Latin America News Round-up
July 21, 2010:
Report Says U.S. Fails to Assess Drug Aid to Mexico
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Argentine Province Taps Markets With Oil-Backed Notes. Bloomberg
Argentine only has natural gas reserves for the next seven years. Merco Press
Bolivian ambassador highlights resumption of bilateral ties with Peru. Andina
Colombian and Ecuadorean vice presidents to meet in Quito. Colombia Reports
Ecuador's Government Fails To Pass Monetary Law. Dow Jones
Chavez says Venezuela Government Obtains Stake in Opposition TV Channel Globovision. Latin American Herald Tribune
Chavez: Pensioners and Children Benefit from Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution. Venezuela Analysis
Ex-Head Of Venezuela Bank Using Bank Money To Build Mansion-Chavez said. Dow Jones
'Venezuela fired shots in Colombia'. Colombia Reports
Colombia urges Venezuela to co-operate. Colombia Reports
President Uribe Secures Legacy of Dispute for Successor. Inter Press Service
U.S. Offers $10 Million in Rewards for Peruvian Rebel Chiefs. EFE
Peru and Chile agree on confidence building measures in defence affairs. Santiago Times
Progressive Senators Seek To Reopen Abortion Debate In Chile. Santiago Times
Petrobras Says Oil and Gas Production Rose 2.3% in June. EFE
Brazil's Drug Problem Shaping Foreign Policy. World Politics Review
Hundreds of dead penguins dot Brazil's beaches. AP
Argentine Neighbors Uruguay, Paraguay To Debate Gay Marriage. On Top Magazine
México, Central America and the Caribbean
Report Says U.S. Fails to Assess Drug Aid to Mexico. New York Times
Mexico Mortgage Agency Seeks $1.5 Billion From China, World Bank, CEO Says. Bloomberg
July Could Be Deadliest Month in 10 Years on Arizona-Mexico Border. EFE
Honduras, Iran, and the Propaganda Model. Upside Down World
Suriname president-elect says his trial will go on. AP
U.S. Diplomats Brief Cuban Dissidents' Kin on Refugee Process. EFE
Puerto Rican Unemployment Remains High. EFE
Region: Trade, Security, Economy and Integration
Central American leaders approve Honduras' return to OAS, SICA. Xinhua
OAS Denies Request To Mediate Chilean Senators' Dispute With Venezuela. Santiago Times
Online Library Gives Latin America Universities Access to Documents. EFE
Argentine Province Taps Markets With Oil-Backed Notes.
Drew Benson and Rodrigo Orihuela. Bloomberg. July 21, 2010
Argentina's biggest crude-producing province is selling the country's first oil and gas-backed securities since 2007 in a bid to borrow at lower rates in international debt markets.
Chubut is issuing this week $150 million of 10-year notes backed by royalties paid by BP PLC-controlled Pan American Energy LLC, Argentina's biggest oil exporter, the province said in an advertisement published in El Cronista yesterday.
The Patagonian province, the second Argentine issuer to tap overseas debt markets since the federal government restructured $12.9 billion of defaulted debt last month, plans to pay an interest rate of 7.75 percent on the oil-backed notes, 375 basis points, or 3.75 percentage points, less than the coupon on bonds sold by IRSA Inversiones y Representaciones SA, Argentina's biggest real estate developer, earlier this week.
Chubut's use of the royalties to back its debt "seems like a smart thing for them to do," said Eduardo Suarez, an emerging-markets strategist at Royal Bank of Canada in Toronto. "Without them, costs would be higher."
Under terms of the securities, Buenos Aires-based Pan American pays its provincial royalties directly into trusts that set aside dollars for bond payments before passing the money on to the government. The notes, which have been sold by provinces including Neuquen and Salta, are also attractive to investors as they were among the few securities that didn't fall into default when Argentina stopped payment on $95 billion of debt in 2001, said Veronica Sosa, an analyst at Buenos Aires research company Economia y Regiones.
"Under the trust, the provinces don't get their hands on the royalties directly," Sosa said.
The cost of protecting Argentine debt against non-payment for five years with credit-default swaps rose five basis points yesterday to 912, according to data compiled by CMA DataVision. Credit-default swaps pay the buyer face value in exchange for the underlying securities or the cash equivalent should a government or company fail to adhere to its debt agreements.
The peso was little changed at 3.9327 per dollar at 9:37 a.m. New York time. The extra yield investors demand to hold Argentine dollar bonds instead of U.S. Treasuries fell 12 basis points to 733 yesterday, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. The difference is down from 846 on July 1.
Yields on Argentina's benchmark dollar bonds due in 2015 slid 24 basis points to 11.2 percent, according to pricing from Deutsche Bank AG. Warrants linked to economic growth were unchanged at 9.15 cents on the dollar.
Chubut Governor Mario Das Neves, who says on his website that he'll run for president next year, announced plans to sell the oil-backed securities on a trip to New York last month. Telephone messages left at Das Neves's press office weren't returned.
The securities, known as VDFs, are being offered on domestic and international markets through trusts run by Bank of New York Mellon in the U.S. and Buenos Aires-based Banco de Valores SA, according to a pre-sale report by Moody's Investors Service. They will be denominated in dollars for U.S. investors and dollar-linked for domestic buyers. Moody's rates the foreign securities Ba3, three levels below investment grade, and the local notes Ba2.
Chubut will use proceeds of the bonds, the only asset- backed Argentine securities sold overseas, to build highways and housing, said Martin Fernandez, an analyst with Moody's in Buenos Aires. The royalties will be primarily derived from the Cerro Dragon oilfield, Argentina's largest. Pan American, which has operated the field since 1958, had its concession extended last year to 2027 from 2017, according to the country's Planning Ministry.
Argentine only has natural gas reserves for the next seven years.
Merco Press. July 21, 2010
Argentina' natural gas reserves dropped to half their 2000 level when they totalled 378.862 million cubic metres, which means at the current consumption rate in seven and a half years the country will ran out of the vital fuel, according to a report released this week in Buenos Aires.
Lack of investment in exploration has been decisive in the current situation according to the Mosconi Institute Lack of investment in exploration has been decisive in the current situation according to the Mosconi Institute
"The level of reserves experienced an inter-annual drop of 4.9% in 2009 and is insufficient for a country that like Argentina which bases its consumption in this kind of fuel, natural gas", said the Energy Institute General Mosconi.
The report adds that at the present rate of demand increase for gas and power, Argentina is incapable of ensuring self sufficiency which means "it needs in a growing and irreversible way" to increase high-cost fuel imports with a negative impact on the country's finances.
The release of the report coincides with the considerable reductions and blackouts imposed on the manufacturing sector by the Kirchner couple administration to ensure the home demand struck by severe freezing winter temperatures.
This has set alarms ringing in Argentina's manufacturing sector because contrary to official announcements the situation, year after year, seems to worsen.
The report from the Mosconi institute argues that the fall in Argentine hydrocarbons reserves is closely linked to the exploration investments of the last three decades.
Apparently natural gas production in Argentina has been sustainedly falling since 2004 and in 2009 was equivalent to 48.413 million cubic metres, down 7.3% in the period.
"During the 2000 decade, 484 exploration wells were drilled, less than half those averaged during the nineties, and 47% less if we compare the number to the eighties".
Similarly oil production in the last ten years accumulates a 16% contraction which means reserves fell at a similar rate in the period having reached 398.213 cubic metres.
The Mosconi report forecasts that Argentina's crude reserves will suffice for the next eleven years at the most, and given the limited production capacity it has been forced to greater and progressive imports of natural gas from Bolivia and liquid natural gas, LNG from other sources, as well as significantly limiting the supply of fuel to feed the manufacturing sector and generate power.
Argentina suffered its first major energy crisis in 2004 when it was forced to resume Bolivian natural gas purchases and ration supply to Chile, in spite of existing international contracts, besides cutting the supply of power to the manufacturing sector and the auto industry.
Bolivian ambassador highlights resumption of bilateral ties with Peru.
Andina. July 21, 2010
Bolivia's Ambassador to Lima, Franz Solano, highlighted today the resumption of bilateral ties and welcomed the development of the trade mission Expo Peru Bolivia 2010, to take place on July 21-22 in Santa Cruz.
He said that since the arrival of Peruvian Ambassador Manuel Rodriguez in La Paz, a positive era began and friendship relations between the two countries blossomed again.
Solano expects that Expo Peru Bolivia 2010 will be able to consolidate the socio-economic development required by inhabitants of both countries.
"We are resuming relationships and I hope this will benefit both countries and boost the socio-economic development required by inhabitants of the two neighboring nations," he told Andina.
The trade mission Expo Peru Bolivia 2010 aims to consolidate and increase the presence of Peruvian products in this country and establish business relationships with Bolivian entrepreneurs.
The mission consists of 150 entrepreneurs and 25 tourist operators, and will be led by Peruvian Trade and Tourism Minister Martin Perez.
Colombian and Ecuadorean vice presidents to meet in Quito.
Tom Davenport. Colombia Reports. July 21, 2010
Colombian Vice President-elect, Angelino Garzon will travel to Quito Thursday to pay a "courtesy visit" to his Ecuadorean counterpart Lenin Moreno, in a step towards rebuilding ties between the neighboring Andean nations.
Icy relations, frozen after the Colombian military raided a FARC camp on Ecuadorean soil in 2008, now appear to be thawing, after recent meetings between the Ecuadorean government and the incoming Colombian administration.
The vice presidents' meeting follows a similiar courtesy visit Monday by Colombia's incoming Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin to Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño in Quito. Speaking after their hour-long meeting, Holguin said Patiño had been very pleased with her visit.
Patiño refused to comment on the exact content of the meeting, but said that both countries would ensure a "panoramic revision" of their bilateral relations.
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa has suggested he would like to attend the inauguration of Colombian President-Elect, Juan Manuel Santos, on August 7. However Ecuador has said that its head of state has not officially been invited, despite Colombian claims that an invitation has been sent.
Ecuador's Government Fails To Pass Monetary Law.
Mercedes Alvaro. Dow Jones. July 21, 2010
QUITO - Members of Ecuador President Rafael Correa's party in the legislature failed to pass a controversial monetary reform bill Tuesday aimed at using Central Bank deposits to fund investment projects.
Alianza Pais, Correa's party, won only 59 of the 63 votes it needed to pass the law. The failure is the second defeat for Correa's party in the legislature. In May Correa's party failed to secure enough votes for a bill to overhaul water usage.
According to Ramiro Crespo of Analytica Securities, an investment bank based in Quito, the proposed monetary law reform would not provide transparency and would give more discretionary power to the central bank's officials, particularly its board of directors.
Among other changes, the bill reduces limits on Central Bank investments and suggests the bank could invest directly in state-owned banks. It would also allow the Central Bank to provide liquidity to institutions "with some questionable lending policies and high non-performing loan ratios," Crespo said.
President Correa's administration has been rattled by the recent protests against its proposed laws. Others facing opposition include proposals on hydrocarbons reform, communications and university education. Correa's party plans to present the monetary policy reform bill again next week for another vote.
Political analysts say Ecuador might have returned to a long-standing political pattern, where the president is powerful in central government but politically weak in Congress.
Chavez says Venezuela Government Obtains Stake in Opposition TV Channel Globovision.
Latin American Herald Tribune. July 20, 2010
CARACAS -- Venezuela President Hugo Chavez says his government now has a minority stake in the sole remaining opposition TV news channel, Globovision.
"This is going to cause an uproar in the opposition, but I was reviewing this last night and the state will hold 25.8% of shares from Mezerhane," Chavez said today on state television.
Nelson Mezerhane fled the country in May after the government took over his bank, Banco Federal. He denies any wrongdoing.
Chavez said that they would appoint a representative to the board of Globovisión, naming Alberto Nolia or Mario Silva who worked for the State television channel.
"Mezerhane has 20% of shares of Globovision and another company that has 5.8%, adding the two that gives 25.8%. In the coming days interventora Board of the Federal Bank is obliged to appoint a representative in the Board of Directors of Globovision," said President Chavez at the graduation of the II promotion from the police national, at the Teatro Teresa Carreño.
Chavez said the state may recieve another 20% of the television channel after shareholder Luis Teófilo Núñez died. Chavez claimed that media ownership stakes were not inheritable, so the stake will be transferred to the government.
"Adding 25.8%, with 20% and get 45.8% of Globovision. Compadre (...) no one can say that we are expropriating. We're incorporating ourselves into the business," he said. "We will defend the interest of shareholders -- pure capitalism."
In addition, with another major shareholder, Guillermo Zuloago, also fleeing the country after Chavez repeatedly called for his arrest on spurious charges of "usury" for storing cars from his dealership at his house, the Venezuela government may soon have a majority stake in the country's sole remaining opposition voice and a virtual monopoly over the information on its airways. Like Mezerhane, Zuloaga also denies any wrongdoing.
And to insure that monopoly of opinion is complete, Chavez also said that they may revoke the license of a television network run by the Roman Catholic Church. The airways for Vale TV were given to the church by Venezuela President Rafael Caldera, and it should be returned to the people, Chavez said.
"Caldera gave the church hierarchy a television channel, a state channel. I want to review that to put it into the hands of the people, not the Cardinal," Chavez said.
At its 94th Venezuelan Bishops Conference, the Church reaffirmed its concern about the communist system being promoted by the government. "The Church has been critical of some of Chavez's policies, saying that"People want to live in democracy, under the rule of law, with a real participation of all citizens, in a climate of justice and freedom. That is what the referendum held on December 2, 2007 decided," concluded the Bishops. "Therefore, the imposition of a socialist state inspired by the Cuban Communist regime that has been enforced through laws and facts that ignore the popular will and the Constitution is absolutely unaccceptable.
Chavez responded last week by calling Caracas Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino a "troglodyte" and "unworthy" for trying to "scare people about communism."
Chavez: Pensioners and Children Benefit from Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution.
Steven Mather. Venezuela Analysis. July 21, 2010
Caracas - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez revealed figures on Sunday that he said show the great strides the Bolivarian Revolution is making in improving and protecting the health and well-being of children and older people.
Chavez said that in the last 10 years the government has given out a million pensions to retired workers worth in total Bs. 67.8 billion, around Bs. 678 million per year.
According to the president, this is a sharp increase in performance compared alongside the governments of the previous 22 years, a time period before the country's more progressive Constitution was created in 1999, known as the Fourth Republic.
He said: "In the last 22 years of the Fourth Republic only Bs. 582 million were invested, something less than Bs. 30 million per year. Notice the difference. The Bolivarian government, in only one year paid more than the Fourth Republic managed in its last four terms of government [22 years]."
Chavez blamed capitalism and the former state of the Fourth Republic for prioritizing the rich over the poor in its politics.
"The bourgeois state is an irresponsible and selfish state towards the people. In contrast, it gives the bourgeoisie everything. What the previous governments did was to close the doors to the people, deny them social security, a fair salary, pensions and in that way lower costs so as to give more money to the bourgeoisie. Now, with socialism, we are making things more equal. We give fewer resources to those that have enough and we give more to the people, according to their needs," he said.
He also pointed to the lowering of levels of infant mortality for the under-fives and to those under a year of age.
According to Chavez, the average number of deaths of children less than a year old was 23.07 per 1,000, where as it has now lowered to 16.64 per 1,000 after 10 years of revolution.
"If we take into account that each year in Venezuela half a million children are born, it means that in these 10 years, 5 million have been born... that means that if the infant mortality index hadn't reduced, 1.3 million kids probably wouldn't be alive today," he said.
He also showed that there had been a real lowering of children living on the streets, from 9,000 in 1998 to only 900 in 2007.
He said: "This must continue reducing until we reach zero." If the old government had remained in power, "be sure, as has happened in many countries in the world, there wouldn't be 5,000, there would be up to 20,000 abandoned children in the streets, because that is how savage capitalism is."
Also, in the last two years, the social programme "Children of the Neighbourhood" has reintroduced 965 children who had become separated from their parents back into the family home.
Some 635 have also been adopted and 332 are in the process of being put into homes.
Chavez said that children who find themselves without a family and homeless are the responsibility of everyone not just the government. He called on communal councils to take action to help children in need in their communities.
"This is very important. It is a fundamental value of socialism - social, collective, communal responsibility," he said.
The Children of the Neighbourhood programme was initiated in June 2008 to come to the aid of street children and those with social problems such as drug abuse and alcoholism.
The communal councils were put in place in 2006 as participatory institutions in local communities in order that citizens themselves could manage the social programmes operating where they lived.
The Chavez government says it hopes that these participatory democratic forms will over time grow in power, influence and importance, eventually replacing the capitalist state itself.
Prevention of Social Security Privatisation
Chavez was at an event yesterday to give out Venezuela Institute of Social Security (IVSS) pension books to a group of citizens where he revealed that one of the first things his government did when it came into government in 1998 was to stop the plans of the previous governments to privatise the IVSS.
He said there were also plans to privatise the petrochemical industry, the steel industry, and the oil industry.
"They were going to privatise all that at very low prices. And that is not even mentioning that they had already privatized the airline Viasa and the Venezuelan National Telephone Company (Cantv)," he said.
He ended by saying that mass privatizations would again become a reality if the current opposition came to power.
Ex-Head Of Venezuela Bank Using Bank Money To Build Mansion-Chavez said.
Forrest Jones. Dow Jones. July 15, 2010
The former head of Venezuela's now-nationalized bank Banco Federal CA is using its money to build a mansion in Miami, President Hugo Chavez said Thursday.
Nelson Mezerhane, president of Banco Federal before it was taken over by the government, has been a critic of Chavez and is an investor in the Globovision news network, the only television station opposed to the Venezuelan leader.
He is wanted by authorities because of his interests in the bank, which was taken over last month because of liquidity problems.
"He's building a tremendous mansion in Miami with depositors' money," Chavez said on state television.
Chavez echoed his earlier comments that he did not yet know what the government would do with Banco Federal, but added the institution would stay in government hands for now. Authorities are studying whether to liquidate the bank or merge it under the umbrella of a state-run bank.
The president has said he will "do something" with Globovision if Mezerhane and the station's owner, Guillermo Zuloaga, don't return to Venezuela to answer to authorities. Zuloaga faces charges that a car dealership his family owns had hoarded automobiles; he denies the allegation.
Chavez made his comments during a tour at the Central Bank of Venezuela, where he and monetary authorities delivered low-interest loans to those interested in developing housing and other projects across the country.
The government will continue to reimburse depositors at Banco Federal, Chavez said, adding that state-run entities operate better than private ones in that they lower costs for end users.
"Capitalism is a curse for the people, while socialism is a blessing."
Andean Region [contents]
'Venezuela fired shots in Colombia'.
Kirsten Begg. Colombia Reports. July 21, 2010
Farmers from a rural area in Colombia's Norte de Santander department allege that on Tuesday Venezuelan soldiers crossed the border into Colombia and fired shots into the air.
"They entered firing into the air, passing by houses and a school with children," said Jose Jesus Rendon, one of the indigenous leaders of San Faustino, which is situated just 600 meters from the border with Venezuela.
Rendon said the Venezuelan incursion caused panic among locals. The foreign soldiers reportedly returned to their side of the border after a dialogue with San Faustino police.
Since Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez froze diplomatic relations with Colombia almost a year ago, there have been numerous incidents of violence along the border.
This latest incident comes at a critical moment in bilateral relations, after Colombia's revealed it has evidence that Venezuela is harboring guerrillas in its borders.
Colombia is set to present a report on the allegations before the Organization of American States on Thursday, and claims to have satellite photos, videos and intelligence from rebel deserters that provesseveral commanders are living in Venezuela, including FARC leader "Ivan Marquez."
The Venezuelan government has always vehemently denied allegations that guerrillas are hiding in its territory.
Caracas has labelled the evidence "a pathetic media show," with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavezclaiming that this is a last ditch attempt on the part of outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to sabotage the incoming Colombian government's relations with Venezuela.
On Friday, Venezuela's ambassador in Bogota, Gustavo Marquez was recalled for consultation.
Venezuela broke diplomatic relations all together in 2009, after Colombia signed a pact that grants the U.S. military access to seven Colombian army bases. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez views the pact as an attempt to undermine regional sovereignty.
Colombia urges Venezuela to co-operate.
Pandora Pugsley. Colombia Reports. July 21, 2010
The Colombian ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Alfonso Hoyos said that Colombia is not interested in penalizing Venezuela for the alleged guerrilla presence within its borders, but instead seeks to open bilateral dialogue with the socialist nation on the fight against terrorism.
"What interests us, rather than any kind of conviction against the government of Venezuela, is that the government of Venezuela co-operate" the diplomat told Caracol Radio.
"The purpose of raising this claim is that the countries of the region understand that this is not a political battle but a proven fact" Hoyos said.
On Thursday the ambassador will meet with the body's Permanent Council to present a report detailing allegations of FARC and ELN presence in Venezuela.
Hoyos stressed that the report provides "clear and recent" information obtained by the government. The compiled dossier to be presented at Thursday's session includes ten videos, twelve testimonies from demobilized guerrillas, as well as more than twenty photographs and various co-ordinates to rebel camps.
Hoyos expressed regret that Colombia had received co-operation from all its neighbouring countries except Venezuela
"Unfortunately, in the case of Venezuela, despite all the information that has been collected and all requests for co-operation, co-operation has not been possible," the ambassador said.
The Colombian government claims that it has satellite photos, videos and intelligence from rebel deserters that provesseveral commanders are living in Venezuela, including FARC leader "Ivan Marquez." Several leaders of the ELN are also alleged to be hiding out close to Colombian border city of Villa del Rosario.
The Venezuelan government has always vehemently denied allegations that guerrillas are hiding in its territory.
Caracas has labelled the evidence "a pathetic media show," with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claiming that this is a last ditch attempt on the part of outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to sabotage the incoming Colombian government's relations with Venezuela.
On Friday, the country's ambassador in Bogota, Gustavo Marquez was recalled for consultation.
Venezuela broke diplomatic relations all together in 2009, after Colombia signed a pact that grants the U.S. military access to seven Colombian army bases. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez views the pact as an attempt to undermine regional sovereignty.
In the government dossier it is emphasised that any exchange of information between the neighbouring countries ceased after 2007 due to "the absence of a response to requirements" from Venezuela.
"We believe that the situation would be greatly helped by Venezuela's co-operation." said Hoyos, " It is the obligation of governments to deal with crime, arms trafficking, drug trafficking and kidnapping."
President Uribe Secures Legacy of Dispute for Successor.
Humberto Márquez Inter Press Service. Jul 18, 2010
CARACAS - When out-going Colombian President Álvaro Uribe charged Thursday that leftist guerrilla commanders from his country are in hiding in neighbouring Venezuela, he went a long way towards ensuring that his successor, Juan Manuel Santos, will inherit a volatile diplomatic dispute.
Uribe "seems to want to round off the personal, political and economic controversies that have marked Colombia-Venezuela relations for the past five years, perhaps thinking that as a soon-to-be former president he doesn't have much to lose," Carlos Romero, professor of international relations at the Central University of Venezuela, told IPS.
The Colombian president will pass the baton Aug. 7 to Santos, also of the Social Party of National Unity (known as the U Party), who served as his defence minister during years of vigorous efforts to fight the guerrillas and the illicit drug trade-- "the policy of democratic security," as the government dubbed it.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez had some harsh criticisms for Santos when he was defence minister, and later, as the U Party's presidential candidate, but when Santos won the run-off vote Jun. 20, a back-and-forth of conciliatory declarations began.
Santos stated that he is willing to "smooth things over" and work with Venezuela to establish a relationship "based on patience and diplomacy," and invited Quito and Caracas "to open the way to future cooperation." Meanwhile, Chávez spoke of "extending a hand to the new government" and said he was considering attending the inauguration of the new Colombian president.
"A favourable wind had begun to blow, until this week, not for fully harmonious relations, or overcoming differences in ideas of democracy, economics or relations with Washington, but rather towards a 'modus vivendi' of tolerance and respect between the two governments. Until Uribe's move against Chávez," commented Romero.
The Colombian President's office declared Thursday that it has evidence and the coordinates of Colombian leftist guerrilla commanders hiding in Colombia: four from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and one from the National Liberation Army (ELN).
They are alleged to be members of the FARC's top ranks: Luciano Marín (alias Iván Márquez), Rodrigo Londoño (Timochenko), Rodrigo Granda (Ricardo González) and Germán Briceño (Grannobles, brother of rebel chief Jorge Briceño, or "Mono Jojoy"), as well as Carlos Marín Guarín (Pablito), of the ELN.
According to Colombia's current defence minister, Gabriel Silva, the ELN chief Eliécer Chamorro (alias Antonio García) is also believed to be hiding in Venezuela.
Venezuela's foreign ministry rejected Bogotá's accusation as a "new attack by Colombia's out-going president in his eagerness to conclude the effort to destroy Colombian-Venezuelan relations that he began with unhealthy obsession in recent years."
Bilateral relations began a roller-coaster ride in January 2005, when Colombian agents abducted FARC leader, alias Rodrigo Granda, in Caracas and took him to Bogotá.
When Colombian military forces crossed into Ecuador, to the south, and killed FARC's second in command, Luis Edgar Devia Silva (alias Raúl Reyes), and around 20 others, Chávez ordered the mobilisation of troops and tanks to Venezuela's border with Colombia.
After Colombia opened seven bases to U.S. military forces in 2009, Chávez froze relations with Colombia. Bilateral trade between the two neighbours, which in 2008 surpassed 7 billion dollars, has seen a six-fold decline.
Uribe and Chávez have parried and reconciled with each other several times over the period, and name-calling has continued. According to the Venezuelan leader, his Colombian counterpart is "a mafioso, a lackey, a pawn of the (U.S.) empire and paramilitary chief."
"An already difficult relationship grew more complicated, with both governments seizing upon the ideological question and with an excess of diplomacy by microphone, ignoring that fact that each issue -- trade, borders, security -- needs to have its specific, institutional treatment," Félix Arellano, director of the Central University's School of International Studies, told IPS.
The result could be "a very serious situation," said colleague Romero, because "relations between the two countries could rupture before Santos is sworn in, leaving consequences for integration and regional stability."
Chávez announced that not only will he stay home from Santos's inauguration (to which he was officially invited), "if this foolishness continues, in the coming hours I will break off relations with Colombia, and that will make things much more difficult for restoring relations with the new government."
Bogotá's response was to announce that it will take its accusations and evidence of the presence of Colombian guerrilla leaders in Venezuela to the Organisation of American States on Thursday, Jul. 22.
Former Colombian president Ernesto Samper (1994-1998, of the Liberal Party) said he is "concerned because behind this there must be some interest in blocking the process of normalising relations, which president-elect Santos began to do when he clearly and emphatically invited President Chávez to his inauguration."
Samper noted that just three weeks before the new president takes office this media scandal has erupted, "based on supposed evidence that must have been in the government's hands for many months, if not years."
In Venezuela, the chief editor of Últimas Noticias newspaper, Eleazar Díaz Rangel, said, "It seems strange that the Colombian army intelligence services so easily detect the guerrilla leaders here, but are incapable of discovering where the guerrillas are in Colombian territory."
In fact, four reporters and photographers from the Colombian television network RCN and Sarare Estéreo radio, who went looking for the ELN camp allegedly revealed by Uribe's government, were detained in southwest Venezuela and taken to Caracas.
Eduardo Márquez, president of the Colombian Federation of Journalists, called on Venezuelan authorities to release his colleagues, "who, based on the magnitude of the information presented by Defence Minister Gabriel Silva, did what any reporter would do: go to the location to confirm or dispute what was stated."
U.S. Offers $10 Million in Rewards for Peruvian Rebel Chiefs.
EFE. July 20, 2010
WASHINGTON - The United States is offering rewards of up to $5 million each for information leading to the capture of two leaders of the remnants of Peru's Shining Path guerrilla group.
Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, known as "Comrade Artemio," and Victor Quispe Palomino, alias "Comrade Jose," command Shining Path contingents in the Upper Huallaga Valley and in the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, or VRAE, region, respectively.
The State Department has added the two Peruvians to the U.S. list of most-wanted drug traffickers, joining the leaders of Mexican and Colombian drug cartels, as well as the chiefs of Colombia's leftist FARC rebel group.
Quispe "is the current leader of the Sendero remnants based in the VRAE, and oversees all of its illicit activities. These activities include extortion, murder, and drug trafficking," the State Department said.
"The drug trafficking activities of this faction of Sendero include taxes/extortion payments charged to local drug traffickers in exchange for security of cocaine labs and cocaine shipments made throughout the VRAE. Furthermore, currently Sendero owns several coca plots and cocaine base laboratories in the VRAE," the State Department said.
Flores Hala is likewise accused of being behind extortion rackets, bribery, killings and drug trafficking.
Comrade Artemio "himself is involved in the local cocaine trade in the Huallaga Valley, since he repeatedly invests his own and/or Sendero money in drug trafficking ventures with local drug traffickers," the State Department said.
The guerrilla leader "also repeatedly uses violence against Peruvian National Police officers, other GOP (Government of Peru) personnel, and the local populous (sic) in order to achieve his goals," the State Department said.
The Peruvian Armed Forces Joint Command said, meanwhile, that two suspected Shining Path guerrillas were killed and several others may have been wounded in a firefight with army troops in Putis, a remote area in Ayacucho province.
The firefight with "a terrorist column" occurred late in the afternoon on Sunday, the Armed Forces Joint Command said, adding that the army suffered no casualties.
An unidentified guerrilla carrying a backup filled with ammunition was captured after the firefight, Radio Programas del Peru, or RPP, reported.
Army troops engaged the guerrillas in a second firefight in Ayacucho on Monday, capturing a rebel.
The counterinsurgency operation is continuing, the Armed Forces Joint Command said.
The Lima daily El Comercio published a story last week revealing the true identity of Comrade Artemio.
The future rebel commander was born in the city of Camana on Sept. 8, 1961, dropped out of high school at the age of 17, joined the army a year later and served until late 1980.
Artemio left the army as a firearms expert and appeared in 1984 in the Upper Huallaga Valley, where most of Peru's drug gangs operate, organizing the guerrilla group's so-called regional committee, which he commands to this day.
Peruvian security forces' operations against the Shining Path's remnants have focused on the Upper Huallaga Valley and the VRAE.
The Maoist-inspired Shining Path launched its uprising on May 17, 1980, with an attack on Chuschi, a small town in Ayacucho province.
A truth commission appointed by former President Alejandro Toledo blamed the Shining Path for most of the nearly 70,000 deaths the panel ascribed to politically motivated violence during the two decades following the group's 1980 uprising.
The guerrilla group, according to commission estimates, also caused an estimated $25 billion in economic losses.
Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman Guzman, known to his fanatic followers as "President Gonzalo," was captured with his top lieutenants on Sept. 12, 1992, an event that marked the "defeat" of the insurgency.
The guerrilla leader, who was a professor of philosophy at San Cristobal University before initiating his armed struggle in the Andean city of Ayacucho, once predicted that 1 million Peruvians would probably have to die in the ushering-in of the new state envisioned by Shining Path.
The group became notorious for some of its innovations, such as blowing apart with dynamite the bodies of community service workers its members killed, or hanging stray canines from lampposts as warnings to "capitalist dogs."
The Shining Path's remnants did not comply with Guzman's order more than a decade ago to end the armed struggle, and he does not recognize them as members of the group.
The La Republica newspaper reported in May 2009 that Guzman, who is serving a life sentence for terrorism, called the remaining members of the guerrilla group operating in the VRAE region "mercenaries."
Peru and Chile agree on confidence building measures in defence affairs.
Laura French. Santiago Times. July 21, 2010
Peruvian Defence Minister Rafael Rey said this week that representatives from Chile and Peru would meet next Monday for the first time in an effort to establish common criteria for approving military expenditures. Rey also said he would meet with his Chilean counterpart, Jaime Ravinet, in Lima in August.
"We will try to move as soon as possible and agree on a procedure that measures apples with apples, and not apples and oranges," Rey said, referring to arms procurement, an issue that strained relations between Santiago and Lima in 2009.
Rey travelled to Chile in late May, where he met with Ravinet and also spoke to President Sebastián Piñera.
Though Chile participated in Peru's independence in 1821, securing a good partnership at the time, the two countries have not had such amicable relations since then. Both hold grudges from the War of the Pacific involving Peru, Chile and Bolivia in the late 19th century. In 1975, when due to ideological conflicts, the Peruvian military set a date to invade Chile, but was later dissuaded.
Despite the hostile past, the presidents of Chile and Peru have confirmed their intentions to improve their countries' relationship, mainly because of the huge amount of commercial business between the two.
Progressive Senators Seek To Reopen Abortion Debate In Chile.
Adrienne Lee. Santiago Times. July 21. 2010
Abortion law in Spain spurs efforts in Chile
Party for Democracy (PPD) Sen. Guido Girardi and Socialist Party (PS) Sen. Fulvio Rossi confirmed this week their determination to propose a therapeutic abortion law for Chile, citing the Spanish Parliament's recent initiative as an example for Chile to follow.
Spain's law was approved by parliament in February and took effect in early July. It allows abortion without restrictions during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
Current Chilean law forbids abortion in any circumstance, including rape, incest and threat to the mother's life. While proponents of abortion law reform argue that the absolute ban on abortion pushed many women to seek out unsafe alternatives, anti-abortion activists and lawmakers contend that due to scientific advances, there is no longer any need to abort a fetus for any reason, even "therapeutic" or health ones.
PPD President Adriana Muñoz said she respected Sen. Girardi's proposal, but suggested it would be a political error to become too isolated from the rest of the Concertación coalition, the four-party political coalition that ruled Chile from 1990 through 2010. It includes the PPD, the PS, the Christian Democratic Party, DC, and the Radical Party, PRSD.
Abortion has been a divisive issue for the Concertación, with the DC party strongly opposed to considering any abortion legislation.
Senators Girardi and Rossi noted that the Chamber of Deputies on July 7 passed a resolution condemning Spain for having "perfected the heinous murder of defenceless persons." Several rightist parties, as well as members of the centrist Christian Democrat Party (DC), were behind the resolution.
Girardi leads a group of internal critics within the center-left Concertación coalition who aim to identify the errors of past administrations and put progressive issues on the agenda. Just last week Girardi criticized former President Michelle Bachelet's administration for its economic policies after a CASEN survey found that poverty levels grew for the first time in 20 years in the final years of the Bachelet government.
Southern Cone [contents]
Petrobras Says Oil and Gas Production Rose 2.3% in June.
EFE. July 20, 2010
RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazilian oil giant Petrobras said production at its domestic and foreign fields totaled 2.56 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per day in June, a figure that was up 2.3 percent from the 2.5 million boe per day produced in the same month last year.
Brazil's largest oil and gas producer said output at domestic fields grew 2.7 percent last month to nearly 2.32 million barrels per day (bpd).
Production, however, was down 1.5 percent, compared to May, due to a planned shutdown at platform P-43, which operates in the offshore Campos basin and underwent maintenance.
Domestic oil production totaled 1.97 million bpd, up 2.6 percent from June 2009, while natural gas output totaled 53.6 million cubic meters per day, a level that was practically unchanged from the same month last year.
Production at Petrobras's fields abroad was 248,076 boe per day last month, unchanged from the June 2009 level.
Brazil's Drug Problem Shaping Foreign Policy.
Roque Planas. World Politics Review. July 20, 2010
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Two years ago, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso led the call for a "paradigm shift" (.pdf) in the country's drug policy. Instead of squelching supply through policing, Cardoso advocated for reducing demand by treating drug abuse as a public health issue.
Cardoso's appeal won plaudits from analysts who have grown impatient with a U.S.-led anti-drug policy that many argue has increased violence without significantly stemming drug abuse. But now it appears that Brazil not only remains committed to treating drugs as a problem for the police, it is also in the process of becoming the first country in Latin America whose drug use is pushing it to adopt a more aggressive foreign policy towards its neighbors.
In an interview with Radio Globo in late May, opposition presidential candidate José Serra called neighboring Bolivia an "accomplice" to Brazil's drug traffickers. Serra, himself a member of Cardoso's Brazilian Social Democracy Party, later told Istoé Magazine that Brazil should militarize its border, perhaps creating a special unit of the military police to handle the job.
"We can't have a land border of this size and leave it practically unpoliced," Serra said.
Serra's comments were not welcomed by Bolivian officials. The country's director of anti-drug operations, Félix Molina, shot back that "to call someone an accomplice, you have to have proof."
The bitter back-and-forth highlighted more than the usual regional tensions provoked by Latin America's leftward shift. With 600,000 cocaine users, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (.pdf), Brazil represents the second-largest market in South America, after Argentina.
Crack-cocaine use is also on the rise in Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian cities, concentrated in poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods known locally as "Crackolândias." The upswing in crack use is becoming a convenient campaign weapon for politicians facing voters concerned about crime and often influenced by conservative evangelical churches.
Indeed, Brazilian researcher Tom Valença, who studies drug use and favors transitioning toward a policy of harm-reduction inspired by European public health models, says Cardoso's advocacy for a paradigm shift away from the drug war was only made possible by his retirement from politics.
"Cardoso doesn't need the electorate anymore," Valença said in a telephone interview. "So he can say what he wants now."
Serra is not the only Brazilian politician cashing in on the public's fears of crack smokers and drug traffickers. In a campaign ad, Dilma Rousseff, the governing Workers' Party (PT) candidate and President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva's heir apparent, promises more of Rio de Janeiro's famous community policing units to contain the country's notorious drug traffickers. But she makes no mention of a public health campaign to control drug abuse.
And while Lula da Silva himself avoids the kind of tough talk used by Serra, in practice his internal drug policy emphasizes policing over public health. His choice of Paulo Roberto Uchoa, a former general, for the position of national secretary for drug policy symbolizes that preference.
While community policing units have been praised for reducing violence in Rio de Janeiro's slums, known as favelas, even security officials have questioned the logic of targeting users as criminals. "Drug addicts are ill," said Rio de Janeiro State Secretary of Security José Beltrame at a recent conference on drug policy organized by the Americas Society. "And curing illness is not the job of the police."
The impetus behind the drug war mentality, however, remains strong, and Serra has taken the logical step of translating a domestic political issue into an international one. Brazilians may use relatively high amounts of cocaine and crack, but like Americans, they don't produce it. Most of it comes from neighboring Bolivia, and easily slips through long and porous borders.
Since Bolivian President Evo Morales came to office in 2002, that country's cocaine production has increased -- in part because Morales, himself a former coca farmer and defender of the cultural right to use coca for traditional purposes, has relaxed the coca eradication policy pursued by previous administrations.
Brazil also shares an insecure and unpoliced border with Paraguay, which has long been home to smugglers and drug traffickers. Up to 40 tons of cocaine and 15 percent of the world's marijuana pass over the Paraguay-Brazilian border, according to The Associated Press. Complicating matters, a budding leftist guerrilla movement known as the People's Army of Paraguay (EPP) has sprouted up on the border, prompting the Paraguayan government to declare a month-long state of emergency in April.
While Lula da Silva has refrained from making antagonistic comments targeting Brazil's neighbors, a closed-door meeting in May with Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo at the border town of Pedro Juan Caballero indicates that the Workers' Party is also concerned about the problem of border security.
With Brazilian presidential elections slated for October, the question of how Brazil will handle international drug trafficking along its borders promises to remain on the agenda. Regardless of who wins, Brazil's foreign relations appear likely to be increasingly determined by its drug consumption patterns.
But initiating a foreign policy based on the U.S. interdiction model will make Brazil unique in South America. The region's other large cocaine markets, Argentina and Chile, do not register the high levels of violence associated with Brazilian drug trafficking. And a foreign policy focused on border security may raise suspicions in a region where border conflict has not been common historically, and where Brazil's rapid political and economic ascent is already sometimes viewed uneasily.
In any event, beefing up border security probably will not help shake the country's drug habit. "Don't think you're going to get crack off the streets," Valença said. "People are going to continue using crack, but we can get them to do it in a less chaotic manner."
Roque Planas is a Henry MacCracken Fellow at New York University and the general manager of the Latin America News Dispatch.
Hundreds of dead penguins dot Brazil's beaches.
Stan Lehman. AP. July 20, 2010
SAO PAULO -- Hundreds of penguins that apparently starved to death are washing up on the beaches of Brazil, worrying scientists who are still investigating what's causing them to die.
About 500 of the black-and-white birds have been found just in the last 10 days on Peruibe, Praia Grande and Itanhaem beaches in Sao Paulo state, said Thiago do Nascimento, a biologist at the Peruibe Aquarium.
Most were Magellan penguins migrating north from Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands in search of food in warmer waters.
Many are not finding it: Autopsies done on several birds revealed their stomachs were entirely empty - indicating they likely starved to death, Nascimento said.
Scientists are investigating whether strong currents and colder-than-normal waters have hurt populations of the species that make up the penguins' diet, or whether human activity may be playing a role.
"Overfishing may have made the fish and squid scarcer," Nascimento said.
Nascimento said it's common for penguins to swim north this time of year. Inevitably, some get lost along the way or die from hunger or exhaustion, and end up on the Brazilian coast far from home.
But not in such numbers - Nascimento said about 100 to 150 live penguins show up on the beach in an average year, and only 10 or so are dead.
"What worries us this year," he said, "is the absurdly high number of penguins that have appeared dead in a short period of time."
Argentine Neighbors Uruguay, Paraguay To Debate Gay Marriage.
Carlos Santoscoy. On Top Magazine. July 20, 2010
In what is being described as a domino effect, two of Argentina's neighbors will consider gay marriage bills.
A gay marriage bill approved last week in the Argentine Senate and scheduled to be ratified Wednesday by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner makes the Roman Catholic stronghold the first Latin American country to legalize gay marriage. The bill cleared Congress over the strong objections of the Catholic Church.
Now comes word that two of Argentina's neighbors - Uruguay and Paraguay - will also consider legalizing gay marriage.
Uruguay appears the likeliest to succeed.
Former President Tabare Vazquez turned tiny Uruguay into a gay rights leader in the region. During his 5-year tenure the country dropped its ban on gay troops serving in the military and gave gay couples the right to adopt children. It also legalized civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Last year, Vazquez signed a groundbreaking transgender law that sets the legal guidelines for people who want to change their gender.
The gay rights group which lobbied for passage of the civil unions bill in 2007, Ovejas Negras (Black Sheep), says the time has come for full marriage equality in Uruguay.
"We have respected Uruguayan political tradition of progressive changes, but now we are ready to achieve full equality at the legal level, so the next goal is marriage," Diego Sempol of Ovejas Negras told Argentina's Telam.
Sempol added that initial discussions with leaders from Frente Amplio, the nation's ruling party, were promising. But President Jose Alberto Mujica Cordano's leftist credentials on gay rights remain untested.
Opposition to a yet-to-be-introduced gay marriage bill in Paraguay is already mobilizing.
Roman Catholic Bishop Adalberto Martinez of San Pedo told La Nacion that the church is wasting no time in preparing a campaign against gay marriage.
"We are going to put out an intense educational campaign on Christian values, to avoid the law of marriage between people of the same sex that was approved in Argentina from coming to Paraguay," he said.
This after the gay rights group SOMOSGAY (we are gay) tweeted on Thursday that they will lobby for passage of a gay marriage bill in October.
Paraguay Vice-President Federico Franco has already come out against the proposal.
"God created man and woman to form a family," he told UltimaHora.com. "I am a Catholic. I have always tried to be as direct and honest as possible."
Franco went on to say that he did not want to imagine a child being raised by gay parents or how the child would react upon learning that his/her parents are gay.
In a television appearance on Paravision, Senator Alfredo Jaeggli said he was in favor of legalizing gay marriage.
Chile is preparing to debate a bill that recognizes gay and lesbian couples with civil unions.
México, Central America and the Caribbean [contents]
Report Says U.S. Fails to Assess Drug Aid to Mexico.
Marc Lacey. New York Times. July 20, 2010
MEXICO CITY - Despite claims by the United States and Mexico that drug traffickers are feeling the effects of the countries' joint offensive, a review by the Government Accountability Office has found that millions of dollars have been spent without enough regard for whether the money is doing any good.
The office did say in a report to be released Wednesday that the Obama administration had done a better job in recent months of spending the roughly $1.6 billion set aside to fight drug traffickers in Mexico and Central America. Critics in the region have said bureaucratic hurdles have delayed the aid, which includes training and helicopters.
But the report said the State Department, which is overseeing the so-called Merida Initiative to combat drugs in the region, had failed to set specific targets to determine whether the money was having the desired effect of disrupting organized crime groups and reforming law enforcement agencies.
"Without targets to strive toward, State cannot determine if it is meeting expectations under the Merida Initiative," the report said.
Officials in Washington and Mexico City typically point to the huge quantities of drugs, guns and money being seized and the number of arrests being made as evidence that traffickers are on their heels. Critics, however, point to the continued violence in Mexico as a sign that the traffickers remain strong.
Nearly 25,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderón took office at the end of 2006. Recent days have been particularly bloody, with an attack on a birthday party in Torreón that killed 17 people and a car bombing in Ciudad Juárez.
Precisely measuring the success or failure of the drug war is exceedingly hard, experts say. The number of arrests means little if many detainees are later released or replaced by new recruits. The seizure of huge quantities of drugs does not indicate that traffickers are struggling if even larger loads are getting through to generate big profits.
Violence could be a sign of the traffickers' strength, or it could indicate their weakness and desperation, as the Mexican government has contended.
"It's tricky," said an American official involved in the drug fight who was not authorized to speak on the record. He suggested that polling on the public perception of the police might be a way to gauge whether Mexican law enforcement was being properly overhauled.
Representative Eliot L. Engel, the New York Democrat who sought the spending review, said in a statement, "Nearly three years and $1.6 billion later, our counternarcotics assistance to Mexico and Central America lacks fundamental measurements of success."
Mexico Mortgage Agency Seeks $1.5 Billion From China, World Bank, CEO Says.
Carlos Manuel Rodriguez and Adriana Lopez Caraveo. Bloomberg. July 21, 2010
Mexico is seeking a $1 billion loan from a Chinese development bank and another $500 million from the World Bank to finance home lending, said the agency in charge of developing Mexico's mortgage market.
The Chinese loan may be signed as soon as September, Javier Gavito, head of Mexico City-based Sociedad Hipotecaria Federal, said today in an interview at Bloomberg's Mexico City office.
"The amount of funds and opportunities for investments are considerable," Gavito said.
July Could Be Deadliest Month in 10 Years on Arizona-Mexico Border.
Maria Leon. EFE. July 20, 2010
TUCSON, Arizona - Crossing from Mexico to the United States over the Arizona border is becoming ever more dangerous and July is shaping up to be the deadliest month in 10 years for undocumented migrants.
Already this month the Pima County medical examiner's office has received the bodies of 40 undocumented immigrants, and it has been forced to rent a mobile refrigeration unit to store them.
The deaths of undocumented immigrants have increased to the extent that they could break the record set in July 2005, when the office registered the deaths of 68 migrants.
"We're halfway through the month. To have so many bodies is not a good sign. We could be facing the deadliest month we've had since we began tallying the deaths of undocumented people in 2000," the county medical examiner, Dr. Bruce Parks, told Efe.
From Jan. 1-July 15, Parks' office has received the bodies of 134 undocumented migrants, 32 more than during the same period in 2009.
The Pima County medical examiner's office receives the bodies of the majority of undocumented migrants who die in their attempt to cross into the United States along the Arizona border.
"There's no doubt we're facing a real crisis of the kind nobody talks about," Kat Rodriguez, the representative of the Arizona Human Rights Coalition, told Efe.
From Oct. 1, when Fiscal Year 2010 began, until June 30, the coalition has registered the deaths of 153 undocumented immigrants, 28 more than last year between the same dates.
"About 70 percent of these bodies have not been able to be identified," the activist said.
Rodriguez agreed with Parks regarding the assessment that the situation is worrying given the high numbers of people missing in the desert that are being reported to the coalition.
She said that last week her organization received reports of seven missing people, four of them women.
"The families are ... desperate. They don't know what to do. Some of them tell us that coyotes (migrant smugglers) told them that their relative became ill and they had to leave them under a tree, others don't know anything, just that the person crossed the border, but never arrived at their destination," the activist said.
When a family reports a person to be missing, the coalition passes this information to the U.S. Border Patrol so that they can initiate a search if it is believed that the person might still be alive.
That was the case this past weekend, when on Saturday afternoon Rodriguez received a phone call from a young man who was lost in the desert. The battery of his cellphone failed while he was talking to her, but he was rescued by the Border Patrol.
When the person has already been missing for some time, Rodriguez tries to obtain information that can help to identify their body, such as tattoos, type of clothing they were wearing, shoes, backpack, etc.
"When the body is found some hours after the person died, it can be recognized by its facial features, but when the body has already been in the desert for several months or just bones are found the identification is very difficult," she said.
Rodriguez said it was "regrettable" that the entire country is currently talking about the issue of undocumented immigration, but nobody is speaking about the crisis that exists on the border and the increase in deaths among the migrants.
"Not even the people who are pushing for immigration reform talk about the deaths on the border," Rodriguez emphasized.
The Border Patrol says 422 immigrants died along the entire U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2009.
Honduras, Iran, and the Propaganda Model.
Kevin Young. Upside Down World. July 20, 2010
The most elementary facts are irrelevant unless they support the preordained narratives
Based on a presentation delivered May 1st at the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Arlington, VA.
Overt breaches of electoral democracy occurred in several countries in June 2009. Two cases were especially noteworthy: the June 12 presidential election in Iran in which the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was widely accused of electoral fraud, and the June 28 military overthrow of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. Exactly what happened in the case of Iran-that is, the extent of the fraud and whether or not it was decisive-is perhaps not quite as clear as the case of Honduras, where the military leadership unabashedly ousted the country's elected leader. But regardless of the precise facts surrounding each event, there was in each country a clear pattern of government repression following that event. In both cases that repression took the form of murder, torture, and a variety of less violent actions such as press censorship, curfews, and arbitrary mass arrests.
In Iran, as Amnesty International reported last December, "thousands of people were arbitrarily arrested, dozens were killed on the streets or died in detention, and many said they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated." AI condemned "the willingness of the authorities to resort to violence and arbitrary measures to stifle protest and dissent." Iranian human rights organizations painted a similar picture. The exact death toll is still in dispute, and may never be known, but it surely ranged at least in the dozens .
In Honduras, the Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH) has compiled the most thorough documentation of the human rights violations that have followed the June 28 coup. COFADEH has confirmed ten politically-motivated murders in the two months following the coup, including four within the first two weeks; by February 2010 the total was forty. Most of the victims had protested against the coup, and one was a journalist who had been covering the protests for the Honduran press. Foreign human rights organizations corroborated this basic story, although without the benefit of a constant on-the-ground presence. An Amnesty International visit to Honduras a month after the coup found that "[e]xcessive force by police and military has been routine and hundreds of peaceful demonstrators have been subject to arbitrary detention." AI also confirmed that at least two peaceful protesters had been killed by gunfire. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued similar findings in March of this year. Since March, seven journalists have been murdered. On the one-year anniversary of the coup, a spokesperson for Amnesty International condemned the "grave human rights violations" that have continued since the government of Porfirio Lobo was installed in January, noting that Lobo "has failed to take action to protect" the human rights of Hondurans .
Attempting to "rank" or quantify human suffering is a difficult and perhaps vulgar endeavor, but we might tentatively conclude that government repression in the two countries was at least roughly comparable. Consistent and honest news media could thus be expected to devote at least roughly comparable levels of attention and indignation to the two cases. Instead, press coverage of the two cases is a textbook example of Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky's "propaganda model," which predicts that US news coverage will consistently vilify antagonists of the US government and its corporate sponsors while showing far greater leniency toward official allies. One central aspect of the model predicts that the press will show tremendous sympathy toward the victims of US enemies-the "worthy victims"-while ignoring or downplaying the suffering of the "unworthy victims," those who suffer at the hands of US friends . Iran, it goes without saying, is a US enemy. While the position of the Obama administration toward the Micheletti and Lobo regimes in Honduras has been less clear-cut-Obama initially issued verbal denunciations of the coup and cut off some US aid-most of the administration's actions in the past year indicate that Honduras is a strong US ally .
Neda and Isis: Worthy and Unworthy Victims
In the case of Iran, the New York Times and Washington Post both rightly devoted extensive space to the repressive aftermath of the elections. A Lexis-Nexis database search for "Iran + Elections" in the two months following the elections turned up 234 results in the Times and 178 in the Post. The opinion pages meanwhile dripped with outrage: the Post published an opinion piece devoted to condemning the repressive measures of the Iranian government about 3-4 times per week .
One Iranin victim received particular sympathy. The 26-year-old woman Neda Agha Soltan had been gunned down at a protest on June 20, and her murder caught on tape and circulated around the Internet. The Post mentioned Neda a total of nineteen times in two months; in just the first week following her death, it printed two editorials, two op-eds, one letter, and one front-page article devoted to condemning her death. The Times published two op-eds to the same effect.
Figure 1: (click the link above to see the table)
Editorials and Op-eds Focused on Condemning Repression in Iran. June 13 - August 13, 2009
By stark contrast, coverage of the Micheletti regime's repression in Honduras was almost non-existent. Total coverage of Honduras was far scarcer than coverage of Iran. Moreover, within the body of articles devoted to the coup (69), only 28 percent (19) even mentioned any of the repressive measures of the Micheletti government. Most referred only to government censorship, uses of tear gas, and similarly non-lethal actions; only seven of those nineteen articles mentioned the deaths of Honduran protesters. Thus, the repression in Honduras merited far fewer total mentions in all news coverage than the number of opinion pieces (50) elicited by comparable repression in Iran, the ratio being about 2:5. Not a single editorial or op-ed piece condemned the repression in Honduras; many in fact did the opposite, seeking to justify the coup and blame Zelaya (see below).
Figure 2: (click the link above to see the table)
Press Coverage of Micheletti Regime Repression in Honduras. June 29 - August 29, 2009
The closest Honduran equivalent of Neda was 19-year-old Isis Obed Murillo, killed by a gunshot to the head on June 5 while he was awaiting Zelaya's (unsuccessful) landing at the Toncontín airport. Isis's name became well-known among solidarity activists around the world, and information on his death was widely available on the Internet in the weeks that followed. But Isis was mentioned by name only twice in the Post (with his name misspelled), and never in the Times. Neither article was devoted to his death; both mentioned his killing as evidence of a "deeply split Honduran society" . In contrast, the clear intention of reportage on Neda's death was to illustrate the brutality of the Iranian regime. Reports on Neda humanized her to a far greater extent, telling readers how she had been studying music and philosophy and had bravely refused to dress in traditional Islamic women's garb .
The contrasting coverage of the deaths of Neda and Isis confirms Herman and Chomsky's prediction about "worthy and unworthy victims." Human suffering merits sympathy only if the perpetrator is one of Washington's enemies.
Legitimate vs. Fraudulent Elections
US press coverage of the June 12 presidential election in Iran and the November 29 election in Honduras followed a similar pattern: skepticism and outright allegations of fraud in the case of Iran, praise in the case of Honduras.
As journalist and media critic Michael Corcoran has noted, the US press applied "an unambiguous double standard" in its coverage of the two elections. The Times, Post, and other outlets quickly condemned the June 12 Iranian election, saying that it "certainly looks like fraud." In contrast, the Times applauded the "clean and fair" nature of the November 29 Honduran election, while the Post asserted that it had been "mostly peaceful." The same outlets gave virtually no attention to the serious accusations of fraud or the reports of human rights organizations documenting widespread voter intimidation and government repression of dissidents. There was virtually no attention given to the Honduran opposition's boycott of the election, and no mention at all of the fact that the leading opposition candidate, union leader Carlos Reyes, had been assaulted by government forces on July 30, his wrist broken, and that Reyes had later withdrawn his candidacy to avoid legitimizing the election. And while almost all foreign governments and election-monitoring organizations condemned the election as illegitimate, the US press, like the US government, accepted it .
Corcoran also provides incontrovertible quantitative evidence of bias for the case of the New York Times:
The Times ran 37 news articles on the issue-more than 38,000 words in total, including 15 front-page articles-in the 10 days following the Iranian elections. The paper also published 12 op-eds, six news analysis pieces, two editorials, and more than 2,600 words in letters to the editor. In contrast, in the 10 days following the Honduran election, the Times devoted only six stories, included four news articles, one editorial (which, as noted above, called the election "clean" and "fair") and one news brief. None of the articles were published on the front page, and there were no published letters to the editor or op-eds. In sum, the Times published only about 3,000 words on the Honduran crisis, around 35,000 less than it devoted to the flawed Iranian election. 
These findings, considered alongside the reports of human rights observers, make it impossible to disagree with Corcoran's conclusion that the US press was "complicit in thwarting Honduran democracy."
As in the case of the worthy and unworthy victims, the propaganda model's basic predictions are confirmed. This trend has been consistent for many decades . The imperial logic is quite clear, and occasionally acknowledged by US officials and pundits in moments of candor. Some years ago, in response to the criticism that the US government was applying a double standard in condemning Sandinista elections in Nicaragua while touting the legitimacy of a clearly-farcical election in El Salvador (a US ally), a US diplomat remarked that "[t]he United States is not obliged to apply the same standard of judgment to a country whose government is avowedly hostile to the U.S. as for a country, like El Salvador, where it is not" . Fittingly, the year was 1984.
"Honduras's Coup is President Zelaya's Fault": The Provocation Thesis
In addition to adhering closely to the propaganda model, press coverage of Honduras has also recycled many tropes with deep roots in imperial and Orientalist discourse . Readers of the Times and Post are regularly presented with images of power-hungry "strongmen" beguiling the infantile masses, who are "largely blind to results" . Meanwhile, popular resistance to empire and oligarchy are the result of outside agitators like Hugo Chávez rather than any legitimate grievances or desires. Chávez, the aspiring "socialist-emperor," is representative of the bad Latins: those who are converting their countries into one-man dictatorships and leading their economies to ruin, "in stark contrast to the rest of Latin America," the good Latins who "embrace globalization" . The most elementary facts are irrelevant unless they support the pre-fashioned narratives.
While space prevents a more thorough analysis, one pattern is especially noteworthy. Well over half of all articles and opinion columns on Honduras in the two months following the coup led readers to believe that Zelaya was at least partially responsible for the coup-in some cases, by stating explicitly that "Honduras's coup is President Zelaya's fault" (the title of a July 1 Post op-ed by right-wing Peruvian-American writer Alvaro Vargas Llosa) . The primary basis for this claim was the allegation that Zelaya had been seeking to extend or eliminate presidential term limits, thereby acting in violation of the 1982 Honduran Constitution. In reality, as more scrupulous observers have pointed out, the non-binding poll of the population that Zelaya had scheduled for June 28 merely would have asked voters if they would favor placing a question on the November election ballot to decide whether or not to convene a new constitutional assembly. NACLA writer Robert Naiman, in a critique of press coverage of the coup, notes that "the question did not address term limits at all" .
The editors at the Times and Post may have been aware of this fact. Not only were informed readers writing them letters to educate them on the realities of the situation, but a June 30 article in the Times quoted an anonymous US official who admitted that the scheduled poll would have been merely "a nonbinding survey" of the population. But this tidbit was quickly forgotten in almost all subsequent coverage, and one of the reporters who co-wrote the article did not author any more articles on Honduras for the rest of the summer . Instead, opinion pieces and news stories alike routinely implied or stated outright that Zelaya had provoked the coup by seeking to rewrite the Constitution and/or extend his term in office. Typical news reports asserted that "Zelaya was ousted because he was staging a referendum that could have allowed him to seek a second term in office" and that "[f]ears that [Zelaya] was trying to subvert the Constitution and extend his tenure were a driving force behind his ouster" . Editorials and op-ed columns likewise stated as fact Zelaya's alleged desire to "overcome the term limits that would have forced him to leave office," and many explicitly blamed Zelaya for the coup . The most "even-handed" articles reported the opposition's accusation against Zelaya but identified it as the claim of his opponents rather than gospel truth. Nonetheless, only a handful of articles included a direct response from Zelaya or his supporters-implying that the allegation was probably credible-and none directly challenged the veracity of the allegation.
Figure 3: (click the link above to see the table)
Press Coverage Blaming Zelaya, in Whole or in Part, for His Own Overthrow. June 29 - August 29, 2009
The notion that the victims bear responsibility for provoking the crimes against them-sometimes referred to as the "provocation thesis"-has been a recurrent trend in modern imperialist discourse. Extra! columnist Mark Cook notes that after the 1964 Brazilian military coup, the New York Times and others blamed deposed President João Goulart, whom one Times columnist accused of trying to "prolong [his term] by removing the constitutional ban against consecutive presidential succession" . And following the US-backed military coup against Chilean President Salvador Allende in September 1973 the Times again blamed the deposed president for "pushing a program of pervasive socialism for which he had no popular mandate" . Even relatively liberal historians have blamed leftist rebels and progressive nationalist leaders for the vicious military dictatorships that engulfed the continent in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. "Insurgency," writes one prominent observer of Guatemala, "bolster[ed] the rationales of the most homicidal wing of the officer corps in one country after another" .
* * *
Once again, even the more liberal news outlets within the corporate-sponsored media seem unable or unwilling to cover events in Latin America in an honest way-that is, independently of US government or corporate prerogatives. Educating and pressuring the reporters and ombudspersons at such publications can occasionally have some positive effect, and is worth the effort . But now, more than ever, obtaining access to reliable information about the world and the US role in it requires that we overcome our reliance on corporate-owned and corporate-sponsored media, turning instead to independent outlets like Z, NACLA, UpsideDownWorld.org, and Democracy Now! for our news about Latin America.
 AI, Iran: Election Contested, Repression Compounded, 10 December 2009; Defenders of Human Rights Centre, Quarterly Human Rights Report by the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (Spring-Summer 1388 ).
 COFADEH, "Register of Politically Motivated Violent Deaths of Individuals, June 2009 to February 2010" (Quixote Center translation of Tercer informe situación de derechos humanos en Honduras en el marco del golpe de Estado: Octubre 2009-Enero 2010 [Resumen ejecutivo]); AI, Honduras: Human Rights Crisis Threatens as Repression Increases, 19 August 2009, pp. 6-7; Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Violations of Human Rights in Honduras since the Coup d'état on 28 June 2009, 3 March 2010; AI, "Honduras Failing to Tackle Coup Rights Abuses," UpsideDownWorld.org, 28 June 2010. See also Bill Quigley and Laura Raymond, "One Year Later: Honduras Resistance Strong Despite US Supported Coup," ¡Presente! 28 June 2010, and, from UpsideDownWorld.org, Belén Fernández, "Honduras One Year Later," 27 June 2010, and Joseph Shansky, "The Coup Is Not Over: Marking a Year of Resistance in Honduras,"
 The classic statement is found in Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon, 2002 ). Additional tests of the model are found in Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies (Boston: South End Press, 1989). The model is somewhat more complex than this brief introduction suggests; for one thing, it does not posit direct government control of media, arguing instead that media coverage tends to reflect the evolving consensus of government and corporate elites. Nor is it "conspiratorial"-in fact, Herman and Chomsky's explanations emphasize the mechanisms of the "free market" far more so than any direct "conspiracy" of individuals. See the preface to the 2002 edition of Manufacturing Consent as well as Chomsky's response to critics in Necessary Illusions.
 Signs include the US refusal to exert greater pressure on Micheletti; its complete silence regarding state human rights violations since the coup; its continued operation of the Soto Cano military base in Honduras; its continued training of Hondurans at the infamous School of the Americas; its quick recognition of Lobo's "election" at a time when few governments were doing so; Hillary Clinton's energetic campaigning for regional recognition of the Lobo regime; and the recent restoration of US military aid to the Lobo regime. For basic outlines of the Obama administration's position as of last December see Mark Weisbrot, "Top Ten Ways You Can Tell Which Side The United States Government is On With Regard to the Military Coup in Honduras," CommonDreams.org, 16 December 2009, and the sources cited in footnote 2 above.
 For an early critique of this disparity, focused on the Times, see Michael Corcoran and Stephen Maher, "Iran vs. Honduras: The Times' Selective Promotion of Democracy," Extra! (August 2009).
 Mary Beth Sheridan and Juan Forero, "Clinton Agrees To Meet Zelaya; Efforts Intensified To Resolve Crisis," Washington Post, 7 July 2009, sec. A, p. 8; Juan Forero, "In Deeply Split Honduran Society, a Potentially Combustible Situation," Post, 15 July 2009, sec. A, p. 8.
 E.g., Kathleen Parker, "The Voices of Neda; A Sniper's Bullet Gives a Movement Its Symbol" (op-ed), Post, 24 June 2009, sec. A, p. 27.
 All quotes in from, or quoted in, Corcoran, "A Tale of Two Elections: Iran and Honduras," NACLA Report on the Americas 43, no. 1 (March/April 2010): 46-48. Information on Reyes is widely available outside the US mainstream; I thank Jesse Freeston of the Real News Network for bringing to my attention the fact that the press refused to cover the violence against Reyes at approximately the same time that it covered a comparable (and maybe less violent) incident of repression against prominent politician Mohamad Khatami in Iran on the eve of the Ashura holiday in late December (e.g., Nazila Fathi, "Demonstrators in Tehran Defy a Ban and Clash With the Police and Militia Forces," New York Times, 27 December 2009, sec. A, p. 6).
 Corcoran, "A Tale of Two Elections," 48.
 For exhaustive evidence from the 1980s see Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, and Chomsky, Necessary Illusions.
 Quoted in Thomas W. Walker, Nicaragua: Living in the Shadow of the Eagle, fourth edition (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2003), 158.
 On some of these trends see my "Testing the Propaganda Model: US Press Coverage of Venezuela and Colombia, 1998-2008," ZNet, 19 December 2008; a shorter version appeared in NACLA Report on the Americas 41, no. 6 (November/December 2008): 50-52.
 "Mr. Chávez's Weapons: While the Economy Plummets, Venezuela's Strongman Splurges" (editorial), Post, 8 April 2010, sec. A, p. 20; Jackson Diehl, "Buying Support in Latin America" (op-ed), Post, 26 September 2005, sec. A, p. 23.
 Roger Cohen, "Shutting Up Venezuela's Chavez [sic]" (op-ed), NYT, 29 November 2007, sec. A, p. 31; Juan Forero, "Oil-Rich Venezuela Gripped by Economic Crisis," Post, 29 April 2010, sec. A, p. 7.
 Vargas Llosa was also given op-ed space in the Times on June 30: "The Winner in Honduras: Chavez" [sic], sec. A, p. 21.
 Naiman, "U.S. Media Fail in Honduras Coup Reporting," NACLA Report on the Americas 42, no. 6 (November/December 2009).
 Helene Cooper and Marc Lacey, "In Honduras Coup, Ghosts of Past U.S. Policies," NYT, 30 June 2009, sec. A, p. 1. Cooper did not author any more articles on Honduras for the period under review.
 William Booth, "Honduran Leadership Stands Defiant; New Government Scorns International Efforts to Reinstate Ousted President," Post, 3 July 2009, sec. A, p. 10; Ginger Thompson, "Some Terms Reached in Honduras Dispute," NYT, 17 July 2009, sec. A, p. 9.
 "Defend Democracy: In Honduras, That Should Mean More Than Restoring the President to Office," Post, 30 June 2009, sec. A, p. 12.
 Columnist Arthur Krock, quoted in Mark Cook, "Rerun in Honduras: Coup pretext recycled from Brazil '64," Extra! (September 2009).
 "Tragedy in Chile" (editorial), NYT, 12 September 1973, p. 46; cf. Charles Eisendrath, "The Bloody End of a Marxist Dream," Time (24 September 1973), p. 45. Both quoted in Devon Bancroft, "The Chilean Coup and the Failings of the U.S. Media" (unpublished manuscript obtained from author).
 David Stoll, quoted and critiqued in Greg Grandin and Francisco Goldman, "Bitter Fruit for Rigoberta," The Nation (8 February 1999).
Suriname president-elect says his trial will go on.
Arny Belfor. AP. July 20, 2010
PARAMARIBO, Suriname -- Incoming president and former dictator Desi Bouterse said through a spokesman Tuesday that he will not interfere in his ongoing trial for the massacre of political opponents during his military regime.
Bouterse, who twice led military coups in Suriname and has been convicted in the Netherlands of drug trafficking, will keep his campaign pledge not to use his office to influence the trial over the 1982 killings, spokesman Winston Lackin said in an interview.
"The president-elect has guaranteed that the justice system will continue to function independently, without any interference," Lackin told The Associated Press.
Bouterse has been on trial with 11 co-defendants since November 2007 in a long-anticipated attempt to prosecute the perpetrators of a December 1982 massacre of politicians, journalists and other critics of his military regime. He publicly apologized for the killings in a March 2007 radio interview and said he accepted political responsibility, but denied any direct involvement.
Even as president, Bouterse does not have immunity from prosecution. But if he is found guilty during his five-year term, Bouterse has the option of granting himself amnesty, a fact his critics believe was a major motivating factor behind his presidential ambitions.
The trial has stalled repeatedly, in part because witnesses have failed to show up to testify. Bouterse has not attended any of the court sessions so far and is unlikely to in the future, said Hans Breeceld, a political analyst in Suriname.
"He will not interfere with the judicial branch, but I think he will continue to ignore the trial now that he's president," said Breeceld, director of a research center at Anton de Kom University.
Bouterse was elected Tuesday in a parliamentary vote that came after months of jostling among the South American nation's many political factions. His coalition, which won a majority of the popular vote due to widespread dissatisfaction with the economy, won 23 seats in May elections but needed at least 36 to name a president.
Breeceld said many Surinamese people are hopeful that Bouterse has learned from the past.
"I think he's learned from his coups and he would like to improve on what he's done. And this is a country with a reasonably functioning democracy, so his presidency is the will of the people," he said.
The U.S. and the Netherlands - two of the largest donors and trade partners of the former Dutch colony - acknowledged Bouterse as Suriname's duly elected president but expressed concern about what he might do in office.
A statement released by the U.S. Embassy put the new government on warning.
"We will be clear with the incoming Suriname government that, for good relations with the United States and the international community, we expect this new government to stand firm against corruption and respect democratic principles, human rights, and the rule of law," the State Department said.
The Dutch ambassador to Suriname, Aart Jacobi, reminded reporters Monday that Bouterse, who was convicted in absentia in 1999 and later sentenced to 11 years in prison, would not be welcome in the Netherlands.
Overseeing the 1999 conviction, Presiding Judge Bart Punt of the district court in The Hague said Bouterse abused his power by pulling strings to ensure shipments of cocaine were not discovered by his own customs officials.
U.S. Diplomats Brief Cuban Dissidents' Kin on Refugee Process.
EFE. July 20, 2010
HAVANA - The U.S. Interests Section in Havana received Tuesday family members of Cuban political prisoners set for release in order to brief them on how to apply for refugee status in the United States, though it offered no additional facilities apart from the normal procedure.
At least six women related to dissidents accepted an invitation from U.S. diplomats to be briefed on the options prisoners have who want to emigrate to the United States.
President Raul Castro's government has already released 20 political prisoners in line with a pledge to free all 52 of the 75 dissidents rounded up and jailed in the "Black Spring" crackdown of March 2003 still remaining behind bars.
Eleven of those detainees left Cuba with their families for Spain and the other nine are expected to do likewise during the course of this week.
Those among the 52 prisoners who reject the option of going to Spain are to be freed in stages over the next three or four months.
Berta Soler, a member of the Ladies in White group comprising relatives of the Group of 75, told reporters on Tuesday as they left the Interests Section that prisoners who do not want to go to Spain can use the program for refugees with "the same mechanisms followed by all" Cubans who choose that option.
"This is good news because many men who don't want to go to Spain say they want to go directly to the United States. But they really can't go (directly) from prison to the United States," Soler said.
Sofia Garcia, wife of opposition member Jose Miguel Martinez, said that for them the possibility that the United States offers "is very remote" and entails a very long wait.
Garcia stressed that the refugee plan's required procedures can take more than a year, and does not offer the same advantages of allowing family members to leave the country that are included in the agreement between the governments of Cuba and Spain.
Sources at the Interest Section told Efe the meetings with prisoners' families will continue all week with the goal of "offering orientation on the consular options for entering the United States."
Earlier Tuesday, the speaker of the Cuban parliament said in Geneva that the island's communist government may free other political prisoners in addition to the 52 whose release was announced two weeks ago.
Ricardo Alarcon said that "the wish of the Cuban government is to release from jail everyone not convicted of violent crimes," sources at Cuba's U.N. mission in Geneva told Efe.
Alarcon traveled to the Swiss city to take part in the 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament.
The announcement that more prisoners might be released took place a day after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Cuba to continue with "measures of reconciliation" with regard to the freeing of political prisoners and asked Havana to respect human rights.
The prisoner releases stem from a dialogue between Castro and Cuba's Catholic primate, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, that began in May.
Puerto Rican Unemployment Remains High.
EFE. July 20, 2010
SAN JUAN - Puerto Rico's level of unemployment remains high due to a deep recession that the island will not emerge from in the short term, according to estimates by the U.S. commonwealth's leading economists.
Unemployment for June stood at 16.6 percent, a slight reduction of 0.2 percent from the figure in May and a negligible change for the president of the Association of Economists of Puerto Rico, Martha Quiñones.
The figures released by the Department of Labor and Human Resources show that the number of unemployed in Puerto Rico last month totaled 217,000, down 2,000 from the number in May.
Quiñones told Efe on Tuesday that one of the reasons that could explain this slight improvement in unemployment is the constant emigration of people from Puerto Rico, most of them heading for the continental United States.
Also a possible factor in the slight drop in unemployment is the fact that some of the thousands of public employees laid off months ago by Gov. Luis Fortuño's administration stopped receiving unemployment benefits, which forced them to accept some type of work.
"The situation is stagnant and there have been no changes," Quiñones emphasized regarding the Caribbean island's economy, now in its fourth year of recession.
"Contradictions exist in how economic policies are being carried out," said Quiñones, who added that "no light can be seen at the end of the tunnel."
She said that the island's economy "is not improving."
Puerto Rico's head of the Department of Labor and Human Resources, Miguel Romero, said recently that in the short term the only thing that can be foreseen is a slight reduction in unemployment in the U.S. commonwealth.
Fortuño has sent signals regarding the alleged improvement in the island's economy in recent months, but he has not declared the crisis to be at an end.
The governor recalled last month that the index of economic activity had increased in May for the fourth consecutive month, an early sign of recovery.
Fortuño at the time attributed part of the economic improvement to the Public Private Alliances promoted by the government that include the entry of private initiative into public companies via concessions.
The project standing out most in this regard include the construction of a natural gas plant in the southern part of the island, the plans to improve the San Juan airport and the Port of the Americas project in Ponce, which could generate up to 5,000 new jobs.
Region: Trade, Security, Economy and Integration [contents]
Central American leaders approve Honduras' return to OAS, SICA.
Xinhua. July 21, 2010
Central American leaders Tuesday agreed to readmit Honduras to two major regional organizations at a summit held in El Salvador.
During the summit, the presidents of the member states of the Central American Integration System (SICA) approved Honduras' return to the Organization of American States (OAS) and SICA.
Honduras was expelled from the groups after President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in June 2009.
OAS Secretary General Miguel Insulza recognized the achievements made by the new Honduran government and urged the new leader to ensure the fundamental rights of the Honduran people.
Meanwhile, President of the World Bank Robert Zoellick approved a loan of 5 billion U.S. dollars to Honduras, which will be used to improve the country's infrastructure.
The regional leaders pledged to relaunch Central American integration, a process of political, economic, social and ecological integration.
The Cental American presidents also agreed to establish a regional fund as a way to respond to the impact of climate change.
The meeting was attended by all regional leaders, except Nicaragua's leftist President Daniel Ortega, who had openly expressed his opposition to Honduras' return on many occasions.
OAS Denies Request To Mediate Chilean Senators' Dispute With Venezuela.
Alanna Nunez. Santiago Times. July 20, 2010
The Organization of American States (OAS) this week denied a request for help by Chilean senators who wish to travel to Venezuela during the country's September parliamentary elections. Following Venezuela's refusal to allow the group of Chilean senators to observe the elections, the senators appealed for help from the organization late last week.
The OAS maintained Monday that it could not intervene in the conflict between Chile and Venezuela.
This issue generated considerable heat this weekend, with left-leaning Sen. Alejandro Navarro warning the other senators: "If anyone wants to go head to head with Chavez, they'll lose."
But leaders from the far-right Independent Democratic Union party (UDI), criticized Navarro as acting as "a functionary for Hugo Chavez's government" and argued that the OAS should take a stronger position in Venezuela's parliamentary elections.
"We have asked to observe the elections and if the Venezuelan government has nothing to hide, I don't understand why there's a problem," said UDI leader Victor Perez.
Perez also insisted the OAS take a stronger stance on the matter, saying the organization must demonstrate that it "will defend the democratic principles of all of America, regardless of the political tendencies of individual governments."
OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, who is Chilean, responded to the senators' request by telling La Tercera that, "We cannot interfere. If the Foreign Ministry asks for interference, we can discuss it, but according to current regulation, we can't just impose that on anybody."
Insulza said the OAS could only observe an election after signing an agreement with the country in which it is held.
For his part, Chavez insisted that the Chilean senators would not be allowed to enter Venezuela. He even spoke of it on his TV show. While he did not mention President Sebastián Piñera, he did reference Chile three times.
"What do they think this country is? A soccer stadium?" he said. He also maintained that the 15 senators who support traveling to Venezuela were "heirs of the bloody dictator (Gen. Augusto) Pinochet."
Still, one of the senators who signed the bill is the daughter of former President Salvador Allende, who was ousted by Pinochet in the 1973 military coup.
Meanwhile, Navarro has been communicating with Venezuelan Dep. Ricardo Capella. The two discussed sending a delegation of Chileans to Caracas next week to discuss the issue more in depth.
Online Library Gives Latin America Universities Access to Documents.
EFE. July 19, 2010
MALAGA, Spain - An online library is giving Latin American universities free access to more than 1,000 documents in a project created by a group of professors at the University of Malaga, who see the Internet as a way to bring learning to poor, isolated areas.
On the Web site - www.eumed.net - these educators have made available to cybernauts college-level publications in both Spanish and Portuguese on Social Sciences, Economics and Law through a collection of 774 electronic books, 143 doctoral theses and 155 classical texts.
Most of the documents correspond to work by Latin American university professors and professionals who cannot publish paper versions of their books on the market because "there they would be very expensive and not very profitable," Eumed project founder Juan Carlos Martinez Coll told Efe.
Users of the virtual library are mostly Latin Americans, since of the 35 million hits registered in the last 12 months, 31 percent originated in Mexico, 13.7 percent in Colombia, and 12 percent in Spain.
With these figures, the professor of applied economics at the University of Malaga showed that the Internet "reaches everywhere, including villages lost in the midst of the Amazon jungle," where libraries are virtually nonexistent.
The texts posted on the Web site are provided free by the authors because "there are many people in the world who write books, not to make money, but to get their work known," Martinez Coll said.
The only financing the project receives is from the advertising included on the Web site, which pays for the administrative and computer personnel required to run it.
The initiative began 15 years ago, when Martinez Coll posted a manual of applied economics on the Internet for her students in Malaga, in southern Spain, and realized that "people in Latin America were visiting the site," so she began increasing the content. Besides other professors at the University of Malaga, the project has won the participation of educators from the University of the Basque Region in the northern part of the country and of Britain's Open University, as well as members of the Malaga bar association.
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