Latin America News Round-up
September 28, 2011
Venezuela Plans to Work With Private Partners, Boost Oil Output
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Brazil and Southern Cone
Brazil's New Mining Code To Introduce National Input Rule –ABDI. Dow Jones
Japan’s number 2 automaker plans to increase production in Brazil. Mercopress
8 police arrested in murder of Brazil judge. AP
Brazil bank workers on nationwide strike for higher pay. AP
'Argentina does not accept any conditions set from abroad,' Boudou. Buenos Aires Herald
Argentina factory output, growth slowing. Reuters
Argentine 2010/11 crop a “historic record” breaks 100 million tons benchmark. Mercopress
Uruguay calls for end to intervention in other states' internal affairs. Xinhua
Chilean president support plummets; 67% “believe little or anything” Piñera says. Santiago Times
Chile students agree to education reform talks. BBC
Northern Andean Region
In fiery letter to U.N., Venezuela’s Chavez denounces ‘new colonialist wars’. AFP
Chávez invites Honduran president to Clacs summit. El Universal
Venezuela aiming for 4 mln bpd oil output by 2014. Reuters
Venezuela still seeking partners for gas project. Reuters
Chevron May Start Output at Venezuela’s Carabobo in 2012. Bloomberg
Venezuela Again Rejects Oil Settlement Talks. Wall Street Journal
Hackers hijack Twitter accounts of Chavez critics. AP
Thousands Protest Aerial Fumigation of Coca in Colombia. EFE
Colombia trade deal should not be delayed – US envoy. Reuters
Colombia wants Israel to call off controversial housing plans. Colombia Reports
Colombia may limit car sales due to traffic:report. MarketWatch
Western Andean Region
Top Bolivian official quits in march backlash. AP
Police Attack on TIPNIS Marchers Roils Bolivia. NACLA
Ecuador's Jan-August Net Tax Intake Rose 8% To $5.71 Billion. Dow Jones
Ecuador's Imperilled Paradise - One of the World's Most Important, If Least-Known Battles: A Conversation with Dr. Ivonne Baki. Forbes
Peru region puts pressure on miner Southern Copper. Reuters
Mexico, Central America and Caribbean
Education Is Latest Casualty In Mexico's Drug War. NPR
Paramilitary Justice. NACLA
Mexican president wants change in abortion stance under treaty. EFE
In Honduras, LGBT Protest Unsolved Murders. Care2
Gold brings little wealth to Guatemala. National Catholic Reports
Aid will flow to Jamaica after IMF issue resolved, says EU ambassador. Jamaica Gleaner
Brazil and Southern Cone [contents]
Brazil's New Mining Code To Introduce National Input Rule -ABDI
Diana Kinch. Dow Jones. September 27, 2011
BELO HORIZONTE -(Dow Jones)- Brazil's proposed new mining code will require new mining projects to use a certain level of national input, including in parts and equipment, an advisor to Brazil's Industry Development Agency, ABDI--which is linked to the industry and trade ministry--said Monday.
In addition, mining companies will be encouraged to help create industrial development areas that will process ores into higher-value-added products, said Miguel Nery, ABDI's special project advisor and a former National Mining Department chief.
The Brazilian government is debating the final text of three proposals for legislation that will establish new rules for the validity of prospecting and mining concessions, create a new agency to regulate Brazil's mining sector, and may set new levels for royalties payments. Brazil President Dilma Rousseff is expected to send the proposals to congress for consideration next year, after months of deliberation and debate.
The national input requirement would be new for the mining sector, but follows the introduction of similar guidelines for the development of new industry oil projects in Brazil and the country's recent launch of a Buy-Brazil campaign named "Brasil Maior," which gives incentives to some industrial sectors for local purchasing.
"The President has already signaled the need for local content to other industries," Nery said on the sidelines of a mining industry event in Minas Gerais state. "We're talking about the purchase of goods and services in Brazil."
The aim to create industrial development areas could involve the production of more steel in Brazil from iron ore produced in the country, along the lines of projects currently being developed by miner Vale SA. This would be designed to avoid the threat of de-industrialization in Brazil, where imports of manufactured products surged in 2010 and early 2011 as the Brazilian real appreciated during a period of strong industrial growth.
Delays in sending the proposed new mining legislation to congress--originally expected to occur this year--have occurred partly because industry has complained it hadn't participated sufficiently in the drawing up of the new proposals, Nery said.
Japan’s number 2 automaker plans to increase production in Brazil
Mercopress. September 28, 2011
Japan's number two automaker, is planning to invest 1.5 billion dollars to build a factory in Brazil that might produce electric cars, according to reports in the media.
“They're talking about producing 220,000 cars per year ... budget cars, electric cars, three or four models” and the most likely sites for the plant are in Rio de Janeiro state. An official announcement is expected early next month.
A Nissan representative in Brazil confirmed plans for a factory in the country producing around 200,000 vehicles annually, but declined to comment on details. In June, Nissan said a new plant in Brazil would ease reliance on Mexican production for the South American market.
The focus on South America comes as Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said this month the carmaker may need to eventually cut back production in Japan if the Yen stays near its current “uncompetitive” level, hurting the profitability of operations there.
Brazil's government said this month it was raising taxes on imported autos to encourage greater investment in the country's car industry. The national automakers' association Anfavea sees the measure spurring investments, currently estimated at 19 billion dollars in the five years through 2015.
Brazil is a key growth market for the world's biggest automakers, including Italy's Fiat, Germany's Volkswagen AG and US-based General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co.
Nissan sold nearly 37,000 cars and light trucks in Brazil through August this year, compared with nearly 20,000 in the first eight months of 2010, making it the country's No. 12 carmaker by sales, according to dealer association Fenabrave.
8 police arrested in murder of Brazil judge
AP. September 27, 2011
RIO DE JANEIRO -- A police commander and seven officers are under arrest in connection with the murder of a Brazilian judge.
A court ordered six new arrests late Monday and the Rio de Janeiro state police say the men were detained Tuesday. Two police officers had been arrested earlier.
Murdered Judge Patricia Acioli was known for being tough on rogue police officers who turn to vigilantism and extort money from the population. She was shot to death in front of her house in the city of Niteroi in August.
Among those arrested is Claudio de Oliveira, who headed the police department in the city of Sao Goncalo, where Acioli worked.
Brazil bank workers on nationwide strike for higher pay
AP. September 27, 2011
SAO PAULO — Brazilian bank workers have started a nationwide strike to demand better salaries.
Union spokesman Nicolau Soares says the strike that began Tuesday is taking place in all but one of Brazil’s 27 states, though at least some banks are operating normally. Soares says he does not know how many of Brazil’s more than 480,000 bank workers actually walked off their jobs.
The Brazilian Banking Federation says it does not yet know how widespread the strike is.
Soares says bank workers are demanding a 12.8 percent pay hike while the banks are offering 8 percent.
The Sao Paulo stock exchange says its operations have not been affected by the strike.
'Argentina does not accept any conditions set from abroad,' Boudou
Buenos Aires Herald. September 28, 2011
Economy Minister and Vice-Presidential candidate Amado Boudou (Victory Front party), rejected the recipes for “fiscal adjustments” the international organizations intend to impose on countries affected by the crisis, and stressed that Argentina “does not accept any conditions set from abroad.”
During a rally in the 9 de Julio district, Boudou assured that the Fernández de Kirchner administration “does not accept the vision of Argentina that they are trying to impose from abroad,” and confirmed that they are thinking “about what’s coming.”
“We want to include everyone, those who think like us and those who don’t, in order to obtain what’s best for Argentina,” he said.
Boudou praised that the President’s focus on equality is “of utmost importance,” and added that “what we’ve understood is that there are no big cities or small cities, there are Argentine men and women who have Rights and needs and we must reach every corner of the country.”
In front of dozens of high school students who were presented with their own personal netbooks as part of the Conectar Igualdad social programme, Boudou recalled the measures taken by the Néstor Kirchner’s government first and now by Fernández de Kichner, who helped Argentina reverse its history by arguing with those from abroad in order to be able to invest in the country.
Boudou’s statements are in line with the criticism made by Fernández de Kirchner towards the IMF in Mendoza last Monday, when she said that the organization pretended to prescribe countries going through a crisis “with the same medicine that ruined us in 2001.”
Argentina factory output, growth slowing
Hilary Burke and Eduardo Garcia. Reuters. September 23, 2011
BUENOS AIRES, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Argentina's industrial output growth slowed in August to 5.2 percent year-on-year, while month-on-month economic activity contracted in July for the first time in 13 months, the government said on Friday.
Factory output growth, a main driver of the country's economic boom, tends to cool during the southern-hemisphere winter due to energy shortages, affecting economic activity as well. Beyond that, the government foresees a gradual slowdown through 2012.
Industrial production in August grew at the slowest year-on-year pace since January 2010, and expanded 0.1 percent versus the previous month, the INDEC statistics agency said.
Argentina's factory output had grown 7.1 percent year-on-year in July and 1.6 percent in July from June ARECI10.
Brazil, the top market for Argentine car exports, decided in May to delay import licenses for foreign-made cars, which could further hurt industrial output. [ID:nN02273617]
Some sectors are operating close to capacity, and analysts say more investment will be needed to keep up output growth in the medium term.
Longer-term growth prospects could be affected by soaring inflation and rising wage demands by trade unions, which undermine the peso currency's competitive edge.
Industry output soared 10.1 percent in August 2010.
ECONOMY CONTRACTS IN JULY VS JUNE
Argentina's economy grew 7.6 percent in July from a year ago, matching market expectations in a Reuters poll but falling well short of the 9.4 percent registered a month earlier.
The EMAE economic activity index AREAI=ECI -- a close proxy for gross domestic product, which is reported quarterly -- fell 1.2 percent in July from June, marking its first month-on-month decline since June 2010.
The economy had expanded 0.4 percent in June from May.
The government upwardly revised June's economic activity growth to 9.4 percent year-on-year from 8.2 percent previously, adjusting the EMAE to reflect quarterly GDP data.
High global commodities prices are helping stoke growth in Argentina, the world's biggest exporter of soyoil and soymeal and the No. 2 global corn provider after the United States.
Increased state spending before October's presidential election has further stoked economic growth in recent months.
Argentina's budget bill sees an 8.3 percent expansion this year slowing to 5.1 percent in 2012. [ID:nS1E78I225]
During the second quarter, Argentina's current account balance of payments ARCURA=ECI registered a $1.55 billion surplus, shrinking 51 percent from a revised $3.20 billion surplus a year earlier.
The government had previously reported a surplus of $3.16 billion in the second quarter of 2010. It also revised the first-quarter 2011 deficit figure to $755 million from $673 million.
Argentina's current account balance has been deteriorating in recent quarters as exports grow at a slower pace than imports, due to brisk domestic demand and high inflation.
(Writing by Eduardo Garcia; Editing by Andrew Hay)
Argentine 2010/11 crop a “historic record” breaks 100 million tons benchmark
Mercopress. September 28, 2011
Argentina 2010/2011 crop reached 102.082 million tons of grains and oil seeds, a ‘historic record’, according to an official release from the Ministry of Agriculture.
The announcement is above private sector estimates of 100.9 million tons, and 7% higher than the previous harvest (2009/2010) and for the first time Argentina breaks the 100 million tons mark.
“The crop has reached 102.082 million tons and is a historic record”, said the Argentine Ministry of Agriculture. The area planted totalled 34.493.000 hectares. The data, to September 25, was compiled by the Agriculture Ministry Estimates Office.
In related news Iowa based John Deere the world’s leading manufacturer of agriculture equipment announced the expansion of its factory in Santa Fe which manufactures engines. The plant will now manufacture five different models of tractor and harvesters.
The expansion will demand an investment of 100 million dollars. JD tractor plant in Argentina was shut down in 1995. It’s the first time the company will manufacture harvesters.
The decision is the result of the Argentine policy of demanding that corporations operating in the country must match every import dollar with an export dollar or expand production facilities in the country.
JD dominates 40% of Argentina’s harvesters’ market and 30% of tractors. In 2010 the turnover in Argentina was 250 million dollars. World wide JD sales total 30 billion.
JD thus joins other international corporations such as CNH from Fiat that also had imports delayed until it announced an investment of 100 million dollars to manufacture tractors and harvesters. Another farm machinery group Agco is currently in negotiations for a similar deal.
According to Argentine Ministry of Industry sources the farm machinery sector is running a “deficit” of 450 million dollars because 80% of harvesters are imported and similarly with 65% of tractors. The target is to turn that deficit into a slight surplus.
Uruguay calls for end to intervention in other states' internal affairs
Xinhua. September 26, 2011
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- Uruguayan Vice President Danilo Astori on Monday said the international community should stop intervention in other states' internal affairs and avoid double standards on human rights.
"Always keeping in mind the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states, a principle that our country and region holds dear, we acknowledge the state's primary responsibility to protect its population, as well as the importance of fostering cooperation with states that might require international assistance to fulfill this obligation; the aim is not to weaken their sovereignty but to strengthen it," said Astori, while addressing the ongoing general debate of the 66th session of United Nations General Assembly on the role of mediation in settling disputes by peaceful means.
Uruguay holds the current presidency of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.
During its presidency at the UN Human Rights Council, Uruguay would like to "improve the procedures and favor the application of the instruments that the Council has in a non-selective manner and avoiding double standards," the vice president said.
Chilean president support plummets; 67% “believe little or anything” Piñera says
Steve Anderson. The Santiago Times. September 28, 2011
A poll from the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Reality (CERC) released Tuesday confirmed that Chile’s beleaguered President Sebastián Piñera continues to lose popular support.
Outright rejection of the President grew by 13 points to 66%, while those approving of his work fell 13 points, to just 22%, the poll found.
This is the lowest approval rating ever seen by a sitting president in the 25-year history of CERC polls and confirms the result of a recent Adimark poll that also found Piñera’s support going from bad to worse: dropping to 27%, according to the Adimark poll.
The CERC poll also found that 67% “believe little if anything” the President says, up from 57% last May. Another 16% “more or less” believe the President, while only 14% “believe a great deal” of what he says.
The CERC poll was based on interviews of 1,200 adults from all over Chile taken between Aug. 10 and Aug. 28, a time when the nation was riveted by continuing student protests that are supported by the vast majority of the nation.
The CERC poll also shows a sharp change in public perception of the most important issues now facing the nation: 74% cite education as the primary challenge to the nation, up from 24% last May. The poll determined that 89% of the public supports the ongoing student strikers/protesters, with 71 percent supporting a plebiscite initiative as a way to resolve education policy differences.
“Today, people from all the different social strata are naming education as the primary issue facing Chile,” said CERC director, Carlos Huneeus.
There was also a sharp increase in the number of people agreeing that the current government “works only for the business community,” – up to 71%, compared to 64% in the previous CERC poll.
The CERC poll also examined the state of Chile’s political parties. Support for opposition parties grew from 40 to 45%, even while another 43% continue to give a negative evaluation of the opposition parties.
Meanwhile, support for the centre-right governing parties dropped from 29% to 22%.
An election between the top-ranked opposition figure (former President Michelle Bachelet) and the top-ranked rightist leaders (Public Works Minister Laurence Golborne) would result in a 59% to 22% victory for Bachelet, the CERC poll found.
When people were asked who they believe will be the next president, Bachelet received 32%, Golborne 28%, and centre-left dissident Marco Enriquez-Ominami (a former presidential candidate in 2010) 3%.
Chile students agree to education reform talks
BBC. September 28, 2011
Chilean student leaders have agreed to hold talks with the government on education reform after nearly five months of strikes and demonstrations.
But they said their protests, including a national stoppage on Thursday, would continue and they urged fellow students not to resume classes.
The students want wholesale reform of Chile's education system, which they say is unequal and under-funded.
The government has offered some changes and increased funding.
Student representatives met for more than 10 hours on Tuesday to discuss whether to talk to the government of President Sebastian Pinera.
"We are participating to continue our constant fight for free and democratised education in Chile," said Giorgio Jackson, one of the student leaders.
"Our demonstrations over these five months have ensured minimum guarantees for a dialogue with the government."
Another leader, Camila Vallejo, said the government must give clear details of its planned budget for 2012, in particular relating to education.
There have been regular demonstrations in Santiago and other main cities for the past five months, often resulting in clashes between some protesters and police.
The students want the central government to take full control of education and increase spending on public schools.
They also want increased funding for universities, including scholarships rather than loans for poorer students, and an end to profit in education.
President Pinera has responded by promising limited reforms and around $4bn (£2.6 billion) in extra funding.
But he has rejected calls for full state control and free education.
Mr Pinera has said his reforms will ensure "quality education for everyone, and free education for those who require it".
But student leaders - many of them left-wing - say his proposed reforms do not address the fundamental problems of a system set up during the 1973-1990 military rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet.
Northern Andean Region [contents]
In fiery letter to U.N., Venezuela’s Chavez denounces ‘new colonialist wars’
AFP. September 28, 2011
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was absent from the U.N. General Assembly but made his presence felt Tuesday through a fiery letter warning of “a new cycle of colonial wars” that began with the conflict in Libya.
Chavez – who in his 2006 U.N. presentation famously described U.S. president George W. Bush as “the devil” – is one of the few prominent supporters of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. The Venezuelan leader is recovering after having a cancerous tumor removed in June and was unable to attend the U.N. event.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States, “a new and unprecedented imperialist war started, a permanent war, in perpetuity,” went the letter, read by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro.
“Right now, there is a very serious threat to global peace: a new cycle of colonial wars, which started in Libya, with the sinister goal of refreshing the capitalist global system,” Chavez said.
“Why is the United States the only country that scatters the planet with military bases?... Why has it unleashed so many wars, violating the sovereignty of other nations which have the same rights of their own fates ... why does the U.N. not do anything to stop Washington?”
The U.S. goal “is to reconfigure the world so it is based on the Yankee military hegemony,” Maduro said, reading the Chavez letter.
The goal of NATO military intervention in Libya was “re-colonize Libya in order to take over its wealth,” the letter read.
Chavez earlier sent a letter addressed to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon supporting the Palestinian bid to become a full member.
Chavez, 57, had a tumor removed on June 20 in Havana, but officials have provided little information about the type of cancer afflicting the leftist president.
Chávez invites Honduran president to Clacs summit
El Universal. September 27, 2011
Honduras announced Monday that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez invited his counterpart Porfirio Lobo Sosa to the next Clacs summit, to be held in Venezuela on December 2 and 3.
According to a statement released by the Honduran Foreign Ministry, the goal of the meeting is to coordinate and put in place the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Clacs), to which Honduras will apply for membership.
Clacs has been promoted by Chávez as an alternative to the Organization of American States (OAS). The United States and Canada will not be members of the new community, DPA reported.
Chávez had become the main driving force to isolate Honduras in June 2009 after then President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown. Zelaya had become a Venezuela's ally.
Venezuela aiming for 4 mln bpd oil output by 2014
Marianna Parraga and Enrique Andres Pretel. Reuters. September 27, 2011
PUERTO LA CRUZ, Venezuela, Sept 27 (Reuters) – Venezuela aims to boost its oil output by more than a third to 4.03 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2014 as the OPEC member taps its vast Orinoco extra heavy crude belt.
Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA planned to buy equipment worth more than $43 billion over the next five years -- but that the country would only boost production in coordination with OPEC.
"We are not going to exceed our production (levels) unless it is coordinated with OPEC," Ramirez told a conference hosted by PDVSA on the Venezuelan coast on Tuesday.
He said the target for next year was 3.24 million bpd, up from current production of 3 million bpd. The current production figure he gave was higher than the latest official figures from his Energy Ministry, which said 2.77 million bpd was pumped in June.
President Hugo Chavez has nationalized most of the oil sector during his 12 years in power, scaring off many investors from South America's biggest oil exporter.
But Ramirez insisted the socialist government wanted to work with private business. "We don't deny private participation, we want it. We have private companies on board. No one can oppose this. We're going to do it and we're going to do it within the revolution."
Ramirez said PDVSA has increased oil sales to the Caribbean and Asia, and was now sending more than 460,000 bpd to China, which has provided billions of dollars of loans in return for oil supplies. Venezuela recently bought 38 drills from China, he added.
"WHO'S THE BOSS?"
The minister said Chavez's government wanted to work with outsiders -- but on its terms.
"We want international partners to come here with their technology and their expertise, but who's the boss? Us. Here we know how to produce enough oil and enough gas," he said.
The takeovers by Chavez's administration have triggered a string of international arbitration cases, but Ramirez said Venezuela would not be punished for defending its sovereignty.
Ramirez told a press conference that the latest lawsuit, by U.S.-based Helmerich & Payne (HP.N) over the nationalization of 11 its rigs last year, "made no sense".
Asked about finances of PDVSA, the most important cash source for Chavez's socialist "revolution", the minister said debt to service providers had fallen by about 50 percent from the end of 2010, when it was almost $11 billion.
"We knew 2009 and 2010 were going to be difficult years after the fall of oil prices, and we gave priority to fiscal support. In the oil sector, we had to put on our boots and ride out the turbulence," Ramirez said.
The Venezuelan government is seeking to revitalize the declining oil sector through a program of boosting production at mature fields and a series of projects with foreign companies to develop the giant Orinoco belt.
OPEC said in July that Venezuela leapt ahead of Saudi Arabia in 2010 to become the world's No. 1 holder of reserves with 296.5 billion barrels, most of them in the Orinoco belt. (Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by David Gregorio)
Venezuela still seeking partners for gas project
Enrique Andres Pretel. Reuters. September 27, 2011
PUERTO LA CRUZ, Venezuela, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA is still seeking partners for its 14.7 trillion cubic feet Mariscal Sucre offshore gas project, a senior company executive said on Tuesday.
PDVSA director Orlando Chacin also told reporters in the coastal town of Puerto La Cruz that Venezuela expected to stop importing natural gas from neighboring Colombia in 2014.
South America's biggest crude oil producer is sitting on some of the world's largest offshore gas reserves, experts say, but it has yet to begin producing any commercial gas.
"We are looking for partners for Mariscal Sucre. We're not desperate, but we are open (to possible associations)," Chacin told reporters on the sidelines of an oil conference.
In February, Venezuela picked at least four companies from China, Malaysia, Russia and Algeria to bid to be involved in developing the long-delayed Mariscal Sucre project, sources at the companies told Reuters. [ID:nN15180679]
It was not immediately clear what happened to those talks.
PDVSA suffered a setback May 2010 when a gas exploration rig it was operating sank at Mariscal Sucre. But officials said the accident would not derail the project, nor set back production they said was due to begin there in November 2012.
Last year the government said the nation's gas reserves totaled more than 185 tcf, the ninth-highest in the world.
But fears of rule changes in Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez has nationalized most of the oil industry, and pricing issues mean PDVSA has struggled to attract investment from foreign companies with the right experience.
Chacin said Venezuela was currently importing some 200 million cubic feet of natural gas from neighboring Colombia.
"In 2014 we expect to reverse the situation and begin exporting gas," he said. (Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Eyanir Chinea; Editing by David Gregorio)
Chevron May Start Output at Venezuela’s Carabobo in 2012
Nathan Crooks. Bloomberg. September 27, 2011
Sept. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Chevron Corp. and its partners on the Carabobo 3 block in Venezuela’s Orinoco heavy oil belt, including state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, may be able to start early production in the third quarter of 2012.
Chevron, which has a 34 percent stake in the block, is holding talks with joint venture partners and expects to make a decision on how to develop the project in the next “couple of months,” Ali Moshiri, Chevron President for Africa and Latin America, said in an interview in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela.
“We are in the phase of deciding which path we want to take, whether that’s full development or early production,” said Moshiri. “The financing will be the second phase. It depends on the size of the project that we want to move ahead.”
Chevron produced 58,000 barrels of oil a day in Venezuela in 2010 and was selected last year to participate in a group to develop the Carabobo 3 project, according to an annual report filed with U.S. regulators. Venezuela’s Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said today in at a conference in Puerto La Cruz that the South American country was asking its joint venture partners to speed up plans for early production in the Orinoco and wouldn’t accept any delays.
“First production could be as early as the third quarter of 2012, but early production will be a collective decision,” said Moshiri. PDVSA, as the Caracas-based company is called, has 60 percent of the Carabobo 3 project.
Moshiri, addressing a dinner at an oil conference, said that the future of Venezuela’s oil industry depended on developing heavy crude oil and that the industry needed prices of at least $60 to $80 a barrel to develop heavy crude.
“Venezuela has the capacity to set any production target that it wants,” said Moshiri. “You have to find a way to finance it, because heavy oil requires tremendous investment.”
-- With assistance from Corina Rodriguez Pons in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. Editors: Keith Gosman, Indranil Ghosh
To contact the reporters on this story: Nathan Crooks in Puerto La Cruz at email@example.com.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dale Crofts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Venezuela Again Rejects Oil Settlement Talks
KEJAL VYAS. Wall Street Journal. September 28, 2011
PUERTO LA CRUZ—Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez on Tuesday rejected talk that his government was planning to settle with companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips outside of official arbitration proceedings for compensation for projects nationalized by President Hugo Chavez nearly four years ago.
The two U.S. companies "are typical companies from the empire," Mr. Ramirez said in response to questions from reporters, adding that both companies are demanding much more than they are owed.
The comments come after a government official last week said Venezuela was negotiating a settlement of around $6 billion with Exxon, a claim that the oil ministry rejected later in the same day.
Earlier this year, state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, or PdVSA, said it was looking to pay no more than a combined total of $2.5 billion to Exxon and Conoco.
Venezuela is facing around 17 arbitration cases in front of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, with companies seeking billions in payment for property seized by President Chavez as he looks to put major economic sectors under direct state control.
Mr. Ramirez said Tuesday that his government will not accept any form of "punishment" from international courts like the ICSID.
The minister added "the government has always said it will compensate that what companies have invested."
On Monday, Helmerich & Payne Inc. filed a suit against Venezuela over the 2010 government takeover of 11 drilling rigs belonging to the Oklahoma oil-services company.
Mr. Ramirez made his statements during an oil conference hosted by PdVSA in the northeastern Venezuelan state of Anzoategui, where the company is looking to invite foreign investment into its largescale development projects in its Orinoco heavy oil belt. The South American country is trying to attract $80 billion over the next several years in a bid to boost oil production, which sits near 3 million barrels a day.
Hackers hijack Twitter accounts of Chavez critics
AP. September 27, 2011
(AP) CARACAS, Venezuela — Over months, Venezuelan TV soap opera writer Leonardo Padron built a Twitter following of about 250,000 people by posting more than a dozen messages a day, many of them skewering President Hugo Chavez.
On Aug. 29, Padron issued a typical shot: "Chavez knows of the immense death toll that there is in this country, so why such indifference to the subject of insecurity?"
Three days later, however, the tweets picked a new target: Padron himself. "In no way have I contributed to combat racism, discrimination, cultural alienation," one note read. "My soap operas feed these evils in our society."
Padron had fallen victim to an unknown hacker or group of hackers who have hijacked the accounts of at least nine well-known Chavez critics, posting curse-filled insults, threats and slogans such as "Long live Chavez."
One late-night post called a journalist a homosexual, and another threatened a Chavez opponent: "I'm going after you little by little, Damned Narco." Doctored photos show opponents wearing red berets of the sort favored by the socialist leader.
The burst of Twitter hacking has opened a new battlefield in Venezuela's heated political wars. Some Chavez critics say their email accounts have also been compromised.
A group calling itself "N33" has claimed responsibility for the Twitter attacks, and those targeted have had "N33" appear on their Twitter profiles.
All sorts of theories have been circulating about who is behind N33, ranging from Chavez allies to opponents trying to make the government look bad. Some wonder if it could be a single young hacker trying to make a statement.
Padron heard from an acquaintance that his account was sending out insults. He had been wondering why he wasn't able to sign in to Twitter. Suddenly, it was clear: Someone had stolen his password and shut him out.
"It's an invasion, a humiliation. It's as if you're about to go into your house and the door doesn't open with your key, and you sense there's someone inside posing as you," Padron told The Associated Press in an interview.
"You don't imagine that your 2.0 life is going to be stolen, that your voice is going to be expropriated," Padron said. "Of course, I began to have a very strong feeling of indignation."
Other victims of the attacks this month have included an activist, a humorist, three journalists, a TV show host, an ex-diplomat and a former Chavez supporter, all of them openly critical of Chavez.
Some of the victims have complained to authorities. Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz said that two prosecutors are collecting evidence and will talk to witnesses.
Both Twitter and Google say the attacks most likely involved phishing, a form of Internet fraud in which victims are tricked into revealing passwords or other personal information through emails with links to pages that appear to be authentic. Once a victim enters a password for Twitter or an email account on a fraudulent page, hackers are able to use it to take over the real account and change the password.
About 2 million Venezuelans, or 8 percent of the population, are Twitter users, according to figures by the local research company Tendencias Digitales. That gives Venezuela the second highest Twitter penetration in the region, after Uruguay.
Chavez's opponents regularly use the social networking site to spread critical commentary, while the government goes on Twitter to promote its policies and attack opponents. Chavez's Twitter account, chavezcandanga, reached the milestone of 2 million followers on Aug. 31.
That very day, the attacks by N33 began. In a Sept. 2 statement posted on the Internet, it called itself a group without links to "any government entity."
The statement was read aloud on state television by the host of the late night talk show La Hojilla, or "The Razor," a program that often denounces Chavez opponents.
In the statement, N33 said it had hijacked accounts to retaliate for "improper use of Twitter" and for attacking Chavez while he undergoes cancer treatment. It said Chavez's "convalescence hasn't been enough of a reason for these opposition characters ... to diminish their load of rage and bad intentions."
N33 has also taken over Gmail accounts, usually at night, stealing personal messages and photos and posting them on Twitter.
While the attacks on Twitter accounts died down after the first week of September, N33 continued posting items extracted from email accounts on a Twitter account, Cain_Supremo, until that account was suspended by Twitter. Another account has since appeared purporting to represent N33.
Activist Rocio San Miguel, whose Twitter account was taken over, also saw her personal photos and documents as well as insults and threats against her appear on the N33 Twitter feed.
"It's a feeling of powerlessness," San Miguel told the AP. "Without a doubt, they want to frighten and intimidate."
San Miguel leads an organization focused on national security and defense issues, and she likened the attacks to a sort of terrorism, saying they seem aimed at making an example of certain government critics to inhibit others.
Padron said it took him three days to block his own account. He also had to recoup email accounts that had been seized.
One of pirate posts on Padron's Twitter account sent greetings to the website "Table of Scorpions," a similarly mysterious, unsigned blog that has posted recorded phone conversations of opposition politicians.
Venezuelan law imposes prison sentences for cyber-spying or accessing others' accounts, and one 17-year-old Venezuelan was arrested four years ago for hacking into government websites. He was later released and the status of his case is unclear.
Twitter said that phishing schemes are a leading hazard.
"Most attempts to gain access to accounts target users by sending them fraudulent messages meant to trick them into sharing their passwords," Twitter spokeswoman Kristen Hawley said in an email. "A personal email account that's compromised is the second most likely way an intruder gains access to Twitter accounts."
Rafael Nunez, a Venezuelan online security expert who has experience as a hacker, noted that while N33 describes itself as a group, many of its messages are written in the first person. One such message on Twitter boasted: "I've got you going crazy."
"It's a single virtual speaker, but behind that speaker there could be collaborators," said Nunez, who heads the Venezuelan information security company Clean Perception.
Nunez was imprisoned in the United States for more than eight months in 2005 for hacking a Defense Department website and was later released. He calls himself an "ethical hacker" who saw hacking as a challenge and now uses his knowledge to improve online security.
After studying some of the latest attacks, Nunez said N33 apparently gained access to Gmail accounts by phishing for passwords or using software that enabled keystroke logging.
Nunez said he doesn't know of other countries where Twitter accounts have been similarly taken over in such a systematic way.
As for who might be behind it, Nunez said there are only theories for now.
"The language is very immature," Nunez said. "It's like a kid."
Thousands Protest Aerial Fumigation of Coca in Colombia
EFE. September 28, 2011
BOGOTA – More than 5,000 Afro-Colombians blocked roads between the western province of Choco and the interior of Colombia to protest the aerial spraying of coca fields with pesticides.
The illegal harvests are sprayed from the air with glyphosate, a practice that has very bad effects on human health, food crops and water sources, an official with the Choco Intertribal Solidarity Forum, or FisChoco, told Efe.
The source, who requested anonymity, spoke with Efe by telephone from the regional capital of Quibdo and said that the fumigation began 11 days ago in coca-growing areas in 14 municipalities located in the Baudo and San Juan river basins.
The territories are the collective property of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, the source added.
None of the affected populations was consulted before the spraying was begun, despite the fact that legal regulations require it.
The spraying, which is aimed at eradicating some 4,000 hectares (9,800 acres) of coca, the raw material of cocaine, is the first of its kind in Choco, a region on the border with Panama and Colombia’s richest reserve of biodiversity.
In protest, some 5,500 local residents on Sunday began a mobilization that on Monday blocked the passage of people and cargo between Choco and the country’s interior along a highway that traverses Risaralda province.
The blockade has no end date, said the source with FisChoco, which gathers 58 community associations and has the backing of the Catholic Church.
FisChoco denounced the spraying, echoing a communique that the associated communities sent to President Juan Manuel Santos to warn him of the damage and ask him to order the immediate suspension of the operation.
According to the message, glyphosate – sold in the United States under the brand name Roundup – has caused injury to human health, affected legal crops and livestock and has contaminated water sources, including rainwater, which is channeled down into containers from the roofs of houses.
In the communication, the same communities warned that they do not accept the cultivation of coca in their territories, an activity that FisChoco attributes to rebels, paramilitaries and common criminals. EFE
Colombia trade deal should not be delayed – US envoy
Reuters. September 28, 2011
DETROIT (Reuters) - Fresh concerns raised by the largest US labour organization over human rights violations in Colombia are valid, but should not slow down congressional approval of a free trade pact with that country in coming weeks, the US ambassador to Colombia said yesterday. Michael McKinley, US ambassador to Colombia, said the Colombian government has “greatly improved the labour rights situation inside the country” over the past half decade. Many of those reforms have taken place as Colombia has sought to win US approval of the free trade pact and could be in jeopardy if the deal is further stalled, McKinley told Reuters in an interview.
On Monday, the AFL-CIO labour federation sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him not send the Colombia free trade agreement to Congress due to continued violence against union leaders.
“Colombia should not be rewarded with a trade agreement until it develops a proven track record,” the group’s president Richard Trumka said.
The deal was negotiated by the administration of former President George W. Bush and signed in November 2006. However, Bush was unable to win approval of the pact before leaving office in January 2009.
McKinley said he expected Obama to send the Colombia pact and two other trade pacts with Panama and South Korea to Congress for approval “in the next few weeks.”
The AFL-CIO said in its letter that 22 union leaders in Colombia have been killed in 2011, including 15 since the United States and Colombia agreed on a so-called Labour Action Plan aimed at implementing reforms to labour rights.
“No one argues that the labor situation is perfect in Colombia,” McKinley said following a presentation to business leaders in Detroit.
The Obama administration plans to “aggressively work on labour protection issues” with Colombia, he said.
Congressional approval of the pact “is the best chance in a generation” to solidify the progress that Colombia has already made on human rights, McKinley said.
The ambassador said he shared the AFL-CIO’s outrage over the 22 union activists killed this year, but said that was much better than approximately 125 murders per year a decade ago.
McKinley said he expected Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will announce “in a couple weeks” the formation of a new, independent ministry of labour.
Santos also is raising the minimum wage, working to secure bargaining rights, and is cooperating with the International Labour Organization, he said.
Colombia wants Israel to call off controversial housing plans
Adriaan Alsema. Colombia Reports. September 28, 2011
Colombia called on Israel Tuesday not to proceed with plans to build 1,100 housing units on occupied Palestinian territory.
Israel's announcement comes only days after the Palestinian leadership urged the United Nations to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state, which was rejected by Colombia and the United States, who want the two peoples to make peace before recognizing Palestine.
According to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, a Palestinian state must follow a peace deal and should not be "imposed."
However, the move of the Israeli government to expand settlements outside its pre-1967 boundaries falls not within the spirit of the proposal of the "Quartet,"composed of the U.S., the U.S., Europe and Russia, said Santos.
"Because of this, we, as members of the Security Council, want to call on Israel to not move forward with these settlements, that it acts within the spirit ofg the proposal made by the Quartet ... which is how in the end we will succeed having two states, a Palestinian State and and Israeli state, living in peace," Santos said.
The U.S., together with Colombia rejecting a Palestinian state, said to be "deeply disappointed" by the Israeli announcement. “We have called on both sides to take steps that improve the prospects of direct negotiations getting under way,” Mr. Carney said.
The Palestinian leadership comdemned the plan.
Colombia may limit car sales due to traffic:report
Dan Molinski. MarketWatch. September 28, 2011
BOGOTA (MarketWatch) -- Colombia's government is considering a bill that could put a limit on new car sales, which are booming, in an effort to alleviate growing traffic woes, according to a report Wednesday in the leading daily El Tiempo.
The plan, laid out by the Ministry of Transportation in a bill to be sent to Congress, would allow a person to buy a new car only after they receive special approval from the government through an auction. Deputy Minister Felipe Targa said customers purchasing a new car might also have to turn in their old car, according to the newspaper.
It wasn't clear when the bill might be presented to lawmakers. Officials at the Transportation Ministry weren't immediately available for comment.
Colombia sold a record 254,000 new automobiles last year and will smash that record in 2011, with sales likely to reach 320,000. A stronger local currency against the dollar has brought down the price of new cars, and combined with a healthy economy, the country has seen a huge increase in cash-ready consumers able to afford their own vehicle.
The government hasn't met the sharp increase in car sales with new freeway construction or other infrastructure projects that could handle all the new cars. As such, clogged arteries have become common throughout the country's main cities.
Bogota, the capital, tried to fix its traffic problems by making it illegal for drivers to use their vehicle two days each week. That led many drivers to buy two vehicles, making the problem worse.
Ricardo Salazar, general manager of the Los Coches car dealership, told El Tiempo the government proposal to restrict car sales is "absurd," and said it would stunt badly-needed economic growth and create more unemployment.
Western Andean Region [contents]
Top Bolivian official quits in march backlash
PAOLA FLORES. AP. September 28, 2011
LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Bolivia's interior minister and his deputy resigned Tuesday after mounting recriminations over a violent police crackdown on marchers opposed to a jungle highway that they say would despoil an indigenous preserve.
Interior Minister Sacha Llorenti became the second Cabinet member to step down over the weekend action, which backfired as angry crowds pressured police into releasing the hundreds of protesters they had detained.
Defense Minister Cecilia Chacon resigned in protest immediately after Sunday's crackdown by about 500 police officers who fired tear gas and wielded clubs in the eastern lowlands.
The backlash is a major setback for President Evo Morales, who by stubbornly insisting on the 190-mile (300-kilometer) jungle highway had alienated many of his indigenous core supporters in this poor, landlocked nation where more than two in three people are members of indigenous groups.
Morales announced Monday that he was suspending the Brazil-funded highway and leaving it to voters in the two affected regions to decide its fate.
Llorenti had initially defended the crackdown and denied excessive force was used.
But before resigning on Tuesday he said neither he nor Morales had ordered the police against the marchers. He blamed Deputy Minister Marcos Farfan, who resigned to take responsibility but also denied ordering the police action.
The director of Bolivia's migration agency, Maria Rene Quiroga, resigned Tuesday to protest the breakup of the march by some 1,000 people who departed the provincial capital of Trinidad in mid-August on foot bound for the highlands capital of La Paz.
It was not clear how many people were injured or how seriously during Sunday's clash.
Morales has been an impassioned champion of the campaign to curb global warming but is seen as less environmentally friendly at home for insisting on building the highway through the 600-square-mile (12,000-square-kilometer) Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory National Park. It is home to 15,000 indigenous people who live off hunting, fishing, gathering fruit and subsistence farming.
Park inhabitants fear the road would bring an influx of settlers who would destroy their habitat by felling trees and polluting rivers.
Environmentalists say the road would mostly benefit Brazilian commercial interests such as timber exporters while endangering a pristine nature preserve.
Morales, an Aymara Indian who is Bolivia's first indigenous president, has been fiercely criticized as turning a deaf ear to those who re-elected him by a landslide in 2009.
The president, who is also leader Bolivia's coca growers union, has seen his support in opinion polls fall to 37 percent, its second-lowest level since he was first elected in 2005.
Later Tuesday, Morales named Ruben Saavedra, a former defense minister, to take on that post again. Saavedra has been head of the Strategic Office of Maritime Access, an agency that was created by presidential decree last spring to work on regaining access to the Pacific that Bolivia lost in a war with Chile in the late 19th century.
Wilfredo Chavez, who has been deputy minister of government coordination, was sworn in as the new interior minister.
Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.
Police Attack on TIPNIS Marchers Roils Bolivia
Emily Achtenberg. NACLA. September 28, 2011
Last Sunday federal police brutally repressed lowland indigenous marchers protesting the TIPNIS highway. The move has sparked widespread public outrage in Bolivia, while the response from the government of President Evo Morales—including the sudden resignation of Minister of Interior Sacha Llorenti on Tuesday evening—raises more questions than answers.
On Sunday afternoon, 500 federal police using tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons launched a surprise raid on the protesters’ camp near Yucumo, in the department of Beni. 417 Police raid on TIPNIS protesters. Credit: Erbol.Just hours earlier, the protesters had received an invitation from the government to send a delegation to La Paz to resume negotiations, which they were about to consider in a community-wide meeting.
According to still unconfirmed reports, the raid resulted in one death (a baby), 45 wounded, and at least 37 unaccounted for, including 7 children. In the confusion, many protesters fled into the woods and children were separated from their families. The police also broke up a nearby road blockade maintained by several hundred “colonists” (highland indigenous farmers), which had been impeding the passage of the march—with the government’s tacit support—for several weeks.
The raid came the day after Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca, who had arrived at the march in an effort to mediate the impasse with the colonists, was forced by a group of indigenous women to act as a “human shield,” leading the protest past a police barricade positioned ahead of the roadblock. Later released unharmed, Choquehuanca said that he wanted to continue discussions with the protesters. However, the government officially labeled this incident a “kidnapping.”
421 Indigenous women march with David Choquehuanca. Credit: La Razón.On Monday morning, government officials cited this episode as a rationale for the police action. According to press secretary Iván Canelas, the march had become a “focus of violence.” Minister of Interior Sacha Llorenti maintained that police had been threatened by marchers with bows and arrows, and that the intervention was necessary to save the protestors from a confrontation with the colonists.
But as TV footage showed indigenous men and women being beaten, gagged with adhesive tape, and dragged on their knees to waiting vehicles, protests against the police repression mounted and spread to regions throughout the country. In Beni, indigenous supporters blocked buses of detained marchers from arriving in San Borja, forcing them to detour to Rurrenabaque, where another group of protestors liberated many of the apparent prisoners before they could be boarded onto a plane to an unknown destination.
An indefinite civic strike has closed businesses and government offices throughout the Beni department, with six road blockades around the capital. More than 5,000 marched and held vigils in La Paz on Monday, while hunger strikes began in Santa Cruz. Also on Monday, the Minister of Defense resigned in protest, followed the next day by two sub-cabinet level officials.
In a Monday evening press conference, President Evo Morales lamented and repudiated the violence and abuses committed by police—while suggesting that the outcome could have been worse, had the marchers been permitted to confront the colonists. He denied ordering the police action and called for a full investigation by a high-level commission of human rights monitors, international organizations, and Bolivia’s independent Ombudsman. 424 Chronology of Beni protesters' interventions to rescue detained marches. Credit: Página Siete.
Morales also announced that he would “suspend construction” of the controversial road through the TIPNIS park and indigenous territory, pending the outcome of a national debate and a referendum to be held in the Cochabamba and Beni departments. He emphasized the road’s importance for Bolivia’s economic integration, its basis in past legal norms, and its support by 12 (out of 64) indigenous communities within the TIPNIS.
On Tuesday evening, after a public controversy involving a just-resigned vice minister, police officials, and Sacha Llorenti over responsibility for ordering the raid, Llorenti stepped down—without any admission of wrong-doing. Llorenti’s claim that the intervention was authorized by a legal order was also denied by the Attorney General.
As the TIPNIS protesters and their growing legions of supporters prepare for a national civic strike on Wednesday, led by the COB (Bolivian Workers Central), the government’s actions leave many questions unanswered. Who was responsible for ordering the police raid? How will the “intellectual authors” of the violent intervention (and not just a few “rogue” police) be held accountable?
Regarding the TIPNIS road, exactly what actions have been suspended? The controversial segment through the TIPNIS park is not yet under construction. 425 Moblization in La Paz, September 26. Credit: La Razón.There’s no evidence that work has been halted on adjoining sections that are currently being built, or that the government plans to cancel its construction contract with Brazilian company OAS.
And while the proposal for a national debate and departmental referendum may sound like participatory democracy, how does it satisfy the government’s legal obligation to seek the “free, prior, and informed consent” specifically of indigenous groups residing within the affected territory? This is a requirement of international accords to which Bolivia subscribes, as well as the Bolivian constitution. It’s not yet clear that the Morales government recognizes that the decision on the TIPNIS road can’t just be subject to a popular vote (which the government would likely win within the two departments), but must respect the rights of indigenous minorities within the plurinational state.
In the meantime, conservative opponents of the Morales government are seizing the opportunity to exploit the current crisis in every possible way. It’s a critical and risky moment for Bolivia’s "process of change."
Read more on the TIPNIS conflict on Emily Achtengberg's blog, Rebel Currents. See also, the January/February 2011 NACLA Report, "Golpistas! Coups and Democracy in the 21st Century;" the September/October 2010 NACLA Report, "After Recognition: Indigenous Peoples Confront Capitalism;" or the September/October 2009 NACLA Report, "Political Environments: Development, Dissent, and the New Extraction." Or subscribe to NACLA.
Ecuador's Jan-August Net Tax Intake Rose 8% To $5.71 Billion
Dow Jones. September 27, 2011
QUITO (Dow Jones)--Ecuador's net tax collections rose 8% to $5.71 billion between January and August from $5.27 billion a year earlier, the Internal Revenue Service, or SRI, said Tuesday.
In August, according to the SRI, Ecuador's net tax collections rose 3.5% to $622 million from the same month last year.
Ecuador expects to collect $8.33 billion in taxes in all of 2011. Last year the Andean country collected $7.86 billion in taxes.
All figures have been rounded.
Ecuador's Imperilled Paradise - One of the World's Most Important, If Least-Known Battles: A Conversation with Dr. Ivonne Baki
Michael Charles Tobias. Forbes. September 27, 2011
In 2007, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa proposed protecting his country’s biodiversity against huge oil revenue prospects. This was the archetypal mother of all environmental contests, and remains so. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) signed on to President Correa’s proposal, and it was again discussed at the UN’s most recent 66th General Assembly. At that United Nations meeting, US$52.9 million of both public and private sector donations were committed to the proposal, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon joined President Rafael Correa in a special meeting, along with Ecuador’s indigenous Huaorani tribe. Two packed rooms at the U.N., and an overflow crowd of dignitaries there to listen indicates the excitement of the Yasuni-ITT Campaign. But will the rest of the world listen?
The stakes are high: oil revenues in Ecuador to the tune of billions of dollars, or nations coming to Ecuador’s assistance to collectively help her leave that oil in the ground and thereby save some of the world’s most precious wildlife?
I spoke with Dr. Ivonne Baki, Ecuador’s Plenipotentiary Representative and head of the Yasuni-ITT Initiative about this unique opportunity – or crisis – in her country.
Michael Tobias (MT): Dr. Baki, Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park, designated in 1979, is among the most biologically prolific areas on the planet and home to at least two indigenous non-contacted ethnic groups. It also holds, apparently, vast amounts of heavy crude oil in the ground, the equivalent of an estimated 407 million tons of carbon dioxide, carrying a US dollar value in excess of 7 billion. For nearly two decades there has been controversy, social, economic and scientific debate over how Yasuni’s indigenous people, habitat and potential oil revenues for all of Ecuador might be reconciled?
Dr. Ivonne Baki (IB): Well, Michael, as chair of the Yasuní-ITT Commission, my views are pretty straightforward! As you note, on the one hand we’ve got this incredibly beautiful, biologically and culturally diverse National Park. On the other hand, a developing country with a third of its population in poverty, and massive oil reserves underground. How do you maintain a sustainable balance between biodiversity and oil extraction? I don’t know if that is possible. Oil extraction by definition is not a sustainable endeavor. Yasuní biodiversity has been evolving for thousands of years – but damage from oil extraction could drive some of its unique species to extinction. That would represent massive long-term damage in the name of short-term profit. Moreover, looking at Ecuadorian history, oil revenues have not lead to investment in sustainable development. An entirely new energy matrix is needed – which is where the Yasuní funds will be invested.
MT: In what ways?
IB: We now hear a global call for clean, alternative energy sources and Ecuador has a huge unexplored potential to develop geothermal, solar, wind, and hydraulic energy. What we need to see are countries that will actually face the difficult decision of foregoing oil dependency to move towards a more sustainable, eco-friendly model of energy production.
MT: Is Ecuador up to it?
IB: Let me put it this way: if we continue to depend on oil to such a degree, IPCC studies demonstrate that there is no future for the planet and humanity; we are reaching a tipping point of CO2 emissions, the Earth’s tipping point. The balance between nature and oil extraction is simply not sustainable.
MT: So what are you proposing?
IB: To reach the goal of conserving Yasuní’s biodiversity, to protect the non-contacted indigenous people and the indigenous communities living in the Amazon and transit towards a clean energy model, the Yasuní-ITT Initiative is the one and only path to be taken. Yasuní is the ultimate precedent towards affecting such a paradigm shift.
MT: How much oil has already been extracted, what has the damage been, if any, and what, in your opinion, can be done as soon as possible to inhibit any further potential conflict (oil extraction versus in situ biodiversity) within Ecuador, and Yasuní specifically?
IB: Like many small developing countries around the world, throughout South America and in the Middle East for instance, oil has been the lifeline of our economy. Oil accounts for more than 50% of Ecuador’s export revenue. But what is different about a place like Ecuador, and Yasuní in particular, is the sheer abundance and richness of life here. And then consider that Ecuador has already extracted more than half of its original oil reserves in the Amazon basin.
MT: With effects that have been documented – to varying degree – for years.
IB: Exactly. Consider the analysis by Bob Herbert of the New York Times, “Disaster in the Amazon.” In the Yasuní National Park, oil activity has been limited, the oil, located in the ITT block, is considered to represent about 20% of the country’s reserves.
MT: And those reserves have been left alone, to date?
IB: Yes, they are so far unexploited. But, to go back, the environmental impact of the more than 40 years of oil exploitation in Ecuador has been evaluated as severe, particularly regarding the impact of roads and infrastructure construction for this activity, related deforestation and oil spills. In Ecuador, we have already witnessed the tragic side effects of this oil drilling. International oil companies have dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into our water supplies over the past few decades through illegal practices from which we are only now recovering. Biological studies have shown that many species have already disappeared throughout Ecuador.
MT: And the ITT initiative?
IB: The best strategy for Ecuador will be to concentrate on the oil extraction of its mature oil fields, what is called improved oil recovery, where the additional environmental impact is relatively low and profits can compete with those from new blocks that could thereby remain untouched, hence promoting the conservation of the most sensitive areas, such as the Yasuní National Park. The Initiative promotes the creation of new clean energy technologies which can create methods that work with nature instead of against it; in favor of our future as human beings without compromising environmental preservation, and the future of coming generations. The recognition of the importance of biodiversity has also to be internalized so that the thought of harming the environment in the name of energy seems counter-intuitive and even immoral.
MT: One journalist who visited Yasuní (Esme McAvoy) described the conflict as “Oil or life? Ecuador’s stark choice.” Ecuador’s new Constitution, ratified in 2008, is one of the few documents in human history that enshrines “the rights of nature.” How is this Constitutional declaration currently playing out in your country?
IB: Ecuador is indeed the first country in the world to recognize nature as a subject of rights, an example that should not only be praised but followed. The post-2008 situation is playing out gradually, as the country is starting a transition towards a model of development based on well-being and rights of nature, in which the Yasuní-ITT Initiative exerts a very important role in promoting this important transition. The Proposal’s objective can be qualified as both holistic and revolutionary because, in addition to addressing the root of global warming and biodiversity loss, it also aspires to fight poverty and inequality within Ecuador; to stop deforestation and promote reforestation, to protect the National Parks and invest in research and sustainable development. Given the fact that the Yasuní-ITT Initiative is a governmental project, it offers an opportunity for oil-producing developing countries, such as Ecuador, to end their dependence on an extractive economy and seek dignified development opportunities through the sustainable use of its natural resources.
MT: And in relation to the Kyoto Protocol?
IB: Considering the Kyoto Protocol’s current limitations, Ecuador has put forward this innovative alternative, that even promotes a new climate change mitigation mechanism (Net Avoided Emissions) to allow the active participation of developing countries in the mitigation of climate change, protecting biodiversity, the rights of indigenous peoples and promoting a new style of human development, that is equitable and sustainable.
MT: The Fund’s administration?
IB: The Yasuní Fund, administered by UNDP, will collect the contributions during a 13-year period. Taking into account the positive international reception of the Initiative, we expect that the adverse effects of the recent economic crisis will be overcome in the future, and the need for effective solutions to climate change and biodiversity conservation will prevail. What Ecuador is doing is to convey the importance of this Initiative by stressing the international community’s shared responsibility and interest in its success. Yasuní is definitely a world ecological reserve that is worth much more than its oil underground. A new internationally-binding agreement is necessary for climate change mitigation, and cannot be postponed indefinitely.
MT: How will the assets be targeted, the funds allocated?
IB: This fund will enable the State to earn interest in perpetuity, which will be invested in five areas: 1) Conservation and prevented deforestation in at least 19% of national territory; 2) Reforestation and afforestation of 1 million hectares; 3) Efficiency improvements in national energy consumption; 4) Social development and sustainable production for the populations living in the areas, particularly in the Amazon region; and 5) Scientific and technological research in topics related to the Initiative.
MT: And the precise financial goal?
IB: The goal of the Yasuní-ITT Initiative is to raise $3.6 billion by 2024; half of what Ecuador could have expected to reap in profits from drilling for Yasuní-ITT’s oil. The President’s commitment to the Yasuní-ITT Initiative is firm and consistent with the environmental laws under the new Ecuadorian Constitution, comporting with the important rights of nature, as well as the National Development Plan policies. The commitment that nations and individuals need to exercise is not a mere cooperation but a necessity, in my opinion, in order for humanity’s future to be sustained on this unique planet.
MT: Ultimately, it really does come down to that very poignant statement by biologist E. O. Wilson, “The one process ongoing…that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.”
Peru region puts pressure on miner Southern Copper
Teresa Cespedes. Reuters. September 27, 2011
LIMA, sept 27 (Reuters) - Authorities in the Peruvian region of Tacna have decided to ask the national government to revoke the water license that Southern Copper (SCCO.N) relies on to run two of its copper mines, the president of the region of Tacna said on Tuesday.
Guillermo Chocano said he and provincial mayors in the coastal desert also plan to organize a general strike starting on Monday to press their demands.
"We've had 51 years of pollution by Southern Copper, which has caused an ecological disaster and has used agricultural water and water of the people for mining," he told Reuters in an interview.
He said desertification, which is when land becomes unusable, has increased as a result of using groundwater, but he did not provide details.
An official for Southern Copper, one of the world's largest copper miners, was not immediately available to comment.
"Mining companies can operate in the region but they must use desalinated water from the sea," Chocano said.
Southern Copper runs the Ilo smelter in the area, and the Toquepala and Cajone mines.
It is currently trying to expand Toquepala and win approvals for another mining project, Tia Maria, which has faced strident opposition over water supplies.
Peru is a top global minerals exporter and Southern Copper generates much of its revenue in the Andean country.
Leftist President Ollanta Humala this month passed a "consultation law" that aims to make mining companies and communities negotiate settlements to thorny environmental and economic issues, but it has not been implemented yet. (Reporting by Teresa Cespedes; Editing by Andrea Evans and Bob Burgdorfer)
Mexico, Central America and Caribbean [contents]
Education Is Latest Casualty In Mexico's Drug War
Jason Beaubien. NPR. September 28, 2011
In the coastal Mexican city of Acapulco, teachers are out on strike — not over wages, working conditions or pensions, but because of crime.
Teachers say they're being extorted, kidnapped and intimidated by local gangs and they're refusing to return to their classrooms until the government does something to protect them. Over the last two years, drug cartels fighting for control of Acapulco have terrorized the once-popular tourist resort.
Public schools across most of Mexico resumed in late August. But in Acapulco, more than a hundred schools have been shut for more than a month. Last week about 7,000 teachers marched up the city's main tourist strip, past the stores selling Senor Frog T-shirts and quart-sized margaritas. Their banners demanded security and peace.
As Mexico's drug war drags on, and the government cracks down on narcotics trafficking, there's been a spike across the country in kidnapping, car theft and extortion. Teachers refused to reopen schools in Acapulco after there were several anonymous demands for educators to hand over half their salaries to criminal gangs by Oct. 1 — or be killed.
In the middle of what should be a school day, hundreds of teachers have gathered at a school near the center of Acapulco, awaiting instructions from their union leaders.
A primary school teacher — who for security reasons only wants to give her first name, Bety — says the teachers are being attacked, extorted and kidnapped with impunity.
Teaching Confronting A Widespread Problem
Manuel Lozano Hernandez, a veteran educator in the Acapulco public schools, says the teachers are publicly fighting a problem that's plaguing taxi drivers, shopkeepers, restaurant owners and even street vendors in Acapulco.
"I believe that this fight that the teachers are making is a defining moment, because having been a teacher for 32 years, I'm convinced that teachers have their finger on the pulse of what's happening in every house, every neighborhood, every street, every family. Thus, this issue is very important," he says.
Longtime residents of Acapulco say crime in what used to be one of Mexico's leading tourist resorts is out of control. There have been shootouts by heavily armed gunmen in front of beach hotels. Several women were decapitated this year at the start of the Semana Santa holiday, Mexico's big spring break.
As in many other drug-plagued Mexican cities, federal police and soldiers in ski masks patrol the streets in armored convoys.
One local college student says the recent crime wave is like a psychosis that's gripped Acapulco. A waiter says violent crime is crushing the economy. And now it's delayed the start of classes at many schools across the city by more than a month.
Mercedes Martinez Calvo, the city's director of education, says the teacher walkout clearly has had a huge negative effect on students.
She says schools — and particularly teachers — are going to have to come up with a plan of how to make up all of the instruction time that's been lost.
Martinez says this might mean longer school days or classes on weekends.
Parents recognize the severity of the current crime problem and sympathize with the teachers, Martinez says. But she adds that there's growing public frustration with the strike. She says each day more and more schools are opening across Acapulco.
Fred Rosen. NACLA. September 27, 2011
Last Tuesday, in the port city of Veracruz, 35 bodies were dumped in public spaces in the heart of the city. The act took place in broad daylight despite an atmosphere of heavy security meant to protect a meeting of the country’s attorneys general. All the bodies had a Z painted on their torsos, and some with the words “por Z” (for being a Z), presumably indicating membership in Mexico’s most brutal and vicious criminal gang, the Zetas.
Two days later, the bodies of seven more presumed Zetas were found in similar conditions on well-traveled streets in the city. All bore signs of torture, and most of death by asphyxiation. The killers hung a “narco-banner” on the street, highlighting the impunity with which they acted, and emphasizing the warning contained in the murders. The banner warned Mexico’s most vicious criminal group, the Zetas, that more was to come. It was signed “NG.” It read:
No more extortion, no more deaths of innocent people. Zetas get out of the state of Veracruz. Still more to come…. Zetas die like this or like those we've shot. To the people of Veracruz, don't pay any more extortion. If you do it's because you want to.
Over the weekend, the NG (more completely, the CJNG, Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación) posted a series of videos on YouTube, justifying and taking credit for the killings. What is happening is ominous. The militarization of the drug war is spawning competing armies; the CJNG, the armed wing of a drug-trafficking cartel, is presenting itself as a paramilitary force, fighting alongside “the people.” Over the weekend, it issued a communiqué (translated by borderlandbeat.com) in which it very clearly named its enemies—in and out of government:
Motivated by our personal experiences, we the members of this force that is the paramilitary arm of the people and for the people state that our only objective is the Zetas cartel, with all due respect to the armed forces that we understand cannot act outside the law, which we encourage.
We condemn the evil public servants whose support allows this scourge to continue against society, particularly in the communities of the port of Veracruz, Boca del Rio, Cardel, Xalapa, Poza Rica, Tuxpan, Panuco, Cordova, Orizaba, Perote, San Andres Tuxtla, Martinez de la Torre, Minatitlan, Acayucan, Alvarado, Coatzacoalcos and other municipalities in the state of Veracruz.
We do not avoid our responsibilities, but only fighting under equal terms will we succeed in eradicating the Zeta cartel from the roots up. To accomplish this we ask that that the functionaries and authorities who support the Zetas stop doing so.
That the armed forces be confidant that our only objective is to finish off the Zetas and that all of society be confidant that we, the Mata Zetas [Zeta killers], do not extort, do not kidnap, or in any way damage your personal or the national well being.
We respect the federal, state and municipal executive powers in their fight against organized crime, and we understand their position of not negotiating which obligates us to act covertly but always to the benefit of the Mexican nation.
We are anonymous warriors, faceless, but proudly Mexican.
The federal government of Felipe Calderón has condemned and distanced itself from this paramilitary justice. Governor Javier Duarte of Veracruz, however, has taken a more nuanced approach:
"The killing of 35 people is deplorable, but it's even more deplorable that the same victims chose to extort, kidnap and kill," Duarte tweeted.
Mexican president wants change in abortion stance under treaty
EFE. September 27, 2011
Mexico City – President Felipe Calderon has asked the Senate to scrap a commitment Mexico made when it signed the Pact of San Jose on Human Rights in 1981 to not take on the obligation of enacting legislation to protect life from conception.
The president's proposal to the Senate comes as the Supreme Court begins reviewing the constitutionality of reforms implemented in two states on the protection of life from conception, opening the way for the criminalization of abortion.
Calderon contends that a withdrawal from the Interpretive Declaration of the San Jose Pact would allow Mexico to endorse a "commitment to the right to life as a legal right protected under Mexican law," the Office of the President said in a statement.
The American Convention on Human Rights, also known as the Pact of San Jose, was adopted on Nov. 22, 1969, and holds that laws will generally protect the right to life from the time of conception and that no one will be deprived of life arbitrarily.
Mexico signed the treaty in 1981 with the provision that becoming a signatory "does not constitute an obligation to legislate to protect life" from conception and made it clear that "States reserve the right to have exceptions in their legislation, such as is the case with determining responsibility in abortion cases."
Calderon asked the Senate to take up the change in stance in accordance with the June 10 constitutional reforms, which recognize human rights protected in international treaties and the Mexican Constitution.
The Supreme Court on Monday began examining the constitutionality of reforms in the states of Baja California and San Luis Potosi that establish a right to life from conception.
In Honduras, LGBT Protest Unsolved Murders
Paul Canning. Care2. September 26, 2011
Every month, outside the Ministerio Público (Public Ministry) in downtown Tegucigalpa, Honduras, LGBTs protest 85 unsolved murders. The protests are happening on the 13th of each month “because Walter Tróchez was killed on December 13, 2009,” said leader Donis Reyes.
Tróchez was a political activist and LGBT rights leader who was killed after threats and previous attacks. His death led to worldwide protests, including by Amnesty International.
LGBT Honduran groups say that there have been 54 murders since January 2010. In all cases, the police have not arrested and prosecuted the perpetrators, Reyes said. “There is total impunity, no murder solved,” Reyes said.
The protesters were dressed in costumes that mimicked death and the goddess Themis, who represents justice, and carrying signs that said: “No more crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Honduras” and “Justice for Walter Tróchez.”
In early 2011, representatives of the LGBT community met with Human Rights Minister, Ana Pineda, to discuss the problems. The demonstrators presented the project “Building Public Safety Initiative in Tegucigalpa Sexual Diversity,” which asked the Public Ministry, in particular the Human Rights Prosecutor, to investigate the deaths of their comrades and make a robust response.
Pineda has said that:
“Homophobia is a reprehensible act from every point of view when it is an individual doing it, but even worse when it is because of an action or lack thereof by a state servant.”
Both the United Nations and the U.S. government have expressed concern over the murder of LGBTs and have requested the State to comply with measures to ensure their safety and punish crimes against them.
Since the 2009 coup, LGBT groups have reported increased targeted and brutal persecution and many people have fled the country. The persecution against the LGBT community is more than just political. It reflects a worrying change in the attitude and policy of the Honduran government from that of ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
Fundamentalist religious groups have a large degree of influence within the elite interests that were behind the coup; the same groups who openly denounce homosexuality as a sickness.
“We knew what a coup meant and how that would harm us. That’s why we protested against [the coup],” said Iván Banegas, coordinator of the group Colectivo Violeta, an LGBT rights group.
“After the coup, the army and police came down especially hard on the transsexuals, many of whom live on prostitution and were in the streets in the middle of the curfews,” he said.
However, the situation was bad even before the coup. In May 2009, one month before the coup, Human Rights Watch warned that Honduran police systematically abused LGBT Hondurans.
Those fleeing to the US, however, face an asylum system which may reject them, or in the case of Honduran Miguel Caceres Juarez, continue to detain him (he was released after a campaign) despite a judge granting ‘withholding of removal,’ a form of immigration protection for people who have suffered or fear persecution in their native countries.
Gold brings little wealth to Guatemala
Mary Ann McGivern. National Catholic Reports. September 27, 2011
I went to Guatemala last week for meetings with sisters there about several projects we work on together. The four of us from the U.S. attended a special presentation on Goldcorp Mining Company.
Goldcorp is mining gold (what else?) in the western mountains of Guatemala, in the San Marcos province. When the company bought the land, parcel by parcel, agents told the people a huge orchid farm would be established, offering jobs and the opportunity to work in beauty. The land is poor and people were glad to sell for modest prices – until one holdout was paid $40,000.
Additionally, Goldcorp held a series of good will dinners where they asked everyone to sign in. They used the sign-in sheets to claim to the government that they had the community approval for the mining project required by law. This was the first people heard that orchids were not to be grown there.
We saw pictures of the mountain-top removal, the huge cyanide-contaminated cisterns and ponds and sores on children’s legs and arms. The presenter told us Guatemala gets 1 percent of the profit, split between the national government and the two villages adjacent to the mine. But the people haven’t seen the books.
Last Wednesday, Sept. 21, Goldcorp was removed from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for its damage to groundwater and lack of sufficient surety for environmental clean-up to restore the land and water when the mine is closed.
Goldcorp is a Canadian company, monitored by Mining Watch, http://www.miningwatch.ca/. The San Marcos diocese has supported community opposition to the Marlin Mine. Indeed, the parish priest was very much surprised to find his name on the list of community supporters of the mine.
During the meeting in Guatemala I remembered the Appalachian Bishops’ letter, “This Land Is Home to Me.” It is a beautiful pastoral that challenges the mining business to do better. It was written in 1975. You can read it here.
Aid will flow to Jamaica after IMF issue resolved, says EU ambassador
Jamaica Gleaner. September 28, 2011
Ambassador Marco Mazzocchi Alemanni, head of the delegation of the European Commission/European Union, said a speedy resolution on issues such as tax reform and reduction of the public-sector wage bill could serve as an incentive for Jamaica's development partners to re-engage and calm jitters among ratings agencies.
"We all agree that the public-sector wage bill needs to be reduced," said Alemanni, addressing the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica Chairman's Club forum in Kingston.
"Since salaries have been raised, this could be done by taking a decisive and plain approach on attrition example by establishing that, within each monthly period, only two or three public sector vacancies out of 10 will be filled, and that others would be permanently frozen," he said.
But this, Alemanni said, would only be a first step as other wage restraints were required, though he did not elaborate on what those measures were.
He also urged that the tax-reform process be wrapped up by the end of the financial year.
"A strong commitment on these two measures could be, I believe, an excellent incentive to international development partners to rapidly re-engage, thereby dispelling any possible risk of rating agencies becoming jittery about the stalemate, with possible repercussions on interest rates and exchange rate," he said.
A discussion paper on tax reform has already been tabled in Parliament and a special committee chaired by the finance minister has been formed to review submissions and agree the framework for the legislation in the form of a White Paper. The Golding administration is working with a 2012 deadline to implement the new tax system.
Tax reform and wage cuts are conditions of the IMF standby agreement. Three quarterly reviews are outstanding.
Alemanni said disbursement of European Union funding has ceased until Jamaica re-engages with the IMF.
"We have already declared that we have to wait for Jamaica to re-engage with the IMF in order to continue disbursing our own funds in terms of budgetary support," the EU ambassador told Wednesday Business.
"We have a considerable amount of funding between now and the end of the financial year in the vicinity of US$70 million in grants for the budget, and part of the funds are quite ready to disburse as soon as the IMF issue is settled," he said.
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