Latin America News Round-up
September 5, 2012
Colombia Will Restart Peace Process With FARC
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Brazil and Southern Cone
Obesity weighing on Latin America
Brazil to boost import taxes again to help local industry. Reuters
Brazil car sales surge after government extends tax breaks. Bloomberg
Brazil Soy Group Warns Farmers Against Monsanto Seed. Dow Jones
Gazprom in talks with Argentina's YPF on LNG supplies. Reuters
Chile's Congress approves tax reform to overhaul schools. Reuters
Northern Andean Region
Venezuela's 12-month inflation dips to 18.1 pct. Reuters
Venezuela on track to miss 2012 production target. Reuters
Venezuela's Chavez hails Colombia-FARC peace talks. AP
Colombia Will Restart Peace Process With FARC. New York Times
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos says talks with rebels will start next month. Washington Post
Western Andean Region
Ecuador, UK to resume Assange talks. AFP
Peru villagers allege neglect after toxic spill. AP
Mexico, Central America and Caribbean
Mexico's next president names transition team. Los Angeles Times
Mexican magazine's deliveries blocked. The Guardian
Honduras signs deal to create private cities. AP
Switzerland arrests Guatemala ex-police chief Sperisen. BBC
Guatemala Opens 7 Areas to Oil Exploration to Boost Production. Bloomberg
Bain's questionable Salvadoran connection. News Observer
Region: Trade, Security, Economy and Integration
Obesity weighing on Latin America. Christian Science Monitor
Brazil and Southern Cone [contents]
Brazil to boost import taxes again to help local industry
Luciana Otoni. Reuters. September 4, 2012
BRASILIA, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Brazil will raise import tariffs on 100 foreign products to help struggling local industries, Finance Minister Guido Mantega said on Tuesday, in a move that could amplify concerns over growing protectionism in the world's No. 6 economy.
This is the latest in a string of steps taken by President Dilma Rousseff to fend off competition from foreign producers, which has hit local industries and dragged down an economy that until recently was the star among emerging market nations.
The temporary increase - initially for a year - in levies will apply to products ranging from iron pipes to glass and bus tires. The rate will reach 25 percent for most of those products, an increase from the low teens.
"We live in a time when the world market is shrinking and exporters flood Brazil, which is one of the few growing markets, and our industry is being harmed by this," Mantega told reporters in Brasilia.
Brazil has unapologetically raised barriers on foreign goods it considers a threat to its local industry, angering trade partners already struggling to sell their products amid the global slowdown.
Trade Minister Fernando Pimentel on Tuesday quickly denied the move was protectionist, saying the tax hike was allowed under World Trade Organization rules. The tariff ceiling for most industrial products is 35 percent.
Over the last year Brazil hiked taxes on foreign vehicles, reworked a long-standing car trade deal with Mexico and tightened rules for the import of perishable goods from Argentina to protect local businesses.
Yet industries have reacted slowly to the measures, which also include a flurry of tax breaks and actions to weaken the local currency, the real.
Industrial output had only a modest rise in July, government data showed earlier on Tuesday, which raised doubts over the effectiveness of government actions.
"While some sectors should benefit from the tariff hike and could even avoid layoffs temporarily, the measure has the cost of increasing prices, allocation distortions and even risking a pickup in inflation driven by lower competition," Marcelo Salomon, an economist with Barclays Capital, said in a note.
TACKLING BUSINESS COSTS
The move to help industry comes at a time when the Rousseff administration is scrambling to lower some of the world's highest production costs.
For years businesses operating in Brazil have struggled with high taxes, lack of skilled labor and infrastructure bottlenecks in what is known here as the "Brazil Cost."
Rousseff plans to announce in coming days a reduction in electricity costs for industry and consumers, which is not expected to have an immediate effect on an economy that is expected to grow only 1.6 percent his year.
That is a far cry from the 7.5 percent expansion seen only a few years ago, which confirmed Brazil's standing as one of the world's most coveted investment destinations.
Aiming to spur long-term growth Rousseff unveiled measures in August to lure $65 billion in private investment capital to refurbish thousands of miles of decaying roads and railways.
The trained economist has received much praise from Wall Street for her efforts to make life easier for businesses, but cumbersome red tape and heavy state intervention could still spoil her plans, analysts say.
The latest tax hike still needs to be reviewed by the South American trade group Mercosur, which includes Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and new member Venezuela. (Additional reporting and writing by Alonso Soto; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Phil Berlowitz)
Brazil car sales surge after government extends tax breaks
Bloomberg. September 4, 2012
Brazil likely sold a record 400,000 cars in August, as government tax cuts and lower borrowing costs spur consumer spending that’s helping the world’s second-biggest emerging market emerge from yearlong stagnation.
Fiat, the country’s biggest automaker, said Monday that tax cuts that took effect in May and were extended last week through October spurred industry sales of more than 400,000 cars and light vehicles last month. The Italian automaker, citing preliminary figures, said it sold about 100,000 units as its production in Brazil reached the highest level in 36 years.
A rebound in car sales, after inventories accumulated at the start of the year while consumers held back on purchases, is boosting the outlook for Brazil’s industry. A government report tomorrow will show that output expanded 0.2 percent in July, after three straight months of declines, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 38 analysts.
President Dilma Rousseff’s government last week extended for several months tax breaks on cars and appliances, and the central bank reduced borrowing costs to a record low, in a bid to boost flagging growth that was an annualized 1.64 percent in the second quarter. The government has also sought to shield manufacturers from cheaper imports by weakening the real, which has declined 8.1 percent this year, more than any major currency tracked by Bloomberg.
“This package of measures transmitted optimism to the Brazilian consumer, who reacted positively,” Cledorvino Belini, Fiat‘s president in Latin America and current head of the Brazilian carmakers association, known as Anfavea, said in the statement.
Anfavea declined to comment ahead of its Sept. 6 press conference to disclose August sales figures, though Finance Minister Guido Mantega said last week that he too expected a record month for car sales.
Car sales surged to 364,196 in July from 257,887 in April, after the tax cuts allowed companies including Ford and Fiat to exhaust inventories. The previous monthly record for car sales was set in December 2010, when the industry licensed 381,552 vehicles.
“In the automobile industry, results in the first two quarters were weak, growth was negative,” Mantega told reporters in Brasilia on Friday. “But in the third quarter we are going to have very favorable results, very strong growth.”
62578452 brazil economy 304 30aug Brazil car sales surge after government extends tax breaksGross domestic product expanded 0.4 percent in the second quarter, the statistics agency reported last week. While that’s the fastest pace in a year, economists say there’s little evidence that Latin America’s biggest economy is recovering strongly. Growth in Brazil this year trails that of Russia, India and China, its peers among the BRIC group of the world’s biggest emerging markets.
Economists reduced their forecast for growth this year for the fifth straight week, to 1.64 percent, in the last survey taken by the central bank on Friday.
Even as growth remains weak, the inflation outlook is worsening as a result of bad weather that destroyed crops in the U.S. and Brazil and strong demand being spurred on by low unemployment and the government stimulus.
Analysts raised their forecast for year-end inflation for the eighth straight week in the latest central bank survey, to 5.2 percent. Price pressures are limiting the space policy makers have to lower borrowing costs after they reduced the benchmark Selic rate last week to 7.50 percent.
Asian automakers have been targeting the world’s biggest emerging market after China for investment after Rousseff last year raised import levies on foreign-made vehicles, making it harder to tap into rising demand for cars by the country’s expanding middle class.
Hyundai is set to open this month its first South American assembly line outside Sao Paulo.
Brazil Soy Group Warns Farmers Against Monsanto Seed
Dow Jones. September 4, 2012
The grains producers' association in Brazil's top soybean-growing state, Mato Grosso, warned farmers this week not to plant a new variety of transgenic soy it says Monsanto Co. (MON) has been distributing.
The soybean variety, Intacta RR2 Pro, hasn't been approved in China, where more than two-thirds of Brazil's exports of the oilseed are shipped. Mato Grosso state soybean and corn producers' association Aprosoja said in a statement Monday that farmers using Intacta RR2 seeds could accidentally contaminate shipments of approved soybean varieties, putting exports to China at risk of being refused.
Monsanto responded Tuesday, saying the company hasn't allowed commercial sales of Intacta RR2 in Brazil and won't do so until all of the country's main export markets approve it. A stockpile of 600,000 sacks of the seeds, which Monsanto had produced based on the belief that China could approve Intacta RR2 "at any time," will be destroyed, the firm added.
Aprosoja said Monsanto had been handing out samples of the new seeds to farmers in Mato Grosso and required them to sign a waiver accepting responsibility for any contamination that occurred.
"It's like they're testing it, but with no controls," an Aprosoja official said.
Last year, Monsanto invited 500 Brazilian farmers in 10 states to plant Intacta RR2 alongside fields sown with the company's Roundup Ready soy, an herbicide-resistant variety that is commonly used in Brazil. The fields were closely monitored, and the soybeans produced using Intacta RR2 were subsequently destroyed.
Monsanto said it plans to carry out another round of demonstrations this year.
Intacta RR2 soybean seeds use so-called "stacked" genes that make the plants resistant to insects as well as herbicides.
Transgenic seeds will account for 88% of Brazil's 2013 soybean crop, according to a recent estimate by local grains consultancy Celeres. Most of the transgenic soy currently planted in Brazil resists only herbicides.
Brazil, the U.S. and the European Union, among other countries, already have approved Intacta RR2 for use. But the enormous importance of China to Brazil's soybean-exporting industry--and the ease with which contamination can occur while soybeans are being stored or transported--means Brazilian farmers should refrain from trying the new strain, Aprosoja said.
"All Brazilian producers still have bitter memories of the enormous crisis in prices caused by Chinese refusal of various Brazilian soy shipments in 2004," the association said.
Brazil next year likely will harvest a record soybean crop that could push it ahead of the U.S. as the world's top soybean producer, analysts say. Farmers will begin planting as early as September.
Write to Paul Kiernan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gazprom in talks with Argentina's YPF on LNG supplies
Reuters. September 4, 2012
MOSCOW, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Russia's Gazprom said on Tuesday it had discussed supplying liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Argentina's state-controlled YPF , which eventually wants to reduce fuel imports by boosting domestic output.
YPF, nationalized by President Cristina Fernandez earlier this year, said the talks at the Russian group's Moscow office had also included developing the South American country's vast shale energy resources.
YPF hopes to lure deep-pocketed partners to invest at the Vaca Muerta shale site, which could hold enough energy resources to double Argentina's oil and natural gas output within a decade.
"The parties discussed the possibility of liquefied natural gas supply to Argentina from the Gazprom Group portfolio," Gazprom said about the meeting between its chief executive, Alexei Miller, and his counterpart at YPF, Miguel Galuccio.
Gazprom, which is exploring for natural gas in Venezuela as part of a Russian consortium, gave no other details.
Galuccio, who said last week that YPF would need to invest $37.2 billion over the next five years to meet its production targets, called Tuesday's meeting "another open door where we can advance on our ambitious goals," according to a company statement.
Latin America's third-biggest economy, Argentina has been stepping up imports of LNG in recent years to bridge the gap between growing demand and flagging domestic production. Natural gas output has fallen 15 percent since 2004.
Fernandez's left-leaning administration blamed the country's rising fuel bills on underinvestment by YPF when it was controlled by Spain's Repsol, prompting the controversial takeover of the company.
Gazprom operates the Sakhalin-2 LNG plant, the only such enterprise in Russia, with annual production of 10 million tonnes. It plans to double LNG capacity by building another plant in the Pacific port of Vladivostok.
But the production of LNG is facing challenges from increased shale gas production in the United States, as well as sagging demand for the fuel in Europe.
Chile's Congress approves tax reform to overhaul schools
Alexandra Ulmer. Reuters. September 4, 2012
SANTIAGO, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Chile's Congress approved on Tuesday major changes in tax laws aimed to provide funds for an overhaul of the nation's protest-hit schools, handing unpopular President Sebastian Pinera a welcome victory a month from municipal elections.
The tax overhaul driven by Pinera's rightist coalition will increase state revenue by some $1 billion per year - about 0.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the world's biggest copper producer.
Businesses in the Andean nation will face a higher tax rate of 20 percent and fewer loopholes to evade them, though the tax rate remains well below Latin America's average rate of 25.06 percent in 2011, according to accountancy firm KPMG.
Hefty tax cuts planned for the most wealthy were removed from the bill after months of jostling in Congress. T ax rates for lower income earners drop on a sliding scale.
Billionaire Pinera, rated the most unpopular leader since Augusto Pinochet's bloody dictatorship ended in 1990, unveiled the proposed reform in April in response to massive student-led protests demanding free education and greater equality.
While the Andean country has long been held up as an economic model in Latin America, it was rated the most unequal country of the 34-member-state Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD.
The reform is not expected to calm student protests for free and improved education.
"(The reform) is more about the rhetoric that they can use around it as they head in the election and less about the real impact it will have on the student movement," said Risa Grais-Targow, associate at Eurasia Group in Washington DC.
Its approval lands right before local elections on Oct. 28, which will give an indication of how the right and the left - both struggling with low approval ratings - could fare in the 2013 presidential race.
Pinera, whose approval rating is languishing at 27 percent according to a recent survey by pollster CEP, is barred by the constitution from running for a second consecutive term.
The reform could give his conservative bloc a small boost in next year's presidential election, when leftist former President Michelle Bachelet is widely expected to try to stage a comeback.
"This is undoubtedly going to help the right more than Michelle Bachelet," said Ricardo Israel, professor of law and political science at the Universidad Autonoma de Chile. "The right is taking away a flagship part of Michelle Bachelet's campaign ... she's going to have to move even more to the left."
Bachelet, the current executive director of U.N. Women, has yet to say whether she will run.
Public Works Minister Laurence Golborne, Defense Minister Andres Allamand and Economy and Tourism Minister Pablo Longueira are seen as the front runners of the conservative bloc, which ended two decades of left-wing rule in 2010.
Northern Andean Region [contents]
Venezuela's 12-month inflation dips to 18.1 pct
Reuters. September 4, 2012
(Reuters) - Venezuela's annual inflation slowed for the eighth consecutive month in August, beating government forecasts for the year and giving President Hugo Chavez respite from concerns over soaring prices ahead of the Oct. 7 presidential election.
Twelve-month inflation to August was 18.1 percent, compared with 19.4 percent in July.
The decrease keeps the rate below the symbolic 20 percent level for the second month in a row and puts the government on track to beat its full-year forecast of 20 to 22 percent.
Last month, when inflation broke the 20-percent barrier for the first time in years, the government seized upon it as proof price controls and other efforts to curb inflation were taking effect.
"We are earning credibility," Finance Minister Jorge Giordani said o n T uesday, dismissing economists who warn that inflation could rebound as "prophets of disaster."
Consumer prices rose 1.1 percent in August, compared with 1.0 percent the previous month, the government said.
The accumulated rise in the first eight months of 2012 was 9.8 percent.
Fueled by heavy government spending on Venezuela's expansive social programs, inflation in 2011 reached 27.6 percent, the highest level in the Americas.
At the time, economists warned that higher spending this year ahead of the upcoming election could push the rate toward 30 percent and raise the risk that Venezuela would need to devalue the bolivar, its currency, for the third time as many years.
Even as he continues to channel abundant oil revenues toward pet projects, however, Chavez has used price controls across the country as a way to curb inflation.
While that has brought temporary relief, economists still warn that price controls have limited effect and warn that a price spike could follow.
Venezuela on track to miss 2012 production target
Marianna Parraga. Reuters. September 4, 2012
PUERTO LA CRUZ, Venezuela, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Venezuela is on track to miss its 2012 oil production target of 3.5 million barrels per day even though two new ventures in the Orinoco heavy oil belt are expected to pump their first barrels before the end of year.
Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said on Tuesday the OPEC member's average output is 3.13 million barrels per day (bpd), considerably lower than the 3.50 million bpd target for the end of the year announced by President Hugo Chavez.
Joint venture projects that include investment from Italy's Eni and a consortium of Russian companies are slated to start up before the end of 2012, state oil company PDVSA said, but will not produce enough to make up the difference.
"Production is currently 3.13 million barrels per day, 1.7 million of those are heavy oil," Ramirez said during a presentation at an oil conference.
He said Venezuela would invest a record $18 billion in 2012, with around $6 billion going toward increasing crude production. Current oil prices would guarantee PDVSA sufficient cash flow to finance that investment plan, he said
But new output from the vast Orinoco belt, which was expected to be the main driver of this year's production increase, has been slow to get off the ground.
Petrojunin, a joint venture between PDVSA and ENI, and Petromiranda, which includes investment from Rosneft and LUKOIL, should together produce around 80,000 bpd by the end of the year. Ramirez in 2011 said Petromiranda alone would be producing 50,000 bpd by May.
Joint venture Petromacareo, made up of PDVSA and Vietnam's Petrovietnam, said in April it had started production. But the new volumes have not yet been included in domestic output reports, suggesting operational difficulties.
Two other joint ventures that include Chevron and Repsol were expected to begin operations by the start of 2012, but are still not producing. PDVSA has not provided a startup date but says they should start by year-end.
Venezuelan crude production declined to its lowest point in 2010 after a period of low oil prices. In 2011, it reversed part of the decline to reach 2.99 million bpd.
Critics say Venezuela is failing to keep up with investment in its oil industry, the motor of the country's economy.
PDVSA uses a huge portion of petroleum income to finance the popular social programs created by Chavez, and frequently has greater spending requirements in the run-up to presidential elections.
Venezuela's Chavez hails Colombia-FARC peace talks
LUIS ANDRES HENAO. AP. September 5, 2012
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday he is willing to help Colombia's government and leftist FARC rebels broker a peace deal and congratulated both sides on taking steps to end the Western Hemisphere's longest-running conflict.
Earlier in the day, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the deal to launch peace talks next month, calling the accord a road map to "a definitive peace." The pact was reached after six months of direct talks in Cuba, with that country's government and Norway serving as brokers.
"My greeting and a thank you to President Santos for the effort you're making, I can vouch for it because we have been modestly helping out somewhat," Chavez said in a late nationally televised address.
"I also send my greetings to the high ranks of the FARC who have also done their part. They asked us for help and I told the president: Whatever needs to be done for Colombia's peace, I'm willing to do it."
The agreement was signed Aug. 27 and doesn't include a cease-fire or grant a safe haven to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, as they did during the last peace talks.
Those talks ended disastrously in 2002 after three years of negotiations with the hijacking of a commercial airliner that tried the patience of then-President Andres Pastrana. Operating from a Switzerland-sized safe haven in southern Colombia, the rebels had never ceased to wage war, kidnap and traffic in cocaine.
"I hope they don't fail in their commitment to reach peace. It's enough of war, of 60 years of war," Chavez said. "This doesn't have a military solution, I've said it before. It needs a political solution at a discussion table looking for agreement points so the guerilla fighters can lay down their weapons, hopefully with the guarantee and respect of a political life."
The new attempt to end a five-decade conflict will begin in the first half of October in Oslo, Norway, and continue in Havana. Venezuela and Chile will "accompany" the talks. How their roles will differ from those of Cuba and Norway was not explained.
In a late night interview on state TV, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said Venezuela and the whole region would benefit greatly if Colombia reaches a peace deal.
"Peace will permit the deepening of ties. Venezuela has everything to gain from peace," he said. "We have a 2,200-kilometer border from point to point, and peace will help strengthen integration projects, economic development, the creation of joint economic zones. ... It's the great opportunity for all these projects that sometimes are truncated to reopen for good."
Colombia Will Restart Peace Process With FARC
WILLIAM NEUMAN and JENNY CAROLINA GONZÁLEZ. New York Times. September 4, 2012
QUITO, Ecuador — President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and the leader of his country’s largest guerrilla group said Tuesday that the two sides would soon sit down to a new phase of peace talks with the goal of ending the long conflict.
Mr. Santos, speaking in Bogotá at the presidential palace, said the talks with the group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, would begin in the first half of October in Oslo and would later move to Havana.
The leader of the FARC, Rodrigo Londoño, who uses the nom de guerre Timochenko, spoke about the talks in a videotaped message played at a media event held by guerrilla representatives in Havana. Both speeches were broadcast on national television in Colombia.
While both men spoke of their hopes for peace, the style of the two speeches was very different.
Mr. Santos, 61, dressed in a dark jacket with a light blue tie, spoke in a moderate tone as he gave a characteristically polished address that included new details about the talks, which he announced last week in brief remarks. Seated on either side of him were top military officers and his cabinet ministers.
“If we are successful, we will have put an end to this dark night of half a century of violence,” Mr. Santos said. “There is no doubt that it’s time to turn the page.”
Mr. Londoño appeared alone, dressed in olive green fatigues, wearing glasses and with a graying beard. He often shouted and wagged his finger.
“We come to the table without rancor or arrogance,” he said, adding that the group would press the government to take the needs of the poor into account.
Mr. Santos repeatedly emphasized that these talks would be different from negotiations by previous presidents, all of which ended in failure. There will be no cease-fire, he said, and the government will keep up military pressure on the FARC.
Mr. Londoño criticized the government for conducting peace talks under the threat of continued military action.
In the last round of talks, begun in the late 1990s, the government gave the FARC a large safe zone in which to operate, but the guerrilla group used it to train troops, traffic in drugs and gather strength, stretching out the fruitless negotiations for years.
Mr. Santos said that this peace process would continue for months and that if they were not yielding concrete results, he would end them.
William Neuman reported from Quito, and Jenny Carolina González from Bogotá, Colombia.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos says talks with rebels will start next month
Juan Forero. Washington Post. September 4, 2012
BOGOTA, Colombia — In a Cuban government house in a leafy Havana neighborhood earlier this year, Colombian rebel commanders and their government adversaries secretly debated how to carve out a path to peace and end Latin America’s most intractable guerrilla war.
Colombia has been embroiled in violence since 1964, and as recently as 10 days ago there were few public signs that the two sides were considering a peaceful end to a conflict marked by hit-and-run strikes and terrorist bombings. But on Tuesday, President Juan Manuel Santos revealed that the talks in Cuba, which began in February and lasted six months, had produced a streamlined, five-point framework agenda for official negotiations that will open in October in Oslo before moving back to Havana.
“It’s a difficult road, no doubt very difficult, but it is a road that we have to explore,” Santos said in a nationally televised speech, flanked as he spoke by top military and political leaders. “Any responsible leader knows that you cannot pass up a possibility like this one to end the conflict.”
According to the most optimistic assessment offered by senior government officials, a peace agreement would be reached by April. That would bring to a close a drug-fueled war that has bedeviled not only numerous Colombian leaders but also the United States, Bogota’s closest ally and benefactor, which has spent on average $700 million a year here in mostly military aid.
Beginning with President Bill Clinton’s administration, the United States has steadily involved itself in Colombia’s fight to stem the northward flow of cocaine as well as in its broad anti-guerrilla strategy.
If a peace agreement is signed, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, would demobilize its far-flung units, disarm nearly 9,000 fighters and give up its long-stated aim of toppling the government.
Santos’s administration would guarantee that a rebel army that began its fight as a tiny peasant force in the hamlet of Marquetalia 48 years ago could transform itself into a legal social or political movement, government officials say. According to analysts, that is the most vital point for FARC commanders — and the most challenging for the government, which along with the United States blacklists the FARC as a terrorist group and accuses many of its leaders of war crimes and drug trafficking.
With a few scant details about the talks leaking out over the weekend, the FARC has signaled its support, even issuing a rap video Monday in which young rebels sing “about going to Havana — this time to converse.” The video ends with the guerrillas marching off, carrying a suitcase, a playful note for a group that inspires fear in many Colombians.
On Tuesday, the FARC’s leader, Rodrigo Londoño, better known by his alias Timochenko, said in a video released in Cuba that the guerrillas want “a lasting peace, democratic and just.”
In Washington, President Obama welcomed Santos’s announcement and called on the FARC to “take this opportunity to end its decades of terrorism and narcotics trafficking,” according to a White House statement.
Other governments have played an active role in the talks, with Cuba and Norway named as “guarantors” that will closely monitor formal negotiations. The leftist government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, which has had ties with leading FARC commanders, will have a supporting role. Chavez’s envoys will not sit in on talks, but will be on hand to provide assistance to both sides. The center-right government of Chile will have a similar function.
Under the framework agreement, the two sides said they would work together to battle drug trafficking, which is rife in regions where the FARC wields influence. The rights of victims will be paramount in the negotiations, Santos said, a priority that could result in a truth commission to probe crimes both sides committed.
“All Colombians have the right to know what happened and who was responsible,” Santos said.
The government also agrees to discuss development programs in Colombia’s poor rural regions, an issue it has previously largely ignored. “This means more access to land, providing infrastructure to the distant regions, making sure prosperity and government services reach all people in the countryside,” Santos said.
And while no cease-fire will be declared during the talks, the two sides agreed to discuss how to bring one about.
That may seem obvious, said Sergio Jaramillo, the government’s national security adviser and an architect of the negotiations. But in past talks with the FARC, most notably a three-year peace process that broke down in acrimony in 2002, the rebels have adamantly refused to discuss putting down their weapons.
“You agree that this is about ending the conflict,” Jaramillo said, referring to the government side. “Both sides agree that it has to be an effective process and done in an expedient manner.”
Jaramillo explained that as negotiators make progress in Cuba, the two sides will agree to simultaneously carry out the agreement here in Colombia. “You deliver, I deliver,” Jaramillo said, referring to how the process is supposed to work. “We build a system of verification to make sure it happens at the same time.”
Though this will be the fourth time since the 1980s that the government has attempted talks with the FARC, the goals set out in the framework agreement are more modest, and the talks are taking place without ceding territory to the FARC, as it had once demanded.
“If there are not advances, we simply won’t continue,” Santos said.
Aldo Civico, a Rutgers University conflict specialist who often works in Colombia, said the goals in the upcoming talks appear realistic. Gone from the agenda are open-ended discussions or far-reaching FARC demands, such as those in the past that called for changes to Colombia’s capitalist economy.
“I think they’re going more pragmatic and realistic, and if that’s the case, we can with some prudence be optimistic that there’s some real commitment by the FARC to have a serious process,” Civico said.
A former defense minister who oversaw some of the government’s biggest blows against the FARC, Santos has since becoming president two years ago introduced laws to compensate victims of violence and distribute land to those displaced by the rebels and other armed groups.
Those measures, along with diplomatic initiatives that improved once-bitter relations with Venezuela’s government, have served as signs to the FARC that it can work with Santos, analysts here say.
“I think that the president’s actions provide a level of confidence so that the FARC can take a step,” said Francisco Galan, a former commander in a smaller guerrilla band, the National Liberation Army, who now lives in Bogota and works on peace-building initiatives. “There’s never been so much freedom to talk about the possibility of a peace process as there is now.”
Western Andean Region [contents]
Ecuador, UK to resume Assange talks
AFP. September 5, 2012
Ecuador said it would resume talks with Britain this week over the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is holed up in Quito's London embassy in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden.
State media has quoted Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patino as saying talks with London "will resume this week", after Britain had earlier said it hoped to restart negotiations as soon as possible.
Mr Assange, an Australian citizen, took shelter in the embassy in June after exhausting legal appeals against extradition to Sweden.
He is wanted there for questioning on sexual assault allegations, but he fears Sweden will hand him over to the United States.
The WikiLeaks founder has said he could face prosecution in the US and even the death penalty for treason over his website's release of a trove of secret embassy cables and war reports from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last month Ecuador granted asylum to Mr Assange, but Britain has vowed to arrest him if he leaves the embassy.
Ecuador's president Rafael Correa has said he might be willing to hand Mr Assange over to British authorities in exchange for guarantees he will not be sent to a third country or face the death penalty anywhere.
Peru villagers allege neglect after toxic spill
Franklin Briceno. AP. September 4, 2012
LIMA, Peru (AP) — More than a month after toxic slurry from a major copper mine sickened scores of people in one of Peru's highland communities, villagers complain that the mining company and the government have done little to help and have even failed to tell some parents that tests showed their children had been poisoned.
Testing eight days after the July 25 pipeline rupture found six children with unacceptably high levels of copper and one with similarly high levels of lead, but none have received any special care, Mayor Felipe Lazaro of Cajacay told The Associated Press.
In fact, he said authorities haven't even identified by name exactly which of the 18 children they tested were poisoned.
Villagers say some children still suffer nose bleeds, nausea and headaches.
"I don't know whether it's ill-will, neglect or what, but I don't understand how the government, after learning which of the children were poisoned, can refuse to identify them," Lazaro said by phone over the weekend. "How are they going to be treated if they haven't even been identified?"
At least 350 Cajacay residents were sickened by the spill of 45 tons of copper concentrate, a mineral stew of volatile compounds. At least 69 were children.
The mine's owner, Antamina, has not responded to repeated AP phone and email requests to identify the toxic components of the slurry and details on medical care it is providing for the spill victims. A document obtained by the newspaper La Republica shortly after the spill described the mixture as "highly toxic."
The company did provide initial medical treatment for the villagers, including 42 who were hospitalized in the community for up to 11 days after the spill.
Mining is the engine of Peru's region-leading economic growth. The country is the world's No. 2 producer of copper, silver and zinc and it is No. 6 producer of gold. But the mining and lax environmental regulations have taken a toll on communities, waterways and livestock.
A deputy environment minister, Mariano Castro, told the AP in mid-August that the government had examined the Cajacay slurry and expected lab results as soon as the following week.
Dr. Ted Schettler, science director of the U.S.-based Science and Environmental Health Network, said results identifying toxic components are key to treating victims properly.
A Health Ministry official, Percy Minaya, told the AP that the poisoned Cajacay children "if they have not been identified will be shortly." The rest of the villagers will know by Sept. 15 if they have been intoxicated, Minaya added.
Last month, Antamina said in a statement that it was "offering the necessary medical support of diverse medical professionals" to the children with unacceptable metal levels.
In all, 18 children between the ages of 2 and 12 and 34 adults had their blood and urine tested for copper, arsenic and lead by the government's occupational and environmental health agency, CENSOPAS. In addition to the poisoned children, one adult was found to have copper above acceptable levels, the agency said.
The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says children are especially susceptible to damage from high levels of copper, which can cause liver damage.
"My little boy is still sick. I am not going to stay silent even if I must fight with the government and Antamina, which for me are one and the same," Wilfredo Moran, a 34-year-old villager, told the AP by phone on Friday.
He said his 4-year-old is nauseous nearly every day, vomits after eating and has lost weight.
Yasira Sotela, a 9-year-old who was hospitalized immediately after the spill for profuse nose bleeding "continues to bleed from the nose at least twice a week," her mother, Ines Valverde, told the AP on Friday.
When she goes to the village's medical clinic, "they only give us paracetamol (an over-the-counter analgesic) and say, 'Nothing's wrong. Go home. Don't worry,'" she said.
Senior Peruvian environmental officials answered evasively when asked on Monday about the slurry test results and the villagers' claims of inadequate medical care.
"The state is sometimes accused of being slow," Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said during a meeting with international press when the AP inquired about the two issues. "We are trying to change that."
He said Antamina was in discussions with local authorities and villagers about compensating those affected and establishing a way to cope with health concerns.
Pulgar-Vidal said the government is trying to stiffen penalties for polluters by doubling the top fine, which is currently $13.3 million. Immediately after the spill, he called for the top fine for Antamina.
Antamina is the world's third-largest zinc mine and eighth-biggest producer of copper. It is owned by a consortium including Australia-based BHP Billiton Ltd., Xstrata of Switzerland, Teck-Cominco Ltd. of Canada and Mitsubishi Corp. of Japan.
Critics say Peru's Environment Ministry, established in 2008, is statutorily weak, and President Ollanta Humala's government has proposed legislation that would put it in charge of environmental impact studies for mines, a responsibility currently of the Mining and Energy Ministry.
The Andean nation, which gets more than 60 percent of its export earnings from mining, currently faces more than 100 different social conflicts, most related to environmental contamination or fears of it.
Associated Press writers Carla Salazar and Frank Bajak contributed to this report.
Mexico, Central America and Caribbean [contents]
Mexico's next president names transition team
Los Angeles Times. September 4, 2012
MEXICO CITY -- Outlines of the next government of Mexico began to emerge Tuesday when President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto named a transition team packed with advisors from his inner circle and members of his controversial governorship of Mexico's most populous state.
In a brief appearance before reporters amid tight security at a Mexico City hotel, Peña Nieto named 39 men and seven women to usher in his presidency, which takes office on Dec. 1. The inauguration will mark the return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled Mexico for seven decades until being ousted in 2000.
An electoral tribunal on Friday unanimously voted to confirm Peña Nieto's victory in the July 1 election, rejecting a string of challenges primarily from the leftist candidate who came in second, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
The top job on the transition team went to Luis Videgaray, who managed Peña Nieto's campaign and is considered one of his closest confidantes. The MIT-educated economist served in finance-related jobs in Peña Nieto's administration as governor of the state of Mexico from 2005 to 2011.
The part of the team handling security and related issues will be headed by Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, former PRI governor of the state of Hidalgo.
Some of the more eyebrow-raising appointments included Roberto Campa, who was the 2006 presidential candidate put forward by Elba Esther Gordillo, head of the ultra-powerful teachers union and one of the most feared women in Mexico. Her tight control of the union has often been blamed in part for the dismal condition of education in Mexico.
And Alfredo Castillo, until recently attorney general for the state of Mexico who was criticized by some women's groups for what they described as a failure to investigate a string of rapes and killings of women, was named to coordinate justice issues.
Questions have been swirling around what kind of president Peña Nieto will be. The PRI was known for deep corruption and sometimes heavy-handed authoritarian practices. Peña Nieto has vowed that today's PRI is a changed and modernized party and will govern that way.
Some critics have suggested that if the presidency looks like the governorship of the state of Mexico, the country is in for trouble. The state, which abuts Mexico City on three sides, became a hotbed of killings, extortion and kidnapping in the last decade, crimes that Peña Nieto has specifically promised to fight.
The president-elect said Tuesday that the people in the transition team would not necessarily be part of his Cabinet when his term starts.
Many of those on the team are with the PRI, but there were also a few who are not. One of the most prominent of those was Rosario Robles, who served briefly as leftist mayor of Mexico City from 1992 to 2000, the first woman to hold the post.
"Today, together and onward," Robles said in an interview. "We're already looking forward. We have a decision from the tribunal, we have a president-elect, and now we need to work for Mexico. This country deserves the work of everyone."
Outside the Hyatt Hotel on Campos Eliseos Boulevard in the tony Polanco neighborhood, where Peña Nieto appeared, a small group of about 10 protesters kept watch.
Mexican magazine's deliveries blocked
Roy Greenslade. The Guardian. September 5, 2012
A Mexican magazine wholesaler owned by the Televisa conglomerate refused to distribute last month's copies of Zócalo magazine because it carried an article critical of Televisa.
The magazine's cover story was headlined "Does television elect presidents?" Its image, as shown here, was a version of the Televisa logo in the form of a dinosaur egg, with the emerging silhouette of the winning candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto.
Televisa's distribution company, Intermex, failed to supply copies of the August issue of Zócalo to more than 160 branches of one of the country's major magazine retailers.
The Paris-based press freedom body, Reporters Without Borders, said the refusal to distribute the magazine amounted to censorship. It called for an independent investigation into the blocking of distribution.
Honduras signs deal to create private cities
ALBERTO ARCE. AP. September 4, 2012
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- The government of Honduras has signed a deal with private investors for the construction of three privately run cities with their own legal and tax systems.
The memorandum of agreement signed Tuesday is part of a controversial experiment meant to bring badly needed economic growth to this small Central American country. Its weak government and failing infrastructure are being overwhelmed by corruption, drug-linked crime and lingering instability from a 2009 political coup.
Both sides hope to begin work on the first city in coming weeks and say the project could create 5,000 jobs over the next six months.
The project is opposed by civil society groups including indigenous Garifuna people who say they don't want their land to be used for the project. The developers say the fears are unjustified.
Switzerland arrests Guatemala ex-police chief Sperisen
BBC. August 31, 2012
Swiss authorities say they have arrested Guatemala's former police chief, Erwin Sperisen, over the death of seven prisoners in 2006.
He is accused of involvement in the extra-judicial killing of prisoners when security forces stormed the El Pavon prison outside Guatemala City.
Judicial authorities in Geneva say Mr Sperisen will face criminal proceedings in Switzerland.
He cannot be extradited as he also holds Swiss citizenship.
Guatemalan authorities ordered in August 2010 the arrest of 18 former senior officials over the killings at the El Pavon prison outside the capital, Guatemala City.
Investigators say the prisoners were shot dead after security forces stormed the jail and took back control from criminal gangs.
Erwin Sperisen was accused of involvement in other crimes, including ordering the killing of three prisoners who escaped from the El Infiernito jail in 2005.
A statement from the Swiss authorities said his arrest was based on "details provided by the Guatemalan authorities at the end of 2011 and recent developments in the case".
Corruption, violence and organised crime are rife in Guatemala.
The country also has a long history of impunity, with few cases either coming to trial or resulting in convictions.
The 2010 arrest orders followed an investigation by the UN-backed international commission against impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).
The accused "formed part of a criminal organisation based in the interior ministry and civil police that was dedicated to extrajudicial executions of people detained in prisons," CICIG said in a statement.
The group was also involved in other crimes including "murder, drug trafficking, money-laundering, kidnapping, extortion and the theft of drugs", it further alleged.
Among the accused are the former interior minister Carlos Vielman and former prison service director Alejandro Giammattei - a losing candidate in the 2007 presidential election.
The international commission against impunity in Guatemala was set up by the UN in 2006 to help Guatemala reform its justice system and confront organised criminal gangs that have infiltrated the state.
Guatemala Opens 7 Areas to Oil Exploration to Boost Production
Adam Williams. Bloomberg. September 4, 2012
Guatemala will open seven new sites to oil exploration bids as Central America’s biggest crude producer struggles to reverse declining output.
Guatemala, which shares its northern border with Mexico, will open up nearly 800,000 hectares (2 million acres) for exploration and will discuss offers with interested companies over the next three months, according to a statement posted on the Finance Ministry’s website. The winning bidders will be announced early next year.
Oil production in Guatemala has fallen to 10,000 barrels per day from 30,000 barrels per day over the last 30 years, according to Energy and Mining Minister Erick Archila. Central America’s biggest economy intends to increase production to 80,000 barrels per day by 2022, he said in a July 12 interview.
At least 80 companies, including Colombia’s Ecopetrol SA (ECOPETL) and Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. (PRE), have requested information about the exploration options, according to the ministry. The government is also in talks with Vancouver-based Ivanhoe Energy Inc. (IVAN) to construct a refinery to process the country’s heavy petroleum, Archila said.
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Bain's questionable Salvadoran connection
Sandy Smith-Nonini. News Observer. September 4, 2012
Recent revelations about Mitt Romney’s highly profitable company, Bain Capital, help connect the dots between offshore tax shelters and shady investors, and the role that ill-gotten gains play in today’s casino-like finance capital.
The Los Angeles Times reported last month that over a third of the $37 million raised by Romney to launch Bain Capital in the mid-1980s came from rich Latin Americans, the bulk of it from Salvadoran families linked to death squads. A tax haven in Panama provided Bain with the secrecy needed to attract the investors.
While living in El Salvador, my family fell victim to right-wing terror in 1989, so I took the news like a punch in the gut. But as a professor, I know many Americans today have little memory of this troubled era when U.S. funds propped up Central American militarism.
The revelations took me back to November 1989 when I worked as a stringer for The New York Times in the capital. It was late. I sat on the floor in my bedroom over a TRS-80 laptop finishing an article about recent air force raids on urban neighborhoods. Moments after I sent the file, the phone rang. “You have 24 hours to leave the country or you can kiss your family good-bye,” said a man in accented English.
The shadowy death squads in my articles suddenly materialized into a personal menace – someone with a gun had my toddler son and me in his crosshairs. With the airport closed due to fighting, it was impossible to leave, so we spent a nightmarish week in hiding while I pulled long hours running between my son and my office in the foreign press corps, constantly on adrenaline alert with an eye on my jeep’s rearview mirror.
Earlier that year, we lost my son’s aunt to the terror. Marta Lidia “Tita” Guzman, an activist with a group that advocated for victims from the 1986 earthquake, disappeared a few hours after the National Police raided her office in June 1989. We never found her body.
For me, it is grotesque that the families that could have been behind Tita’s murder helped finance the rise to power of a candidate for the U.S. presidency.
Far from denying the claims, Romney named and publicly thanked several Salvadoran investors for their help in a 2007 speech in Miami. U.S. officials and human rights inquiries had linked close relatives of the investors – belonging to the Poma, Duenas, de Sola and Salaverria families – to paramilitary violence by 1984 when they met with Romney. Some of their relatives were charged with directing violence personally, others with supporting it behind the scenes through the extreme right-wing ARENA party, which orchestrated the death squads in those years.
The LA Times’ July 19 article cited Bain’s corporate filings in Massachusetts as well as a 1994 expose by the Boston Globe, which calculated the Salvadorans’ investment in Bain at $6.5 million. That was based on writings by former Bain executive Harry Strachan, who introduced Romney to the investors. The Globe quoted Romney as saying that Bain had checked backgrounds of individual investors (none of whom is accused of human rights crimes) but had not investigated their families.
Approximately 35,000 Salvadorans were killed, most in political murders, during the early 1980s. The Reagan administration’s generous foreign aid to the military regime protected a small oligarchy of families whose wealth came from plantations dependent on cheap labor from a peasantry forcibly dispossessed of land.
After the 1992 cease-fire, a United Nations study blamed 85 percent of the civilian killings on government military and allied death squads. I documented the human toll from the Salvadoran land grabs and militarism in my 2010 book “Healing the Body Politic.”
The ARENA party morphed from a façade for death squads into the party of big business by 1989, when it gained the presidency, ruling the country and enjoying a close alliance with U.S. administrations until its electoral defeat in 2009.
Reagan-era backing for the Salvadoran military is now seen by historians as hurting U.S. credibility on human rights. It is a sign of change that on President Barack Obama’s 2011 visit to the country, he honored the grave of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a popular orator assassinated by a death squad.
How ironic that as our middle class lost ground on wages and job security in recent years, the vulture capitalism of Bain Capital, which dismantled companies and offshored U.S. jobs, thrived, generating returns of over 50 percent annually by the early 1990s for Romney and his Salvadoran partners.
“Casino finance” has long enjoyed Republican protectionism. But when the party’s candidate for president earns his wealth partnering with Salvadoran oligarchs, GOP claims of fiscal responsibility and family values begin to look hollow indeed.
Martyrs like Tita and Archbishop Romero deserve better, and so do American voters.
Sandy Smith-Nonini is an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Curriculum in Global Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill
Region: Trade, Security, Economy and Integration [contents]
Steven Bodzin, Sara Miller Llana. The Christian Science Monitor. September 4, 2012
It's a gloomy day in downtown Santiago, Chile. Men and women in dark clothes hustle down a pedestrian mall, rushing back to work as their lunch break ends.
But for many children, the gray scene is pierced by a beacon: a local McDonald's restaurant with bright, wall-sized posters of ice-cream cones and hamburgers, a warm entryway, and especially the promise of children's meals with toys tucked inside.
If Chilean Sen. Guido Girardi has his way, however, there will be no more "Ice Age" figurines or other cartoon-movie icons to tantalize tots. Senator Girardi filed a complaint Aug. 1 against McDonald's, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken for allegedly marketing to children using toys, and demanded that the nation's health ministry crack down on food manufacturers that use stickers, games, or other child-friendly paraphernalia to draw in the youngest consumers.
The move comes as Chile's waistline continues to expand. With a quarter of Chileans registering as obese, the Andean country's residents are now almost as overweight as the British, and quickly catching up to North Americans.
Recent studies show almost a quarter of first-graders in Chile are clinically obese, which means they have a body mass index (BMI) – their weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters – of 30 or more.
Chile is not alone in Latin America. Mexico is vying with the United States for the distinction of being the world's heaviest nation, depending on which demographic is being studied. Only North America exceeds South America in terms of how heavy the population is. Even in Central America, where some countries are more associated with malnutrition, obesity rates are increasing.
The fattening of Latin America follows global patterns that have rendered 1.5 billion adults worldwide overweight or obese: Women are working outside the home, free trade has meant easy access to processed foods and sweetened beverages, jobs are more sedentary, and kids have moved from the soccer field to the television set. And with incomes rising in low- and middle-income countries, obesity is something that developing-world politicians will increasingly have to battle as food and beverage manufacturers eye new markets.
"There is an increased push by global food companies," says Barry Popkin, a global nutrition expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Because of growing incomes in Brazil and all the growth in China," he cites as two examples, "they are putting their efforts there now."
Mexico saw one of the quickest increases in obesity rates in the world between 1990 and 2010.
A diet that used to be based on corn and beans, flavored with tomatoes and peppers from the fields, is now increasingly industrially packaged. Fried food is everywhere, with the prices of cooking oils way down. At almost any time of the day, children and adults alike snack on everything from supersize juices to cobs of corn smothered in mayonnaise. Coca-Cola is gulped in vast quantities: Mexico is the biggest consumer of the soda on the planet.
According to Mexican government statistics, 70 percent of Mexican adults are overweight or obese (29 percent of that tally are obese). More than one-quarter of children ages 5 to 11 are overweight. Forty percent of children and adolescents do not exercise. The difference between an overweight and obese BMI is a jump from 25 to 30 on the index.
Though obesity has historically been higher in the developed world, studies have shown that obesity rates in Latin America have exceeded those in many developed countries, says Jason Nagata, a medical student at the University of California, San Francisco who has conducted obesity research in Guatemala.
In this Central American country, which has had one of the highest rates of malnutrition for children in the world, the prevalence of residents who are overweight or obese increased from 34 percent in 1995 to 45 percent in 2002.
In Mexico, the government is taking action. Under the administration of President Felipe Calderón, it signed the Obesity Prevention Strategy, which, among other things, banned sodas from schools and removed most high-sugar and fatty foods. The government also shifted from whole to 1.5 percent milk for government programs.
But Juan Rivera, director of the Center for Research in Nutrition and Health at Mexico's National Institute for Public Health, says that public awareness with the help of the media has probably had the biggest impact.
Recently, the secretary of health turned to the well-loved figures of Mexican wrestling, called lucha libre , who are leading a program called "Wrestling Against Obesity." (See story here.)
At the popular matches, information booths about good eating habits and disease prevention will be set up through November to help orient Mexicans toward a healthier lifestyle.
"The level of awareness of people about obesity and problems associated with it is higher," says Dr. Rivera. "There was not a single day in the last six years when you did not see news in Mexico about obesity." He says that preliminary results from the 2012 national nutrition survey, not yet published, show a halting in the accelerated rates of obesity logged over the past 20 years.
Chile has also tried to aggressively address its obesity epidemic, passing a law July 6 requiring that high-salt and high-calorie foods be labeled as such, for example. The law also makes it illegal to give out samples of such food to children, sell them at schools, or advertise them to kids. Schools, which sometimes keep students at the same desk all day, will have to provide physical activity and sports.
Francisco Mardones, a professor of public health at the Pontifical Catholic University in Santiago, says the government is also paying attention to prevention. For example, studies show that obesity is a bigger problem for children who are breastfed for less than six months. He says Chile's extension of maternal leave to six months, passed this year, is an "important" part of the solution. In addition, the new food law requires infant formula to be labeled with a notice about the superiority of breastfeeding.
But Chile and Mexico, along with some efforts in Brazil, stand alone in aggressively tackling the issue in this region, says Dr. Popkin. "It is starting to get attention," he says, "but generally speaking the food industry is just too big and powerful."
And even where politicians have directly tried to take on industry, they haven't gotten far. In Chile, for example, the new law won't translate immediately into new corporate policies.
"The sale of food specially oriented toward children may not be brought about through commercial hooks unrelated to the promotion of the product itself, such as gifts, contests, games, or other elements that attract children," the law reads.
But "commercial hooks" remains to be defined. The rule that will convert this law into enforceable specifics has yet to be issued, Girardi's lawsuit against fast-food companies notwithstanding. For now, restaurants continue to give out toys.
If the government's goal is to get kids to eat healthier food, they might have an ally among the 3-year-old set. Entering a McDonald's in downtown Santiago, Yesenia Mardones says her son Nicolas wants a Happy Meal for the toy. And the food? "He only eats one or two fries," she says. "And the apple."