A powerful earthquake hit Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, killing thousands of people and practically flattening the capital, Port-Au-Prince. This is the strongest tremor in two centuries. The Presidential palace, the cathedral and the UN headquarters have been destroyed and the emergency services are trying to rescue people from under the rubble.
Nobody knows for certain how many people have died, but according to witnesses, hundreds of people lay dead in the streets and emergency organisations fear that thousands of people may have lost their lives.
The earthquake, which had a magnitude of 7 in the Richter scale and lasted almost a minute, happened along the strangely named Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault, in the Caribbean Plate fault. At least 17 aftershocks of up to a magnitude of 5 in the Richter scale have been registered by monitoring organisations.
The US president Barack Obama has promised to send emergency aid and Brazil, which leads the 9,000-strong UN multinational peace-keeping force in Haiti, has instructed its contingent in Port-Au-Prince to make emergency help an absolute priority.
As Haiti is not used to earthquakes, constructions are not strong enough to withstand severe reverberations, and this may well be why the casualty rate is believed to be very high.
The Dominican Republican, which shares island of Hispaniola with Haiti, was also affected by the tremor and the local media reports that some people have died near the border with Haiti.
Haiti has been trying to regain some kind of political stability and it was hoped that the general elections, due to take place next year, would help to rebuild the democratic institutions of a country ravaged by violence and poverty. The current crisis could jeopardise these plans.
La Republica (Dominican Republic, Spanish)
El Nacional (Dominican Republic, Spanish)
El Pais (Spanish)
Chile: candidates take part in last debate before elections
A TV debate has revealed substantial differences on issues ranking from the economy to human rights between the two candidates competing in the run-off of the presidential elections in Chile.
The opposition candidate, Sebastián Piñera, and former president Eduardo Frei, representing the ruling coalition, took part in the last debate before Chileans go to the polls on Sunday to elect the successor to Michelle Bachelet.
Piñera, who leads the opinion polls, was elusive when he was asked if he would include in his cabinet people who served under Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship. Some important supporters of the Pinochet regime are part of the Piñera team. While condemning the violations of human rights that occurred during the Pinochet government, he said that it was possible to have served under the dictatorship with honour.
Piñera promised to create one million new jobs, while Frei said that, in the current economic climate, it is only possible to create 800 new jobs. Frei defined himself as the “candidate of progress”. Observers believe that nobody won the debate.
El Mercurio (Chile, Spanish)
El Pais (Spanish)
Argentina: Investors may leave if crisis continues
The crisis caused by the government’s decision to use monetary reserves to pay Argentina’s public debt may cause an exodus of foreign investors, according to an economist from Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Alberto Ramos says that the local currency, the peso, could lose value and that capital flight is a distinct possibility if the government of president Cristina Fernandez does not reach a agreement about ways to pay Argentina’s US$20 billion public deficit.
Last week, Fernandez sacked the president of the central bank, Martin Redrado, because he opposed a plan to use the bank’s US$6.6 billion reserves to restructure the country’s public debt.
Uruguay fights climate change
Uruguay will work with the UN to fight global warming by identifying vulnerable areas that need mitigation and adaptation plans. Uruguay hopes that this strategy, conducted in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), will serve as a pilot for similar projects in other countries.
The idea is to make sure that all sectors of society take part in the prevention of climate change. The project was launched in September 2009.
Project coordinator Federico Ferla told IPS agency that “Strategies will be developed through participatory working methods, unlike the few projects that have been carried out so far, mostly in industrialised countries, where in general teams of experts just hand over a report to be considered by the authorities.”