Haiti to lead its own reconstruction
A group of donor countries meeting in the Canadian city of Montreal has agreed that the Haitian government has the capacity to lead the reconstruction process, despite criticism made by many Haitians that President René Préval and his cabinet were all but absent in the aftermath of the earthquake. A conference to discuss the help needed for reconstruction will take place in New York in March.
So far, the official death toll is 200,000 but there are fears that the figure will increase once there is an accurate count of bodies still buried under the remains of the city.
There are warnings that the scale of the tragedy and the problems that Haiti was facing before the earthquake means that it could take 10 years before reconstruction is complete.
Venezuela: student dies in government demonstration for TV closures, and minister resigns
Two students died in the Venezuelan city of Mérida when he was taking part in a pro-government demonstration.
Venezuela is profoundly divided by the government’s decision to suspend the licence of television stations that refused to broadcast speeches by of President Hugo Chávez. Demonstrations against and in favour of the decision have taken place in the main Venezuelan cities.
The students died when they was shot iby armed men. Venezuelan foreign minister said that a group of demonstrators were “ambushed” by a gang of thugs” and blamed “an irrational opposition” for causing acts of violence.
The government decided to suspend the licence of a number of cable TV stations who refused to broadcast a speech by President Chávez, violating a law that makes it compulsory for television companies to screen government spots and official speeches.
A new demonstration by opposition students will take place in Caracas this Tuesday. The Federation of Venezuelan Universities warned demonstrators against provocation by pro-government elements who, they say, will undertake acts of violence.
In the meantime, a minister and the head of a nationalised bank both resigned their post “for personal reasons”. The government denied that their decision was caused by disagreements over the way the current crisis is being handled.
The President of the Banco of Venezuela, Eugenio Vázquez Orellana, said that he was leaving the post for health reasons, but sources inside the bank say that he disagreed with the way the new finance minister, Jorge Giordani, is dealing with the economy.
The bank, which was bought by Santander in 2000, was nationalised by the government in May 2009.
The resignation of the head of the Banco de Venezuela follows the decision by Ramón Carrizales, vice-president and Minister of Defence, who left the post “for personal reasons”.
The Communications Minister, Blanca Eckhout, confirmed the resignation amid rumours that President Hugo Chávez had decided not to accept Carrizales’ resignation.
El Nacional (Venezuela, Spanish)
Globovision (Venezuela, Spanish)
El Pais (Spanish)
Peru: Rains leave tourists stranded in Machu Picchu
At least 2,000 tourists are stranded in the ruins of the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu, in Cuzco, as a result of landslides caused by heavy rains.
The Peruvian government, that has declared a state of emergency in the area, has sent aircraft to rescue the tourists. The rains caused several landslides that blocked the railway that links Cuzco with Machu Picchu.
The government says that the rains will cause millions of dollars in economic losses in a region that depends on tourism for its economic survival.
The local government has decided not to allow the access of tourists to Inca sites. At least 40% of the local population lack water because of the collapse of the electric system that pumps water from the highlands. At least two people died as a result of the landslides.
Radio Programas del Peru (Peru, Spanish)
El Comercio (Peru, Spanish)
Brazil in better shape than China
The Brazilian economy has shown that it is more resilient than the Chinese, according to a leading investment company.
Mark Mobius, the chairman of Templeton Asset Management Ltd, says that the wide range of exports, from primary commodities to agricultural produce, makes the Brazilian economy more resistant to international price fluctuations.
Mobius believes that “Brazil’s economy is more resilient because they don’t have to import anything. China has to import oil, iron ore and foods.”
The local currency, the real. has been recovering well in relation to other major currencies and analysts forecast a good year for the Brazilian economy.
Venezuela: forest fires caused by droughts devastate national parks
Fire forests have been destroying protected areas in Venezuela and local environmental organisations have expressed concern about the consequences for the environment.
The fires have destroyed trees and plants in Warairarepano-Avila, an area around the capital, Caracas. The Henri Pittier National Park, the oldest in Venezuela, in the central-north region of the country has lost at least 180 hectares of forest and there are fears that some of the fires might have been caused by arson attacks.
The lack of rain has made it impossible for the local Forest Fires and Emergency Services of the Parks Institute to put out the fires.
The authorities have asked the local population to look after protected areas because the climate is set to get drier and this will cause more natural fires.
Circulo Ambiental (Venezuela, Spanish)