Friday, December 2, 2005

Fourth opposition group boycotts Venezuelan elections

A fourth opposition group announced its withdrawal from the Congressional elections in Venezuela this Sunday, making it increasingly likely that President Hugo Chavez will attain an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly. Though polls suggest that Chavez allies would have prevailed without the boycott, the withdrawal will allow a victory by a larger margin. (Chicago Tribune)

Kirchner, Lula express support for Morales

At a meeting in Puerto Iguazu Argentine President Nestor Kirchner and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva expressed support for Evo Morales' bid for the Bolivian presidency. Both expressed hope that he would win in the December 18th elections, saying he would be a leader that 'really cares for the people'. (MercoPress)

Bachelet's lead narrows before election

An IPSOS poll conducted in late November suggests that 39% of Chilean voters will go for Michelle Bachelet in elections December 11th, making it almost certain that she will be forced into a runoff election with her closest opponent, Sebastian Pinera. Polls in September put her share of the vote as high as 45%. (Wired)

Argentine citizens now organ donors by default

Citing the success of organ donation rates in Spain, Austria, and Belgium, Argentina's Congress passed a law making all citizens organ donors after death unless they explicitly state otherwise. President Kirchner introduced the bill a year ago, which was unanimously approved by Congress Wednesday. (XinhuaNet)

Lula: Brazil's economy could be stronger

More than two weeks after Brazilian Finance Minister Antonio Palocci testified that the government would maintain fiscal discipline, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reiterated his statements by saying the economy could be stronger with a narrowed budget deficit and slower inflation. (Bloomberg)

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Weekly Debate: Should Fujimori be allowed to run for president in Peru?

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, who fled from the country in 2000 after a corruption scandal, returned to Latin America earlier this year only to be arrested in Chile. He has been trying to run for next April's presidential elections since he launched his 'Si Cumple' party from Tokyo, despite a Congressional decision that bars him from running until 2010. According to Angus Reid, 45% of Peruvians approve of his performance as president, and though he is under investigation for corruption and human rights abuses, he has not been tried. Should lawmakers change their decision to ban him from office until he is convicted of a crime?

BlackBerry coming to Latin America

Canadian company Research in Motion announced Wednesday that it plans to partner with Telefonica Moviles to launch BlackBerry service in 13 Latin American countries, beginning in early 2006. (Forbes)

Low-cost HIV treatment effective in Haiti

A report published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week indicates that the AIDS survival rate triples when patients receive low-cost comprehensive treatment. The study, performed in Haiti with 1,004 participants, debunks claims that such treatment does more harm to AIDS sufferers than good. (Reuters)

Uruguay search for 'disappeared' yields results

An initiative led by Uruguay's President Tabare Vasquez to uncover the truth about the nearly 180 people killed under the country's military regime has led to the discovery of human remains at a farm near Montevideo. The bodies are believed to be those of Communist activists killed during the 12-year military regime. (BBC)

Fixed investment in Chile reaches 30% of GDP

Chilean President Ricardo Lagos announced Thursday that the level of fixed investment in his country has reached 30% of GDP, the highest level ever. Analysts examine the ratio of fixed assets to GDP to approximate future GDP growth, so the record-setting levels allows Lagos to leave office with a powerful legacy. (DowJones)

Peru considers lawsuit against Yale to retrieve artifacts

Peru's National Institute of Culture will explore legal options to retrieve Inca artifacts originating in Machu Picchu and transferred to Yale University nearly a century ago. Peru claims the artifacts were sent to the US in a temporary loan, and that the University has declined to return them despite diplomatic entreaties. (CNN)

Sign the petition for transparency in Bolivian human rights

The Bolivian Solidarity Network is circulating a petition that asks former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and his former ministers to return to Bolivia to to testify in the deaths of 59 Bolivians who were protesting during the "gas war" of September and October of 2003. (Sign the Petition)

Opposition parties vow to boycott elections in Venezuela

Venezuela's three main opposition parties withdrew from this Sunday's congressional elections earlier this week, saying the electoral process is 'vulnerable and open to fraud'. Some say this may be a missed opportunity for the opposition to present itself as a viable alternative to Hugo Chavez. (MyrtleBeachOnline)

Brazil debuts Carmen Miranda exhibit

Brazil's Modern Art Museum will commemorate the 30th anniversary of Carmen Miranda's death by showcasing her life in an exhibit that will feature over 700 items. (Mercury News)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

WTO ruled for the U.S. in tariff case against Mexico

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. A WTO panel found Mexico guilty of unfairly forcing tariffs on rice from the U.S. Moreover, the ruling found Mexican trade laws must be modified if they are to coincide with WTO rules. (SeattlePi)

Stolen paintings returned to Argentina

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. The Argentine National Fine Arts Museum recovered three paintings stolen twenty-five years ago and valued at nearly $1 million. The artwork includes paintings by Renoir and Cezanne. (IOL)

Spike in Venezuelans entering U.S. since 1999

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. The number of Venezuelans seeking temporary visas and political asylum in the U.S. has grown rapidly since Hugo Chavez became Venezuelan head of state six years ago. Most of these Venezuelans are upper- and middle-class, and have sought areas like central Florida as refuge from Chavez’ left-wing policies. (Orlando Sentinel)

Q: Will El Salvador send a fresh batch of troops to Iraq next year? A: That’s up to the coalition says Salvadoran prez

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. President Elias Antonio Saca said Monday that coalition forces will decide whether or not El Salvador will send a new group of troops to Iraq next year. El Salvador has nearly four hundred troops in Iraq and has been the only Latin American nation to send troops to Iraq. (XinhuaNet)

Polls: Jamaican race neck-and-neck; Toledo’s popularity remains dismal

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Angus Reid Consultants mentioned that only one point separates Jamaica’s main political parties in the race to elect the successor to outgoing PM P.J. Patterson. In addition, the arrest of ex-president Alberto Fujimori has done little to help the low popularity of current Peruvian head Alejandro Toledo. Only 14.8% of respondents in a poll in Peru’s two largest cities support Toledo. (Angus Reid)

Oppenheimer: U.S. isolationism towards Americas more dangerous than “Chavez’s 1960s-styled anti-American rhetoric”

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Echoing the sentiments in a recent editorial from the Los Angeles Times, and comments from the head of the Andean Community of Nations, Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer’s latest column looks at U.S. isolationism towards Latin America as the greatest threat facing future hemispheric relations. (Miami Herald)

Lavagna resignation may lead to rise in Argentine inflation

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. The resignation of Argentina’s economic minister on Monday, may lead to increased government spending and a rise in inflation according to an U.S. economics professor. In what may be seen as an ominous sign of Argentina’s economy, the main stock index fell over five percent in the two days after Roberto Lavagna quit. (Bloomberg)

Latest celebrity contribution to Mexico: fake Mayan pyramids

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Several sets from Mel Gibson’s latest film, including several fake Mayan pyramids, will be donated to the Mexican state of Veracruz upon completion of the film’s shooting. (Globe and Mail)

Brazilian samba and Guatemalan traditional ballet two of seven recently chosen international cultural treasures

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. UNESCO chose seven unique cultural treasures from Latin America as part of a list of forty-three global cultural traditions that are in risk of disappearing. Also included on the UNESCO list are Costa Rican ox carts and an island on Lake Titicaca. (Miami Herald)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cuba blames US for limited Internet use

Cuban Information Minister Ignacio Gonzalez Planas blames the United States for the low rate of Internet usage in his country, citing the economic embargo, the US monopoly on domain names, and lack of satellite access. (Miami Herald)

ICG member writes of recent visit to Haiti

International Crisis Group member Mark Schneider provides the Los Angeles Times with commentary on the political situation in Haiti, detailing his recent visit to the island. (Los Angeles Times)

Despite free trade rhetoric, EU keeps banana tariffs high

Despite encouraging governments around the world to open up markets to European goods, the EU agreed on a 176 Euro/ton tarriff on bananas, angering many trade officials in Latin America. The EU has maintained a policy of favorable tariffs for former European colonies, including the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. (Reuters)

Venezuela signs arms deal with Spain

Despite loud opposition from the US, Venezuela has signed a $2 billion arms deal with Spain, providing Venezuela with 8 navy patrol boats and 12 military transport planes. (BBC)

Zelaya victorious in Honduras

Logging magnate Manuel Zelaya of the Liberal Party has emerged victorious from yesterday's presidential elections in Honduras. The president-elect has vowed to crack down on local gangs, though he has said he will not bring back the death penalty for gang-related murders. (Reuters)

Lavagna leaves Argentine presidential cabinet

Renowned economist Roberto Lavagna, often credited with leading Argentina out a recession a few years back, has resigned, reportedly on the urging of President Nestor Kirchner. (SeattlePi)

Republicans split on amnesty for undocumented workers

US President George W. Bush addressed a split in the Republican Party over whether to allow undocumented workers already here in the US to stay. He is proposing to allow up to 11 million currently undocumented workers here in the US a chance to register and work in jobs that have not been filled by domestic labor. (Reuters)

OAS leader emphasizes importance of Haitian elections

Secretary General of the Organization of American States Jose Miguel Insulza sent out a press release yesterday underlining the necessity of 'good elections' with a 'good turnout' in Haiti to 'contribute to transparent, inclusive, and credible elections.' He expressed cautious optimism that an official date has been set, January 8th of next year, though the date has already been changed more than once. (Harold Doan)

UN: Latin America experiences drop in poverty level

A report released last week by the United Nations shows that the number of people below the poverty line in Latin America dropped by more than 13 million people between 2003-5. Though the numbers are significant, the report maintains that the poverty rate remains intolerably high. (Washington File)

Brazilian growth forecast lowered to 3%

Brazilian economists announced yesterday that they have dampened expectations of the nation's economy, lowering forecasts of annual GDP growth to 3% from 3.09%. (Bloomberg)

Monday, November 28, 2005

U.S. may nix Venezuela-Spain arms deal

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. The U.S. may block an arms deal worth over 1 billion Euros from Spain to Venezuela. "We're worried that the sale could be a destabilizing factor in the region,” declared the U.S. Ambassador to Spain. (MG)

Pinochet charged with tax fraud in Chile

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. After being stripped of his immunity over a month ago, former dictator Augusto Pinochet was charged with tax fraud earlier this week. Prosecutors accused Pinochet of hiding money in foreign bank accounts to avoid paying taxes. (Telegraph)

Caribbean leaders held “successful” meeting with Tony Blair

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Heads of State representing the Caribbean Community met with British PM Tony Blair on Thursday and discussed issues related to trade. (Antigua Sun)

Mexican internet users more than doubled since 2001

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. A poll conducted in June by the Mexican government has shown that the number of internet users in Mexico has mushroomed from 7 million four years ago to 16.5 million this year. The poll also showed how over two-thirds of users accessed the Internet away from home since few users have a connection at home. (Daily Journal)

Tropical storm and heavy rains have killed over a hundred in three countries

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Tropical Storm Gamma killed thirty-seven in Honduras and Belize last week and affected more than 100,000 in Honduras. Meanwhile, over two months of heavy downpours have left greater than eighty dead in northwestern Colombia. (Pravda)

Chavez and Uribe held energy negotiations on Thursday

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. The Venezuelan and Colombian heads of state met and were able to broker a deal to build a pipeline on Colombia’s Atlantic coast for the exporting of Venezuelan natural gas. (BBC)

U.S. government will end “catch-and-release” policy against immigrants

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. The “catch-and-release” policy on immigrants crossing the Mexican border will be stopped, though no set deadline has been given. It is expected that this change in immigration policy will please the pro-business sectors, but not conservatives who advocate for very strict anti-immigration measures. In the meantime, an Arizona legislator proposed the making of a road along the border exclusively for Border Patrol agents. (KOLD)

Latin-American trade expected to reach $74 billion this year

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. In addition, the report released by a regional trade group showed that exports out of the region have grown in most countries while imports have remained even in comparison to last year. (MercoPress)

Lula’s predecessor says Brazilian economy will be fine

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. “There is no major risk that the political crisis affects the economy” said former president Fernando Henrique Cardozo in an interview. Lula’s administration has been embroiled in many problems including rumors of corruption, growing dissent within the ruling party, and an all-time low in the president’s popularity. (Science Daily)