Latin America News Round-up
April 24, 2012
Colombian Union Leaders Receive Death Threats From Paramilitaries
For the latest news and developments on Haiti, please see CEPR's blog, "Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch."
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Brazil and Southern Cone
Panetta Targets Drug and Arms Deals in South America Tour
Strike Halts Work on Mega-Dam in Brazil. EFE
Brazil Wants U.S. Military Technology Transfer Restrictions Lifted. AFP
Argentina Polls Show Broad Support For YPF Nationalization. Dow Jones
IMF says YPF dispute is a “bilateral affair” and decision of “a sovereign nation”. Mercopress
S&P Lowers Argentina Outlook To Negative. Wall Street Journal
Spain Responds to Argentine Nationalization with Import Curbs. EFE
Energy crisis provokes Argentine YPF expropriation. AP
Argentina aims to stop fund seeking info on assets. Reuters
Chile begins implementing education reforms demanded by massive student protests. Santiago Times
Northern Andean Region
Venezuela's Chavez calls home to squash death rumors. Reuters
Chávez Out of Sight but Big as Life on Twitter. New York Times
Venezuelan official: Ex-judge received drug money. AP
Venezuela’s Chavez: Informal Workers to Receive Social Security. Venezuelanalysis
Colombian union leaders receive death threats from neo-paramilitaries. Colombia Reports
Labor Action and Inaction in Colombia Free Trade Deal. In These Times
Colombia's Santos discusses Uribe, Chavez, drugs. Colombia Reports
Western Andean Region
Peru's president says mine viable with changes. AP
Cajamarca Anti-Mining Movements Celebrate and Question Study Results For Peru Conga Gold Mine. Upside Down World
Correa: Ecuador Expects China to Fully Finance Pacific Refinery. EFE
Mexico, Central America and Caribbean
Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart After Top-Level Struggle. New York Times
Mexico pres front-runner opposes legalizing drugs. AP
Mexico Says U.S. Stalling on Addition to Pacific Trade Deal. Bloomberg
TV Personality Slain in Honduras. EFE
Union leader urges action on case against Guatemalan unions. The Hill
Region: Trade, Security, Economy and Integration
Panetta Targets Drug and Arms Deals in South America Tour. Bloomberg
Costa Rica’s Chinchilla is least-popular president in the Americas. Tico Times
Brazil and Southern Cone [contents]
Strike Halts Work on Mega-Dam in Brazil
EFE. April 21, 2012
RIO DE JANEIRO – A strike Monday effectively halted work on Brazil’s giant Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, a controversial project in the heart of Amazonia that has drawn bitter opposition from environmentalists and indigenous people.
Around 80 percent of the workers are honoring the strike, the Sintrapav construction union said.
The strikers also blocked the only access road, preventing non-strikers from reaching the work site.
The Belo Monte Construction Consortium acknowledged that work had come to halt, but declined to estimate how many workers were taking part in the job action.
Negotiations broke down last Thursday after the workers voted to strike, the consortium said.
The strikers are demanding a tripling in their monthly food subsidy, from 100 reais ($53.20) to 300 reais ($159.60), and that workers from other parts of Brazil be given home leave every three months rather than twice a year.
The consortium countered with an offer of a 16 percent increase in the food subsidy and to expand home leave from nine to 19 days, while maintaining the six-month interval between leaves.
The strike casts new doubt on the chances the dam will be up and running by January 2015, as the Brazilian government had hoped.
Work on the $10.6 billion project began in March 2011 near the city of Altamira in Para state.
The 11.2 GW dam complex on the Xingu River would be the world’s third-largest after China’s Three Gorges and Itaipu, jointly operated by Brazil and Paraguay.
Environmentalists and indigenous protesters say the d
am will flood 516 sq. kilometers (200 sq. miles) of jungle, displace 50,000 people and cause severe damage to the local ecosystem.
Brazilian officials insist the dam is necessary to keep pace with the country’s burgeoning energy needs.
The project has faced legal challenges from environmentalists, indigenous people and even Brazilian government prosecutors, and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission went so far as to urge Brazil to suspend the initiative. EFE
Brazil Wants U.S. Military Technology Transfer Restrictions Lifted
AFP. April 23, 2012
BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil’s defense minister says he will press for the lifting of U.S. restrictions to military technology transfer in his upcoming talks with his American counterpart Leon Panetta.
“It is very important that there be no obstacle to the acquisition of items with technological content,” Celso Amorim told the daily Folha de Sao Paulo on April 23.
Amorim and Panetta are to meet here April 24 as part of the new Defense Cooperation Dialogue agreed during President Dilma Rousseff’s recent visit to Washington.
Brasilia is now insisting on technology transfer in all its defense agreements.
Amorim referred to the U.S. restriction which blocked the sale of 24 Super Tucano light attack aircraft made by Brazil’s top aeronautics firm Embraer to Venezuela in 2006. The planes have U.S.-built components.
The technology transfer issue is a key factor in Brazil’s decision expected within a few months on a tender for 36 multi-role combat aircraft.
U.S. aviation giant Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet is up against the Rafale fighter, made by French firm Dassault Aviation, and Swedish manufacturer Saab’s Gripen for the contract variously valued at between $4 billion and $7 billion.
In addition to technology transfer, Brasilia also wants some of the jet fighters to be assembled in this country, which according to analysts might favor the Rafale.
But Boeing is said to be offering a better price.
Another irritant expected to come up in the Amorim-Panetta talks is the U.S. cancelation of a $380 million contract with Embraer to buy 20 AT-29 Super Tucano aircraft from Embraer for the Afghan army.
Embraer and its U.S. partner Sierra Nevada were awarded the contract in December but the U.S. Air Force called off the deal in February after a legal challenge from rival Hawker Beechcraft Corp.
The Pentagon has called for a new round of bidding for the contract, but in any case, the equipment will not be delivered before 2014.
The Brazilian-U.S. dialogue is also meant to resolve other issues such as the U.S. decision in 2008 to reactivate its Fourth Fleet in the South Atlantic, a strategic and resource-rich area where regional countries do not want any external military presence.
Panetta began his first Latin America tour in Colombia on April 23 and will also to visit Chile after Brazil in a bid to boost military cooperation and regional security ties.
Argentina Polls Show Broad Support For YPF Nationalization
Dow Jones. April 23, 2012
Two opinion polls published over the weekend show widespread support for Argentine President Cristina Kirchner's plan to nationalize the country's largest oil and gas company, YPF SA (YPF, YPFD.BA).
The surveys, conducted by respected pollsters with a track record of accurately measuring electoral patterns, indicate a majority of Argentines approve of Kirchner's decision.
A poll carried out by Poliarquia Consultores and published in newspaper La Nacion, shows that 62% of Argentines "agree with the announced plans," while 31% disagree with them.
The other survey, conducted by Management & Fit and published in the weekly magazine Noticias, puts support for YPF's nationalization at 50.2% and its rejection at 34.6%.
Both polls indicate that a plurality of respondents blame the government instead of YPF for Argentina's energy problems.
In the Poliarquia's survey, around 44% of those polled said the government is responsible for declining oil production, while 36% said YPF is the culprit.
In Management & Fit's poll, about 39% blamed the government for "YPF's crisis," while 18.3% blamed the company's majority shareholder, Spain's Repsol YPF SA (REP.MC, REPYY), for YPF's troubles. The poll said 11.6% of those interviewed blame the Spanish government for YPF's predicament.
Last week, President Kirchner asked Congress to nationalize YPF by expropriating 51% of the company's shares from Repsol YPF. She said Repsol YPF and YPF had failed Argentina by not investing enough in oil and gas production.
The lack of investment has led to falling oil and gas output, which forced Argentina to become a net energy importer for the first time in 17 years, according to Kirchner.
Both YPF and Repsol have denied Kirchner's allegations and said noted that YPF invested far more than any other company in Argentina. In 2011, YPF invested $3 billion in Argentina, mostly on exploration and production.
-By Taos Turner, Dow Jones Newswires; 5411-4103-6728; email@example.com
IMF says YPF dispute is a “bilateral affair” and decision of “a sovereign nation”
Mercopress. April 21, 2012
Argentina managed a first point in the diplomatic dispute with Spain over the nationalization of YPF when the IMF decided to call the conflict a “bilateral affair” and “a decision of a sovereign nation”.
The statements belong to IMF Latin America and Caribbean Department Director Nicolas Eyzaguirre during a news briefing on Friday at the IMF, World Bank Spring 2012 meetings in Washington.
Eyzaguirre has had no trouble in criticizing several decisions made by the Kirchner couple’s administrations before particularly after both governments (presidents Nestor and Cristina Kirchner) refused to accept IMF missions.
”What we expect is the nationalization to be given in a context of agreement between both nations” the Chilean economist added following on several direct talks held with Argentine officials, including the Economy Minister Hernán Lorenzino and the Finance Secretary Adrián Cosentino.
Both officials managed to keep the nationalization of YPF and Argentina’s relations with the IMF as separate matters despite the close relationship Spanish president Mariano Rajoy has with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
This also despite some criticisms leaked and advisor in the IMF Research Department, Thomas Helbling who stated that “in general state interventions make the investment environment less predictable. Companies’ expropriations do not favour investments for a long-term growth.”
Eyzaguirre’s conciliatory statements were received by the Argentine delegation as a true blessing although he reiterated the need of improving the inflation measurement techniques, INDEC (Stats office) credibility, and obviously, the need to disclose public accounts for a mission to be sent to the country to discuss the Article IV of the IMF statute.
S&P Lowers Argentina Outlook To Negative
Wall Street Journal. April 23, 2012
Standard & Poor's Ratings Services lowered its outlook on Argentina to negative from stable, citing recent policies such as steps to nationalize oil company YPF SA YPF -3.48% (YPF, YPFD.BA) and restrictions on international trade that could hurt the South American country's medium-term growth prospects.
S&P, which affirmed Argentina's ratings five notches into junk territory at B, said policies such as those enacted since the country's October presidential election could also weaken Argentina's macroeconomic framework and external liquidity.
The move to nationalize YPF, "which was taken abruptly and unilaterally and with little negotiation with the controlling shareholder, underscores the weakening system of checks and balances in Argentina," S&P said. "Actions of this type continue to shorten the economic planning horizon in the country and contribute to Argentina's deteriorating economic and political links with the international community."
S&P said a worsening external position, most likely from financial outflows, or additional policy actions that could further hurt the country's growth prospects could lead to a downgrade. Meanwhile, actions that restore confidence on medium-term prospects for the economy and reduce uncertainty over its external liquidity position, could prompt S&P to change the outlook back to stable.
Last week, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner asked Congress to nationalize YPF by expropriating 51% of the company's shares from Repsol YPF SA REP.MC +0.25% (REPYY, REP.MC).
S&P analyst Roberto Sifon Arevalo said in phone interview that Argentina's fundamentals, viewed outside the context of the current political situation, might lead some to say the country merits a higher rating. But he noted that constantly changing policies are a concern and that the investment climate in Argentina is being hurt by this.
"It's the level of uncertainty and unpredictability in policy" that is concerning, he said.
Analysts at Moody's Investors Service earlier Monday said Argentina's decision to take a controlling stake in YPF is a credit negative for the sovereign, as it will deter investment in the oil sector, raise concerns about respect for the rule of law, and strain the country's worsening fiscal position.
Moody's MCO +0.72% rates Argentina B3 with a stable outlook.
-By Nathalie Tadena, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3287; firstname.lastname@example.org
--Taos Turner in Buenos Aires contributed to this article.
Spain Responds to Argentine Nationalization with Import Curbs
EFE. April 21, 2012
MADRID – Spain’s government said Friday that it will limit imports of Argentine biodiesel in response to Buenos Aires’ move to nationalize YPF, a unit of Spanish oil major Repsol.
The curbs will be affected through support for biofuel production in Spain and the European Union, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told a press conference.
The announcement was hailed by Spain’s renewable energy sector, who said the import limits will allow the domestic industry to revive.
Domestic producers of biofuel have repeatedly asked the Spanish government to limit what they regard as unfair competition from Argentina and Indonesia, where biodiesel firms benefit from very favorable tax treatment compared with their counterparts in Europe.
Imports captured 89 percent of the Spanish market for biodiesel in the fourth quarter of 2011, amid a first-time fall in domestic output of nearly 50 percent, a group representing Spain’s biofuel industry said.
Spain’s imports of Argentine biodiesel totaled 700 million euros ($920 million) in 2011, officials in Madrid say.
Besides reducing imports from Argentina, Spain will pursue “measures of a diplomatic nature” in various international forums to respond to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez’s decision to expropriate 51 percent of YPF, Saenz said.
She cited a resolution passed Friday by the European Parliament that calls on EU institutions to take whatever trade measures deemed necessary to protect EU companies’ investments abroad.
The document, which was approved by a vote of 458-71 with 16 abstentions, specifically asks the European Commission and European Council to consider the “possible partial suspension” of Argentina from the Generalized System of Preferences.
Roughly 27 percent of Argentina’s total exports to EU nations in 2010 consisted of products covered by the GSP, according to data from the European Commission.
Spain’s deputy premier stressed the “important and enormous” international support Spain has received in its dispute with Argentina over YPF, mentioning the EU, the United States, several Latin American countries and global institutions.
At the same time, Saenz de Santamaria said Argentina’s reputation is “seriously damaged” and that Buenos Aires will end up as the loser.
Repsol holds a 57.43 percent stake in originally state-owned YPF and the Argentine government currently has only 0.02 percent of the shares, though the terms of the firm’s 1999 privatization gave officials a veto and a seat on the board.
Argentina’s Grupo Petersen has a 25.46 percent holding and the remaining 17.09 percent of the company’s shares are traded on the Buenos Aires and New York stock exchanges.
YPF, one of the world’s first vertically integrated oil companies, was among the numerous Argentine state-owned enterprises privatized in the 1990s under President Carlos Menem. EFE
Energy crisis provokes Argentine YPF expropriation
LUIS ANDRES HENAO. AP. April 22, 2012
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Less than a decade ago, Argentina was an exporter of oil and natural gas. Now the government has to spend billions of dollars to import fuel.
This dramatic reversal of fortune is why Argentina, already a global financial rogue after its historic debt default, is willing to risk becoming even more of a pariah by seizing control of its leading oil company from Spanish hands, analysts say.
President Cristina Fernandez infuriated Spain, its largest foreign investor, but elated many Argentines by expropriating Repsol YPF SA's majority stake in Argentina's formerly state-owned YPF energy company.
Only two months earlier, Repsol YPF had upped its estimate for the shale oil and gas it found in Argentina to nearly 23 billion barrels, enough to double the country's output in a decade. But the Spanish company said it would cost $25 billion a year to develop, and warned that Argentina would need to overhaul its energy policy to attract the necessary investment.
Instead, Fernandez simply seized the company, giving her government access to billions of dollars' worth of cash, enough energy to answer domestic demand in the short term, and potentially even solving Argentina's chronic money woes in the future.
She accused Repsol of draining YPF since gaining control in the 1990s, underinvesting in its oil and gas fields and failing to keep pace with the needs of Argentina's growing economy even as it paid huge dividends to shareholders.
Repsol blames Argentina's ever-changing mix of subsidies, price caps and export taxes for depressing production as the country's demand for energy soared since 2003, when her husband, President Nestor Kirchner, came to power.
Both are partly right, says Eduardo Fernandez, an independent consultant and former fuels director in Argentina's energy ministry.
The problem was a government approved practice of allowing Repsol to use profits to pay shareholder dividends rather than invest that money in the company's future. "That led to a lack of reinvestment in utilities, little exploration and dwindling reserves, as oil fields dried up and productivity fell," Fernandez said.
Argentine oil production plunged 22 percent from 2000 to 2010, even as demand surged more than 40 percent, according to data from the Argentine Oil and Gas Institute and the Energy Ministry compiled by a former energy secretary, Emilio Apud.
Argentina's production has fallen so low that the government now spends billions of dollars a year on expensive imported fuels that it provides at a loss to companies and consumers.
Cheap energy helped Argentines rebuild after a world-record debt default and devaluation in 2002 left the economy in ruins. It makes less sense now, after nearly a decade of growth, but letting consumer energy prices rise too quickly could cause already high inflation to spiral, and provoke popular discontent in a country where pot-banging street protests have driven other presidents from office.
The energy subsidies spiked by 63 percent in 2010 to $5.6 billion, according to a former energy secretary, Alieto Guadagni. At the time, oil traded at about $80 a barrel internationally. With oil now going for more than $100 a barrel, this year's bill could be nearly $10 billion, even as the economy cools with less demand from China and Brazil.
Fernandez squarely blamed Repsol's lack of investment for a $3 billion energy deficit when she announced the takeover.
"The worst thing is that if we don't do this, we'll turn into an unsustainable country, because of its business policies and not because of a lack of resources," she said, noting that Argentina holds the world's third largest reserves of shale oil and gas, after China and the United States - a resource that remains entirely untapped.
"Our model is one of recovering our sovereignty," she added, noting that the company will not be state-owned, but run as a mixed entity, able to bring in new private shareholders.
But rather than raise fuel prices that are now about five times lower than in Brazil and Uruguay, her expropriation measure insists that oil companies must serve Argentines first, even if it means selling the energy they produce at a loss.
In the lead up to the nationalization, as prospects for quick returns diminished in Argentina, Repsol YPF sought to protect its shareholders by diversifying and making long-term investments elsewhere in Latin America.
Other oil companies did the same. With oil capped at $55 a barrel in Argentina while trading above $100 on the world market, they followed the money, Eduardo Fernandez said.
"So there's no interest in making investments in Argentina when in other countries they're paying in full. So Repsol went to Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Bolivia. All of this provoked the disinvestment," he said.
Repsol President Antonio Bureau said Repsol invested billions of dollars in Argentina, and tried to head off the expropriation with promises to spend more. But by then, the Argentines were already determined to regain control. All Brufau could do in the end was demand $10.5 billion, which he said was the market price of the shares Argentina seized.
Deputy Economy Minister Axel Keillor accused Repsol of hiding the true value of its Argentine unit, and said a thorough review of its books now that he's in control of the company's offices in Buenos Aires will affect whatever compensation is eventually paid.
"These morons think that the government is stupid enough to buy everything" that Repsol demands, the 40-year-old Kicillof said, sporting an open shirt and long, Elvis-like sideburns in a heated senate session this week.
Latin America's third-biggest economy hasn't been able to tap international debt markets since its default, but has been able to manage with dollars rolling in from taxes on grains, nationalizing private pension funds and the flagship airline, and by tapping central bank reserves.
By re-nationalizing YPF - and not paying Repsol until international courts resolve the case years from now, if then - Argentina can reinvest profits to develop new reserves and use the fuel Repsol was exporting to save consumers from price shocks as it weans them off the subsidies.
The shale deposits trapped deep under the "Vaca Muerta" ("Dead Cow") basin of Neuquén province could increase Argentina's oil reserves by at least 750 million barrels, and probably three times that much, said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research.
Strategic partners will be key, and the Argentines aren't waiting for them to come knocking. Planning Minister Julio de Vido assured Brazilian officials Friday that Argentine assets of their state-run oil giant Petrobras would not be expropriated, and secured a promise to increase their Argentine market share from 8 percent to 15 percent this year. Brazilian Energy Minister Edison Lobao called Petrobras' current investment of $500 million in Argentina "good business."
De Vido also secured promises of increased natural gas production from French-owned Total Austral, and planned meetings Monday with executives from Chevron and Exxon.
He said he had not heard from China's No. 2 Sinopec oil company, "but that doesn't mean that we won't have contacts in the future."
Argentina aims to stop fund seeking info on assets
Reuters. April 20, 2012
NEW YORK, April 20 (Reuters) - In the decade-long legal fight over Argentina's debt default, bondholder NML Capital Ltd faces significant obstacles in trying to convince an appeals court on Monday that it has the right to track the government's assets around the world.
Argentina has the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) and 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals precedent in its armory to stop the fund in its bid to gather information about government assets, accounts, and financial transactions from two commercial banks.
NML and other holdout creditors who rejected debt swaps in 2005 and 2010 are suing to recover the full value of their nonperforming bonds after Argentina defaulted on some $100 billion in sovereign debt in 2002. Argentina says bondholders who did not take part in the debt swaps do not deserve full recovery because it is unfair to bondholders who accepted less in the swaps.
The two banks that NML wants to subpoena -- Bank of America and Banco de la Nacion Argentina -- both do business in New York. A 2nd Circuit panel of three judges will hear oral arguments on Monday over Argentina's appeal against a trial judge's so-called Extraterritorial Asset Discovery Order. The court usually does not make an immediate ruling, but issues a written opinion at a later date.
NML won the ruling last September from U.S. Distict Judge Thomas Griesa, one of a series of legal devices that the fund has tried to use in its dispute with Argentina.
Argentina argues in its briefs that the order "runs afoul" of the FSIA of 1976, which protects foreign countries in United States courts, federal or state.
"The purpose of the order is not to find assets in the United States, which NML has taken discovery to pursue since 2003," the government argued. "Rather, the purpose of the order is precisely to seek discovery of assets outside of the United States so that it can pursue them there."
NML, which holds judgments against Argentina totaling more than $1.6 billion, argues that because the government has refused to pay, "NML therefore has no choice but to track Argentina's assets around the world and attach them as local laws permit."
Mark Feldman, the lawyer with Garvey Schubert Barer in Washington who managed the FSIA for the U.S. State Department in 1976, said even if a plaintiff were to get the information under a court order, difficulties would remain in the execution.
"Argentina being in default of its obligations, U.S. courts may be sympathetic to claimants, but it is often difficult to execute judgment against foreign sovereigns in the U.S. or abroad," Feldman said. "The legal obstacles are daunting and foreign courts are often reluctant to give extra-territorial effect to orders of U.S. courts."
Later this year, the appeals court is expected to hear arguments over a separate Feb. 23 order by Griesa that Argentina pay holdouts each time it services the debt issued in the 2005 and 2010 swaps. Griesa accepted an interpretation of the "pari passu" (or equal footing) clause included in many bonds that NML's parent company, Elliott Associates, used to disrupt a Peruvian debt exchange in 2000.
The cases are EM Ltd and NML capital Ltd v Republic of Argentina in the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals No. 11-4065 and NML Capital Ltd v Republic of Argentina in the same court No. 12-105.
For NML: Theodore Olson and Matthew McGill of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Robert Cohen, Dennis Hranitzky and Eric Kirsch of Dechert.
For Argentina: Carmine Boccuzzi of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.
(Reporting By Grant McCool)
Chile begins implementing education reforms demanded by massive student protests
Santiago Times. April 23, 2012
The state, not banks, are to fund higher education scholarships through the creation of a new specialized government agency, Chile’s Education minister, Harald Beyer, announced in a press conference at La Moneda on Monday.
“In practical terms, this means that the funds originate from the state and banks cease to fund higher education,” Beyer said.
This proposal fulfils one of the biggest requests of Chile’s student movement, which last year saw massive demonstrations with thousands demanding free quality education.
The Eucation minister met with President Sebastián Piñera in the presidential palace to present a package of reforms, which includes the exclusion of banks from the scholarship system in exchange for a single system of state-provided credit; changes in the requirements for scholarship access for poor students; and a new means of financing the gap between actual and reference tariffs, which are projected figures for the cost of a degree, as well as a better system of calculating reference tariffs.
“We want a more just system with no discrimination and more equality that integrates scholarships and loans for all students of higher education,” Beyer said.
Under the old system, banks facilitated the access of the middle classes to private universities through the Crédito con Aval del Estado (CAE), a program of state-guaranteed credit, established in 2007. The loans came with an interest rate of almost 6%, three times what some public universities charge their students through their internal loan systems.
This situation resulted in students graduating from university with large amounts of debt. Estimates place the number of students currently in debt through this system at 350,000. These students supposedly accrue an average of 100.00 dollars each by the end of their studies.
The new credit system will be administered by the government and have a single interest rate of 2% a year. This will be the case for nine out of 10 students from both private and public institutions, excluding only the richest 10%.
This change in the system will ensure that funding goes directly to students without involving third party institutions such as banks. With this new reform, recipients of the loans will only have to pay the money back once they start earning. Bayer said the payments will not exceed 10% of the student’s future income.
In Chile there is a point system based on the University Selection Test (PSU) for access into university. With the new reforms the requirement for merit-based grants and scholarships will also now depend on the socio-economic background of the student.
The current requirement of 550 points for a scholarship will be lowered to 500 for the poorest quintile of students and 525 for the next poorest fifth, allowing greater opportunities for access. This measure would be applied this coming academic year in 2012 for first year students and could benefit more than 15,000 students.
President Piñera was positive about the announcements and hinted at further reform to school and pre-school education that shows the government’s commitment to change at all levels of education.
“If we are talking about extending preferential school grants to the middle class then we should also talk about adding a second pillar to this educational reform, which is the reform of school education,” he said. ”If you add our commitment of 100 percent grant coverage and free education to vulnerable students from the middle class to a preschool level, then we have reform at all levels of education. This will be the task of the Minister.”
Both grants and loans provided by the government in Chile cover the cost of a reference tariff, however, in many institutions the actual fees often exceed this estimated amount.
The state and educational institution, according to Beyer’s announcement, will now split the cost of the gap between the actual and reference tariffs - a figure that was previously paid for by the student themselves. This co-financing would be gradual, however, with a total payment of the tariff gap for poorest students first while middle-income students will receive a smaller amount toward covering this cost.
The minister’s reforms also spoke of a new way of calculating reference tariffs, taking into consideration the student's socioeconomic background and characteristics of their degree, its duration, and the rates of employment after graduation, to create a fairer system more in line with the reality of the quality of education offered.
The call to abolish the CAE system was one of the main slogans of Chile’s student movement last year that with more than 40 massive street protests seeing the resignation of two ministers of Education.
The proposal has yet to be discussed in Congress and for this reason student leader Gabriel Boric gave a cautious response to the news.
“We have to study this proposal in detail - we are somewhat accustomed to the 'small print' of the government - but it seems that there is a positive reaction,” the president of the Federation of Students of the Universidad de Chile (FECH) told Chilean press. “The government is clearly action following the demonstrations of last year.”
Northern Andean Region [contents]
Venezuela's Chavez calls home to squash death rumors
Anthony Boadle. Reuters. April 23, 2012
CARACAS, April 23 (Reuters) - A healthy sounding President Hugo Chavez called Venezuelan state television from Cuba on Monday to dispel rumors fanned by a nine-day silence that he had died undergoing cancer treatment at a hospital in Havana.
"It seems we will have to become accustomed to live with these rumors, because it is part of the laboratories of psychological war, of dirty war," the 57-year-old socialist leader said in the telephone call.
Since leaving for Cuba on April 14 to undergo radiation treatment for an undisclosed cancer, Chavez had only addressed Venezuelans by short messages on Twitter to cheer supporters and hail the advances of his socialist "revolution."
His unusually long silence stirred speculation about his health and raised doubts about his political future as he campaigns for re-election in an Oct. 7 vote.
Chavez said the cancer therapy was "hard" and he needed to rest, but that he was recovering and planned to return to Caracas on Thursday - although he would need another radiation session.
"Some people would like to see me leave here sprinting ... not yet, let me recover. I have to rest and look after my diet, the treatment and the hours I keep," Chavez said. "These rumors sometimes are damaging."
He said the rumors about his health were so strong they even had his mother worried and he had to call her.
Photos released by the Venezuelan government showed Chavez wearing a track suit and strolling in a garden in Havana with Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, playing bowls with his brother, Adan, and kissing a crucifix as he hugged his daughter, Maria Gabriela.
Information Minister Andres Izarra posted the photos on his Facebook page with the title "Chavez alive and kicking."
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles criticized Chavez for running the oil producing nation remotely by Twitter from a Havana hospital bed. One of the president's first acts when he returns will be to sign a new labor law to take effect on May 1.
Chavez's political ally and president of the National Assembly legislature Diosdado Cabello accused the opposition of having a "morbid obsession" with the former soldier's health.
"The truth is that these embittered people don't learn. They've been saying for days that the Comandante died," he said.
"The only thing that is lifeless here is that loser," Cabello added on Twitter, referring to Capriles, the opposition's best hope for ending Chavez's 13 years in power.
'GOVERNING BY TWITTER'
Chavez's opponents have criticized him for keeping the country in the dark about the extent of his illness, raising suspicions that his cancer may have spread from an initial baseball-sized tumor that was removed from his pelvis.
Before leaving for Cuba earlier this month, Chavez acknowledged that radiation therapy was physically tiring and he skipped the Summit of the Americas in Colombia this month on the advice of his doctors.
Despite his cancer, Chavez is seeking a new six-year term at an election that is shaping up to be the toughest political fight of his career due to his ill health and a serious opposition challenge.
"President Chavez seems to be in a paradoxical situation in which he cannot win the election unless he continues his campaign, but, if he continues, the stress could shorten his life expectancy, preventing him from being the final nominee," Barclays Capital said on Monday.
Capriles, a youthful state governor who is the opposition's "unity candidate" to face Chavez, sharply criticized the all-dominant leader for not doing his job properly.
"Governing by Twitter, approving laws by Twitter without consulting anybody, is an insult to our people. The country's problems cannot be resolved by Twitter," Capriles said.
Chavez's government faces potentially embarrassing accusations about links to drug trafficking from a former Supreme Court justice who fled the country and has reportedly become a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informant.
Chavez remains very popular among poorer Venezuelans who have benefited from his social programs, which redistribute some of the country's vast oil wealth.
Almost all recent opinion polls have given Chavez a comfortable double-digit lead over Capriles, and his frequent trips to Cuba for treatment appear not to have changed that.
A survey released on Monday by local pollster Hinterlaces showed 53 percent of voters planning to back Chavez in October, versus 34 percent for Capriles, a 1 percentage point gain for the president since a similar poll last month. (Additional reporting by Diego Ore; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Christopher Wilson)
Chávez Out of Sight but Big as Life on Twitter
WILLIAM NEUMAN. New York Times. April 23, 2012
CARTAGENA, Colombia — During an extended stay in Cuba for cancer treatment, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has taken to sending messages to the folks back home with slogans like, “We will live!” and “We will be victorious!”
He could also add, “We will tweet!”
For more than a week, as he has undergone radiation therapy, the only public signs of the usually highly visible president were a series of messages on his official Twitter account.
That led to a flurry of Internet rumors that he was dead or dying, many of them spread avidly by his critics on Twitter. With little official information available on the president’s health, speculation filled the vacuum.
“There is a kind of war going on on Twitter in Venezuela,” said Simón Alberto Consalvi, a newspaper columnist who is critical of the president.
Mr. Chávez, who is running for re-election, said last summer that he had had a cancerous tumor removed but revealed little detail about his illness. In February, doctors found the disease had returned, and the president has since been shuttling between Caracas and Havana for treatment.
Even on such trips he has kept a high profile, televising meetings with cabinet ministers or calling into state television programs. But after flying to Cuba on April 14 to complete his radiation therapy, he became uncharacteristically quiet, except for the occasional Twitter post.
On Sunday, as speculation about his health peaked, Mr. Chávez’s supporters, including government officials, took to Twitter to shoot down the rumors. A news anchor read the messages on state-run television.
Andrés Izarra, Mr. Chávez’s information minister, said it was the opposition candidate who was dead — politically — not Mr. Chávez. In his post, he didn’t name the candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, but called him by a favorite insult for Mr. Capriles in the Chávez camp, one that is often repeated on Twitter.
Later on Sunday, Jorge Arreaza, the science and technology minister, messaged that he had been working with Mr. Chávez “for a while this afternoon” on labor and economic issues.
That was rebroadcast by government officials as proof that Mr. Chávez was fully engaged.
Mr. Capriles also weighed in on Sunday, criticizing a message posted on Mr. Chávez’s account in which the president said from Cuba that he had signed a social security reform law.
“Is our Venezuela being governed by Twitter?” Mr. Capriles wrote, calling it “a joke on our people.”
On Monday Mr. Chávez came out with a barrage of Twitter posts. “Soon you will see me again!” he wrote, and then: “If you only knew of the tremendous fish soup that I had for lunch! And plantains with rice!”
And just in case anyone thought that someone else was posting on his behalf, the president called into a state television program to dismiss the health rumors as part of a “dirty war” waged by his political opponents.
María Eugenia Díaz contributed reporting from Caracas, Venezuela.
Venezuelan official: Ex-judge received drug money
FABIOLA SANCHEZ. AP. April 23, 2012
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuela's justice minister on Monday accused a former Supreme Court magistrate of receiving money from drug traffickers.
Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami made the accusation against ex-Magistrate Eladio Aponte, who charged in a television interview shown last week that government and military officials have manipulated court cases.
Venezuelan authorities on Friday put out an international request for Aponte's capture.
"He fled because he was dismissed in order to be brought before justice," El Aissami said at a news conference.
Aponte was dismissed from his post by Venezuela's National Assembly on March 20 over accusations that he had ties to drug suspect Walid Makled. Aponte was accused of providing Makled, who is now jailed in Venezuela, with an official identification card. He has said he thought Makled was a reputable businessman.
Aponte later traveled to Costa Rica, where officials in the Central American country said he was then flown to the United States last week aboard a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration plane.
El Aissami criticized the DEA's handling of the affair and said Venezuelan officials plan to present evidence that Aponte received money from drug trafficking.
In his television interview, Aponte denied receiving drug money but acknowledged that he had participated in manipulating cases at what he said was the request of government and military officials.
The ex-judge's charges have become fodder for political debate in Venezuela as opposition politicians call for an investigation into his claims.
President Hugo Chavez referred to Aponte's accusations for the first time Monday, calling him a "criminal" in a phone call from Havana aired live on television.
El Aissami denied accusations by Aponte that some military officials, including the chief of the national anti-drug office, have ties to drug traffickers. The justice minister said Aponte had made false claims because Gen. Nestor Reverol, the head of the anti-drug office, "had been following his steps."
Aponte didn't provide evidence to back his claims during the interview.
Venezuelan officials believe the DEA knew about Aponte's links for several years but withheld that information from the country's authorities, El Aissami said. He accused the DEA of harboring a fugitive in the United States.
DEA officials in Washington have declined to comment about Aponte.
Venezuela’s Chavez: Informal Workers to Receive Social Security
Ewan Robertson. Venezuelanalysis. April 23, 2012
Mérida, 23rd April 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Self-employed and informal sector workers in Venezuela are to be included in the nation’s social security system, following an announcement by President Hugo Chavez last Saturday.
The Law of Social Security will be changed to allow informally employed workers to register with the Venezuelan Institute of Social Security (IVSS) and make social security payments.
“This good news means that taxi drivers, street sellers, fishermen, farmers, lawyers, dentists, all informal and self-employed workers, can now claim social security and have a pension in the future,” commented Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua of the measure.
The announcement comes as the Venezuelan government prepares to approve the new Labour Law by 1 May, which among other measures is expected to establish a new social security fund supported by state oil company PDVSA.
The informal sector makes up 41% of Venezuela’s employment market, down from 55% when Chavez entered office, according to Venezuela’s National Institute of Statistics.
Another government initiative aimed at including this sector in the social security system is the Mission Greater/Older Love program, which grants pensions to senior citizens not previously covered by social security.
Vice President for the Social Area, Yadira Córdova, announced last Wednesday that 271,400 senior citizens have benefited from the program since its launch in December of last year.
The Venezuelan president’s announcement came during a meeting with Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolas Maduro in Havana last Saturday, where the Chavez has been undergoing radiation therapy treatment for cancer.
In recent days, various corporate media organisations such as The Associated Press and Fox News began a wave of speculation around Chavez’s health after he did not make a television appearance while undergoing treatment last week.
On Sunday Chavez met with Maduro and science and technology minister Jorge Arreaza, where the Venezuelan president approved scientific projects as part of the development of a productive economy, within the framework of the government’s Knowledge and Work training and employment program.
Colombian union leaders receive death threats from neo-paramilitaries
Christan Leonard. Colombia Reports. April 23, 2012
Two Colombian union leaders have received death threats from the Aguilas Negras neo-paramilitary group, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) said Monday.
According to WOLA, the President and Vice-President of SINTRAEMCALI, a union in the western Colombian department of Valle de Cauca, received a letter Saturday inviting the two leaders to their own funeral.
The letter reads:
"Special message for the trade unionists of SINTRAEMCALI, especially the President and Vice-President of that f**king organization that is commanded by that pair of snitches, Jorge Ivan Velez and Albert Quintero. Those two motherf*ckers don’t know who they are messing with. I’m sending you this message because I think it is the last one that you will receive because we are going to shoot you for denouncing our bosses. We’re sending you two bullets so that you can look and see which bullet will silence you for being f*gs. Each bullet has one of your names on it. Don’t think that your two bodyguards will be able to save you. They will have to watch over you in the cemetery. We’ve also noticed that you have been visiting the Attorney General’s Office often, but that won’t last long."
-Aguilas Negras (Translation from WOLA)
In addition to the two bullets mentioned in the letter, the package also contained two roses and a prayer book with a message in it saying the two leaders would die very soon.
Mr. Velez told WOLA that he was threatened “for raising the profile of the case of SINTRAEMCALI internationally and domestically.”
The message came only a week after U.S. President Barak Obama announced at the Summit of the Americas that the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement would come into effect May 15th despite strong opposition from labor groups.
WOLA called on both the U.S. and Colombian governments to address the threat and to meet the conditions of the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan.
"In order to effectively provide protection for labor rights defenders and show that violence and intimidation against this group will not be tolerated or condoned, the U.S. and Colombian governments must take immediate and decisive action to investigate this threat and fully prosecute the material and intellectual authors of the crime as mandated by the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan," said WOLA on their website.
At the Summit of the Americas, Obama claimed the Colombian government had met the conditions of the Labor Action Plan although many groups deny that substantive efforts have been made to protect workers' right to organize or to prosecute crimes against unionists.
Human Rights Watch released a study in October which found that "virtually no progress" has been made in the past four and a half years in getting convictions for these crimes.
Colombia is the most dangerous country in South America for unionists. According to government figures, 30 trade unionists were murdered in Colombia in 2011 although Colombian unionists assert the actual number is 51.
The finalization of the FTA agreement despite ongoing threats to labor rights organizers has caused Colombian labor activists to question U.S. commitment to human rights.
Labor Action and Inaction in Colombia Free Trade Deal
Michelle Chen. In These Times. April 23, 2012
As the media swarmed over the scandal surrounding the Secret Service’s alleged carousing with prostitutes in Colombia, another questionable financial transaction slipped quietly through the backdoor of hemispheric diplomacy.
While officials convened at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena earlier this month, the White House put the finishing touches on another free trade agreement, aimed at liberalizing markets in Colombia and the U.S. The deal has faced vocal resistance from labor and human rights groups in both countries, who argue that the agreement would effectively condone violence against activists and economic oppression. But for the governments looking to build economic ties, the fears raised by civil society groups were just background noise. The Obama administration tried to put the lid on the opposition by tacking on labor policies to address anti-labor violence and other abuses.
Now officials have tacked onto the deal a Labor Action Plan, which, at least on paper, promotes fairer labor practices and stronger protections for workers and unions. The White House has certified Colombia’s compliance with the plan—a condition of sealing the trade agreement, which is set to go into effect in May. Human rights and labor activists are not impressed, pointing to dozens of recent murders of trade unionists and other union-busting actions, along with ingrained weaknesses in Colombia's political system that foster corporate and government impunity.
Historian Greg Grandin spoke on Democracy Now! about the gap between what activists demanded and what they got:
The human rights community, the labor community in the United States has been asking the Obama administration to basically build into any free trade agreement a number of guarantees. One, they wanted to see real change on the ground, before they went forward—say, a three-year period where there would be no murders, no executions of trade unionists. The White House refused that. They asked for a mechanism built into the trade agreement that would void the treaty if executions started to rise again. The White House refused to do that.
Though the Colombian government has recently taken some steps to reform its labor regulations, such as passing protective legislation, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) said in a statement:
While the number of trade unionists killed has gone down … the security climate and death threats against them has not changed. This leaves the possibility that the number of murders and attacks could flare up once the FTA moves forward....
The Ministry is not even intervening to implement the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) recommendations as mandated by the Labor Action Plan. The case of 51 fired public sector workers of EMCALI is just one of many examples. Rather than implement the ILO’s March 2012 recommendations to rehire the workers, authorities proceeded to evict the workers who held a hunger strike in Cali last week. These victims of Colombia’s unjust labor practices, all of whom have been unemployed since 2004 since they were blacklisted for standing up for labor rights, are not even permitted to protest.
This climate of suppression is particularly harmful to Afro-Colombian communities, who face extreme discrimination. According to WOLA, the overtures toward reform in the government ring hollow to scores of Afro-Colombian port workers in Turbo, who were fired after trying to unionize last fall: “Those workers were given an ultimatum—sign a letter stating they will not affiliate with a trade union or enjoy unemployment.” In a January letter to the Labor Minister, advocates complained, “they are denying the fired workers of their contractual rights, withholding their salaries, and forcing them to undress in order to inspect them.”
Nonetheless, the letter cites a provision of the Labor Action Plan in its petition to authorities, suggesting that Plan could enable some workers to redress grievances if actually implemented. But there seems to be little political will to actually put those rules into effect in the factories and the fields, where communities are already besieged by economic turmoil, civil conflict, and rural impoverishment.
Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, an advocate with WOLA, told In These Times,
If the LAP is fully and properly applied (this does not formally form part of the FTA) it will lead to great improvements. However, the Obama Administration chose to sacrifice the one great opportunity it had to really change things in Colombia by declaring an early victory.
Sánchez-Garzoli added that while labor provisions similar to the Labor Action Plan were attached to the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), a precursor to the Colombia deal, but have failed to provide meaningful recourse for workers. In the long run, she said, the Colombia pact “will make it even harder for workers to organize.”
Washington’s green light for the Labor Action Plan isn’t the end of the story. Countervailing forces against neoliberal trade measures like the Colombia agreement, and other policies like the drug war, are gathering momentum across the hemisphere.
The growing militancy of left, indigenous and environmental movements in Latin America, together with growing backlash in the U.S. against corporate impunity, present alternative platforms that place the protection of workers and the environment over free-market politics. While the Labor Action Plan of the Washington Consensus might remain mostly on paper, pro-labor action at the grassroots is rolling on, with or without official approval.
Colombia's Santos discusses Uribe, Chavez, drugs
Sarah Kinosian. Colombia Reports. April 23, 2012
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos talks about his strained relationship with predecessor Alvaro Uribe and other controversial policy issues in a written monologue published by Spanish newspaper El Pais on Sunday.
“[Uribe] has yet to assimilate to the fact that he is out of power, so for the good of himself, myself and the entire country, I hope he gets used to it quickly,” said Santos of the very public ongoing rift between himself and Uribe.
The head of state, who was Uribe’s Defense Minister, said he had no explanation for the continual harsh criticisms from his predecessor as he has “been loyal to his plans of democratic security, investor confidence, and social cohesion -- the three eggs that he told me I had to look after.”
“At first everything affected me, but after thirty tweets a day I’ve become immune, I pay him little attention -- I have more important things to attend to,” he added.
Commentators argue that Santos' drive to prosecute corrupt politicians, and his acknowledgment of Colombia’s armed conflict and victims of state violence, in complete contradiction to Uribe’s policies, are the cause of the ever-growing divide.
The Colombian leader also spoke about drug legalization, a central topic at the Summit of the Americas where “we got what we wanted, which was to start a debate.”
He has championed the idea of investigating new alternatives in the war on drugs suggesting “decriminalizing consumption, treating it as a public health problem,” and noting that some think legalization would be the best way to control the illicit drug trade.
“But until there is a global consensus between different countries, we will not have an alternative to our current policy, which is to fight against drug trafficking and all of its links,” he said.
Santos also expressed concern for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s diminishing health, noting that “if something happens to Chavez this stability could topple and spiral into a situation of anarchy which would be disastrous for the whole region.”
Santos stressed that it was necessary to establish “adequate levels of relations with a country with whom we share 2200 km of border and hardly any diplomatic or commercial agreements until we were talking about war, when Latin American countries should be coordinating.”
The interview comes after the Colombian President was heralded as one Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” despite his recently-slipping public poll numbers.
Western Andean Region [contents]
Peru's president says mine viable with changes
FRANKLIN BRICENO. AP. April 21, 2012
LIMA, Peru -- Peru's president said the country's biggest mining project, which has been on hold due to protests, is viable and will meet environmental requirements.
President Ollanta Humala said Friday that residents near the Conga gold- and copper-mining project would be ensured an ample water supply. Protesters backed by the regional governor have expressed fears the mine will harm their water supplies.
Humala asked that the mine not use two of four lakes that the mine operator has planned drain as part of the mining operation.
The Yanacocha company, which is in charge of carrying out the project, issued a statement Saturday saying it was considering Humala's request and evaluating alternatives.
U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corp. owns a majority stake in the project.
Humala said two lakes, known as Azul and Chica, should not be drained and filled with diggings. That was a recommendation made by experts in a report commissioned by the government to review an earlier environmental impact assessment.
The government initially approved that environmental assessment, but it ordered the additional report by international experts after protests by thousands of people who distrusted the first study. The $4.8 billion mining project was put on hold in November following protests.
Humala said the project should provide more water to local reservoirs, and he added that his government will spend about $1.8 billion on infrastructure in the northern region of Cajamarca where the project is located.
Cajamarca is one of Peru's most heavily mined regions and many people there don't trust the new project because it is an extension of the nearby Yanacocha mine, Latin America's largest gold mine, which is nearing the end of production. Yanacocha has a history of troubled relations with neighboring farmers, ranchers and city dwellers downstream who claim it has harmed water supplies.
The mining industry is a key sector in Peru, accounting for 61 percent of the country's exports.
Cajamarca Anti-Mining Movements Celebrate and Question Study Results For Peru Conga Gold Mine
Alice Bernard and Diego Cupolo. Upside Down World. April 20, 2012
This article is part of a series on resistance to mining in Cajamarca, Peru, written by Alice Bernard and Diego Cupolo.
Read Part 1: Peru: Cajamarca Protests Continue as Conga Gold Mine Awaits Green Light
Read Part 2: Regional Peruvian Government Fights Conga Gold Mining: An Interview with Dr. César Aliaga Díaz
The long-awaited environmental impact review for the Conga project was published Wednesday, suggesting U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corp make “substantive improvements” to its development plans if it wants to move forward with its $4.8 billion gold and copper mining project in Cajamarca, Peru
The Conga project was set to become the single largest mining investment in the nation’s history, but on-site operations stalled last November after mass protests erupted in northern Peru’s Cajamarca region. Citizens blocked highways and organized general strikes, claiming Newmont’s plan to replace four high-altitude lakes with artificial reservoirs and mine tailing dumps would contaminate their drinking water and diminish subterranean water resources.
In attempt to quell the civil unrest, Ollanta Humala’s government ordered an external review of the Conga Mine’s original Environmental Impact Study, which was approved in 2010 by the previous administration. After many delays, the findings were made public at a press conference in Lima earlier this week, where three international auditors presented their recommendations for the gold mine.
"There's no such thing as zero environmental impact. You need to find a balance between economics, the environmental, social needs and technical ones," said Rafael Fernandez Rubio, one of the environmental experts hired by Peru's government.
The 260-page study said Newmont should consider leaving two of the four targeted lakes intact and increase the water capacity of the artificial reservoirs it plans to build in the region. Other suggestions included relocating mine tailing dumps, securing waste storage sites from water treatment plants and improving soil conservation methods.
While Cajamarca Regional President Gregorio Santos, a leader of the anti-Conga movement, said the EIS review is a victory for the region, many question the quality of the findings. “Hydrological sciences need long periods of data, something that does not exist for the Conga mine area,” said Reinhard Seifert, a hydrological engineer and former president of Frente de Defensa Ambiental de Cajamarca. “Ideally, you need 30 years of consolidated data to predict [the project’s impacts] with impeccable objectivity. Or at least they should investigate meteorological data for one year to talk seriously.”
“The audit was based on data from EIS which was already inadequate. Consequently, the auditors’ technical opinions can only be partial and biased,” he continued.
In the coming months, various government agencies will analyze the report before establishing new conditions for the Conga project, said Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar during the same press conference. He declined to give a timeline for the process.
"It's not our mission to say if the project is viable or not ... we've just tried to improve its technical aspects," said Luis Lopez Garcia, another auditor working for the Peruvian Government. "Some measures could be implemented quite easily but others would require economic studies to see if they make sense."
Any new conditions applied to the Conga Project, especially the expansion of artificial reservoirs, are expected to increase operating costs for the mine and could prove problematic for Newmont. While the company remains one of the world’s leading gold producers, it has experienced a backlash in recent years, suffering mine closures in Canada and Indonesia. This instability has caused Newmont’s stock value to fall about 20 percent in the last 12 months.
The Conga project is the highest profile environmental conflict among more than 200 resource-related disputes occurring in Peru at the moment. If the project is cancelled, industry analysts and economists fear the nation’s investment climate could be damaged. Currently, Humala’s government is under mounting pressure to resolve nationwide mining conflicts as more than $50 billion in new mining and energy projects await approval.
A week before the environmental study was published, Humala’s administration deployed armed forces throughout the Cajamarca region to contain any possible reactions by anti-Conga groups. At the time of publication, no conflicts between civilians and military personnel have been reported.
The same day the study was released, Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled against Ordinance 036, a measure proposed by Cajamarca’s regional government which declared the Conga project ‘unviable’ and illegal. The court said Cajamarcan government officials overstepped their powers by making regulations against the mining project.
While anti-Conga activists see the strong recommendations in the EIS review as a step in the right direction, many remain skeptical of the national government’s intentions for the project after witnessing the militarization of the Cajamarca region and watching Ordinance 036 fall in court.
In response, representatives from Cajamarcan cities met on Thursday to plan a prolonged region-wide general strike. Cajamarca Regional President Gregorio Santos said he will also try to push through Ordinance 036 with the help of foreign councils.
“The judges that shot down our regional ordinance were under political pressure. We’re going to resubmit the ordinance to international bodies and continue the fight against Conga,” he said.
Correa: Ecuador Expects China to Fully Finance Pacific Refinery
EFE. April 21, 2012
QUITO – Ecuador expects China to provide all of the financing for the Refineria del Pacifico, a mega-refinery for processing crude and the largest public works project in the Andean country, President Rafael Correa said.
The massive project is being undertaken by state-owned Petroecuador and Venezuelan state-owned oil giant PDVSA.
“The Chinese are very interested in financing practically all of the refinery,” Correa said Saturday.
Strategic Industries Minister Jorge Glas flew to Beijing on Friday night to negotiate the financing agreements for the energy project, the president said.
Refineria del Pacifico, which will have the capacity to process 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, will allow Ecuador to meet domestic demand for gasoline and export the fuel to neighboring markets and Asia, especially China.
The president defended his policy of moving closer toward Beijing, arguing that China has “excess liquidity” and needs to expand its access to petroleum and petroleum derivatives for its fast-growing economy.
Ecuador, for its part, “has a surplus in hydrocarbons and a deficit in liquidity, like all poor countries,” making the deal mutually attractive, Correa said.
China “is providing us with financing and we are doing a long-term contract to send them (petroleum) derivative products,” the president said.
Correa defended his administration against opposition charges that Ecuador was becoming too dependent on Chinese capital.
“I’ll stop taking financing from China when the United States does so, because the country that keeps the United States going is called China, with its financing,” Correa said.
Ecuador expects Refineria del Pacifico, which will be built in the western coastal province of Manabi, will cost about $13 billion and be completed in 2016.
“We are planting for the future, for those who will come after us,” Correa said, adding that the largest investment project to date in Ecuador was the $2 billion Coca-Codo-Sinclaire hydroelectric power plant, the majority of whose financing came from China.
Oil is Ecuador’s main export product and revenues from its sale finance about 35 percent of government spending.
Mexico, Central America and Caribbean [contents]
Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart After Top-Level Struggle
DAVID BARSTOW. New York Times. April 21, 2012
MEXICO CITY — In September 2005, a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an alarming e-mail from a former executive at the company’s largest foreign subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico. In the e-mail and follow-up conversations, the former executive described how Wal-Mart de Mexico had orchestrated a campaign of bribery to win market dominance. In its rush to build stores, he said, the company had paid bribes to obtain permits in virtually every corner of the country.
The former executive gave names, dates and bribe amounts. He knew so much, he explained, because for years he had been the lawyer in charge of obtaining construction permits for Wal-Mart de Mexico.
Wal-Mart dispatched investigators to Mexico City, and within days they unearthed evidence of widespread bribery. They found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million. They also found documents showing that Wal-Mart de Mexico’s top executives not only knew about the payments, but had taken steps to conceal them from Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. In a confidential report to his superiors, Wal-Mart’s lead investigator, a former F.B.I. special agent, summed up their initial findings this way: “There is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws have been violated.”
The lead investigator recommended that Wal-Mart expand the investigation.
Instead, an examination by The New York Times found, Wal-Mart’s leaders shut it down.
Neither American nor Mexican law enforcement officials were notified. None of Wal-Mart de Mexico’s leaders were disciplined. Indeed, its chief executive, Eduardo Castro-Wright, identified by the former executive as the driving force behind years of bribery, was promoted to vice chairman of Wal-Mart in 2008. Until this article, the allegations and Wal-Mart’s investigation had never been publicly disclosed.
But The Times’s examination uncovered a prolonged struggle at the highest levels of Wal-Mart, a struggle that pitted the company’s much publicized commitment to the highest moral and ethical standards against its relentless pursuit of growth.
Under fire from labor critics, worried about press leaks and facing a sagging stock price, Wal-Mart’s leaders recognized that the allegations could have devastating consequences, documents and interviews show. Wal-Mart de Mexico was the company’s brightest success story, pitched to investors as a model for future growth. (Today, one in five Wal-Mart stores is in Mexico.) Confronted with evidence of corruption in Mexico, top Wal-Mart executives focused more on damage control than on rooting out wrongdoing.
In one meeting where the bribery case was discussed, H. Lee Scott Jr., then Wal-Mart’s chief executive, rebuked internal investigators for being overly aggressive. Days later, records show, Wal-Mart’s top lawyer arranged to ship the internal investigators’ files on the case to Mexico City. Primary responsibility for the investigation was then given to the general counsel of Wal-Mart de Mexico — a remarkable choice since the same general counsel was alleged to have authorized bribes.
The general counsel promptly exonerated his fellow Wal-Mart de Mexico executives.
When Wal-Mart’s director of corporate investigations — a former top F.B.I. official — read the general counsel’s report, his appraisal was scathing. “Truly lacking,” he wrote in an e-mail to his boss.
The report was nonetheless accepted by Wal-Mart’s leaders as the last word on the matter.
In December, after learning of The Times’s reporting in Mexico, Wal-Mart informed the Justice Department that it had begun an internal investigation into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a federal law that makes it a crime for American corporations and their subsidiaries to bribe foreign officials. Wal-Mart said the company had learned of possible problems with how it obtained permits, but stressed that the issues were limited to “discrete” cases.
“We do not believe that these matters will have a material adverse effect on our business,” the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
But The Times’s examination found credible evidence that bribery played a persistent and significant role in Wal-Mart’s rapid growth in Mexico, where Wal-Mart now employs 209,000 people, making it the country’s largest private employer.
A Wal-Mart spokesman confirmed that the company’s Mexico operations — and its handling of the 2005 case — were now a major focus of its inquiry.
“If these allegations are true, it is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for,” the spokesman, David W. Tovar, said. “We are deeply concerned by these allegations and are working aggressively to determine what happened.”
In the meantime, Mr. Tovar said, Wal-Mart is taking steps in Mexico to strengthen compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. “We do not and will not tolerate noncompliance with F.C.P.A. anywhere or at any level of the company,” he said.
The Times laid out this article’s findings to Wal-Mart weeks ago. The company said it shared the findings with many of the executives named here, including Mr. Scott, now on Wal-Mart’s board, and Mr. Castro-Wright, who is retiring in July. Both men declined to comment, Mr. Tovar said.
The Times obtained hundreds of internal company documents tracing the evolution of Wal-Mart’s 2005 Mexico investigation. The documents show Wal-Mart’s leadership immediately recognized the seriousness of the allegations. Working in secrecy, a small group of executives, including several current members of Wal-Mart’s senior management, kept close tabs on the inquiry.
Michael T. Duke, Wal-Mart’s current chief executive, was also kept informed. At the time, Mr. Duke had just been put in charge of Wal-Mart International, making him responsible for all foreign subsidiaries. “You’ll want to read this,” a top Wal-Mart lawyer wrote in an Oct. 15, 2005, e-mail to Mr. Duke that gave a detailed description of the former executive’s allegations.
The Times examination included more than 15 hours of interviews with the former executive, Sergio Cicero Zapata, who resigned from Wal-Mart de Mexico in 2004 after nearly a decade in the company’s real estate department.
In the interviews, Mr. Cicero recounted how he had helped organize years of payoffs. He described personally dispatching two trusted outside lawyers to deliver envelopes of cash to government officials. They targeted mayors and city council members, obscure urban planners, low-level bureaucrats who issued permits — anyone with the power to thwart Wal-Mart’s growth. The bribes, he said, bought zoning approvals, reductions in environmental impact fees and the allegiance of neighborhood leaders.
He called it working “the dark side of the moon.”
The Times also reviewed thousands of government documents related to permit requests for stores across Mexico. The examination found many instances where permits were given within weeks or even days of Wal-Mart de Mexico’s payments to the two lawyers. Again and again, The Times found, legal and bureaucratic obstacles melted away after payments were made.
The Times conducted extensive interviews with participants in Wal-Mart’s investigation. They spoke on the condition that they not be identified discussing matters Wal-Mart has long shielded. These people said the investigation left little doubt Mr. Cicero’s allegations were credible. (“Not even a close call,” one person said.)
But, they said, the more investigators corroborated his assertions, the more resistance they encountered inside Wal-Mart. Some of it came from powerful executives implicated in the corruption, records and interviews show. Other top executives voiced concern about the possible legal and reputational harm.
In the end, people involved in the investigation said, Wal-Mart’s leaders found a bloodlessly bureaucratic way to bury the matter. But in handing the investigation off to one of its main targets, they disregarded the advice of one of Wal-Mart’s top lawyers, the same lawyer first contacted by Mr. Cicero.
“The wisdom of assigning any investigative role to management of the business unit being investigated escapes me,” Maritza I. Munich, then general counsel of Wal-Mart International, wrote in an e-mail to top Wal-Mart executives.
The investigation, she urged, should be completed using “professional, independent investigative resources.”
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Mexico pres front-runner opposes legalizing drugs
KATHERINE CORCORAN. AP. April 23, 2012
MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's presidential front-runner opposes legalizing drugs, saying in an interview Monday that the idea is too "simplistic" to fight narcotics trafficking in the violence-plagued country.
Enrique Pena Nieto said allowing the use of so-called soft drugs would only open the door to abusing harder substances.
"So far no one has convinced me that this is the solution," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It seems to be the answer for those who don't see another way to reduce violence. But I favor a debate and evaluating the arguments people are making about the subject in different parts of the world."
Pena Nieto, who as governor of Mexico's most populous state was considered a pragmatist focusing on public works, said he would focus as president on reducing violence over fighting drug cartels.
The 45-year-old candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party said he would strengthen police, create a single state police force and fight money-laundering - the same methods as President Felipe Calderon, whose conservative National Action Party is trailing Pena Nieto heading toward the July 1 national elections.
Pena Nieto couldn't name one major distinction between his security strategy and Calderon's, saying only that the government's offensive against organized crime hasn't produced the necessary results. More than 47,500 people have died in drug-related violence since Calderon launched his attack upon taking office in December 2006.
"I would be about results," Pena Nieto said. "We have to look at the policies and make some adjustments in the objectives."
He added that he would at least start out following the Merida Initiative, the U.S. plan that has dedicated more than $1 billion in equipment and training to Mexico to fight organized crime.
Pena Nieto's party, known as the PRI, seeks to regain the presidency it lost in 2000 after 71 years in power. He leads in opinion polls by double digits ahead of the PAN candidate as well as the leftist leader who narrowly lost the presidency to Calderon in 2006.
He would not set a specific goal or percentage for reducing violence, saying only that the resources have been insufficient and need to be increased in the same manner that allowed Colombia to break up its major drug cartels.
"Coordination between federal and state forces has been absent, or at least insufficient. I'm sure given the proper investment needed to combat organized crime, we will get better results in the short and midterm," he said.
Pena Nieto said his main objective as president would be to strengthen the economy, a subject with which he is more specific.
"My obsession is to boost the economy, to create jobs," he said, adding that it's the best way to fight insecurity.
He promised to speed up the economy's growth to between 5 percent and 6 percent a year, compared to the current rate of about 4 percent since a decline, then slow growth Mexico suffered around the 2009 global economic crisis.
Mexico needs to add at least a million new jobs a year, he added, and he's confident he can achieve that with the proper economic growth.
While critics have charged that Mexico's economy is too closely tied to the United States, a major reason for the 2009 crash, Pena Nieto said he will seek closer economic ties with the U.S. and Canada to make North America more productive and competitive on the world stage.
"I'll look for new ways to escalate business, to improve the commercial relationship," he said.
Mexico Says U.S. Stalling on Addition to Pacific Trade Deal
Nacha Cattan and Eric Martin. Bloomberg. April 23, 2012
Mexico’s Economy Minister expressed frustration over what he said was the Obama administration’s delay in adding the nation to Pacific trade talks.
Mexico’s entry to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping deal that seeks to boost trade links between the Americas and Asia, is already supported by the private sector in all nine countries involved in the talks, Economy Minister Bruno Ferrari said in an interview. Mexico is closer to winning approval than Japan and Canada, who are also seeking to join negotiations, Ferrari said.
Enlarge image Mexico Says U.S. Stalling on Adding Nation to Pacific Trade Deal
Bruno Ferrari, Mexico's economy minister, speaks in New York on Oct. 6, 2011. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk met with officials from Mexico and Canada this month in Washington during a visit by Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The three nations are already bound together by the North American Free Trade Agreement that took effect in 1994. Standing beside his Nafta partners in the Rose Garden, President Barack Obama said the Pacific deal’s current partners are discussing how new members can meet the accord’s standards.
“We are waiting for the Trade Representative’s office to go to the next level,” Ferrari said on the sidelines of a World Economic Forum event in Puerto Vallarta on April 20. “For some reason this has been delayed. Until everyone is in agreement, and the U.S. is missing, we cannot advance.”
‘Additional Work Ahead’
Carol Guthrie, a spokeswoman for Kirk, said the U.S. hasn’t decided whether to support Mexico, Japan and Canada’s bid to join the talks and is going through “a detailed and thorough process” to decide if they’re ready to meet the “high standards and objectives” of the Pacific trade deal. The nine current nations must reach a consensus for new members to join.
“We are undertaking a detailed and thorough process to evaluate the readiness of Mexico, as well as Japan and Canada, to meet the high standards and objectives of the TPP,” Guthrie said yesterday in an e-mail. “While we have made progress, we and other current TPP members have additional work ahead, including further consultations on issues that have emerged through our analysis and from input from Congress and stakeholders.”
An accord with the eight other Pacific nations already in talks would be the biggest trade deal for the U.S. since President George H. W. Bush agreed to Nafta two decades ago. Kirk has said that the U.S., the world’s largest economy, wants to reach an agreement this year.
Other nations participating in the talks are Australia, Chile, Peru and Singapore, all of which have separate free-trade agreements with the U.S., as well as Malaysia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Brunei. Japan, Canada and Mexico said in November that they’d like to join the talks.
At the April 2 press conference with Obama, Calderon reiterated Mexico’s interest in joining the talks “as soon as possible,” saying his country “can contribute to a quick and successful conclusion of this project.”
Mexico, Latin America’s second-largest economy, is the largest U.S. trading partner after Canada and China, with $461 billion in goods exchanged last year, according to data from the U.S. Commerce Department. Mexico was the second-biggest buyer of products made in America, behind only Canada, and Mexico sends 80 percent of its exports to its northern neighbor.
Ferrari said pushing for Mexico’s inclusion will be a “very important topic” of his visit to the U.S. this week to meet with officials.
To contact the reporter on this story: Nacha Cattan in Mexico City at email@example.com; Eric Martin in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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TV Personality Slain in Honduras
EFE. April 22, 2012
TEGUCIGALPA – Television personality Noel Valladares and two companions were gunned down Monday in Tegucigalpa, Honduran police said.
A fourth person was wounded in the attack, police inspector Jose Martinez told reporters.
Unknown assailants opened fire on the host of the entertainment program “Tecolote” and the other three people as they walked out of the Maya TV studios in the Honduran capital, the inspector said.
Valladares died on the spot, according to Martinez.
Honduras experienced 6,723 murders between Jan. 1 and Dec. 15 of last year, or an average of 81.5 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants, the chancellor of the National Autonomous University said at the end of last year.
The numbers were compiled by the university’s Violence Observatory, Julieta Castellanos said.
Violence has been on the rise in Honduras since 2005, according to Castellanos, who noted that the country’s murder rate then was 37 per 100,000 residents.
The global rate, as calculated by the United Nations, is 8.8 homicides per 100,000. EFE
Union leader urges action on case against Guatemalan unions
Vicki Needham. The Hill. April 22, 2012
A top union leader expressed outrage on Monday that the Guatemalan government still isn't providing protections for workers and U.S. officials must step in and press the issue.
The AFL-CIO filed a complaint four years ago against Guatemala for violating labor rights under the he Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA).
Union President Richard Trumka said the day "marks a tragic anniversary" because there is "still no justice for Guatemalan workers."
The AFL-CIO filed a complaint in 2009 against six Guatemalan unions, which advanced to the dispute resolution phase in 2011.
But Trumka said the Guatemalan government "still refuses to fulfill its most basic governmental function, to enforce its own laws for the protection of its own people."
"The Government of Guatemala’s continuing recalcitrance to support and defend workers’ rights to free association, collective bargaining and even the simple right to be paid for work performed is shameful," Trumka said in a statement.
"Even worse is the ongoing violent repression of workers brave enough to fight back against the system that has apparently abandoned them," he said.
He said it is time for U.S. officials to push the case immediately to arbitration.
"Guatemalan working families have already waited too long for their day in court," he said.
Region: Trade, Security, Economy and Integration [contents]
Viola Gienger. Bloomberg. April 23, 2012
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is embarking today on a week-long visit to Colombia, Brazil and Chile for talks on drug trafficking, arms deals and bolstering smaller militaries in Latin America and elsewhere.
His agenda includes potential military aircraft deals with Brazil and a request from Colombia for more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aid to fight the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla group, known as FARC, two U.S. defense officials said in briefing reporters before the trip.
Panetta also is looking to coordinate with the three regional powers to provide military training for smaller countries in Central America and Africa that are fighting the drug trade, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private talks in advance.
“These are three countries that are on the upswing in many areas,” said George Little, a spokesman for the Pentagon. “It’s time for us to enhance our already strong cooperation with all three.”
The visits underscore the Pentagon’s increasing reliance on partner nations to confront common threats, support the U.S. defense industry and provide military assistance worldwide. The Defense Department has begun making at least $490 billion in budget cuts over the next 10 years, paring personnel, eliminating major weapons programs and replacing forces deployed overseas with rotating units.
In Brazil, Panetta will be prepared to discuss weapons deals involving U.S. and Brazilian companies and the two governments, the officials said, declining to elaborate on specific transactions.
Brazilian airplane maker Embraer SA (EMBR3) is subcontractor to closely held American partner Sierra Nevada Corp. on a potentially $1 billion U.S. Air Force contract for light attack aircraft that they won, then lost when it was canceled earlier this year. The Air Force said April 13 it would restart the competition, aimed at acquiring aircraft for Afghanistan’s military.
In another potential deal, Boeing Co. (BA) (BA)’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is competing against Dassault Aviation SA (AM)’s Rafale and Saab AB (SAABB)’s Grippen for a contract to supply Brazil with a fleet of fighter jets that the U.S. State Department estimates could be worth as much as $4 billion. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said she didn’t discuss the plans with President Barack Obama during her White House visit earlier this month.
Before his visits to Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, Panetta will stop in Bogota to discuss joint efforts against the FARC under Plan Colombia, an aid program that has cost more the U.S. more than $7 billion since 2000. The U.S. has about 150 military trainers and an additional 150 contractors working in Colombia.
Panetta and his counterparts also will discuss coordinating assistance to police and military forces in Mexico and other Central American countries. Colombia is training helicopter pilots in Mexico and police in Honduras and Guatemala, the U.S. defense officials said.
Outgoing World Bank President Robert Zoellick said last week that rising drug violence in Central America, including some of the world’s highest murder rates, represents a security threat to the U.S. and a significant drag on the region’s growth.
Brazil might help train military forces in Africa on operations such as maritime drug interdiction. More traffickers are ferrying narcotics from South America through Central America and across the Atlantic to Europe via North Africa, one of the officials said.
Guatemala’s Pacific coast is becoming a destination for precursor chemicals for methamphetamine and other drugs from the eastern Pacific, the official said. Chile, the final stop on Panetta’s five-day tour, is trying to assist with naval patrols off the Central American coast, the official said.
Panetta also will follow up on plans discussed by his predecessor, Robert Gates, at the last Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas in November 2010, to improve humanitarian aid coordination among the region’s militaries.
The assistance effort after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake faltered in the early days in part because many different military forces arrived to help, one of the U.S. defense officials said.
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Costa Rica’s Chinchilla is least-popular president in the Americas
Tico Times. April 23, 2012
Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla came in last place in a poll that ranked the top presidents in the region according to each country’s voter approval rating. The poll, conducted by Mexican firm Consulta Mitofsky, found that Chinchilla holds the worst internal approval rating in the Americas.
The poll collected data from 19 countries to create a list divided into five categories of approval: outstanding, high, medium, low and very low. Chinchilla received a “very low” rating. Data included surveys published by local firms, including UNIMER and CID Gallup in Costa Rica.
The region’s most popular presidents are Rafael Correa, from Ecuador, with an 81 percent approval rating, followed by Colombia's Juan Manuel Santos (67 percent approval) and El Salvador’s Mauricio Funes (65 percent). Chinchilla received an approval rating of only 26 percent, according to recent polls, placing her at the bottom of the list. One slot above her was Chile’s Sebastián Piñera and Panama’s Ricardo Martinelli, who both have an approval rating of a dismal 33 percent.
Costa Rican Communication Minister Francisco Chacón said Chinchilla’s approval rating is low because “she has had to govern in difficult times, and the situation in the country has been anything but simple.”
U.S. President Barack Obama ranked 11th with 48 percent approval, and Canada's Stephen Harper ranked 15th with 41 percent.
The Full List
1. Rafael Correa, Ecuador
2. Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia
3. Mauricio Funes, El Salvador
4. Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua
5. Ollanta Humala, Peru
6. Dilma Rousseff, Brazil
7. Hugo Chávez, Venezuela
8. Cristina Kirchner, Argentin
9. Leonel Fernández, Dominican Republic
10. Felipe Calderón, Mexico
11. Barack Obama, United States
12. Porfirio Lobo, Honduras
13. Fernando Lugo, Paraguay
14. José Mujica, Uruguay
15. Stephen Harper, Canada
16. Evo Morales, Bolivia
17. Ricardo Martinelli, Panama
18. Sebastián Piñera, Chile
19. Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica