Latin America News Round-up
April 26, 2012
Brazilian Congress Adopts Controversial Land Use Law
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Brazil and Southern Cone
IMF Sees Latin America Economic Growth Rising; Risks Remain
Brazilian congress adopts controversial land use law. Reuters
Loggers threaten Brazil Amazon residents: Amnesty. AFP
Panetta Urges Brazil to Buy Fighter Jets From Boeing. New York Times
Argentine senate approves oil nationalization. Al Jazeera
Seizure of Repsol affiliate in Argentina stuns oil markets. Washington Post
Student Protests Resume in Chile. EFE
Augusto Pinochet will opening gives no clues to his 'hidden fortune'. AFP
Northern Andean Region
Chavez returns home after latest cancer treatment. AP
Accused drug dealer says paid off fugitive Venezuela judge. Reuters
Colombia flood preparedness questioned as death toll rises. AlertNet
Western Andean Region
U.S. anti-cocaine push embitters Peru chocolate makers. Reuters
Lawyer investigating journalist's murder is shot dead. The Guardian
Ecuador Ready To Face Possible Fallout From Global Crisis:Minister. Dow Jones
Mexico, Central America and Caribbean
Mexico says it will investigate Wal-Mart scandal. AP
Mexican poll shows support for leftist rising. Reuters
Honduran Indians Blame Government for Threats. EFE
Ortega proposes electoral reform in Nicaragua. AFP
Panama President Apologizes for Calling Reporter a Drug Addict. EFE
Region: Trade, Security, Economy and Integration
IMF Sees Latin America Economic Growth Rising; Risks Remain. Dow Jones
Latin America's poverty data masks great inequalities, report says. The Guardian
Latin American indigenous groups join forces to fight dams. BBC
Brazil and Southern Cone [contents]
Brazilian congress adopts controversial land use law
Reuters. April 26, 2012
Brazil's congress voted late on Wednesday to ease rules mandating the amount of forest farmers must keep on their land, delivering a long-sought victory to the country's powerful agriculture lobby and a political defeat for president Dilma Rousseff.
Though the bill will require millions of hectares of already cleared land to be replanted, environmentalists say it makes it too easy for farmers, responsible for much of the deforestation of the Amazon and other swaths of environmentally sensitive land in recent decades, to comply with regulations that stipulate how much forest they must preserve.
Rousseff still has the option to veto the bill, one of the most controversial to pass Brazil's congress in recent years. The bill was supported by some of her party's senators and members of its multi-party coalition, even though the president had previously said she would veto earlier versions of the law that contained provisions perceived as too lenient on farmers who have cleared woodlands for agriculture.
The final law, which was changed dramatically from a hard-bargained version her government was backing, will leave it to federal states to decide how much forest needs to be replaced alongside rivers, making it possible for big farming states to make only minimal demands of farmers.
"The approved bill gives a total and unrestricted amnesty to those who deforested ... and goes against what the government itself had wanted," environmental group Greenpeace said in a statement. "If [Rousseff] doesn't react and veto this text, this future will be her legacy," it said.
Pushing through the more lenient language the farming lobby sought was only possible through a rebellion by senators from within the government coalition.
A big enough majority in Congress could also knock down a veto by Rousseff, should she choose to use it.
"We lost. The government lost," said the leader of Rousseff's Workers party in the lower house of congress. The powerful farming lobby in congress had fought hard to minimise obligations the new law would impose on them.
The bill and its likely future impact have been watched closely in and outside Brazil, home to the world's biggest rainforest and a country considered a reference for how other developing nations manage their woodlands.
In June, Brazil will host the Rio+20 summit, a meeting at which government leaders and policymakers from around the world will discuss global environmental policy.
Head of the national agriculture confederation, Katia Abreu, defended the new law, saying it did "not necessarily" mean states would impose softer rules than the central government would have on mandatory riverside forest coverage. She said it would also allow better made-to-measure rules to be set according to each region's characteristics.
But Abreu hinted the new rules would be less rigid, saying farmers would have been obliged under the previous bill to replant 30 million hectares (74m acres) of forest and sacrifice land on which they grew billions of dollars worth of crops. She said it would only be possible to know how much would now have to be replaced after states had set rules.
A technician consulted on the policy said one drawback of allowing individual states to regulate it was that the process would probably take a year or two. That means replanting would likely be delayed until clear rules were made.
Deforestation in Brazil has slowed in recent years because of greater law enforcement and the use of satellite imagery to track areas with the most troubling rates of tree cutting.
A key provision of the forest code, as it is known, would allow landowners to count woodland on river margins, hilltops and steep inclines towards a total proportion of forest that must be preserved on their land. At present, such land isn't allowed in their calculation. Farmers argue that uncertainty over existing legislation, which has effectively been suspended in recent years, impeded investments. And Brazil's growing output of food crops – and an enviable position as an agricultural powerhouse – could face setbacks if farmers continue to be held back by doubts about how they can use their land.
Brazil is the world's top producer of coffee, sugar, beef and orange juice and a major producer of soy and corn. Agriculture accounts for more than 5% of Brazil's GDP.
Environmentalists say farmers would have to reforest land equivalent to the combined area of Germany, Austria and Italy to fully comply with existing regulations. Advocates of the new bill, however, say it would still result in a net gain of millions of hectares of forest coverage.
Under the terms of the new bill, farmers must sign up for a reforestation programme that will use satellites to track compliance. Those falling foul of the new law could be denied rural finance.
One government official estimated last year that 24m hectares (59 million acres), roughly an area the size of the United Kingdom, would be reforested as a result of the new code. But experts say the area to be replanted will be difficult to gauge until more data is collected about rural properties.
Loggers threaten Brazil Amazon residents: Amnesty
AFP. April 25, 2012
RIO DE JANEIRO — Communities in remote corners of Brazil's Amazon jungle are facing repeated assaults and death threats from illegal loggers who want to steal their lands, Amnesty International said Wednesday.
The human rights group said there was no police presence in parts of Brazil's northwestern Amazonas state and no investigation into illegal activities reportedly taking place there.
"Those living in the region are in danger," it said in a statement, urging Brazilian authorities to protect local residents and stop the illegal logging.
The target of the invading land-grabbers known as "grileiros" and illegal loggers are small communities living from timber extraction in legally recognized reserves located south of the town of Labrea.
Many residents have fled the region fearing for their lives, Amnesty said.
Dinhana Nink was gunned down in front of her son in a nearby town in Rondonia state where she has sought refuge after her house was set ablaze, the statement said.
Community leader Nilcilene Miguel de Lima, who has denounced the influx of illegal loggers in the reserves, was beaten up, threatened with a pistol and had her house set ablaze. She has been under armed protection by federal agents since October, according to Amnesty.
In April, she had to be evacuated by authorities after her dog was shot in the head and killed, it said.
The police station covering the area is located hundreds of kilometers (miles) north of Labrea and can be reached only by air.
Panetta Urges Brazil to Buy Fighter Jets From Boeing
ELISABETH BUMILLER. New York Times. April 25, 2012
RIO DE JANEIRO — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta pushed Brazil on Wednesday to buy $4 billion worth of Boeing-made Super Hornet fighter jets, saying the prospective sale reflected how important Brazil was to the United States.
During the first visit by an American defense secretary to the country in seven years, Mr. Panetta used a speech at Superior War College here to focus on smoothing a sometimes thorny relationship and promoting American weapons sales.
Brazil is deciding whether to buy 36 fighter jets worth about $4 billion in a competition between Boeing in the United States, Dassault Aviation in France and Saab in Sweden. Boeing makes the F/A-18 E/6 Super Hornet, Dassault makes the Rafale and Saab makes the Grippen.
Mr. Panetta’s appeal was unusually direct and reflected the Pentagon’s new attention to Brazil after the country’s president, Dilma Rousseff, met this month with President Obama at the White House.
Mr. Panetta told an audience of Brazilian military officers at the war college that the Boeing offer had strong support in the United States Congress and “contains an unprecedented advanced technology sharing that is reserved for only our closest allies and partners.”
The Boeing sale is a priority for the American government — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been pushing it as well — in large part because it will provide jobs. Brazil wants the planes for air defense, including keeping watch over the Amazon, a major route for cocaine coming in from Bolivia.
It is unclear whether Mr. Panetta’s appeal on the Super Hornet will work, however. Brazil is irritated at the Pentagon for canceling a $380 million contract that called for the United States to buy turboprop aircraft from Brazil for the Afghan Air Force. The contract, with the Brazilian company Embraer and its American partner, Sierra Nevada Corporation for 20 AT-29 Super Tocano warplanes, was canceled in February after a legal challenge from a rival, Hawker Beechcraft Corporation. The Pentagon has called for a new round of bidding on the contract.
American defense officials insisted that there was no quid pro quo in the contracts. But at a news conference on Tuesday in Brasília, Brazil’s defense minister, Celso Amorim, pointedly said he was “sad” that the Embraer warplanes, “which were certainly the best,” were not purchased.
Mr. Panetta, who is on a weeklong visit to Brazil, Colombia and Chile, also said that the United States and Brazil had to cooperate on cybersecurity and humanitarian assistance. The American and Brazilian Navies conduct joint exercises and United States Army Rangers train with Brazilian commandos.
Argentine senate approves oil nationalisation
Al Jazeera. April 26, 2012
Argentina's senate has approved the forced takeover of the country's biggest oil company, underscoring broad domestic support that has caused outrage among foreign investors.
The expropriation bill passed easily in the elected body after midnight on Thursday morning, with 63 senators voting in favour of the expropriation, only three voting against the bill and four abstentions.
The early morning vote was held after a marathon debate that started around midday on Wednesday.
The bill now has a clear path for likely approval by the country's lower house sometime next week.
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is allied with both houses of congress, unveiled plans last week to seize a 51 per cent stake of YPF from Spain's Repsol.
Kirchner accused Repsol of draining YPF since gaining control in the 1990s, under-investing 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.
Only two months ago, Repsol YPF 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 $25bn a year to develop, and warned that Argentina would need to overhaul its energy policy to attract the necessary investment.
Hugely popular decision
Taking back Argentina's largest company from Spain's biggest company has proven hugely popular in the South American country, despite threats of retaliation from the Europe Union and fears of unintended consequences in the years ahead.
Most Argentines support the move to renationalise YPF, which was privatised in the 1990's after 70 years under full state control.
Many blame the privatisations and other free-market reforms of that decade for provoking Argentina's 2001/02 financial meltdown.
The senate session started late morning Wednesday and was continuing 14 hours later as 62 of the Senate's 72 members asked to speak about the proposal.
"The government's bill doesn't reflect a capricious or random decision," Marcelo Fuentes, a ruling party senator, said during the debate.
"It's a logical result stemming from the need to reverse free-market thinking in energy policy."
Once the takeover becomes law, attention will turn to the compensation Argentina will pay Repsol for its majority stake in YPF.
Officials have already said it will be far lower than the $9.3bn the company has requested.
But by re-nationalizing YPF - and not paying Repsol until international courts resolve the case years from now, if ever - 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.
Seizure of Repsol affiliate in Argentina stuns oil markets
Juan Forero. Washington Post. April 26, 2012
BOGOTA, Colombia — With oil prices rising fast, nationalist governments in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia have squeezed multinational energy firms over the past decade, taking a greater stake in projects and jacking up taxes and royalties.
But there has been nothing comparable to what happened in Argentina, where the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has seized an affiliate of the Spanish oil company Repsol, expelling executives from their offices and hinting that it would pay far less than the $10.5 billion being demanded in compensation.
The seizure delighted nationalists across the region and stunned the oil market, in part because the Repsol affiliate, YPF, had recently announced that discoveries in remote Patagonia could hold 23 billion barrels in natural gas and oil. Some oil analysts said the expropriation could dry up much-needed investment in Latin America’s third-largest economy.
“I have rarely seen actions like these directed at one company,” said Francisco Monaldi, director of the IESA business school’s Energy Center in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.
Many Argentines have an emotional link to YPF, which until its 1999 privatization had been the state energy company for decades. Fernandez said the takeover signaled the “recovery of sovereignty and the control of a fundamental instrument,” Argentina’s largest company, valued at $18 billion.
The nationalization, which the Argentine Senate approved early Thursday morning, gives the government control of 51 percent of YPF, leaving the rest to investors. Calls and e-mails seeking comment from the president’s office and the Economy and Planning ministries were not returned.
But Fernandez has said that the expropriation was necessary because a lack of investment had caused YPF’s production of oil and gas to fall, forcing Argentina to import $9.4 billion in fuel last year.
“We need to have sovereign control of our resources,” she said Tuesday. “I am absolutely certain that this is the only road possible for us.”
But interviews with a YPF official, former Argentine government energy executives and oil analysts paint a more complex picture, one that shows a systematic four-month effort against a company that had been in the government’s good graces.
‘A harassment campaign’
Until late last year, officials in Fernandez’s administration had feted the company’s progress, and Planning Minister Julio De Vido worked closely with YPF executives. Repsol’s president, Antonio Brufau, was a frequent visitor to Buenos Aires, where he often met with top economic and energy officials.
“The relations between Repsol and the Argentine government were normal and friendly, practically from the beginning of the privatization,” said Eduardo Fernandez, who was an energy official in the government headed by Nestor Kirchner, Fernandez’s husband, who died in 2010. “It was on a first-name basis. . . . There had not been complaints, formally or informally, about energy companies or YPF in particular.”
Then last year came YPF’s discovery of oil and gas deposits in Patagonia’s Neuquen province, a swath called Dead Cow, that if fully developed could make Argentina an energy heavyweight.
Soon after came recriminations from the government about YPF failing to fully pay taxes and accusations that it was funneling profits to Spain at the expense of operations in Argentina.
“And what they did, the mechanism they used to begin harassing us in earnest, was having the provinces strip us of licenses,” said Kristian Rix, a spokesman for Repsol.
YPF also had a newcomer to the company’s board meetings, Axel Kicillof, the 40-year-old vice minister of economy who had previously managed finances for several months at Aerolineas Argentinas, the money-losing state airline. He is considered a fast-rising star and had belonged to La Campora, a leftist youth movement partly led by the president’s son, Maximo Kirchner.
“He’d show up and sit in the corner not saying anything,” an official familiar with the events said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the difficult relations between Repsol and the government. “Others would look to him and wait for a nod of approval. He was a menacing presence in the corner.”
The developments began to trouble Brufau, a veteran deal-maker who has negotiated with the Castro brothers in Cuba and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. He and officials in the Spanish government tried to initiate talks with Fernandez.
“It has not been possible,” he said in a news conference April 17, the day after the expropriation was announced. “The president is too busy.”
Brufau said the company had been the target of “a harassment campaign” to “provoke the fall in YPF stock price and facilitate the expropriation at a bargain price.”
A gamble during an energy crisis
The expropriation comes as Argentina faces a growing energy crisis that has seen the country become a net importer of energy when it had been a net exporter a decade ago, a trend officials linked to YPF’s performance.
Repsol has countered that it has invested $20 billion over 13 years but has been hamstrung by a mix of price controls and export taxes that has kept fuel prices far lower than those in neighboring countries. Repsol also says that other companies — among them Chevron and the Brazilian behemoth Petrobras — have recorded steeper drops in oil production since 2008 but were not singled out for expropriation.
Argentina, considered a financial pariah for a $100 billion debt default a decade ago, must attract upward of $25 billion a year in investments to develop the Neuquen discoveries, which are considered one of the world’s largest deposits of natural gas.
Roger Tissot, a Canada-based oil analyst who does consulting in Argentina, said the seizure was a gamble.
“This can make Cristina a superstar, or this could mean the end of her administration,” Tissot said. “If YPF is unable to bring in partners or reverse production declines, and the government needs to import more oil and gas, the whole thing can get very, very nasty for her.”
Student Protests Resume in Chile
EFE. April 24, 2012
SANTIAGO – Chilean high school and college students returned to the streets on Wednesday to renew demands for free, quality public instruction even as President Sebastian Piñera said he plans to impose a new tax to fund education reform.
Anywhere from 25,000 – according to police – and 50,000 young people took part in a march in Santiago, while demonstrations in provincial cities drew crowds of no more than a few thousand people each, media outlets said.
The events were organized by the Confech student confederation, the same group behind eight months of street protests in 2011.
Students in the capital marched 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) to the Estacion Mapocho cultural center for a rally and subsequent performance, before dispersing peacefully.
About 10 minutes later, however, hooded assailants tossed Molotov cocktails at a security kiosk next to Santiago’s Central Market. Police responded with tear gas and water cannon, arresting several of the attackers.
The rally featured speeches by Confech leaders Gabriel Boric, Camila Vallejo and Noam Titelman.
“We are more than 50,000,” Boric told reporters, while Vallejo said Wednesday’s turnout showed “that we continue fighting and that we are many.”
“We want 2011 not to be just an interlude, but rather the putting in place of the bonds of a movement that extends in time,” Titelman said.
Prior to the student march, Piñera went on state television to say he will soon announce a new tax whose proceeds will be dedicated to improving Chile’s educational system.
“I can disclose many things. First, 100 percent of the additional resources this tax reform will collect will be destined for education,” the president said.
“Thanks to these measures, no young person in Chile will ever again be excluded from higher education due to lack of resources,” Piñera said. “This is something that fills me with pride.”
The initiative signaled Wednesday by the president follows an announcement early this week that the government will replace private banks in Chile’s student loan program.
Though a positive development, the change falls short of what is needed, Boric said Wednesday.
“What we have said is that students don’t want to remain indebted, Chilean families don’t want to remain indebted, and what is being proposed here is basically changing the creditor from the banks to the state,” the Confech leader said.
Education at all levels must be seen as a right, not a “consumer good,” Boric said.
Chile’s public schools and universities were neglected by the 1973-1990 dictatorship of the late Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who embraced doctrinaire free market policies.
For-profit schools mushroomed under the military regime and the trend continued after democracy was restored, even during the 1990-2010 tenure of the center-left Concertacion coalition.
Students accuse Piñera, a right-wing billionaire, of seeking to push through “a privatizing agenda.” EFE
Augusto Pinochet will opening gives no clues to his 'hidden fortune'
AFP. April 25, 2012
The document "contains no reference to provisions for the distribution of goods and property, which is probably in the will to which the modification refers, dated from 2002 and presented to another notary," said Alvaro Quintanilla, a lawyer from the Council of Defence of the State (CDE).
A new petition would probably be made to seek to open that document in three or four months' time, he said.
Pinochet modified the will in 2005, one year before he died and during a legal probe into the origin of a fortune held in scores of foreign bank accounts.
The CDE asked for the will to be opened to pay off tax debts and future compensation for victims of the 1973-1990 dictatorship.
About $20 million of Pinochet's fortune is believed to sit in bank accounts outside the country. The rest is thought to be in property and money within Chile.
Pinochet's family, including his widow and five children, have suggested they do not wish do consult the will in case it leads to disputes.
The late dictator's relatives claim to be struggling economically and his youngest daughter Jacqueline said in an interview in February that she had to sell her jewellery and furniture in order to survive.
Pinochet's military dictatorship began on September 11, 1973 with a coup against then-socialist president Salvador Allende.
Pinochet, who died aged 91, was never sentenced for his crackdown against dissidents, in which an estimated 3,000 people were killed or went missing.
Northern Andean Region [contents]
Chavez returns home after latest cancer treatment
AP. April 26, 2012
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has returned home after 11 days of cancer treatment in Cuba.
State television showed images of Chavez chatting with his vice president and other aides after arriving at Caracas' international airport early Thursday.
Chavez traveled to Cuba on April 14 for radiation therapy treatment. He said earlier this week that he expects to return to Havana soon to undergo more treatments.
The Venezuelan leader began radiation treatment in Cuba in late March after an operation in February that he says removed a second tumor from his pelvic region. The first tumor was taken out in an operation last June.
Chavez has kept secret some details of his illness, including the type of cancer and the precise location of the tumors. He is seeking re-election in October.
Accused drug dealer says paid off fugitive Venezuela judge
Brian Ellsworth. Reuters. April 25, 2012
CARACAS, April 25 (Reuters) - An accused Venezuelan drug lord wanted by the United States said on Wednesday he made monthly payments to a former judge who recently embarrassed President Hugo Chavez with accusations of widespread manipulation in the OPEC nation's justice system.
The statement by Walid Makled, considered a major trafficker who is now on trial i n Venezuela, is likely to fuel criticism by opposition leaders and U.S. authorities over the socialist government's alleged complicity with the drug trade.
Former Supreme Court judge Eladio Aponte, who fled Venezuela this month after being accused of assisting Makled, caused a fire storm by accusing Chavez's government of systematically manipulating the courts - including meddling in drug cases.
The Chavez government said he "sold his soul" to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA.
Makled said payments to Aponte were related to joint business interests in Venezuelan airline Aeropostal.
"We were partners in Aeropostal, I gave him 300 million per month," he said in a tumultuous entrance to a court hearing in Caracas, jostled by reporters and camera crews.
The figure appeared to correspond to around $70,000 per month, based on the value of the local bolivar currency before a 2008 monetary recalibration took three zeroes off prices.
A representative of Aeropostal, asked if Aponte had been a shareholder, told Reuters he could not comment on the issue. Makled's multiple business interests in Venezuela included Aeropostal as well as the nation's largest port.
An interior ministry spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for further details of what the payments were for.
The intertwining Makled and Aponte cases have stolen the media spotlight as Chavez struggles to overcome an undisclosed type of cancer that could threaten his chances of re-election in the upcoming Oct. 7 presidential vote.
"This appears to strengthen the credibility of whatever Aponte says to the authorities in the United States," said Jeremy McDermott of InSight Crime, a security think tank.
"It also seems to indicate that there was a link between the two of them, and if we believe Makled, a relatively strong link."
Washington calls Venezuela a key trafficking route for Colombian cocaine heading to the United States.
Chavez says the country has made great progress in fighting drugs and describes the accusations as a politically motivated smear campaign. Venezuela halted cooperation with the DEA in 2005 on grounds it violated Venezuelan sovereignty,
Makled has said he built up a fortune of more than $1 billion with the help of Venezuelan government officials he has said included 40 army officers on his payroll.
He was captured in 2010 in Colombia and extradited to Venezuela - rather than to the United States, which also sought him - in a diplomatic gesture to improve frayed ties between the Andean neighbors.
The situation returned to the spotlight after Aponte, who was fired following allegations he helped Makled secure a government identification card, gave the interview last week detailing corruption in the Venezuelan judicial system.
He described one incident in which he was ordered to free a military officer arrested for drug-running.
Aponte fled to Costa Rica where he contacted the DEA and was flown to Washington, a Costa Rican official told Reuters.
Should he cooperate with the DEA, Aponte would be the highest-ranking ex-Venezuelan official to testify about corruption in Chavez's socialist government.
Venezuelan officials have bristled at Aponte's allegations, calling him a corrupt fugitive who is being protected by Washington and seeking his arrest via Interpol. (Additional reporting by Mario Naranjo, Editing by Anthony Boadle)
Colombia flood preparedness questioned as death toll rises
Anastasia Moloney. AlertNet. April 25, 2012
BOGOTA (AlertNet) - Severe flooding and landslides caused by torrential rains have killed 36 people, officials said, as Colombia struggles to cope with the onset of the rainy season.
Heavy rainfall has also disrupted the lives of over 66,000 people, washed away swathes of food crops and damaged around 12,500 homes, according to the latest report by Colombia’s disaster risk management agency (SNPAD).
This year’s rainy season started in mid-March and is expected to last until June.
In the worst-affected regions in northwest Colombia, farms and homes are submerged while local residents wade through shoulder-deep floodwaters and move around in canoes.
Downpours have also damaged nearly 230 roads, and some major highways connecting cities have been closed after they were blocked by debris from landslides.
Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, has urged local governors and mayors to prepare for major flooding.
“We have to work to determine which areas are most at risk of flooding and focus on preventing flooding there,” he told reporters earlier this week. “We know it’s not an easy task and that it requires time, logistics and experts who can help us get prepared.”
Government officials say awareness about flood prevention has increased in Colombia, and the South American nation is better prepared to cope with the rainy season than in previous years.
In 2010, severe flooding pushed the government to declare a state of emergency.
“We have sufficient resources to respond to the emergencies we have experienced so far,” said Carlos Ivan Marquez, head of SNPAD, adding that the government has allocated $60 million to respond to the latest floods.
Across the country, Colombia’s armed forces are helping build sand banks to contain floodwaters and repairing broken bridges. The air force has delivered 33 tonnes of humanitarian aid, including tents and food parcels, to affected communities in the south.
Earlier this week, the government announced plans to construct 100,000 free homes for the “poorest of the poor” over the next two years, with priority given to families who have lost their houses due to flooding.
CALLS FOR MORE EFFORT
But the high death toll - just six weeks after the rainy season began - and widespread disruption have renewed calls for local governments to boost prevention measures and ensure that families living in flood-prone areas are evacuated ahead of time.
Some authorities have been criticised for failing to prepare adequately for floods. Last month, the Superintendent of Public Utilities warned that water and sewage systems in around 400 municipalities were not ready for the rainy season, with drains remaining blocked.
Several local mayors and government officials are under investigation by the attorney general’s office for failing to carry out flood prevention works and for mismanaging public funds allocated to disaster response.
The governor of the central province of Cundinamarca said on Wednesday that a fifth of infrastructure improvements to prevent landslides and protect aqueducts have not been completed in the region.
In the last two years, Colombia has been battered by a series of severe floods that have killed around 700 people and disrupted the lives of more than five million.
Western Andean Region [contents]
U.S. anti-cocaine push embitters Peru chocolate makers
Caroline Stauffer. Reuters. April 26, 2012
(Reuters) - Connoisseurs who take chocolate as seriously as sommeliers study wine are challenging the widespread use of an inferior cocoa pushed by the U.S. government in its war against drugs in Peru, considered by many to be the birthplace of cocoa.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, introduced the high-yielding but acidic tasting CCN-51 cocoa hybrid to Peru in 2002 to offer farmers an alternative to planting coca - the key ingredient in cocaine.
The program has had some success but chocolate makers are encouraging farmers to instead cultivate smaller amounts of rare, native cocoa that fetches higher prices from buyers who value complex and subtle flavors and judge chocolate by the personality of its cocoa, like the nose of a fine wine.
"I don't understand why USAID is here, in a country so rich in diversity, where everything is virgin. What need is there to introduce new varieties?" said Mariella Balbi, owner of the tiny firm Guanni Chocolates, which sells in California and in Lima.
She sells boxes of 12 dark chocolate truffles made from Peru's native white cocoa and filled with local ingredients like pisco brandy and Amazonian fruits for $40.
USAID says it has a foreign policy mandate to curb coca production by encouraging alternative cash crops, not to cater to gourmets. But it also says it may be open to commercializing native varieties in the future and it is sponsoring a contest to encourage farmers to cultivate more native cocoa.
"We want to help Peru become one of the world's leading specialty cocoa producers," said Loren Stoddard, director of alternative development at USAID in Peru.
Specialty cocoa can refer to organic, fair-trade or native cocoa. Gourmets say nothing makes better chocolate than native cocoa.
Building on a culinary and economic boom in Peru, start-up chocolate makers are holding tastings to highlight accents ranging from nutty to floral in chocolate made from cocoa native to distinct microclimates, altitudes and latitudes.
They say Peru will never become a global bulk cocoa supplier like the Ivory Coast, so they instead want it to be the main cocoa source for high-end chocolate makers.
"USAID did a fine job developing an alternative crop with CCN-51, but times change. What people want changes," said pastry chef Astrid Gutsche, wife of Peruvian food icon Gaston Acurio. "This idea of native cocoa is quite new and I believe it's the future for Peru. We have something that no one else has."
Gutsche hopes to promote Peruvian chocolate the way her husband, who owns restaurants on several continents, helped to introduce Peruvian cuisine to the world. She has traveled to remote jungle areas hoping to convince farmers to find and cultivate naturally growing cocoa varieties instead of CCN-51.
It can be a tough sell. Peru and its neighbor Colombia are the world's biggest cocaine producers and when farmers do abandon coca planting they usually choose the highest-yielding alternative crops.
CCN-51 cocoa, developed in Ecuador in the 1960s and planted throughout Africa to supply makers of mass-produced chocolate, grows faster and yields more than most native varieties.
"There is a lot of pressure to plant CCN-51 from institutions," said Juan Rojas, who leads a farmer's cooperative in the northwest region of Piura that grows native white cocoa.
CCN-51 is considered a "bulk" rather than "fine-flavor" cocoa by the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), and it is more resistant to the witches' broom disease that slashed output in neighboring Brazil, once the world's No. 2 cocoa producer.
Rojas says Piura's native white cocoa yields one third less per hectare than CCN-51 but that some European chocolate makers are buying it for $4,000 per tonne. Bulk cocoa fetches around $2,300 per tonne on the New York futures market.
$12 CHOCOLATE BARS?
Luxury chocolate makers value Piura cocoa's soft white flesh for its earthy, slightly nutty traces. They say it does not have the acidic taste often found in chocolate made from CCN-51.
Proponents of native cocoa believe prices paid to farmers will further increase as the market develops, citing a growing demand for single-origin foods at U.S. stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.
The market for native cocoa has been discussed in the world's elite chocolate circles as a way to craft richer, more diverse treats while protecting rare cocoa varieties in danger of extinction.
"We want to come up with a system in which we actually link the chocolate bar directly with the origin for commercial purposes," said Moises Gomez-Miranda, a project manager at ICCO.
The London-based organization says the demand for fine flavor cocoa has started to grow very rapidly.
Native cocoa from Venezuela's famed Chuao region can fetch up to $10,000 per tonne though the country's overall cocoa production has fallen in recent years due to economic turmoil.
Peru is especially interesting for native cocoa fans because new varieties are still being identified in its part of the Amazon rain forest, where Spanish 'conquistadores' found the crop five centuries ago.
"The Peruvian Amazon is the cradle of cocoa and it's home to very important genetic clusters," said Maricel Presilla, a U.S.-based food historian and author of "The New Taste of Chocolate."
"Now that they have been identified genetically it is time to propagate, time to grow them. Money has to be placed into research expeditions and germ plasm banks," she said.
No one knows how many types of cocoa lurk in Peru's mountains and jungles, but two Americans recently stumbled on one genetic variety that was thought to be extinct. Now, Swiss chocolate makers produce bars out of Maranon's Pure Nacional cocoa with equipment developed in the 1800s, when Nacional was one of the world's most coveted cocoas.
Moonstruck Chocolate, a company in Oregon, sells packs of 12 chocolate bars made with 68 percent Maranon cocoa for $144. A 36-pack box of Hershey's bars, in comparison, sells for $19.95.
QUALITY NOT QUANTITY
Critics, however, say farmers are not yet paid high enough prices for native cocoa to justify the lower output. Few people are willing to pay $12 for a chocolate bar or care to pinpoint the exact location of its ingredients, they say.
"I just got back from Europe -- organic and fair trade are what's in demand. They aren't fixated on type, it could be CCN-51 it could be something else," said Rolando Herrera, President of APPCACOA, Peru's largest cooperative of cocoa growers and a USAID partner.
After the Dominican Republic, Peru says it is the world's No. 2 exporter of organic cocoa, which is worth between $100 and $300 more per tonne than bulk cocoa according to the ICCO. Rare native types, like Peru's Maranon Pure Nacional or Venezuela's Chuao, are worth much more.
Cocoa grown by former coca-planting farmers supported by USAID is sold as La Orquidea chocolate bars alongside Lindt and Toblerone in Peruvian grocery stores. In 2010, those farmers won a certificate at the Salon de Chocolat in Paris, surprising purists who consider CCN-51 incapable of producing quality chocolate.
Herrera says hybrids like CCN-51 can be considered organic, depending on how they are grown, and that the cooperatives are working with scientists to develop a new, better-tasting hybrid by grafting the CCN-51 onto native cocoa.
But Guanni Chocolate's Balbi says that practice endangers native varieties, which are becoming harder to find. She wants farmers to focus less on quantity and more on quality.
"Peru is a country of fine, aromatic cocoa, and like all good things it comes in small quantities."
(Reporting By Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Kieran Murray and Alden Bentley)
Lawyer investigating journalist's murder is shot dead
Roy Greenslade. The Guardian. April 26, 2012
A lawyer who was investigating the murder of a Peruvian journalist has been killed.
District attorney Luis Sánchez Colona was shot dead near his home in Nuevo Chimbote in northern Peru on 16 April.
He was investigating last year's killing of Pedro Flores Silva, who was shot after exposing local political corruption on his TV programme.
Last week, Sánchez was supposed to present a report on whether a local mayor was responsible for masterminding the killing of Flores.
Ecuador Ready To Face Possible Fallout From Global Crisis:Minister
Mercedes Alvaro. Dow Jones. April 24, 2012
QUITO (Dow Jones)--Ecuador is ready for any possible fallout from the European debt crisis and a slowdown in global growth, and if necessary can access a contingency line of credit valued at $1 billion, said Jeannette Sanchez, minister coordinator for economic policy.
Sanchez said the contingency credit line would come mainly from the Andean Development Corp., or CAF, and the Inter-American Development Bank, or IDB. In an interview late Tuesday, she also noted the government has deposits at the central bank that it can draw upon.
Additionally the administration of President Rafael Correa could use loans from friendly governments, including China, said Sanchez.
"The contingency line will be activated only if necessary," said Sanchez, adding that credit lines have also been negotiated with some "friendly countries and these resources will also be activated only if necessary."
She said committed Chinese financing for Ecuador totals $7.25 billion. Disbursements so far received from China have totaled $4.81 billion, including $2 billion from advances for oil sales.
According to official figures provided by the minister, Ecuador has already paid about $1.4 billion of the $2 billion it received as advanced payments for oil sales.
China has become an increasingly important source of funding for Ecuador, after the Andean nation defaulted on about $3.2 billion of its global 2012 and 2030 bonds, which effectively shut it out from private capital markets.
In 2009, Ecuador's state oil company, Petroecuador, and PetroChina Co. (PTR, 0857.HK, 601857.SH, K3OD.SG) signed a two-year crude-oil supply contract. An initial $1 billion advance payment for the oil was made in August 2009 to Ecuador. Another $1 billion advanced payment for oil sales was received in 2010.
Sanchez said Ecuador is also well placed to deal with possible effects from an international crisis, thanks to strong economic growth of 7.78% last year, and increases in oil revenues and tax collections.
After last year's red-hot growth, Ecuador expects a slower expansion in the coming years, with the economy forecast to growth 5.35% in 2012 and 4.37% next year.
Sanchez said the slowdown in 2012 and 2013 will be largely influenced by the planned progressive shutdown of the Esmeraldas refinery, Ecuador's largest, for six to eight months for improvements.
The government also forecasts a decline in public investment next year as large infrastructure projects will be completed, especially hydropower plants and roads.
The minister hopes after 2015 growth rates will rise again and remain at "healthy" levels, but declined to release figures.
Sanchez also said Ecuador will revise some of its macroeconomic forecasts for 2012, especially for inflation and GDP growth, but she declined to give details.
The government has said previously inflation would run at 5.14% this year, after reaching 5.41% in 2011.
Economists, however, say it is more likely inflation will be higher than 6% in 2012.
On a possible debt issue in international markets, the minister said that "in the future it could be considered," but Ecuador doesn't need it at the moment.
The minister is scheduled to travel next week to the U.S. where she plans to meet with rating firms.
-By Mercedes Alvaro, Dow Jones Newswires; 5939-9728-653; firstname.lastname@example.org
Mexico, Central America and Caribbean [contents]
Mexico says it will investigate Wal-Mart scandal
AP. April 26, 2012
MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's federal anti-corruption agency says it will investigate whether federal officials were involved in payments allegedly made by U.S. retailer Wal-Mart to speed up permits for building stores in Mexico.
The Public Administration Department says it will look at whether any federal permits were granted and take appropriate action if irregularities are found.
The department had previously suggested the allegations in a New York Times report were a matter for local governments.
In Mexico, zoning, land use and construction permits are usually handled by municipal governments unless an environmental impact statement is needed in sensitive or protected areas.
The department said Wednesday it will ask U.S. officials for any information they have, and pass it on to local governments.
Mexican poll shows support for leftist rising
Reuters. April 25, 2012
Mexico City - Mexico's leftist presidential hopeful Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has moved almost level with ruling party candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota and closer to front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto, an opinion poll showed on Wednesday.
The latest voter survey by newspaper Reforma showed support for Lopez Obrador, runner-up in the 2006 election, rising 5 percentage points to 27 percent from a poll published on March 28, putting him just two points behind Vazquez Mota of President Felipe Calderon's conservative National Action Party, or PAN.
Pena Nieto, of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), saw his support drop three points to 42 percent.
The results of the poll stripped out undecided voters or those who expressed no preference. The survey was conducted between April 19 and 22 and surveyed 1 515 voters. It had a total margin of error of around 2.5 percentage points, the newspaper said.
Honduran Indians Blame Government for Threats
EFE. April 25, 2012
TEGUCIGALPA – Representatives of indigenous communities in Honduras held a press conference here Wednesday to blame President Porfirio Lobo’s government for a campaign of threats and harassment.
Indian communities that have pursued “the exercise of indigenous autonomy” to preserve their traditional ways of life have been subjected to “repeated death threats, harassment and discrimination,” Bertha Caceres, coordinator of the Copinh coalition of peasant and indigenous organizations, said in Tegucigalpa.
Some of the threats against her own people, the Lencas, are linked to their opposition to planned hydroelectric dams in their region, she said.
“Impunity, racism and militarization have grown since the coup d’etat, with which the project of inhuman, unethical and predatory domination has strengthened,” Caceres said, referring to the June 2009 ouster of President Mel Zelaya.
The incumbent head of state, Lobo, was elected in November 2009 amid low turnout after a campaign marred by violence and repression against Zelaya supporters and other opponents of the coup regime.
Speaking on behalf of the Miskito Indians in the coastal province of Gracias a Dios, Cendela Lopez, said poverty and social exclusion are “the great challenges” for her people and complained that illegal loggers are destroying virgin forests in the area.
The delegate for the Maya-Chorti people of the western provinces of Copan and Ocotepeque, Cristobal Pineda, said the government has yet to comply with the commitment officials made in 1997 to provide the Indians with clear title to their land.
Jose Maria Pineda said the Tolupan people in the northern province of Yoro face repression for opposing environmental depredations.
The press conference was organized by the Observatory for the Human Rights of the Indigenous and Black Peoples of Honduras. EFE
Ortega proposes electoral reform in Nicaragua
AFP. April 25, 2012
MANAGUA – Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on Wednesday sent Congress the draft of a bill to reform the country’s electoral system, following complaints of irregularities by the European Union (EU) and the Organization of American States (OAS). The bill comes on the heels of the disputed 2011 election, in which Ortega was re-elected amid allegations of vote-rigging and intimidation.
The initiative aims to “ensure that election results are more accurate,” said presidential legal adviser Claudia Curtis, after presenting the bill to legislative First Secretary Alba Palacios.
The proposed Electoral Act bill, which Congress will debate next week ahead of the November municipal elections, includes recommendations by the OAS and EU after last November’s presidential elections.
Ortega’s government has not yet considered the possibility of renewing the directory of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), formed only by judges loyal to the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front.
The OAS stated in a report last January that Nicaragua’s electoral system has shown “structural failures ... since 1996,” while the EU recommended a replacement of current CSE judges.
Panama President Apologizes for Calling Reporter a Drug Addict
EFE. April 25, 2012
PANAMA CITY – Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli publicly apologized for calling a reporter a drug addict.
“I was wrong... I shouldn’t have made those comments in the way I did,” Martinelli said in an interview on Radio Panama.
During a press conference last Thursday about a case of suspected corruption, Martinelli reacted angrily to questions posed by a reporter, to whom he said “I don’t know if you’re having problems with your old habit or what.”
“You’ve had drug problems and that doesn’t mean I’m not going to talk to you...I respect you a lot, I like you...I just hope you don’t get messed up with drugs again,” Martinelli told reporter Hugo Famanias at the time.
The president admitted that given his position he should not have reacted that way, but attributed it to a “lack of respect” on the part of the newsman, who, he said, asked him if he wrote the news for a local daily because he had mentioned an item that the newspaper was going to publish the next day.
Martinelli, who has clashed with the press on other occasions, said that it “wasn’t a proper question” and complained that he is the Panamanian president “most often attacked” by the press, which has also never stopped going after his whole family.
Because of the incident with Famanias, the journalists’ union called a march for Tuesday to defend “the dignity and respect for journalism” that will wind up at the presidential offices, and to which all sectors of society have been invited. EFE
Region: Trade, Security, Economy and Integration [contents]
DAN MOLINSKI. Dow Jones. April 25, 2012
BOGOTA, Colombia (Dow Jones)--A senior International Monetary Fund economist continues to warn of downside risks for Latin American economies, even as the fund bumps up its economic growth forecasts for these nations, which have been doing well, with easy access to financing and high prices for the commodities they produce.
The IMF's latest Regional Economic Outlook for the Western Hemisphere, released Wednesday, suggests the economic good times in Latin America will continue to roll. The fund's new forecasts for economic growth in Latin America--3.7% in 2012, and 4.1% in 2013--are a few ticks higher from its own projections three months ago, with 2011 growth of about 4.5%.
But Nicolas Eyzaguirre, director of the IMF's Western Hemisphere Department, said while cheap and abundant access to financing, along with favorable commodity prices, could persist for a while, they will probably dissipate over time.
He urged Latin American countries to use the current, accommodative environment wisely, and warned of elevated global risks such as Europe's debt woes that could affect Latin American countries, especially those closely integrated with the global financial system, such as Brazil, Chile and Colombia.
"The challenge for many countries is to take advantage of this environment to rebuild buffers, to enhance the resilience and flexibility that has served them so well the last few years," Eyzaguirre said.
The fund official, speaking to reporters in Bogota, also said the IMF hopes Argentina can reach a deal with Spain for the takeover of YPF SA YPF +0.15% (YPF, YPFD.BA) that's "feasible" for Argentina and "acceptable" for Spain. Beyond that, he said the IMF won't comment because it's a bilateral issue.
Last week, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner asked her nation's Congress to nationalize 51% of YPF by expropriating shares from its majority shareholder, Spain's Repsol YPF SA REP.MC -1.40% (REPYY, REP.MC).
The IMF noted that South America's financially integrated economies of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Uruguay grew an average 5.5% last year, down from 6.5% in 2010.
These steady, strong growth rates, the IMF said in its report, present a challenge for central banks in the region.
"One the one hand, they will need to stand ready to support liquidity conditions if adverse global shocks materialize," it said, "while on the other they need to ensure that monetary policy settings continue to anchor inflation expectations."
The fund suggested so-called macroprudential measures as a way to avoid financial excesses deriving from rapid credit growth, heavy foreign investment and other capital flows. These could include policy actions such as forcing banks to hold more cash in reserve, effectively reducing how much they lend, and thus pinching excessive credit growth.
Colombia, in particular, might be preparing to embark on new macroprudential measures to stem credit growth and heavy consumer spending that could generate the risk of higher inflation. Nonetheless, most central bank members have so far opposed such measures, and inflation hasn't been much of a problem, with 12-month consumer inflation through March a relatively mild 3.4%.
Elsewhere in the region, the IMF says Central American nations need to focus on reducing their reliance upon deficit spending, noting that debt-to-gross domestic product ratios are higher than a few years ago. Meanwhile, the IMF says Caribbean countries are seeing sluggish growth rates in countries that rely on tourism.
-By Dan Molinski, Dow Jones Newswires; 57-310-867-6542;
Latin America's poverty data masks great inequalities, report says
Jo Tuckman. The Guardian. April 26, 2012
The acute developmental disparities hidden behind Latin America's national averages have proved hard to tackle, partly because few public policies take their full impact into account, according to the authors of a new report.
The Poverty and Inequality 2011: Latin America report, by the Latin American Centre for Rural Development (Rimisp), analyses official data from 10 countries on health, education, income, employment, security and gender.
"Inequality is the great scar across Latin America," said Julio Berdegué of Rimisp, the lead author of the report launched in the Mexican capital, Mexico City, on Tuesday. "In the same country you can have municipalities with European standards and others that are closer to Burkina Faso."
The report looks at Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru. In Bolivia, one of the poorest on the list, the entire populations of many municipalities are unable to satisfy at least one basic need, such as adequate sanitation or sufficient calorific intake. In the rich lowland city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra that figure falls to under 20%. The national average is 84%.
In Mexico, one of the richer countries in the report, only around 15% of the population over the age of 15 is classed as illiterate. But while almost everybody can read and write at that age in the resort city of Cancún, only about a third have those skills in the rural village of Cochoapa el Grande a few hundred kilometres to the west.
The Rimisp report, developed with the help of local academics, focuses on the territorial distribution of disadvantage within each country in an attempt to go beyond simply reaffirming Latin America's long-held reputation as the most unequal region in the world.
"The challenge is to know where the inequality that we talk about so much actually is," says Josefina Stubbs, the Latin America director of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad), which sponsored the report. "To understand why – despite all the efforts – we still suffer a deep, sharp and sustained poverty in rural sectors."
The authors of the report stress that while rural areas tend to be the most disadvantaged, and indigenous communities and people of African descent the most disadvantaged populations, it is also true that urban areas show intense inequality and frequently suffer the worst insecurity. They also emphasise that the design and implementation of more effective public policies require even finer details.
Case studies used to illustrate that point include the drive to expand access to education in Chile, which began under the Pinochet regime and continued after the country's democratic transition in 1990. The effort was based on a partial privatisation of education, which, the report argues, has entrenched segregation and inequalities.
The report highlights the way local authorities in poor areas rarely have the administrative capacity to ensure that even well-designed programmes are successful, setting in motion a vicious cycle. In El Salvador, for example, there are 4.4 local officials per 100 residents in the capital, San Salvador, yet the proportion falls to 0.1 per 100 in the municipality of Cuisnahuat.
Aside from calling for greater sensitivity to local conditions from the state, the report identifies greater participation of local communities as an essential requirement for successful efforts to reduce poverty and inequality. It uses a positive story about the extensive and diverse network of co-operatives in the southern parts of the Santander region of Colombia to underline the point. Set up by a priest in the 1960s, the co-operatives are not only involved in traditional areas such as agriculture, transport and credit but have diversified and modernised to the point of developing capacities in web design.
"This is not just a problem of the need for more money or doing what we are doing better," says Berdegué. "The challenge that we all have today is to decide what kind of development we should aim for and what we need to make that happen."
Latin American indigenous groups join forces to fight dams
Joao Fellet. BBC. April 25, 2012
Meeting of indigenous people to discuss strategy ahead of Rio+20 Indigenous communities are increasingly coming together to plan strategies
When Brazilian indigenous leader Tashka Yawanawa saw the news on television that communities from Peru were campaigning to prevent the construction of dams close to their land, he had no doubt about how he could help.
He turned on his computer, and using Skype, he contacted indigenous movements involved in the protest to offer both his support and to publicise the cause in Brazil.
"Today, indigenous groups can no longer escape the white man's technology," says Mr Yawanawa.
"We have to update ourselves, and prepare to face this new world."
He belongs to the Yawanawa people, who live in the Brazilian Amazon, an area where indigenous communities have also fought many battles against hydroelectric dams.
He leads an organisation that seeks to build links with similar movements in other Latin American countries so they can learn from each other's campaigns.
His initiative reflects an unprecedented effort among the region's indigenous groups, as they join forces to resist major projects which they see as damaging to their territories.
It is part of a growing conflict as governments, seeking what they say is badly needed economic growth, build roads and hydro-electric dams, and exploit natural resources such as oil, copper and gold.
At the same time, indigenous groups say they are fighting to ensure that their traditional way of life is preserved.
Skype is one tool they are using to co-ordinate campaigns, alongside more traditional tactics such as adopting a unified position in international organisations including the UN and the Organisation of American States (OAS).
"We are mapping all the achievements of our fellow indigenous peoples in the continent in order to use their experiences here in Brazil," says Marcos Apurina from the Co-ordination of Indigenous Organisations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab).
"Our problems are almost identical to the native peoples of other countries."
This approach has been led by large national indigenous organisations and regional movements such as the Co-ordination of Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon Basin (Coica).
Coica operates across national boundaries, helping groups in Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, French Guiana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
Coica's work also involves organising meetings and workshops to help indigenous communities learn about international conventions, and also tips on lobbying and dealing with people in positions of power.
These gatherings allow indigenous leaders to discuss ways of putting pressure on governments to demarcate their territories.
They also discuss how international bodies can help guarantee indigenous rights or prevent major economic projects from having a detrimental impact.
"We are concerned about the new form of development known as the 'green economy'. We understand this as an effort to exploit natural resources in indigenous territories," says Rodrigo de la Cruz from Coica.
Several projects in the Brazil-Peru border region aim to expand the economic and transport integration between the two countries in the coming years.
The Inter-Oceanic Highway, connecting the north-west of Brazil to Peruvian ports on the Pacific coast, was inaugurated in 2011.
According to indigenous movements, this has brought several problems to the region, such as deforestation and illegal mining.
Jaime Corisepa, president of the Native Federation of Madre de Dios River and Tributaries (Fenamad), says that conditions may worsen if other projects go ahead.
One is the planned construction of six hydro-electric dams in Peru to supply the Brazilian market.
Protests forced the Peruvian government to suspend this project and to start a process of local consultation.
Using new technology and holding regional summits are ways to co-ordinate protests, but indigenous campaigners are also building on relationships that existed long before national boundaries and laws were established.
Marcela Vecchione, from the Pro-Indian Commission (CPI) in the Brazilian state of Acre, in Brazil, says that in many areas, indigenous communities are divided by artificial boundaries.
That is the case of the Manchineri people, divided by a border in 1904 when Brazil annexed the state of Acre.
"I often visit my family on the other side of the border. For me, travelling from Peru to Brazil means only crossing a river," says Geraldo Manchineri.
But thanks to technology, communication across much longer distances has become easier.
Indigenous leaders hope to take advantage of this new way of co-ordinating and gather 1,200 people in Rio de Janeiro this June when world leaders will come together for the Rio+20 meeting.