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Bulletin 25 January 2010


 Haiti: relief operations criticised

altHaiti faced “a terrible situation that could have been managed much better”, according to a top Italian official who arrived in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince on Friday to monitor relief operations.

Guido Bertolaso, who heads the Italian civil protection service, said that there was a clear lack of leadership and that many international agencies worked on their media profile rather than helping those who needed support.

“When there is an emergency, it triggers a vanity parade. Lots of people go there anxious to show that their country is big and important, that it shows solidarity”, he told the Italian media.

He also criticised the presence of what he considered to be an excessive number of US soldiers who were not trained to work in relief operations.

Douglas Alexander, the UK’s International Development Secretary, rejected the criticism, saying that such comments did not benefit the people in Haiti.

He said that the US government did not enter Haiti unprepared, because it had first asked first those concerned how it could best help, rather than imposing its own operations.

Asked by the BBC if the UN should lead the reconstruction process, Alexander said that it is the people of Haiti and the Haitian government who should decide who heads the process.

The way the USA has handled the operation has already been criticised in the region. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said that the US has sent too many soldiers and not enough medicines.

Women are still dying in Haiti

Almost two weeks after the earthquake that devastated Haiti, women are the main victims of its aftermath.

Veronica Gran, a Norwegian nurse working for Medicines Sans Frontiers, told the Spanish daily newspaper, El Pais, that many pregnant women are dying during childbirth because they do not go to hospital to receive proper medical help. Many believe that the hospitals are charging for their services and, since they do not have any money, they don’t go.

Many women are also dying from urinal infections, something that can be easily treated, anaemia and high blood pressure. According to Gran, many women suffer contractions at home for a long while and when they eventually go to the hospital, their babies are found to have died inside their bodies.

Some women have been raped but refuse to go to the hospital out of shame. Others have gone to the authorities to report violent sex acts, but are then often confronted by policemen who say they haven’t the time or the resources to investigate.

Dominican Republic praised for emergency help

altThe first convoys of emergency aid did not come from the US or Europe but arrived, just hours after the tragedy, from a country that in the past has been heavily criticised for the way it has treated Haitian immigrants: the Dominican Republic.

The General Secretary of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said that the emergency aid from the Dominican Republic was generous and quick.

Many Haitians injured during the earthquake are being treated in hospitals in Santo Domingo and a government-sponsored system of soup kitchens to help poor Dominicans has been put at Haiti’s disposal. Ten mobile kitchens have been sent to Haiti and volunteers have been getting up at 4am to prepare food for those who need it most.

From the day after the tremor, 15,000 meals have been prepared daily and distributed in camps where Haitians left homeless live in precarious conditions.

It is believed that at least one million Haitians live in the Dominican Republic, many of them illegally. The Dominican Republic has been criticised for treating their Haitian immigrants as second class citizens. The earthquake has changed this image and many people believe that this could be the way that Dominicans relate to their Haitian neighbours in the future.

Listin Diario (Dominican Republic, Spanish)

El Pais (Spanish)

BBC News

Venezuela: closure of TV stations causes unrest

altThe Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (CIDH in Spanish) has criticised the closing down of TV stations that have been very critical of the government of President Hugo Chávez.

The CIDH expressed its “serious concern” over the “sudden” withdrawal of the licence of RCTV and other cable channels. The government says it has withdrawn the licenses because TV stations are obliged, by law, to broadcast Chávez’s speeches and these stations have refused to do so, thus violating the law.

RCTV, one of the most popular open and cable TV stations, that operates from Miami, refused to broadcast speeches delivered by President Chávez over the weekend. The same decision was taken by American Network, América TV, Radio Caracas Televisión Internacional, TV Chile, Momentum and Ritmo Son.

The Democratic Unity movement, an opposition organisation, called on its members to express their displeasure. On Saturday, hundreds of Venezuelans marched in silence through the streets of Caracas in protest over the closures.

An organisation of cable TV networks has urged the suspended stations to obey the law and broadcast the official programmes, so that the suspension can be lifted.

El Nacional (Venezuela, Spanish)

El Universal (Venezuela, Spanish)

VTV (Venezuela, Spanish)

Guatemala: former president evades arrest order

altThe Guatemalan Government has ordered the arrest of former President Alfonso Portillo, who is accused of money laundering and the theft of public funds.

Portillo is wanted in the US, because he allegedly used US banks to launder money that he stole from the public purse.

For more than a year, the Guatemalan and US governments have investigated alleged illegal activities by Portillo during his presidency (2000-2004). Both governments have reached the conclusion that the former head of state should be arrested and extradited to the US to face several charges of corruption.

However, Portillo has, for the time being, evaded capture and the Guatemalan security forces have mounted a vast manhunt, after it raided in vain houses owned by Portillo in Guatemala City.

This is not the first time Portillo has tried to escape from justice. After he stepped down from the presidency in 2004, a judge ordered his arrest for the alleged theft of funds belonging to the Defence Ministry, but Portillo managed to escape through El Salvador.

Prensa Libre (Guatemala, Spanish)

El Pais


Brazil: Real set to get strong again

altThe real, the Brazilian currency, could increase in value in relation to the dollar and the yen due to a recovery in Brazil’s economy.

Mitsubishi UFJ Securities forecasts that Brazil’s central bank will increase its base interest rates in order to prevent inflation from affecting the recovery.

“Brazil has a phobia of inflation due to its deep-seated memories of hyperinflation”, said Hiroyuki Omiya, a specialist with Mitsubishi UFJ Securities.

The real, which increased in value in 2009 with respect to other major currencies, lost value last week because China, which has become a major trading partner for Brazil, decided to limit its acquisitions of the Brazilian currency.



Chile: water is a constitutional matter

Water will become a question of national security to protect supplies, once Parliament has approved an amendment to the Chilean constitution.

The outgoing government of President Michelle Bachelet has sent parliament a proposal to include water as an issue of national security in Article 19 of the Chilean constitution.

The decision has been welcomed by environmental organisations. They said that the proposal “takes the first step towards resolving the crisis of access, contamination, concentration and overexploitation of water in Chile, and the degradation of watersheds”.

However, the Chilean National Society of Agriculture believes that the bill may lead to expropriation without compensation in cases where the government believes that it has to protect water supplies.

Ecuador and Uruguay already have provisions in their constitutions to protect water as a public good.

Inter Press Service 



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