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Bulletin 22 February 2010


Argentina: Government “close” to getting continental support in Falklands dispute

altThe Argentinean government says it expects to receive the support of the 33 Presidents attending the Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean (CALC in Spanish), which starts today in Mexico, according to La Nación newspaper. Clarin newspaper is more cautious, saying that President Cristina Fernández “will try” to gather support from the Summit, which has been called to discuss integration projects and aid for the reconstruction of Haiti.

In the meantime, drilling operations in the sea around the Falkland Islands are due to start today.

When President Fernández announced that ships wanting to sail to the Falkland Islands from Argentinean ports would need special permission, the Argentinean media reacted with a great deal of restraint and avoided any kind of jingoistic reaction. This cautious approach has continued.

There seems little doubt that the government’s unexpected decision to adopt a tougher line with respect to the Falklands is linked to a desire to distract attention from domestic issues: the economy is going through a rough patch; the “First Couple” (President Fernández and her husband, former President Néstor Kirchner) have been accused of taking advantage of insider information to make money, something they deny; and the dispute between the coach of the football national team, Diego Maradona, and player Juan Román Riquelme, who refuses to play for his country while Maradona is in charge, has dominated the front pages of the local printed media.

According to Argentina Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana, “important progress has been made to strengthen the position of [our] country with respect to the Malvinas [Falklands]”. But, apart from Venezuela, whose President Hugo Chávez has demanded the return of the islands to Argentina, no other Latin American country seems keen to get involved in a diplomatic clash with the UK.

Clarin (Argentina, Spanish)

La Nacion (Argentina, Spanish)
Pagina 12

Haiti: final toll could reach the 300,000

altHaitian President René Preval says that the latest information suggests that up to 300,000 may have died as a result of last month’s earthquake. Although official figures are still only talking of 20,000 dead, Preval believes that, after all debris has been cleared, rescue teams will find many more bodies.

Preval is attending the Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean, where he will ask for help to rebuild the devastated Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. He reminded the summit that thousands of people are homeless and unemployed and only international aid will help them rebuild their lives.

International aid has been arriving to Haiti on a daily basis but many survivors complain that it that it still has not reached them. The UN has admitted that the aid “lacks visibility”. The World Food Programme has established 16 delivery points managed by women.

Despite its efforts, the government is finding it difficult to get on top of the situation. According to the UN, “the earthquake destroyed all symbols of power and the capacity of the state to react. Many deputy ministers and professionals have died, and the UN mission has been decapitated — 77 confirmed dead and 170 missing, nearly all of them people in leadership positions — and it had had five years of experience working in Haiti.”

During the Asian tsunami, the government structures remained intact. This was not the case in Haiti. Many people wondered where their government was in the aftermath of the tragedy. The Presidential Palace was destroyed and the cabinet is still meeting in makeshift venues. Many ministers lost close relatives.

A European aid worker said that there is no leadership “because the [Haitian] Government is in no position to fulfil that role”.

The arrival of the first rains is threatening to make matters worse, with fears that epidemics of cholera and diarrhoea may kill many of those who managed to survive the earthquake.

El Pais (Spanish)

Brazil: former guerrilla becomes presidential candidate

altThe congress of the ruling Workers Party (PT) has confirmed Dilma Rousseff as its candidate in the elections to choose a successor to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Rousseff, a former guerrilla and a minister in Lula’s government, has said that she will guarantee continuity but will work harder on issues related to social justice. During her youth, in the 1970s, she spent three years in prison as a member of a guerrilla group fighting against the military dictatorship and she was tortured by the security forces.

During the party congress, Rousseff has emphasized her loyalty to President Lula, insisting that she will carry on what she called Lula’s “blessed legacy” and promised to start an “era of knowledge”, with more investments in education, science and technology.

El Pais


Peru’s exports still dominated by mining

altMore than 60% of Peru’s exports come from the mining sector, according to an economic think-tank. It believes that this is benefiting the country at the moment, as the economies of the industrialised countries are emerging from recession, there is a bigger demand for raw materials.

According to the mining ministry, in 2009, Peru earned US$14 billion in mineral exports. There was a substantial increase in the export of gold (26%) but a reduction in the sale of copper. Peru expects to increase its mineral exports in the current year.

Alerta Economica (Peru, Spanish)


Latin America’s mixed environmental record

altLatin America has increased its access to clean water but is failing in its efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

According to Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL), not enough effort is being made to protect the environment. She told Inter Press Service that regional countries are spending only 1% of their GDP in environmental protection.

Mara Murillo, acting regional director of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), told IPS that “Progress has been made in protecting the ozone layer and in expanding access to clean water and sewage services. But deforestation must be curtailed, the use of alternative energies must increase, and more adaptation to climate change is needed.”

The region’s record in reducing greenhouse gases will be in the spotlight later this year because the next UN Summit on Climate Change will take place in Mexico in December.

Inter Press Service

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