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Bulletin 23 February 2010


Argentina: President criticises the UK and expects regional support

altPresident Cristina Fernández made a passionate plea to her fellow Latin American heads of state to support her country in its dispute with the UK over oil exploration in the waters surrounding the Falkland Islands.

Addressing the Latin America and Caribbean Summit in the Mexican resort of Cancun, Fernández said that “superpowers systematically ignore UN resolutions, but are happy to impose them on other countries when it suits them”.

According to President Vicente Calderón, a resolution in support of Argentina’s claim of sovereignty over the Islands has been drafted and will be issued later today. What is not clear yet is the tone of the statement. Most Latin American countries enjoy a good relation with the UK and may not want to sign an openly aggressive declaration.

According to the Argentine newspaper Clarín, the declaration has a new element compared to old statements of support for Argentina: it supports Argentina’s claim to sovereignty not only over the Falklands, Georgias and South Sandwich but also over the “surrounding maritime spaces”.

President Fernandez needs a declaration of support for internal consumption too. Another local newspaper, La Nacion, says that she needs to show something positive in the midst of a serious economic crisis and accusations that her family has benefited from insider information on exchange rates to make money.

On arriving in Cancún Fernández was told that the region was united in its support for the Argentinean claim of sovereignty over the Falklands. This is important because the Summit of Latin America and The Caribbean, or CALC as it is called in Spanish, is the first attempt to create a joint coordinating body of the different regional integration organisations which includes all of Latin America and the Caribbean but excludes the United States. In this way it differs from the Organisation of American States (OAS), which includes the US and has often been seen as a tool of US policy (see below).

Fernández cut her participation in the Summit short, returning home late on Monday. She will be hoping that the statement, to be issued today, will express the unequivocal support she needs.

La Nación (Argentina, Spanish)

Clarín (Argentina, Spanish)

Latin America Summit: Colombia and Venezuela clash, again

alt“Be a man and stay to argue”. With these words, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe challenged his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chávez, when the latter threatened to leave a lunch attended by all the Presidents taking part in the Latin America and Caribbean. Summit

Chávez had accused Colombia of trying to kill him. In response, Uribe accused Venezuela of boycotting Colombian exports. In a way, the clash seemed inevitable. The two Presidents have history of stormy confrontations which usually end with a hug and an exchange of niceties.

After the argument, both leaders were taken to a quiet room by the Presidents of Brazil (Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva), Ecuador (Rafael Correa) and the Dominican Republic (Leonel Fernández) to calm down. According to Venezuelan sources, the Cuban President, Raul Castro, and the host of the summit, Felipe Calderón, also had to intervene to make sure that the argument did not escalate.

As a result of these interventions, Uribe and Chaáez agreed to accept the mediation of “friendly countries” to help them overcome their differences and promised to avoid public declarations that could harm the relationship between the two countries.

Chávez said he welcomed the initiative from the “friendly countries”. And Uribe said he would instruct his ministers not to make public declarations about Venezuela without his authorisation. He made specific mention of his Defence Minister, Gabriel Silva, who has expressed concerns on several occasions about the decision by the Venezuelan government to create “peasant militias” near the border between both countries.

Uribe and Chávez have disagreed in many occasions on issues related to the alleged support of the Venezuelan leader for Colombian guerrillas, something that Chávez denies. However, despite the clash of personalities, neither country can afford an escalation in the conflict. The trade between Colombia and Venezuela is vital for the border economies and each country is dependent on the other for fuel and electricity supplies.

El Tiempo (Colombia, Spanish)

El Universal (Venezuela, Spanish)

El Nacional (Venezuela, Spanish)

Latin America: An OAS without the Americans?

altThe Organisation of American States (the OAS) has its headquarters in Washington. Created in 1948, the OAS soon became a US tool in the Cold War. Indeed, after Cuba decided to adopt socialism, it was summarily expelled. The OAS often tried to mediate in regional conflicts, generally without success. For many people today, the OAS is seen an obsolete relic from a distant past, an organisation that is neither popular nor effectual.

Now, the Latin American and the Caribbean Presidents and Heads of State attending the summit in
Mexico are trying create an alternative organisation which does not include the United States. Many countries want to bring Cuba back into the fold, though for different reasons. Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela want to include Cuba because they are ideologically sympathetic to the Cuban government. In its turn, Brazil wants to encourage Havana to reform its system and to introduce a more democratic political structure. For all these countries, CALC is a good place to start.

Mexican President Vicente Calderon said that CALC is both an “opportunity to create a common space for Latin America and the Caribbean, a space that reinforces unity and the identity of our region, and a way of encouraging (…) integration for development”.

There is widespread support for a new body. At a meeting of the ministers before the summit, only Peru was opposed to the idea. But much remains to be decided: the region does not yet know if it wants “an organisation, a union or a community”. Even so, many believe that the birth of the new body is only a matter of time.

The idea was discussed two years ago at a meeting of the Rio Group in Brazil. However, two events in recent months have made countries feel more strongly that they need a new body: the Honduran crisis, after former President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown by a coup last July, and the subsequent lack of unity over the December elections, the results of which were eventually accepted in most of the continent; and the need for regional discussion over aid for the reconstruction of Haiti.

However, the USA is still the region’s main trading partner and nobody is suggesting that the OAS be dismantled. But, if the new organisation takes shape and succeeds where the OAS has failed, the OAS offices in Washington may in the not-too-distant future start to gather dust.

El Pais (Spanish)


altColombia: local currency in good health

The Colombian peso has reached its highest rate for four months as a result of an increase of foreign investment in the oil sector.

According to Daniel Arguelles, from the Bogota-based Corredores Asociados, “Foreign direct investment is increasing at a very fast pace, coming mainly from oil and energy companies, and it is bringing in large quantities of dollars.”

Many foreign companies operate in Colombia and oil is the country’s main export. Neither hostility from guerrilla groups nor the controversies over the operations of some of the oil companies, which have been accused of exploiting their workforce, have deterred foreign investment. .



Brazil: a good diet, not enough to keep healthy

altMany people decide to change their diet to keep their cholesterol levels low, but in Brazil this by itself may not be enough. The pollution in big cities like São Paulo increases the amount of so-called “bad cholesterol” that contributes to cardiovascular problems.

The polluted air contains floating particulates that modify the production of low density lipoprotein, known as “bad cholesterol”. This increases the accumulation of fat in the arteries.

The study was conducted by the University of São Paulo’s medical school and used mice. They were exposed to the actual conditions on the streets of Sao Paulo for four months. Although the amount of fat in their arteries did not increase, the quality of this fat changed, causing cardiovascular problems. The main source of pollution is car exhaust. Six million vehicles circulate every day in São Paulo  (pictured) already crowded city centre, with the number increasing every year. Bad news for your health.

Inter Press Service

Photo credits

Colombia – Venezuela: Palacio de Miraflores


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