Latin America News Round-up
September 1, 2010
72 Dead Migrants Found in Mexico 'Tip of Iceberg'
For the latest news and developments on Haiti, please see CEPR's new blog, "Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch".
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Residents of Argentine Slum Launch TV Station. EFE
Argentina to increase budget defence 50%, recovering losses of Falklands war. Merco Press
Bolivia to Scrutinize Gold Mine Owned by Ex-President. EFE
Venezuela to sell cement to Bolivia. El Universal
Rains Reducing Devastating Fires in Bolivia. EFE
Ecuador Planning 3 Percentage Point Cut in Corporate Tax Rate, Cely Says. Bloomberg
TNK-BP's Vekselberg Says Buying BP Venezuela Assets 'Realistic'. Bloomberg
CNE: Venezuelan Opposition Occupies 75.4% of TV Election Ads. Venezuela Analysis
Venezuela Invests in Recycled Materials for Housing Construction. Venezuela Analysis
Colombia Nabs 11 Associates of Busted Mexican Drug Boss. EFE
Colombia Captures Warlord Blamed for Massacre. EFE
FARC attack leaves Cauca towns without power. Colombia Reports
UPDATE: Colombia's July Urban Jobless Rate Climbs To 13.3%. Dow Jones
Surveillance indicates bribery within Colombian judiciary. Colombia Reports
San Andres to host anti-narcotics navy drills. Colombia Reports
Peru's Annual Inflation Quickens to 2.31%, Most in Year as Demand Rebounds. Bloomberg
Ollanta Humala, "Neither Left, Nor Right" - An Interview. Latin America News Dispatch
Trapped Chilean Miners Forge Refuge. New York Times
Experts say that trapped Chilean miners should learn lessons of past disasters. Washington Post
Brazil officials: Amazon deforestation declining. AP
Petrobras, Brazil Government Said to Agree on Price for Oil-for-Stock Swap. Bloomberg
Brazil August Trade Surplus Widens Less Than Expected. Bloomberg
Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean
Mexico: 8 Workers Killed in Attack on Strip Club. New York Times
Five Charged in Blast in Mexican Resort City. EFE
72 dead migrants found in Mexico tip of iceberg. AP
Mexico's Drug War Creates `Medium-Term' Risk for Debt Rating, Moody's Says. Bloomberg
Honduran Teachers End Strike. EFE
Fidel Castro takes blame for persecution of Cuban gays. BBC
Hurricane Earl Leaves Flooding, Power Outages in Puerto Rico. EFE
Wage freeze could last for four years, says Roberts. Jamaica Observer
Gold rush is growing threat to Suriname rainforest. AP
Region: Trade, Security, Economy and Integration
Colombia's Santos meets Lula da Silva in his first overseas visit. Merco Press
Timerman visits Paraguay, announces two new bridges linking with Argentina. Merco Press
Residents of Argentine Slum Launch TV Station.
Maricel Seeger. EFE. August 30, 2010
BUENOS AIRES - Residents of the teeming Buenos Aires slum of Villa 31 have started a low-power television station that seeks to air the neighborhood's needs and problems, the project's promoters told Efe on Monday.
"There are 25 guys in the neighborhood working to gather news, while journalism workshops are being given by students from different universities," Mundo Villa TV director Victor Ramos said.
The channel is financed by Ramos' organization, SOS Discriminacion.
Mundo Villa TV reaches some 1,500 shantytown residents with original content and some programming from Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru, countries where most of the residents hail from.
The channel has transmitted its first clips loaded with complaints about the problems facing the poor neighborhood, like the lack of electricity and drinking water, which "brought a lot of results" in helping to solve the problems, Ramos said.
"Officials got involved and now a water-distribution system is being built" in one part of the slum, the station director said.
Young people will also start broadcasting a news program next month, and in October a fashion program will be launched by Guido Fuentes, a Bolivian who founded a modeling school in the neighborhood, many of whose more than 30,000 residents live in flimsy, makeshift dwellings.
"This will be a program with interviews of girls from the school including a window on their lives, and with professional models making an appearance as well. We want to show that we have good people here and not bad guys as many think," the designer Fuentes told Efe, adding that last December he staged a fashion show in the shantytown featuring the girls being trained there.
Mundo Villa TV, which has applied for its broadcasting license, has its own studios and equipment for airing its content, which includes movies and documentaries as well.
Also taking part in the production of original content are youths from the poor neighborhood of Bajo Flores on the southwest side of Buenos Aires, where residents have begun to "get reception of the signal," Ramos said, adding that the government's culture secretary has promised to supply the channel with new cameras.
The launch of the TV channel, in which Argentine filmmakers Norman Ruiz and Bruno Stagnaro also took part, "arose from (the residents') need for a means of expression, because many media see the shantytowns as something negative," Ramos said.
The channel's director even expected that in the coming days he will meet with Argentine journalist Dante Quinterno, creator of TV ROC, based in the giant Rio de Janeiro shantytown Rocinha, to establish "a network of channels from Latin American slums."
Many of the residents in Villa 31 came to Argentina from neighboring countries seeking a better future and found instead a lack of opportunities in a country where 13.9 percent of the population is below the poverty line, according to official figures, while the Catholic Church says the true figure is closer to 40 percent.
Argentina to increase budget defence 50%, recovering losses of Falklands war.
Merco Press. September 1, 2010
Defence minister Nilda Garré said the Argentine government would increase the defence budget in coming years from 0.9% to 1.5% of GDP to help overcome decades of divestment following the defeat in the (1982) Falklands/Malvinas war.
The extracts of her words are from a conference followed by a period of questions and answers with political science students at the Di Tella University.
Garré said that the contraction of the defence budget can be tracked to the "defeat in the Falklands/Malvinas war, social incompatibility with the military institutions following the war, military dictatorship and the 2001 collapse of the Argentine economy".
The minister said these factors "most probably impeded a quicker recovery" of military spending that will be used in future budgets to improve military hardware, particularly with the development of a defence industry.
"The current 0.5% of GDP, will be sustainedly increased in coming years to reach 1.5% of GDP: in other words a 50% increase to modernize equipment particularly appealing to the development of a national defence industry", pointed out Garré.
The minister also said Argentina will continue to be committed to world peace operations and emphasized the "excellent performance" of Argentine troops in Haiti and Cyprus, where they have been congratulated by United Nations.
Garré anticipated that Argentina is ready to begin applying "nuclear technology" in defence issues since it has rigorously complied with international rules against the proliferation of this kind of energy.
"Foreign Affairs, the Argentine Atomic Energy Commission and regulators have fully agreed to work in the development of nuclear propulsion engines which could be used in vessels or submersibles", indicated Garré.
With this purpose the Atomic Energy commission has created a task force to work with the Ministry of Defence to begin outlining the project.
Regarding regional affairs the Minister of Defence said that Unasur (Union of South American Nations) has managed the creation of "a peace zone" where "substantially stability exists" although admitting "some local conflicts must still be resolved".
More specifically on the South American Defence Council, in the framework of Unasur, "it has been successful in several of these conflicts, actively working in the case of Colombia and Venezuela and the border incursion of Colombian troops into Ecuador".-
Finally she pointed out that Unasur must help in preserving the rich mineral resources of the region.
Bolivia to Scrutinize Gold Mine Owned by Ex-President.
EFE. August 30, 2010
LA PAZ - The Bolivian government announced plans to verify output at a gold mine owned by former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada that officials suspect of understating its production to minimize tax liabilities.
"We're going to go in to perform the oversight of every last gram of gold they take out of there. Oversight so they pay taxes, and if they don't comply with environmental norms, we'll take it back (expropriate the mine)," the director of a regional development agency, Juan Ramon Quintana, told state media.
The Don Mario mine, located not far from the Brazilian border in the eastern province of Santa Cruz, is one of the richest in Bolivia, Quintana said, complaining that employees at the facility have consistently refused to admit government inspectors.
Sanchez de Lozada, a U.S.-educated millionaire mining executive, governed Bolivia from 1993-1997 and became president again in 2002 by a vote of Congress, as that's year election ended in a virtual three-way tie.
He was forced out of office in October 2003 after security forces killed more than 60 civilians during protests against the government's plan to export natural gas to the United States and Mexico.
Sanchez de Lozada is now living in the United States and Bolivia's current president, Evo Morales, has repeatedly asked Washington to extradite the former head of state on charges arising from the deaths of protesters in 2003.
Formerly Morales' chief of staff, Quintana now heads a program aimed at boosting development and monitoring resource-extraction activities in Bolivia's border areas.
Venezuela to sell cement to Bolivia.
El Universal. August 31, 2010
Construction is the fastest growing activity in that country.
The Bolivian government will import Venezuelan cement to meet the shortage of the building material, as demand has grown in recent weeks, said Antonia Rodríguez, the Minister of Production Development, as quoted by AP.
She added that the Bolivian government will expedite trade agreements signed with Venezuela, including cement, to speed up imports of the product, the Bolivian Information Agency (ABI) reported.
Rodríguez did not specify the amount required.
Construction is the fastest growing economic activity in the country. Last year, it grew 7.3 percent and the current shortage of the product is apparently due to a 30 percent increase of demand.
Rains Reducing Devastating Fires in Bolivia.
EFE. August 31, 2010
LA PAZ - Recent rains in Bolivia are extinguishing some of the fires set by peasants to clear land for crops or pasture but which got out of control and have burned more than 2 million hectares (5 million acres) in the Amazon region, authorities said Tuesday.
A report by the bureau of land and forest management said that the number of individual fires fell from more than 35,300 last weekend to 34,700 on Monday.
The government's chief weather forecaster, Marisol Portugal, told Efe that on Sunday a cold front arrived in Bolivia with rain and thunderstorms in the provinces most affected by the fires - Pando, Beni and Santa Cruz - which helped to dissipate the heavy smoke in those areas.
She added that on Wednesday a new cold front is expected to arrive which will also dump rain across parts of the country.
In recent weeks, the smoke has forced the temporary suspension of operations at several airports and has affected the health of many Bolivians.
Despite the rain, authorities cited by the media said they were still concerned because September is the "harsh period" for agricultural fires, and they fear that this year the many fires will devastate as much as 6 million hectares (15 million acres), the same amount of territory that burned in 2004.
Three forest engineers sent by the Chilean government are helping Bolivia design and put into operation a plan to detain the advance of the fire and the arrival of Argentine experts is expected.
Ecuador Planning 3 Percentage Point Cut in Corporate Tax Rate, Cely Says.
Nathan Gill. Bloomberg. September 1, 2010
Ecuador's government will propose a 3 percentage point tax cut for businesses to help boost investment and job growth in South America's seventh-biggest economy, Production Minister Nathalie Cely said.
President Rafael Correa's Cabinet agreed in a meeting yesterday to reduce the corporate income tax rate to 22 percent from 25 percent in an effort to at least double investment by next year, Cely, a 45-year-old Harvard University-trained economist, said today in an interview at her offices in Quito.
Ecuador's government is rewriting at least 31 laws, including industrial, financial, labor, land, and oil regulations, after approving a new constitution in 2008. The proposed industrial bill will create tax incentives for companies to invest in rural areas and sell shares on the nation's securities exchanges, Cely said.
"It's very important to investors that the rules of the game are clear and that they have incentives to invest," Cely said. "In Ecuador there's been a certain mistrust between the private and public sectors in relation to the economic model that the government wanted to implement."
The proposed new industry law "makes it clear that we trust productive investment," she said.
TNK-BP's Vekselberg Says Buying BP Venezuela Assets 'Realistic'.
Lyubov Pronina and Anna Shiryaevskaya. Bloomberg. August 31, 2010
TNK-BP is continuing talks with BP Plc on acquiring assets and sees projects in Venezuela as "the most realistic option," said Viktor Vekselberg, a billionaire shareholder in the Russian oil venture.
"There is also a range of other proposals," Vekselberg told reporters today in the Kremlin where President Dmitry Medvedev held a meeting on modernization.
BP's incoming Chief Executive Officer Robert Dudley offered to sell projects in Vietnam, Pakistan and Venezuela to TNK-BP and Russian state oil company OAO Rosneft, Vedomosti reported earlier this month after the executive visited Moscow. BP is disposing assets to cover costs linked to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the worst in U.S. history.
TNK-BP, equally owned by BP and a group of billionaires, is "actively evaluating" assets owned by BP in Venezuela as it seeks to further develop its international business, the company said in late July. TNK-BP is part of Russia's Consortio Ruso venture to develop heavy oil in Venezuela
CNE: Venezuelan Opposition Occupies 75.4% of TV Election Ads.
James Suggett. Venezuela Analysis. August 31, 2010
Mérida - 75.4% of televised campaign advertisements have been pro-opposition and 24.6% have been pro-government since the race for 165 seats in Venezuela's National Assembly officially began last Thursday, according to a study by the National Electoral Council (CNE).
The CNE recorded the total amount of advertizing spots and their duration in seconds on the two major state-owned channels, VTV and TVES, and the four major channels controlled by private broadcasters, Globovision, Venevision, Televen, and Meridiano TV.
CNE President Tibisay Lucena announced the results of the study in a televised interview on Monday. She said when the ads were measured in seconds, pro-opposition ads accounted for 73.8% of the total, and pro-government ads accounted for 26.2%.
The opposition, which is grouped into a coalition called the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), has used its media reach to convey the messages of landed estate owners such as Franklin Brito, who died on Monday in a hospital following a hunger strike to protest the government's granting of land to landless peasants on the outskirts of his 500 hectare (1,235 acre) estate.
Brito said the government violated his right to private property, but the National Lands Institute (INTI) said it acted in accordance with the Land Law, which allows the government to transfer idle land to agricultural producers who occupy it. The Supreme Court declared Brito's case to be without legal basis in 2007. The INTI helped Brito build new roads out of his estate and, as it has done in many other cases, offered technical assistance to help put his idle lands to productive use.
Brito had carried out previous hunger strikes, including one that lasted nearly four months, in front of the Organization of American States (OAS) last year. At one point he sewed his lips shut and cut off his own finger in front of cameras. He offered to end the strike if the government would pay him 3 million bolivars (US $698,000). After this was given front-page coverage in the opposition media and held up by the opposition as proof that the Chavez government violates private property, the government declared Brito psychologically ill and transferred him to an intensive care unit in a military hospital.
The opposition has also concentrated its media clout - and its electoral platform - on a campaign to blame the government for the country's rising homicide rate. Pro-opposition news outlets print gory images of bleeding bodies on a daily basis. The New York Times claimed Venezuela's homicide rate is worse than Iraq's. On Saturday, more than a thousand opposition supporters marched through the streets of Caracas holding signs that said "No More Deaths" and "Socialism Brings Death."
In response, the government highlighted its efforts to build a new National Police based on prevention rather than repression that will leave behind the culture of corruption and abuse of human rights for which Venezuela's police have been notorious for decades. In 2006, the government carried out nation-wide consultations with state and local police and community groups, and produced a new police code of conduct and a police university.
Also based on the consultations, the National Statistics Institute (INE) created a newly designed survey called the National Survey of Victimization and Citizen Security. The most recent survey showed that 19,113 people were murdered in Venezuela during the year 2009 - a four-fold increase since President Hugo Chavez took office ten years ago.
Initial deployments of the National Police in targeted high-crime areas in late 2009 reduced local homicide rates by as much as 60%, and the homicide rate for Caracas as a whole decreased by 19% over the first half of 2010.
In spite of this, the 2,300-strong National Police force remains deficient. The Justice Ministry says the nation needs 127,000 police officers to combat crime, but there are only 40,000 officers currently on duty in the 138 state and local police agencies across the country.
In direct response to the opposition's intensified anti-crime media campaign recently, the government has stepped up its targeted security operations, placing 800 police officers on Caracas highways, 900 officers in the Caracas subway system, and opening avenues for citizens to report crime on Twitter and by telephone. Also, next week the National Assembly is expected to pass a new Law on Disarmament.
National Police Commissioner Luis Fernández said the privately-owned media have "invisibilized the work carried out by this police body, while they magnify situations that affect citizen security" in the scope of upcoming National Assembly election.
"Nobody can deny that there is work to be done on this multi-faceted problem... but the principal media outlets' intention is not exactly to help," said Fernández.
Several top government officials criticized the opposition's use of grotesque photographs to send its message about crime. National Assembly President Cilia Flores called the practice "necrophilic."
In his weekly Sunday opinion column, President Chavez confronted New York Times correspondent Simon Romero directly. "Last Monday they launched another missile from The New York Times, in tune with the internal campaign the Venezuelan private media have been planning regarding the insecurity issue," Chavez wrote.
"Who dares to compare the magnitude of the violence in Iraq - generated by a genocidal invasion where the tears of survivors will never be enough to calm their grief - with the structural insecurity problem in Venezuela, which has been generated by the brutal inequalities that our government inherited and is strongly facing today with a preventive and not repressive strategy?" Chavez wrote.
The governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) also criticized the New York Times article, calling the comparison between Venezuela and Iraq "immoral" and "criminal."
In a press conference, PSUV official Blanca Eekhout, who is also Communications Minister, said, "It is disgraceful that a country that has done so much damage could dare to trivialize the destruction of a country by comparing it with Venezuela in order to justify its aggressions."
The PSUV currently controls nearly 100% of the National Assembly and is favored in most voter opinion polls. It hopes to mobilize its 7 million member base, the largest of any political party, and withhold at least two-thirds of the legislative body. The PSUV's electoral campaign is based on the promise that improvements in public health, education, and food access, the advent of new mechanisms for local democratic participation, and the reduction of poverty will continue as the nation moves toward "21st Century Socialism."
Venezuela Invests in Recycled Materials for Housing Construction.
James Suggett. Venezuela Analysis. August 31, 2010
Mérida - On Saturday, Venezuela opened a state-owned factory to recycle used oil pipes into metal framing for construction, and announced it will invest in the production of bricks made partially from recycled paper.
President Hugo Chavez attended the opening of the factory, named the "Kariña Socialist Oil Pipe Recuperation Factory" after a Venezuelan indigenous group, in the eastern state of Anzoátegui.
"This is a factory that processes used oil pipes, which in the past were lost, they were stolen or sold, or the rich threw them aside and left them lying around," Chavez said.
The plant has the capacity to process approximately 250 pipes per day that can be re-molded into frames for houses, barns, garages, and other structures, according to Yuri Pimentel, the president of the state-owned Venezuelan Corporation of Medium Industry.
Pimentel said the state plans to open new pipe processing factories in the eastern state of Monagas by the end of this year, in western Zulia state next year, and possibly in the nation's capital, Caracas.
"We will provide [the factories] with support so they can greatly expand production," Pimental said to the press. "It is an ecological product and is much cheaper than traditional materials, given that it is produced from waste material," he said.
The government is also studying the experience of a group of producers in Zulia state who have found a way to make bricks out of a mix of 40% recycled paper and 60% traditional materials, including cement, sand, and rocks. The blocs are said to make for sturdier buildings because they are more flexible.
President Chavez said the state plans to invest in the project to help expand production of the recycled paper bricks as part of a broader "eco-socialist housing factory" that will encompass the whole supply chain from the collection of paper waste to the distribution of the bricks. He proposed that the production units be based in communal councils, which can then use the bricks to build homes and local community centers.
"In capitalism, everything having to do with housing is a commodity: the cement, rocks, everything becomes more expensive and the majority of the people do not have a way to buy a home. Only with revolutionary methods will we be able to start to solve the drama of housing," Chavez said.
Following five consecutive years of economic growth between 2004 and 2008, a six quarter recession reduced both public and private sector housing construction. The government is grappling with a growing population and a national housing shortage, as some construction materials have become scarce. Over the last 12 months, cumulative inflation of the wholesale prices of cement, plumbing materials, and construction machinery was 13.6%, 37.8%, and 18.6%, respectively, according to the Central Bank.
The government nationalized the Mexican firm CEMEX, the Swiss firm Holcim, and France's Lafarge in 2008 in a bid to guarantee the cement supply to the domestic construction market. A program known as "Petrocasa" was launched to build simple homes from PVC pipe filled with cement. Also, the National Assembly reformed a law to make it easier for people to occupy and gain title to vacant urban lands to build homes.
Andean Region [contents]
Colombia Nabs 11 Associates of Busted Mexican Drug Boss.
EFE. August 31, 2010
BOGOTA - Colombian police captured 11 people linked to arrested Mexican drug kingpin Edgar Valdez Villareal in operations carried out in five different cities, authorities said Tuesday.
The investigation to capture the Mexican's drug contacts in Colombia took more than 18 months.
The arrests were carried out in Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Buenaventura and Pereira and included the detention of a Mexican national described as Valdez Villarreal's personal representative in Colombia.
The investigation was able to determine that the captured people had sent several shipments of hallucinogens to Costa Rica and, from there, on to Mexico since 2003.
They also shipped an average of three tons of cocaine a month to Central America "by means of camouflage, speedboats and cargo vessels," the police communique added.
The "Operacion Golfo" probe began 18 months ago when Costa Rican authorities managed to capture the man responsible for receiving the shipments of Colombian cocaine coming from Panama.
Valdez Villareal, one of Mexico's most wanted criminals, was arrested Monday near Mexico City. The Texas-born kingpin is said to have trafficked a ton of cocaine per month and is accused of dozens of murders.
Colombia Captures Warlord Blamed for Massacre.
EFE. August 31, 2010
BOGOTA - Colombian authorities captured a former rightist militia leader accused of taking part in a massacre of more than 100 peasants a decade ago, the government said Tuesday.
The apprehension of Luis Francisco Robles Mendoza took place last weekend in a rural area of the northern province of Cesar, Colombia's DAS security agency said on its Web page.
Robles faces 12 outstanding arrest warrants for aggravated homicide and criminal conspiracy, among other offenses.
DAS and the Attorney General's Office say he "actively" participated in the February 2000 slaughter of more than 100 peasants in the rural community of El Salado.
With the apparent assistance of military units, combatants from the AUC militia federation entered the village on Feb. 15 and spent the next five days killing residents they accused of being leftist rebels or guerrilla sympathizers.
Robles is also charged in the 2002 torture and murder of five DAS detectives.
Recruited by late AUC founder Carlos Castaño, Robles rose through the ranks to command a unit with more than 250 men.
Though the AUC's proclaimed mission was battling insurgents, many commanders amassed considerable fortunes through drug trafficking, extortion and thefts of land and livestock.
Roughly 31,000 AUC members formally demobilized between 2004-2006 as part of a peace process with Colombia's conservative government.
Robles, however, was among a substantial number of paramilitaries who refused to stand down, and intelligence reports indicate he was organizing a new criminal outfit in Cesar.
FARC attack leaves Cauca towns without power.
Kirsten Begg. Colombia Reports. September 1, 2010
At least 70 towns in the Cauca department close to Colombia's Pacific coast were left without electricity after a terrorist attack on a hydroelectric plant.
Colonel Danilo Murcia Caro of the army's 29th Brigade attributed the attack, which occurred Monday, to the FARC. Murcia said that guerrillas from the FARC's 6th Front entered a hydroelectric plant in the Caloto municipality and disabled the system by blowing up the units that store water, which is used to move the turbines to generate power.
The colonel said the attack was carried out by using a mixture of dynamite and anfo.
A group of technicians will travel to the area to repair the damage.
UPDATE: Colombia's July Urban Jobless Rate Climbs To 13.3%.
Darcy Crowe. Dow Jones. August 31, 2010
BOGOTA--Colombia's urban unemployment rate, considered the main gauge to measure joblessness in the country, rose in July, a sign that the faster economic growth seen so far this year is failing to ignite job creation.
Colombia's urban unemployment rate rose to 13.3% in July from 12.8% in the same month a year earlier, the national statistics institute, known as DANE, said Tuesday. In a nationwide survey, which economists say produces a less exact indicator of the job market, unemployment stood at 12.6%, the same level as a year earlier.
Colombia's stubbornly high unemployment rate represents one of the top economic challenges for President Juan Manuel Santos, who has pledged to create 2.5 million jobs in the next five years by easing labor laws and making it cheaper for small companies to hire workers that are starting their first jobs.
The increase in the urban unemployment rate, based on a survey of 13 metropolitan areas, comes despite faster economic growth. The Colombian economy expanded 4.4% in the first quarter of the year and the government estimates that it could climb 4.5% for all of 2010.
The DANE said that 2.7 million Colombians are currently without a job. Colombia's unemployment rate is considered one of the highest in Latin America.
The Santos administration is engaging in an ambitious economic reform package, which will need the approval of Congress, in a bid to boost economic growth and job creation.
Surveillance indicates bribery within Colombian judiciary.
Kirsten Begg. Colombia Reports. September 1, 2010
Colombia's Prosecutor General will intensify investigations into bribery allegations involving one of Colombia's top judicial bodies, the State Council, following the publication of incriminating recordings of council officials.
La FM Tuesday published recordings that it alleges prove that members of the State Council worked with "a mafia of lawyers to arrange rulings, manipulate files or freeze decisions in exchange for large sums of money, in order to save the careers of governors, mayors and other politicians being investigated by the council" over claims of wrongdoing.
The alleged ongoing incidences of bribery, known as the "carousel of corruption," have been under investigation for the past two years, with State Council clerk Carlos Fernandez sentenced to four years in jail last November for meddling in cases.
However, following La FM's publication of the latest evidence, the prosecutor general, as well as the inspector general, will now investigate another three judicial officials and five others, among them lawyers, based on hundreds of hours of surveillance recorded by the prosecutor general's investigative unit.
"People from outside [of the State Council], lobbyists, are offering their services to obtain certain rulings by this high tribunal. So it appears that they rely on employees or subordinates involved in the rulings to sell them information," Prosecutor General Guillermo Mendoza Diago said Wednesday.
Mendoza said that there is no evidence at this point that the people involved succeeded in manipulating council rulings. He stressed that no Colombian magistrates have been implicated in the carousel of corruption.
State Council President Luis Fernando Alvarez said Wednesday that it is difficult for the council to strictly control access to information and many officials are privy to files, whose information they could potentially sell.
Alvarez said that when the matter first came to light two years ago, he pressured the prosecutor general and the inspector general to get to the bottom of the corruption allegations as soon as possible.
Among the recordings is a conversation between Edilberto Casas, a State Council official and lawer Javier Socarraz, in which they discuss the payment of several hundred million pesos to obtain a prosecutor's favorable ruling.
The State Council handles complaints against government bodies and their employees. It also advises the Colombian president on his administration's draft legislation.
San Andres to host anti-narcotics navy drills.
Kirsten Begg. Colombia Reports. August 31, 2010
Members of the Colombian, U.S. and Honduran navies will receive anti-narcotics training from Tuesday to Friday on the Colombian Caribbean island of San Andres, the Colombian navy announced via press release.
The 26 crew members from Honduras' patrol ship Tegucigalpa and 100 crew members from the U.S. coast guard's Escaban will participate in the exercises.
The Tegucigalpa docked Monday night in San Andres. Capitan Jesus Humberto Benitez said the training was a good way to share information between navies engaged in the fight against drug trafficking.
The crew will also receive instruction in search and rescue, intercepting vessels believed to be transporting drugs and technical maintenance of ships at sea.
Peru's Annual Inflation Quickens to 2.31%, Most in Year as Demand Rebounds.
John Quigley. Bloomberg. September 1, 2010
Peru's consumer prices rose at the fastest annual pace in more than a year after a recovery in private investment spurred domestic demand.
Annual inflation accelerated to 2.31 percent in August as prices climbed 0.27 percent from July, Peru's statistics agency said today in Lima. The readings were in line with the median forecasts of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
The central bank stepped up the pace of increases to its benchmark lending rate last month on concern a that a stronger- than-forecast rebound in South America's sixth-largest economy could fuel inflation next year. Policy makers last month raised the benchmark rate by a half-point to 2.5 percent after quarter- point increases at their three previous monthly meetings.
"There aren't any strong inflationary pressures at the moment," said Carola Sandy, an economist with Credit Suisse Group AG in New York. "The central bank is more concerned about what will happen in the future if the economy continues to grow the rate it is now."
Gross domestic product jumped 11.9 percent in June from a year earlier, led by the fastest growth in manufacturing since 1994. Private investment may fuel a 9.4 percent increase in domestic demand for goods and services after a 2.9 percent contraction last year, the Finance Ministry said Aug. 27.
Unemployment in the Lima metropolitan area fell to 7 percent in July, the lowest rate since at least 2001.
Peru's annual inflation rate may rise to the upper end of the central bank's 1 percent to 3 percent target range this year because of rising international wheat prices, bank Governor Julio Velarde said in an Aug. 17 interview.
The sol strengthened 0.1 percent to 2.7940 per dollar at 11:47 a.m. New York time. The sol has gained 3.4 percent this year, the seventh-best performance against the dollar among 25 emerging market currencies tracked by Bloomberg.
Ollanta Humala, "Neither Left, Nor Right" - An Interview.
Paul Alonso. Latin America News Dispatch. August 30, 2010
LIMA, Peru - Antiestablishment, "chavista," ethnic nationalist-these are some of the terms that people have used to stigmatize him. But Ollanta Humala, the most likely presidential candidate for the Peruvian Nationalist Party, shuns these epithets. He wants a new economic system and to change the Constitution. He says all the other possible candidates represent "fujimorismo" without Fujimori.
He met with us at his party headquarters in the neighborhood of San Isidro. In the interview, he denied planning any nationalizations, accepted that his movement had been infected by deserters, accused the current government of being pro-Chile, and proposed to revitalize the Armed Forces.
What is your relationship with Hugo Chávez?
We don't have any obligation to Hugo Chávez, or to Evo Morales, or to Obama or Sarkozy. The obligation we have is to the Peruvian people. Nationalism in Peru is going to be constructed without replicating and without copying. Our opponents-who control the press and television, who have private communications firms at their disposal, intelligence systems, who have majorities in Congress, and more money than we have-have tried to turn our strengths into weaknesses. Look at all the potential candidates for the presidency, or even for mayor. I ask you, have any of these people demonstrated a commitment to working for this country? Have they done any military service? Their commitment to the country has been limited to politics-for-profit. None of them have gone to work in emergency zones. I defended my country in the Cenepa conflict.  I rose in arms against the Fujimori family's regime. I've been a soldier…
The military life is not the only way to serve the country.
I don't mean to say that other ways are less valid, but rather that I've demonstrated since my youth my commitment to the country. And it doesn't seem fair to me that people say that I, who have demonstrated my willingness to give my life for my country, am going to turn my homeland over to Chávez. That seems ridiculous to me. It makes me laugh. I've tried to build a friendly political relationship with all the governments out there, because we believe that if we want to enact a great transformation, we need to work toward Latin American unity…
But you have greater affinity with some governments.
I don't believe so. That's what our opponents say, because they're always trying to bring ideology into it. When someone says "let's get the country on the right track," then they say "this guy's a follower of Chávez, of (Evo) Morales, (Luiz Inácio) Lula (da Silva)." If you aspire to office to transform the State, then you're part of the Axis of Evil. So, in order to avoid inclusion in the Axis of Evil, you have to avoid doing anything. We don't follow that ideology. Ownership of natural resources is a question of principles, whether here or in China. The United States recognizes government ownership of its State resources, as they do in Chile, as they do in Venezuela, as they do in Bolivia.
What distinguishes you then?
We've said that we're going to launch a frontal attack against corruption. We're going to imprison those who steal from the country. I don't know if they do that in other countries, but in Peru we're going to do it. In fact, if you remember from the presidential debate, I proposed the contruction of a penitentiary in the jungle for politicians who steal and I looked at (President Alán) García when I said it. I don't know if they do it in other countries, but we're going to do it here. I want to be president of Peru, not Venezuela, not Bolivia, not the United States. I'm Peruvian.
What are Peru's most pressing problems?
Inequality. The State treats some as first class citizens and others as second class. We have norms that amount to geographic discrimination. A kid from the coast-Lima, Arequipa or Piura-is not the same as a kid who is born in Puquio, in the high Andean zone, or Nauta, in the Amazon. There's also discrimination based on the color of one's skin or economic standing. The State doesn't view a citizen with a (monthly) salary of $5,000 and one who makes 300 soles with the same eyes. The country also faces serious problems in education and public health. They've been turned over to the market, which is governed by purchasing power. All of this encompasses another problem-who does Peru belong to? To whom does Peru's property belong and where does Peru's wealth come from?
And who does it belong to?
Peru functions basically from taxes imposed on the mining sector, and the State doesn't participate in the distribution of earnings from the mines' wealth because it has given up ownership of the resource. If Peru makes its money from this, then Peru belongs to those who own the mining deposits. So, the country no longer belongs to us. What does Peru produce? Basically, cheap labor. And following this logic, the State doesn't invest in education, because good education would be incompatible with the production of cheap labor.
Why do you think you could deal with these problems better than other candidates?
The others are afraid to look for a profound solution, one that goes to the root of the problem-which is a new constitution, a new economic model and the constuction of a new political class.
What would this new model look like?
A national market economy, which is the economic path that has been followed by the countries that are today called "first world." It is the firm commitment of the State to its national industries, the construction of national economic groups, the maintenance of national ownership of natural resources, including subsoil rights. It's also the commitment to an educational revolution.
How do you differentiate your current political thought from ethnic nationalism or from the militarism that other members of your family have proposed?
We don't believe in ethnic nationalism. Trying to create a pyramidal social structure in Peru on the basis of skin color is some the Spaniards did in the era of colonialism. We believe in cultural nationalism. Skin color is not important, what matters is commitment to the project. We also speak of economic nationalism, which refers to the national market economy. Within this framework, we don't accept these other forms of ethnic nationalism, which we've already seen how they turned out in Europe.
Many of your critics have called you "anti-establishment."
That comes from those who are defending this system. And they say it that way because they don't want to recognize that what we want is a better system. It's not that we're against systems, per se. This system is corrupt, perverse and discriminatory-it turns Peru into a colony in the middle of the twenty-first century, and democracy into keptocracy, a government of swindlers. It's not that we criticize systems, because we always have to be in a system. What we want is a new system.
When you lost the 2006 election, your party rapidly disintegrated, demonstrating the precariousness of your political organization. How can you be sure that those who accompany you on your 2011 list won't desert you again?
I don't agree with that statement. When we ran in 2006, we didn't have a political party. Were were a movement that fed from the force of an idea, which was nationalism. We had to run as guests with another party, the UPP (Union for Peru), who, once they got into Congress, changed their politics. This forced us to split off from the UPP to keep the current 25 nationalist congress members together and defend them so that they wouldn't defect, which was our worry. On the other hand, party desertion isn't a nationalist invention. It has a long history and Fujimori lifted it to new heights by buying congress members, and that's been filmed. In our case, we expel party deserters. What happens is that APRA (American Revolutionary Popular Alliance) takes them and runs them as vice presidents. Party desertion is a cancer in Peru's parliamentary system. And it needs to be corrected by a reform in which political parties will guarantee that congress members will not betray the voters. It's a virus that nationalism is not responsible for…
But you were affected by this virus.
Absolutely, we were also affected. We've had some deserters, but we've done everything the law will permit. More than that, we can't do. Now, we've become an indisoluable party. We've got people who have been working for years, and we've been gauging the situation, assessing their potential as political leaders. In other words, we now have better knowledge of the people in our party.
Why do you think they've stigmatized you so much?
Because we're the only political force dedicated to transforming the country. All the rest is fujimorismo without Fujimori. None of the potential presidential candidates are committed to changing this criminal constitution, which is the source of the problem. And because of this, they call us "anti-system." I'm not ashamed of that.
Do you think that the majority of Peruvians truly want the changes you propose? It seems as though there is something of a consensus that Peru has progressed economically, notwithstanding the country's problems.
I think that there's a massive bombardment from all of these private communications companies to make us think that we're getting better. It's like placating your hunger by telling yourself that you're not hungry. Eventually, you believe it and you say your not hungry. But in the interior of the country, people tell me, "Comandante, where is it that they tell you the country is advancing, because here we don't see it?" I think the majority of the country wants change.
How do you see relations between Peru and Chile shaping up in the next few years?
Bilateral relations with Chile have not been good. The last we saw was the act of espionage committed by Chile against Peru, taking advantage of a traitor.  The government has not acted with firmness. We've sent them the entire investigation file and what we received from Chile was a joke-they said they hadn't spied. In the face of this, Peru's response was to sign the Free Trade Agreement with Chile. This is proof that we have a pro-Chilean government.
How would you handle the situation?
We would work to win our maritime dispute with Chile in the (International) Court (of Justice) at the Hague. We would clearly establish that we're not going to act as an obstacle to Bolivia's claim for access to the sea. We would revitalize our armed forces-not to fight a war against anyone, but to act as a deterrent force.
You have declared your admiration for "velasquismo," the leftist military dictatorship. What are the reasons for this admiration?
First, I believe the terms right and left are obsolete. I'm neither left nor right. If you want to place me on a geographic table, put me on the bottom. Because the discourse of nationalism represents in particular those on the bottom. And among those on the bottom, there are national businessmen, who for some would probably be right-wing, but who are nationalists. We also have social movements, the middle class, a whole spectrum of groups that within a traditional, classist way of looking at things would be incompatible.
And it's compatible with Velasco?
We believe that Velasco's government was nationalist. Obviously, we don't agree with everything he did, with the methodology of Velasco. We've always said that we don't want to nationalize anything. We haven't even spoken of interfering with private companies. It's not necessary. We're in the twenty-first century.
In 2000, you took up arms against Alberto Fujimori. What would have to happen in Peru for you to take up arms again?
Similar circumstances would have to be repeated. It was one of the best things I've done in my life.
 The Cenepa War was a brief border conflict fought between Peru and Ecuador in the early months of 1995.
 The comment refers to alleged spy Víctor Ariza, a Peruvian citizen who was accused of selling classified information to the Chilean government last year.
Trapped Chilean Miners Forge Refuge.
Alexei Barrionuevo. New York Times. August 31, 2010
SAN JOSÉ MINE, Chile - Mario Gómez is all too familiar with the hardships of prolonged confinement. While still in his 30s, his family said, he survived as a stowaway on a ship for 11 days, living below deck on little more than bits of chocolate and drops of water collected in a shoe - an ordeal so trying it brought him closer to God.
Now, at 62 years old, Mr. Gómez is the oldest of the 33 miners trapped nearly half a mile underground here and has become the spiritual guide to his men, government officials said. He has organized a small subterranean chapel and is serving as unofficial aide to the psychologists working on the surface to cope with the miners' sadness and fear.
Miners are a hardened breed. Mr. Gómez and the two other men leading the group below are no exception. They come from traditional mining families and together have more than 90 years of experience working underground.
They have survived accidents, closings and the respiratory illnesses that plague the profession driving Chile's economy. Now they are trying to help themselves and the others endure what could be a four-month stay in the belly of the earth.
Aside from Mr. Gómez, there is Luis Urzúa, the 54-year-old shift leader who organizes their work assignments, is helping to map the path of their rescue hole and even insists that the miners wait until everyone gets food through the narrow borehole to the surface before anyone can eat.
Then there is Yonny Barrios, 50, the group's impromptu medical monitor. He is drawing on a six-month nursing course he took about 15 years ago to administer medicines and wellness tests that health officials are sending down through the four-inch borehole and then analyzing in a laboratory on the surface.
"They are completely organized," said Dr. Jaime Mañalich, Chile's health minister. "They have a full hierarchy. It is a matter of life and death for them."
After the cave-in on Aug. 5, the 33 men were thought to be lost, until Chilean engineers found them 17 days later - all miraculously alive and unharmed.
As hope waned, a drill operator felt some vibrations. When a 150-pound drilling hammer was raised, it had red paint on it. Later, it came back with a bag tied to the drilling tube, said Laurence Golborne, the country's mining minister. Inside were two letters: a three-page note from Mr. Gómez to his wife and a small note in red lettering.
"We are fine in the refuge, the 33," it read.
"I am thinking what to do with this; it's incredible" said President Sebastián Piñera, as he pulled the note, protected in clear plastic, from his desk in the presidential palace. "I think this should go to a museum or a memorial," he added, calling the miners' unity "a very strong message for the whole country."
Since then, officials have been scrambling to aid the miners, and on Monday night workers began boring the rescue hole. It is expected to take three to four months to complete.
The miners will play a critical role in their own escape, making their organization and leadership essential, officials said. The men will need to clear 3,000 to 4,000 tons of rock that will fall as the rescue hole is cleared, officials said. The work will require the men to work in shifts 24 hours a day.
On Sunday, relatives had their first verbal communication with the miners since the cave-in, in one-minute conversations via a modified telephone. The day before relatives also recorded four- to five-minute video messages for the miners.
"We talked about the house, about all the bills that needed to be paid," said Ximena Contreras, the wife of Paulo Rojas, one of the miners. "He was in very good spirits. He said he loves me a lot."
Health officials said they were concerned about the emotional state of several miners in particular, some of whom did not want to appear in the first video the group made last week.
"They miss their families, but that is not necessarily a medical condition," said Dr. Jorge Díaz, who oversees the team of about 15 doctors handling the miners' care, noting that two of the men have pregnant wives waiting up top in the makeshift tent city called Camp Hope.
But even the reluctant miners went on camera in a second video, Dr. Díaz said - after Mr. Urzúa persuaded them.
Mr. Urzúa began his 31-year mining career in his early 20s at his stepfather's side. Several uncles were also miners, said his mother, Nelly Iribarren, 78. "His passion was always topography," she said, adding that he loved to sketch roads and landscapes.
Mr. Urzúa is now using that skill to aid in the miners' rescue, officials said, helping prepare a map of the chamber and the adjoining tunnels where they are holed up some 2,300 feet down.
Day to day, he is also helping to order the men's lives, insisting that the miners wait for the rations for all 33 - sent four times a day through the borehole - and that the men eat together, Dr. Mañalich said.
Mr. Urzúa is the one officials have spoken to the most. He is also the one who spoke to President Piñera through the modified telephone last week. But he has assumed the role with a quiet humility, officials said.
When health officials asked him to narrate a 40-minute video of the miners' life underground, he turned the task over to a younger man, Mario Sepúlveda, 39, who praised Mr. Urzúa in the video for bringing "calm" to his compatriots.
Mr. Barrios, the medical monitor, started working in the mines when he was only 16. He has a diploma from a technical school in electronics and radio, his wife said. But it was the nursing course he took at a mine in the 1990s that has proved essential to officials. Mr. Barrios is taking the miners' temperature and blood pressure and monitoring their weight. He is also administering tests to prevent infection and malnutrition, as well as vaccinating the miners for flu, tetanus and pneumonia, Dr. Mañalich said.
"He has become a precious thing for us," the health minister said.
The miners' psychological health will also continue to be a challenge. Mr. Gómez, the elder among them, is encouraging the miners to pray and counseling many of them, including his 19-year-old assistant, the group's youngest member. Mr. Gómez had the idea to organize the miners into 11 groups of three to create a sort of buddy system, Dr. Mañalich said.
A miner since the age of 16, Mr. Gómez learned the trade with his father even before then. As he was turning 30, he and his older brother Reinaldo struck out for Brazil to try their hands as seamen, working on the docks and boats for about a year and a half before coming back to Chile.
Then in 1979, the younger Mr. Gómez was working in a mine shaft when falling rocks sliced off parts of his fingers, an injury visible on the video of the miners when Mr. Gómez puts up his left hand and sends greetings to his wife and family.
A year after that earlier accident, Mr. Gómez returned to Brazil, stowing away on a ship and hiding in the cargo hold for 11 days, his family said. In those moments of quiet desperation, he found solace in a small Bible, though he had never been very religious before, said Reinaldo, 66.
Mr. Gómez returned to Chile in 1984, spending much of his career here at San José, where he survived several other accidents and developed the respiratory condition, silicosis, that felled his father at 63. The trapped miners made a special place for him in the shelter that was less humid.
Mr. Gómez's wife, Liliane Ramírez, said he grew increasingly concerned about the mine's safety after a nephew lost a leg early last decade.
"I call them the cats of San José," Reinaldo said of his brother and others who survived accidents here. "I figure he is on about his fourth life now."
Experts say that trapped Chilean miners should learn lessons of past disasters.
David A. Fahrenthold and Marc Kaufman. Washington Post. September 1, 2010
The lessons that could help keep 33 trapped Chilean miners safe and sane during their months underground were learned at desperate times in isolated places: ice-bound sailing ships, prisoner-of-war camps, malfunctioning capsules whizzing through space.
They include: Don't over-promise. Keep track of night and day - even if you can't see daylight. Encourage friendships - but watch out for cliques. Let everybody have privacy - but don't let anybody become a loner.
And remember the keys to survival in what psychologists call "extreme environments": Entertainment. Structure. Hope.
"I'm not a 'Lord of the Flies' guy. I'm very optimistic this group will be able to stay stable for a long time," said Col. Thomas A. Kolditz, who heads the department of behavioral sciences and leadership at the U.S. Military Academy.
But, Kolditz said, the potential for conflict and violence is always there. "Have you ever been in an airport where the airplanes were stuck and the airlines weren't giving [people] any information? If you take that and magnify that many times over, that's an example of what can happen," he said.
On Tuesday, NASA, which was called in to consult because of its experience in preparing astronauts for isolation, said it was working with Chilean officials on a plan that would, among other measures, enlist celebrities to help brighten the miners' spirits.
The men - trapped in a tunnel deep underground since a collapse at the San Jose mine Aug. 5 - have spoken remotely with a national soccer star and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera. NASA officials said they might recommend involving other famous Chileans and possibly astronauts.
A video of the miners, released late Tuesday by the Chilean government, shows them smiling, shaved and wearing red T-shirts. The short video, which doesn't appear to have sound, is a stark contrast to previous videos that pictured the men shirtless and more subdued, with some getting emotional while recording a message for loved ones.
At a news conference, James Michael Duncan, deputy chief medical officer at NASA's Johnson Space Center, said the miners "have already shown great courage and ability to survive."
The rescue ahead is daunting, and its success is not guaranteed: Officials say they need to drill a 28-inch shaft through half a mile of solid but soft rock. The process could take two to four months.
The miners have survived for 17 days on meager supplies, connected to the surface by six-inch boreholes, which can be used to deliver food, water and electricity. Officials have also discussed sending down antidepressant medication, if needed, and aluminum bed frames, towels, shampoo and hot-weather clothes that wick away sweat.
The miners don't have the kind of physical needs, for warmth and nourishment, that turned other stories of isolation into nightmares. The Donner Party turned to cannibalism in the California mountains in the winter of 1846-1847. In 1972, survivors of a plane crash in the Andes ate pieces of dead passengers.
"The worst thing is to be thrown into darkness [after a collapse], not knowing if anybody knows they're there," said John Grubb, an adjunct professor at the Colorado School of Mines. Now, Grubb said, "it's just a matter of coping with the time. It's really boring and all, but I would think that the worst is behind them."
Terrors of time, boredom
But mental health experts say boredom and time - if not handled correctly - can be terrors.
Their case studies are often drawn from decades ago, before advances in technology and communication reduced real isolation to the realms of war, space, polar ice stations and underground mines. Many of the starkest lessons are taken from the polar expeditions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
"I so wish I could talk to those miners and tell them about Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated Antarctic voyage. If they knew that 27 men survived for 20 months in the harshest conditions known to man, with no contact with the outside world and no immediate hope of a rescue, I think these miners would know that they could get through this," said Alison Levine, who has led polar expeditions and expeditions to Mount Everest. She was citing one of the most famous stories of polar survival, beginning in 1914, when Shackleton led a crew of men across wild polar seas to safety after their boat was crushed in ice.
One key lesson, survival experts said, is to keep up the rhythms of day and night. In the constant darkness of the mine, they said, the miners might have trouble falling asleep, leading to fatigue, irritability and bad decisions.
In one early polar expedition, a ship doctor made his patients sit by roaring fires. Now, experts say, the same goal might be achieved by keeping the crew to an unchanging schedule of sleep, breakfast and work.
Another maxim, for those communicating with the miners from the surface, is that honesty is crucial. Experts said keeping dispiriting information from the miners could carry risks.
"Expectations unmet are a horrible thing, especially when you're already psychologically stressed," said Jerry Linenger, a U.S. astronaut who was aboard the Russian Mir space station when a fire broke out there in 1997.
He and two Russian crewmates were trapped in the malfunctioning craft until a rescue ship arrived four months later. Linenger said one of his lowest points during that ordeal was a time that he was told he would be able to speak with his pregnant wife over a radio link.
"I prepared for a week. I wrote down what I would say and then crossed things off and added new ones. I was so excited. But the time came, they said she was on the line, and all I got was static," he said. "After that, I expected nothing and was psychologically more healthy."
Parceling out work
For the miners' leaders, historians said, it will be key to parcel out work - to provide a sense of purpose - and leisure time. There seems to be plenty of work to do because the miners must clear debris caused by the tunneling from above.
Providing entertainment in the mine will be far easier than it was for ice-locked polar explorers, who organized musicals, soccer games and lectures to distract sailors from their idleness and the sound of ice crushing their ships' hulls. In this case, the borehole that has brought the miners food will also be used to send MP3 players, speakers, a mini-TV projector, recordings of soccer games and films. The miners can also speak to relatives remotely.
Psychologists said the leaders of the group must take care to ensure that the miners work and play together. They said it's normal, even helpful, for people in isolation to form groups with people of similar backgrounds or habits. It can even be helpful to have a scapegoat - someone whom the group blames, at least in jest, for its misfortunes.
In these situations, though, a withdrawn person is a danger. "You need a certain degree of that, to maintain your sanity," said Lawrence Palinkas, a professor at the University of Southern California who has studied polar expeditions. "Too much of that becomes counterproductive."
If all 33 are eventually rescued, psychologists said, the effects of the ordeal are likely to follow them to the surface. Some could be good: Peter Suedfeld of the University of British Columbia said survivors of traumatic situations often come out with a greater confidence in their abilities and feeling more selfless.
But other effects could be disorienting.
Like returning soldiers, the miners could emerge to find that their wives or family members have taken on new responsibilities in their absence. And they could find the world overstimulating after months in the dark and quiet. Suedfeld said this is a common reaction among modern-day researchers returning from winters at the pole.
"When I come back from a polar-research visit, I don't drive for at least a week because, you know, [there's] too much going on," Suedfeld said.
Southern Cone [contents]
Brazil officials: Amazon deforestation declining.
AP. August 31, 2010
BRASILIA, Brazil - Brazil's government says deforestation in the Amazon is falling significantly and could be the lowest ever when yearly numbers are completed.
The National Institute for Space Research says satellite imagery shows nearly 2,300 square kilometers (900 square miles) were destroyed in the 12 months through July 31, a 48 percent drop from a year earlier.
But Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira stressed Tuesday that the numbers aren't final. He said researchers first must closely examine images in which there was significant cloud cover.
The government credits better enforcement of environmental laws for slowing deforestation. But environmental groups contend it is only a temporary lull because of the global financial crisis.
Petrobras, Brazil Government Said to Agree on Price for Oil-for-Stock Swap.
Carla Simoes. Bloomberg. September 1, 2010
Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Latin America's largest company by market value, agreed in a meeting today on a price for oil reserves that it plans to buy from Brazil's government in exchange for stock, according to an Energy Ministry official briefed on the negotiations.
Petrobras, as the state-controlled oil producer is known, may announce the price in a regulatory filing later today following a meeting by the National Council for Energy Policy, which is made up of nine ministries, according to this person, who declined to be identified because an official announcement hasn't been made yet. The council will meet to discuss the price at 3 p.m. New York time, the person said.
Trade Minister Miguel Jorge confirmed the meeting to reporters in Brasilia today, without specifying what would be discussed.
Brazil August Trade Surplus Widens Less Than Expected.
Andre Soliani and Iuri Dantas. Bloomberg. September 1, 2010
Brazil's trade surplus widened less than expected in August as faster economic growth coupled with a strong real fueled an increase in imports.
The country's trade surplus widened to $2.4 billion, up from $1.4 billion in July, the Trade Ministry said today on its website. Analysts expected a surplus of $3 billion, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 20 analysts.
Brazilian imports are rising faster than exports, as companies boost purchases of capital goods and consumers take advantage of a strong real to travel abroad and buy foreign goods.
Brazil's trade surplus shrank 40 percent in the first eight months of the year compared with the same period a year ago, helping to further widen the current account deficit.
The real, whose 33.6 percent increase against the U.S. dollar last year was the best performance among 25 emerging market currencies tracked by Bloomberg, has gained 0.24 percent this year to 1.7408 per dollar as of 10:48 a.m. New York time.
Imports rose 56 percent to $16.8 billion in August from $10.8 billion a year ago, the Trade Ministry said. Exports rose 39 percent to $19.2 billion from $13.8 billion.
Brazil's current account gap accumulated over 12 months widened to a record $43.8 billion in July. The deficit will widen to $45.9 billion this year, and may advance to $56 billion next year, according to Finance Ministry estimates.
Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean [contents]
Mexico: 8 Workers Killed in Attack on Strip Club.
Elisabeth Malkin. New York Times. August 31, 2010
Eight employees of a Cancun strip club were killed early Tuesday when a group of men threw Molotov cocktails into the building in a working-class area not frequented by tourists, state authorities said. Although several murders over the past few years point to the infiltration of drug gangs in parts of the city, Cancun had largely been spared the street-level drug violence that has besieged northern Mexico and the Pacific Coast.
Five Charged in Blast in Mexican Resort City.
EFE. August 31, 2010
MEXICO CITY - Five people have been charged in the explosion that injured 20 people at a bar in a resort city on Mexico's Pacific coast, the Attorney General's Office said.
The men accidentally detonated a grenade inside the Pink Cheladas club in Puerto Vallarta, according to prosecutors.
The blast occurred around midnight last Wednesday, when the bar was filled with around 150 people. Two of the injured had to have limbs amputated.
The five defendants face charges for illegal possession of a grenade, terrorism and criminal association, the AG's office said.
Investigators say the five suspects were drinking at the bar when one of them - apparently drunk - produced a grenade, pulled the pin and accidentally dropped the device on the floor, where it exploded.
The suspects, who were also injured in the blast, are currently under military guard at several different Puerto Vallarta hospitals and will be jailed pending trial once they have been discharged.
The AG's office has opened an investigation into the suspects' possible links to organized crime elements in the resort town.
72 dead migrants found in Mexico tip of iceberg.
Diego Mendez. AP. September 1, 2010
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador - Paula Cruz wept quietly at the foreign ministry office in El Salvador's capital after reporting that her son was missing - apparently kidnapped - in Mexico.
"I got a phone call asking me to send $2,500 to ransom him," the 77-year-old mother said, clutching the last letter she received from her 43-year-old son. "I didn't have the money. I don't know if he is alive or dead."
Cruz fears her son may be one the 72 migrants found shot to death in northern Mexico last week. She is one of hundreds of people who streamed to government offices in Central America after news of the massacre spread, searching for news of relatives who went missing after setting out through Mexico hoping to reach the United States.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, family members' descriptions did not match the bullet-ridden bodies found in heaps at a ranch in the state of Tamaulipas. Instead, rights workers say, the missing migrants may be part of a huge toll of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of migrants killed by organized crime gangs and whose bodies may have been hacked up, dissolved in acid or buried in unmarked paupers graves.
The true number of undocumented migrants killed in Mexico in recent years may never be known, but they would almost certainly dwarf the number discovered last week. Mexico's National Human Rights Commission said there were witness accounts of 198 mass kidnappings involving 9,758 migrants in a six month-period in 2009.
Just Tuesday, police in the Mexican resort of Cancun rescued six Cuban migrants who had been captured by a gang and were being held prisoner in a house near the city's airport, said Quintana Roo state police director Enrique Alberto Sanmiguel. He said the captors were demanding $8,000 to $10,000 from the Cubans' families in the United States.
Activists say drug cartels like Mexico's Zetas - the gang blamed in the Tamaulipas massacre - frequently kill one or two from each group to scare the rest into asking relatives to meet ransom demands.
Almost 200 relatives showed up at the offices of the Honduras' foreign ministry in Tegucigalpa saying their loved ones had disappeared somewhere in Mexico. So far only 21 bodies found at the massacre site have been identified as Hondurans; 19 are of other nationalities, and 32 are unidentified.
In Guatemala, relatives have called the country's foreign ministry to report about 30 missing migrants since the massacre.
El Salvador's foreign ministry says at least 91 families have shown up in the capital, and at Salvadoran embassies and consulates in the United States, to report missing relatives since the massacre. The missing migrants had set out to cross Mexico months ago - in some cases, years ago.
Rosa Centeno was one of those who lined up at the El Salvador foreign ministry office. She was looking for her husband, Salvador Carpio, 47.
"I haven't heard anything from him in a week. The last time we talked he was in Tamaulipas," Centeno said. "Some men called and asked for $400, and I sent it."
Some of the relatives covered their faces outside the offices out of fear of drawing further attention from kidnappers or endangering their missing relatives.
"They called and told us that they had my brother," said one man, who would give his name only as Salvador. "They asked us for contacts (of relatives) in the United States to pay $10,000 in ransom."
Salvador said the family later got a horrifying call. "Last Saturday the same man called and said my brother was among the dead."
Alberto Xicotencatl, who runs a migrant shelter a block from railway lines used by migrants in the northern Mexico city of Saltillo, said drug cartels frequently torture and kill one or two from each group to scare the rest into dunning money from relatives for ransom.
Given the estimates on kidnappings that would amount to hundreds killed each year. Others are killed in robberies, assaults and rapes.
"The estimates are that in the cemeteries of Tapachula (a city near Mexico's southern border with Guatemala), there are hundreds of unidentified bodies, of migrants, that wind up in paupers' graves," Xicotencatl said.
Tapachula officials were not immediately available to comment. But the spokesman for Arriaga, another Chiapas railway town, Alfredo Ovilla, said there may be as many as 50 to 100 migrants in graves there after violence in earlier years targeted those riding trains. He said increased police and migrant-protection patrols had reduced the violence.
On Tuesday, Mexico announced the outlines of a plan to reduce violence against migrants, by helping build more shelters, keeping a closer watch on railway lines on which migrants travel, and using information campaigns "to discourage undocumented migration" and inform migrants of their rights.
Mexico's Foreign Relations Department could not provide figures on the number of foreign migrants reported missing or dead in the country, though it keeps a careful accounting of Mexican migrants found dead in the southwestern United States - 369 in 2009.
Many of the Central American migrants' home countries also don't keep track of those missing in Mexico.
Andrea Furlan, a spokeswoman for Guatemala's foreign ministry, said reports come in of migrants being tortured or raped or having disappeared, but seldom with the detail that would allow authorities to take action.
"People are not in the habit of filing crime reports," Furlan said.
Xicotencatl said there is no firm estimate of the number of migrants killed in Mexico and "we will probably never have it," given that - unlike the Tamaulipas massacre - many of the bodies may never be found.
He said migrants have told about seeing fellow migrants killed "and then chopped up and put into barrels with acid, so that there is no evidence."
Still, some good might come of the massacre. Some Central American countries have set up special offices or hot lines for families report disappearances and might keep them working even after the last of the massacre victims are identified.
"We in the support network and civic groups really lament this situation very much," Xicotencatl said of the mass killing, "but it may have been just the push people needed to begin to see what is really happening."
Mexico's Drug War Creates `Medium-Term' Risk for Debt Rating, Moody's Says.
Andres R. Martinez and Jens Erik Gould. Bloomberg. September 1, 2010
Mexico's increasing violence poses a risk to the nation's sovereign credit rating in the "medium term" and may threaten economic growth, said Mauro Leos, an analyst at Moody's Investors Service.
Deaths related to drug trafficking have spiked during President Felipe Calderon's term as the government battles organized crime. Still, Moody's probably won't downgrade the country before Calderon's presidential term ends in 2012, Leos said.
"We are studying the violence to see what impact it has on economic growth and government revenue," Leos said at a conference in Mexico City. "All the information about the violence until now has been anecdotal. There is no framework in which to discuss the impact of the violence."
Violence related to organized crime has killed more than 28,000 people since President Felipe Calderon came to office in December 2006. Mexico's government says violence saps 1 percentage point from gross domestic product annually. Mexico is rated Baa1 by Moody's.
Eight Mexicans were killed yesterday when armed men threw Molotov cocktails into a bar in Cancun, the resort city known for its white-sand beaches, spring-break festivities and as the site for this year's global climate-change summit.
In the past two weeks in the northern part of the country, two mayors have been assassinated, a car bomb exploded outside a television station, and 72 migrants were found massacred. A gubernatorial candidate was killed in June.
Honduran Teachers End Strike.
EFE. August 31, 2010
TEGUCIGALPA - Honduran teachers agreed to end their month-long strike after the government pledged to pay some $189 million in past-due contributions to the educators' pension fund, President Porfirio Lobo said.
"After arduous days and deliberations an accord has been reached," he said late Monday in a broadcast speech.
"In a negotiation, you neither gain everything nor lose everything," Lobo said. "You seek consensus."
The government has been in arrears to the teachers pension fund since 2007 and the accumulated debt exceeds 3.6 billion lempiras ($189 million).
Lobo said that his government, which took office Jan. 27, has accepted "as its own the debts taken on by earlier administrations ... to the teachers union."
While agreeing to make good on the debt, Lobo rejected the teachers' demand that he dismiss Education Minister Alejandro Ventura.
The teachers signed the 26-point pact with the understanding that they will resume their protests if the government fails to fulfill its obligations, union official Edgardo Casaña told reporters at the presidential palace.
"We will be vigilant to compliance with the accord," he said, confirming that classes would resume Tuesday for the country's more than 2 million public school students.
Fidel Castro takes blame for persecution of Cuban gays.
BBC. August 31, 2010
Fidel Castro has said that he is ultimately responsible for the persecution suffered by homosexuals in Cuba after the revolution of 1959.
The former president told the Mexican newspaper La Jornada that there were moments of great injustice against the gay community.
"If someone is responsible, it's me," he said.
In the 1960s and 70s, many homosexuals in Cuba were fired, imprisoned or sent to "re-education camps".
Mr Castro said homosexuals had traditionally been discriminated in Cuba, just as black people and women.
But, nevertheless, he admits he didn't pay enough attention to what was going on against the gay community.
"At the time we were being sabotaged systematically, there were armed attacks against us, we had too many problems," said the 84-year-old Communist leader.
"Keeping one step ahead of the CIA, which was paying so many traitors, was not easy."
In 1979, homosexuality was decriminalised and, more recently, there have been efforts to legalise same-sex unions.
'At death's door'
In the interview with La Jornada, Mr Castro also spoke of the economic embargo against the island, which was imposed by the United States in 1961. He said it was just as damaging today as it was then.
"The biggest problem was always medicine and food, which is true even today," he said.
Mr Castro's comments came in the second instalment of a lengthy interview with the journalist Carmen Lira.
On Monday's instalment, he said he had been "at death's door" during the long illness which forced him to step down as Cuba's leader.
Mr Castro fell ill in 2006 and handed power to his brother Raul in 2008.
He underwent several operations for an intestinal illness.
"I asked myself several times if (the doctors) would let me live under these conditions or whether they would allow me to die," he told La Jornada.
Mr Castro led Cuba for almost 50 years after toppling the government of Fulgencio Batista in a revolution.
The Communists remain in power and Fidel Castro remains head of the Communist Party, although his brother Raul is president of the country.
Hurricane Earl Leaves Flooding, Power Outages in Puerto Rico.
EFE. August 31, 2010
SAN JUAN - About 200,000 people without electricity and an undetermined number of roadways obstructed or cut are the main results of the passage of Hurricane Earl some 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Puerto Rico on Tuesday morning.
No casualties were reported,
Gov. Luis Fortuño announced Tuesday that during the day crews would be working to reestablish electricity and water service, adding that it was calculated that about 30,000 people lack potable water at present due to the storm.
Fortuño said that the approximately 100 people who remain in shelters would be able to return to their homes on Tuesday.
The passage of the hurricane near Puerto Rico caused a large number of electricity pylons and poles to be knocked over, which in turn caused some towns to lose power for about 24 hours, the governor said.
The head of the Port Authority, Alberto Escudero, said that the San Juan airport - which has been closed for the past few hours - will gradually resume service and several flights to and from Miami and New York are scheduled for Tuesday.
Escudero emphasized, however, that the Port of San Juan will remain closed for the present.
Earl will be remembered for the tremendous traffic chaos its approach caused Monday on the streets of San Juan.
The government waited until midday to order schools on the island closed and to tell government workers to take the rest of the day off - a measure that was also taken up by private firms - and this caused the collapse of the transportation network, trapping thousands of drivers in their vehicles in gigantic traffic jams for several hours.
A tropical storm warning remains in effect for Puerto Rico, despite the fact that Earl is now some 270 kilometers (167 miles) from San Juan and moving away from the island in the western Atlantic Ocean.
Wage freeze could last for four years, says Roberts.
Jamaica Observer. August 30, 2010
VICE-PRESIDENT of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) Danny Roberts says the conditionalities laid out in the Standby Agreement between the Jamaican Government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) could result in as much as a four-year wage freeze for public sector workers.
Roberts, who was guest speaker UTech Academic Staff Association Annual General Meeting at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston last week, said the wage freeze is expected to be in place for four instead of two because of efforts to reduce the Government's bill from nine to 11 per cent of GDP by 2013/14.
Roberts, a senior officer of the National Workers Union, said trade unions are likely to be judged harshly by their membership if the wage freeze is extended "because sadly enough the perception that workers still hold is that the effectiveness of the unions can best be represented by its militancy, aggressive behaviour, threats and use of industrial action".
He noted that while the court ruling on the Island Special Constabulary Force's (ISCF) challenge to the Government's refusal to honour the seven per cent second year wage increase was important to common law doctrine, the Confederation had already convinced the Government that the agreement is sacrosanct and must be honoured, and that the principle of free collective bargaining as a hallowed tradition of industrial relations must be respected.
"It was persuasive argument and the logic of our case, and not threat or the use of force that won the day," Roberts noted.
The JCTU vice-president said that the die is already cast on the 2011/2012 wage negotiations and "as part of what would broadly be defined as the intelligentsia in our society, members of the UTech Academic Staff Association have an obligation to explore a model of collective bargaining that focuses on productivity benefits and job security that addresses matters of immediate concerns to their membership in 2011/2012".
He pointed to the need for behavioural science research in the field of trade unionism and workplace relationship, and urged the group, through research, education and training to build commitment and participation among its membership, as well as forging strategic alliances with other public sector unions.
According to Roberts, the UTech Academic Staff must contribute to finding ways to reverse Jamaica's poor rating in the Global Competitive index, noting that the country has one of the poorest ratings in terms of labour-management cooperation, pay and productivity, and rank 105 out of 133 countries in terms of brain drain.
In the areas of higher education and training and labour market efficiency, he said, the country ranked 77 and 72 respectively out of 133 countries assessed.
Roberts said, too, that an inadequately educated workforce and poor work ethic are cited as reasons which hamper businesses in Jamaica, and that "with falling levels of productivity and competitiveness we are going to be returning here every two years trying to eke out more from less".
Gold rush is growing threat to Suriname rainforest.
Ben Fox. AP. August 30, 2010
PARAMARIBO, Suriname -- It looks like a meteor strike: From out of nowhere, a huge clearing appears in the jungle - a deep rust-colored pit surrounded by mounds of dirt and thick stands of trees pushed to the side in dense piles of overturned soil.
But this is no act of nature. It is the result of the steady labor of fewer than a dozen barefoot men, who have blasted away at the earth for three days with high-pressure water hoses and earth-movers, searching for gold and destroying a swathe of rainforest.
The miners near a small town called Nieuw Koffiekamp, at the edge of Suriname's vast rainforest hinterland, planned to spend a week tearing into the soil and filtering it through toxic mercury. Then, they will start over again somewhere else.
Juergen Plein, a 29-year-old miner, said he needs the work, and doesn't know any other way to get at the precious metal.
"I think about it," Plein, nearly shouting over the roar of generators, said of the damage. "But survival comes first."
Thanks to record gold prices, hundreds of small-scale mining operations are proliferating along the northeastern shoulder of South America. Small-scale miners produced a record of nearly 16.5 metric tons of gold in 2009, according to Suriname's government.
Miners are tearing up trees, poisoning creeks with mercury and, in some places, erecting makeshift jungle towns with shops, prostitutes and churches. In their wake is a wasteland, said Dominiek Plouvier, regional representative of the World Wildlife Fund.
"All the top soil has been removed, it's finished," Plouvier said. "This ecosystem is very fragile. It is very difficult to get it back in these areas."
The miners, many of them illegal migrants from Brazil, are scattered throughout the northern Amazon basin, occasionally fleeing crackdowns by police or the military in Venezuela, French Guiana and Guyana. But nothing seems to stop them in Suriname, a country rich in resources with the weakest law enforcement in the region.
The new government that took power in August is expected to at least attempt to address the issue. Vice President Robert Ameerali said they will seek to reduce the use of mercury, which is illegal but widely available to miners who use it to separate gold from ore.
Mining consultant Chris Healy said Suriname should set aside areas for small-scale miners and regulate their activities, providing training and assistance to acquire less-polluting technology.
"You can make all kinds of laws and enforcement," he said. "But there is nobody there to enforce it."
An estimated 14,000 small-scale miners and service providers work in Suriname's interior, said Marieke Heemskerk, a consultant and anthropologist who has tracked mining in the country for years. The rampant and unrestricted subletting of mine concessions is illegal, but it's largely tolerated by the government - and it gives people work.
Mining is a touchy subject in Suriname, which has gained praise over the years from environmentalists for placing limits on logging and setting aside large rainforest preserves. The metal, shipped to refiners in North America and Europe, is one of the main exports in a largely poor country of nearly 500,000 people that is about the size of Georgia. It is an important source of income, particularly for Maroons, the descendants of runaway slaves, and Amerindians in the interior, who make money providing transportation or selling access to their land concessions.
In recent years, small-scale miners have grown more destructive as they use more heavy equipment such as earthmovers - flown into remote spots in the jungle or shipped down rivers - to work faster or in more remote, larger areas.
In a country with few real roads, it is difficult to find the mines. But from the air it's a different story.
Satellite analysis of the scarred earth and diverted waterways shows that miners in Suriname have deforested at least 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) and damaged more than 2,200 kilometers (1,370 miles) of river over the past decade, Plouvier said. WWF estimates the small-scale mining is also responsible for some 20 tons of mercury entering the environment and posing a risk to people through fish consumption.
Some parts of Suriname have become like the Wild West, only with All-Terrain-Vehicles and satellite dishes.
Associated Press journalists visited a mining area about 100 miles south of the capital Paramaribo, reachable only by boat, followed by a bone-jarring ATV ride through the dense jungle.
All around were the huge telltale piles of discarded soil and open pits. In the middle of a network of trails was a town of sorts. The one-street settlement - more of an outpost in the jungle - was a dusty clearing and a line of simple, plywood structures. There were two markets, two churches and four bars, festooned with small Brazilian flags. In the lull of a rainy afternoon, bored prostitutes sat watching TV until the customers returned. Plastic bottles, beer cans and other trash was strewn about everywhere or smoldering in burning piles.
Ines Aboikonbie, who runs a bar with her Brazilian husband, said the settlement of about 200 will probably move soon along with the miners in search of gold.
The largest gold mine in the country, at Rosebel not far from Nieuw Koffiekamp, is run by Toronto-based IAMGOLD Corp. and employs 1,100 people. The mine produced nearly 12 metric tons of gold last year. But while all mining draws critics, environmentalists are more worried about the damage done by small operators over a wide expanse.
IAMGOLD spokesman Bob Tait said many people - including several hundred it accuses of illegally mining on its concession - prefer the informal sector because they like the flexibility and dream of finding riches. "Sometimes it's hard for us to compete," he said.
Plein, the miner at Nieuw KoffieKamp, is a thin man with a scraggly beard and dreadlocks pulled back behind his head. He said the amount his crew earns depends on how much gold they find and how much fuel they use trying to find it - they might gross $40,000 before paying for the equipment rental and dividing the proceeds. One of the biggest challenges, he said, is finding a place to search amid fierce competition and competing claims on land.
"It's hard," said Plein, a Maroon who grew up in the town of dirt streets and small wooden homes. "But I'm used to it."
Region: Trade, Security, Economy and Integration [contents]
Colombia's Santos meets Lula da Silva in his first overseas visit.
Merco Press. September 1, 2010
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos arrived Tuesday in Brazil for an official two-day state visit that begins Wednesday with a meeting with President Lula da Silva to address a regional political agenda and strengthen bilateral trade.
Regional affairs and bilateral trade figure with priority in the two presidents agenda (File) Regional affairs and bilateral trade figure with priority in the two presidents agenda (File)
Santos will be the first leader to be received at the refurbished Planalto Palace, seat of the Executive that underwent 18 months of maintenance and upgrading. He arrived in Brasilia with Foreign Affairs minister Maria Angela Holguin and Sergio Díaz-Granados head of Trade, Industry and Tourism.
Following the analysis of the regional agenda, and the conflicting situation with Venezuela, so far under control, the two leaders will talk about bilateral trade that in 2009 reached 2.7 billion US dollars according to Brazilian sources.
Even when Colombian exports soared 101%, the trade surplus still favours Brazil and one of the purposes of the visit is to try to level the volume of exchange by promoting investment in export companies.
Santos is also scheduled to visit Congress officials, members of the Supreme Court as well as a private meeting with Defence minister Nelson Jobim, an old acquaintance since the time the Colombian leader was Defence minister.
A meeting has also been arranged with Dilma Rousseff the presidential candidate for the ruling coalition, who besides is comfortably leading in public opinion polls for ballot day October 3.
On Thursday in Sao Paulo, Santos interviews Jose Serra, former governor of Sao Paulo and the main opposition presidential contender, and the Green Party presidential candidate Marina Silva who figures with 9% vote intention.
Before concluding his visit Santos meets with the board of the powerful Sao Paulo Federation of Industries, FIESP, where he plans to set the foundations for closer links with Colombian industry.
Colombia has grown steadily since former president Alvaro Uribe took office in 2002 and the country has attracted billions of dollars in investments.
"This is the first overseas visit since taking office and we have chosen Brazil because of the growing significance of the country", and President Lula da Silva's insistence in inviting him personally to visit Brazil, admitted Santos.
Minister Holguin described Brazil as "a strategic" partner for Colombia and the event will emphasize political dialogue and promote trade.
Another issue which does not figure in the official agenda released to the media is security along the hundreds of kilometres of common border shared by both countries.
Colombia's Chief of Joint Staff Admiral Edgar Cely in recent statements said that "border security" is the responsibility of all and anticipated both leaders would agree on a common strategy to end with the "guerrilla corridors", plus consider technical cooperation and exchanges to improve living conditions for people living in those areas.
Timerman visits Paraguay, announces two new bridges linking with Argentina.
Merco Press. September 1, 2010
Argentina's Foreign Affaire minister Hector Timerman announced Tuesday in Asuncion the construction of two new bridges linking Argentina with Paraguay and the upgrading of an existing one.
Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo and Hector Timerman Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo and Hector Timerman
Timerman on his first visit as minister to Paraguay made the announcement after meeting with President Fernando Lugo and his counterpart Hector Lacognata.
According to the Argentine Foreign Affairs communiqué, "Timerman and President Lugo made progress on issues of regional connectivity, and they agreed on the creation of a bilateral labour committee to improve border crossings. They both also agreed on the need to build new border bridges, they analyzed bilateral trade, and they conversed on migration issues."
At the meeting with Minister Lacognata, it was agreed to hold ministerial meetings every 60 days, in order to boost the main topics of the common agenda. The first meeting is to be held in the city of Ituzaingó, Corrientes province, which borders with Paraguay.
Argentina and Paraguay count with six Integration Committees that meet periodically and are fundamental for identifying border demands and proposing courses of action. The committee on border crossings has 30 days to come up with a full report on ways to facilitate people and goods movements.
The international bridge to be repaired and financed by Argentina links the city of Encarnación in Paraguay with Posadas. The two new bridges will receive financial support from the River Plate Basin Development Fund, FONPLATA and will help "improve Argentine-Paraguayan connectivity".
One of the new bridges is to be built 300 kilometres to the south of Asunción and will link Ñeembucú with Bermejo in Argentina. The second will join Clorinda with metropolitan Asunción.
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