Tag Archive | "Chile"

Latin America News Roundup: 16th April 2014


The fire in Valparaíso has killed 12 and destroyed 2,000 homes. (photo: AFP/Martin Bernetti/Télam/lz)

The fire in Valparaíso has killed 12 and destroyed 2,000 homes. (photo: AFP/Martin Bernetti/Télam/lz)

Chile – President Announces Benefits for Fire Victims: President Michelle Bachelet announced that the government is preparing a special one-off payment for victims of the recent Valparaíso fire. “We will announce the amount later, because we’re working on it, but it’s a resource for people to be able to buy the basic, essential things they need,” she said on a radio interview, and she highlighted there are already two payments available to people who lost their possessions to the fire, ranging from US$216 to US$300. Also today, Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo gave the latest figures regarding the fire, which indicate that an estimated 12,500 people have been affected by it, with 2,900 homes “completely destroyed”. Chilean authorities expect to fully control the fire today.

Venezuela – Opposition to Join ‘National Pacification Plan’: As a result of the second round of dialogue between the government and the opposition, the Mesa de Unión Democrática (MUD) alliance agreed to joining the ‘National Pacification Plan’ launched by president Nicolás Maduro. MUD’s Secretary General, Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, stated that the opposition is willing “to participate in the national plans of protection and promotion of safety and peace,” and that they will focus their participation on developing policies to curb insecurity, “so we can enrich that plan.” During the meeting, it was also agreed that the parliamentary opposition will take part in the nomination committees for the electoral and judicial powers, something they had previously refused to do. The government, in turn, agreed to including personalities from outside the legislative power to the Truth Commission that will investigate the violence that left 41 people dead and hundreds wounded over the last two months, as requested by the opposition.

Talking about the process, vice-president Jorge Arreaza said that “the meeting is never without tension, it was carried out in good terms, with tolerance, we listened to each other, respected each other’s rights. We’re moving forward.” He also confirmed that the dialogue will continue next week.

President Evo Morales at The Hague (photo courtesy of Bolivian government)

President Evo Morales at The Hague (photo courtesy of Bolivian government)

Bolivia – President Travels to The Hague over Access to the Sea: President Evo Morales presented documentation supporting his country’s claim against Chile over access to the Pacific Ocean before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The documentation, called ‘Maritime Memory’, was presented yesterday by Morales and Foreign Affairs Minister David Choquehuanca, two days before the deadline set by the ICJ. Now Chile has until 18th February 2015 to respond to the Bolivian presentation. In a press conference from The Hague, president Morales indicated he is “optimistic” about the outcome of the claim. “Bolivia has placed a lot of trust and hope in the ICJ to bring justice to Bolivians,” he said. The Chilean government, through Foreign Affairs Minister Heraldo Muñoz, criticised the presentation, saying it “lacks a legal foundation and it reverts a  debate which was constructive and conducive to generating mutual trust.” The claim was lodged before the ICJ in 2013, and it seeks to force Chile to negotiate a solution to the conflict which dates back to the War of the Pacific in 1897, and which saw Bolivia lose 120,000 km2 of its territory, including access to the sea.

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Latin America News Roundup: 14th April 2014


The five defendants who went on hunger strike (photo courtesy of Qué Pasó en Curuguaty? facebook)

The five defendants who went on hunger strike (photo courtesy of Qué Pasó en Curuguaty? facebook)

Paraguay: Home Arrest Granted for Curuguaty Campesinos: After a 58-day hunger strike, home arrest has been granted for five campesinos, part of a group of 12, arrested for their role in the Curuguaty Massacre. Defense lawyer for the group, Victor Morales, said that upon hearing the decision, the campesinos decided to lift their hunger strike. The group will be transferred to a civilian hospital where their recovery is estimated to take five to eight days, before which they will be allowed to return to their homes, where they will remain under house arrest whilst they await their trial. As the news was made public, supporters gathered outside the Asunción Military Hospital, where the campesinos are being held, to celebrate. It is thought they will be transferred to a civilian hospital in the coming days, as soon as the doctors decide they are strong enough to be transferred. The Curuguaty Massacre took place in 2012 after a police operation to evict 50 campesinos from public land turned violent, ending in the deaths of 11 campesinos and six police officers. Human rights organisations have voiced concerns that only campesinos have been arrested for the deaths, highlighting that three of the 11 campesinos killed had wounds that indicated they had been killed execution-style, after already being wounded. They have also demanded an independent inquiry into the case. The prosecution is basing its case on an investigation that the police force itself carried out into the massacre, after an independent inquiry was shut down by the government.

Kidnapped Venezuelan Journalist Released Unharmed: Nairobi Pinto, chief correspondent at TV news network Globovisión, has been released after being kidnapped on 6th April. She was released on a roadside in Cúa, about 60km south of the capital Caracas, early this morning. Pinto, who appeared to be in good health, gave a press conference with Interior Minister, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, and said: “They treated me well, they didn’t touch me or treat me badly. I was given three meals a day.” She went on to say that she was unable to give many details about her ordeal, as she had been kept blindfolded and her kidnappers never spoke in front of her. Three armed men attacked as Pinto was bringing shopping in to her building last Sunday, threatening her family at gunpoint and taking her away in a blue van. A strong media campaign surrounded the kidnapping, demanding the Pinto’s release. Kidnappings and crime are a big problem in Venezuela, especially in the major cities. In February, former world boxing champion Antonio Cermeño was kidnapped and murdered in Caracas.

The fire in Valparaíso has killed 12 and destroyed 2,000 homes. (photo: AFP/Martin Bernetti/Télam/lz)

The fire in Valparaíso has killed 12 and destroyed 2,000 homes. (photo: AFP/Martin Bernetti/Télam/lz)

Chile: Twelve Dead in Valparaíso Fire: At least 12 people have died and 10,000 have been evacuated after a fire ripped through the coastal city of Valparaíso on the weekend. The fire, described by President Michelle Bachelet as the “worst fire” in the city’s history, began on Saturday afternoon, and burned for hours, destroying 2,000 houses and 850 hectares. Years of drought, unusually strong winds and high temperatures, as well as a lack of firewalls combined to make it the “perfect fire”, according to Valparaíso mayor, Ricardo Bravo. A total of 1,200 firefighters were called in, with teams travelling from the capital Santiago to help the local forces fight the blaze, which were still burning into Sunday afternoon in some places. They were joined by some 4,000 troops who were sent to help fight the fire and also help prevent looting of abandoned homes and businesses. Bachelet, who has suspended a trip to Argentina and Uruguay to oversee the emergency, travelled to the city yesterday, declaring a state of emergency and catastrophe zone in the city.

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Latin America News Roundup: 7th April 2014


Luis Guillermo Solís (photo via Wikipedia)

Luis Guillermo Solís (photo via Wikipedia)

Costa Rica – Luis Guillermo Solís Wins Landslide Presidential Runoff: Historian and academic Luis Guillermo Solís, of the Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC), easily won yesterday’s presidential runoff in Costa Rica. Solís received 77.8% of the vote, against 22.2% for his rival, Johnny Araya of the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN), who had stopped campaigning in March due to opinion polls and a lack of funding. Absenteeism was at a 60-year high of 43.2%. The result puts an end to the recent dominance of the country’s two main political parties the PLN and the Partido de Unidad Socialcristiana (PUSC). Solís called for a “broad national debate” to transform the country. “I aim to, with God’s blessing and the support of everyone, make good the change that the people of Costa Rica demand.” Solís said he will name his cabinet next Monday, 14th April. Despite his strong mandate as president, Solís’ PAC party only holds 13 out 57 seats in the legislative assembly, while the PLN has 18.

Chile – Protests After ‘Hate Crime’ Victim Dies: Protests have erupted in Chile after Wladimir Sepúlveda died yesterday morning in a hospital in Rancagua, 90km south of the capital Santiago. The 21-year-old homosexual was brutally beaten and left in a vegetative state in October in what appears to be a hate crime. According to witnesses, Sepúlveda was walking home when he asked for a light off a group of six people, who started to call him names and then beat him. Chile’s Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh), who shared the news of his death via twitter, has called for the new Antidiscrimination Law, known as Ley Zamudio, to be used in the case. The law was passed after the murder of Daniel Zamudio, a 24-year-old who was attacked in March 2012 by four men in a park in Santiago, and violently beaten, tortured, and mutilated. However, so far prosecutors have refused to use the law in the case against Cristopher Morales Flores, the only person charged for the attack on Sepúlveda, who says he acted alone. In defending his decision not to enact the law in this case, Judge Pablo Aceituno called it “logical” that during a fight someone’s sexual orientation would be a cause for insults, and that this is not discrimination. Movilh has responded by calling for the Antidiscrimination Law to be reformed, and have the burden of proof be inverted, so that when minority groups were victims of such attacks, the defence must prove the crime was not a hate crime. Government spokesperson, Alvaro Elizalde, called news of Sepúlveda’s death “sad and painful”, and said: “We hope justice will do its job, clarifying the facts and applying the necessary sanctions.”

Prominent Venezuelan Journalist Kidnapped in Caracas: Nairobi Pinto, chief correspondent at TV news network Globovisión, was kidnapped yesterday at the entrance to her Caracas. Her father Luis Pinto confirmed today that three armed men attacked as Nairobi was bringing in shopping to the building. They threatened the family at gunpoint and then took Nairobi away in a blue van. “We have to put ourselves in the hands of the authorities, who have resolved these situations on many occasions,” said Luis. “We hope to have the same luck… I only ask the Almighty God to intervene and return my daughter to me safe and sound.” Kidnappings and crime are a big problem in Venezuela, especially in the major cities. In February, former world boxing champion Antonio Cermeño was kidnapped and murdered in Caracas.

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Latin America News Roundup: 4th April 2014


ZunZuneo logo CubaCuba – US Government Secretly Funds Social Network: A report by news agency Associated Press (AP) revealed that the US government funded a social network called ZunZuneo between 2010 and 2012, “aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government.” According to the AP article, the SMS-based social network was secretly funded through aid agency USAID, which channelled U$S1.6m hidden behind a “byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account.” Through it, the US government would initially spread “non-controversial content” such as information on sports, hurricanes, and music, with the intention to later on “introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize ‘smart mobs’ (…) that might trigger a Cuban Spring.” On a press briefing yesterday, Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the US Department of State, acknowledged the involvement of USAID in funding the ‘Cuban Twitter’, as it was known, however she stated that “there was nothing classified or covert about this program. Discreet does not equal covert.” She also argued that “we [the US government] were not generating political content of any kind on this platform. We were letting the Cuban people do that themselves.”

Chile – Overfishing Leaves Half of Species in Crisis: A report by the Secretariat of Fishing has revealed that over 40% of the country’s major fisheries are under threat from overfishing. According to the 2013 review of resources, 16 of the 33 main fishing grounds are classed as either ‘over exploited’ or ‘exhausted’. Among the most vulnerable species are the anchovy, golden kingklips, skate, and alfonsin. “The situation is critical,” said Undersecretary of Fishing and Agriculture Raúl Súnico. “This report imposes on us a great challenge to recover the over-exploited and exhausted fisheries and create a more sustainable future for our fishing industry.” Years of poorly regulated industrial fishing have been blamed for the current shortages, with artisanal fishermen critical of authorities for favouring large-scale operations under a new Fishing Law that came into force last year. Fishing is one of the most important industries in Chile, which has the world’s seventh-largest commercial catch.

Mexico and Panama Sign Free Trade Agreement: The governments of the two countries formalised a free trade agreement (FTA) yesterday, which brings Panama closer to joining the Pacific Alliance. The FTA, which was 15 years in the making, is expected to benefit companies which will use Mexico as a manufacturing base and Panama as a gateway for global distribution, according to experts consulted by Mexican newspaper El Financiero. Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli also highlighted that, once the FTA is approved by the congresses of both countries and the Colombian congress, his country will be able to join the Pacific Alliance. “The incorporation of Panama to the Pacific Alliance Group will be greatly beneficial to all Panamanians. [Mexican] President [Enrique] Peña Nieto has promised he will support us in this undertaking,” he said, adding that “Panama would be the natural seat of the Pacific Alliance, being in a middle point between Mexico and Chile.” The Pacific Alliance is a trade bloc made up of Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. New members must sign FTAs with all existing members in order to join in; in the case of Panama, the country only needs to finalise its FTA with Mexico.

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Latin America News Roundup: 31st March 2014


Bolivian National Assembly (photo: Wikipedia)

Bolivian National Assembly (photo: Wikipedia)

Bolivian Miners Protest New Law: Mining cooperatives have blocked major roads in Bolivia, including accesses to La Paz, in protest again a modification to the Mining Law passed by the Chamber of Deputies. The new law, which must still be voted in the Senate, establishes that only the Bolivian state can sign contracts with private investors to exploit natural resources, effectively banning cooperatives -which have special tax benefits- from doing so. “If mining cooperatives sign contracts with private parties, they will become companies and will lose their ‘cooperative’ category,” said Mining Minister Mario Virreira, who justified the amendment to the law by explaining that “there is the risk that, once again, multinational capitals will enter Bolivia without any state control.” The National Federation of Mining Cooperatives, however, oppose the modification and threatened to paralyse the country “until we achieve our aim, which is to have a mining law consistent with our daily work,” said its president Alejandro Santos. The independent mining sector, made up of approximately 100,000 miners, is a traditional ally of the Bolivian government.

Cuba Approves New Foreign Investment Law: The National Assembly in Cuba approved on Saturday a new foreign investment law to attract international investment and encourage development. The law will come into force in 90 days, and includes cuts and exemptions in taxes on profits, legal guarantees, and speedier processes for new foreign investors. The government said it would initially target investment in industrial infrastructure, agriculture, and energy production, and claimed that the country needs US$2.5bn in foreign investment a year to achieve its growth targets. Presenting the bill at the Assembly, Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca said foreign investment was fundamental to the country’s development, but assured that the new law would not undermine sovereignty over resources. “We will not return to the past or hand over our riches. We will never again sell our country,” he said. The law comes as part of a series of gradual economic reforms introduced by President Raúl Castro, including a plan to end of the dual currency system, announced in October last year.

Chile – President Bachelet Introduces Tax Reform Bill: President Michelle Bachelet today sent a comprehensive tax reform bill to the National Congress, with the hope of boosting tax revenues by 3% of GDP. The four main objectives of the reform are to provide permanent income stream to cover spending requirements, encourage a more equitable distribution of wealth, incentivise savings and investment, and reduce tax evasion. “Today more than ever we need to decisively and responsibly use this powerful instrument of development, on the one hand, and justice on the other,” said Bachelet. The bill includes a proposed increase in corporate taxes and reduction in income taxes for individuals, except for politicians. It also provides specific benefits for small and medium sized enterprises and incentives to encourage the use of clean technology. The tax reform is the first of three major policies promised by Bachelet, the other two being education reform and an updated constitution.

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Latin America News Roundup: 27th March 2014


Peruvian, Bolivian and Chilean territories before the 1879-83 War of the Pacific (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Peruvian, Bolivian, and Chilean territories before the 1879-83 War of the Pacific (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Landlocked Bolivia Creates ‘Sea Ambassador’: In a press conference yesterday, President Evo Morales announced the creation of a new, itinerant diplomatic position to follow the landlocked country’s maritime claim and Chile, and also changed his country’s ambassador to Chile. Magdalena Cajías, an historian and former minister of education, will take up the position in Santiago, while the president has still not confirmed who will be taking up the position of roving ambassador. The neighbouring countries have not had full diplomatic relations since 1976, when Bolivia tried to regain access to the Pacific which it lost in 1879 during the War of the Pacific, which changed the borders of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, seeing Chile annex Bolivia’s coast and part of the south of Peru.

The announcement came on the same day Chile and Peru finalised new maritime borders after 27th January’s ruling in the Hague demarcated the Pacific ocean frontier.

Tension Between El Salvador and Honduras over Isla Conejo: El Salvador’s president, Mauricio Funes, yesterday sent a letter to his Honduran counterpart, Juan Orlando Hernández, demanding that Honduras “immediately vacate” Isla Conejo. The spat comes after Honduras’ recent construction of a heliport on the tiny, uninhabited island, which preceded last week’s visit to the island by Hernández. Funes said that his neighbour’s behaviour has “gravely affected the countries’ bi-lateral relations”, to which Hernández replied that the island is Honduran and that Funes’ protest was “impertinent”. Funes also sent a note to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, lamenting Honduras’ provocation. The International Court of Justice marked the maritime border between the Central American nations in 2004, but Isla Conejo, which sits just metres off the Honduran coast, was not specifically named as it sits well within the country’s maritime borders. El Salvador’s claim on the island, which lies in a strategic location, stems from the country’s occupation of the island until 1983, when the country’s army abandoned the islet during the El Salvadorian civil war.

Colombia: FARC will not give up Police Killers: The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced yesterday that they would not hand over those responsible for the death of two police officers earlier this month. Germán Méndez and Edílmer Muñoz were captured by the FARC on 15th March in the south-western department of Nariño and beaten to death, something Juan Manuel Santos’ government has deemed a “war crime”. The Colombian government and the UN went on to ask that FARC give up those responsible as a sign of their commitment to the on-going peace talks. In yesterday’s communication, FARC’s leader, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, known as ‘Timochenko’, responded by saying that those responsible will face “guerrilla justice”, and went on to say “Let’s sign a ceasefire, Santos, and make peace possible.”

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Latin America News Roundup: 21st March 2014


President Michelle Bachelet (Photo: AFP/Martín Bernetti/Télam/cf)

President Michelle Bachelet (Photo: AFP/Martín Bernetti/Télam/cf)

Chile – New Government Moves Ahead With Gay Marriage Proposal: The new government of Michelle Bachelet will begin the process to legalise same sex marriage, according to Justice Minister José Antonio Gómez. “We are going to open a broad debate, with the aim of eventually establishing a new law,” said Gómez. “[President Bachelet] has made it clear that we are going to end discrimination in Chile.” The Chilean Congress is currently debating a new Life Partnership Agreement (AVP), which will regulate same sex civil unions and complement the planned changes to the Civic Code to legalise same sex marriage. Bachelet urged the Chamber of Deputies to vote on the AVP bill, which has already been approved in the Senate, as soon as possible.

Brazil – Federal Troops Sent Into Rio Slums After Violence: President Dilma Rousseff today agreed to send federal troops to Rio de Janeiro after a wave of attacks on the Pacificiation Police Units (UPP) operating in the city’s slums. Several UPP posts were attacked on Thursday night, with local media reporting three officers and one civilian injured and facilities destroyed by fire. After the attack, the power supply to the Maguinhos neighbourhood was disrupted, while schools were closed on Friday due to the threat of violence. Rio de Janeiro state governor Sergio Cabral, who today met with Rousseff to request federal support, blamed drugs gangs for the violence: “It is clear that criminals want to weaken our policy of pacification and take back territories which were in criminal hands.”

The violence comes amid renewed question marks over police brutality in Rio after a woman died earlier this week after being dragged under a police car for around 300m on a busy street. Claudia da Silva Ferreira, a mother of four, had been injured in a shootout between police and alleged gangs in the Morro da Congonha slum and was taken to hospital in the boot of the police car, falling out after it opened on the way. President Rousseff said the death had “shocked the nation” and offered condolences to her family and friends. Three policemen have been arrested.

Colombia – Authorities Battle Huge Forest Fire: Authorities continue to battle a wildfire that has already destroyed over 3,000 hectare of jungle in the department of Chocó, in northwest Colombia. Although the fire began 11 days ago, the National Unit for Disaster Management (UNGRD) only began coordinated action involving local and national firefighters and the armed forces yesterday, as the flames threatened to spread into the neighbouring department of Antioquia. Víctor Manuel Gómez Cortez, mayor of the town of Unguía located near the blaze, said the area affected could take 30 years to recover. As of this morning, the Colombian Air Force had dropped over 66,000 litres of water, with the UNGRD saying that two of the four main centres of the fire had been brought under control. Though a full investigation will be carried out to establish the causes of the fire, the UNGRD said there was a “high possibility” that it was caused intentionally.

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Latin America News Roundup: 19th March 2014


Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Gustavo Petro, Bogotá’s troubled mayor (Photo: Wikipedia)

Colombia: Human Rights Commission Rules in Favour of Petro: The Inter-American Human Rights Commission (CIDH) has given public support for Gustavo Petro, the mayor of Bogotá saying that the elected official’s “political rights” must be guaranteed. Petro was removed from office in December by Colombia’s attorney general, and banned from public office for 15 years due to alleged mismanagement of the capital’s rubbish collection system. Thousands took to the streets in response to Petro’s deposal, which he called a ‘coup’. In an 11-page decision published late yesterday, the CIDH calls on the Colombian state to suspend his removal, and let him continue in his role as mayor of the country’s capital, until a full investigation into the accusations can be completed. After yesterday’s decision, Colombia’s attorney general met with President Juan Manuel Santos today to argue against the CIDH’s recommendations. Petro’s future is now in the hands of President Santos, who is expected to make a decision on his possible restitution in the coming days.

Chile: Government Withdraws Controversial ‘Monsanto Law’: In an historic U-turn, Michelle Bachelet’s new administration has withdrawn the a controversial seed patent law, known colloquially as ‘Monsanto Law’ from congress, citing concerns over small- and medium-sized farmers. Critics argue that the new legislation is biased toward large companies that have the capacity to patent new strains of seed and charge small scale farmers for their use, at the same time placing the country’s agricultural sovereignty at risk. The sale of domestically grown genetically modified foods within Chile is prohibited, but GMOs can be grown and exported for sale outside of the country, and the market is worth some US$200m. Proponents of the law fear its withdrawal could cause problems with the free trade agreement signed between Chile and the US. The law was originally presented to congress in January 2009, under Bachelet’s first term as president. As well as the ‘Monsanto Law’, Chile’s new governing Nueva Mayoría coalition have agreed to remove a series of proposed laws sent to congress by former president Sebastián Piñera, including some of the oldest ones.

Venezuelan Opposition to Take Panama’s Seat at OAS Meeting: This Friday, María Corina Machado, a deputy from Venezuela’s opposition, will take Panama’s seat at Organisation of American States’ (OAS) Permanent Council meeting in Washington. Arturo Vallarino, Panama’s ambassador to the OAS, admitted that many other member states have opposed his country’s invitation to Machado, but justified it saying that his country considered it to be “important that the OAS listen not only to the voice of the president of Venezuela through his ambassador, but also the voice of the groups who are protesting”, highlighting that the second point on the agenda was the “current situation and dialogue in Venezuela”.  Those opposed to Machado’s presence argue that the government of Venezuela is democratically elected and it is unprecedented that an opposition politician be invited to discuss a member state’s internal affairs in what is essentially an international forum, pointing out that the OAS has already discussed the issue and that Unasur is now sending a delegation to Venezuela. Within Venezuela, the invitation of Machado is also seen to be provocative, with tensions still high in the country since protests began on 12th February. The death toll from the unrest now stands at 33.

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Latin America News Roundup: 14th March 2014


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos  (Photo: Facebook official account)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos
(Photo: Facebook official account)

Colombia: Dozens of New Members of Congress Tied to Paramilitaries: Colombia’s Peace and Reconciliation Foundation has reported that 70 of the candidates elected in Sunday’s legislative elections had been questioned for ties to paramilitaries or other criminal organisations. Thirty-three were elected to the Senate and 37 to the Chamber of Representatives. Before Sunday’s elections, the NGO had highlighted ties of 131 of the 2,324 candidates to such organisations, and the fact that over half of them were elected led to a “bleak” panorama. According to their investigation, the party with the most questionable members of Congress was President Juan Manuel de Santos’ Partido de la U, with 18, followed by Conservatives and Liberals, with 13 each. Most of those elected came from northern provinces, which historically have the most ties to the paramilitaries.

Honduras: Justice of Peace and Lawyer Killed: Two legal representatives were killed in separate attacks today in Honduras. Justice of the peace Lenin Castañeda was shot dead outside his home in the Caribbean city of Tocoa, while lawyer José Nicolás Bernárdez died after motorcyclists fired on his car in San Pedro Sula. Police sources have confirmed that Castañeda was the son of Adolfo Castañeda, the founder of the MUCA, a campesino movement. So far no motive has been given for either attack. These latest murders brings the number of legal professionals killed since 2010 to 75, according to the country’s Human Rights Commission. Each day, an average of 14 people are killed in the Central American country, and with a rate of 169 intentional homicides per 100,000 inhabitants San Pedro Sula was last year declared the most violent city in the world for a second year in a row.

Chile’s New Government Apologises to Mapuche: Francisco Huenchumilla, the newly appointed governor of Chile’s Araucanía region, today apologised to the Mapuche population for removal of their land and admitted that the country had a pending debt to the indigenous community, promising public policies that would help alleviate poverty. Around 600,000 Mapuche live in the region, and are currently in conflict with forestry companies, demanding their land back from what they say was illegal usurpation. Huenchumilla has said that he will meet with all sides that have been affected by the violence, as “everybody should be given a voice”. The region has seen clashes since the 90s between the Mapuche and farmers and businessmen who have been exploiting land the Mapuche consider to be ancestrally theirs.

Regional Environment Summit Closes in Mexico: The 19th Meeting of the Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean, considered the most important environmental meeting in the region, ended today in Los Cabos, Mexico. Climate change, chemicals and waste management, and biodiversity conservation were the top items of the agenda, and the summit aimed to strengthen regional cooperation in addressing these issues. Conservation was high on the agenda as the region is home to 34% of the world’s plant species, 30% of mammals, 41% of birds, 50% of amphibians, 35% of reptiles, and 31% of fish. The event was organised by the Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), gathered together ministers and high-level officials from 31 countries, as well as representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Andean Development Corporation (CAF) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), and civil society.

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Latin America News Roundup: 12th March 2014


Bachelet with Argentine president Cristina Fernández (left) and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff (right) at her inauguration (photo: Presidencia/Télam/ddc)

Bachelet with Argentine president Cristina Fernández (left) and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff (right) at her inauguration (photo: Presidencia/Télam/ddc)

Chile – President Bachelet Announces First Policies: President Michelle Bachelet, who was sworn in for a second term yesterday, announced she has submitted her first two bills to Congress. The first measure is the creation of the ‘March Bonus’, a US$40 yearly payment for low income families. “It’s not just about a payment on a month we know brings with it many expenses,” said Bachelet, “it is about the conviction that all our actions must be aimed at facing the [country's] huge inequalities.” The second bill re-establishes a similar yearly payment in the winter months, called the ‘Winter Bonus’, which had been implemented during her first term (2006-2010) and later eliminated by former president Sebastián Piñera. The policies would benefit some 1.6m families, according to government calculations. Upon taking office, Bachelet promised to deliver 50 of her campaign promises within the first 100 days of her government.

Paraguay – Unions Announce General Strike: Representatives from the main Paraguayan unions have called for a strike on 26th March, the first to take place during Horacio Cartes’ presidency. Workers are demanding higher wages and the implementation of “an economic, productive, and agro-ecological model that serves the majorities” rather than the corporations. Earlier this month, the government established a 10% increase in the minimum wage, whilst unions were asking for a 25% increase. Other reasons put forward for the strike, which the unions say was necessary because “the government refuses to negotiate,” are the demand to end the public-private alliance to carry out public works, to end of the “criminalisation of social struggle”, and to obtain freedom for the “political prisoners” from the Curuguaty Massacre. The government responded by saying the strike is politically motivated, as it has been supported by the opposition Liberal Party.

Mexico – Limits to Media Concentration: The Telecommunications Institute forced the country’s main media groups to allow new competitors to enter the business. The body’s resolution categorised Televisa and Grupo Carso, owned by businessman Carlos Slim, as the “main economic agents” in telecommunications and broadcasting. For this reason, it determined that they will have to share part of their infrastructure with their competitors offering a public rate. Also, Televisa will no longer have exclusive broadcasting rights for relevant content, such as football championships and the World Cup. Televisa itself announced it has been forced to “make its broadcasting infrastructure available to third parties in a non-discriminatory and non-exclusive manner.” It was also announced that two new frequencies for open air television will be put up for tender. Televisa is the largest media company in the Spanish speaking world, whilst Carlos Slim’s group is one of the leaders in the telecommunications market with companies such as América Movil, Telcel, Telmex, Embratel, Claro, and KPN Telecom, amongst others. Last December, the Federal Telecommunications Institute of Mexico left Televisa and TV Azteca out of the tender for new television channels due to their dominant position “in a highly concentrated market.” Story courtesy of Agencia Púlsar.

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Five years on from the death of ex president Raúl Alfonsín, we look back at those emotional days in 2009 and reflect on the legacy left by 'the father of democracy'

    Directory Pick of the Week

Magdalena's Party in Palermo

Magdalena’s Party has daily 2 x 1 Happy Hour specials til midnight, and the "best onda".
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