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Bulletin 27 January 2010



Guatemala: former president arrested

altFormer Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo is behind bars after a court decided to send him to jail to face charges of corruption. It only took 18 minutes for a judge to order his detention.

Portillo appeared handcuffed before the court that will also have to decide if he is to be extradited to the US, where he is wanted for allegedly using a US bank to launder US$70 million belonging to the Guatemalan Defence Ministry

Portillo was arrested by security forces in a house in Izabal, a department near the border with Honduras. Portillo is also accused in Guatemala of theft of public funds.

As soon as Portillo’s arrest was announced, Manhattan’s public prosecutor, Preet Bharara, said that both American and Guatemalan authorities will work together to make sure Portillo is extradited to the US. Guatemalan media believe that this will create tension, because many Guatemalan want him to face trial in his own country and not in the US.

The US authorities have 40 days to submit their cause and evidence of Portillo’s alleged crimes in the US to the Guatemalan judiciary, who will then have to decide if the extradition proceeds.

Alfonso Portillo was president between 2000 and 2004 and, after his immunity was revoked after he left power and he was accused of corruption, he fled to Mexico. After his arrest was order by the Guatemalan judiciary, he has evaded arrest on several occasions.

Prensa Libre (Guatemala, Spanish)

La Hora (Guatemala, Spanish)

Venezuela: Chávez appoints new vice-president amid street protests

altVenezuelan President Hugo Chávez appointed former Agriculture Minister, Elías Jaua, as a new vice-president, after the resignation of an old ally, Ramón Carrizález, who left the post “for personal reasons”. Jaua is an emerging figure in Chávez’s “Bolivarian revolution”.

While Jaua was being sworn in, hundreds of students took the streets of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, to protest once again over the suspension of the licence of six cable television channels that refused to broadcast a speech by President Hugo Chávez.

The demonstration took place in front of VTV, the state TV channel. The demonstrators demanded that the state media stop blaming the opposition for the current political crisis.

On Tuesday, two students died, when they took part in a pro-government demonstration in Mérida. The government blamed the opposition for the murders.

El Nacional (Venezuela, Spanish)

El Universal (Venezuela, Spanish)

Haiti: survivor found under rubble after rescue operations are suspended

altA man was taken out from under a destroyed house in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, hours after local authorities called off all rescue operation in search of survivors of the earthquake that devastated the country last week. He spent 12 days under the debris of his house.

Rico Dibrivell was rescued by US emergency teams, and it is believed that he was trapped under the rubble of a house that collapsed two days after the earthquake, as a result of an aftershock.

Earlier, Haitian President René Préval made an urgent request for 200,000 tents before the rainy season starts in May. His image has been badly damaged because many Haitian believe that he has shown incompetence in the handling of the aftermath of the earthquake.

Préval said that he will move his office to the ground of the destroyed presidential palace, as a sign of solidarity with the Haitian people, many of whom have lost their homes as a result of the tremor.

Observers believe, however that Préval is no longer capable of running the country. Amy Wilentz, a US expert on Haiti, believes that the president is incapable of giving hope to his fellow Haitians because he has lost hope himself.

El Pais (Spanish)

BBC News


Peru coffee exports growing fast

altThe exports of Peruvian coffee are due to increase substantially because some big buyers, like Starbucks and Kraft, have decided to give the thumbs up for its quality.

Traditionally, Colombian, Brazilian and Guatemalan coffee are considered the best in the continent. But, increasingly, Peruvian coffee has been improving its image due to the high-quality production coming from cooperatives and small farms on the high slopes near the headwaters of the Amazon.

The sale of coffee, which has become Peru’s biggest agricultural export, could increase by 12% in 2010 because of the growing demand from big US companies.

Peru could benefit from an increase in prices on the international markets, caused by drop in production in Brazil, Vietnam and Mexico.



More demands for funds to combat climate change

Brazil joinalted China, India and South Africa to call for more funding to fight the consequences of climate change in the developing world.

In a meeting in the Indian capital, Delhi, the environment ministers of the four countries asked the industrialised nations to start delivering the US$10 billion promised during the failed Copenhagen climate change summit.

This meeting is taking place after the UNFCCC decided to cancel the 31-January deadline for all countries that are the signatories of the UN Convention on Climate Change, to follow the Copenhagen “agreement” and start setting targets for a reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions.

Brazil is growing increasingly frustrated because of the COP15 failure and the reluctance by the industrial world to start delivering the help that has been promised for poor countries to adapt to climate change.

Portal del Medio Ambiente (Spanish)

Photo credits

Prensa Libre (Guatemala)

El Universal (Venezuela)

US Department of Defense

Public domain

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