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LAB Bulletin 19 February 2010


Haiti: race against time to help survivors amid fears of political chaos

altThe first rains have arrived and thousands of survivors are still living in makeshift camps. The aid that arrived in hundreds of flights has not reached many of those who need it. This is the situation in Haiti at the moment.

In the meantime, the United Nations has increased its emergency aid appeal to US$1.44bn, more than was sent to help the victims of the Asian tsunami. The UN has criticised the chaotic way in which victims of the earthquake have been sent assistance.

After a meeting with donors, the General Secretary of the UN, Ban-ki Moon, said: “As the rainy season is coming to Haiti, it will be extremely important to provide, on a priority basis, shelters, sanitation and other necessary humanitarian assistance.”

Former US President Bill Clinton, who is recovering from a heart operation, has added his voice to the fund-raising campaign for the reconstruction of Haiti. More than 200,000 died and 1.2 million were left homeless as a result of the tremor that devastated Port-au-Prince a month ago.

There are fears that many people in and around the Haitian capital, who are already living in highly precarious conditions, will soon have to deal with a flurry of new illnesses.

The earthquake has helped to give Latin America a new sense of urgency in its attempts to achieve some kind of integration, with the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) agreeing to contribute US$100 million to the reconstruction of Haiti. However, most of the aid is still not reaching those who need it.

In the meantime, in an interview with a news agency, Haiti’s Prime Minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, said that he feared that his government could collapse as a result of the instability created in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Bellerive told Associated Press that he had two fears: political divisions and the rainy season. “You have the feeling that some people are merely trying to provide help in order to accuse others of not doing enough. Everybody is trying to create conflict when we have common enemies, like poverty”, said Bellerive.


BBC News

El Pais (Spanish) (El Salvador, Spanish)

Bolivia: Morales appoints new judges ahead of judicial elections

altEvo Morales, the President of Bolivia, has appointed 18 new magistrates to lead the reforms planned for Bolivia’s legal system. He said that the appointments are the start of a “process of decolonisation” of the judiciary, the beginning of a “revolutionary stage” to restructure a corrupt system.

The opposition, however, sees things differently. The head of the opposition in the Senate, Germán Antelo, said the appointments were an attempt by the government to take over the judiciary. He complained that the opposition was not consulted about the appointments.

Last week, the Bolivian congress, where Morales’ party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), and its allies enjoy a comfortable majority, gave the President permission to appoint provisional judges until December, when magistrates will have to stand for elections in a popular vote, in a similar process to the one in which members of parliaments are elected.

El Diario (Bolivia, Spanish)

El Pais (Spanish)

Ariel Ramirez has died

altThe man who composed a musical piece that in many ways represented the re-emergence of a cultural revolution in Latin America in the 1070s, the Misa Criolla or Creole Mass, has died. Ariel Ramíez passed away in a private clinic on the outskirts of Buenos Aires at the age of 88.

Ramirez is among the greatest Argentinean folklorists of all times, and his Mass is known over the whole of the continent. The tenor Jose Carreras, delighted by its combination of classical rhythms with Latin American additions, recorded one of the best known versions of the mass.

As a young man, he moved from his native Santa Fe to Cordoba, where he met another giant of Latin American folklore, Atahualpa Yupanqui, who encouraged Ramírez to start composing by visiting the north of Argentina, which has a rich musical tradition.

His remains will be buried in a private ceremony after laying in state in the Argentinean Congress.

La Nación (Argentina, Spanish)


Chile: new government will postpone decision on fuel prices

altThe government-in-waiting of President-elect Sebastián Piñera has carried out its first u-turn, a few weeks before it takes office.

A decision to maintain a reduction in the price of fuel, which was taken by the outgoing government of Michelle Bachelet and that Piñera had promised to respect, will be revised later in the year.

Earlier in the month, Juan Andrés Fontaine, appointed to head the Ministry of Finance, had said that the reduction of fuel prices would be maintained but yesterday the future Minister of Economy, Felipe Larraín, said that his government will revise the measure.

The reduction ends on 25 March and it was widely expected that the new government would renew it, as it had promised. But Larraín has said that the new government will have “to study the public finances” before making a final decision. The new government will take office on 11 March.

The members of the right-wing coalition that won the general elections have disagreed over this policy. Some, like the National Renewal Party, want to maintain the current reduction, but the Democratic Independent Union, the biggest member of the coalition, wants the law to be revised.

El Mercurio (Chile, Spanish){0142DEA5-691C-4A89-93E5-12168C86EE5D}


Bolivia: natural disasters “cause thousand of victims” every week

altThe intensive rains, droughts and sleet storms that have affected the country have destroyed houses and crops, leaving at least 39,000 people homeless. The emergency services are struggling to help the survivors.

While el Chaco and Chuquisaca in the south are suffering from a serious drought, the east is experiencing heavy rains and landslides. At least 107 municipalities are being affected by extreme weather.

The situation is being blamed on El Niño, which has arrived early this year. The authorities say that emergency relief will be provided place during February and March, to be followed later in the year by the reconstruction of the affected areas.

El Diario (Bolivia, Spanish)

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