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Bulletin 16 February 2010


 Haiti: illness threatens survivors and orphaned children

altMore than a month after an earthquake devastated the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, rescue efforts have ceased, and the international community has moved into donating money for the reconstruction of the country. For many survivors, such help cannot arrive too soon. Illness is now the biggest threat to those who have lost their homes.

Hospitals are still full of people injured during the earthquake and aftershocks. Many of the 400,000 injured wish to go to the Central Hospital, which has only 700 beds. Some sleep in improvised tents, as there is no alternative.

Medical authorities fear an epidemic of malaria, diarrhoea and infections exacerbated by the precarious conditions under which the medical services operate.

The Haitian Health Minister, Alex Larsen, insists that the country has enough vaccine for the next six months, but in many of the camps these vaccines have not arrived. At least 4,000 have had limbs amputated, and need the medicines to prevent infection.

Save the Children Fund believes that up to a million children may have lost parents in the earthquake. Unicef and other charities are trying to help these orphans, and the Haitian Prime Minister, Jean Max Bellerive, said that he had approved up to 400 adoptions.

Listin (Dominican Republic, Spanish)

Nicaragua: Indigenous peoples are not citizens

altBrooklyn Rivera (left) was a firebrand “contra”, as the anti-Sandinista forces of the 1980s were known. He was a leader of the Miskito indigenous community, whose ancestral grievances against the colonial system led them to fight the left-wing government that came to power in the revolution of 1979, in Ronald Reagan’s personal war against the Sandinistas.

Today, Rivera has aged, and the heavy gold chains and rings are gone. His old struggles have been replaced by different ones, this time waged inside the system. His Miskito organisation, Yatama, is now an ally of the old enemy, the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front, the FSLN.

Rivera says that at least 30% of the indigenous people who live onn the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua lack identity documents. As far as the state is concerned, they do not exist. He believes that the Electoral Council, which is in charge of issuing identity documents, lacks transparency, and even some of his FSLN friends would agree.

The opposition has accused the government of issuing identity documents only to those who are likely to vote for the FSLN. The Sandinistas, however, say that those who need identity documents have to go apply to the parties that hold power in their constituencies, including the opposition Liberal Party.

La Prensa (Nicaragua, Spanish)

Peru: politics and show business mix well

altJaime Bayly (left) is a controversial Peruvian writer, who presents a programme called El Francotirador, or the The Sniper. In this programme, he has attacked the government, and praised Alberto Fujimori, the former President who is serving a long jail term for human rights violations. Bayly is openly bisexual, and believes that the left and all its works are dictatorial. He has insulted President Alan Garcia because of his excessive weight, and justifies the excesses of the Fujimori era, mixing these observations with affectionate stories about his male lovers.

Some weeks ago, he announced that he was planning to stand as candidate in the 2011 presidential elections. Although his programme is not considered “seriously” political, he registers a following of 6% in the opinion polls: no mean feat in a country where most parties haven’t even selected their presidential candidates (the current president cannot stand for re-election).

Now, with the announcement that he has fallen in love with a young female student, his star seems to be rising. Accusations that this is a gimmick to get votes, in a country which is not ready to elect a bisexual politician as its President, have not diminished his popularity.

Over the weekend, he promised to decide whether or not to run for president, saying that it depends on permission from his health and his daughter.

El Comercio (Peru, Spanish)


Venezuela: desperate attempts to solve energy crisis

altThe Government of President Hugo Chávez has rejected an offer from Colombia to supply electricity to Venezuela, which is in the middle of one of its worse energy crises of recent years.

Caracas, the capital, has suffered several blackouts in the last few months, and the Venezuelan national grid has installed 4 thermal units on the city’s outskirts to tackle the problem.

These units will provide the electricity that lack of rain has prevented the hydroelectric plants from supplying. The government has blamed the drought on the Pacific El Niño current. The opposition, however, blames the government, arguing that it has failed to invest in the energy sector.

On Monday, the Energy Minister, Alí Rodríguez, inaugurated an energy plant (pictured), saying that it will provide enough energy to prevent further blackouts in Caracas. Deputy President Elías Jaua said that his country would not take energy offered by Colombia because the crisis will come to an end in May.

The industrial and commercial sectors have suffered heavy losses as a result of the current energy crisis.

El Nacional (Venezuela, Spanish)

El universal (Venezuela, Spanish)


Heavy rains are the politicians’ fault, says Mexican Church

altThe Mexican Catholic Church has accused the government of responsibility for the devastating effects that heavy rains have had in Michoacán, on the Pacific coast, and in Mexico City.

The Supreme Archdiocese of Mexico accused the government of spending money on advertising and the construction of ice rinks rather than investing in emergency measures to diminish the damage caused by the rains. Hugo Valdemar Romero, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese, said that “it is time to stop seeking the presidency and start working for the people”.

The church says, similarly, that the Mexico City government has spent taxpayers’ money in “useless and populist” projects instead of investing in flood prevention and emergency measures in case of earthquakes.

The church also attacked the decision to allow illegal settlements to be built near the River Compañía, in Michoacán, especially after allowing the destruction of forest. Several communities were buried by landslides as a result of the lack of protection that the forest used to offer.

El Universal (Mexico, Spanish)

Photo credits

Haiti: US Department of Defense

Nicaragua: La Prensa

Venezuela: Eduardo Fuentes, El Universal


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