlines: April 28, 2008

* U.S.: Congrats to “Ugly Betty”; the sitcom won outstanding comedy series for the second straight time at the GLAAD Media Awards.

* Argentina: The Turkish government is peeved at Argentina over a bill regarding Armenian victims of genocide.

*Paraguay: Who does unmarried president-elect Fernando Lugo choose as his First Lady? How about his older sister.

* Mexico: Opposition legislators ended a 16-day suspension of Congress while thousands of protestors marched against the government’s proposed oil reforms.

Image- Sydney Morning Herald

Sources- BBC News, Reuters India, Today’s Zaman, International Herald Tribune