Tag Archive | "venezuela"

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: 11th April 2014

Government and opposition engage in 'dialogue for peace' (photo: Francisco Batista, courtesy of Venezuelan government)

Government and opposition engage in ‘dialogue for peace’ (photo: Francisco Batista, courtesy of Venezuelan government)

Venezuela: Government and Opposition Begin Talks: Representatives from the government and the opposition Mesa de Unión Democrática (MUD) held yesterday the first of a series of formal talks. The first of the ‘dialogues for peace’ called by the government went on for almost five hours and was broadcast to the country by radio and television. The debate was opened by president Nicolás Maduro, who gave a one-hour speech, and followed by 11 MUD and eight government representatives, who spoke for around ten minutes each. Talking about the debates, President Maduro said: “There are no negotiations or pacts here, what we want to find through this path is a model of mutual tolerance.” During their interventions, government representatives criticised the opposition for their role in the violent protests held around the country over the past two months: “We’re sitting here with the same opposition of years ago, experts in saying ‘I didn’t do it’. I feel no one who is here has condemned the violence,” said National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello. The opposition, in turn, criticised the government for the state of the country. Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles justified his attendance at the debate “because our country is doing really badly; Venezuela is in a very critical situation,” and added that the political crisis, which, in his opinion, dates back to last year’s tight presidential election, “may end up in either of two results that neither the opposition or Venezuelans want: a coup d’êtat or a social outburst.” A new meeting was agreed upon for Tuesday, the agenda for which will be defined by a special committee.

Ecuador: Environmentalists Closer to Referendum on Yasuní: Ecuadorian environmental group Yasunidos announced that it has collected over 700,000 signatures, more than enough to force a referendum on whether oil exploration should be authorised in the Yasuní National Park, in the country’s Amazon. The signatures still have to be verified, but if they are, the government will be obliged to put the matter to a popular vote. The park is one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world and has hit the headlines numerous times in recent years, after President Rafael Correa launched the Yasuní-ITT initiative. The measure proposed the country refrain indefinitely from exploiting reserves in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini block, three oil fields within the Yasuní National Park, in exchange for 50% of the value of the income it would be forgoing from the world community. However, last August Correa announced that the plans had failed, after receiving less than 1% of the US$3.6bn target. Controversy arose in February, when The Guardian newspaper revealed that the Ecuadorian government had been negotiating a secret US$1bn deal with a Chinese bank to drill for oil under the Yasuní national park as early as 2009, while publicly pursuing the Yasuní-ITT initiative. Correa has said that any profit from oil extraction should be used in the country’s fight against poverty.

Paraguay: Indigenous Children Rescued in Trafficking Bust: Twenty-one indigenous children who were sexually exploited and had been forced to beg were rescued by prosecution agents in Ciudad del Este, on Paraguay’s Brazilian border. The 19 girls and two boys, who are believed to have been brought from Repatriación, a town between Ciudad del Este and the capital Asunción, are now in a state-run safe house. One man was arrested in the operation, which took place last Friday, but was only made public today for security purposes. Ciudad del Este, and the tri-border area with Argentina and Brazil, is notorious for child sex trafficking, with “continuous reports” of cases, according to the UNHCR.

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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: 25th March 2014

President Nicolás Maduro (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

President Nicolás Maduro (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

Venezuela Arrests Three Generals Accused of Plotting Military Coup: President Nicolas Maduro announced today that three generals of the country’s air force had been arrested on suspicion of plotting a coup. Maduro said the three had been detained after being reported by other members of the armed forces, and claimed that they had “direct links with sectors of the opposition, and were saying that this week would be decisive.” Maduro made the announcement at the welcome meeting of the UNASUR summit taking place in Caracas today and tomorrow in an effort to bring an end to weeks of violent protests that have left at least 34 dead and many more injured. “We hope that with your visit we can arrive at conclusions to help us restore peace in Venezuela,” said Maduro. Meanwhile, the country’s top public prosecutor, Luisa Ortega Díaz, said that over 60 investigations into human rights violations during the protests were underway, with at least 15 officials arrested so far. “There have been [police] abuses, and they are being investigated,” said Díaz in a television interview this weekend.

Colombia – HRW Report Exposes Deaths and Disappearance in Buenaventura: “Scores of people” have been disappeared by former paramilitary groups in the port city of Buenaventura, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. The report, entitled ‘The Crisis in Buenaventura: Disappearances, Dismemberment, and Displacement in Colombia’s Main Pacific Port‘, said that more than 150 people reported missing between 2010 and 2013 are presumed to have been abducted and ‘disappeared’, noting that the actual figure is likely to be “significantly higher”. Based on a series of interviews with officials and residents, the report describes how victims are often dismembered alive, with their body parts dumped in the bay on buried in hidden graves. Since 2009, an estimated 60,000 people have also been forcibly displaced by the violence in the city, perpetrated mainly by two rival gangs, ‘La Empresa’ and ‘Los Urabeños’. Both are successors to far right paramilitary groups, which formed in the 1990s to combat the country’s guerrilla movements but were later demobilised as terrorist organisations. After the report was released at the end of last week, the government announced it would send another 700 army and marine troops to Buenaventura as part of the government’s plan to militarise the city and reduce crime.

Peru – Dozens of Tourists Detained for “Orgy” in Cusco Historial Site: Around 60 tourists were arrested in the early hours of yesterday morning for taking part in a “wild party” in the Sacsayhuamán archaeological park, just outside of Cusco. Upon raiding the party, which was allegedly set to last two days, local police found several of the tourists engaged in sexual relations inside the buildings and in the surrounding forest. Marijuana, cocaine paste, three cans of spray paint, and large quantities of alcohol were confiscated, while 21 pieces of Incan ceramics were discovered in the basement of one of the buildings. According to the Cusco Culture Directorate, the four houses where the party was being held were constructed without authorisation on a historial site, and will be demolished. The incident comes days after the Peruvian government warned visitors against stripping at the Machu Picchu ruins after a series of arrests for nudity at the site in recent months.

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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: 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: 13th March 2014

El Salvador's president elect, Salvador Sánchez-Cerén (photo courtesy of Wikipedia).

El Salvador’s president elect, Salvador Sánchez-Cerén (photo courtesy of Wikipedia).

El Salvador: Sánchez Cerén Wins Elections: El Salvador’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has confirmed that FMLN’s Salvador Sánchez Cerén, has won last Sunday’s elections. The former guerrilla won 50.11% of the vote against rival ARENA’s Norman Quijano’s 49.89%. Sánchez Cerén won just 7,000 more votes than Quijano. However, the TSE will not officially declare Sánchez Cerén president elect until they resolve the complaint filed by ARENA on Tuesday alleging vote fraud, a claim that is not seen to carry weight by election observers, including the OAS. The new president will take office for a five year period on 1st June, in what is seen to be an historic inauguration, the first time two left-wing candidates have succeeded one another in the Central American state. FMLN is planning on celebrating Sánchez Cerén’s victory in the main square of the country’s capital, San Salvador.

Paraguay: Another Campesino Leader Killed: Yesterday, campesino leader Eusebio Torres was shot dead in his home in Santa Lucia in the eastern department of Alto Paraná. According to lawyer Óscar Ortiz, two men arrived on motorbike, and without any exchange of words, opened fire on the president of the Landless Neighbours Commission. The 64-year-old had reported to the National Institute for Rural and Land Development (Indert) that 3,000 hectares of public land was being illegally used for agriculture, by Brazilian soy producers. Secretary of the Farmers Association of Alto Paraná, Tomás Zayas, responded to the killing saying that the “soy mafia” were responsible, and that Torres was not the first to have been threatened after reporting illegal crop production, noting that other campesino leaders had left the region after threats. Since June 2012, at least seven campesino leaders have been violently killed by strangers in different parts of Paraguay.

Unasur Meets to Discuss Venezuela Crisis: Foreign ministers of the Unasur countries are met today in Chile to discuss the on-going tensions in Venezuela, which have left 22 dead since protests began a month ago. After the meeting in Santiago, the foreign ministers announced the formulation of a delegation to accompany ”a political dialogue to recuperate peaceful coexistence” in the country. The group will be made up of foreign ministers of member states and will travel to Venezuela during the first week of April, as part of the on-going National Peace Conference, an open process that the Venezuelan government is promoting in an effort to boost dialogue between political and social actors from all sides of the unrest. The Unasur delegation called on the Venezuelan opposition to join the government in this peaceful dialogue. Unasur’s announcement comes a day after Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro met with student leaders in his first face-to-face meeting with the opposition youth movement.

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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: 6th March 2014

Chevron's toxic legacy in Ecuador (photo: Rainforest Action Network)

Chevron’s toxic legacy in Ecuador (photo: Rainforest Action Network)

Ecuador: New York Judge Rules in Favour of Chevron: A federal judge in New York has ruled that a two-decade legal effort to punish Chevron for massive oil spills in the Ecuadorian Amazon was marred by fraud and corruption, making it increasingly likely that the oil company would be ultimately successful in beating back the legal and financial challenge. Texaco, which has since been taken over by Chevron, spilled 18bn gallons of toxic waste water into the rainforest, as well as 17m gallons of oil in “cost-cutting measures”. However, despite an Ecuadorian court ordering the oil giant to pay US$19bn in damages (since reduced to US$9.5bn, when the ruling was upheld by an appeals court), the money for the clean up has never appeared, and the corporation instead took the indigenous communities and their legal team to court in New York, something many called a “show trial“. On Tuesday, Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled in favour of Chevron, something observers had predicted would happen, given the judge’s sympathies for the oil giant. After the latest ruling, the corporation has been absolved of wrongdoing and does not have to pay damages to clean up the rainforest. Lawyers for the indigenous communities have said they will appeal the ruling in higher US courts.

Venezuela Breaks Ties with Panama: Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, yesterday announced the breaking of diplomatic and trade ties with Panama, during acts to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of former president Hugo Chávez. “We will not allow anybody to mess with impunity in our national affairs,” said Maduro, who then referred to Panama’s leader, Ricardo Martinelli, as a “grovelling lackey”. Martinelli had convened the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS) to consider the Venezuelan crisis, which has seen violent demonstrations lead to almost 20 deaths over the last three weeks. Martinelli seemed surprised by the decision, writing on Twitter “Panama only desires that our brother country finds peace and strengthens its democracy.” Venezuela’s government sees the OAS as an organisation run from Washington, and does not actively participate in the group in protest of the suspension of Cuba. Along with other Latin American nations, the country pushed for the formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2010 as a response to the OAS. Meanwhile, Venezuela has asked the presidential council of Unasur to convene to consider the country’s current turbulence.

Chilean Mapuche Leader Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison: Mapuche indigenous leader Celestino Córdova has been sentenced to 18 years in prison after being found guilty of starting a deadly fire at a farm on 4th January 2013 in the Araucanía region in southern Chile. The fire led to the deaths of farmer Werner Luchsinger and his wife Vivianne Mackay. According to his legal team, he will appeal the ruling and sentence, as the prosecution had no direct or indirect evidence linking the Mapuche leader to the crime – the only thing connecting him to the fire was that he was arrested close to the farm on the night of the incident. Córdova also released a statement saying that he had been taken to trial “without any evidence” against him. He went on to say his imprisonment is a “threat to the new generations” and an “empty gesture” on the part of the Chilean state.

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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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