CEPR - Center for Economic and Policy Research

Multimedia

En Español

Em Português

Other Languages

Home Publications Blogs The Americas Blog

la-blog-logo

Analysis Beyond the Echo Chamber

  FB-logo  Subscribe by E-mail  


The Most Awkward G20 Summit Ever? Print
Written by Dan Beeton   
Thursday, 05 September 2013 11:36

President Obama is in St. Petersburg, Russia to participate in the G20 Summit today and tomorrow, amidst a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and several G20 member nations. Looming over the summit are the Obama administration’s plans for a possible military attack on Syria, while Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that a U.S. military response without U.N. Security Council approval “can only be interpreted as an aggression" and UNASUR – which includes G20 members Argentina and Brazil, issued a statement that “condemns external interventions that are inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations.”

New revelations of NSA spying on other G20 member nation presidents – Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico – leaked by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden and first reported in Brazil’s O Globo, have also created new frictions. Rousseff is reportedly considering canceling a state visit to Washington next month over the espionage and the Obama administration’s response to the revelations, and reportedly has canceled a scheduled trip to D.C. next week by an advance team that was to have done preparations for her visit. The Brazilian government has demanded an apology from the Obama administration. In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, an anonymous senior Brazilian official underscored the gravity of the situation:

[T]he official, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the episode, said Rousseff feels "patronized" by the U.S. response so far to the Globo report. She is prepared to cancel the visit as well as take punitive action, including ruling out the purchase of F-18 Super Hornet fighters from Chicago-based Boeing Co, the official said.

"She is completely furious," the official said.

"This is a major, major crisis .... There needs to be an apology. It needs to be public. Without that, it's basically impossible for her to go to Washington in October," the official said.

Other media reports suggest that Brazil may implement measures to channel its Internet communications through non-U.S. companies. But when asked in a press briefing aboard Air Force One this morning, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes did not suggest that such an apology would be forthcoming:

Read more...

 

 
Colombia: “It's Unacceptable that the Actions of a Few Impact the Lives of the Majority” Print
Written by Mabel Duran-Sanchez   
Tuesday, 03 September 2013 10:59

Since the beginning of the global economic downturn in 2008 governments around the world have faced protests led by popular movements. 

Recently there have been mass protests close to home, in Brazil. These protests were initially sparked by a hike in bus fare prices and tensions over preparations for the FIFA World Cup but quickly developed into more complex nationwide movements demanding more government transparency, particularly with regard to public spending; increased investment in social safety-nets, and greater opportunities for political participation.

The Brazilian protests made big news headlines here in the States; the largest such protests in Brazil since the early 1990s. However, while there is worldwide attention to mass uprisings, there has been little U.S. media coverage of a national strike taking place in another nearby country, Colombia. As explained by Dave Johnson from the Campaign for America’s Future:

There is a big strike in Colombia, and you probably don’t know about it. Farmers and others are protesting over a variety of grievances including the devastating effect of free-trade agreements, privatization and inequality-driven poverty. Corporate-owned American media is not covering it... Almost the only American outlet covering this strike is the Miami Herald.

In fact, major news outlets like The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times have not covered the farmers’ national strike in Colombia to date (save for the Post’s running of a 127-word AP blurb on August 30). The New York Times has only acknowledged the Colombian farmers’ struggle in an article on the stalled Colombian peace talks from Saturday, August 24 and a 130-word note on August 31. The earlier article mentions the farmers’ struggle in passing:

The rebel group said in its statement that it needed to ‘focus exclusively’ on analyzing Mr. Santos’s proposal, while also criticizing the government's economic and social policies at a time when protests by farmers, truckers and coffee growers are roiling parts of the country.

Read more...

 

 
What Makes Killings by Police in St. Lucia Different from Those in Honduras? Print
Written by Dan Beeton   
Friday, 23 August 2013 14:10

As we have previously described, members of Congress have called for suspension of U.S. aid to Honduras’ police and military over allegations – and evidence – of human rights abuses, including forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings. The U.S. State Department response has been one of deception and circumvention, with officials saying U.S. assistance to the Honduran police does not go to National Police Director Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla – at the same time that Honduran officials point out that Bonilla is of course in charge of all Honduran police officers.

It appears though that the State Department has no problem in halting support to rights-abusing police forces elsewhere when it wants. Reuters reported yesterday:

The United States has suspended assistance to the police department of the Caribbean island of St. Lucia as a result of allegations of serious human rights violations, the State Department confirmed on Thursday.



The allegations stem from 12 killings committed between 2010 and 2011, some of which were committed by an "ad hoc task force within the police department," a U.S. State Department Human Rights Report said.

The alleged extra-judicial killings stemmed from the circulation of a hit list targeting persons deemed to be criminals. Five suspects whose names were on that list were shot and killed during police operations.

Read more...

 

 
US Military Considers IMF-Mandated Policies to Be Dangerous for Honduras, Declassified Document Shows Print
Written by Dan Beeton   
Monday, 19 August 2013 13:35

A newly declassified intelligence estimate [large PDF] from the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) reveals that the U.S. military considers International Monetary Fund (IMF) policy constraints on Honduras to be a factor that could lead to greater unrest. The memo is dated July 22, 2011 and was originally designated as “SECRET/ORCON/NOFORN” (meaning “Dissemination & Extraction of Information Controlled by Originator” and “Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals/Governments/Non-US Citizens”).

In assessing Honduras’ “social environment,” the memo states:

Economic conditions in Honduras will have a tremendous impact on the social environment over the mid to long term. Efforts to combat rampant poverty, inequality, and unemployment will continue to be hindered by budgetary pressures. Over the medium term, IMF-established targets aimed at boosting Honduran macroeconomic stability will continue to reign in public expenditures. Should key social programs remain under- or unfunded, preexisting socio-economic cleavages between the poor and elite business sectors may be further aggravated and lead to an escalation in protests.

The document comes back to this theme in its conclusion, with the last two sentences reading:

Honduras' progress towards compliance with IMF guidelines and recent full reintegration into the international community increase the likelihood of the country receiving expanded international aid. However, as Honduras continues to reign in its domestic fiscal policy to remain in compliance with IMF mandates, the nation will continually struggle to effectively respond to growing security and socio-economic concerns. [Emphasis added.]

Read more...

 

 
Foreign Policy Pinkwashing: Russia’s New Law and Continuing Violence in Honduras Print
Written by Stephan Lefebvre   
Friday, 16 August 2013 13:05

Last week, reports came out that a woman was “brutally attacked” by four men who “stripped [her] of all of her clothing” in the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa, while she was walking home from an event hosted by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.  It appears that Arely Victoria Gomez Cruz was attacked “on a public street in full view of many people” primarily because she is a transgender woman.  Just two blocks away from where she was attacked, Walter Tróchez, a gay man and member of the resistance movement to the coup, was killed in 2009.  These two events, one shortly after the June 2009 military coup and the other within the past week, illustrate something about the type of violence going on in Honduras: Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world and, since the coup that forced out democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya, over 90 LGBT people have been killed.

As of late, the mainstream media has focused a great deal on LGBT rights in Russia as a result of the Russian government’s new law criminalizing expressions of “nontraditional sexual relationships.”  But the rash of killings and other violent attacks on members of Honduras’ LGBT community have received relatively little attention in the U.S. media.  It’s worth noting that the media uproar around the state of LGBT rights in Russia has come on the heels of U.S. government criticism of the draconian law earlier this month.  Yet the law was actually passed several months ago, on June 11th, and signed by Putin at the end of that month.  Could Russia’s August 1st decision to grant temporary asylum to NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden have something to do with the sudden explosion of interest in this issue?   

The new U.S. government and media attention to LGBT rights in Russia seems to bear all the hallmarks of “pinkwashing,” a phenomenon involving a government or company deliberately highlighting support for gay rights while ignoring or downplaying other relevant human rights issues.  In this case, while the U.S. government seeks to raise the profile of violations of LGBT rights in Russia, it stays mum, or at least speaks up less, when it comes to LGBT rights in countries that are official friends, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  Similarly, we hear little praise for countries that have made great strides in LGBT rights if they are official enemies, such as Cuba, where the daughter of the current president leads that country’s National Center for Sex Education.  Mariela Castro, who helped pass a law expanding access to sex affirmation surgery as part of the island’s national health system, had to fight a travel ban recently in order to attend an international awards dinner in New York.

Read more...

 

 
Tide Begins to Turn against FIFA in Rio de Janeiro Print
Written by Brian Mier (guest post)   
Thursday, 15 August 2013 13:23

After two months of protests that started over price gouging in public transportation and spread to a variety of issues spanning the political spectrum, positive results are beginning to be seen in Rio de Janeiro, where governor Sérgio Cabral, once touted in the New York Times as a possible 2014 presidential candidate is now so unpopular that socialist former mayoral candidate Marcelo Freixo said that he doesn’t think he could even get elected as a condominium residents association secretary.

cabralbatista
Sérgio Cabral (right) with businessman Eike Batista. (Photo by Brazil 247)

During the last week a series of measures was announced that seem to show a turning of the tide against the hegemony wielded by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the Rio de Janeiro state and municipal governments over local residents.

First, after spending over $500 million rehabbing the structurally sound Maracana stadium – its third multi-million rehab in a dozen years - the plan to privatize and sell it off to a group of cronies for a fraction of that value has been stalled. The landmark status for the neighboring high school and Indigenous museum buildings has been upheld by the court system, so they can no longer be destroyed to create a parking garage. Furthermore, the federal government has blocked destruction of the public swimming pool and athletic track that made up part of the stadium compound. According to the privatization agreement, these are deal killers. The original plan was to surround the stadium with parking garages and luxury shops for the white, middle-class patrons who would now be the only ones able to easily afford ticket prices.  The consortium that was poised to take over management of the stadium announced that it was going to back out, then changed its mind but still hasn’t closed a deal. It appears that the new, expensive ticket prices are keeping fans away and this might prove to be a deciding factor in blocking privatization.

Read more...

 

 
Greenwald Testifies to Brazilian Senate about NSA Espionage Targeting Brazil and Latin America Print
Written by Mabel Duran-Sanchez   
Saturday, 10 August 2013 12:31

This past Tuesday, investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald testified before the Brazilian Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations and National Defense (CRE) at a public hearing on the clandestine surveillance activities of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) in Brazil.

Greenwald, who has published many top-secret NSA documents leaked to him by whistleblower Edward Snowden, explained how the agency’s surveillance programs go far beyond gathering intelligence related to terrorism and other national security threats, as the U.S. government has suggested. According to Greenwald, NSA spying has focused on foreign business interests as a means for the U.S. government to gain a competitive advantage in negotiations. Greenwald mentioned that he has information regarding instances of NSA surveillance of the Organization of American States (OAS) and secret intelligence documents on economic agreements with Latin American nations. He explained that this type of surveillance has helped the U.S. to make the agreements appear more appealing to Latin American countries. Brazil’s concern about this economic espionage is particularly understandable given that it is the U.S.’s largest trading partner in South America.

During the hearing, Greenwald made reference to a 2009 letter wherein Thomas Shannon, the former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs (from November 2005 – November 2009) and current U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, celebrated the NSA’s surveillance program in Latin America and how it has helped advance U.S. foreign policy goals in the region. Greenwald wrote a detailed account of his findings in an article entitled “Did Obama know what they were thinking?” in the Brazilian print magazine, Época. In this piece, Greenwald explains that Shannon’s letter, addressed to NSA Director Keith Alexander, discusses how the spy agency obtained hundreds of documents belonging to Latin American delegations detailing their “plans and intentions” during the summit. Shannon asserted that these documents were instrumental in helping the Obama administration engage with the delegations and deal with “controversial subjects like Cuba” and “difficult counterparts” like former President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, and Bolivian President, Evo Morales. In the same letter Shannon encouraged Alexander to continue providing similar intelligence as “the information from the NSA will continue to give us the advantage that our diplomacy needs,” especially ahead of an upcoming OAS General Assembly meeting in which he knew discussions on Cuba’s suspension from the OAS would ensue.

Read more...

 

 
Kirchner Promotes UNASUR and CELAC, Criticizes NSA spying at UN Security Council Print
Written by Alex Main   
Thursday, 08 August 2013 08:50

Much of New York City grows eerily quiet in the late summer, but on Monday, August 6th one corner of Manhattan – 777 United Nations Plaza – was buzzing with activity.  Argentinean president Christina Kirchner, accompanied by 12 Latin American foreign ministers and a number of other foreign dignitaries, had come to kick off her country’s one-month presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) by personally chairing the month’s first open debate of the Council.  It is rare for a head of state to preside over UNSC debates, but Kirchner has consistently sought to raise Argentina’s profile on the world stage and, as a key promoter of Latin American integration, is clearly determined to use the Council’s global bully pulpit to bolster the international clout of the region’s new multilateral organizations.  Thus the August 6 open debate which Kirchner chaired was on “cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations in maintaining international peace and security.” 

Along with representatives of the EU and the Arab League, the foreign ministers of Cuba, Peru and Venezuela were in attendance representing, respectively, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Southern Common Market (Mercosur).  It was the first time that representatives of both CELAC, launched in Caracas in 2012, and UNASUR, launched in Brasilia in 2008, spoke before the Council.

Kirchner used her midday speech at the UN to highlight the achievements of CELAC and UNASUR in helping resolve internal and bilateral political conflicts in the region.  As an example she cited the role of the Rio Group – CELAC’s predecessor – in resolving the heated dispute between Ecuador and Colombia resulting from the latter’s decision to invade and bomb its neighbor’s territory in March of 2008.  She also mentioned UNASUR’s successful efforts to put an end to the violent destabilization campaign against Bolivian president Evo Morales in September of 2008. 

Perhaps due to time constraints, Kirchner didn’t mention the successful mediation carried out by her late husband and political predecessor Nestor Kirchner who, as Secretary General of UNASUR was instrumental in repairing relations between the governments of Colombia and Venezuela.  Nor did she mention UNASUR’s strong opposition to the 2009 Honduran coup which played a role in greatly delaying international recognition of Honduras’ post-coup governments.  Contrary to the U.S.-dominated Organization of American States (OAS), both bodies firmly opposed recognizing elections held in Honduras without the prior restoration of the country’s democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya.

Read more...

 

 
Recap of Threats and Intimidation from Washington Over Snowden Print
Written by Stephan Lefebvre   
Tuesday, 06 August 2013 16:16

Whistleblower Edward Snowden has finally been granted asylum by a country that he’s actually able to travel to.  Regardless of whether asylum in Russia is only temporary, this is precisely the situation that the U.S. government has been trying to avoid ever since Snowden’s identity became known on June 9thAccording to the State Department, “Mr. Snowden is not a human rights activist, he’s not a dissident, he’s been accused of leaking classified information, has been charged with three very serious felony counts, and must be, should be, returned to the United States to face a free and fair trial as soon as possible.” 

When confronted with accusations that the extreme measures taken by the Obama administration to try to capture Snowden are a form of political persecution, the State Department offers contradictory rebuttals, first saying, “he would be tried as any U.S. citizen would be, and he remains a U.S. citizen.”  and then stating, “I wouldn’t want to compare [Snowden’s] case to any other case in the U.S. or elsewhere.”  This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the incoherent public statements made by U.S. government officials trying to justify their pursuit of Snowden. 

Many countries have received threats or suffered blowback for even considering Snowden’s asylum request.  Indeed, in perhaps one of the more dramatic moments so far in the Snowden saga, Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, had his plane rerouted and searched based on an unfounded suspicion that Snowden was on board.  Given that Snowden seems to have found himself a stable living situation - at least for now - let’s step back for a moment and review some of the actions and statements of the Obama administration and members of the U.S. congress with regard to Snowden.  They reveal how important this case is to the government, and also some of the contradictions that have emerged in the process:

  1. Various parts of the U.S. government were involved in trying to win China’s cooperation with efforts to capture Snowden, and after he left for Russia strong words were used to illustrate U.S. frustration with China.  White House spokesperson Jay Carney said on June 24:
  2. I think it’s fair to say that this is a setback in the effort by the Chinese to help develop mutual trust.  And I think, as we’ve said with regards to the failure by Hong Kong to provisionally arrest Mr. Snowden, that we don’t buy suggestions that the Chinese weren’t a part of -- that this was just a logistical or technical issue in Hong Kong alone.  So we do believe it’s a setback.  

    While censuring China, he also tried to build a case for why Russia should cooperate:

    I can note, as I have, that we have worked cooperatively with the Russians in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings and have a fairly substantial history of law enforcement cooperation with Russia as a backdrop to this discussion.  But I wouldn’t want to characterize communications at this point or speculate about outcomes.  This is clearly fluid and we’re monitoring --

    Although it is difficult to be certain since other bilateral meetings were not open to the public, it seems like this tough rhetoric was not toned down during the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

Read more...

 

 
Amid Repression, Honduran Congress Fast Tracks Resource Development Print
Written by Dan Beeton   
Friday, 02 August 2013 13:30

A contentious new law on “development promotion” that quickly passed the Honduran congress last month has provoked alarm in communities already trying to halt projects that could roll over indigenous rights and damage the environment. The “Ley de Promoción del Desarrollo y Reconversión de la Deuda Pública” (Development Promotion and Public Debt Restructuring Act) – passed under unusual and controversial congressional rules - will facilitate the sale of various public and natural resources for development purposes.

Legislators promoting the bill cited Honduras’ fiscal woes, saying revenue generated through the sale of concessions and of public assets would help the government pay off its debt. A new report [PDF] from the Congressional Research Service notes:

Honduras suffered an economic contraction of 2.4% in 2009 as a result of the combined impact of the global financial crisis and domestic political crisis. Although the economy has partially recovered, with estimated growth of 3.3% in 2012, the Honduran government continues to face serious fiscal challenges. The central government’s deficit has been growing in recent years. As it has struggled to obtain financing for the budget, public employees and contractors occasionally have gone unpaid and basic government services have been interrupted. Honduras also continues to face significant social disparities, with over two-thirds of the population living in poverty.

The CRS report goes on to state that “President Lobo also inherited a weak economy with high levels of poverty and inequality.” But as we described in a November 2009 report, “poverty and inequality decreased significantly during the Zelaya administration, with rapid growth of more than 6 percent during the first two years,” and “Some expansionary monetary policy was used to counter-act the global downturn in 2008.” This was interrupted by the coup – the “domestic political crisis” referred to by CRS -- to which we noted the Honduran economy was “especially vulnerable,” as well as to the global economic downturn.

Read more...

 

 
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 10 of 26

CEPR.net
Support this blog, donate
Combined Federal Campaign #79613

About The Americas Blog

The Americas Blog seeks to present a more accurate perspective on economic and political developments in the Western Hemisphere than is often presented in the United States. It will provide information that is often ignored, buried, and sometimes misreported in the major U.S. media.

For more information, sign up for our Latin America News Roundup or visit the archives.

Argentina Bolivia Brazil Chavez Colombia congress coup cuba DEA ecuador election elections Honduras human rights latin america Maduro media coverage mexico NSA oas police Snowden State Department venezuela vulture funds

+ All tags