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Bulletin 17 February 2010


 Argentina: President revives the ghost of the Falklands

altThe Argentinean president, Cristina Fernández, has ordered ships wishing to use Argentinean ports as a departure point for the Falkland Islands to apply for special permission. This is being seen as a reaction to Britain’s announcement that it will carry out oil exploration in an area that Argentina claims as its own.

The head of the ministerial cabinet, Aníbal Fernández, said the government will create a special commission to supervise the granting of licences. After receiving a strongly-worded response from the UK government to her announcement, President Fernández (pictured left signing the new law) accused the United Kingdom of not respecting UN resolutions. She said that Argentina’s claim to ownership over the Falklands was “not-negotiable”.

Earlier this month, the Argentinean government made a formal protest to the UK government over its plans to explore for oil in the area and threatened to sue “in the highest courts” oil companies involved in the project.

Clarin (Argentina, Spanish)

La Nacion (Argentina, Spanish)

Brazil: Presidential candidate proposes radical programme

altOn the eve of the of the ruling Workers Party’s national congress, the candidate chosen to stand for the party in the elections to succeed Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva as President of Brazil has proposed a radical government plan. Dilma Rousseff (pictured left with President Lula) wants the state to play a more crucial role in the management of the economy.

Rousseff, a former guerrilla who belongs to the left of the PT, wants what she calls “economic development with social inclusion”. She portrays herself as a follower of Lula but with her own voice.

She believes that the only way that living conditions can be improved for the 27% of the population that still lacks basic services is through much greater state intervention and state subsidies. “How can the market supply the millions of houses needed by workers who will never be able to buy a house on the wages they earn?” she asks.

Some days ago, Lula tried to persuade his party to tone down the programme. However, even the outgoing President, whose popularity has not declined as he gets to the end of his administration, has admitted that the markets have sometimes failed, particularly in causing the world-wide recession from which Brazil is emerging.

El Pais (Spanish)

Venezuela to reconsider offer of electricity supplies from Colombia

altAlthough on Monday the Chávez government rejected in no uncertain terms an offer made by Colombia to supply electricity, two days later the Venezuelan vice-president, Elías Jaua (pictured), has said that the government will consider the offer.

Electricity supplies from Colombia were suspended last December because the Venezuelan government considered them too expensive. Although Caracas wants to be self-sufficient in energy, the serious crisis that has provoked prolonged blackouts in the capital has forced the Venezuelan government to reconsider Colombia’s offer.

A serious drought has affected water supplies for the Guri dam, a hydroelectric plant which is responsible for 70% of Venezuela’s electricity supplies.

El Tiempo (Colombia, Spanish)

Argentina: local currency sinks

altThe Argentinean peso has dropped considerably in value on the currency market amid speculation that the government wants to take advantage of a weak currency to increase its revenue from commodity sales in the international markets.

The government of President Cristina Fernández is under great pressure to pay off its sizeable public debt, so that it can once more be active in the international markets. Investors have been buying dollars because of concerns about the stability of the peso.

The former head of the central bank, Martin Redrado, opposed a government proposal to use Argentina’s monetary reserves to restructure the country’s public debt. His reluctance cost him his job. The new governor of the central bank, Mercedes Marco, a close ally of President Fernández, has not said if she intends to follow her predecessor’s policies.


Guatemala: small victory for ecologists

altThe Canadian government has given a boost to a campaign by Guatemalan environmentalists for mining companies in Central America to show much greater environmental responsibility. Canada’s Supreme Court has ordered mining companies to carry out strict measures of environmental protection in their activities in Guatemala.

Ecologists have accused the Guatemalan government of allowing foreign mining companies to operate with total impunity, polluting rivers and destroying trees. In a way, Canada’s Supreme Court can be seen as taking the environmental action that the Guatemalan government has failed to do.

Uriel Miranda, a spokesperson for Guatemala’s Pastoral Commission on Peace and Ecology, told Inter Press Service that “The ruling exerts a kind of pressure for Canadian companies to live up to legal standards and not try to conceal the real impacts of their activities on the environment.”

Magalí Rey Rosa, director of the School of Ecological Thought, told IPS that the activities of foreign mining companies in Guatemala “[have] brought serious social conflicts, water sources have dried up, houses have suffered cracks and splits, while it has left us a few miserable dollars in return.”

Inter Press Service

Photo credits

Venezuela: Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias

Brazil: Portal of the Presidency of Brazil

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