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Bulletin 18 February 2010


 Haiti: US missionaries to go home

altEight of the ten US missionaries, arrested in Haiti when they were trying to take more than 30 children out of the country, will be released, but they may have to stay in Port-au-Prince while the investigations continue. The leader of the group, Laura Silsby, and another member, Charisa Coulter, remain in detention.

Several children’s charities have expressed concerned about the future of hundreds of other children, who may be victims of abductions after they lost their parents during last month’s earthquake. According to Save the Children, up to one million children may have been orphaned by the tremor.

The US missionaries argued that the children they were trying to take out of Haiti had lost their parents during the earthquake. However, it later turned out that many of their parents are alive. According to the charity that raised the alarm about what was going on, a local pastor had been visiting families left homeless by the earthquake and encouraging them to give away their children. The missionaries denied that they knew that this was the case.

The judge who released the missionaries agreed that they did not mean to break the law. However, the magistrate wants to know what Silsby and Coilter were doing in Haiti before the earthquake.

BBC News and LAB

Oil exploration to go ahead despite Argentinean obstacles

altThe UK companies planning to explore for oil in the waters surrounding the Falkland Islands will go ahead with their activities, despite the Argentinean decision that ships sailing in the area require special permits.

The British-based Desire Petroleum company, set up to explore for oil and gas in the North Falkland Basin, confirmed that it will not change its plans to start exploration as early as next week. Ocean Guard (pictured), an oil platform that is sailing to the area, will start its activities as soon as it arrives.

A spokesperson for the Falkland government said that the Islands’ inhabitants had not been unduly alarmed by the hard line taken by Buenos Aires. In conversation with the Argentinean press, Emma Edwards, responsible of oil and minerals affairs in the Islands’ legislative council, said that most of the necessary ships and supplies had already arrived in the Islands and that the boats bringing in the equipment come directly from Scotland and do not need to refuel in Argentinean ports.

“These are international waters. Argentina has the right to legislate in its territory and we have the right to do the same in ours. And that is what we have done”, said Edwards.

The Argentinean press has reacted with caution to Britain’s decision to reject the new law. In a poll conducted by daily La Nación, more than 75% of Argentineans agree with the government’s decision to impose conditions on shipping activities in the area, while 22% are against.

La Nacion (Argentina, Spanish)

Clarin (Argentina, Spanish)

Mexico: Calderón returns to Ciudad Juarez and promises more help

altPresident Felipe Calderón (pictured) is determined to get his message across to the long-suffering citizens of Ciudad Juarez. For the second time in a week, he has returned to one of the most violent cities in Mexico to say that there cannot be a solution to the problems affecting the city without the participation of the local population.

Calderón was welcomed by a familiar sight in Ciudad Juárez: the body of a young man, left in the main square, with his hands tied behind his back and his face wrapped in a plastic bag.

“This cannot be a government programme alone. It is not only the government’s problem, or the mayor’s, or the governor’s. What is happening in Juárez is everybody’s problem and we all need to solve it”, he said.

The situation is so serious that at least 100,000 people have moved over the border to El Paso, ironically one of the most peaceful cities in the United States. In the last few years, 8,000 small businesses in Ciudad Juáez have closed down and those that remain open have to pay considerable sums of money to the local mafia to remain active.

The city is full of soldiers and policemen but the killing of gang members and innocent people has not stopped. Last month a group of 15 students were brutally murdered by gunmen who gatecrashed their party and killed the revellers execution-style.

Calderón visited the city shortly after the killings and was received by protesters blaming the government for the wave of violence shaking the region. By returning so often to the city, the President seems determined to convince Ciudad Juárez that this time he is serious about tackling the problem.

La Jornada (Mexico, Spanish)

El Pais (Spanish)


Peru: oil sector will grow in 2010

altPeru’s mining and hydrocarbons sector will grow by almost 3% in the current year, according to local analysts.

Most of the expansion stems from an anticipated 19.6% growth in the hydrocarbons sector largely as a result of the coming on stream of a new phase in the controversial Camisea project (pictured) which is exploiting vast reserves of natural gas in the southeast of the country. Environmental organisations and indigenous peoples oppose this project because of concerns about the damage it will do to the environment. Because of the expansion, Peru will be able to start exporting natural gas to Mexico.

The mining sector will grow by almost 1% due to an increase in the prices of zinc and lead on the international market.

Alerta Economica (Peru, Spanish)


Venezuela: calls to declare emergency in national park

altA scientist is asking the Venezuelan government to declare a state of emergency in the Morrocoy National Park (pictured), which is located partly on land and partly in the sea in the northeast of the country. Andrés Osorio, an expert on ecology and oceans, says that uncontrolled urban expansion is destroying the ecological balance in an area renowned for its marine richness.

Osorio says that sewage and contaminated waters from the industrial sector are polluting the sea and destroying its biodiversity. Back in the 1970s, the government ordered houses built near coral reefs and on fragile land to be pulled down, but over the last few years construction, particularly of holiday homes, has increased once again.

According to Osorio, an investigation carried out by the Simon Bolivar University showed that species of plants have been destroyed by bacteria produced in the contaminated waters. Researchers even found Vibrio cholerae, a bacterium that causes cholera in humans, in the water. He says that much of the damage is caused by untreated industrial effluents that are dumped in the ocean.

Andrés Osorio says that the local municipal authorities have failed in their duty to regulate the construction of buildings and industrial activities.

Círculo Ambiental (Venezuela, Spanish) 

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