Costa Rica elects first woman president
Laura Chinchilla, elected with 49% of the votes in Sunday’s general election, has become Costa Rica’s first woman president. She does not have to face a run-off because she has won more than 40% of the votes, which is the legal requirement for a first round victory.
Chinchilla, who stood for the National Liberation Party, led by current President Oscar Arias, has promised to be independent, after she faced accusations that she was too close to the outgoing head of state.
Chinchilla addressed hundreds of followers, who gathered in the capital, San José, to celebrate the victory. She is the second woman to be elected President in Central America, after Nicaragua’s Violeta Chamorro.
Chinchilla has said that one her first priorities will be to fight street crime and drug trafficking, saying that Central America could become a battlefield in the struggle between Mexican and Colombian cartels for control of the lucrative trade. She made the fight against crime the centre point of her campaign.
Nación (Costa Rica, Spanish)
El Pais (Spanish)
Venezuela: Chávez expropriates landmark buildings
President Hugo Chávez has ordered the expropriation of important commercial buildings in central Caracas as part of his plan to preserve historic landmarks.
During his Sunday programme, Aló Presidente, Chávez said that he wants to carry on with his campaign to protect significant buildings. “It is not possible for these buildings, which that have so much history and are a legacy from our national heroes, to be occupied by tradesmen; they belong to all Venezuelans” he said.
He also called on his followers to ensure that pro-government parties win a majority in the parliamentary elections due to take place in September. At present, all members of parliament support the government because the opposition refused to take part in the last elections for congress.
“If the bourgeoisie gets a majority, they will bring down the government”, the President warned.
El Nacional (Venezuela, Spanish)
Argentina: former President has emergency heart operation
Former President Néstor Kirchner had a successful operation on Sunday, after he was rushed to hospital with a heart problem.
Kirchner was operated on in Los Arcos private hospital, where doctors repaired an artery that was causing problems to his heart. On Sunday morning, Kirchner complained that he could not move his legs. His personal physician decided that he should be immediately hospitalised.
In recent months, both the former head of state and his wife, the current President Cristina Fernández, have been accused of taking advantage of privileged information related to exchange rates to make money in the currency market. The “first couple” denies any wrongdoing.
Clarín (Argentina, Spanish)
Brazil: interest rates set to go up
Brazil could become the first country in Latin America to increase interest rates in the current economic cycle, amid fears that economic recovery could lead to inflation.
Some of the biggest commercial banks in Brazil are putting pressure on the monetary regulators to put up interest rates as early as next month.
Banco Santander and Itaú Unibanco Holding S.A. are among the big private financial institutions that are pressing Brazil’s central bank to increase interest rates by at least 0.5% in March.
Colombia: forest fires threaten natural reserve
A fire that has been destroying forests in the region of Boyacá in the northeast of the country (pictured) has reached the Iguaque natural reserve, one of the most important conservation areas in Colombia.
The fires started last Wednesday and so far 1,200 hectares, including 800 hectares of Iguaque forest, have been destroyed. Hundreds of firefighters and volunteers are trying to put out the fires and authorities say that many houses are endangered.
After flying over the area, Environment Minister Carlos Costa said that this is one of the most serious fires for many years. The national emergency authorities say that since the beginning of the year fires have affected 23 of the 32 departments and have destroyed 24,000 hectares of forest.
Yahoo environment (Spanish)
Costa Rica: Laura Chinchilla website
Colombia: El Espectador