Tag Archive | "uruguay"

Latin America News Roundup: 8th April 2014

President Nicolás Maduro (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

President Nicolás Maduro (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

Venezuela – Government and Opposition in ‘Exploratory’ Meeting: Representatives of the opposition are meeting today with the government to discuss the protests and violence that have plagued the country since February. Under the mediation of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), the main opposition coalition, the Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) agreed to meet with President Nicolás Maduro to explore the possibility of engaging in dialogue going forward. Among the issues to be discussed in the search for a resolution to violence are the levels of insecurity in the country, the state of the economy, armed groups called ‘colectivos’, and an amnesty law for those arrested in recent weeks. Earlier on Twitter, Vice President Jorge Arreaza said the government was ready to listen to the demands of opposition governors and mayors from around the country, and prepared to approve two special requests from each of them.

Mexico – Surge in Violence in State of Tamaulipas: A spike in violence between organised criminal groups has left at least 19 dead since Sunday, according to official reports. Fourteen people were killed on Sunday alone after gun battles in the cities of Tampico and Maduro, on the border with the US. The region is home to the Gulf and Los Zetas cartels, and the spike in violence comes after a series of police and army raids to capture leading members of both. According to Governor Egidio Torre Cantú: “These acts of violence are the results of actions we are undertaking as part of our fight to restore peace to the region.” Meanwhile, in the southern state of Michoacán, the vigilante groups called ‘autodefensas‘, are protesting efforts by the government to disarm them. Spokesman for the vigilantes, José Manuel Mireles, said the group demanded the dismissal of the security commissioner Alfredo Castillo and the withdrawal of the army and navy forces. President Enrique Peña Nieto said the government would restore security to the state “whatever the cost”.

Uruguay – Teachers in 24-Hour Strike Over Hours and Wages: Secondary school teachers in Uruguay today held a 24-hour strike in a dispute over unassigned hours and unpaid wages. The National Federation of Secondary Teachers (Fenapes) and the Association of Secondary Teachers (Ades) led the measure today, which included a march and the occupation of the Secondary Board for several hours this afternoon. “There are 40,000 unassigned hours and 1,000 teachers without work,” said Fenapes secretary general José Olivera. “All of this is to do with management problems.” Education minister Ricardo Ehrlich, however, said he did not understand the “radical” measure, especially as dialogue was ongoing.

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Latin America News Roundup: 28th March 2014

Uruguayan president José 'Pepe' Mujica (photo by Roosewelt Pinheiro/ABr on Wikipedia)

Uruguayan president José ‘Pepe’ Mujica (photo by Roosewelt Pinheiro/ABr on Wikipedia)

Uruguay – Partial Withdrawal of Police from Football Stadiums After Violence: President José Mujica has ordered the withdrawal of state police from the stadiums of the two biggest clubs – Nacional and Peñarol – following a violent confrontation between fans and officers on Wednesday. However, fears that the weekend’s domestic league fixtures would be suspended were abated today after an agreement was reached with the Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) and clubs to send police to protect referees and stadium personnel, as well as patrol the areas surrounding the stadiums. The safety of the fans will be the responsibility of the AUF and the clubs. Speaking on Thursday, a day after 13 police officers were injured and 40 Nacional fans arrested after a Copa Libertadores game in Montevideo, Mujica said he was “prepared to stop football if necessary” to combat the violence in the sport.

Mexico – Armed Militias Spread in Michoacán State: Armed militia groups, known as ‘autodefensas‘, marched into the municipality of Tacámbaro yesterday to take control of security and combat organised crime. The militias were accompanied by members of the state and federal police forces, local press report. The move brings the total number of towns reportedly under the control of the autodefensas to 31, a little over a year after first forming, with 20,000 people now part of the militia groups. Also yesterday, the public prosecutor’s office reported that 11 armed civilians were arrested in the town of Zitácuaro after allegedly falsely claiming to be part of the militia. Meanwhile, the government in the neighbouring state of Guerrero said federal police and the army had “sealed” the border between the two areas to prevent the spread of the militias – or the criminal gangs they are targeting – into its territory.

Ecuador – President Blames International Far Right for Twitter Hack: President Rafael Correa has blamed “extreme right-wing foreign groups” and the “unscrupulous local opposition” for hacking into his Twitter account yesterday. Messages that appeared on Correa’s account included links to a site called ‘Anonynews’, which included accusations against the government based on alleged official intelligence. The Interior Ministry and the National Intelligence Service today released a statement condemning the act: “We will not tolerate any illegal action that attacks and manipulates the president’s privacy, lying and making false claims on one of the direct channels of communication with the public.” The authorities added that a full investigation into the incident is underway.

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Latin America News Roundup: 20th March 2014

Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Former Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Colombia – Santos Signs Off Petro’s Dismissal: Despite the ruling by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (CIDH) earlier this week, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos signed off yesterday the dismissal of Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro. At the same time, he appointed Labour Minister Rafael Pardo, as caretaker mayor. Santos’ signature was the final step needed to complete the process started last December by the country’s Inspector General, Alejandro Ordóñez, who removed the mayor and banned him from running for public office for 15 years. In explaining his decision, president Santos said that “the Colombian government understands the importance and has defended the Inter-American Human Rights System. It considers, however, that the role of that system is complementary and alternative, so it must only operate in case of failure of the internal system.” The FARC have criticised Santos’ decision, saying it affects the ongoing peace process, as “it seriously affects the trust and the certainty over what is being approved,” specifically referring to the possibility of political participation of the guerrilla group. Petro called his dismissal a “coup” and, speaking to his followers at a protest in Plaza Bolívar, said that “the fact that Juan Manuel Santos ignored the people’s vote, shows his inability to make peace.”

Uruguay to Take Guantanamo Detainees: President José ‘Pepe’ Mujica confirmed today that his country will take five Guantanamo detainees as refugees, on request by US president Barack Obama. Mujica explained his decision by saying: “There are 120 guys that have been locked up for the last 13 years. They haven’t seen a judge, they haven’t seen a prosecutor, and the president of the United States wants to get rid of that problem. The Senate is asking him 60 things so he asked a bunch of countries whether they could offer refuge to some of them and I said yes.” Mujica remembered the many years he spent in jail during the country’s military dictatorship, and said he agreed to the request “because I spent a lot of years in prison and I’m sick of what they talk about: this is human rights.” He also confirmed that the refugees will be able to bring their families along, work, and establish themselves in Uruguay. The US government informed that they are “in talks with various countries in the region” regarding the closure of Guantanamo.

Venezuela – Opposition Mayors Detained and Jailed: Daniel Ceballos, mayor of San Cristóbal, was arrested for “promoting violence”, whilst Vicencio Scarano, mayor of San Diego, was sentenced to ten months and 15 days in prison for contempt, both in relation to the recent protests that have rocked the country. The Minister of Internal Relations, Justice, and Peace, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, upon informing of Ceballos’ arrest, said that “this action by the court and the Public Ministry is going to contribute greatly to bringing peace to the city of San Cristóbal (…). It is an act of justice before a mayor that not only stopped following the rules imposed by the law and the constitution, but he also supported all the irrational violence that was unleashed on San Cristóbal.” Ceballos aides, in turn, denounced that the mayor had been arrested in Caracas “as he was having a meeting with his lawyers in a hotel in the east of Caracas when six men who claimed to be from Sebin (Bolivarian Intelligence Service) came in, beat him up, and took him away” without presenting an arrest warrant.

Scarano was sentenced after being accused of not following a decision by the country’s Supreme Court from 12th March, whereby mayors were responsible for “avoiding the placement of obstacles on public roads which may prevent, hinder, or alter the free circulation of people and vehicles” in their towns, and for removing those obstacles if they had been placed.

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Latin America News Roundup: 11th March 2014

Allende greets Bachelet as ex-president Sebastián Piñera looks on (photo: AFP/Martin Bernetti/Télam/ef)

Allende greets Bachelet as outgoing president Sebastián Piñera looks on (photo: AFP/Martin Bernetti/Télam/ef)

Chile – Michelle Bachelet Takes Office: Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s first female president (2006-2010) was sworn in today for her second term. The ceremony took place in the Senate building in the city of Valparaiso, and was presided over by fellow Socialist Isabel Allende, daughter of ex-president Salvador Allende and the first woman to hold the presidency of the Chilean Senate. “The historic image of two women simultaneously holding the country’s two highest positions will be seen around the world,” said Allende. Several presidents and representatives from foreign countries attended the event, including Argentine president Cristina Fernández, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, and Peru’s Ollanta Humala, amongst others. Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro was scheduled to travel to Chile but had to cancel the trip at the last minute and was replaced by his Foreign Affairs Minister Elías Jaua, who said that the government was facing “a violent coup attempt” which had already been neutralised. Bachelet was elected president for the second time on 15th December for the 2014-2018 term. She has promised to undertake major reforms to the education system and the Pinochet-era constitution during her second presidency. The new president is expected to give her first official speech later this afternoon.

Venezuela – Two Dead in Protests: Two university students were shot dead in Venezuela last night. One of them was killed during a shootout in the city of San Cristóbal, in the west of the country, which has seen a large number of anti-government demonstrations. The other student died in Ciudad Guayana, in the country’s east. Whilst the government blamed opposition groups for the deaths, saying that they “want dead people so they can force an intervention in Venezuela,” the opposition called for a national protest tomorrow in Caracas. Speaking about the situation in the Caribbean country, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff announced that the Unasur foreign affairs ministers will hold a meeting tomorrow in order to create a committee to deal with the Venezuelan crisis. The committee “will act as an interlocutor to build a climate of consensus, agreement, and stability in Venezuela,” said Rousseff from Santiago de Chile, where she is attending Michelle Bachelet’s inauguration. Protests in Venezuela are thought to have left around 22 people dead in the last month.

Uruguay Lowers Public Rates to Combat Inflation: Economy Minister Mario Bergara announced the government will lower the rates of public services in order to combat inflation, which reached 9.82% in the last year. The announcement came after a meeting between the minister and union representatives. Bergara also mentioned the possibility of decreasing VAT rates in fruit and vegetables’ imports and exports. These measures are expected to cost the Uruguayan state some $US100m and aim to reduce inflation to 7%, the level agreed with the country’s Central Bank. Last year’s inflation is the highest since 2004.

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Latin America News Roundup: 24th February 2014

Protests in Altamira, Caracas (photo: José Romero/Télam/lz)

Protests in Altamira, Caracas (photo: José Romero/Télam/lz)

Venezuela’s Government and Opposition in Peace Talks: Venezuela’s Government’s Federal Council is meeting today in Caracas to discuss possible ways to tackle the on-going unrest that has braced the country for nearly two weeks. The Council was originally due to meet last Monday to discuss the government’s new Security Plan, but the three right-wing governors boycotted the meeting in response to the government’s handling of opposition protests. The Federal Council is made up of representatives from all levels of government – national, regional, municipal and civil society – whose objective is the harmonised development of the country’s regions.

The talks come after more pro-government and opposition protests took place over the weekend. Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz has confirmed 13 deaths related to the uprising which began on 12th February, including that on Friday night of a 29-year-old man on a motorbike, who was beheaded by a wire strung across an avenue in Caracas. The wire had allegedly been put there by protesters who had set up a road block in the same location earlier that evening. Photos have been published of other locations in Caracas where protesters have stretched wires across the streets in an apparent effort to impede the passage of motorcyclists who are alleged to have been attacking protesters. Authorities have accused retired general Angél Omar Vivas Perdomo, who is an open critic of the government, of having encouraged protesters to put wires across streets and have ordered his detention. In response today, a motorbiking association organised a ride for peace in support of Maduro’s government.

Mexican ‘Most Wanted’ Drug Lord Arrested: Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, head of the Sinaloa Cartel and the most-wanted drug trafficker in the world, was arrested early on Saturday morning in the city of Mazatlán, in west Mexico. His capture was the result of several months’ work coordinated by Mexican and US authorities, culminating in an “impeccable” operation in which not a single shot was fired. Guzmán faces multiple drug charges in the United States and has been on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s top ten most wanted list for more than a decade. His Sinaloa Cartel smuggles cocaine from Colombia through Mexico to the United States, as well as being involved in the production, smuggling, and distribution of methamphetamine, marijuana, and heroin. Guzmán was originally captured in Guatemala in 1993, extradited and sentenced to 20 years in prison in Mexico for murder and drug trafficking, but he escaped maximum security prison Puente Grande in 2001 after bribing prison guards. His drug empire stretches throughout North America, but also reaches as far away as Europe and Australia, and his fortune is worth a reported US$1bn.

Ecuador Municipal Elections: President Rafael Correa’s Alianza PAIS (AP) faced defeat in yesterday’s municipal elections, which saw the opposition take power in Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca. AP won in nine of 23 municipalities, but lost the major urban centres. In Quito, mayor Augusto Barrera lost to Mauricio Rodas whilst in the country’s second city, Guayaquil, opposition mayor Jaime Nebot celebrated his re-election. Correa admitted that the defeat in Quito was a heavy blow, as the capital “has a lot to do with stability”, and appealed to the mayor-elect to work together with the government. The AP has been in power since 2007 and yesterday was the first electoral defeat after nine wins.

Celebrated Uruguayan Artist Páez Vilaró Dies: Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró died this morning in Montevideo, aged 90. The prolific artist worked as a painter, potter, sculptor, muralist, writer, composer and constructor. He was perhaps best known for his “liveable sculpture” creation of Casapueblo, close to Punta del Este, on Uruguay’s coast, which has been a leading tourist destination since the 1960s.

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Latin America News Roundup: 12th February 2014

Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Colombia – Referendum on Bogotá Mayor Postponed: Colombia’s National Civil Registry announced yesterday that the recall referendum on Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro has been postponed due to “lack of resources.” The referendum, which will decide on the mayor’s fate after he was dismissed by Colombia’s Inspector General, was scheduled to take place on 2nd March. However, the Civil Registry informed in a statement posted on their website, that “without the resources it is not possible to move forward in purchasing the necessary goods and services” to carry it out. The Civil Registry has requested COL$38bn (US$17.8m) from the Economy Ministry, and is still awaiting for the funds to be confirmed. There has been no confirmation as to when the referendum will be held.

Regularisation Plan for Undocumented Haitians: The Haitian government has announced it will launch a survey of undocumented Haitian citizens living in other countries, including neighbouring Dominican Republic. Haiti’s National Identification Office (ONI) will deploy a number of mobile units around Dominican Republic in order to identify undocumented citizens living there and help them regularise their situation. The process will be carried out by Haitian civil servants and members of the Haitian diaspora in Dominican Republic, according to ONI’s director Jean Baptiste Saint-Cyr, though he did not specify whether the Dominican government will also be involved. The survey, which will start next month, will also include Suriname and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The announcement is the result of the dialogue established by the Haitian and Dominican governments after the decision by the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal to strip Haitians of the country’s citizenship. A bill by the Committee of Solidarity with Denationalised People, which proposed to grant citizenship to all people of foreign ascent born in Dominican territory between 1929 and 2010, was introduced in the Dominican parliament.

Uruguay – Human Remains Found in Police Station: Human bones thought to belong to two people disappeared during the last military dictatorship (1973-1985) were found yesterday in a police station in Montevideo. The human remains were found by workers doing excavation works in police station number 8 of the Uruguayan capital. Supreme Court spokesman, Raúl Oxandabarat, explained that “the first characteristics of the findings seem to indicate that there is the possibility that it could be a case of burial of people who were detained and disappeared.” The court will be in charge of conducting DNA tests which will be matched against a registry of disappeared prisoners. A report by anthropologist Horacio Solla found that the bones would have been buried around 30 years ago, or more, and would belong to a man and a woman.

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Argentina News Roundup: 30th January 2014

Ministers xxx and xxx sign Plan Condor agreement (photo: casarosada.gov.ar)

Foreign Ministers Héctor Timerman and Luis Alberto Figueiredo sign Plan Condor agreement at Celac summit in Cuba (photo: casarosada.gov.ar)

Accord Signed with Brazil over Plan Condor Files: Foreign minister Héctor Timerman yesterday signed an agreement with his Brazilian counterpart, Luis Alberto Figueiredo, to exchange files about human rights violations committed during the last dictatorships under Plan Condor. The agreement establishes a commission to exchange information and help Brazil in their work on the files. Timerman said: “There were many cases of coordinated repression between the dictatorships in Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile. With the exchange of information we want to see if we can resolve some of the cases, and find out what happened to citizens of these countries.” The initiative is a result of Argentina’s visit to the Truth Commission, created by Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, to investigate human rights violations, torture and killings during the country’s 1964-85 dictatorship. The Commission estimates there to be around 50,000 such cases. One of the most high-profile cases to be investigated is that of Brazil’s ex-president, Joao Goulart, to see if he was poisoned whilst living in exile in Argentina’s Corrientes province in 1976. Plan Condor was a CIA-backed initiative, in which South American dictatorships coordinated intelligence over those opposed to their regimes.

Government to Work with Uruguay to Resolve Deadlock: President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Uruguay’s José Mujica yesterday agreed a plan to unlock the crisis in their bilateral relations, announcing a meeting between their respective foreign ministers in the near future. The move comes after weeks of tension between the neighbouring countries, partially due to a deadlock over Uruguay’s decision to increase production at the UPM (ex-Botnia) pulp mill. In October, the Argentine government delivered an ultimatum to Uruguay to revisit the decision or face The Hague. Yesterday, foreign minister Héctor Timerman said that the two governments had decided to establish a working table where all issues would be on the discussed with the aim of resolving them in bilateral agreements. He said: “There are things they wish to discuss and things we wish to discuss, and this will all be done in a climate of fraternal dialogue.”

SUBE Card for Motorway Tolls: Transport Minister, Florencio Randazzo today announced that from Sunday, it will be possible to pay motorway tolls in Greater Buenos Aires with the SUBE card. The card will be accepted on the Tigre, Pilar and Campana branches of the Panamericana highway, as well as the Autopista del Oeste. The new system will launch a day after a sharp increase in toll prices – from Saturday toll costs will see hikes of between 20% and 50%. Randazzo also confirmed that from Sunday, trucks will pay an extra tariff of $185 to enter the capital between 7 and 10am, or leave the city between 5 and 8pm, Monday to Friday. The move is aimed at reducing congestion during rush hour, said Randazzo: “Around 700,000 vehicles come in and out of the capital on a daily basis, the majority of them during rush hours.” He reiterated that the city port would now be able to receive vehicles 24 hours a day.

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Latin America News Roundup: 29th January 2014

Minister of Rural Development, Nemesia Achacollo at the press conference when the state of emergency was declared. (Photo: Jose LIrauze, presidencia.gob.bo)

Minister of Rural Development, Nemesia Achacollo, at the press conference when the state of emergency was declared. (Photo: Jose Lirauze, presidencia.gob.bo)

Bolivia – State of Emergency Declared after Flooding Kills Dozens: Bolivia has declared a state of emergency after heavy rains led to flooding which has left dozens dead and over 20,000 displaced. According to Vice President Alvaro García Linera, 80 of the country’s 339 municipalities are facing flash floods, flooding, hailstorms and building collapses as a result of the rains, which look set to continue into February. The rainy season started in October, but this year has been particularly bad, with at least 43 people dead so far. The situation culminated when rains caused a mudslide on Saturday in the town of Rurrenabaque in the country’s Amazon basin, in which eight people died. In the central region of Cochabamba, 11 rivers have burst their banks. Troops have been sent to various parts of the country to help bring aid to those affected.

Uruguay Ranks top in Environmental Performance Index Categories: Uruguay has ranked top in two categories of the annual Environmental Performance Index (EPI), a global ranking of countries’ environmental results. The country performed best in the sections of ‘air quality’ and ‘forest’, overall ranking 70th out of 178 countries, with a score of 53.61 out of 100. The EPI is an annual report put together by Yale University, using data from dozens of environmental organisations from around the world. It bases its ranking on two sections: environmental health and ecosystem vitality. The former includes health impacts, air quality, and water and sanitation. Under ecosystem vitality, water resources, agriculture, forest, fisheries, biodiversity and habitat, and climate and energy are all taken into account. Switzerland was ranked first overall in the poll, while Chile was top in Latin America, coming 29th with a score of 69.93. Haiti ranked lowest in the region, coming 176th out of 178. The report stated that: “The poorest performers are those with significant political or economic strife, suggesting again that other pressing issues can sideline effective environmental policy.” Argentina ranked 93rd, with a score of 49.55.

Campaigns Close ahead of El Salvador and Costa Rica Elections: Ahead of this Sunday’s elections, presidential hopefuls in both El Salvador and Costa Rica have closed their electoral campaigns. In El Salvador, current vice president, Salvador Sánchez Cerén of the governing FMLN party, is leading the five candidates by a 14-point margin, although an estimated 15-20% of the 4.9m voters are said to be still undecided. If the winning candidate fails to win an absolute majority on Sunday, a second round will take place on 9th March. The winner will take power on 1st June and will govern the country for the next five years.

Further south, in Costa Rica, polls indicate none of the 13 candidates will win the 40% needed to avoid going to a run-off in April. Leading the race are former mayor of San José, who is running for the governing PLN party, leftist José María Villalta, and right-leaning businessman Otto Guevara. Anticipating a run-off, candidates are said to be looking at potential alliances, although none have officially commented. Just over 3m people will vote in Sunday’s election.

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Argentina News Roundup: 24th January 2014

Ministers Capitanich and Kicillof during today's press conference (photo: Ricardo Ceppi, jefatura gabinete/Télam/jc.)

Ministers Capitanich and Kicillof during today’s press conference (photo: Ricardo Ceppi, jefatura gabinete/Télam/jc.)

New Dollar Announcements: Chief of Cabinet Jorge Capitanich and Economy Minister Axel Kicillof announced this morning a partial lift in the restrictions to purchase foreign currency. In a brief press conference, the ministers informed that, as of Monday, it will be possible to purchase foreign currency for purposes other than tourism. An authorisation by tax agency AFIP will still be necessary, however, as buyers will need to provide evidence of their income. During the press conference, Capitanich also announced that the 35% surcharge on overseas and foreign currency purchases -which is later deducted from income and/or property tax- will be reduced to 20%. Capitanich justified the decision by stating: “This decision comes as (…) the government considers that the price of foreign currency, the US dollar, has reached a convergence level that is acceptable to our economic policy objectives.”

Deadly Storm in Catamarca: At least five people have died and 11 are missing after a storm hit the province of Catamarca last night. Torrential rains and strong winds caused a river to burst its banks near the town of El Rodeo, 38km north of the provincial capital, generating a mudslide that swept along cars, houses, and a bridge. Two girls aged five and seven and two men aged 25 and 80 died due to the mudslide, whilst a woman was killed when a lightning strike hit her home in the town of Fiambalá. Six people are injured and over 200 had to be evacuated. Security Minister Cecilia Rodríguez travelled to the affected area to help coordinate rescue efforts.

Uruguayan Minister Criticises Argentine Government: “Relations with Argentina have gone south,” said Uruguayan Foreign Affairs Minister Luis Almagro. In an interview with Radio Sarandí, the minister talked about the deteriorating relations between the two countries, saying that after Uruguay agreed to increase production levels of the UPM pulp mill last year, Argentina retaliated with commercial restrictions against its neighbour. Almagro said that Argentina’s decision to impose an embargo on its goods being transhipped at the port in Montevideo was a “disaster” and that it caused a 40% decrease in maritime traffic in the Uruguayan capital. Almagro, however, indicated that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her Uruguayan counterpart José ‘Pepe’ Mujica could meet at the next Celac summit to be held in Havanna, Cuba, next week.

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Latin America News Roundup: 22nd January 2014

Uruguay's President Jose Mujica (Photo: Santiago Armas)

Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica (Photo: Santiago Armas)

Uruguay: Uruguayan president José Mujica has defended the country’s controversial large-scale mining bill, passed in August, as being “one of the best in the world”. His words came after the open-pit Aratirí mining project was one of four subjects discussed by the cabinet in their first session of 2014 on Monday, leading to protests. Aratirí, in central Uruguay, is home to 2.5bn tonnes of underground iron ore deposits, a figure that would make the country the eight largest producer of iron in the world. Mujica asked Uruguayans to have more faith in the government, and be less passionate about their protests about the possible environmental consequences of mining.

Ecuador: With 90 votes in favour, Ecuador’s National Assembly today announced their withdrawal from the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), an agreement signed in 1947 in Rio de Janeiro. The treaty’s central principle is that an attack against one is to be considered an attack against them all; this was known as the “hemispheric defence” doctrine. The vote was taken in Ecuador’s assembly, as the government considered the treaty anachronistic, out of sync with the current regional and global context, and additionally had never responded to the member states’ needs. Ecuador is not the first country to withdraw from the TIAR – their decision follows the exit of Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

Bolivia: President Evo Morales today presented a report to the country’s assembly highlighting the achievements of his eight years in power. During his annual report, Morales highlighted that “Bolivia has its own model in the fight against drug trafficking”, a model he said was more successful that the country’s previous cooperations with imperialist countries, alluding to the US. He reported that on all levels, the fight had been redoubled, from the amount of cocaine seized in operations (22 tonnes in 2013 vs. 11 tonnes in 2005), to the number of operations themselves (nearly 14,000 in 2013 compared to nearly 7,000 in 2005). He went on to highlight that the operations were often done in participation with the peasant movement and coca leaf producers. The Bolivian leader has an approval rating of 56%, and is able to stand for re-election in October.

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