Friday, November 15, 2013

Daily Headlines: November 15, 2013

* Latin America: A Pew Research Center concluded that remittances to Latin America has more than doubled since 2000 despite a decrease in money orders to Mexico.

* Brazil: The Brazilian government reported a 28% increase in Amazon rainforest deforestation after four years of declining rates.

* Bolivia: A new study found that three in ten Bolivians nsume coca leaves for traditional and medicinal purposes.

* El Salvador: Armed men reportedly tried to destroy the records of a non-profit group investigating the disappearances of thousands of children missing during the Salvadoran civil war.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Daily Headlines: November 14, 2013

* Latin America: Uruguay and Mexico practically secured their spots in next year’s World Cup after routing their respective rivals in the first match of a two-leg playoff qualifying series.

* Dominican Republic: Nearly twenty prominent U.S. Latino civil rights groups signed an open letter to Dominican President Danilo Medina protesting the possible stripping of citizenship to tens of thousands of Dominicans.

* Paraguay: Paraguay is normalizing diplomatic relations with several of its South American neighbors nearly a year and a half after the controversial ouster of President Fernando Lugo.

* Brazil: Brazilian state-run firm Petrobras sold its Peruvian energy division to China’s CNPC for $2.6 billion.

Video Source – YouTube via user oneworldsportstv

Online Sources- Bloomberg; Huffington Post; The Latin Americanist; Mercopress; Reuters

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ecuador: Court Upholds Environmental Damages Ruling Against Chevron

In a Solomon-like ruling, Ecuador’s National Court of Justice upheld a verdict against U.S. oil company Chevron yet cut a $19 billion fine by more than half.

The National Court of Justice (NCJ) agreed with a 2011 lower court ruling that found Chevron responsible for the environmental damages caused by Texaco during a twenty-eight year period of operating in the Ecuadorian rainforest. The NCJ further ordered Chevron to pay an $8.8 million fine that includes reparations to indigenous communities that claim to have suffered adverse health effects due to Texaco’s actions between 1964 and 1992.

Yet the high court eliminated the roughly $9 billion in punitive damages levied against Chevron, which purchased Texaco in 2001, and reduces the fine to its original decision made by a local judge in February 2011.

The NCJ’s decision did not sit well with representatives of Chevron as well as the Ecuadorian plaintiffs.

“The only decision that the Court of Justice could have taken .. was to declare the trial null and void and leave this illegitimate sentence without effect,” Chevron spokesman James Craig reportedly said.  He further claimed that the NCJ’s ruling was “illegitimate and inapplicable.”

Juan Pablo Saenz, an attorney for the plaintiffs, deemed the high court’s lowering of the fine against Chevron as a “folly” that leaves “unpunished the arrogance, bad faith and irresponsibility” of the oil firm.  Nevertheless, he praised the court for issuing “a sentence that confirms all the evidence gathered, the damage and the payment Chevron must make.”

LatAm World’s Most Insecure Region Says U.N.

According to a new U.N. report Latin America is the most insecure region in the world and this is greatly hurting the area’s economic development.

“In the past decade, Latin America has been the setting of two areas of growth: economic and criminal,” concluded the 2013-2014 Regional Human Development Report from the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) that was released yesterday.

The report found that crime levels have increased in Latin America over the past decade while at least eleven countries in the region including Mexico, Brazil and Venezuela have high homicide rates of at least ten per 100,000 residents.  Moreover, the number or robberies has tripled over the past quarter century, one in every three Latin Americans reported being a victim of a violent crime in 2012 and half of Latin Americans believe that security in their respective counters has worsened. 

The high insecurity in Latin America cost the region 0.5% of its Gross Domestic Product in 2009 (or roughly $24 billion) according to the report. Latin American youth that are needed to help drive the region’s economy are the most affected by crime and violence and are most vulnerable in countries like El Salvador and Colombia. Additionally, for Latin American countries like Honduras and Paraguay public spending on crime-related factors such as the judiciary, prison system and law enforcement are at high levels.

"There is no magic solution to insecurity, but this serious problem can be remediated—with vision and long-term political will," said UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Heraldo Muñoz. "Each country needs to secure a National Citizen Security Agreement between the government, political parties and civil society so it truly becomes a state policy."

Among the recommendations made by the UNDP to combat insecurity in Latin America is the need to undergo major reform in prison systems that are plagued by overpopulation as well as creating public policies to protect those most affected by crime.  Furthermore, the UNDP suggests that Latin American countries need to do a better job at combating gender-based violence such as femicides and also reduce “crime triggers” like alcohol and drugs.

For the report’s main author, the approach by several Latin American states to lower crime is having the opposite effect:
“While some threats – such as organized crime, especially drug trafficking – are often used to explain insecurity, the regional, national and local dynamics are much more diverse,” explains the lead author, Rafael Fernandez de Castro. 
One of the main lessons he drew in the report is that “iron fist” policies do not work: strong police and criminal repression in the region have often coincided with high crime rates.
The assessed experiences confirm that protecting the rights to life, to dignity and to physical integrity is essential to citizen security, which, as a public good, is a responsibility of the state, the report highlights.
Video Source– YouTube via AFP

Online Sources - U.N. Development Programme; U.N. News Centre

Daily Headlines: November 13, 2013

* Argentina: A top aide to Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri faces criminal charges after he called the late Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler a "spectacular guy."

* Brazil: Forensic scientists are planning to exhume the remains of former president Joao Gulart to examine whether he died of natural causes of was poisoned.

* Cuba: Human rights advocates are none too pleased with the election of several countries to the U.N. Human Rights Council including China, Saudi Arabia and Cuba.

* Latin America: The Chilean government and UNICEF Uruguay are two of the Latin American entities pledging aid to the storm-battered Philippines.

Online Sources - GlobalPost; Fox News Latino; BBC News; Businessweek

Video Source - YouTube via TVPublicaArgentina

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Daily Headlines: November 12, 2013

* Latin America: Mexico and Uruguay are each hoping to avoid shock defeats tomorrow in the first match of a two-leg World Cup playoff series against New Zealand and Jordan, respectively

* Argentina: A spokesman for Argentine president President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who underwent surgery last month, said that she will return to her duties next week.

* Puerto Rico: Could Puerto Rico's financial woes provide a golden opportunity for Wall Street investors?

* Brazil: According to the International Energy Agency, Brazil could become one of the world's top suppliers of oil by 2035.

Online Sources - Reuters; FIFA; Miami Herald; BusinessWeek

Video Source - YouTube via sntv

Monday, November 11, 2013

Daily Headlines: November 11, 2013

* Venezuela: Scores of Venezuelans including some looters gathered outside Daka electronics stores after the government seized the chain over alleged price gouging.

* Colombia: Authorities in Spain captured the head of Los Urabeños, a Colombian neo-paramilitary criminal gang involved in narcotrafficking.

* Chile: Forensic exams concluded that no chemical agents were found in the body of acclaimed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who died under mysterious circumstances in 1973.

* Mexico: Police in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas located sixty-one migrants including ten children residing in "inhumane conditions."

Online Sources - LAHT; BBC News; USA TODAY; Reuters

Video Source - YouTube via euronews