Posts Tagged ‘Honduras’

Lula da Silva and Chavez: Are these two on the same team but playing different games?

Hugo Chavez’s “revolutionary” economic and political policies may be alienating his neighbors and greatest political allies. As U.S. attention turns further toward the Middle East, Latin American countries are looking elsewhere for world trading partners, and its leaders are emerging with potential to take the region to a different version of the Left.

Venezuela is still waiting to be incorporated into Mercosur, the South American trading bloc that includes Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador. After Chavez’s most recent bellicose threats against Colombia, the legislatures of Brazil and Paraguay have stalled or tossed out provisions that would bring Venezuela’s entry to a vote.

“President Chavez with his statements is not helping; sometimes it seems he is not interested in Venezuela’s integration to Mercosur given his repeated contentious attitude”, said Paraguayan Senator Alberto Grillon vice president of the Foreign Affairs Upper House committee.

Earlier this week Mercosur officials headed to the EU, where Chavez has few friends, on a mission to increase trade and technical meetings between the two economic bodies. On Saturday, they signed a measure creating Econormas, a program designed to promote economic integration and sustainable development in Mercosur member nations. The $27 million plan is comprised of $18 million from the EU and $9 million from Brazil Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Elsewhere in Latin America, both leaders and country residents have been speaking out against Chavez and his version of populism, but not against the political and economic left. Last week former Mexican President Vicente Fox told Latin American and European leaders that Chavez’s influence and increasing authoritarianism was a danger to the region. Also in the week, Uruguay‘s former leftist guerilla Jose Mujica won the presidency by moving away from Chavez. He dismissed Chavez’s regime and claimed to have a deeper connection to South American golden boy, President Lula da Silva, of Brazil.

“[Voters] were afraid of the guerrilla past and the identification with Chávez,” says Oscar Bottinelli, a political analyst and head of the Factum polling group in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo. “They were afraid he will affect liberty and be repressive… It’s the model of Lula,” says Mr. Garcé. “To win the elections [in Brazil] he put on an Armani suit and said he wanted a government of the left but moderate to permit a political economy respectful of capitalism.”

Brazil’s boom and Lula’s capitalist-loving left can’t help but look attractive compared to Chavez’s handling of the Venezuelan economy. The country has fallen captive to lower oil prices, the global recession, and now is in recession itself. Its GDP, an indicator Chavez dismissed as an instrument of capitalism, contracted by 4.6% in the 3rd quarter. Private investment shrank as Chavez expanded the public sector under his state-driven economic model. By this week the government will have taken control of 7 small, private banks to be “rehabilitated” by the state. Possibly most damning for Chavez’s regime is the fact that the price of a common Venezuelan food basket is steadily increasing, by 1.6 percent in the last month and by over 20 percent in the last year.

Now, more than ever, Venezuela could use friends, but it seems the country’s losing them faster than its gaining them. Porfirio Lobo, the new and controversial President of Honduras, has announced he won’t let Venezuela meddle in the country’s internal affairs as Manuel Zelaya, his ousted predecessor, did. Chavez has been increasingly hostile to Colombia — its main trading partner. As a result, analysts project that trade between the two countries will be down 36 percent by the end of 2009. At the request of Colombia’s President, Alvaro Uribe, Dominican President Leonel Fernandez has offered to mediate between Venezuela and Colombia. According to Fernandez, the DR, “given its geographic position and friendly relations with its neighbors, has had other opportunities to mediate in regional conflicts and seek solutions to these differences.” Chavez should be hoping Fernandez is correct.

APTOPIX Pakistan Clinton

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton chats with Pakistani tribal people during her meeting with them in Islamabad, Pakistan on Friday, Oct. 30, 2009. Clinton came face-to-face Friday with Pakistani anger over U.S. aerial drone attacks in tribal areas along the Afghan border, a strategy that U.S. officials say has succeeded in killing key terrorist leaders. (AP Photo/Irfan Mahmood)

Finally, European leaders passed an agreement in Brussels making it possible for Czech leaders to sign the Lisbon Treaty, which aims to widen the power bloc’s presence on the world stage. They passed a measure that would allow the Czech Republic to opt out of the EUs Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Czechs, along with the Irish and Poles, were some of the final holdouts in terms of ratifying the Lisbon Treaty. Now that the EU will officially expand, the debate on who will lead it is intensifying. Tony Blair was considered a shoo-in for president, but as time passes that no longer seems so clear. French and German leaders believe the EU President should be from a center-right coalition, which would reflect most of the governments in the EU. Others are concerned he’s too close to the past.

“Now in the United States, Obama is the president, it is no more Mr Bush. We have a new treaty, we have to reset Europe and we need to start with some new ideas. There is and will remain a link for the next generation between Iraq, Bush and Tony Blair.”  — Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn [Bloomberg]

Also at the Brussels summit, EU leaders set a target for funding climate change, agreeing it would cost 100 billion euros a year to fight global warming. The deal has drawn some criticism, but leaders seem hopeful. The U.K’s Gordon Brown said “We were aware that if the European Union did not come together to solve some of the impasses, the possibility of a deal at the Copenhagen summit would be a lot less likely…The EU is leading the way with bold proposals – do not allow years to go by without action.” Poorer countries, especially East Europe’s former communist bloc, insist that the financial burden be proportional with what each country can bear, while environmental groups insist the deal does not do enough. “[The EU] failed to use this opportunity to put its money where its mouth is,” said Joris den Blanken of Greenpeace.  There were also few specifics attached to the agreement, other than the 5-7 billion euros richer countries have pledged to begin taking action. Other details are to be worked out in an EU committee.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that the U.S. economy has the capacity to weather the storm blowing in the commercial real estate market: “You can say now with confidence that the financial system is stable, the economy is stabilized,” Geithner said. “You can see the first signs of growth here and around the world.” The numbers, however, are daunting. In the third quarter the cost of leasing space dropped 8.5% last year, which is the most dramatic drop since the 90s. Companies have also let go of 20 million square feet of space in the third quarter.

Wednesday’s bombings in a Peshawar Pakistan marketplace left more than 100 dead. While the U.S. and Paskistani governments looked to the usual suspects to take the blame, Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, has fingered private security firm Blackwater as the culprit. In an interview with BBC Urdu, Mehsud and his spokesman claimed the U.S. was attempting to “defame” the Taliban, who he says is successfully defeating the Paskistani army in South Waziristan.

A recent poll showed that former French Prime Minister Jacque Chirac is the most famous politician in the country, but that may not stop him from facing prosecution for corruption during his tenure as Mayor of Paris. Specifically, Chirac is alleged to have paid over 20 employees in his administration for doing jobs that did not exist. Xaviere Simeoni, the investigating magistrate, also dropped charges that Chirac had forged government documents. There are nine other individuals charged in this suit, including Jean de Gaulle, grandson of former president Charles de Gaulle.  (Al Jazeera ENG)

The Hondurans have a deal. Ousted President Manuel Zalaya and interim President Roberto Micheletti have signed an agreement to share power until November 29th when Presidential elections will take place. The election date included in the deal, as well as the forming of a “Truth Commission” to investigate this ordeal, were suggested in the first round of peace talks headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and the Organization of American States. However, those talks fell through, and on October 23rd Zelaya still opposed elections.

“To have an electoral process under these circumstances is almost the same as elections in Afghanistan under blood and fire…

The Hondurans, the Central American people and Americas do not want a democracy with violence.”

Blood, fire, mañana. Conditions changed because Micheletti agreed to allow Zelaya to return to power, pending a decision by the Honduran Supreme Court, in the interim between now and the Presidential election.

Don’t get too comfortable. After yesterday’s impressive rally on the news of the U.S.’s expanding GDP, the stock market has taken a tumble in response to a drop in consumer spending and confidence. Continued job losses and idle incomes kept Americans away from the mall as spending decreased 0.5% in September after a 1.4% jump in August.

“The stock market got a little tired after a rally of that magnitude yesterday,” said Malcolm Polley, chief investment officer at Stewart Capital Advisors in Indiana, Pennsylvania, which manages $1 billion. “Third-quarter GDP numbers were good, the worst is behind us, but consumer spending is not sustainable yet. Valuations are probably ahead of where they should be.”

Meanwhile, the dollar and yen have risen. Analysts fear this may be because other countries are beginning to scale back on recession efforts to stimulate their economies.

ICANN — the org that coordinates the world’s internet traffic — approved plans to let web domains be written in non-Latin characters, the “biggest technical change” to the web since its invention four decades ago. The change would further globalize the ever-expanding internet landscape, allowing regions around the globe to use their own local alphabet characters to surf more… fairly?


use this opportunity to put its money where its mouth is

Honduras’ de facto government attempts to curb protests and limit free speech, but fails with no congressional support. (NYT)

China is seeking to double its African oil reserves by bidding for up to 6 billion barrels of Nigerian crude, according to a leaked letter from the Nigerian president. (Telegraph)

A cash-rich China has used the global financial crisis as an opportunity for a strategic expansion in oil and other commodities that it needs to fuel its rapidly expanding economy.

While it won’t happen this decade, Time Warner is considering selling Time Inc., its media conglomerate. (Crain’s)

The Egyptians have presented a peace proposal to the two Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah… and they actually like it! The two groups will go to Egypt in October to discuss it more at length. (Al Jazeera)

A British 14-year-old girl dies just a few hours after receiving the vaccine for cervical cancer. (AP)

Shots still ring out in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, one day after 128 opposition protesters were killed in clashes with government forces. (News24)

Five months ago, swine flu anxieties caused Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to order all the country’s pigs be slaughtered. Now, the waste that was once their job to devour is piling up in the streets, causing a garbage crisis. (Bloomberg)

Iran says it’ll refuse to discuss a newly declared nuclear plant during forthcoming talks, and also warns it will avoid future cooperation if the West continues “past mistakes.” O-kay… (Reuters)


The FDIC may tap healthy banks for billions of dollars to restore the depleted fund safeguarding, well, bank deposits. (NYT)

Honduras’ ousted President Zelaya returns home after over two months of exile. (BBC)

Oil trading company Trafigura pays $50 million to 31,000 people in the Ivory Coast over toxic waste settlement — victims agree death & disease has ‘no link’ to waste exposure. (Al Jazeera)

According to the U.S. Census, the number of  immigrant residents in the country declined for the first time in about 40 years, as economic downturn soils the country’s rep as land-of-opportunity for the foreign-born. (WSJ)

China appeals a recent WTO ruling that the state violates its free-trade agreements by requiring its importers to channel foreign publications and audiovisual products — including music sold on the internet — through government-run entities. (Bloomberg)

Busy Japanese couples pay actors to play their friends. (Telegraph)

From Afghanistan, Gen. McChrystal: Certain Pakistani and Iranian spy services aiding the Taliban. (Los Angeles Times)

New species of fish discovered off the coast of Bahia, Brazil. No, you can’t eat it but yes, it looks totally awesome.  (NatGeo)

Scientific advances find new a way to tap into natural gas resources- by extracting it from shale rock. (NPR)

China’s recent influx of aid to African nations — drawn from its pool of foreign currency savings — risks fostering corruption, rather than correction. (NYT)