Latin America News Round-up
March 16, 2011
Uruguay Latest in South America to Recognize Palestine Statehood
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Brazil and Southern Cone
Mercosur-EU trade pact far from certain amid continuing rows
US, Brazil share interest in FX flexibility -W.House. Reuters
Former Brazil central bank president Meirelles to oversee Rio’s preparations for 2016 Olympics. AP
Brazil's GDP expected to grow more than 5 percent. AP
How Brazil is trying to curb currency appreciation. Reuters
Brazil: Floods Ravage Southeast. AP
Let Us In. Foreign Policy
Uruguay latest in South America to recognize Palestine statehood. AP
Chile Mulls Delaying Nuclear Cooperation Pact With US –Report. Dow Jones Newswires
Northern Andean Region
Chavez Seeks $4 Billion Loan From Chinese Companies for Housing. Bloomberg
Hugo Chavez says Venezuela putting nuclear plans on hold after crisis in Japan. AP
The Road To An American 'El Sistema'. NPR
Hip-Hop Lives on in Venezuela. Upside Down World
Colombia Central Bank Is Expected To Again Raise Key Rate. Dow Jones Newswires
Colombia Farc 'drug boss' Oliver Solarte killed. BBC
Western Andean Region
Ecuador Seeks $1 Billion Funding for Projects Near Peru Border. Bloomberg
Ecuador Banks' January Net Profit Up 87% At $29.4 Mln. Dow Jones Newswires
In Ecuador, disabled vice president is inspiration to others. Miami Herald
Peru Police, Army Brass Convicted for Deadly Clash with Indians. EFE
Mexico, Central America and Caribbean
U.S. Drones Fight Mexican Drug Trade. New York Times
Mexican Judges Resign Amid Outcry Over Ruling. AP
Cooperatives Offer an Alternative. Inter-Press Service
Drafting Honduran Democracy. In These Times
Honduras forgets Argentina and Brazil; will open trade offices in India and China. Mercopress
Guatemalans sue US over 1940s STD study. AFP
Mexico Drug Cartels Moving in on Guatemala Routes. PBS Newshour
Region: Trade, Security, Economy and Integration
Mercosur-EU trade pact far from certain amid continuing rows. UPI
Obama to refocus on Latin America amid Chinese push. Rueters
Analysis: Rising China threatens U.S. clout in Latin America. Reuters
Brazil and Southern Cone [contents]
US, Brazil share interest in FX flexibility -W.House
Reuters. March 15, 2011
WASHINGTON, March 15 (Reuters) - The United States and Brazil would both benefit if other countries allow their exchange rates to be set by market forces, a top White House aide said on Tuesday in a coded reference to China.
Brazil, like the United States, has voiced concern that its manufacturers suffer from cheaper Chinese imports due to Beijing's policy of keeping its yuan currency artificially low against other nations' currencies.
"The U.S. and Brazil have common interests, as expressed through the G20 in addressing imbalances in ensuring ... there's balanced demand from around the world and that countries move toward flexible, market determined exchange rates," said White House international economic adviser Mike Froman.
U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Brazil, Chile and El Salvador between March 19 and March 23 to promote ties with Latin America and to discuss pressing regional issues like trade, migration, drug trafficking and energy security.
Former Brazil central bank president Meirelles to oversee Rio’s preparations for 2016 Olympics
AP. March 15, 2011
Meirelles was appointed by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to head the Olympic Public Authority, which is comprised of members of all levels of government, to coordinate the Olympic preparations.
Meirelles will be responsible for overseeing public services and the implementation and completion of the infrastructure needed for the Olympics in Rio, which is a first for South America.
Meirelles was the longest-serving central bank head in Brazil, holding the post for eight years during the presidency of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Brazil's GDP expected to grow more than 5 percent
AP. March 15, 2011
The Brazilian government says the gross domestic product of Latin Americas biggest economy is expected to grow by more than 5 percent a year through 2014.
The Finance Ministry says in a report released Tuesday that increased long term investments by the private sector will be fundamental in achieving the projected growth.
The report says that by the end of 2011, investments will account for 20 percent of the GDP. By the end of 2014, they will represent 24 percent.
Earlier this month, the government said Brazil's GDP grew 7.5 percent in 2010, the highest growth rate since 1986, when the economy also grew by 7.5 percent.
The growth led the government to order $30 billion in spending cuts last month to battle inflation.
How Brazil is trying to curb currency appreciation
Reuters. March 15, 2011
March 15 (Reuters) - Brazil's currency has gained nearly 40 percent in the last two years and is likely to remain strong on continued investor appetite for assets in Latin America's largest economy.
The government of new President Dilma Rousseff is believed to be readying a new round of currency measures after the real hit 2-1/2 year highs on March 4.
Below are some of the measures Brazil has adopted since March 2010 to slow the real's appreciation BRBY.
* The central bank consolidates 60 currency market norms to simplify foreign exchange operations in Brazil. The move allowed companies to keep dollar proceeds from share sales abroad.
* The central bank resumes daily dollar purchases. It purchased more than $8 billion on the spot foreign exchange market in February alone.
* Government triples tax on foreign purchases of bonds to 6 percent on Oct. 18 to curb inflows into fixed income market.
* Government increases tax on derivatives margins to dissuade short-term investors.
* The central bank buys dollars in the forwards market after resuming intervention in the futures market via reverse swaps.
* Central bank creates a 60 percent reserve requirement on banks' foreign exchange positions, aimed at curbing speculation on a stronger real and volatility in the currency market.
* The central bank raises bank reserve requirements to cool a credit boom and help pave the way for lower interest rates.
* Sovereign wealth fund authorized to buy dollars on spot market.
Brazil: Floods Ravage Southeast
AP. March 14, 2011
Floods in southern and southeastern Brazil have forced about 31,000 people to leave their homes, authorities said Monday. Civil defense officials said more than 14,000 people have been driven from their homes in Santa Catarina State, about 10,000 in Parana State, and 6,000 in Espirito Santo. Parana officials said three people had died in landslides set off by the heavy rains that have inundated the region since Thursday.
Let Us In
Why Barack Obama must support Brazil's drive for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
CELSO AMORIM. Foreign Policy. March 14, 2011
When U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Brazil later this month, Brazilians will expect him to make a statement supporting our country's inclusion in a reformed U.N. Security Council, as he did regarding India's inclusion in November. It would be a disappointment if Obama does not endorse our drive for a permanent seat on the world's premier international security body -- not just because Brazil deserves a seat but because the council's very legitimacy depends on the inclusion of emerging powers.
Let's take first the simple reality of global power today, which is no longer reflected in the membership of the current council. It's vitally important that developing economies be part of this global body, and it is only natural that Brazil, which is now among the eight largest economies in the world, should be included. If the Brazilian economy is already as big as that of Britain or France -- and ours has room to grow while these others do not -- why should they be there and not us? Or India, which has more than 1 billion people? And why not a single African country? Reform is not a question of ambition of this or that country, but rather a question of the Security Council needing to be representative of the world community.
This is not only a question of making our global institutions as democratic and representative as possible. It's not about a feel-good quest for diverse representation. Reforming the Security Council is vital if the body's decisions are to be taken seriously worldwide. If the council is seen as the coterie of only a few great powers, its decisions are not likely to be respected or received with enthusiasm -- to the detriment of all. Of course, one limiting factor is that the present permanent five, veto-wielding powers on the council are very jealous of their privileges; they don't want to share them.
Yet we emerging powers have much to offer. First, we will bring new perspectives. Take, for example, the Middle East. We will not come with magic solutions -- nobody has magic solutions -- but we will have fresh ideas, and Brazil is an interlocutor that is able to talk to everyone. In the same month in 2009, for example, we received the president of Israel, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and the president of Iran. How many other countries are able to receive visits from these three presidents in just a matter of weeks? It was a demonstration of how well-positioned Brazil is to hold dialogue with countries with different perspectives.
Why can Brazil open doors when today's Security Council cannot? Part of it has to do with our country's pluralistic background -- the cultural and racial mixture of our society. But it's also simply because we are a developing country. A perfect example came last year when Iran rejected a Western proposal under which the country's uranium would be shipped abroad for enrichment up to energy-grade (not weapons-grade) levels. Coming from the West, the agreement met hard resistance from Tehran on everything from its timing to the quantity of uranium required. But when Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and I brought Tehran the same basic agreement, we both spoke from the perspective of fellow developing countries that can understand the problems of other developing countries; everyone is on the same level.
At the same time, Brazil plain and simply has influence. In November, when we decided to recognize a Palestinian state, immediately another eight or 10 Latin American countries did the same. Even some European countries are moving toward having a new kind of relationship with Palestine. To ignore the fact that Brazil has clout in the world would be foolish.
Take Brazil's relationship with Africa. We are one of the few non-African countries that can carry an influence in political discussions on that continent. Five years ago in Guinea-Bissau, when that country faced a huge political crisis, we spoke to Senegal and other countries in the region. They told us that Brazil was welcome to join the mediation, while other countries were not. During my term as foreign minister, I even mentioned this fact to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, arguing that our unique relationship with African countries creates areas for cooperation with the United States -- at a time when other countries, namely China, are very much present in Africa.
Many corners of the global system already reflect the new geopolitical reality. Brazil is at the center of international trade negotiations. In financial matters, we are a leader in the G-20. We were instrumental in reforming the International Monetary Fund's quota system, together with the other BRIC countries. At the end of the 2009 climate negotiations in Copenhagen, it was Obama, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and the leaders of China, India, and South Africa who came to a final accord. In all these areas, it's already accepted that Brazil is a leader. It is only in the area of peace and security that we are not.
During my eight years as foreign minister, I worked tirelessly to change that. Our strategy was twofold: to try to work within the United Nations, but at the same time to push for reform from the outside. We drew lessons from another big example of recent change to the multilateral system: IMF reform. There would never have been change in the quota system if pressure had come only from within the IMF; it was really the G-20's pushing that provoked the change. Likewise with the United Nations, we can begin some kinds of reforms from the outside, for example by also holding G-20 meetings for foreign rather than just finance ministers. (Now that I am no longer foreign minister, I can say this because I am not pleading on own behalf!) Building these informal groups will help push along change to formal institutions within the United Nations.
Obama's support of India's candidacy for a permanent Security Council seat was a good step. We in Brazil agree with Obama; we have a very close relationship with India. With India, the United States is motivated by its rivalry with China, its interests in Asia, Afghanistan, and so on. But how could you have India and not Brazil? How could you have one more Asian country -- because Japan would probably also have to join if India did -- and not one each from Latin America and Africa? How can you give a prize to a country that decided to go nuclear and deny the same to a country that did not? Brazil could have developed atomic weapons -- we have the capacity to process uranium -- but we chose to write in our Constitution that nuclear energy should be used only for peaceful purposes. We should not be penalized for that.
I know reform will be very difficult. But I also know that it is an absolute must, and it's a must because otherwise the Security Council will grow progressively less relevant. Of course, reform will take time, though maybe not as long as we think. If you had asked me before the financial crisis of 2008 how long it would take for the G-7 to become the G-20, I would have said maybe 10 years. But it took less than one. I hope we don't need to have a similar crisis, this time in the area of security, to provoke the Security Council to act. What's happening today in the Arab world should be a wake-up call: No single country in the world is capable of dealing with this situation; they are not capable of even analyzing it. The more the world listens to others who have good relationships in the region, the more choices and options we will have.
Having lived all these years and seeing so many things change, I do think it's possible. Reforming the global security system is the question of world governance in the coming years. Brazil, for one, is up to the challenge.
Uruguay latest in South America to recognize Palestine statehood, but mum on pre-1967 borders
AP. March 16, 2011
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — Uruguay has joined a string of South American nations in recognizing an independent Palestinian state.
A Foreign Ministry statement says Uruguay has communicated its decision to the Palestinian Authority.
However the statement does not explicitly say whether the country recognizes Palestine’s borders predating the Six-Day War of 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza.
Foreign Ministry officials declined Tuesday to clarify the matter.
More than a half-dozen countries in South America have recognized Palestine recently, though in different ways.
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay recognized the pre-1967 borders.
Chile and Peru said the issue must be worked out between Israelis and Palestinians.
Chile Mulls Delaying Nuclear Cooperation Pact With US -Report
Dow Jones Newswires. March 16, 2011
SANTIAGO (Dow Jones)--In light of a possible nuclear catastrophe in Japan following its worst earthquake on record, Chile is considering delaying a nuclear cooperation pact with the U.S., Diario La Tercera reported Tuesday.
The earthquake in Japan, which comes just a year after the 8.8-magnitude quake that hit the South American nation, has prompted renewed concerns about the use of nuclear energy in seismically active Chile.
The pact, similar to one Chile recently signed with France, was scheduled to be signed on the sidelines of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Chile next week.
People at the Energy and Foreign Affairs Ministries and the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission could neither confirm nor deny the report.
Although Chile hasn't yet decided to greenlight nuclear energy, it's in the process of developing a legal and technical framework for such a decision.
-By Carolina Pica, Dow Jones Newswires; 56-2-715-8919; email@example.com
Northern Andean Region [contents]
Chavez Seeks $4 Billion Loan From Chinese Companies for Housing
Corina Rodriguez Pons. Bloomberg. March 16, 2011
Venezuela signed an agreement with Chinese companies Citic Group and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (601398) Ltd. to negotiate a $4 billion loan to finance oil and construction projects, President Hugo Chavez said.
Citic International Contracting Inc., a unit of China’s state-owned Citic Group, will build 20,000 housing units in Venezuela and start a joint venture with Petroleos de Venezuela SA to operate mature crude fields, Chavez said on state television yesterday.
Chavez has boosted oil shipments to China to repay billions of dollars in loans destined to finance infrastructure projects in the South American country. Venezuela expects to increase oil exports to about 1 million barrels a day in three years from the current 400,000 barrels, Chavez said.
“We have all the oil that China needs for years to come right here,” Chavez said during a meeting with officials from the Chinese companies.
Venezuela’s Oil Ministry said the country had 296.5 billion barrels of crude oil reserves at the end of 2010, according to information published in the country’s Official Gazette.
PDVSA, as the state oil company is known, may work with Citic to pump oil out of mature fields that have current production of about 50,000 barrels a day in Anzoategui state, company vice president Eulogio Del Pino said on state television yesterday.
The $4 billion loan would be a “first installment” of financing to build homes in the country, PDVSA said in a statement.
Chavez signed agreements with China’s XCMG Construction Machinery Co Ltd (000425) on March 14 to import hydraulic trucks to build homes as he seeks to resolve a housing deficit that has ballooned to 2 million units.
Bilateral trade has surged to $8.85 billion in 2009 from $250.4 million in 2000, according to Venezuela’s Banco de Comercio Exterior, the state-run trade bank.
To contact the reporter on this story: Corina Pons in Caracas at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at email@example.com
Hugo Chavez says Venezuela putting nuclear plans on hold after crisis in Japan
AP. March 16, 2011
CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that the crisis at a Japanese nuclear plant after the country’s catastrophic earthquake and tsunami have prompted him to halt Venezuela’s plans to develop nuclear energy.
Chavez announced last year that his government was carrying out initial studies to start a nuclear energy program.
Russia’s government had agreed to help Venezuela build a reactor last year during a visit to Moscow by Chavez. But Chavez said watching events unfold in Japan has prompted him to reconsider.
“It’s something extremely risky and dangerous for the whole world because despite the great technology and advances that Japan has, look at what is happening with some nuclear reactors,” Chavez said in a televised speech.
Chavez warned that radioactive material from Japan’s damaged plants could pose a threat to neighbors such as China. “We pray to God that... it doesn’t have serious impacts on the population of Japan and other neighboring nations,” he said.
Chavez said he had ordered his vice president and energy minister to “freeze the plans that we have been moving forward with, some very preliminary studies” toward starting a nuclear program.
Chavez said he believes the problems at the Japanese nuclear reactors will make other countries aside from Venezuela reconsider the need for nuclear programs.
“I don’t have the slightest doubt that this will alter... in a strong way nuclear energy development plans in the world,” Chavez said. He also predicted that would increase demand for oil “in the short, medium and long term.”
Venezuela is a major oil exporter.
The Road To An American 'El Sistema'
Lara Pellegrinelli. NPR. March 16, 2011
Where in the world do you find more kids playing in orchestras than on soccer teams? In Venezuela, where a national program called "El Sistema" provides music education for hundreds of thousands of at-risk youth. Now like-minded programs are springing up across the United States. On Friday, El Sistema USA, the service organization that hopes to lead a U.S. orchestral movement, announced plans for its independence.
Alvaro Rodas is the founder and executive director of the Corona Youth Music Project in Queens, N.Y., a free program inspired by the El Sistema model. He's gotten around 100 restless kids together for a choir camp. Little do they know that their choir is just the beginning — a seed that could grow into an orchestra one day.
At least, that's Rodas' hope. "I started working for El Sistema back in Guatemala," he says. "I was teaching percussion in a little village, a Maya village."
El Sistema began 1,600 miles to the southeast in 1975, with 11 kids in a Caracas parking garage. By the 1990s, the program had grown to the point where Venezuela was introducing it to its Latin American neighbors. When El Sistema's teachers arrived in Guatemala, Rodas was skeptical. They claimed they'd start a youth orchestra with whoever had an instrument.
"We were very pessimistic about the idea, and they kept pushing it. They told us, 'Don't give us excuses. Just bring the kids.' It was a lot of pressure. But after 10 days we had a 100-piece youth orchestra playing Beethoven's Fifth."
Today, programs based on the El Sistema model — they're referred to as nucleos — can be found as far away as Australia, India, Scotland and South Korea.
The international growth owes a lot to the visibility of Venezuela's Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra. It has toured internationally under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema's prize pupil.
The energetic, curly headed maestro became the conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic two years ago at the age of 28. Since then, three-dozen nucleos have popped up across the U.S. Many more are on the way, thanks in part to an award honoring El Sistema's founder, Jose Antonio Abreu. In accepting the TED Prize in 2009, Abreu said he wanted the award money to fund a training program for leaders who will start their own nucleos in the U.S.
Some of those 50 young musicians have already completed a graduate fellowship under the auspices of El Sistema USA and its host and fiscal sponsor, the New England Conservatory. Rodas became the first in the initial class of 10 to get his nucleo off the ground.
Looking For A New Home
With such a promising start, many were surprised to learn in January that El Sistema USA was looking for a new home. Conflicts had developed over El Sistema's proposed expansion and fundraising. The conservatory, after all, is about to begin its own fundraising initiative for capital improvements. Word came March 11 that the two organizations had apparently resolved their differences. NEC President Tony Woodcock says the Abreu Fellows won't have to move.
"We are recommitting to our Abreu Fellows Program, of which we are extremely proud; and Mark Churchill, who has been a force here at NEC for a long time, is going to develop El Sistema USA as a service organization."
Freeing the organization to focus its attention on the emerging nucleos sounds like a positive outcome, yet the dust-up with NEC can only be the first of many bumps in the road for an American El Sistema. Some music educators think the prospect of building orchestras to help at-risk youth is simply too good to be true.
"El Sistema as it is in Venezuela will never happen in the United States. It's not possible," says Richard Kessler, the executive director of New York City's Center for Arts Education.
"It's not possible for the program to be embraced by the social service and child welfare agencies, and be connected to a national health care system that we don't have. Our government does not fund the arts on that kind of level, on that sort of basis. So what happens is El Sistema has to be translated into something that's American and I think in the translation, generally speaking, it doesn't look very different than many very good youth orchestra programs."
Such training is already administered by schools, music conservatories, and nonprofits, a crowded field — even if hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren lack ready access to music education in New York City alone. Many music schools have extensive fee-based pre-college divisions that offer training that El Sistema nucleos will be giving away free, says Rebecca Levi, one of last year's Abreu Fellows.
"If we achieve anything close to what they've done in Venezuela, we will be a threat, a very real threat, to conservatories."
Levi now co-directs the music program at the Boston Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton, Mass.
"El Sistema in Venezuela has made the same music relevant to millions of young people, that same music that conservatories here are struggling to get people to pay thousands of dollars go and learn."
Luckily, back in Queens, the kids at the Louis Armstrong Community Center remain blissfully unaware of any behind-the-scenes politicking about their orchestral futures.
Hip-Hop Lives on in Venezuela
Lainie Cassel. Upside Down World. March 15, 2011
This short video documents a hip-hop school in the large and overcrowded barrio of La Vega in the hillsides of Caracas, Venezuela. Filmed in the months of July and August in 2010, it features interviews and performances by those involved in the school known as EPATU (Popular School for the Arts and Urban Traditions).
The two main performances by the students, which are not translated due to the poetic nature of the lyrics, are summed up below.
In the first performance, 19-year-old Karine discusses the exploitation of women and the violence caused by gender inequality. In the second song, 12-year-old Alejandro performs for his first time in front of hundreds of spectators. The song, which he wrote just weeks after joining the school, is called “The Empire” and discusses the systemic poverty caused by imperialism. His chorus is a call for others to keep their heads raised and struggle against the inequalities.
While I was the editor, the youth often took charge of the camera and some of their footage is incorporated into the short film. Below is an article that better explains the background behind the nation-wide movement known as EPATU.
Hip-Hop lives on in Venezuela
It is 7:00 on a Wednesday evening in Caracas’s southern barrio known as La Vega. In a small classroom lined with worn-out wooden desks, youth of all ages sit and listen to a local DJ talk about the historical roots of hip-hop culture. After the discussion is over, the youth quickly disperse and hip-hop beats begin blasting as dancers practice their footwork and emcees prepare to show off their latest rhymes.
Caracas may be further then a stone’s throw from hip-hop’s birthplace in the Bronx but in communities like La Vega, known for its large African descendent population and oral traditions, hip-hop’s emergence there seemed only natural. Allowing for youth to express themselves, while connecting them to their ancestral roots, hip-hop has become a way-of life for many.
Thanks to a program called EPATU (the Spanish acronym for Popular School for the Arts and Urban Traditions), Venezuelans as young as 2 and as old as 76 are experiencing a growing hip-hop culture first hand. So far over 30 hip-hop schools have opened in 15 states around the country, mobilizing a new generation of youth through music.
However, for EPATU organizers starting a hip-hop movement in a country largely consumed by salsa and reggaeton music has not come without a backlash from community members. Karine Esparragoza, a 19-year old emcee who attends classes at EPATU in La Vega, admits that her family members are not comfortable with the hip-hop culture. “They associate hip-hop with drugs and violence”, she told me in an interview, “but I’m here because I strongly believe that is what we are fighting against.
Overcoming the negative stereotypes of hip-hop is one of the biggest challenges facing organizers and one in which the participants are trying to change. They do so by targeting those most likely to get involved with violence – young males and children living on the streets. Hip-hop’s counterculture appeal draws the youth in while also giving them an alternate way of expressing themselves.
In La Vega, EPATU has had numerous successes, attracting anywhere between 20 to 50 kids on any given evening. Their school is located in a park at the bottom of a road that leads up to what were in the past some of Caracas’s most notoriously dangerous streets. “The point” as the park has been named, is the original headquarters of hip-hop in Caracas and has survived the ups and downs of a decades long movement.
As La Vega-based rapper “El-Ega” claims, “hip-hop in Venezuela, like around the world, was born as a cry against the oppression we faced in our communities and as a call for protest”. In the 90’s, hip-hop music had clashed tremendously with the ruling government, a trend that changed when President Hugo Chavez, himself a hip-hop fan, took office in 1999.
While hip-hop was less mobilized in Chavez’s initial years in office, it saw a rebirth with the rise of a nation-wide collective called Hip-Hop Revolucion (HHR). HHR, which since 2005 has held an annual International Hip-Hop summit, was born out of radical movements in the barrios of Caracas. The collective is home to a number of well-respected artists and has grown to include members from around North and South America.
It was from HHR, that EPATU was born. A project that had been on the backburner for years and a dream of many of those hopeful to pass hip-hop music on to future generations, EPATU was officially launched on the 18th of January in 2010. Before its inception, organizers from around the country worked tirelessly through workshops and conferences in preparation.
Each individual school operates according to the needs of the communities in which it resides but all are expected to incorporate political formation into their coursework. Generally, one day a week is devoted to discussions and workshops that cover topics anywhere from racism to consumerism and cultural imperialism. Other nights are saved for the four elements of hip-hop (breakdancing, emceeing, graffiti and DJing).
Before the official commencement of EPATU, HHR put out a statement that reads
“We realize that the struggle of our movement begins within ourselves; we must try to destroy our individualities and understand that alone no progress is possible. Our culture is collective from its roots, for this reason we look beyond the four elements of our movement, we view our cultural creation as an act of freedom that can neither be bought nor sold, traded nor negotiated; it is simply for living and building.” (Read more)
In a country undergoing radical political change known to many inside Venezuela as the “Bolivarian Process”, EPATU organizers hope to keep the movement autonomous of state as well as private institutions. As the national lead organizer, Julia Mendez notes, however “We are a 100% revolutionary organization and we fully support the [Bolivarian] Process.”
President Hugo Chavez has given support back and has gone so far as to invite numerous hip-hop artists from HHR onto his well-known Sunday television program, Aló Presidente. As La Vega coordinator, Tirso Maldanado argues, however, “our allegiance is not with the government nor with the President but rather with our community.”
EPATU recently formed a relationship with the Ministry of the Communes but many of the promised resources have yet to arrive at the schools. As a result, national coordinators promote local projects to help sustain each individual EPATU school. Encouraging schools to do their own fundraising or begin their own businesses, organizers want to see EPATU last long-term, independent of who is in office.
The movement of course is not without its own contradictions. While the main coordinator of EPATU is a female, the schools are overwhelmingly dominated by males. In a country known for its extreme machismo, however, the movement has arguably made strides in allowing women to express their own frustrations with the current status quo.
And while coordinators try to promote politically conscious music, youth often have a difficult time differentiating between corporate rap from abroad and music coming from their own communities. Images of flashy cars and scarcely dressed women give false illusions to youth about what the music represents and makes the work of the coordinators that much more difficult.
Yet, despite the obstacles EPATU continues to grow. Finishing off its first year, it has been successful enough that hip-hop artists from abroad have used it as a model for their own communities back home. Most importantly, though, it has set a standard for so-called conscious hip-hop artists to live up to their own lyrics by putting their work as community members and educators ahead of their individual careers. While in the United States, artists have gone so far as to claim the death of hip-hop, in the barrios of Venezuela its legacy lives on.
Lainie Cassel is an independent journalist based in Caracas, Venezuela and New York City. She can be reached at Lainie.Cassel[at]gmail[dot]com.
Colombia Central Bank Is Expected To Again Raise Key Rate
Darcy Crowe. Dow Jones Newswires. March 16, 2011
BOGOTA (Dow Jones)--Colombia's central bank is expected to increase its benchmark interest rate in its next monetary policy meeting on Friday to squash persistent fears of faster inflation.
A survey by Dow Jones Newswires showed that six of the seven analysts polled project that the central bank will raise its rate by 25 basis points, leaving it at 3.5%. During the last monetary policy meeting, the central bank's board surprised analysts by raising the rate by 25 basis points, the first increase in nearly ten months.
The central bank suggested that it would continue to gradually increase its benchmark rate this year. Alberto Ramos, an economist with Goldman Sachs, expects the central bank to engage in gradual rate increases over the coming monthsthat would place the benchmark rate at 4.5% for the end of 2011.
Inflation accelerated in the last few months of 2010, propelled by torrential rains that damaged crops and pushed food prices higher. "The risk of higher food prices is still the key factor and that has not changed since the last meeting in February," said Daniel Lozano, an analyst with local brokerage firm Serfinco SA.
Agriculture Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo warned last week that Colombia could be entering another season of heavy rains that could damage croplands. Restrepo said that 14% of Colombia's farmland had been affected by the rains and that the process of recovering those lands in some cases would be very slow.
Food prices are a decisive component in Colombia's inflation index, accounting for 28% of the consumer price index (CPI). The central bank has dismissed the surge in food prices as temporary and has instead focused on surging domestic demand and rising bank loans to explain its decision to hike rates.
Inflation gave signs of slowing in February when CPI rose 0.6%, below the market consensus that projected a 1% increase.For the last 12 months inflation stands at 3.17%, within the central bank's target range of 2% to 4%.
The central bank moved to increase its key rate even as it remains uncertain about the level of economic growth that Colombia could see in 2011, the bank suggested in its minutes for the last meeting. The central bank expects the economy to grow 4.5% in 2011 while a similar figure is also estimated for last year.
The milder price increases in January are likely to push the central bank to keep on hold its benchmark rate on Friday, says Julian Marquez, an economist with local brokerage Interbolsa SA. Marquez expects the central bank to resume the rate hikes at a later meeting to close the year at 4.5%.
The rising global uncertainty spawning from the devastating tsunami that struck Japan could also push some members of the board to move to postpone any rate hikes, said Munir Jalil, the chief economist at Colombia's Citigroup unit. Jalil still expects that the central bank will hike interest rates by 25 basis points, but warned that the chances that the rate could remain on hold in the next meeting have increased in the last few days.
If the bank does decide to keep the rate on hold it could risk sending out mixed signals to the market, Celfin Capital, an investment firm, said in a research note. Celfin also expects the central bank to increase its rate by 25 basis points on Friday.
-By Darcy Crowe, Dow Jones Newswires; 57-1-703 8953;
Colombia Farc 'drug boss' Oliver Solarte killed
BBC. March 16, 2011
Colombia's armed forces say they have killed a Farc rebel leader who acted as the group's main contact with Mexico's drug cartels.
The rebel known as Oliver Solarte controlled drugs and weapons smuggling operations in southern Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos said.
He died in an attack on rebel positions near the border with Ecuador.
It is the latest in a series of blows to the guerrillas, who have lost many of their top leaders in recent years.
President Santos said the death of Oliver Solarte was an "important blow" to the left-wing group.
""I want to tell them once again that if they keep doing what they are doing they will fall one by one, because we are not going to let down our guard and we have many others in our sights," Mr Santos added at a news conference.
Hours earlier, the armed forces said it had killed six rebels in a separate operation in the region of La Macarena, further to the north.
Another 12 guerrillas surrendered in that operation, the army said.
The Farc is the oldest and largest of Colombia's left-wing rebel groups.
In recent years it has suffered serious military setbacks, losing about half its fighters and many of its top commanders.
But it is still has several thousand guerrillas and operates in large areas of rural Colombia, particularly in the south and east, and is well funded by its involvement in the cocaine trade.
Western Andean Region [contents]
Ecuador Seeks $1 Billion Funding for Projects Near Peru Border
Nathan Gill. March 15, 2011. Bloomberg
Ecuador is seeking about $1 billion in financing for infrastructure projects to boost growth near its border with Peru, the country’s planning secretariat said.
Ecuador needs about $700 million through 2013 for public works, including dredging the Port of Jeli to improve access for exporters in the country’s southern mining and agricultural region, Marcelo Torres, executive director of Plan Binacional, the national planning secretary’s border development authority, said.
A further $300 million is required for drinking water projects in towns along the Peruvian border, Torres said today in an interview in Quito.
The South American country is seeking financing from local and foreign investors, governments including Spain, Germany and Italy, and multilateral lending agencies, Torres said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Nathan Gill in Quito at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bill Faries at email@example.com
Ecuador Banks' January Net Profit Up 87% At $29.4 Mln
Dow Jones Newswires. March 16, 2011
QUITO (Dow Jones)--Twenty-four private banks operating in Ecuador, plus the state-run Banco del Pacifico, posted a combined $29.43 million net profit in January, up 87% from $15.72 million in the same month last year, the country's banking regulator said.
Banco del Pichincha CA (PCH.GU), Banco de Guayaquil, Banco del Pacifico and Banco Bolivariano topped the list, with $10.58 million, $3.72 million, $3.52 million and $2.15 million in earnings, respectively, according to the report.
The four banks accounted for 68% of the reported combined income and 60% of Ecuador's banking assets.
Another 6% of the reported income came from foreign banks, the U.S.'s Citigroup Inc. (C), Dutch-German Procredit and Panama's Promerica.
According to official data, assets in the banking system totaled $20.37 billion in January, while liabilities were $18.25 billion.
Sight deposits totaled $12.03 billion, term deposits $4.13 billion and investments $2.70 billion.
-By Mercedes Alvaro, Dow Jones Newswires; 5939-9728-653; firstname.lastname@example.org
In Ecuador, disabled vice president is inspiration to others
JIM WYSS. Miami Herald. March 16, 2011
QUITO, Ecuador -- The ornate lobby of the nation’s vice presidential palace is teeming with people in wheelchairs and on crutches, mothers leading the blind and the developmentally disabled.
Many are here because they believe that the man upstairs is one of their own.
Ever since a thief’s bullet ripped through his spine 13 years ago, Ecuador’s vice president, Lenín Moreno, has been paralyzed from the waist down. When he was elected second-in-command of this Andean nation in 2007, he became one of the highest ranking politicians in Latin American history to have a visible disability.
Sitting in a wheelchair behind a wide wooden desk at his office, Moreno, 58, is quick to downplay his historic role.
There have been congressmen and judges in wheelchairs before, he said. There have been Latin American presidents with speech impediments, and Joaquín Balaguer, the former president of the Dominican Republic, was in his 90s and legally blind when he won a third term.
“We’re all handicapped at some moment in our life — whether it’s as children or as seniors,” Moreno told The Miami Herald. “So I’m sure I’m not the only one.”
What is certain is that Moreno and President Rafael Correa have done more to promote the rights of people with serious disabilities in Ecuador than any administration in recent memory.
The vice presidency spearheaded the first door-to-door survey to locate and identify the nation’s disabled population; the administration has increased the budget for disabled care from about $100,000 a year to $65 million per year, and it has required businesses to reserve one out of every 25 jobs for people with disabilities.
Just as important, Moreno’s high-profile status has helped shine a spotlight on a segment of the population that had long been ostracized.
On his trips around the country, Moreno said he has encountered people with disabilities who have been hidden from public view in sheds and chicken coops.
“There was a time when a disability was considered God’s punishment — it was almost like they had been cursed by the devil,” he said. “Even today, people with disabilities are wary of showing themselves in public.”
Several times a month, the vice presidency organizes events designed to get those with disabilities onto the street, and Moreno often leads rallies for disabled people.
Such acts have won the administration fierce loyalty. When Correa was detained in a hospital by disgruntled policemen in September, a contingent of wheelchair-users joined the throngs demanding his release.
With his legs shriveled by polio as a child, Segundo Torres, 42, is just a few feet high and gets around in a wheelchair. He makes a living by playing songs — including a rendition of Hotel California — on a pan flute on the streets of Quito.
“This government has helped lift our spirits,” said Torres, who keeps a picture of Correa and Moreno on his mobile phone. “And they’ve taught me that I can be an example for other disabled people. But this country still has a long way to go.”
While discrimination is still the top obstacle, the nation’s infrastructure also makes it difficult for disabled people to find work, Torres said.
Like many Latin American nations, public transportation in Ecuador is rarely accessible. Wheelchair ramps are scarce, and sidewalks — where they exist — are often pitted with holes.
But not everyone is convinced that Moreno is good for the long-term health of the nation’s disabled population.
Carlos Valdivieso is the secretary general of Ecuador’s Paralympic Federation. A one-time advisor to the vice president, he said he broke with Moreno because he feared that institutions and nonprofits that have long dealt with handicapped people were being sidelined. The National Council for the Disabled, for example, was absorbed by the vice presidency.
“All the responsibility for controlling, executing and maintaining programs for the disabled are under the vice presidency, where they shouldn’t necessarily be,” he said. “What happens if the vice president gets sick, or needs to step down or — even worse — he dies? The new vice president may not care about disabled issues.”
Moreno calls those fears unfounded. He said by the end of his term in 2013, all the programs being run by the vice presidency will be moved to the ministries of health, education and other government entities.
There are also those who question the government’s statistics. By most counts, about 10 percent of the global population has some sort of disability. Those rates spike among the poor, where the World Bank estimates 20 percent are disabled.
Ecuador’s study — which was done in conjunction with Cuban doctors — found 294,611 Ecuadorians with serious disabilities, or about 4 percent of the population. That’s lower than the United States, where about 12 percent of the population is considered disabled, and lower than the regional average.
Moreno said global statistics are imprecise and inflated, and are being touted by organizations that hope to receive more resources by overstating the problem.
The people identified in Ecuador’s survey “are just the citizens who need priority attention as granted by the Constitution,” he said.
Moreno was born in the remote river town of Nuevo Rocafuerte — in the Ecuadorian Amazon along the Peruvian border — and studied public administration in the nation’s capital.
He held a post in the Ministry of the Interior in 1996, but much of his early career was spent in the tourism sector. In 1998 thieves who were after Moreno’s car shot him point-blank as he bought bread in Quito. The bullet lodged in his spine leaving him a paraplegic. After the attack, Moreno said he spent almost four years in severe pain “virtually bedridden.”
Among the few things that eased his suffering — at least temporarily — was laughing. That realization launched a career as a motivational speaker and led him to write five books about laugh therapy.
Asked about his favorite joke, Moreno deflects the question and launches into a scholarly discussion about humor and why gags are an inferior form of the art.
“The only thing jokes do is allow our internal pressure cooker to explode,” he said. “A good sense of humor is more subtle. It’s the best defense we have against life’s problems.”
Peru Police, Army Brass Convicted for Deadly Clash with Indians
EFE. March 15, 2011
LIMA – A Peruvian military court handed down suspended prison sentences to three senior police and army officers in connection with the deaths of 24 cops and 10 civilians during June 2009 protests in the Amazonian town of Bagua.
What became known as the “Baguazo” was Peru’s deadliest confrontation in a decade.
Retired police Gens. Luis Murguruza and Javier Uribe and army Gen. Raul Silva Alban were convicted of dereliction of duty.
They received suspended prison sentences and were ordered to pay fines ranging from 4,000 soles ($1,428) to 10,000 soles ($3,571).
The Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest, or Aidesep, hailed the verdicts as confirmation that official misconduct can no longer be swept under the rug.
Aidesep was the main organizer of the 2009 protests in Bagua.
In a statement, Aidesep leader Alberto Pizango contrasted the action of the military court with President Alan Garcia’s decision to shield his Cabinet ministers from any accountability “for the regrettable events in Bagua.”
Though then-Premier Yehude Simon and the rest of the Cabinet resigned after the Baguazo, no member of the government has faced any judicial consequences.
Aidesep said Peru’s indigenous peoples are hoping that Garcia, who will leave office this summer, “has the valor to conclude his administration by cleansing the hands stained with blood.”
The events leading up to the Baguazo began in April 2009, when indigenous people opposed to laws – since repealed – giving Lima power to grant mining, logging and drilling concessions on Indian lands without consulting residents disrupted transport links and seized control of oil-industry installations, effectively shutting down a pipeline that carries crude oil from the Amazon interior to Peru’s northern coast.
Indians said the laws violated Peru’s commitment to international accords that require governments to consult with indigenous peoples about measures affecting their interests.
The dispute became violent on June 5, 2009, as police used force to evict the protesters from a key highway near Bagua.
Official figures indicated 24 police and 10 Indians died, but Aidesep said dozens of protesters were killed. EFE
Mexico, Central America and Caribbean [contents]
U.S. Drones Fight Mexican Drug Trade
GINGER THOMPSON and MARK MAZZETTI. New York Times. March 15, 2011
WASHINGTON — Stepping up its involvement in Mexico’s drug war, the Obama administration has begun sending drones deep into Mexican territory to gather intelligence that helps locate major traffickers and follow their networks, according to American and Mexican officials.
The Pentagon began flying high-altitude, unarmed drones over Mexican skies last month, American military officials said, in hopes of collecting information to turn over to Mexican law enforcement agencies. Other administration officials said a Homeland Security drone helped Mexican authorities find several suspects linked to the Feb. 15 killing of Jaime Zapata, a United States Immigration and Customs EnforcementImmigration agent.
President Obama and his Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderón, formally agreed to continue the surveillance flights during a White House meeting on March 3. The American assistance has been kept secret because of legal restrictions in Mexico and the heated political sensitivities there about sovereignty, the officials said.
Before the outbreak of drug violence in Mexico that has left more than 34,000 dead in the past four years, such an agreement would have been all but unthinkable, they said.
Pentagon, State Department, Homeland Security and Mexican officials declined to comment publicly about the introduction of drones in Mexico’s counternarcotics efforts. But some officials, speaking only on the condition of anonymity, said the move was evidence of the two countries’ deepening cooperation in efforts to prevail over a common threat.
In addition to expanding the use of drones, the two leaders agreed to open a counternarcotics “fusion” center, the second such facility in Mexico, where Mexican and American agencies would work together, the officials said.
In recent years, the United States has steadily stepped up its role in fighting Mexican drug trafficking, though officials offer few details of the cooperation. The greatest growth involves intelligence gathering, with Homeland Security and the American military flying manned aircraft and drones along the United States’ southern border — and now over Mexican territory — that are capable of peering deep into Mexico and tracking criminals’ communications and movements, officials said.
In addition, the United States trains thousands of Mexican troops and police officers, collaborates with specially vetted Mexican security units, conducts eavesdropping in Mexico and upgrades Mexican security equipment and intelligence technology, according to American law enforcement and intelligence officials.
“It wasn’t that long ago when there was no way the D.E.A. could conduct the kinds of activities they are doing now,” said Mike Vigil, a retired chief of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration. “And the only way they’re going to be able to keep doing them is by allowing Mexico to have plausible deniability.”
In addition to wariness by Mr. Calderón’s government about how the American intervention might be perceived at home, the Mexican Constitution prohibits foreign military and law enforcement agents from operating in Mexico except under extremely limited conditions, Mexican officials said, so the legal foundation for such activity may be shaky. In the United States, lawmakers have expressed doubts that Mexico, whose security agencies are rife with corruption, is a reliable partner.
Before Mr. Obama met with Mr. Calderón at the White House, diplomatic tensions threatened to weaken the cooperation between their governments. State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks had reported criticism of the Mexican government by American diplomats, setting off a firestorm of resentment in Mexico. Then in February, outrage in Washington over Mr. Zapata’s murder prompted Mexican officials to complain that the United States government paid attention to drug violence only when it took the life of an American citizen.
In the end, however, mutual interests prevailed in the March 3 meeting after a frank exchange of grievances, Mexican and American officials said.
Mr. Calderón told Mr. Obama that his country had borne the brunt of a scourge driven by American guns and drug consumption, and urged the United States to do more to help. Mr. Obama, worried about Mexico falling into chaos and about violence spilling over the border, said his administration was eager to play a more central role, the officials said.
The leaders emphasized “the value of information sharing,” a senior Mexican official said, adding that they recognized “the responsibilities shared by both governments in the fight against criminal organizations on both sides of the border.”
A senior American administration official noted that all “counternarcotics activities were conducted at the request and direction of the Mexican government.”
Mr. Calderón is “intensely nationalistic, but he’s also very pragmatic,” said Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “He’s not really a fan of the United States, but he knows he needs their help, so he’s willing to push the political boundaries.”
Mexican and American officials said that their cooperative efforts had been crucial to helping Mexico capture and kill at least 20 high-profile drug traffickers, including 12 in the last year alone. All those traffickers, Mexican officials said, had been apprehended thanks to intelligence provided by the United States.
Still, much of the cooperation is shrouded in secrecy. Mexican and American authorities, for example, initially denied that the first fusion center, established over a year ago in Mexico City, shared and analyzed intelligence. Some officials now say that Mexican and American law enforcement agencies work together around the clock, while others characterize it more as an operational outpost staffed almost entirely by Americans.
Mexican and American officials say Mexico turns a blind eye to American wiretapping of the telephone lines of drug-trafficking suspects, and similarly to American law enforcement officials carrying weapons in violation of longstanding Mexican restrictions.
Officials on both sides of the border also said that Mexico asked the United States to use its drones to help track suspects’ movements. The officials said that while Mexico had its own unmanned aerial vehicles, they did not have the range or high-resolution capabilities necessary for certain surveillance activities.
One American military official said the Pentagon had flown a number of flights over the past month using the Global Hawk drones — a spy plane that can fly higher than 60,000 feet and survey about 40,000 square miles of territory in a day. They cannot be readily seen by drug traffickers — or ordinary Mexicans — on the ground.
But no one would say exactly how many drone flights had been conducted by the United States, or how many were anticipated under the new agreement. The officials cited the secrecy of drug investigations, and concerns that airing such details might endanger American and Mexican officials on the ground.
Lt. Col. Robert L. Ditchey, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday that “the Department of Defense, in coordination with the State Department, is working closely with the Mexican military and supports their efforts to counter transnational criminal organizations,” but did not comment specifically on the American drone flights.
Similarly, Matt Chandler, a Homeland Security spokesman, said it would be “inappropriate to comment” on the use of drones in the Zapata case, citing the continuing investigation.
Though cooperation with Mexico had significantly improved, the officials said, it was still far from perfect. And American officials acknowledged there were still internal lapses of coordination, with the Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration at times unaware of one another’s operations.
More than anything, though, officials expressed concern about reigniting longstanding Mexican concerns about the United States’ usurping Mexico’s authority.
“I think most Mexicans, especially in areas of conflict, would be fine about how much the United States is involved in the drug war, because things have gotten so scary they just want to see the bad guys get caught,” said Mr. Selee of the Wilson Center. “But the Mexican government is afraid of the more nationalistic elements in the political elite, so they tend to hide it.”
Mexican Judges Resign Amid Outcry Over Ruling
AP. March 15, 2011
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — Three judges have resigned following an uproar over their acquittal of a man in the killing of a teenage girl in northern Mexico.
The girl's mother herself was then killed while staging a demonstration to protest the ruling. The man who was acquitted is also the main suspect in the mother's death.
A statement late Monday from the Chihuahua state courts system says the judges resigned Friday. The Chihuahua legislature had impeached them in January.
The case of Marisela Escobedo and her daughter Rubi has provoked widespread criticism of Mexico's judicial reform. Chihuahua was the first state that adopted a system of oral trials and stricter standards for evidence. The judges say they followed the law.
Cooperatives Offer an Alternative
Emilio Godoy. Inter-Press Service. March 15, 2011
MEXICO CITY, Mar 15, 2011 (IPS) - After years of decline, the cooperative movement in Mexico is reviving as a relatively safe haven from the shocks of the neoliberal free- market model of production and the financial and food crises that have affected the country.
"Cooperatives have had a positive impact on job creation, investment, education and health. They have helped drive community development," Juan Domínguez, general coordinator of the Cooperative of Advisers for Social Progress (SCAAS), which has worked with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) since 1990, told IPS.
Domínguez, a member of the National Network of Researchers and Educators in Cooperativism and Solidarity Economics, is the author of two research publications, the most recent of which is a 2007 book titled "Las cooperativas, polos de desarrollo regional en México" (Cooperatives: Poles of Regional Development in Mexico).
In 2005 a group of bean farmers in the northern state of Zacatecas formed a cooperative called "El Granero Nacional" (National Granary), a wholesale centre for agricultural supplies and comprehensive services, to facilitate storage and marketing.
"The cooperative has made a real difference; one of the main advantages is bulk marketing," José Villegas, president of the 600-member cooperative, told IPS. "Farmers store their produce in the warehouses and the cooperative sells it. We also acquire equipment that farmers would not be able to buy on their own."
Each member of the cooperative farms an average of 20 hectares, with an average yield of one tonne per hectare. In 2010 the agriculture ministry guaranteed a price of 0.67 dollars per kilogram of beans.
There are some 15,000 cooperatives in Mexico, most of them consumer or producer cooperatives, with a total membership of about five million people, according to information from the Social Development Fund of the Mexico City Federal District government.
In this country of 112 million people, the unemployment rate is 5.4 percent of the economically active population of 46 million people, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI).
But cooperatives have scant access to public and private financing, which hampers their creation and operation, so the cooperative movement in Mexico is lagging behind that of other Latin American countries.
In the Americas, this particular expression of the social economy has grown from north to south. In the United States, for example, there were 29,000 cooperatives in 2009, with 80 million members, and in Argentina there were nearly 18,000 cooperatives with some nine million members, according to the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).
In Mexico, people involved in cooperatives complain of lack of support. "There are too few resources, there is very little start-up capital and it is difficult to buy supplies and acquire infrastructure," Alma Ortega told IPS.
Ortega founded two cooperatives in Mexico City in the 1990s, in transportation and marketing of goods. Between them they have 22 members, and they are both now self-supporting.
The law that regulates cooperatives, in force in Mexico since 1994, defines them as organisations based on "common interests and the principles of solidarity, self-help and mutual aid, in order to meet individual and collective needs, through the economic activities of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services."
But loopholes in the law have created problems in implementation and enforcement. Senator Jorge Ocejo of the governing rightwing National Action Party (PAN), chair of the Senate committee on economic development, promised in February that a new law would be drafted to correct them.
Ocejo pointed out that, far from being poor or representing a marginalised economy, cooperatives in Mexico have total assets of over 8.3 billion dollars, and need a law to stimulate them as well as provide them with legal security.
The resurgence of cooperatives was boosted by initiatives adopted since 2006 by the Federal District, governed by the leftwing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).
In 2006 the Federal District approved the Cooperative Development Law, and in 2009 the city government launched a programme to promote the social economy, in all its various forms.
PRD Senator René Arce said that 15 percent of the country's economically active population is involved in alternative methods of production. Apart from cooperatives, there are 26,000 "ejidos" or communities where the land is collectively owned, and 600 worker-owned businesses.
"This segment of society practises mutual aid and solidarity, exercising direct democracy and economic practices centred on human development," Arce said.
"The most difficult, yet the most accessible, scenario is to make headway in the market," said Domínguez. "We want to develop the inter-cooperative market, so that buying and selling raw materials and supplies between the cooperatives themselves becomes a priority. It's a fairly untapped area."
Although there are no exact figures for the share of GDP attributable to cooperatives, the 2007 study showed that in 17 of Mexico's 32 states, 200 worker-managed businesses played a significant role in regional development.
Fishing cooperatives were the most numerous, and had a large impact on their communities. Many producers' cooperatives have focused on niche markets, such as the one for organic coffee, under fair trade marketing schemes.
A group of NGOs has called for reform of Article 25 of the Mexican constitution with the aim of promoting the social economy.
"We should modernise our cleaning equipment, which is already 20 or 25 years old, and the system for purchasing supplies, so that they will be available for producers when they need them," said Villegas, of the National Granary cooperative, which has 8,000 tonnes of warehouse capacity. "We also want to develop contract farming, so that farmers have a guaranteed buyer."
"Cooperatives are a good way of creating jobs and fighting the food crisis," said Ortega, who is a member of the independent Mexican Institute for Cooperative Development (IMDECOOP), founded in 1996. "That's why we are working for the formation of more cooperatives, and for them to have projects with real impact," she said.
The United Nations has declared 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives, under the slogan "Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World." Cooperatives directly employ more than 100 million people worldwide, according to the U.N.
The first Saturday in July is International Day of Cooperatives, adopted by the United Nations in 1992. Its theme this year is "Youth, the future of cooperative enterprise." The cooperative movement also has its own domain name for internet addresses, .coop.
The ICA, founded in 1895 and with a membership of one billion people in 91 countries, will hold its general assembly in November in the southeastern Mexican Caribbean resort of Cancún. (END)
Drafting Honduran Democracy
As repression continues, the National Front of the Popular Resistance plans a constitutional convention.
Jeremy Kryt. In These Times. March 16, 2011
TEGUCIGALPA—This is what democracy looks like: On February 26, 2011, the National Front of the Popular Resistance (FNRP) held its inaugural Constitutional Assembly in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. Some of the delegates were peasants. Others were professors. But there were no military strongmen and no puppet politicians. Instead, 1,500 ordinary citizens, elected by municipalities from across the country, met to debate and vote on a series of resolutions aimed at crafting a new, more participatory national charter.
“It’s a historic moment,” FNRP Coordinator Juan Barahona told In These Times. “Never before have the Honduran people had a political voice with which to speak. … Always they have lived as slaves of the oligarchy.”
The FNRP—comprised of teachers, students, trade unionists, human rights NGOs and many other progressive groups—sprung up in the wake of the military coup against President Manuel Zelaya in June 2009. Zelaya had enraged the nation’s elites by bowing to popular pressure for constitutional reform and attempting to hold a nonbinding opinion poll on the issue. Since the putsch, Honduras has been plagued by human rights abuses as the government has sought to repress pro-democracy demonstrators. More than 100 people have died, and thousands more have been beaten, gassed and illegally detained during demonstrations.
Because of the ongoing human rights violations, the delegates to the Constitutional Assembly voted against forming a political party to take part in traditional elections. Until the human rights abuses stop, says Barahona, the FNRP will focus on mobilizing and organizing its large base for June 28, 2011, the two-year anniversary of the coup, when a smaller pool of elected delegates will meet to hammer out a new constitution.
The FNRP has gathered more than 1.3 million signatures from Honduran voters in favor of constitutional reform. But despite this show of popular support, much-disputed President Porfirio Lobo has refused to confirm that he will permit changes to the current constitution, which was authored in 1982 under a brutal military dictatorship. According to Barahona, the people will not wait for Lobo’s permission. “There is nothing the coup-mongers can do to kill our hunger for liberty. Just as in Egypt, just as in Libya, the people are rising up.”
While the Obama administration has been quick to praise the democratic revolutions taking place across the oil-rich Middle East, it has taken a very different attitude toward the ideologically similar grassroots movement in Honduras. The State Department has asked the U.S. Congress to allocate $68 million for Honduras this fiscal year, and human rights experts say much of that money will go toward training and military hardware. “There’s no question that funding from the U.S. is resulting in human rights abuses,” says Jennifer Atlee, codirector of the Friendship Office of the Americas, a Maryland-based think tank. Atlee believes a new constitution could help alleviate what she calls “the historical and systemic causes of exploitation in Honduras.”
Like Resistance leader Barahona, Atlee sees similarities between what is going on in Honduras and the Middle East. “The masses can no longer bear the lack of freedom,” she says, “and the world has had to accept that.”
Jeremy Kryt is a graduate of the Indiana University School of Journalism and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has been reporting from Honduras since August 2009, and his coverage of the crisis there has appeared, or is forthcoming, in The Earth Island Journal, Huffington Post, Alternet and The Narco News Bulletin, among other publications.
Honduras forgets Argentina and Brazil; will open trade offices in India and China
Mercopress. March 16, 2011
Honduras is planning to close embassies in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela countries which do not recognize the government of President Porfirio Lobo.
Resources invested in these embassies will be used to open trade offices in India, Singapore, China and Canada said on Tuesday Foreign Affairs minister Mario Canahuati speaking with the press in Tegucigalpa.
“Embassies which will remain open in the region are Colombia, Peru and Chile, three countries which effectively recognize the government of President Lobo” added Canahuati who anticipated that relations with the other South American countries will have to be done through these legations.
“We can’t stop having relations with Latin America, but it’s better to have friends than enemies”.
The opening of trade offices in India, Singapore, China and Canada will help Honduras “establish relations that can open the way for strategic alliances which we need to boost our development and open new markets for our exports”, said the top Honduran official.
Canahuati made the statements before travelling to neighbouring Guatemala where he will be holding discussions working up for the meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the leaders of the Central America Integration System, SICA.
Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela do not recognize the government of President Lobo since they consider it a continuation of the 28 June 2009 coup that ousted ex-president Manuel Zelaya, and whose unconditional return to Honduras these countries demand.
President Zelaya was flown out of the country in pyjamas by the military following on instructions from the Honduran Congress and Judiciary branch, since he was accused of allegedly organizing a constitutional referendum that would open the way for his re-election, strictly banned under the Honduran constitution.
Guatemalans sue US over 1940s STD study
AFP. March 15, 2011
WASHINGTON — Seven Guatemalans filed a class action lawsuit in Washington over a 1940s US study in which hundreds of people in the Central American nation were deliberately infected with syphilis and gonorrhea without their consent.
The suit by the Guatemalans, filed against the US Department of Health and Human Services, involves "medical experimentation that took place in Guatemala from... 1946 to 1948 and lasted potentially several decades more at the hands of American and Guatemalan doctors," read a copy of the suit, which AFP saw on Tuesday.
The suit also names "US government officials who continued to operate the program once it was established."
The Guatemalan study, which was never published, came to light in 2010 after Wellesley College professor Susan Reverby stumbled upon archived documents outlining the experiment led by controversial US doctor John Cutler.
The study "involved at least 700 tests subjects and thousands of others were impacted" by the defendant's "non consensual human medical experimentation," the class-action complaint read.
President Barack Obama personally apologized to Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom in October when the case first surfaced, then ordered a thorough review of what happened.
The case, filed in US federal court, cites the Tuskegee Experiment in Alabama, in which hundreds of African-American men with late-stage syphilis were observed but given no treatment between 1932 and 1972. Cutler was also involved in that study, and those victims were compensated.
In Guatemala, Cutler and his fellow researchers enrolled 1,500 people, including mental patients, for the study, which aimed to find out if penicillin could be used to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
Initially, the researchers infected female Guatemalan commercial sex workers with gonorrhea or syphilis, and then allowed them to have unprotected sex with soldiers or prison inmates.
The head of a bioethics commission that Obama convened to look into the case said the Guatemala research was "clearly terribly wrong," and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the experiments as "clearly unethical."
The plaintiffs are seeking "compensatory and punitive damages... in an amount to be determined at trial."
The case is being handled by two US attorney firms, Florida-based Conrad & Scherer and New York-based Parker Waichman Alonso.
Mexico Drug Cartels Moving in on Guatemala Routes
TALEA MILLER. PBS Newshour. March 15, 2011
Mexican drug cartels are carving out new territory in northern Guatemala, adding another layer of violence and crime to a country with one of the highest murder rates in the hemisphere.
In December the Guatemalan government declared a two-month state of siege in the rural province of Alta Verapaz, bordering Mexico, in order to crack down on the growing influence of the notorious Mexico-based Los Zetas cartel.
"Drug traffickers have us cornered," Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom told the country's Congress in January. "Just the weapons seized in Alta Verapaz are more than those of some army brigades."
The state of siege deployed hundreds of Guatemalan soldiers in the region and allowed them to carry out searches and detain suspects without warrants. By the final day in February, 18 people allegedly involved in Los Zetas were arrested and reported crimes decreased by 50 percent, said Leslie Pérez, spokesperson for Guatemala's Interior Ministry.
But many question if those gains can last now that the initiative has ended.
"We are aware the these criminals are waiting for us to retreat so they can return, but no security units will leave," Colom told journalists.
While residents said the siege did, at least temporarily, drive away many of the powerful cartel figures, people still fear a return to the previous levels of violence, said Lorne Matalon, a reporter for Public Radio International's "The World." Matalon was in Coban in February to cover the results of the siege.
"[Before December] there were weekly if not daily shootouts in the town square between rival drug dealers. There are numerous reports of women being snatched off the street and stuffed into dark SUVs," he said. "[The cartels] rule by fear, they would make sure that you could see them in the streets of Coban…. they knew they were beyond the reach of the law."
Guatemala already had a massive problem with organized crime, especially in Guatemala City, but the Mexico drug cartels are a new, well-resourced threat looking to cash in on the country's strategic placement on the drug trade trail through Latin America. The country contributes to more than 60 percent of the cocaine trafficked to the United States from the region, according to the U.S. State Department.
With Mexico beefing up efforts against the cartels within its borders, and the U.S. helping clamp down on illegal trafficking by air and water, the land routes through Guatemala are even more attractive.
"The climate in Mexico has gotten more competitive and so the forms of crime these groups are engaged in have expanded and there is a push to take control of strategic routes," said Nick Miroff, a Washington Post reporter who was in Guatemala last month and regularly covers the issue in Mexico. "Drug shipments are coming up from Colombia or Panama, landing in Honduras then coming over land."
Add those factors to the weak institutions and justice system in the country and Guatemala is "the perfect place to commit a crime," said Adriana Beltrán, head of the citizen security program at the Washington Office of Latin America, a nonprofit that promotes human rights in the region.
"The likelihood of you being arrested and facing trial for any act is low," she said. "You have a private sector that often refuses to pay taxes, problems of corruption, oversight and accountability."
Even Guatemala's newly-appointed attorney general, Claudia Paz, agrees.
"Guatemala's state is a very weak state. It doesn't have the resources to face problems as grave as that of narco-trafficking," she said. "For traffickers to move down here was very easy because there are some areas of this country where practically there is no presence of the state."
Under the Merida Initiative approved in 2008, the United States has appropriated nearly $1.6 billion to help Mexico and the countries of Central America and the Caribbean combat organized crime groups and strengthen institutions. But less than 20 percent of the funds were allotted to Central America, with the vast majority going to Mexico.
Citing the deteriorating security situation in Central America, an additional $165 million in U.S. assistance was designated for the region through the Central America Regional Security Initiative, formed in 2010.
"We understand that Central America is a bridge for many criminal elements," a senior State Department official told the NewsHour. "Therefore it would be virtually impossible or extremely difficult to contain criminality or violence in Mexico or the Caribbean or Colombia without being able to manage or improve the situation in Central America."
The Guatemalan government has made some promising progress, including increasing resources for security, but more could be done, the official said, "including reforming the police and improving the ability of the government to prosecute effectively the crimes."
Perez said a state of siege is being considered in other parts of the country but no decisions have been made yet. The military is keeping a presence in Alta Verapaz in the meantime, but in areas where there are not soldiers, drug cartels could face little opposition, said Matalon.
"The government's complete absence from vast remote areas means there is a power vacuum of sorts that Los Zetas have been able to exploit it," he said.
"They offer 'plato o plomo, money or bullets'. In essence they say to farmers whose land they want 'You can sell to us and leave this area walking, or you can refuse and you will be carried out of here feet first.'"
Region: Trade, Security, Economy and Integration [contents]
UPI. March 16, 2011
RIO DE JANEIRO, March 16 (UPI) -- Prospects for a workable trade pact between Latin America's Mercosur economic bloc and the European Union appear far from certain amid continuing bickering over the impact that free commodities trade may have on European farming communities.
European agricultural industries are fearful of competitive or cheaper produce from Latin America stifling competition from European farmers. The European Union's negotiators, for their part, want an early accord to start benefiting from the region's growing spending power and vast consumer markets.
Mercosur nations have a combined population 267 million and a total gross domestic product of $2.9 trillion.
This week EU and Mercosur negotiations began a new round of talks in Brussels on finalizing the draft of an association and trade agreement. Although draft texts for signature were discussed there was little sign of an early agreement on the sensitive matter of freer Latin American meat exports.
European livestock farmers are up in arms over suggestions that in return for securing a Mercosur open-door policy on European exports to Latin America the EU may liberalize meat imports from Mercosur member states Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay as well as associate members Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru and Venezuela, a full member awaiting ratification.
EU and Mercosur negotiators are to meet again in May before a planned summit of Mercosur leaders where aspects of the trade pact would be up for discussion before final signing.
Mercosur nations and the EU began talking about a new trade pact in May 2010 after a hiatus of several years. Despite official EU keenness to push the talks forward, individual European nations were hesitant because of angry response to the talks from farmers' representatives who see a pact with Latin America as a major threat to their interests.
European Commission officials at the talks said they would seek to accommodate views of the European agriculture sector, which remains bitterly opposed to any trade deal with Latin America.
The European Parliament threw its support behind EU farmers and members pledged to safeguard the interests of European agricultural lobbyists during the negotiation processes involving Mercosur members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
European farmers are especially concerned over large-scale exports of beef from Latin America. Mercosur is the world's leading producer and exporter of beef.
However, Mercosur is aiming for a trade-off during the pact negotiation whereby it gets freer access to European markets in return for concessions to European businesses and exporters to Latin America.
Obama to refocus on Latin America amid Chinese push
Matt Spetalnick. Reuters. March 16, 2011
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama travels to Latin America this week seeking to reassert economic leadership in a region Washington once dominated but where it now faces growing competition from China.
On his first trip south of the border in nearly two years, Obama will visit countries where many are sceptical a president preoccupied with Middle East unrest, Japan's nuclear crisis and U.S. domestic problems can offer much to an increasingly independent-minded Latin America.
His March 19-23 tour takes him to South American powerhouse Brazil, free-market success story Chile and tiny El Salvador.
Obama's challenge will be to convince Latin Americans, who have long chafed at U.S. perceptions of their countries as Washington's "backyard," about his commitment to making the region a priority for trade and investment at a time when China is seizing the initiative there.
The trip also has important political implications at home. The White House is touting Latin America as a fertile market for increased exports that Obama sees as a path to creating U.S. jobs, considered crucial to his 2012 re-election chances.
But Latin America, buoyed by growth outstripping the U.S. recovery, is not only diversifying economically but showing it is no longer as willing to take its cues from Washington.
"We can't ignore the Western Hemisphere nor can we take it for granted, because other people are moving in very quickly and very effectively," said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas.
Obama raised expectations at the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad when he promised an "equal partnership" with Latin America based on mutual respect and shared values.
It was seen as a welcome change of tone in a relationship that was often marked by heavy-handed use of U.S. military and economic power for much of the 20th century and evolved into a policy of neglect over the past decade after many countries underwent democratic transformations from military rule.
Though Washington's image has improved from the lows of the Bush era and Obama remains personally popular in Latin America, diplomatic advances have failed to materialise along with hopes for significant easing of a long-standing U.S. embargo on communist Cuba and reform of U.S. immigration laws.
There has also been disappointment at Obama's failure so far to win congressional approval for stalled trade pacts with Colombia and Panama, and over what was widely seen as a muddled U.S. response to the 2009 coup in Honduras.
Preoccupied with crises abroad, budget battles in Congress and his own re-election bid, Latin America seems to have slipped down Obama's agenda, although the White House insists he has been "deeply engaged," meeting the region's leaders regularly at world summits.
"The other countries very much want to see the U.S. engaged in international economic affairs and show leadership." Obama's deputy national security adviser, Mike Froman, told reporters before the trip. "I think the president has done that."
U.S. officials hope that Obama's trip -- his most extensive to the region since taking office -- will reassure America's closest neighbours and help bolster ties.
While the visit will be sweetened with business deals and side agreements, it will yield more symbolism than substance.
It will also underscore that the era when the United States held unquestioned economic sway is over.
China and India are making deeper inroads. Their appetite for raw materials at home is helping to spur growth in the Latin America, which once lagged behind the United States.
Recognition of this trend is reflected in the choice of Brazil, the region's top economy and an emerging world power, as Obama's main stop on his tour.
He wants to take advantage of a chance to repair ties since President Dilma Rousseff took office in January, U.S. officials say. Tensions rose under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva over, among other things, Brazil's overtures to Iran.
Rousseff, a pragmatic leftist, has veered back towards Washington and away from anti-U.S. leaders like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, but she will likely insist on results with Obama.
With China having overtaken the United States as Brazil's leading trade partner, the Obama administration is determined to use the trip to push U.S. interests.
"This trip fundamentally is about the U.S. recovery, U.S. exports, and the critical relationship that Latin America plays in our economic future and jobs," Froman said.
But he made clear that China would be up for discussion between Obama and Rousseff, especially both governments' concerns about what is widely seen as an undervalued yuan.
Obama's visit to Chile will showcase the country as a U.S.-backed model of market reform and stability since it emerged from military dictatorship in the 1980s. He will use Santiago as the setting for a Latin American policy address.
The political counterpoint to Chile, governed by the centre-right, will be Obama's stop in El Salvador. Its new elected government, led by members of a former leftist rebel movement Washington opposed in the Central American country's civil war, is seeking closer ties with the United States.
Obama's itinerary sends a message that he wants to avoid viewing Latin America through the ideological prism that prevailed under his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
But while the visit to El Salvador is also likely to focus on concerns about poverty and the spillover of Mexico's drug war to its neighbours, expectations are low for new aid commitments because of U.S. budget constraints.
There could be hard feelings in countries Obama bypasses. Argentina's media have depicted his choice of two market-friendly neighbours as a snub to President Cristina Fernandez and her interventionist economic policies.
(Additional reporting by Alister Bull in Washington, Brian Winter in Sao Paulo, Simon Gardner in Santiago, Helen Popper in Buenos Aires, Daniel Wallis in Caracas, Jeff Franks in Havana; Editing by Kieran Murray)
Analysis: Rising China threatens U.S. clout in Latin America
Stuart Grudgings and Simon Gardner. Reuters. March 16, 2011
RIO DE JANEIRO/SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Largely shut out by traditional international lenders, Argentina still had a place to turn last year for the billions of dollars it needed to renovate its decrepit railway system -- Beijing.
The $10 billion package agreed with the China Development Bank was another clear sign of China's surging influence in Latin America, transforming the region's economies and undermining U.S. dominance in its traditional "backyard."
China will loom large over U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Latin America this week as he sends a message that Washington remains relevant to a region that owes much of its robust economic health in recent years to Chinese demand.
In both Brazil and Chile, the two South American countries that Obama will visit, China has recently overtaken the United States as the number-one trade partner.
Even in those countries where the United States is still the dominant partner, China is catching up fast.
It has lifted growth for years in commodity producers such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru with its voracious demand for raw goods such as iron ore, copper, and soy.
More recently, it has followed up with a wave of investments and state-backed loans aimed at expanding its access to commodities and tapping demand from Latin America's growing ranks of consumers.
In doing so, China has emerged as an alternative source of funding for Latin American countries' development in areas such as infrastructure and energy that were long dependent on World Bank or IMF loans that came with more strings attached.
"It's a real opportunity for Latin America if they play it right and it's a real challenge to the U.S.," said Kevin Gallagher, an international relations professor at Boston University who co-wrote a book on China in Latin America.
"The Chinese are a kick in the pants for the United States to articulate a little bit more of a serious relationship with the region."
BEGINNINGS OF A BACKLASH
China's growing economic stake in the region may one day raise a threat to Washington's strategic dominance too as its deep pockets bring new friends.
U.S. ally Colombia recently announced it is in talks with China to build a railway linking its Atlantic and Pacific oceans, a possible alternative to the Panama Canal that would boost trade flows with Asia. A network of new highways under construction are due to provide direct links to five ports on Peru's Pacific coast in another sign of how Asian economic power is reshaping regional trade patterns.
While still largely focused on metals and agricultural goods, Chinese investments have begun to spread to the broader economy. China last year became the biggest direct investor in Brazil, the region's largest economy, with about $15 billion worth of projects ranging from a $5 billion steel plant to the purchase of electricity networks for about $1 billion.
It has also built relations with U.S. nemesis Venezuela, whose firebrand President Hugo Chavez said during a 2004 visit to China he had been a Maoist since childhood. China later launched a $400 million communications satellite for Venezuela, reducing its dependence on U.S. and European satellites.
The United States remains the main trade and investment partner for Latin America, accounting for about 40 percent of the region's exports in 2009 compared to China's 7 percent, according to the United Nations' Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
China is rising fast, though -- from virtually nowhere a decade ago -- and is on course to overtake the European Union as the region's number-two trade partner by 2015.
That has also carried a cost for Latin America as cheap Chinese imports flood domestic markets, provoking a growing backlash from industries like manufacturing and textiles.
Mexico suffered the impact first and more deeply, but Brazil and Argentina are increasingly feeling the pain.
Gallagher calculated that 94 percent of Latin American manufacturing exports, worth more than $260 billion, were under partial or direct threat from China.
Brazil's new government under President Dilma Rousseff has already taken a much cooler stance toward China than her predecessor, aiming to address a lopsided relationship that has seen imports of Chinese goods quintuple since 2005.
Tensions also surfaced with Argentina last year when China, in apparent anger over protectionist moves, boycotted soyoil shipments for six months.
And Chinese companies often face challenges winning local support for their projects in Peru, which critics worry will cause pollution or use scarce water resources.
China may struggle to convert growing economic clout into political influence in Latin America, says Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington.
"We may be entering a new phase now in the Chinese relationship with South America, where there are ongoing concerns about Chinese policies and practices and whether Latin America is getting the most favorable terms out of that relationship," he said.
"I think that's going to be the case for the next couple of years, which opens it up again to the United States."
(Additional reporting by Helen Popper in Buenos Aires, Jason Lange in Mexico City, Frank Jack Daniel in Caracas and Terry Wade in Lima; Editing by Kieran Murray)