Saturday, June 27, 2009

Center for Economic and Policy Research Newsletter: "Latin America News Round-up"

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Latin America News Round-up
June 26, 2009

Argentina's elections: a guide. GlobalPost
Fearful Argentines taking their dollar savings to Uruguay for shelter. Mercopress
Renault to invest $128 mln in Argentina. Reuters
Sanford had trade mission rendezvous. Politico

Ecuador Seeks Help in Attending to 135,000 Colombian Refugees. EFE
Ecuador Foreign Reserves Increase. Inside Costa Rica
Ecuador President's Bold Economic Plan. The Nation
Ecuador's Exports To Andean Countries -37% In April. Dow Jones Newswires

Health Care and Democracy: A Look at the Venezuelan Healthcare System. Upside Down World
Chavez Criticizes CNN Coverage. Poder360
VENEZUELA - U.S. Mayors Decry Persecution of Elected Officials. Poder360
Chavez: 'Media outlet' concession likely to end. AP

Andean Region
Doe Run Peru might be managed by its workers.
Peru to 'consider' U.N. suggestions, Congress to investigate. Indian Country Today
Something big is happening in Peru. Foreign Policy
Colombian former mayor eyes presidency. Reuters
Chile Hopes To Join OECD Before March 2010 -Finance Minister. Dow Jones Newswires

Southern Cone
Brazil's Lula signs Amazon bill. BBC
Report: Brazil's central bank chief to resign. AP
Brazil Central Bank Cuts 2009 Growth Forecast to 0.8% (Update2). Bloomberg
Brazilian accuses Lopez of racial slur at Copa Libertadores. AP

México, Central America and the Caribbean
Mexico fights resurgent dengue fever. The Miami Herald
Police chief and 91 officers detained in Mexico. AFP
Honduras heads toward crisis over referendum. AP
U.N. Official Cites Ongoing Torture in Guatemala. EFE
IMF programme already drafted - Jamaica's growth re-forecast to contract by 4%. Jamaica Gleaner
Cubans face dire formula. GlobalPost
For Haitians deported from the US, an unlikely welcome-home committee. The Christian Science Monitor

Region: Trade, Security, Economy and Integration
Mixed signals among the coca bushes. The Economist

Argentina [contents]

Argentina's elections: a guide

Making sense of Argentina's confusing elections
Anil Mundra. GlobalPost. June 26, 2009

BUENOS AIRES - "It's not that we're good; it's that the others are worse."

These optimistic words, attributed to legendary leader Juan Peron, are as applicable today as ever for many of Argentine's 27 million voters, who will elect a third of their senate and half of the Chamber of Deputies this weekend. Surveys show that many voters despair of distinguishing between the candidates or even remembering what branch of government is up for election on June 28.

And who can blame them? With a former president now running for the lower house of congress and this midterm election widely seen as a referendum on the presidency of Cristina Kirchner, the branches of the government are looking pretty gnarled up. Voters have scarcely had time to gather their thoughts since the passage of the president's inscrutable motion to hold the elections four months earlier than originally planned. That was just the first of this harried campaign season's many quirks. But nothing comes as much of a surprise in Argentina's political circus.

The parties

Well, to start with, there are 713 of them. That's right. From Justicialists to Union Federalists to Intransigents, from Communists to Leftist Socialists to Radical Socialists, and pretty much every other variety imaginable.

But in case that wasn't complicated enough, those parties aren't the ones that usually get on the ballot. Party politics in Argentina run on constantly shifting allegiances and estrangements. About 400 of the parties are grouped into almost a hundred coalitions. Even worse, one party may have a left and a right wing, and countless sub-schisms.

Such is the main contest this time around: the race in the province of Buenos Aires, which pits Peronists against Peronists, an old sibling rivalry in Argentina. On one side is the current ruling party, an assemblage of mostly leftist Peronists grouped as the "Justicialist Front for Victory." On the other is the Union-PRO, a motley crew of right-wing Peronists and business moguls.

To make things even more complicated, there are allegations that this opposition would join the ruling party immediately upon entry into the congress. Union-PRO leaders deny the smear - not on the grounds that it is absurd, but merely false - and, in an I'm rubber-you're-glue moment, stick it right back onto the other party that started the rumors.

Party alliances crop up so quickly that they require the coinage of new ad hoc names, like "the Front of the Left and the Workers, PTS-MAS-Socialist Left." And in the personalistic political tradition of Argentina, no one is surprised at the use of the term Kirchnerism for the front of friends of the first family. Which brings us to...

The people

Gen. Juan Peron has dominated Argentine politics for most of the past six decades, even when his name was outlawed, and one may have noticed that he still rules Argentina from the grave. But the living Peronist personality dominating this election is the previous president and current first gentleman, Nestor Kirchner. In contrast to his rather unpopular wife, Kirchner enjoyed approval ratings in excess of 70 percent as president. But that still doesn't guarantee him and his alliance, the Justicialist Front for Victory, a victory in the tight contest for the deputy chairmanships of Buenos Aires province.

Kirchner comes from the Patagonian province of Santa Cruz - where he was governor before winning the presidency - about as far from Buenos Aires one can get before the "fin del mundo" Tierra del Fuego. So why is he running in the province of Buenos Aires?

Well, because he can: The presidential residence where he lives with his wife is in the provincial suburbs. And because he should: The province of Buenos Aires - not to be confused with the city, which is a federal district with its own representatives - contains more than 40 percent of the Argentine electorate and 70 of the 257 deputies in congress. Compare that to the 5 or 10 that most other states get and it's clear that Buenos Aires is the prize of this contest.

But even though we've been talking about candidates, the truth is that no voter can elect a person. Argentine elections run on a list system: Parties name their favorite people, and citizens then vote for the party slate they like. Any party with more than 3 percent of the vote gets a proportional number of seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

If it weren't hard enough for voters to keep track of the 35 candidates on a party's list, a new fun factor has been introduced by Nestor Kirchner: the so-called testimonial candidacies. That's a euphemism. It refers to candidates who are signed up to make the list look good but who have no intention of taking the post if elected because they already hold another office that they prefer. There are well over 30 such candidates, from mayors up to the governor of Buenos Aires province, on the Front for Victory's lists.

The platforms

What's it all really about, anyway? Well, Kirchner threatens that his defeat would plunge Argentina back into the days of economic crisis. Meanwhile, his prime opponent, Francisco De Narvaez, accuses him of harboring Hugo Chavez-like nationalization plans - although, just four days before the election, De Narvaez admitted that he would also want to nationalize much of the energy sector.

There are also some outstanding debates. A new communications bill, for example, is being pushed by the Kirchnerists as an attempt to decentralize the media, but opponents fear that it's a gambit for more state control of speech.

But the basic undercurrent of the election is a renegotiation of the ruling power that was destabilized last year in the government's conflict with Argentina's farmers. President Kirchner's attempt to raise export taxes divided her adminstration and lost her popular and political support. So that's really what's at stake this election: It's not so much about the issues as it is about...

The power

Not long ago, the National Congress was a virtual conveyor belt for both Kirchners' proposals. Now the public is considering whether to leave the golden scepter in the Kirchners' hands, or to paralyze their reign. There are even some murmurings that if the first couple's party were to lose its majority in the congress, President Kirchner would step down before the end of her term to avoid the pains of lameness. No one's admitting to that, but such presidential resignations are historically a common practice in Argentina, a country that has frequently had trouble navigating the compromises demanded in a balanced-power democracy.

Fearful Argentines taking their dollar savings to Uruguay for shelter

Mercopress. June 25, 2009

Safe deposit boxes in Uruguay are overflowing with US dollars from fearful Argentines concerned about the situation in their country and the results of Sunday's mid term elections, according to banking sources in Montevideo.

These funds do not figure in any banking balance since they are not formally deposited and can't be computed as "deposits from non residents". Furthermore the exact sums are not known, no interest is delivered on these funds and on the contrary depositors must pay a fee for the rent of the safe deposit box.

"The Uruguayan banking system is receiving a constant flow of funds which the Argentines are bringing over to Uruguay, although most of the money that makes it formally to the system is triangled to other world markets", said Gustavo Perez president of the bank employees union.

"There is a flight of capitals from Argentina", underlined Perez who also confirmed that some banks had to expand their safe deposit boxes supply to meet the demand from Argentine clients. "This is particularly evident in Montevideo, Colonia and Paysandú", he added.

Neighbouring Argentina highly sensitive to political affairs, has always had Uruguay, its solid banking system and reliable politics, as a first resort refuge. It's less than 20 minutes to Montevideo by air from Buenos Aires; two hours in a ferry to Colonia and to reach Paysandu, Argentines only have to drive across an international bridge.

According to Argentine banking sources during the first quarter of this year, 3.627 billion US dollars left the country compared to 3.365 in the same period a year ago. In the third quarter of last year it had reached 5 billion and in the last quarter, 4.7 billion USD.

The cost of a safe deposit box in a Montevideo bank can range from 100 to 200 US dollars depending on its physical capacity, plus the annual rent cost.

Non resident deposits in the Uruguayan banking system have increased by 1.1 billion US dollars since December 2007 of which 236 million this year.

"But it's much more what has been effectively triangled to other banking systems without having spent a single day in Montevideo", said a local bank manager. Funds from Argentina over the last two years have also been invested in summer properties along the Uruguayan Atlantic coast or in farmland.

Union leader Perez said that in Uruguay, which is also holding primary presidential elections in all parties this Sunday ahead of the general election next October, "fortunately none of this is happening; Uruguayans trust their banking system which is solid and abides by clear, international regulations and recommendations".

Renault to invest $128 mln in Argentina
Reuters. June 23, 2009

BUENOS AIRES, June 23 (Reuters) - French carmaker Renault will invest 500 million pesos ($128 million) between 2009 and 2011 in its Argentine unit to begin production of a new vehicle and modernize a plant, the company said on Tuesday.

Renault (RENA.PA) did not provide details on the new model or when production will begin.

Some 335 million pesos will go to the production of the vehicle, with 165 million pesos destined to upgrade the company's plant in the central province of Cordoba.

The investment comes as Argentine auto production has fallen 35.5 percent in the first five months of the 2009 as a slowing economy saps local car demand.

Renault said the vehicle will be targeted to the Latin American market.

Renault produces some 60,000 vehicles a year at its Santa Isabel plant, including the Clio, Symbol and Kangoo models. ($1 = 3.90 Argentine pesos) (Reporting by Lucas Bergman; Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Gary Hill)

Sanford had trade mission rendezvous

Kenneth P. Vogel. Politico. June 26, 2009

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford announced Thursday he would repay the state for portions of a 2008 taxpayer-funded Latin American trade mission during which he rendezvoused with his Argentine mistress.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Sanford said "while the purpose of this trip was an entirely professional and appropriate business development trip, I made a mistake while I was there in meeting with the woman who I was unfaithful to my wife with. That has raised some very legitimate concerns and questions, and as such I am going to reimburse the state for the full cost of the Argentina leg of this trip."

Sanford's office did not immediately know the cost of the Argentinean leg.

But after making a Freedom of Information Act request for documentation of Sanford's expenses and those of his traveling party, POLITICO obtained several pages of receipts from the state's Commerce Department, including a $2,310.91 bill from the Buenos Aires Hilton, where the delegation stayed for two nights.

Sanford spent an additional day and night in Buenos Aires before the rest of the delegates arrived, the Commerce Department revealed in a statement to POLITICO.

The trade mission, which Sanford led along with longtime friend and South Carolina Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor, included business development and trade meetings in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, between June 21 and June 28, 2008.

One week after its conclusion-on July 4-Sanford emailed his mistress, who has been identified by Argentine press as 43-year-old Maria Belen Shapur: "Know that I miss you. Unbeleivably (sic) hard to imagine it has been a week."

She responded: "I wasn't aware till we met last week, the strong feelings I had for you, and believe me, I haven't felt this since I was in my teen ages, when afterwards I got married. I do love you, I can feel it in my heart, and although I don't know if we'll ever be able to meet again this has been the best that has happened to me in a long time You made me realized (sic) how you feel when you realy (sic) love somebody and how much you want to be beside the beloved. Last Friday I would had stayed embrassing (sic) and kissing you forever."

On Wednesday, when Sanford confessed to the affair during a tearful and rambling press conference, he said he had known the woman for eight years, but that their affair had only begun one year ago.

That's almost exactly the timeframe of the week-long trade mission, which included a delegation of about 30 South Carolina business and political leaders. Their agenda called for them to attend meetings in Sao Paulo before heading to Cordoba, Argentina, for a day of "personal time," on June 24, then on to Buenos Aires on June 25 for more meetings.

Taylor's spokeswoman Kara Borie in a statement issued Thursday afternoon confirmed that Sanford skipped the Cordoba leg and instead went straight to Buenos Aires "for official state meetings."

The trade delegation "did not accompany the Governor to the meetings in Argentina," according to the statement, which said that Sanford was "accompanied by a project manager from the Department of Commerce." That is "standard practice for meetings with public officials and prospective companies," said Borie, who provided POLITICO with an undated photograph of Sanford and Buenos Aires Gov. Daniel Scioli, which she said was taken during a June 26 meeting between the two men.

She also provided a Spanish-language release issued by the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires and dated June 26, 2008, which says in part: "Mark Sanford met today in La Plata with the Governor of Buenos Aires, Daniel Scioli. The governors shared ideas and opinions about how to expand commercial trade and investments between their districts. At the end of the meeting, Governor Sanford invited Governor Scioli to visit South Carolina."

According to the agenda, the trade mission included meetings on sugarcane, ethanol, and other renewable fuels.

Those subjects potentially overlap with Maria Belen Shapur's profession, according to Brazilian media, which reported that she works for an international agribusiness firm called Bunge y Born.

William Jackson, a South Carolina businessman who participated in the mission and spent some time with Sanford during it, said in an email to POLITICO that Sanford's mistress was not officially involved in the mission.

"I am not aware of any meeting with her or her participation in any events," he said, though he conceded, "I do not know Maria."

Ecuador [contents]

Ecuador Seeks Help in Attending to 135,000 Colombian Refugees
Virginia Hebrero. EFE. June 25, 2009

GENEVA - A top Ecuadorian official appealed on Thursday to the international community to acknowledge the humanitarian crisis generated by the presence of 135,000 Colombian refugees in his country as well as the financial effort Quito is making to attend to them.

Internal and External Security Minister Miguel Carvajal traveled to Geneva to inform the U.N. Refugee Agency and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights about the situation faced by Ecuador, the Latin American country with the largest number of refugees stemming from Colombia's internal conflict.

"This is the most significant refugee situation in the Western Hemisphere, but it is little known in the international arena," he told Efe during an interview in Geneva.

He recalled that half of the 135,000 Colombian refugees "live along Ecuador's northern border with Colombia, a poor region, and they don't live in refugee camps but in the local communities."

Ecuador, therefore, asked the U.N. Refugee Agency last year for $23 million through 2011 to fund programs to assist those communities that take in refugees, although that money did not suffice to cover Quito's expenses.

"Ours is an open-arms, solidarity policy, but one that implies expenditures on health, education, energy. We estimate that per year Ecuador invests between $39 million and $50 million just in (programs to benefit) refugees," Carvajal said.

That total does not include the enormous security and military re-equipment costs Quito has incurred to prevent illegal armed groups from crossing the border, Ecuadorian authorities say.

"Ecuador's northern border has seen its security, arms-trafficking (and) drug trafficking problems worsen, because there are close to 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of coca crops (in the region) facing Ecuador, and processing (that raw material into cocaine) requires laboratories, many of them installed on the border, on both sides," the minister said.

On the Colombian side, he added, control is exercised by illegal armed forces - leftist rebels and rightist militias - while the Colombian state has a weak presence.

Colombia, which receives roughly $500 million a year in military aid from the United States, has a 400,000-strong army.

"We're talking about close to 3,000 (Colombian) troops and police in the best of cases, and two fixed and two mobile checkpoints along a 700-kilometer (435-mile) border, 80 percent of which is jungle," Carvajal said.

"It's a very permeable border, where the irregular groups cross into Ecuador, are repelled, and there are attempts to control the drug-trafficking corridors," he added. "And it's under these circumstances that we receive the Colombians who flee from the conflict."

Carvajal said Ecuador has some 7,000 soldiers and police stationed along its northern border and plans to deploy another 4,000 members of its security forces to the area.

"The armed forces have 40,000 troops, half of whom are volunteers who, under the constitution, cannot be assigned to areas of military risk, and the other half professionals; that means that of our 20,000 professionals we have up to 11,000 in that region," he said.

Maintaining that military presence "means at least $100 million per year, aside from the investment Ecuador has had to make in terms of military re-equipment costs after the bombing" by Bogota of a clandestine Colombian rebel camp on Ecuadorian soil, he added.

On March 1, 2008, Colombia launched an airstrike on a hideout of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Killed in the bombing and subsequent raid by ground forces were 26 people, including FARC second-in-command Raul Reyes, an Ecuadorian citizen and several Mexican college students.

Ecuador severed diplomatic ties with Colombia two days after the attack and relations between Quito and Bogota remain tense.

Referring to Colombian allegations that Ecuador's leftist government is providing support to the FARC, Carvajal said that "is a politically motivated argument to hide the problem faced by Colombia," the scene of a decades-long battle among rebels, security forces and right-wing paramilitaries.

"The Ecuadorian government has clearly expressed that it will not tolerate the presence of any illegal armed group, and if people say there's tolerance that would be ignoring the problem and the effort made by Ecuador over the past 2 1/2 years," the minister said.

"If Colombia is aware of the location of members of the FARC let them tell us. We have a permanent military and police communication mechanism" that is functioning despite the rupture in diplomatic relations, Carvajal said. EFE

Ecuador Foreign Reserves Increase
Inside Costa Rica. June 26, 2009

Quito - Ecuador's readily available foreign reserves (RILD) grew by $206 million, reaching $2.438 billion, a Central Bank report said on Thursday.

This increase is attributed to deposits made by the national government, the financial system, the Ecuadorian Institute of Social Security and public businesses, according to the document.

This amount also includes oil revenues (the country's main export) and international credits, the report adds.

RILD secures the circulation of the US dollar in this nation, as it is the foreign currency adopted in 2000 to replace the old national currency, the sucre.

Ecuador President's Bold Economic Plan
Barbara Crossette. The Nation. June 26, 2009

If the last three days of economic debate at the United Nations proves to be a guide, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador may be emerging as the leading intellectual of the Latin American left, at least among Spanish-speaking countries that have been most vociferous in their opposition to the United States.

An urbane politician and a recognized economist with European and American degrees, Correa came to the United Nations this week armed with the expected rhetoric he shares with Hugo Chávez, Daniel Ortega and Fidel Castro. But he also came with a plan. In a speech in the General Assembly on Thursday, he laid out some concrete ideas about how Latin America could, by creating its own regional financial institutions, fiscal cushions and eventually perhaps a regional central bank and common currency, build an economic future much less reliant on international lending institutions and the damaging swings of fortune caused by a dependence on the industrial countries and the "clan of the powerful."

Correa's presence may turn out to be the highlight of the beleaguered Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development, which was first billed as a summit, then a high-level meeting. As it headed toward a mostly bash-capitalism session planned for early June, various nations began objecting to a draft declaration being written, and the meeting was postponed for three weeks to achieve some consensus on a final document. Even with that in place, almost all government leaders opted out. Along with several Caribbean prime ministers, Correa was the only president to appear, and he made the most of it.

Notably absent from the UN meeting, attended mostly by ministerial-level delegates from around the world, were Correa's friends and allies. President Evo Morales of Bolivia canceled out at the last moment and, to the personal disappointment of Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, the General Assembly president from Nicaragua who had staked so much on this event, his own President Ortega stayed away. Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan president, did not attend, and the Cuban leadership sent a trade minister.

But the forward-looking, take-charge projects proposed by Correa (who spoke by telephone with President Obama early this month) have resonance in other regions. In seminars and round tables on the margins of the larger gathering, African Union members spoke of the necessity for strong regional institutions on their continent as well as national stimulus plans, enhanced intraregional trade and investment in regional infrastructure so that, as one ambassador described it, he wouldn't need to fly from East Africa to West Africa by way of Paris. In Asia, regional organizations have been working on projects along these lines for years, with mixed success. The model is the European Union.

Chile's UN ambassador, Heraldo Muñoz, also spoke in a panel discussion about the importance of long-range national economic planning, describing how his country had banked or invested the profits of boom years so that it could "loosen its belt" to sustain social programs in tougher times.

The man of the moment this week--and not just because he was the only president in attendance--Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado, 46, was born in Guayaquil and got his first economics degree there from the Universidad Catóolica. He later earned a master's degree in economics from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium and both an MS and PhD in economics from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is fluent in French and English, but speaks publicly only in Spanish as a matter of policy, he told reporters. He had been finance minister of Ecuador before being elected president in 2006 and re-elected in 2009.

Correa has been a thorn in the side of the United States, questioning the value of a hemispheric free trade agreement and putting oil and mining companies on notice that they will have to turn over much more of their earnings to Ecuador, though he has stopped short of nationalization. (He has also had a long-running dispute with a Brazilian construction company, Odebrecht.) In a nod to Chávez, Correa praises the Bolivarian Alternative for the People of our Americas, an alternative free trade zone, which Ecuador signed on to this week.

On Thursday he repeated in his General Assembly speech that he would like to see the International Monetary Fund and World Bank abolished, but since that won't happen any time soon, they should be stripped of much of their power. (He also added in an aside that he gets tired of seeing Latin American finance ministers rounding out their careers in IMF and World Bank jobs.)

In Ecuador, he has expanded his presidential powers in a Chávez-like referendum. Last December, he renounced the country's foreign debt, calling it "immoral" and "illegitimate," but subsequently bought back 91 percent of it, according to the Wall Street Journal. Even his critics say he understands how economies work.

One international institution Correa wants to strengthen is the United Nations and its agencies, through which he called for the channeling of development funds. There would be problems here, too. The Economic and Social Council has all but failed to function, and the General Assembly, while dominated by the developing nations, lacks unity even among them, with richer developing nations looking to join the North and not to represent the South. Giving the lumbering UN some of the policy and disbursement powers of the IMF and World Bank certainly would not get support from industrial nations.

Still, said Correa, "This meeting is the beginning."

Ecuador's Exports To Andean Countries -37% In April
Mercedes Alvaro. Dow Jones Newswires. June 26, 2009

QUITO -(Dow Jones)- Ecuador's exports to Andean countries totaled $141 million in April, down 37% from $223 million registered in the same month of 2008, the central bank said.

Ecuadorian imports from Andean countries totaled $200 million in the same period, down 47% from $375 million registered in the previous year.

The Andean countries are Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru.

The Central Bank added that $64 million, or 46%, of the exports went to Peru; $48 million, or 34%, to Colombia; $27 million, or 19%, to Venezuela; and the remainder to Bolivia.

On the import side of the ledger, the report said that $106 million corresponded to Colombia, $51 million to Peru, $42 million to Venezuela and the remainder to Bolivia.

In 2008, Ecuador's exports to the Andean countries totaled $3.20 billion while imports from the group totaled $4.67 billion.

All figures have been rounded.

Venezuela [contents]

Health Care and Democracy: A Look at the Venezuelan Healthcare System
Caitlin McNulty. Upside Down World. June 25, 2009

The right to health care is guaranteed in the Venezuelan Constitution, which was written and ratified by the people in 1999. Through implementing a state-funded social program called Barrio Adentro, or inside the barrio, free comprehensive health care is available to all Venezuelans. Beginning in June 2003 through a trade pact with Cuba, Venezuela began to bring Cuban doctors, medical technology, and medications into rural and urban communities free of charge in exchange for low-cost oil. The 1.5 million dollar per year program expanded to provide a broad network of small neighborhood clinics, larger regional clinics, and hospitals which aim to serve the entire Venezuelan population. (1) Chavez has referred to this new health care system as the "democratization of health care" stating that "health care has become a fundamental social right and the state will assume the principal role in the construction of a participatory system for national public health." (2) In Venezuela, not only is health care a right; it is recognized as an essential for true participatory democracy.

Some of what characterizes this movement towards health care for all includes popular participation, preventative medicine, and evaluation of community health issues. Western medicine typically operates in a top-down fashion. Doctors treat symptoms, and often fail to evaluate the larger picture of community health issues or teach prevention. (3) In a private for-profit system, there is little incentive to prevent costly illnesses. In Venezuela, however, Barrio Adentro began constructing clinics within neighborhoods where many had never been to a doctor. Through this program, a community can organize to receive funding to build a clinic and bring in doctors. The community is responsible for creating health committees, the members of which go door to door to assess the specific health issues of their community. Doctors who live in the communities also make house calls. (4) People participate in the process of serving the health needs of the entire population.

The extensive health program is also being used to train a new generation of Venezuelan doctors. The training program takes place within the clinic system itself and relies heavily on experiential learning. The program seeks to build a new relationship between doctor and patient based on the values of service, solidarity and compassion. Doctors participating in the training program are coming from the communities they are learning in and serving, building on their intimate knowledge of the communities to provide truly compassionate and personalized care. Using popular forums, medical professionals are able to respond to the needs of the community and offer education, treatment and consultation addressing unique public health issues.(6)

Although the system began by focusing exclusively on preventative health, it has expanded to include emergency health services, mental health services, surgeries, cancer treatment, dental care, access to optometrists as well as free glasses and contact lenses, support systems for those with disabilities and their families, as well as access to a large variety of medical specialists. They have succeeded in taking an under funded, corrupt public health care system and changing not only the quality and accessibility but also the mentality of those working there. Instead of a for-profit industry systematically denying access to large sectors of the population, health care in Venezuela is seen as a basic human right. No one is turned away, and no one is denied care. In Venezuela, they treat whole person, not simply their illness, and money stays where it belongs- outside of the health care system.(7)

During my time in Venezuela, I developed a cough that went on for three weeks and progressively worsened. Finally, after I had become incredibly congested and developed a fever, I decided to attend a Barrio Adentro clinic. The closest one available was a Barrio Adentro II Centro de Diagonostico Integral (CDI) and I headed in without my medical records or calling to make an appointment. Immediately, I was ushered into a small room where Carmen, a friendly Cuban doctor, began questioning me about my symptoms. She listened to my lungs and walked me over to another examination room where, again without waiting, I had x-rays taken. Afterwards, the technician walked me to a chair and apologized profusely that I had to wait for the x-rays to be developed, promising that it would take no more than five minutes. Sure enough, five minutes later he returned with both x-rays developed. Carmen studied the x-rays and informed me that I had pneumonia, showing me the telltale shadows. She sent me away with my x-rays, three medications to treat my pneumonia, congestion, and fever, and made me promise to come back if my conditioned failed to improve or worsened within three days.
I walked out of the clinic with a diagnosis and treatment within twenty-five minutes of entering, without paying a dime. There was no wait, no paperwork, and no questions about my ability to pay, my nationality, or whether, as a foreigner, I was entitled to free comprehensive health care. There was no monetary value connected with my physical well-being; the care I received was not contingent upon my ability to pay. I was treated with dignity, respect, and compassion, my illness was cured and I was able to continue with my journey in Venezuela.

This past year, a family friend was not so lucky. At the age of 56, she was going back to school and was uninsured. She came down with what she thought was a severe case of the flu, and as her condition worsened she decided not to see a doctor because of the cost. She died at home in bed, losing her life to a system that did not respect her basic human right to survive. Her death is not an isolated incident. Over 18,000 United States residents die every year because of their lack of prohibitively expensive health insurance. The United States has the distinct honor of being the "only wealthy industrialized nation that does not ensure that all citizens have coverage".(8) Instead, we have commodified the public health and well being of those live in the US, leaving them on their own to obtain insurance. Those whose jobs do not provide insurance, can't get enough hours to qualify for health care coverage through their workplace, are unemployed, or have "previously existing conditions" that exclude them from coverage are forced to choose between the potentially fatal decision of refusing medical care and accumulating medical bills that trap them in an inescapable cycle of debt. And sometimes, that decision is made for them. Doctors often ask that dreaded question; "do you have insurance?" before scheduling critical tests, procedures, or treatments. When the answer is no, treatments that were deemed necessary before are suddenly canceled as the ability to pay becomes more important than the patient's health.(9)

It is estimated that there are over fifty million United States residents currently living without health insurance, a number that will skyrocket as unemployment rates increase and people lose their work-based health care coverage in this time of international financial crisis.(10) Already this year, 7.5 million people have lost work-related coverage. Budget cuts for the state of Washington this year will remove over forty thousand people from Washington Basic Health, a subsidized program which already has a waiting list of seventeen thousand people.(11) As I returned to the US from Venezuela, I was faced with the realization that as a society, the United States places a monetary value on life. That we make life and death judgments based on an individual's ability to pay. And that someone with the same condition I had recently recovered from had died because, according to our system, her life wasn't insured.

Many in the United States fear that people would abuse a free health care system, causing overcrowding and a compromised level of care. Others claim that a single payer system would limit the freedoms of both doctor and patient. These claims, propagated by the corporate media in the United States, are a hollow attempt to keep those in the US from organizing to demand single payer health care. Primary care and preventative medicine are seen as the first steps towards sustainable universal health care, keeping people out of costly hospital stays, tests, and treatments down the road. Socializing the costs of medicine keeps costs low by preventing expensive treatments and health problems. It is difficult to understand how much quality, free health care means until you find yourself in a position of vulnerability and need. I felt a sense of security traveling in Venezuela that I do not feel in the United States; in Venezuela, there is a safety net ready to catch you when you fall. People in the US must ask themselves, as a country, where our values lie and how we have not only let people slip through the cracks but worked to systematically exclude them. Do we believe that insurance corporations and the medical industrial complex should be profiting from denying care and keeping sick people from receiving treatment? Or do we believe that care should be separate from an individual's ability to pay? As a nation, we must embrace our humanity and value life over profits.


1 Wilpert, Gregory. Changing Venezuela The History and Policies of the Chavez Government. New York: Verso, 2006.

2 "Mision Barrio Adentro." Mision Barrio Adentro. 02 June 2009 <>.

3 Wilpert, Gregory. Changing Venezuela The History and Policies of the Chavez Government. New York: Verso, 2006.

4 "Mision Barrio Adentro." Mision Barrio Adentro. 02 June 2009 <>.

6 "Mision Barrio Adentro." Mision Barrio Adentro. 02 June 2009 <>.

7 ibid

8 "Insuring America's Health: Principles and Recommendations -." Institute of Medicine. 02 June 2009 <>.


10 "Census Revises Estimates of the Number of Uninsured People - Center on Budget and Policy Priorities." Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 02 June 2009 <>.


Chavez Criticizes CNN Coverage

Poder360. June 26, 2009

President Hugo Chavez criticized CNN's broad coverage of singer Michael Jackson's death, which occurred during Hondura's political crisis, wherein leader Manuel Zelaya was "even facing death". Chavez said "CNN broadcast regrettable news, given that it involves the death of a human being, Michael Jackson. But the entire evening? What prizes did he win; how many records did he sell?" Chavez said the coverage of Jackson's death represents "the perverted values of capitalism" and invited the viewing public of his Aló Presidente program "to fight the cultural war every day".

VENEZUELA - U.S. Mayors Decry Persecution of Elected Officials

Poder360. June 26, 2009

The cases of Manuel Rosales and Antonio Ledezma were the focus of a press release by U.S. mayors

The U.S. Conference of Mayors condemned the intimidation and persecution of freely elected officials, governments and administrations in Venezuela who do not identify with President Hugo Chavez. In a statement entitled "The Undermining of Democracy and Democratic City Governance in Venezuela", the association referred to the cases of Maracaibo's Mayor Manuel Rosales, who is exiled in Lima after alleging he was politically persecuted, and of the case of the mayor of metropolitan Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, who was stripped of his budget and authority which were then turned over to a new leader handpicked by President Hugo Chavez. The community of local officials condemned "the undermining of governance and the principle of freely and independently elected city officials, governments and administrations in Venezuela".

Chavez: 'Media outlet' concession likely to end
AP. June 25, 2009

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - President Hugo Chavez made a thinly veiled threat against an opposition television station on Thursday, hours after dozens of protesters took to the streets in a show of support for the network.

Without mentioning Globovision's name, Chavez called on the people to be on the alert for a conspiracy "that has to do with a media outlet."

"The possibility exists that the concession they hold will come to an end," Chavez said.

"Every day the possibility becomes more likely," he said, adding that the outlet's concession could be revoked if it "violated laws, challenged the government, started rumors."

In recent weeks, Chavez's government has stepped up its confrontation with Globovision - the only remaining strongly anti-Chavez channel on the open airwaves. Earlier this month, the president urged Globovision's executives to reflect on the station's tough criticism of his government, or else it "won't be on the airwaves much longer."

Prosecutors and regulators have since taken a range of actions against Globovision and its owner. The telecommunications regulator asked prosecutors to determine if Globovision is responsible for a talk show guest's suggestion that foes might kill Chavez - a probe that could potentially force the station off the air.

To condemn the government's actions, dozens of demonstrators wearing red gags over their mouths protested outside a government building in the capital on Thursday.

The group, A World Without a Gag, organized the protest on the Internet and called for demonstrations both in Venezuela and at diplomatic missions abroad. Small protests were held in cities including Miami and Santiago, Chile.

"We're here to reject the government's attacks against the media and to demand of President Hugo Chavez that he please respect the media, which are the voice of the people," said Isabel Sanchez, a 60-year-old housewife.

She held a sign bearing the name of another anti-Chavez channel, Radio Caracas Television, which was forced off the airwaves in 2007 when the government refused to renew its broadcast license. It has since moved to cable.

Andean Region [contents]

Doe Run Peru might be managed by its workers

Isabel Guerra. June 25, 2009

Doe Run Peru's conflicts might reach a solution very soon, because, according to the congressman Jorge Del Castillo, the workers will present a legal claim in order to have the judicial management administration of La Oroya smelter.

The workers' goal is to avoid the company to shut down operations, which would jeopardize their jobs.

Del Castillo, who is the mediator in the conlict at the workers' request, said that once the courts authorize the measure, another company will be hired to assume responsibility for the mining complex's administration.

Doe Run has been facing problems since 4 months ago, when some bank refused to extend more credits.

The company has not complied yet neither with its creditors nor with the environment clean-up that it was supposed to do.

Peru to 'consider' U.N. suggestions, Congress to investigate
Renzo Pipoli. Indian Country Today. June 26, 2009

The government of Peruvian President Alan Garcia will "consider" recommendations by the United Nations to set up an investigative commission to find out who caused the June 5 clashes between policemen and Natives that killed at least 33 people.

"We will always consider the suggestion," said Rosario Fernandez, Peruvian justice minister, following a special mid-June visit by a U.N. envoy that recommended an independent investigation where Natives will feel represented.

"We have informed him that in Congress an investigative commission will be set up, but evidently we accept with good disposition the suggestions that are given to us because I believe they were all done in good faith by the envoy," Fernandez said June 20.

Peruvian congressional investigations have a record of not finding guilt in government officials. There are no Amazon Native representatives in Congress.

A 2008 investigation of officials close to Garcia over allegations of bribes and luxury gifts in exchange for oil and gas licenses ended with all officials close to Garcia free of any guilt. The journalist who supplied audio taped evidence to local media - forcing an investigation and resignations - was the only one sanctioned by Congress.

U.N. Report

Fernandez's reaction came after U.N. special envoy for indigenous people Jaime Anaya visited Peru June 17 - 19 to investigate the killings. Fernandez said Anaya concluded that "there was not any genocide" in Peru.

Peruvian Vice President Luis Giampietri echoed the comment along with other officials and separately said those accusing Peru of genocide should apologize. "What we had was no genocide but a homicide - a homicide of policemen." He assured Peruvian reporters that Anaya himself had concluded so.

Yet, in a special report by the envoy published at the end of Anaya's visit, he did not reach any such conclusion but called for a "complete and objective" investigation of the killings by a special group that should be formed with Native representation.

Anaya's doubts of the official version are shared by most Peruvians. According to a survey of 1,000 Peruvians in 16 cities conducted by leading local pollster Apoyo, 63 percent believed there were more Natives dead than police, and 57 percent said Natives had been right in organizing protests.

Anaya also encouraged the participation of "the international community" in investigations. He reminded Peru that any treatment of Natives must conform to international accords ratified by Peru.

Native Persecution

The estimated 350,000 Natives in Peru claim that a "persecution" of their leaders continues after the success of protests in getting Congress to repeal laws that Garcia enacted last year - without discussion in Congress - to ease Amazon land sale.

Daysi Zapata, AIDESEP's acting president, said June 23 that Peruvian security forces continued to arrest Native leaders apparently as reprisals following the successful protest that involved nearly 60-day highway blockades.

Native leader Alberto Pizango is already living in Managua with political asylum. A state attorney is trying to prosecute him and other leaders, still in Peru, who are blamed for killing police.

The Peruvian ombudsman's office has listed the names of 24 dead policemen. The official lists only name nine dead civilians. The government insists just five of those were Natives.

The list of 24 dead policemen includes last names such as Yanac, Huanci, Tinoco, Choque, Cahuana and Mayhuasca which are all typical Peruvian indigenous names.

Something big is happening in Peru
Foreign Policy. June 26, 2009

During the ongoing political crisis in Iran, another less noticed "revolution" has been going on in Peru with relatively little international attention, but potentially with lasting consequences for both the country and its role in the global economy.

Over the past two weeks, indigenous protesters have successfully forced the Peruvian protesters have successfully forced the government to reverse planned land reforms that would have opened their traditional land to investment and exploration by international energy companies.

The demonstrations against the reform turned violent earlier this month in a confrontation that left 50 dead, including 23 police officers. Peru's prime minister offered to resign over the controversy after the government caved to the Indians demands. The leader of the protest movement has fled into exile in Nicaragua after being charged with inciting the violence.

President Alan Garcia has come under fire for his insensitivity to the violence and for comparing the protesters to "garden watchdogs" protecting their food. Garcia had framed the new development as both an economic opportunity for the region, a way of clamping down on illegal logging, and a way to combat drug trafficking by increasing government presence.

Granted, the news has been dominated by Iran this month for good reason, but protests leading to the killing of 23 police officers, the reversal of a major government decisions affecting multinational corporations, and the resignation of a head of government, seems like a pretty big deal. I think it's safe to say that if this had happened in Asia or the Middle East it would have been front page news in the United States.

Consider how intertwined it is with U.S. foreign policy, it's always surprising how little discussion Latin American affairs (unless Hugo or Fidel are talking) merits in the United States. Peru's largely ignored situation is a perect example. Since when are race, money, violence, and drugs not interesting topics?

Colombian former mayor eyes presidency
Patrick Markey. Reuters. June 25, 2009

MEDELLIN, Colombia, June 25 (Reuters) - His casual, blue-jeans style contrasts sharply with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's buttoned-down image, but Sergio Fajardo believes he can replace the incumbent in next year's election.

While Uribe considers a 2010 re-election bid, Fajardo, a former Medellin mayor praised for turning around a city that was once a byword for violence, is steadily going about the business of promoting his candidacy.

Polls show Uribe is a Goliath, outweighing any rival just 10 months from the May election, even though he would need a change in the constitution to allow him to seek a third term.

Scores of would-be candidates wait in the wings -- including allies of the president -- but when pollsters take Uribe out of the election equation, Fajardo proves to be a strong contender.

A U.S.-educated math professor who sees parallels in U.S. President Barack Obama's grass-roots campaign to rejuvenate politics, Fajardo says Colombia needs to break a cycle of corruption and political polarization.

"Colombia needs strong moral leadership, and that is the big challenge. Here there is huge corruption, where we have lived in a society enclosed by violence," Fajardo said. "What is needed is a new start. That is our proposal."

Reluctant to discuss concrete policies for now, Fajardo, 53, acknowledges he sounds idealistic talking about a fresh start in a country marked by four decades of guerrilla war.

Transparency in government would be one key focus and he acknowledges the success of Uribe's popular U.S.-backed security policies, but sees a need for a strong emphasis on social and economic development.

In his Medellin office, a table is scattered with newspapers and notepads with diagrams of proposals. Fajardo, the son of an architect, reveals his academic past by scribbling ideas on a white board to make a point.

His major hurdle is Uribe, who many Colombians say saved a state that once teetered on the edge of failure. But he sees room for a new approach as Uribe's supporters -- "Uribistas" -- and opponents squabble over his future.

"I have always said, neither Uribista nor anti-Uribista. It can't be about just that," Fajardo said.


Uribe's security drive has battered the FARC rebels and he negotiated the disbanding of 30,000 outlawed paramilitaries who once fought guerrillas and carried out scores of massacres, sometimes in league with the military.

But Uribe's second term has been marred by scandals over lawmakers' links to paramilitary death squads, illegal wiretapping by state security agents and investigations into troops who murdered civilians to count them as combat deaths.

Uribe's supporters are now pushing for a constitutional amendment to allow his re-election. But critics worry that another Uribe term would undermine the country's democracy.

One former Uribe ally, German Vargas Lleras, announced his candidacy late on Thursday, promising to maintain the president's security policies. Uribe's defense minister Juan Manuel Santos has already resigned to run himself if the president decides against re-election.

A recent Gallup poll showed Santos tied with Fajardo as the most favored candidates barring Uribe.

Already some see similarities with Fajardo's and Uribe's first candidacy -- both men are natives of Antioquia region, known for its work ethic. Both stepped onto the national stage as outsiders but with a solid record as local administrators.

Fajardo says comparisons end there. He says he has always believed in a negotiated end to the conflict, but he says lessons from failed talks with rebels must be considered.

His key pitch is his 2003-2007 administration as mayor of Medellin, where he helped build cable car lines, schools and libraries for poor barrios while offering training programs to draw young people out of violence.

Fajardo dismisses critics who claim Medellin's security benefited more from Uribe's success and the criminal control exerted by a former paramilitary warlord. But he says his experience can be applied to the national level.

"With or without Uribe, we are going," Fajardo said. "I'm a mathematician and problems, you must understand them, look at them, study them, so when we say something, we do it." (Editing by John O'Callaghan and Chris Wilson)

Chile Hopes To Join OECD Before March 2010 -Finance Minister

Carolina Pica. Dow Jones Newswires. June 26, 2009

SANTIAGO (Dow Jones)--Chile has a good chance of joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development before the current Bachelet administration ends in March 2010, Finance Minister Andres Velasco said Thursday.

Before Chile is accepted into the organization, it must modify its legislation in the areas of exchange of tax information, corporate governance in private and public companies, and legal responsibility in bribery cases, the minister said in a statement.

Several bills currently in the Chilean congress seek to address these issues, and the government hopes the legislature will approve them shortly.

Velasco, who's in France at an OECD meeting, said member nations have indicated "that there's good probabilities that [joining the OECD] will happen."

He added that the legal reforms Chile must make aren't just a requisite sought by the OECD but are sound public policies and part of President Michelle Bachelet's efforts to increase transparency and corporate governance.

The rest of the process of reviewing Chile's policies is moving along, and Velasco said he doesn't "anticipate any additional problems to the aforementioned bills."

Chile, as well as Estonia, Israel, Russia and Slovenia, are in the process of applying to join the OECD.

Southern Cone [contents]

Brazil's Lula says may seek presidency in 2014

Reuters. June 26, 2009

BRASILIA, June 26 (Reuters) - Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is likely to run for the presidency again in 2014 if an opposition candidate wins next year's election, he said in an interview published on Friday.

Lula, who is barred by the constitution from running for a third straight term in October 2010, said he would support likely Workers' Party candidate Dilma Rousseff if she won next year and would not seek to succeed her in 2014.

Despite previous hints by Lula, the remarks are the strongest indication yet the popular leader may not retire from politics after he leaves office on Jan. 1, 2011.

"I'll be pulling for Dilma to do her best and run for re-election," he said in the interview in with Zero Hora, a newspaper in the southern city of Porto Alegre.

"If an adversary wins the election, then it can be predicted that I'll come back in 2014."
The center-left Lula, first elected president in 2002, has approval ratings of 80 percent but has rejected calls to change the constitution and run for a third straight term.

Neither Rousseff, who is Lula's chief of staff, nor her expected main opponent, centrist Sao Paulo Governor Jose Serra, are seen as having the charisma or electoral Midas touch that Lula has shown.

Some senior members of the ruling party say Rousseff may step down to allow Lula another run at the presidency in 2014.

But Lula said in the interview that if she won his role would be "to work so that she could do the maximum possible."

Feared by markets as a dangerous leftist when he was first elected, Lula followed orthodox economic policies that nurtured a five-year economic boom while social programs helped lift millions of Brazilians out of poverty.

(Reporting by Natuza Nery; Writing by Stuart Grudgings; editing by Todd Benson and Alan Elsner)

Brazil's Lula signs Amazon bill
Tim Hirsch. BBC. June 26, 2009

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has approved a controversial bill allowing Amazon farmers to acquire an area of public land larger than France.

But the president vetoed some of the most contentious clauses that would have enabled absentee landlords and companies to benefit from the measure.

Smaller parcels of public land will be handed over for free, and larger ones at reduced or market rates.

Critics say it will amount to an amnesty for illegal land-grabbers.

The law is intended to end the chaotic state of land occupation in the Amazon.

Hundreds of thousands of farmers have no legal title over their land, with claims often dating back decades.

President Lula vetoed changes to the bill made during its passage through congress, which he claims would have altered the original aim to benefit smaller farmers.

But he has left in a clause that allows larger properties to be sold on within three years, instead of requiring the new owner to hold on to the land for at least a decade.

Environmental groups fear that could lead to a heating up of land speculation in the Amazon and encourage occupation of new forest areas.

Among the critics of the measure have been federal prosecutors in the Amazon, who claim it is unconstitutional because it enables land to be given to people who have acquired it illegally, and because it could infringe the rights of traditional and indigenous communities.

Report: Brazil's central bank chief to resign

Bradley Brooks. June 26, 2009

SAO PAULO -- A Brazilian newspaper says the nation's central bank chief will resign next March to run for governor in his home state.

Valor Economico says Henrique Meirelles will seek office in Brazil's Goias state next year.

The newspaper cited unnamed aides to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in its report, which was posted Friday on its Web site. A central bank spokesman had no comment.

Meirelles, previously an executive at BankBoston, has led the central bank since January 2003.

His orthodox economic philosophy calmed investor fears that the leftist Silva would lead Brazil's economy on the wrong path.

But growth boomed during his tenure, and analysts now say Brazil will be the first in Latin America to emerge from global recession.

Brazil Central Bank Cuts 2009 Growth Forecast to 0.8% (Update2)
Andre Soliani and Iuri Dantas. Bloomberg. June 26, 2009

June 26 (Bloomberg) -- Brazil's central bank reduced its 2009 economic growth forecast to 0.8 percent, and said lower borrowing costs and resilient consumer demand will help power a rebound in Latin America's biggest economy.

"The cycle of economic slowdown in the country may be less sharp than in many other economies," policy makers said in the quarterly report. "Brazil's economy is showing signs of a gradual recovery."

The bank's outlook, which was cut from a previous forecast of 1.2 percent, is rosier than private estimates, which call for the economy to shrink 0.57 percent, the first contraction in 17 years, according to the median forecast in a central bank survey of about 100 economists published this week.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's administration, in an attempt to avert recession, slashed the benchmark interest rate to a record, cut taxes on goods, injected about $100 billion in money and currency markets and increased room for public spending amid falling revenue. The full effect of past rate cuts has yet to be felt, the bank said.

"The central bank is more optimistic than the markets," said Roberto Padovani, chief economist at Banco WestLB in Sao Paulo. "The recovery is not threatening inflation, which remains well behaved."


The bank raised its 2009 inflation forecast to 4.1 percent, compared with a previous forecast for prices to rise 4 percent, according to the quarterly inflation report published on the central bank's Web site today. Next year's inflation rate will be 3.9 percent, compared with an earlier forecast for 4 percent.

Policy makers reduced the benchmark interest rate to a record 9.25 percent this year, slashing the so-called Selic rate by at least a percentage point in each of 2009's four meetings.

Analysts expect the bank will lower the rate to a record 8.75 percent in July, according to the median forecast in a central bank survey of about 100 economists published this week.

Brazil's unemployment rate dropped in May for a second straight month as signs the economy is reviving prompted companies to rehire workers.

The jobless rate in the six main metropolitan regions fell to 8.8 percent in May from 8.9 percent the previous month, the national statistics agency said yesterday.

Brazil's real headed toward its largest weekly gain in a month as the world's biggest initial public offering in more than a year drew foreign investors.

The real gained 1.7 percent on the week to 1.9426 per U.S. dollar at 9:41 a.m. New York time.

Visa Inc.'s Brazilian affiliate, Cia. Brasileira de Meios de Pagamentos, is raising 8.4 billion reais by selling 559.8 million voting shares at 15 reais each, according to the Brazilian securities regulator. The IPO is a record in Brazil.

The return of companies to capital markets will also help drive economic growth, the report said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andre Soliani in Brasilia at at; Iuri Dantas in Brasilia

Brazilian accuses Lopez of racial slur at Copa Libertadores

AP. June 25, 2009

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazilian police are investigating an accusation that an Argentine soccer star playing for Gremio racially abused a Cruzeiro player in the semifinal of the Copa Libertadores on Thursday.

In an emailed statement, police in Belo Horizonte said that Elicarlos Souza, who is black, is accusing Maxi Lopez, who is white, of making the racist comment.

Cruzeiro, playing at home, won the game 3-1.

Police took testimony from both players at a police station near the stadium. They didn't disclose what Lopez allegedly called Elicarlos, but the Cruzeiro midfielder told reporters Lopez called him a "monkey" during the match.

Calls to both clubs were not immediately returned.

México, Central America and the Caribbean [contents]

Mexico fights resurgent dengue fever
Mary Cuddehe. The Miami Herald. June 26, 2009

TECOMAN, Mexico -- Mayra Regidor knocked on the door of the little green house, asked to enter and walked straight to the kitchen, where she saw a tub filled with dishwater and took out measuring tools to figure how much insecticide powder should go inside.

"She's got to get just the right amount," explained her supervisor. "Too little and it won't work; too much and the mosquitoes will develop resistance."

Regidor and her boss, Pedro Santamaria, a biologist with Mexico's Public Health Department, were part of the team that recently conducted one of the largest anti-dengue mosquito sweeps in the state of Colima's history. The target was nearly 9,000 homes in the city of Tecoman.

So far this year, the central state on the Pacific Coast is leading the country in confirmed cases of dengue fever, the mosquito-borne illness that's on the rise in Mexico.


Climate change and global commerce have created ripe conditions for the disease to spread not just in Mexico but all over Latin America. Brazil and Argentina have reported record numbers of cases this year, and dozens of people have died.

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers dengue one of the most important mosquito-borne viral illnesses. Tens of millions of cases occur each year, and outbreaks have happened in at least 24 countries in the Americas.

While there's just a small risk of dengue outbreaks in the continental United States, there have been periodic outbreaks.

Other places, like Puerto Rico, are more threatened, say experts.

"At this point in time, we're keeping track of what's happening in Mexico and all of Latin America," said Dr. Fermin Arguello, acting chief of epidemiology in the CDC's Dengue Branch in Puerto Rico. Though the agency devotes its resources to diseases in the United States, "we do our best to keep track of diseases globally," Arguello added.


An eradication program in Latin America that started in the 1950s all but vanquished the dengue mosquito, but it reappeared in the late 1970s and has slowly spread the virus since. Perhaps no factor is more to blame for the rise of dengue in the Americas than the impressive adaptability of the carrier mosquito, the Aedes aegypti.

In 2000, there were 1,781 reported cases of dengue fever in Mexico. Last year saw a total of 33,000, according to the Public Health Department. This year, the rate is up 15 percent. What's more, the prevalence of the deadly hemorrhagic form has also spiked. In 2000, hemorrhagic dengue represented one in about 26 cases; today, it's one in four.


Dubbed the "intelligent mosquito," lately it has been showing up in colder climates and at higher altitudes than ever. This year for the first time, it has been detected in 21 of Mexico's 31 states. Entomologists say it is also reproducing year-round for the first time.

"In terms of statistics," said Miguel Angel Lezana, the director of epidemiology for the Public Health Department. "It's more useful to talk about where it is not."

The mosquito is so common in the capital city of Colima that everybody seems to have had dengue or at least know somebody who has.

In the central plaza, Maria Dolores Vazquez, a homemaker out for a sunset stroll with a girlfriend, said her entire family had it last winter. She got it first, then her husband, then two of their children. Only their 19-year-old daughter was spared.


"Now we just make sure to keep everything clean," she said. "I just hope it doesn't come back."

Despite the increasing occurrence of the illness also known as "breakbone fever," the Mexican government says it isn't particularly worried about an epidemic.

The majority of cases belong to the classic serotype, the mildest of the disease's four forms. Classic dengue can cause excruciating symptoms like severe joint aches, pain behind the eyes, high fever, rashes and nausea, but they generally last only about a week. And classic dengue is less likely than the other serotypes to develop into the hemorrhagic form. Mexico has reported 5,052 cases this year, of which 901 were hemorrhagic.


So far there have been no deaths. However, the illness's rise has brought other tolls.

Government studies of the economic impact have focused more on productivity than foreign spending. (Sickened Mexicans missed 150,000 days of work last year.) But officials are wary of what an outbreak could do to tourism after the recent swine-flu epidemic ravaged the $13 billion sector.

The same beach towns that draw tourists also happen to be ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

"The majority of the important tourist destinations are right in the zones," said Lezana. "It's something that we give special attention."

The government has acted aggressively to kill mosquitoes in places where important industries like tourism, petroleum and agriculture are centered. The operation in Tecoman recently was a large-scale version of eradication programs taking place all over the country. Tecoman is an important exporter of limes, and it sits about an hour's drive from Manzanillo, the busiest port in Mexico.


Under a scorching sun on a typically steamy day, 500 health-department workers in yellow vests swept through the town, doling out insecticide and lecturing residents to avoid havens for larvae by covering water containers and clearing waste.

"That doesn't guarantee that there won't be any mosquitoes," cautioned Juan Miguel Torre, the head of epidemiology for Colima's Public Health Department.

"It doesn't just depend on us; it depends on the people to do their part."

Police chief and 91 officers detained in Mexico
AFP. June 26, 2009

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - A police chief and 91 officers were detained in a sweep on a city in central Mexico suspected of sheltering one of the country's most violent drug gangs, federal police said.

The police chief of Pachuca, capital of Hidalgo state, and the police officers were suspected of offering protection to the Zetas, the armed wing of the powerful Gulf drug cartel, federal police intelligence coordinator Luis Cardenas told reporters.

The Zetas carried out kidnappings and extortion in liaison with local police around Pachuca, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Mexico City, Cardenas said.

The original Zetas were elite Mexican Special Forces soldiers trained to find and detain drug lords. A group of deserters formed the group when they instead went to work for the drug lords in the late 1990s.

In recent weeks, a dozen army soldiers and police officers have been arrested in at least four Mexican districts for allegedly harboring organized crime, especially drug trafficking.

More than 10,000 people have died in suspected drug violence since President Felipe Calderon launched a nationwide military crackdown on the nation's powerful cartels two and a half years ago.

Honduras heads toward crisis over referendum

Freddy Cuevas. AP. June 26, 2009

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) - Honduras' embattled leftist president, fighting for a chance to revamp the constitution, hurled insults at congressional leaders Friday after rejecting the Supreme Court's order to reinstate the military chief he had fired.

President Manuel Zelaya is promoting a Sunday referendum on constitutional reforms that has plunged the country into crisis by setting the president at odds with the military, the courts and the legislature that have branded the vote illegal.

Many shops and gasoline stations were closed Friday in the capital, Tegucigalpa, after the city's leading business chamber advised its members to stay shut for fear of disturbances. Some supermarkets were filled with panic buyers.

The president led thousands of supporters to the country's main airport, where they seized referendum ballots to keep them from being destroyed at court order.

Then he returned to the presidential palace and lashed out at Congress early Friday for plans to investigate his mental stability.

He referred to Congressional President Roberto Micheletti - a member of his own Liberal Party - as "a pathetic, second-class congressman who got that job because of me, because I gave you space within my political current."

Zelaya, who counts Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Castro brothers as friends, says the current constitution favors the elite in a country where 70 percent of the population is poor. His backers warn an attempted coup d'etat is under way.

The president has not specified what changes he seeks, but opponents say he wants to rewrite the charter to allow re-election so he can stay in power, as other Latin American leaders, including Chavez, have done.

Zelaya, a wealthy landowner grappling with rising food prices and a sharp spike in drug violence, is currently barred from seeking re-election when his four-year term ends in January.

Sunday's referendum has no legal effect: it merely asks people if they want to have a later vote on whether to retool the constitution.

Honduras' top court, Congress and the attorney general have all said the referendum he is sponsoring is illegal because the constitution says some of its clauses cannot be changed.

Zelaya told thousands supporters outside the presidential offices Thursday that he would stand by his decision to oust Gen. Romeo Vasquez as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The general had refused to support the referendum, arguing he could not aid a process the courts said was illegal.

The defense minister and the chiefs of the army, navy and air force have all resigned in protest of the referendum and the Supreme Court ordered Zelaya to reinstate Vasquez.

Lawmakers voted late Thursday to open an investigation into the president's mental state and to determine whether Zelaya's refusal to obey the Supreme Court's order damages the rule of law, said lawmaker Ramon Velasquez, of the opposition Christian Democratic party.

Once the investigation by five lawmakers is concluded, "maybe we will take more drastic measures," Velasquez said.

Honduran Attorney General Luis Alberto Rubi has urged Congress to oust Zelaya.

"Congress cannot investigate me, much less remove me or stage a technical coup against me because I am honest, I'm a free president and nobody scares me," Zelaya said in his two-hour speech Friday, at one point bursting - Chavez-like - into song.

"But we have to forgive them. Glory to God! We have to forgive, and I know who to forgive because the people are my support and my best ally in this political process," he said.

He warned legislators, "You have declared war against me. Now face the consequences."

Micheletti, who by law would take over the presidency if Zelaya were ousted, retorted, "We should not have to suffer the aspirations of a disturbed man who wants to hold onto to power."

Zelaya has won the support of labor leaders, farmers and civic organizations who hope constitutional reforms will give them a greater voice. His leftist allies have also cheered him on.

"There is a coup d'etat under way and it must be stopped," Chavez said during his television and radio program "Alo, Presidente!"

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro published an essay in Cuban state media late Thursday praising Zelaya: "He forcefully denounced the crude, reactionary attempt to block an important popular referendum. That is the 'democracy' that imperialism defends."

The Organization of American States called an emergency meeting Friday to discuss the Honduras crisis and the U.S. Embassy warned its citizens in Honduras of potential protests and violence.

Associated Press Writers Jorge Rueda in Caracas, Carlos Rodriguez in Mexico City and Edith M. Lederer in New York contributed to this report.

U.N. Official Cites Ongoing Torture in Guatemala
EFE. June 25, 2009

GUATEMALA CITY - A U.N. official joined human rights activists on Thursday to express concern over ongoing cases of torture in Guatemala.

The representative in Guatemala of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amerigo Incalcaterra, told a press conference that such abuses persist in the Central American nation even though its government signed the International Convention Against Torture.

"The state must adopt measures to prevent, investigate and sanction acts of torture and compensate victims," he said on the eve of the International Day Against Torture.

Incalcaterra said there is concern over complaints that indicate an increase in harassment, persecution, threats, murders and other human rights violations, which continue to occur with impunity in Guatemala, especially those connected with the country's 1960-1996 civil war.

The director of the Catholic Archdiocese of Guatemala City's Human Rights Office, Nery Rodenas, told the same press conference that his office has documented 471 cases of torture in the country thus far in 2009.

Most of them, he said, have occurred at police stations and in prisons.

The appearance of mutilated bodies and of women with signs of having had their hands tied or having been raped, burned or strangled is clear evidence that torture continues to happen in Guatemala, he said.

Rodenas mentioned the case of Gladys Monterroso, wife of Guatemala's national ombudsman, Sergio Morales, who was kidnapped in Guatemala City on March 25 and subjected to sexual and psychological abuse before being released.

Guatemalan prosecutors and judges appear to have no interest in investigating instances of torture, Rodenas said.

Nieves Gomez, of the Community Studies and Psychosocial Action Team, which provides assistance to victims, said that no one responsible for acts of torture has been arrested or even accused in Guatemala.

She said that the killings of bus drivers by gangs running extortion rackets also are a type of psychological torture committed against citizens, who fear for their lives when using that form of public transportation.

"The mental health of Guatemalans is being seriously affected by the violence and impunity," Gomez said. EFE

IMF programme already drafted - Jamaica's growth re-forecast to contract by 4%

R Anne Shirley. Jamaica Gleaner. June 26, 2009

The word out of Government circles is that the technocrats at the Ministry of Finance (MOF) have already developed a draft programme to be submitted to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order for Jamaica to access the IMF extended standby facility.

This programme includes the revised medium-term targets and draws heavily on the proposed reforms to the financial and tax systems that are already underway.

MOF officials have been assisted by the small 'team of experts' which has been providing technical advice to Minister Don Webhy over the last year or two.

The Office of the Prime Minister, in announcing developments Wednesday, said Prime Minister Bruce Golding would be consulting with the social partnership group today, "on the terms under which Jamaica should enter into a funding arrangement with the IMF".

The release further states that "this follows a Cabinet directive that Jamaica should explore the IMF Standby Facility in order to keep the goals for the Medium Term Economic Programme (MTEP) on track."

The proposed programme was submitted to the Cabinet on Tuesday, and again officials suggested that the Government will be seeking to borrow US$1.2 billion over three years under the IMF standby facility.

This amount represents approximately 300 per cent of Jamaica's special drawing rights quota with the IMF, which currently stands at SDR$273.5 million.

In addition to the standby facility, Jamaica should also be able to receive a further US$300 million facility from the IMF, without any conditionalities, by around September 2009.

Jamaican authorities

This facility was announced as part of the assistance that the G-20 countries are providing to the less developed economies through the auspices of the IMF.

As a result, the Jamaican authorities will only need to draw down in the region of US$500 million for the current fiscal year.

This would leave an additional US$700 million under the standby facility to be drawn down in years two and three of the proposed IMF agreement.

It is now even more critical that the Government puts the IMF agreement in place over the next few weeks as the announcement of the divestment of the first two sugar factories indicate that they have been sold at prices significantly below the book value of the properties, and the lease arrangements for the accompanying sugar lands are at prices that can be classified as 'pepper-corn' rental.

It's understandable why the IMF insisted on revising the Govern-ment's fiscal targets downwards, especially if this divestment trend continues.

Most analysts have missed the point that in addition to a revision of the fiscal deficit from $55 billion to $78 billion, the official projections from the Bank of Jamaica and the Planning Institute of Jamaica now call for a contraction in gross domestic product (GDP) during this fiscal year in the region of a 3.9 per cent to 4.0 per cent reduction in GDP.

Initial projections were for a 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent contraction.

Original projections

In essence the official picture is worse than was projected three short months ago when the Government present the FY 2009-2010 Budget in Parliament.

And this is just the best-case scenario. For example, Standard and Poor's is suggesting that the deficit is more likely to end up at 8.0 per cent of GDP, while some local analysts are still holding to their original projections for a deficit at the end of the current fiscal year in the region of 9-10 per cent of GDP.

So the Prime Minister will now be trying to get the trade unions and the private sector heads to agree with the programme that the Government has developed.

Checks with senior union officials and members of the Opposition indicate that they have not yet seen a copy of the proposed medium-term economic programme.

The Government will, therefore, have to lobby very intensively over the next few weeks with the social partners and the Opposition, in order to have an arrangement with the IMF in place in the next few weeks.

Some persons close to the process have suggested that it would be ideal if the arrangement with the IMF could be put in place prior to the departure of Senator Webhy from the Ministry of Finance.

Cubans face dire formula
With Cuba's economy sinking, the government calls for energy conservation.
Nick Miroff. GlobalPost. June 24, 2009

HAVANA - As a general rule with Cuban revolutionary slogans, the second choice is never a good option.

Such is the case with Fidel Castro's famous rallying cries of "Patria o Muerte" ("Homeland or Death") and "Socialismo o Muerte" ("Socialism or Death"). And now, with the island facing its grimmest economic outlook in years, Cubans have been presented with a new mortal ultimatum: "Ahorro o Muerte" ("Conservation or Death").

That phrase, appearing in a recent editorial in the Communist Party newspaper Granma, was meant as a call to arms for the Cuban government's new energy-conservation campaign. But taken more broadly, it also appears to reflect the country's economic strategy under President Raul Castro, who assumed Cuba's leadership more than a year ago. Rather than follow the path of market-based liberalization reforms that China and Vietnam's communist governments have taken, Cuba intends to weather the crisis by slimming its bureaucracy and exhorting citizens to conserve resources and produce more.

Cuba "can't get more out of its pockets than what it puts in," economic planner Julio Vazquez Roque said in a lengthy article on the country's economic woes that appeared June 21 in the communist youth daily Juventud Rebelde.

The effects of the global economic crisis are hitting Cuba at a time when the island is still struggling to recover from three powerful hurricanes that caused an estimated $10 billion in damage last year. And the situation is worsened by five-decades-old U.S. trade sanctions that squeeze Cuba's access to credit and export markets, a policy Cuba likens to a "blockade" in part because the measures attempt to punish foreign companies and governments who do business with Havana.

But government officials increasingly acknowledge that many of Cuba's shortcomings are self-inflicted.

The country's state-run economy is plagued by inefficiency

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