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Daily Headlines – October 29, 2012 Print
Written by Jake Johnston   
Monday, 29 October 2012 11:48

As Hurricane Sandy approaches the northeastern shore of the United States, Caribbean countries began cleaning up after the storm left over 60 dead throughout the region. The AP reports that 51 of the 65 deaths reported were in Haiti, where the nation’s Prime Minister declared, “This is a disaster of major proportions.” The Southern region was the worst hit, with large scale flooding causing damage to homes as well as crops. Haiti, which has been grappling with a cholera epidemic for two years, could see increased cases over the next few weeks as the rising water levels facilitate the disease’s spread. For more information on cholera in Haiti, see CEPR’s Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog. Cuba, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico all reported deaths as well.

The governing coalition led by President Sebastian Pinera took a hit at the polls this weekend in Chile, reports the AP. Parties from the left took roughly 43 percent of seats as compared to 37 percent for the governing right-wing alliance. The left’s largest victory was in central Santiago where Carolina Tohá, who has supported student protests for education reform, defeated the incumbent, “ultra-conservative” Pablo Zalaquett. Former president Salvador Allende’s daughter also won her first major political race, whereas Pinochet’s former intelligence director lost his 16-year hold on the mayor’s office in the upper-class district Providencia. As the BBC notes, the election was marked by low turnout. It was the first election where voting was not mandatory, and abstention was over 60 percent. For more analysis, see the Pan-American Post.

A U.S. appeals court ruled against Argentina in a long running dispute with hold-out bondholders, reports Bloomberg. Argentina appealed a lower court ruling that it must repay the vulture funds before making payments to those bondholders who accepted a restructuring. The ruling comes as a huge victory to NML Capital, a unit of billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliot Management Corp, which has spent millions lobbying against Argentina through the American Task Force Argentina. It was a surprise to many as the United States government had come down on Argentina’s side, having argued to the lower court that their ruling “could enable a single creditor to thwart the implementation of an internationally supported restructuring plan, and thereby undermine the decades of effort the United States has expended to encourage a system of cooperative resolution of sovereign debt crises.” Felix Salmon, writing on the ruling, states, “I've been writing about holdouts, or vultures, or whatever you want to call them, for a good dozen years now, and although they've had victories here and there, there's been nothing remotely as big or precedent-setting as this.”

Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa is pushing a bill that would increase the taxes charged to banks to pay for increased social welfare programs, reports Reuters. The bill, which was submitted to Congress last week, will introduce a 3 percent charge on banks’ income and scrap the exception lowering income taxes for banks to 15 percent, compared to 25 percent for others. The extra revenue would help raise the monthly payments under the government’s Human Development payment from $35 to $50 a month. As Reuters notes, Correa has pushed for significant financial reforms over the last few years, preventing banks from investing in other sectors of the economy, banning some service charges on credit cards, and allowing borrowers to default on loans by giving back the houses or cars to the banks that lent them the money. The government has also mandated that banks repatriate assets that are held abroad so that they can be more productively invested in Ecuador.  Correa, who is widely expected to win another term as President in February when elections are held, has greatly increased social spending during his time in office. For more on changes to the Ecuadorian economy and the government’s social policy, see this recent paper by CEPR researchers Rebecca Ray and Sara Kozameh.

To get all of the day’s headlines straight to your inbox, sign up for the Latin America News Round-up here. You can also view the archives of past round-ups here.

 
What’s driving incumbent reelections in Latin America? Print
Written by Sara Kozameh   
Thursday, 25 October 2012 15:09

AP published an article yesterday on the recent electoral success of incumbents in Latin America. Though the article focuses on the advantages of incumbency and the concentration of power in the presidency, there is another far more compelling reason for their success. A quick mention of the “decade of economic growth” in the article gives us a clue that something different may, in fact, have been occurring.

As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot pointed out in the New York Times, the reelection of incumbents and their political parties has more to do with increasing living standards than anything else. Following a twenty-year economic growth failure associated with neoliberalism, a new wave of leaders campaigned against these policies and for a greater distribution of wealth, and have largely backed up those campaign pledges.

At this point, it might prove fruitful to dig a little deeper into the recent economic context of Latin America, and as it just so happens, CEPR has been doing exactly that for many years now.

A few examples indicate that policies leading to significant economic and social advances are likely playing a strong role in countries where the reelection of incumbents has occurred:

  • Under the consecutive governments of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández, Argentina’s economy grew more than 85 percent from its collapse in 2002 to 2011, one of the highest economic growth rates in the world. Poverty, income inequality and unemployment have fallen by two-thirds, one-half and more than one-half, respectively, since their peaks after the 2001 crisis. In 2010 poverty had fallen to fourteen percent of the population and unemployment to 8 percent. Cristina Fernández won reelection easily in 2011.
  • In Venezuela, Chávez has presided over a 49.7 decline in the poverty rate. Extreme poverty declined 70 percent from 2004-2011. At 26.7 and 7.0 percent, respectively in 2011, both poverty and extreme poverty have reached historic lows for the country.  From 1980-1998 Venezuela’s GDP per capita actually declined by 14 percent, while it has increased by 2.5 percentage points annually since 2004 once the economy had recovered from the devastating opposition oil strike of 2002-2003. (Of course it grew even faster if measured from 2002). Hugo Chávez was most recently re-elected two weeks ago on a platform of continuing the economic and social gains that his country has seen in the last decade, and which has resulted in the largest decrease in inequality in the hemisphere.
  • Since Rafael Correa became president of Ecuador in 2007, large increases in social spending have led to significant improvements in health and education and have led to substantial and consistent reductions in poverty and unemployment rates. Rafael Correa was reelected by a wide margin in 2009.
  • Bolivia’s economic growth under Evo Morales was also higher than at any other time in the previous 30 years. Morales was reelected under a new constitution in 2009 after his country regained control over their natural resources and used the funds to increase public investment and social spending.
 
Daily Headlines – October 25, 2012 Print
Written by Jake Johnston   
Thursday, 25 October 2012 11:20

Following a week of protests which resulted in the deaths of three people, President Martinelli of Panama said he is willing to cancel plans to sell land in the duty-free zone in Colon. The protests were in response to the passing of a law last Friday which would allow the selling of land to companies which are currently leasing land in Latin America’s largest duty-free zone. Protestors contend that the millions of dollars in leasing fees go to the capital and don’t help provide needed services in Colon. Political Analyst Joe Blandon told the Associated Press, “In Colon, there is an economic system that clearly shows its injustice…On one side is the canal, the duty-free zone, and on the other is the city where half of the population lives in poverty."

Bolivia is breaking the mold in the “war on drugs” in their efforts to contain the cultivation of coca, reports Deutsche Welle. The coca leaf has been used for centuries in Bolivia as a mild stimulant and Bolivia withdrew from a UN convention that labels the coca leaf in its natural state as a narcotic substance. That move, together with expelling the DEA in 2008 angered Washington, which has included Bolivia on a list of countries “failing demonstrably” in the war on drugs. Nevertheless, while previous efforts at crop replacement were failures, a new “social control” policy is proving effective. The program, which began in 2008 with financial support from the European Union, aims to work with the powerful coca growers unions to limit each registered grower to a small plot of coca. Coca planted outside permitted zones is still targeted for destruction, but the unions now support those efforts.  These new programs seem to be effective as the UN recently found that coca cultivation in Bolivia fell 12 percent in 2011.

Venezuelan finance minister Jorge Giordani presented the 2013 budget to national assembly this week, reports Reuters. The budget forecasts economic growth of 6 percent in 2013 with inflation falling to a range between 14-16 percent. While many financial analysts have predicted a sharp slowdown in Venezuelan growth after increased spending in the year before the election falls off, CEPR research has shown that Venezuela’s growth is sustainable. Venezuelanalysis, looks at the budget in terms of social spending, noting that it will make up over 37 percent of the budget. Education receives over 11 percent of the budget, while social security and health are set to receive 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively. As Venezuelanalysis notes, the regular budget doesn’t include all social spending as PDVSA and Fonden also contribute to social investment.

The crew from Argentina’s naval vessel returned from Ghana today, as the ship remains detained by the vulture fund NML Capital, reports the AP. Many members of the crew expressed frustration and dismay at returning to Argentina without the flagship vessel. Nevertheless, President Kirchner has refused to negotiate with the vulture fund, “As long as I am president, they can keep the frigate, but no one will take the liberty, sovereignty and dignity of this country - not a vulture fund, not anyone." Meanwhile, another Argentine vessel, which was forced to dock in South Africa for repairs, is being targeted by NML capital, reports Mercopress. The Argentine embassy is ready to respond should legal efforts to detain the ship go forward, however the news report notes some key differences with the situation in Ghana. For one, Elliot Capital, the parent company of NML, tried buying South African company bonds for cents on the dollar and suing for full value plus interest but has yet to win a court case in South Africa. For more on NML and the other vulture funds lobbying against Argentina, see here and here.

To get all of the day’s headlines straight to your inbox, sign up for the Latin America News Round-up here. You can also view the archives of past round-ups here.

 
Daily Headlines – October 22, 2012 Print
Written by Jake Johnston   
Monday, 22 October 2012 13:41

The killing of indigenous protestors by the Guatemalan military has raised fears about the militarization of police duties, reports the New York Times. The killing has also raised questions about U.S. military aid to Guatemala, as U.S. Marines have been stationed there for the last two months assisting in anti-drug trafficking operations. During the country’s civil war, the military was found to be responsible for the vast majority of human rights violations, including the Dos Erres massacre carried out by the Kaibiles special forces. Current President Otto Perez Molina was himself a former Kaibil. The criticisms echo those in Honduras, where the U.S. is reassessing their assistance to the Honduran armed forces after U.S. agents were involved in a series of deadly raids.  A number of recent op-ed and articles highlight these issues further.

While the killing of protestors by the military is bringing up fears of the past, the relative success at holding those responsible accountable is giving hope that the history of impunity in Guatemala is ending, reports the Associated Press. Claudia Paz y Paz, the attorney general, has the strong support of the international community, and responded quickly in arresting 8 army privates and a colonel, who could face up to 500 years in prison for “extrajudicial assassination.” Kelsey Alford-Jones, director of the Washington-based nonprofit group Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, told the AP, "It is an important departure from Guatemala's long history of impunity for similar crimes…Justice in this case, along with the demilitarization of citizen security, will be a significant step toward ensuring non-violent resolution of social conflict in the future."

Jamaica is pushing forward with a new IMF agreement, reports Go Jamaica. An IMF delegation traveled to Jamaica recently to begin negotiations for a new agreement, and Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller said over the weekend that the “government is working as hard as possible to conclude an agreement”. Jamaica returned to the Washington-based lender in 2010, yet the agreement put in place contractionary austerity measures, as documented by CEPR at the time. Jamaica has struggled through years of slow growth and high debt, with some 50 percent of revenues dedicated to debt service. Per-capita GDP is projected to remain below its pre-recession level through 2017. Never the less, indications are that a new IMF agreement would contain many of the same problematic requirements as the previous agreement, despite opposition from within the IMF.

The Ecuadorian government has found new supporters of the Yasuni conservation plan, reports Reuters. The plan, which involves the protection of one of the most bio-diverse places on earth, requires donors to compensate Ecuador for conserving the area and not drilling for oil in the reserve, estimated to hold $7.2 billion worth of oil. Thus far the plan has received some $200 million, mostly from bilateral donors, though corporations are increasingly donating as well.

Argentina is ordering the evacuation of the ARA Libertad, the naval vessel held in Ghana by the vulture fund NML Capital since early October, reports the Associated Press. A judge in Ghana, who denied Argentina’s appeal to have the seizure reversed, also prevented to ship from refueling leaving the 326 crew members without power on board. Foreign Minister Hector Timmerman responded, calling the move “an attack that is nothing more or less than a kidnapping, an extortion and an act of piracy against a sovereign nation." To read more on the vulture fund, their lobbying efforts in DC and their history, see here and here

 
Atlas Shrugs, Honduran “Model Cities” Crash to the Floor Print
Written by Dan Beeton   
Monday, 22 October 2012 11:37

Fox Business’ John Stossel knows better than the Honduran constitution and your Economics 101 class, he revealed over the weekend. The pesky Honduran Supreme Court recently ruled 13-2 that proposed libertarian utopia charter or “model cities” – called “free cities” by Stossel – would go against Honduras’ constitution. Remember, this is the same constitution which we have been repeatedly told “socialist,” “Chavez-ally” former president Zelaya was trying to subvert before he was bravely ousted in a coup by the Honduran military, leading to Honduras’ status as a beacon of liberty and human rights today. But sadly for Stossel and model city proponent Michael Strong, apparently the Honduran constitution and Honduras’ post-coup institutions are not as freedom-loving as they seemed during the military coup.

The Supreme Court ruling is a surprising blow to a project that has attracted much interest – and little skepticism – from media outlets such as the New York Times. “Freedom-haters” in Honduras meanwhile, such as Garifuna communities who say their land rights are threatened by a model city plan, were handed a significant victory in a country where the rule of law is weak are institutions are notoriously corrupt.

Previous backers of the “model city” concept – notably idea man Paul Romer – also recently walked away from the project, shocked at the lack of transparency and fair-dealing by the Honduran government.

“Honduran free city founder” Strong (who actually is from the U.S.) knows when he isn’t wanted. He’ll just find someone else who appreciates him and his ideas:

"We hope and expect that another country will choose prosperity over poverty, but for now advocates of poverty have won in Honduras," Strong says.

Stossel agrees:

I wish him luck in finding other places to start a "free city." It has worked before. Hong Kong was once just as poor as Africa -- but thanks to a government that enforced property rights but did almost nothing else, it is now even wealthier than the United States.

 
Honduras’ Violent “Hot Spots” Help Propel Homicides to a New Record High Print
Written by Dan Beeton   
Friday, 19 October 2012 15:42

Several new op-eds and articles highlight problems with the U.S. government’s support for the post-coup government of Pepe Lobo in Honduras. New U.N. data reveals that the homicide rate in Honduras – already infamous as the “murder capital of the world” -- has gone up even further, to 92 murders per 100,000 people, over 82 a year ago. This makes Honduras far and away the most murderous country in Latin America (despite what some journalists have contended), and well above that of violent neighbors such as El Salvador (69 per 100,000) and Guatemala (38.5 per 100,000).

As scholars such as Dana Frank, in numerous articles in The Nation, The New York Times, and now Foreign Affairs, have pointed out, the increase in killings has resulted from the climate of instability in the wake of the 2009 coup, which was supported by the Obama administration. While coup opponents, journalists, the LGBT community, and women have been targets of post-coup violence across the country, Honduras is also now home to more than one “hot spot” of bloodshed since the coup.

The 2009 coup against democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya cut short a land reform process that sought to resolve conflict in the Aguán Valley region where a few rich landholders have been able to acquire huge swaths of land at the expense of impoverished peasants. “Armed commandos pass[ed] menacingly through defenceless villages during the days after the coup,” as “The government has converted the area of these agrarian conflicts in Bajo Aguán into a war zone” with “low-flying military helicopters and planes" and “the peasants of the region’s organized movement suffer from kidnappings, torture and murders,” a September 2011 report [PDF] by the International Federation for Human Rights noted. The most notorious of these land owners is Miguel Facussé, uncle of former president Carlos Flores Facussé. Miguel Facussé is considered by the U.S. government to be involved in drug trafficking, and is frequently described as the “most powerful man in Honduras.” Facussé also has tourism interests in the Gulf of Fonseca area, on the other side of the country on the Pacific Coast, where forced evictions are also occurring and community radio stations and journalists covering them have been targeted with death threats, shut downs, and arrests.

Read more...

 

 
Daily Headlines – October 19, 2012 Print
Written by Jake Johnston   
Friday, 19 October 2012 10:35

The Honduras Supreme Court struck down a plan to build private “charter” cities, reports the Associated Press. The project, which envisioned areas of Honduras turned over to private investors and run with their own laws, was opposed by civic groups and the indigenous Garifuna, whose land was threatened by the project. Lawyer Fredin Funez told the BBC, “This is great news for the Honduran people. This decision has prevented the country going back into a feudal system that was in place 1,000 years ago.” The Honduras Culture and Politics blog has more on the American company, MGK, which was planning on making the first investment under the law.

President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil signed the country’s forest code into law yesterday, reports AFP. The president, who used a line-item veto to rid the bill of some parts that had been included by the pro agri-business bloc in congress, touted the law, saying, “No to amnesty, no to encouragement of illegal logging.” Environmentalists were less optimistic, however. Paolo Adario of Greenpeace noted that, “"The presidential veto slightly improves the text approved by Congress, which was awful, but the result continues to be very bad.” While former Presidential candidate Marina Silva agreed, “We can conclude that illegal loggers won and society lost."

Uruguay became just the second country in South America after Guyana to effectively legalize abortion, reports the New York Times. The bill, which narrowly passed the Senate, would allow for “abortion in the first trimester, permits abortion through 14 weeks of pregnancy in cases of rape and allows later-term abortions when a woman’s health is at risk.” While the bill is a step in the right direction, women’s groups criticized some aspects of the legislation, hoping that it would have gone further, reports Inter-Press Service. Women who are seeking an abortion must first explain to a doctor the “economic, social, family or age difficulties that in her view stand in the way of continuing the pregnancy.” The spokeswoman for Mujer y Salud en Uruguay, an NGO which is leading the push for legalization, told IPS, “We see this law as minimal; it is not what we were hoping for… It has many gaps, and satisfies no one.”

Hospital managers in Peru’s public health system have walked off the job, in solidarity with striking doctors, reports Reuters. This is the latest in a string of labor conflicts between Humala, who was elected on a center-left platform, and labor unions. Peru, which ranks last in Latin America in public health spending as a percent of GDP has refused to provide wage increases to doctors and teachers, a decision unions blame on conservative finance minister Luis Miguel Castilla. Jesus Bonilla, a leader of the doctor’s union, told reporters, “Our country has been growing strongly but pay in the public sector for the last decade has fallen substantially. We haven’t received a cent of increases. Our buying power has fallen 30 or 40 percent.” Criticism hasn’t just come from the left, conservative politician Lourdes Flores told Peruvian radio, “The president told the country he believed in a strong state. But the state is a disaster.”

To get all of the day’s headlines straight to your inbox, sign up for the Latin America News Round-up here. You can also view the archives of past round-ups here.

 
Farmer, Education Groups to Anti-Argentina Lobby: “Uh, Who Are You?” Print
Written by Jake Johnston   
Thursday, 18 October 2012 15:30

Last week I wrote about the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), which has spent more than $3 million lobbying against Argentina. One of the primary players behind ATFA, NML Capital, detained an Argentina naval ship in Ghana earlier this month in an effort to force “full” repayment on defaulted Argentina bonds, which were purchased for just a fraction of their face value.

The lobbying group also lists many farmers associations and education groups amongst its members. These groups have often been cited by ATFA when it has argued that the issue of Argentina being forced, to pay back “full” value is important to mainstream America, and not just hedge fund managers. Never mind the fact that Argentina has reached agreement with 95 percent of bondholders.  But a report from the Wall Street Journal reveals that ATFA is really closer to a “vulture funds…lobby facade,” as Argentina ambassador Jorge Arguello has referred to it. The Journal reports:

Mr. Matlack is president of American Agriculture Movement, a farmers' advocacy group that was listed among about 40 members of American Task Force Argentina, whose stated mission is to help investors recoup money from Argentina's 2001 bond default and subsequent restructuring.

But Mr. Matlack and some leaders of other groups representing ranchers, teachers and farmers, are baffled about why the task force listed their organizations as members "united for a just and fair reconciliation" of Argentina's default.

Reached while he was planting wheat on his farm, Mr. Matlack said he had never heard of American Task Force Argentina. "We don't have anything to do with Argentina's debt," he said.

Also perplexed are leaders of the Colorado conference of the American Association of University Professors, which was listed under members and supporters. "This is absolutely foreign to me," says Ray Hogler, legislative director of the academic group.

Both groups were dropped from the list after the Wall Street Journal alerted the task force to the discrepancies.

This abuse of the names of professional associations to further the interests of vulture funds should give additional pause to those in the House and Senate who have argued in favor of bending the foreign policy of the United States in favor of those funds’ interests.

To read the rest of the article, click here. For some more background information on Argentina and their default and restructuring see here and here

 
More Fallout From the Venezuelan Election Print
Written by Mark Weisbrot   
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 16:20

As I have noted previously, fake polling and other suspicious activities in previous Venezuelan elections had helped those with a political agenda, including some journalists, advance their interests.  There was less of this in Venezuela’s October 7 election than in some previous elections, but still plenty to go around.  The dubious achievement awards for this election go to:

  1. Barclays, one of the world’s biggest banks:  put out a report two days before the election stating that “an opposition victory looks likely,” and recommending to its investors that they buy Venezuelan bonds.  Two days later Chavez won by 11 percentage points, and Venezuelan bonds fell by about 5 percent, although they have since recovered much of this loss.  (As an intermediate to long term investment, Venezuelan dollar-denominated bonds are most likely a good buy, since the return is quite high and the risk of default is low.  But those who took Barclays’ advice were betting on the election, and they lost.)
  2. Varianzas, a major Venezuelan polling firm, published an exit poll on the day of the election showing Chavez losing by a margin of 3.2 percentage points.  A result this far off the mark has an extremely small probability of occurring by random error.

So, what I want to know: was anybody fired for these mistakes?  Bloomberg noted that the lead analyst for the Barclays report was a Venezuelan who had “run unsuccessfully for public office as a member of Capriles’s Primero Justicia party.”  Was it incompetence or just a desire to help the cause of the opposition that led to this gross error?  You make the call. Polling firm Consultores 21 predicted a Chavez loss by 4.6 percentage points before the election.  Consultores 21 had a track record of significant bias toward the opposition, but it was used by many media outlets to say that the election would be close.  Will any of these people be taken seriously in other forecasts?  If they made these enormous errors in the U.S. presidential race, the answer would be an obvious no.  But there are special standards for sources on Venezuela  . . .

Seven polling houses in September showed an average lead for Chavez of 11.7 percentage points.  (The Wilson Center reported this as “Though major polling firms differ on where the race stands, they seem to agree that the final outcome is almost impossible to predict.”)  So just taking the average would have gotten you within 0.7 points of the actual result.  CEPR’s statistical analysis of the polling, correcting for past bias, estimated a 13.7 percent lead for Chavez, and gave Capriles a 5.7 percent chance of winning.

Some of the pre-election analysis was not dishonest but still difficult to understand.  Political scientist Iñaki Sagarzazu analyzed past and current polling data and concluded on Oct. 2 that “As it stands the race is extremely close.”  An 11 point margin is not extremely close, in the sense that pollsters with reasonable skill should to be able to predict the winner of such and election in advance.  

_______

As bad as the major English-language media coverage was, the Spanish-language media coverage was worse.  ABC in Spain reported wild stories of a Chavez government “plan” to take over the country by military force if they lost the election – stories that were completely ignored in the major English-language media, but picked up in major Latin American newspapers.  The Latin American media is the main reason that most people in Latin America have a view of Venezuela that is as distorted as, or worse than that of most U.S. residents.

Peru’s La Republica ran a piece this week by political scientist Steven Levitsky, who invented a new label for Venezuela under Chavez, “Competitive Authoritarianism.”  For him, the Chavez government is “equally authoritarian” as the Fujimori government in Peru.  Fujimori carried out a presidential coup in 1992, dissolving the Congress and suspending the constitution; the legitimacy of his government was widely questioned internationally throughout most of his tenure.  He is currently serving a prison sentence for murder, kidnapping, and corruption that he was found to be personally responsible for during his presidency.   Venezuela, by contrast, has had 15 elections or referenda under the Chavez administration, without any serious question of legitimacy; it has vastly increased voter registration and participation (more than 96 percent and 80 percent, respectively in the most recent election, which Jimmy Carter called the best electoral process of 92 countries that he had observed).  

But for Levitsky, “there is not democracy in Venezuela,” but rather a form of authoritarianism like Fujimori’s Peru.   This is a bit like asserting that the United States and Saudi Arabia have the same political systems, since in both countries the vast majority of the people have little or no input into the most important national policy decisions that affect their lives.  Probably no political scientist could get away with such an exaggeration.  But hey, this is about Venezuela – exaggeration is the norm, and anything goes.

 
Daily Headlines – October 17, 2012 Print
Written by Jake Johnston   
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 10:29

Ecuadorian plaintiffs, seeking to collect $19 billion in damages from Chevron, will be able to seize some $200 million of the company’s assets in Ecuador, a court ruled Monday. Reuters reports that the court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador ruled that assets, including money in Chevron bank accounts in Ecuador and money the Ecuadorian government owes to Chevron, be turned over to the plaintiffs. Just last week the U.S. Supreme Court dealt Chevron another blow, rejecting an attempt to block enforcement of the $19 billion ruling in the U.S. The plaintiffs have filed suits in Brazil and Canada to try and enforce the ruling. On the victory Monday, Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the affected Ecuadorian communities, told Reuters, “This is a huge first step for the rainforest villagers on the road to collecting the entire $19bn judgement.”

Chilean student leaders, Camila Vallejo and Noam Titelman, are in the United States this week where they will receive the 2012 International Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award presented by the Institute for Policy Studies. Democracy NOW! speaks with the two student leaders, who have helped organize some of the largest protests in Chile since the Pinochet dictatorship. Titelman said, “our public education is dying, we have only 36 percent of students going to public schools. Here in the States, it’s almost 90 percent. It’s really a very special example of how privatized can a state become.” Meanwhile, back in Chile, thousands of students took to the streets in Valparaiso to demand urgent action on education reform, reports the Associated Press.

State intervention is back in Latin America, and helping to create social policies and reduce inequalities, according to the regional director of the UN Development Program, Herlado Muñoz reports Mercopress. As opposed to the 90s when the Washington Consensus dictated that the government was the problem, Muñoz notes that, “For the first time in many decades the State is back in Latin America.” CEPR research has shown that there is a relationship between moving away from the Washington Consensus and reducing inequality. Juan Montecino, using econometric techniques to look at the data, determined that left-of-center governments have on average decreased inequality more than their counterparts. 

As Colombian government and FARC negotiators head to Norway to begin peace talks, a judge in Colombia ordered the return of some 160 acres of land to 14 families in the country’s first land restitution ruling.  President Santos enacted the Victims and Land Restitution law last year, yet since then progress has stagnated and violence against those seeking restitution has continued. The issue of land reform is one of the main demands being sought by the FARC in peace negotiations.

To get all of the day’s headlines straight to your inbox, sign up for the Latin America News Round-up here. You can also view the archives of past round-ups here.

 
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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.

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