Inter Press ServiceLatin America & the Caribbean – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 25 Apr 2018 00:04:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 From Mega to Micro, a Transition that Will Democratise Energy in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/mega-micro-transition-will-democratise-energy-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mega-micro-transition-will-democratise-energy-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/mega-micro-transition-will-democratise-energy-brazil/#respond Tue, 24 Apr 2018 02:32:26 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155425 An energy transition is spreading around the globe. But in Brazil it will be characterised by sharp contrasts, with large hydroelectric plants being replaced by solar microgenerators and government decisions being replaced by family and community decision-making. “The future is solar, but it will be a difficult and slow process, because electricity concessionaires will not […]

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Argentina Aims for a Delicate Climate Balance in the G20http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/argentina-aims-delicate-climate-balance-g20/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentina-aims-delicate-climate-balance-g20 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/argentina-aims-delicate-climate-balance-g20/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 00:10:12 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155356 As president this year of the Group of 20 (G20) developed and emerging nations, Argentina has now formally begun the task of trying to rebuild a consensus around climate change. It will be an uphill climb, since the position taken by the United States in 2017 led to a noisy failure in the group with […]

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The Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina, Rabbi Sergio Bergman, speaks during the opening of the Group of 20 (G20) Sustainability Working Group in Buenos Aires. Argentina, which chairs the Group this year, has the difficult task of seeking consensus on this thorny issue. Credit: Ministry of Environment of Argentina

The Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina, Rabbi Sergio Bergman, speaks during the opening of the Group of 20 (G20) Sustainability Working Group in Buenos Aires. Argentina, which chairs the Group this year, has the difficult task of seeking consensus on this thorny issue. Credit: Ministry of Environment of Argentina

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Apr 20 2018 (IPS)

As president this year of the Group of 20 (G20) developed and emerging nations, Argentina has now formally begun the task of trying to rebuild a consensus around climate change. It will be an uphill climb, since the position taken by the United States in 2017 led to a noisy failure in the group with regard to the issue.

The G20 Sustainability Working Group (CSWG) held its first meeting of the year on Apr. 17-18 in Buenos Aires, in the middle of a balancing act.

Argentine officials hope a full consensus will be reached, in order to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2017 in Germany, when the final document crudely exposed the differences between the U.S. standpoint and the views of the other 19 members, with respect to climate change.

“Since the United States does not recognise the Climate Action Plan agreed in Hamburg (where the last G20 summit was held), we did not formally table it. But what we are doing is addressing the contents of that plan,” Carlos Gentile, chair of the G20 Sustainability Working Group, told IPS.

“Today the United States is participating and we are confident that this time a consensus will be reached for the G20 document by the end of this year,” added Gentile, who is Argentina’s secretary of climate change and sustainable development.

The official stressed, as a step forward for the countries of Latin America and other emerging economies, the fact that the main theme of the Working Group this year is adaptation to climate change and extreme climate events, with a focus on development of resilient infrastructure and job creation.

“We know that mitigation is more important for the developed countries, which is why it is a victory that they accepted our focus on adaptation,” said Gentile.

The Working Group commissioned four documents that will be discussed at the end of August at the second and last meeting of the year, which will be held in Puerto Iguazú, on the triple border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

Two of the papers will be on adaptation to climate change and will be produced by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and UN Environment.

The other two will be about long-term strategies, prepared by the World Resources Institute, an international research organisation, and how to align funding with the national contributions established in the Paris Agreement on climate change, by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

One of the highlights of the two days in Buenos Aires was that the countries that have already finalised documents on their long-term strategies (LTS) shared their experiences. Among these countries are Germany, Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Mexico and France.

The LTS are voluntary plans that nations have been invited to present, by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, about their vision of how it is possible to transform their productive and energy mix by 2050 and beyond.

While the national contributions included in the Paris Agreement, established at COP 21 in December 2015, are included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and are to be reviewed every five years, the LTS look much further.

“Each of the countries designed their LTS in their own way. Some countries said they used it as a way to send a signal to the private sector about what kinds of technologies are foreseen for the climate transition and others spoke about job creation,” said Lucas Black, climate change specialist for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The UNDP collaborates with the Global Resources Institute in its document on the LTS and it also plays a role in the agenda of issues related to the development of the G20, as an external guest.

What does not seem clear is where such ambitious transformation plans towards 2050 will find the resources needed to turn them into reality.

In this respect, Black acknowledged to a small group of journalists that for emerging economies it is particularly difficult to find the funds necessary for carrying out in-depth changes.

“The private sector, particularly in infrastructure, really needs long-term certainty. That is a crucial part of its decision to invest,” said the international official, who arrived from New York for the meeting.

For her part, María Eugenia Di Paola, coordinator of the UNDP Environment Programme in Argentina, said the financing for the transition must come from “a public-private partnership” and that “the incorporation of adaptation to climate change in the G20 agenda is mainly of interest to developing countries.”

This year’s G20 Leaders’ Summit will take place Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Buenos Aires and will bring together the world’s most powerful heads of state and government for the first time in South America.

By that time, which will mark the end of the presidency of Argentina, this country hopes to reach a consensus on climate change, an issue that was first addressed in the official G20 declaration in 2008.

Black believes it is possible.

“Obviously, the G20 countries have different views. During the German presidency there was no consensus on all points. But all G20 members have a strong interest in the issues discussed this week: adaptation to climate change and infrastructure, long-term strategies and the need to align financing with national contributions,” he said.

The Working Group meeting in Buenos Aires was opened by two ministers of the government of President Mauricio Macri: Environment Minister Sergio Bergman and Energy and Mining Minister Juan José Aranguren.

Before joining the government, Aranguren was for years CEO of the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell in Argentina.

Argentina launched a programme to build sources of generation of renewable energy, which is almost non-existent in the country’s electricity mix but drives the most important projects in other areas of the energy sector.

Thus, for example, it was announced that in May Aranguren will travel to Houston, the capital of the U.S. oil industry, in search of investors to boost the development of Vaca Muerta, a gigantic reservoir of unconventional fossil fuels in the south of the country.

The minister has also been questioned by environmental sectors for his support for the construction of a gigantic dam in Patagonia and the installation of two new nuclear power plants.

“Latin America has a series of opportunities to build a more sustainable energy system, to improve infrastructure and to provide safe access to energy for the entire population,” Aranguren said in his opening speech at the Working Group meeting.

Bergman, meanwhile, said that “we have all the resources to address the challenge of climate change to transform reality and open the door to a secure and stable future for all.”

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Latin America Faces Uphill Energy Transitionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/latin-america-faces-uphill-energy-transition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-faces-uphill-energy-transition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/latin-america-faces-uphill-energy-transition/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 22:54:03 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155353 Latin America is facing challenges in energy efficiency, transportation and power generation to move towards a low carbon economy and thus accelerate that transition, which is essential to cut emissions in order to reduce global warming before it reaches a critical level. The region has made progress in the production of renewable energy, especially from […]

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New GCF Project Signals Paradigm Shift for Water-Scarce Barbadoshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/new-gcf-project-signals-paradigm-shift-water-scarce-barbados/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-gcf-project-signals-paradigm-shift-water-scarce-barbados http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/new-gcf-project-signals-paradigm-shift-water-scarce-barbados/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 00:02:28 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155338 At the start of 2017, the Caribbean Drought and Precipitation Monitoring Network (CDPN) warned eastern Caribbean countries that they were facing “abnormal climate conditions” and possibly another full-blown drought. 

 For Barbados, it was dire news. Previous drought conditions impacted every sphere and sector of life of this historically water-scarce country. But a new project […]

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Dr. Donneil Cain (right), the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre's (CCCCC) project development specialist who worked with the BWA on the Barbados Water Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project, in discussion with Dr. Adrian Cashman from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill on the educational institutions that assisted with the project's development. Credit: Zadie Neufville

Dr. Donneil Cain (right), the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre's (CCCCC) project development specialist who worked with the BWA on the Barbados Water Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project, in discussion with Dr. Adrian Cashman from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill on the educational institutions that assisted with the project's development. Credit: Zadie Neufville

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Apr 19 2018 (IPS)

At the start of 2017, the Caribbean Drought and Precipitation Monitoring Network (CDPN) warned eastern Caribbean countries that they were facing “abnormal climate conditions” and possibly another full-blown drought. 



For Barbados, it was dire news. Previous drought conditions impacted every sphere and sector of life of this historically water-scarce country. But a new project promises a new water future for Barbadians by increasing the awareness of islanders to the water cycle and the likely impacts of climate change on the island’s drinking water supply.

The Water Sector Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project for Barbados (WSRN S-Barbados) is expected to build resilience in the sector by reducing the vulnerability to severe weather impacts, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce consumption, promote appropriate uses of diverse water sources and build the legislative safeguards to support climate smart development in water sector.

The project is being funded by the Green Climate Fund and is a collaborative effort between the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) with assistance from University of West Indies, Cave Hill Campus (UWI-CHC), and University of South Florida (USF).

WSRN-Barbados was one of several Caribbean funding commitments announced at the GCF 19th Board meeting in Korea in February to the tune of 45.2 million dollars (including 27.6 million in GCF funds and counterpart funding of 17.6 million from the BWA).

“To quantify the impact, there will be over 190,000 persons directly benefitting from this project and over 280,000 persons indirectly benefitting,” said Dr Elon Cadogan, project manager at the BWA.

He explains that within the project, there are provisions for collaboration among academic partners like UWI-CHC and USF. The aim is to develop a sharing platform that will serve as an incubator for novel ideas that will boost efforts to combat the impact of climate change and propel the discussion on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“This project proposes to gather the relevant human resources from these institutions and form a team of scientists and engineers to drive the in-depth operational research to build capacity,” Dr Cadogan explained.

The WSRN S-Barbados project will replace 16 kilometres (about 10 miles) of existing mains to reduce leakage by 0.03 MGD per km. This is expected to result in greater availability of water, which when valued at current costs, is an avoided expense to society of 1.3 million dollars.

“Increased availability of water will reduce the instances of water outages currently being experienced by many customers,” Dr. Cadogan explained.

“Previous instances of outages have had the adverse effects of persons reporting for work late or absent from work and businesses closing. Schools have had to close due to lack of water and the potential unsanitary conditions are likely to increase health treatment costs. In addition, there have been some cancellations of tourist stays and bookings,” he continued.

Tourism is one of the backbones of Barbados’ economy. In 2014, the total contribution of tourism and travel accounted for 36.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employed 37.5 percent of total employment (WTTC, 2015).

Another vital sector is agriculture. Agriculture, which in 2014 contributed 1.4 percent (value-added) of GDP and employed 2.7 percent of total employment (WDI, 2016), is essential for food and nutrition security and household income.

From the feasibility study, it was found that Barbados’ already dwindling water resources are not sufficient to meet demand in the medium to long terms. Implicit in that analysis is the demand for water by the tourism and agriculture sectors.

“This project contributes to the stability of Barbados’ macroeconomic environment, mitigates its susceptibility to inflationary pressures and external shocks and increases revenue to the government,” Dr Cadogan said.

“Barbados will benefit from foreign currency savings resulting from reduced dependence on fossil fuels due to the installation of photovoltaic panels. Barbados imported 322.7 million dollars of crude oil (2014 figures) and a significant portion is used in the production of electricity and transportation.”

The WSRN S-Barbados project will ensure that there is improved resilience to climate change and that communities have access to clean potable water.

Additional benefits include reduced leakage and the related number of disruptions, increased water available to the public, a stable price for water, increased water and food security via storage and rainwater harvesting, improved/increased resilience to storm events, and increased access to adaptation and mitigation financing (micro-adaptation and mitigation funding).

With respect to vulnerable populations as well as hospitals, polyclinics, schools and community centres, water tanks for water storage will be installed.

The project is expected to create 30 new jobs at the Belle Pumping Station, while the efforts to implement rainwater harvesting initiatives will create another 15 new jobs.

“In addition, the BWA will also ensure that Barbados plays its part to reduce the fossil fuel consumption by engaging in renewable energy solutions by the use of photovoltaic technologies. By using RE technologies, this would ensure that the Government of Barbados would have some stability with respect to tariffs and therefore be able to assist the most vulnerable on the island,” Dr Cadogan said.

“It is also envisioned that there will be (a) enhanced capacity, knowledge and climate resilience in institutions, households and communities, (b) improved knowledge on water conservation and recycling and (c) improved policy and legislative environment for climate proofing and building climate resilience,” he added.

Meanwhile, over at the CCCCC, the regional agency charged with coordinating the region’s response to climate change, project development specialist Dr. Donneil Cain, the point man on the WSRN-Barbados, is looking for the next opportunity for resilience-building in the region.

“This is why we do it,” he said. “The satisfaction comes from getting these projects up and running.”

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After More Than a Decade, Rights of Indigenous Peoples Not Fully Realizedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/decade-rights-indigenous-peoples-not-fully-realized/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=decade-rights-indigenous-peoples-not-fully-realized http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/decade-rights-indigenous-peoples-not-fully-realized/#respond Wed, 18 Apr 2018 05:58:41 +0000 Miroslav Lajcak http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155326 Miroslav Lajčák, is President of the UN General Assembly

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A UN press conference on indigenous peoples. Credit: UN Photo

By Miroslav Lajčák
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 18 2018 (IPS)

First, I want to talk about how we got here.

It was nearly 100 years ago, when indigenous peoples first asserted their rights, on the international stage. But, they did not see much progress. At least until 1982 – when the first Working Group on Indigenous Populations was established.

And, in 2007, the rights of indigenous peoples were, finally, set out in an international instrument.

Let us be clear here. Rights are not aspirational. They are not ideals. They are not best-case scenarios. They are minimum standards. They are non-negotiable. And, they must be respected, and promoted.

Yet, here we are. More than a decade after the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted. And the fact is, these rights are not being realized.

That is not to say that there has been no progress. In fact, we heard many success stories, during yesterday’s opening of the Permanent Forum.

But, they are not enough.

Which is why, as my second point, I want to say that we need to do much more.

Last September, the General Assembly gave my office a new mandate. It requested that I organise informal interactive hearings – to look at how indigenous peoples can better participate at the United Nations.

So, that is why we are all sitting here. But, before we launch into our discussions, I want to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

I know that many of you were disappointed, with the General Assembly’s decision last year. After two years of talking, many of you wanted more than these interactive hearings.

We cannot gloss over this. And that is why I want to address it – from the outset. But I must also say this: Things may be moving slowly. But they are still moving.

When our predecessors formed the first indigenous working group, in 1982, their chances were slim. Many doubted whether an international instrument could be adopted. And, frankly, it took longer than it should have. But, it still happened.

So, we need to acknowledge the challenges, and frustrations. We cannot sweep them under the rug.

But we also cannot let them take away from the opportunities we have, in front of us.

And that brings me to my third point, on our discussions today.

This is your hearing. So, please be blunt. Please be concrete. Please be innovative.

Like I have said, we should not pretend that everything is perfect. Major problems persist – particularly at the national level. And, we need to draw attention to them. Today, however, we have a very specific mandate. And that is, to explore how we can carve out more space, for indigenous peoples, on the international stage.

That is why I ask you to focus on the future of our work, here, at the United Nations. And to try to come up with as many ideas and proposals as possible.

In particular, we should look at the following questions:

Which venues and forums are most suitable?

What modalities should govern participation?

What kind of participants should be selected?

And how will this selection happen?

We should also try to form a broader vision. This will allow us to better advise the General Assembly’s ongoing process to enhance indigenous peoples’ participation.

Finally, next steps.

As you know, this is our very first informal, interactive hearing. There will be two further hearings – next year, and the year after.

Then – during what we call the 75th Session of the General Assembly – negotiations between governments will start up again.

Turning back to today, the immediate outcome of our hearing will be a President’s Summary. But, I am confident that the longer-term outcome will be yet another step, in the direction of change.

So, this is where I will conclude. My main job, now, is to listen.

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Excerpt:

Miroslav Lajčák, is President of the UN General Assembly

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Pre-election Tension Threatens Free Speech in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/pre-election-tension-threatens-free-speech-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pre-election-tension-threatens-free-speech-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/pre-election-tension-threatens-free-speech-brazil/#respond Sat, 14 Apr 2018 21:26:57 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155277 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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A bullet hole (right), in one of the buses hit on Mar. 27 by gunfire during a caravan for former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s campaign tour to the south of Brazil, in the tense days before his imprisonment on corruption charges. The caravan suffered attacks and harassment along its journey. Credit: AGPT / Public Photos

A bullet hole (right), in one of the buses hit on Mar. 27 by gunfire during a caravan for former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s campaign tour to the south of Brazil, in the tense days before his imprisonment on corruption charges. The caravan suffered attacks and harassment along its journey. Credit: AGPT / Public Photos

By Mario Osava
RÍO DE JANEIRO, Apr 14 2018 (IPS)

Gunshots, eggs and stones thrown, blocked roads and other forms of aggression against politicians and journalists in recent weeks generated fears that the violence will increase the uncertainty over the October elections in Brazil.

Before going to prison, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was the main target, during the caravan he led through the country’s three southern states, which suffered attacks from adversaries that culminated in gunshots against two buses on Mar. 27, without any injuries.

On the other hand, the demonstrations in support of Lula in the days before he began serving his 12-year sentence on Apr. 7 targeted journalists."The main source of aggressions against journalists since 2013 has been the State, its security forces, as well as the judiciary, with actions that restrict freedom of the press." -- Maria José Braga

In the space of a few days there were “17 cases of attacks, intimidation and curtailment of professional activity,” said the Brazilian Press Association (ABI), in an official note of protest.

The threat to freedom of expression affects journalists and politicians alike, victims of harassment in the months leading up to the official start in August of the electoral campaign for the presidential, parliamentary and regional elections.

“The tendency seen in recent years has been a reduction in violence against journalists,” acknowledged Maria José Braga, president of Brazil’s National Federation of Journalists (Fenaj).

In 2017, there were 99 cases of attacks against journalists, 38.5 percent less than in 2016, when there were 161 acts of violence, according to Fenaj’s annual report on violence against reporters.

In fact, the violence had returned to the levels seen before 2013, when the figure had climbed to 181 attacks, against 81 in the previous year. The outbreak that year coincided with massive protests, throughout the country, against poor urban public services, which turned violent towards the end.

“In 2018 we have a different political scenario, with the country in a de facto state of emergency, in which the judicial branch and part of the media have been taking part, and this may result in an increase in attacks against journalists,” Braga told IPS.

The president of Fenaj shares the view of much of the left, especially of the Workers Party (PT), founded by Lula, and which ruled the country between 2003 and 2016, that the removal of former president Dilma Rousseff two years ago amounted to a coup d’état, with the complicity of judges and the major media outlets.

“Since then, institutions and the rule of law have been subject to threats, including freedom of expression, social movements, society in general, and that is a factor leading to more violence,” said the journalist.

“The main source of aggressions against journalists since 2013 has been the State, its security forces, as well as the judiciary, with actions that restrict freedom of the press,” she said.

A "democratic vigil" held Apr. 11 by supporters of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, near the headquarters of the federal police where he has been imprisoned since Apr. 7, in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba. Some journalists who covered events in defense of the leftist leader, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption charges, have been victims of assaults. Credit: Ricardo Stuckert / Public Photos

A “democratic vigil” held Apr. 11 by supporters of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, near the headquarters of the federal police where he has been imprisoned since Apr. 7, in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba. Some journalists who covered events in defense of the leftist leader, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption charges, have been victims of assaults. Credit: Ricardo Stuckert / Public Photos

For years, the police have been the main perpetrator of such violence, accounting for 19.2 percent of the total, Fenaj’s 2017 report says.

Two journalists arrested by the Military Police, one when covering a traffic accident in Campo Grande, capital of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, and another while recording the way agents treated people suspected of harassing a woman in Vitoria, capital of the state of Espírito Santo, are examples mentioned in the report.

The second group of perpetrators of aggression are politicians, sometimes through their aides, and the third are judicial authorities, who use their power to restrict freedom of the press.

“We are now, six months before the elections, at the height of political tension,” which increases the abuses, violence and fears, said Fatima Pacheco Jordão, a sociologist who specialises in public opinion.

“The strong polarisation between the left and the right, aggravated by the great unpopularity of the government of President Michel Temer and the uncertainty with respect to the elections, accentuate the pessimism, but once it is clear who the candidates will be, and the electoral process is on track, the tension and violence will decrease,” Jordão told IPS.

In general terms, “elections contribute to freedom of expression, and reduce censorship in newspapers and newscasts,” she said. But when this is not the case, what happens is that the violence is accentuated and this can prevent the elections themselves, “which is worse for everyone,” she said.

The absence of Lula, who has become legally ineligible after his conviction was upheld on appeal, “reduces the polarisation since he exited the electoral battle at a moment of decline (of his leading role on the political scene), as his PT has been losing electoral strength for years,” she argued.

Supporters of Lula as candidate to president – about 35 percent of respondents according to the polls – “will be divided between several possible candidates, not just from the left,” when it is confirmed that the former president is out of the race, said the sociologist.

For Jordão, this confirms that Lula’s popularity is due more to his personal leadership than to a leftist idea or programme, since he is the poll favorite.

In addition, society in this country of 208 million people has shifted toward more conservative positions, as evidenced by the fact that 60 percent did not approve progressive ideas in recent polls, she said.

A change that, in her opinion, “seems natural in rich countries, such as in Europe, but not in Brazil, where we have so much inequality, violence against women and violations of rights, where the voice of society is outside the parties, which do not address their most pressing demands.”

Violence against politicians and journalists sometimes becomes lethal. One victim who shook the country was Marielle Franco, a city councilor for the leftist Socialism and Freedom Party in Rio de Janeiro, who was shot dead on Mar. 14, near the center of the city.

The apparent motive was her denunciation of crimes committed by police against poor Rio communities, although the investigations have not made progress in clarifying the murder of the emerging political leader.

“Violence tends to happen more in municipal elections than in national or state elections,” said Felipe Borba, who teaches politics at the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro and is the author of a study that identified 79 candidates killed in Brazil from 1998 to 2016.

Of them, a majority of 63 were running for the municipal councils in small cities.

This year’s elections should be less violent because the heads of the executive and legislative branches are chosen at a national and state level, but the situation “is unpredictable, given the polarisation between ideologically opposed currents, which fosters violence,” he told IPS.

“It will depend on the attitude of the more radical candidates, who can fuel animosities,” said Borba, mentioning the case of Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right candidate who ranks second in the polls, where Lula is still favorite even after being imprisoned.

Bolsonaro is a retired army captain who openly defends the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, including its torturers.

That freedom of expression is often a victim of electoral violence, as well as of police repression against political demonstrations, is reflected by the notable increase in attacks suffered by journalists in 2013 and 2016, years of massive street protests in Brazil.

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Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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Tunneling Through the Andes to Connect Argentina and Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/tunneling-andes-connect-argentina-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tunneling-andes-connect-argentina-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/tunneling-andes-connect-argentina-chile/#comments Fri, 13 Apr 2018 03:14:26 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155260 Visionaries imagined it more than 80 years ago, as a way to strengthen the integration between Argentina and Chile. Today it is considered a regional need to boost trade flows between the two oceans. Work on a binational tunnel, a giant engineering project in the Andes, is about to begin. The tunnel will be built […]

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View of the Agua Negra border crossing, which connects Argentina and Chile in the Andes mountain range. It is not suitable for trucks and is closed for a good part of the year, because it is 4,800 m above sea level and is often covered in snow. Credit: Courtesy of Rodrigo Iribarren

View of the Agua Negra border crossing, which connects Argentina and Chile in the Andes mountain range. It is not suitable for trucks and is closed for a good part of the year, because it is 4,800 m above sea level and is often covered in snow. Credit: Courtesy of Rodrigo Iribarren

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Apr 13 2018 (IPS)

Visionaries imagined it more than 80 years ago, as a way to strengthen the integration between Argentina and Chile. Today it is considered a regional need to boost trade flows between the two oceans. Work on a binational tunnel, a giant engineering project in the Andes, is about to begin.

The tunnel will be built at more than 4,000 m above sea level, along the longest border in Latin America and one of the longest in the world. Argentina and Chile share more than 5,000 km of border in the majestic Andes mountain range, which has hindered but never impeded transit of people and merchandise.

In colonial times, products were transported by mule from one side of the Andes to the other.

By the end of this year or the beginning of next year, the allocation of the contract for the construction of the Agua Negra Pass will be announced. The tunnel will be built along the central area of the border, linking the Argentine province of San Juan with the Chilean region of Coquimbo.

The aim is to cut transit time and freight costs.

The cost has been set at 1.5 billion dollars and 23 companies from Argentina, Chile, China, France, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States, grouped in 10 consortia, expressed an interest in building the tunnel, and the envelopes were opened in May 2017.

During a special meeting in March, the Agua Negra Tunnel Binational Entity (Ebitan), created by the two governments, completed an evaulation of the background presented by the 10 consortia, and the next step will be to announce which ones may take part in the tender.

The tunnel will take about 10 years to build, and is presented as the largest road work project in Latin America.

“The tunnel will be key to easier traffic to and from the Pacific Ocean, which will give us access to the Asian market,” Maximiliano Mauvecin, a businessman based in Córdoba, the second largest city in Argentina, in the centre of the country, told IPS.

“For that reason, when the project seemed to be failing in 2014, we organised the Central Bi-oceanic Corridor Network, with members of the business community not only from Chile and Argentina, but also from Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay,” explained Mauvecin, director of the Forum of Business Entities of the Central Region of Argentina.

To that end, he explained, “we generated trade missions and business rounds, with which we sought to engage the interest of governments once again.”

Argentina and Chile have 26 border crossings, but most lack adequate infrastructure for truck traffic and are closed for long stretches of the year because of weather conditions, as is the case of Agua Negra.

Bumpy road

The Agua Negra tunnel project has had advances and setbacks.

Momentum seemed to surge in August 2009, during a summit of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), founded in 2004 as a regional forum for coordinating actions towards integrated development among the 12 countries of the region, which are home to a combined total of more than 400 million people.

On that occasion an understanding was reached to build the tunnel, signed by the then presidents of Argentina and Chile, Cristina Fernández (2007-2015) and Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010 and 2014- March 2018).

It was also signed by the then president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), whose participation clearly reflected that it was a “regional integration project”, as the signatory governments described it.

The following year, the details of the initiative were formally shared at a summit of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) with the then presidents of Uruguay, José Mujica (2010-2015), and of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo (2008-2012), which along with Argentina and Brazil make up the bloc, of which Chile is an associate.

The binational tunnel will be a key part of the Porto Alegre-Coquimbo Central Bi-oceanic Corridor, between the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, and the Chilean port of Coquimbo, along more than 2,700 km of roads that are mainly paved already.

The Corridor crosses different provinces of central Argentina and can also be used by companies from other countries of the Atlantic Ocean basin keen on access to the Pacific Ocean.

In Chile there is so much anticipation for the arrival of goods to get into the Asian market, that at the beginning of this year a project was presented to upgrade and modernise the port of Coquimbo, to enable it to serve bigger ships, with an expected investment of 120 million dollars.

However, wine growers in the Elqui Valley, formerly known as the Coquimbo Valley, which is along the route after the Agua Negra Pass, have expressed concern about the increase in truck traffic that the tunnel will bring.

“There were always communication routes in the transverse valleys of the Andes mountain range. In the 19th century, cattle began to be brought in from San Juan and provinces of northern Argentina to Chile. And in 1932 or 1933, the government of Coquimbo asked an engineer to study the possibility of building a tunnel,” Chilean researcher Rodrigo Iribarren told IPS.

“Although it has a long history, it was not until the 1960s that it was opened as an international pass for vehicles,” added Iribarren, author of the book “Agua Negra; History of a Road” and head of the history museum of La Serena, the capital of Coquimbo, located on the Pacific coast about 470 km north of Santiago.

The pass was closed in 1978, when the dictators of Argentina, Jorge Videla (1976-1981), and Chile, Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), brought to a point of extreme tension a border conflict at the southern tip of the continent and were about to lead the two countries to war.

Although it was reopened in the 1990s, after the two countries had returned to democracy, it is not suitable for trucks and is closed much of the year, because traffic is blocked due to snow.

After the agreement between Fernandez, Bachelet and Lula, Ebitan was formed in 2010, and in 2013 23 companies expressed an interest in building the tunnel.

Financial solution

The funding problem was solved in April 2016, when the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced to the two governments that it would finance the project.

In October 2017, the regional credit agency approved an initial disbursement of 130 million dollars to Chile and 150 million to Argentina, within a credit line expandable to 1.5 billion dollars as the work progresses.

“The objective is to reduce, through the construction of this infrastructure, the transaction costs at the borders, to increase the competitiveness of the countries involved and promote the economic development of the region,” said José Luis Lupo, manager of the IDB’s department of Southern Cone countries.

According to Ebitan, the tunnel will shorten the border crossing by 40 km and three hours. It will also make it possible to keep the pass open year-round.

The road climbs today to 4,780 m, but the tunnel will begin at 4,085 m above sea level on the Argentine side and will descend to 3,620 m on the Chilean side.

There will be two completely separate passages, for the sake of safety, one running in each direction, with two 7.5-m wide lanes each. Of the 13.9 km tunnel, 72 percent will be in Argentina.

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Caribbean Eyes Untapped Potential of World’s Largest Climate Fundhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund/#respond Thu, 12 Apr 2018 00:01:25 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155243 The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also known as the 5Cs, is looking for ways to boost the region’s access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The Centre is on the hunt for proposals from the private and public sector organisations around the region that want to work with the Centre to develop their […]

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Deputy Director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr. Ultic Trotz (left) in conversation with farmers at a unique agroforestry project in Belize, one of many implemented by the Centre to boost the region's resilience to the effects of climate change. Credit: Zadie Neufville

Deputy Director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr. Ultic Trotz (left) in conversation with farmers at a unique agroforestry project in Belize, one of many implemented by the Centre to boost the region's resilience to the effects of climate change. Credit: Zadie Neufville

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 12 2018 (IPS)

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also known as the 5Cs, is looking for ways to boost the region’s access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The Centre is on the hunt for proposals from the private and public sector organisations around the region that want to work with the Centre to develop their ideas into successful projects that are in line with their country’s national priorities to build resilience to climate change.

The 5Cs, the agency with responsibility for coordinating climate action in the Caribbean, has doubled its efforts in wake of the 2017 Hurricane Season which saw the devastation of several islands and which exacerbates the need for climate proofing critical infrastructure a building resilience.

“We welcome proposals from all areas and industries,” said, Dr. Kenrick Leslie executive director of the Centre, noting that as an accredited entity: “We are able to assist organisations to access Green Climate Fund (GCF) grants for climate adaptation and mitigation projects of up to 50 million dollars per project”.

The GCF has approved a couple hundred million in preparation funding for several countries across the region, but the 5Cs boss is particularly proud of the achievements of his tiny project development team.

On March 13, the Bahamas became the second of the four countries for which the Centre is the Delivery Partner, to launch their GCF readiness programme. In 2017, three countries – the Bahamas, Belize, and Guyana, and more recently St. Lucia – were approved for grants of 300,000 to build in-country capacities to successfully apply for and complete GCF-funded projects that align with their national priorities, while simultaneously advancing their ambitions towards becoming Direct Access Entities (DAEs).

Each ‘readiness’ project is expected to run for between 18-months and 2 years and include developing operational procedures for Governments and the private sector to engage effectively with the GCF; providing training about its processes and procedures, how to access grants, loans, equities and guarantees from the GCF; and the development of a pipeline of potential project concepts for submission to the Fund. These activities are not one-off measures, but will form part of an ongoing process to strengthen the country’s engagement with the Fund.

Guyana’s ‘readiness’ project began in October 2016 and is expected to end in April this year; while the Bahamian Ministry of Environment and Housing and the Centre’s recent hosting of a project inception workshop, marked the start of that programme. The Belize project is expected to begin next month and St Lucia’s will kick-off in May, and run for two years. The readiness projects are being funded by the GCF at a cost of approximately 300,000 dollars each.

Aside from these readiness grants, the Centre secured 694,000 dollars in project preparation facility (PPF) grants for a public-private partnership between the Government of Belize and the Belize Electricity Company.

The project is intended to enable Belize to utilise the indigenous plant locally known as wild cane (scientific name Arundo donax) as a sustainable alternative source of energy for electricity generation. The grant will provide the resources needed to conduct the necessary studies to ascertain viability of the plant, with the intention of facilitating large-scale commercial cultivation for energy generation purposes.

In addition, the Centre partnered with the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) to develop the proposal for the Water Sector Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project (WSRN S-Barbados) for which the GCF announced 45.2 million dollars in funding – some of which is in counterpart funding – at the 19th meeting of the Board in Korea in March this year.

BWA’s Elon Cadogan noted that the project would directly impact 190,000 people on an island which has been described as “one of the most water stressed” in the Caribbean. The frequency of lock-offs has been costly for the country.

“Schools have had to close due to lack of water and the potential unsanitary conditions are likely to increase health treatment costs. In addition, there have been some cancellations of tourist stays and bookings,” Dr Cadogan, who is the project management officer at the BWA said.

Because of its unique operating structure, the Centre is able to call on its many partners to speedily provide the required skills to complete the assessments required to bring a project to the submission stage for further development or full project funding. In the case of the Arundo donax project, the Centre provided several small grants and with the help of the Clinton Foundation, completed a range of studies to determine the suitability of the grass as an alternative fuel.

For the Barbados project, the 5Cs worked with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and South Florida University (SFU) and the BWA to complete the submissions on time.  With the Centre’s own GCF accreditation completed within six months, the 5Cs is turning its attention to assisting countries with their own.

Head of the Programme Development and Management Unit (PDMU) and Assistant Executive Director at the Centre Dr. Mark Bynoe said that even as the Centre continues its work in project development and as a readiness delivery partner, the focus has now shifted.

“We are now turning our attention to aiding with their GCF accreditation granting process and the completion of their National Adaptation Plans (NAPS). Each country has an allocation of 3-million-dollar grant under the GCF window for their NAP preparation,” he said.

The GCF is the centrepiece of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) efforts to raise finance to address climate change related impacts. It was created to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenges posed, and opportunities presented, by climate change through a network of National Designated Authorities (NDAs) and Accredited Entities (AEs).

As a readiness delivery partner, the Centre will provide the necessary oversight, fiduciary and project management, as well as monitoring and evaluation of these ‘readiness’ projects, skills that are critical to ensuring that those projects are speedily developed and submitted for verification and approval.

Every success means the Centre’s is fulfilling its role to deliver transformational change to a region under threat by climate change.

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International Community Ramps Up Action on Venezuela Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/international-community-ramps-action-venezuela-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-community-ramps-action-venezuela-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/international-community-ramps-action-venezuela-crisis/#comments Tue, 10 Apr 2018 21:13:04 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155223 One year into the most recent series of protests and a humanitarian crisis with no end in sight, international groups have called for action to help protect Venezuelans. A complex political and economic crisis in Venezuela has left millions without access to basic services and resources, prompting UN agencies and human rights groups like Human […]

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Venezuelans arrive in Pacaraima, border city with Venezuela, and wait at the Federal Police, the entity responsible for receiving Venezuelans seeking asylum or special stay permits in Brazil, 16 February 2018. Credit: UNHCR/Reynesson Damasceno

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 10 2018 (IPS)

One year into the most recent series of protests and a humanitarian crisis with no end in sight, international groups have called for action to help protect Venezuelans.

A complex political and economic crisis in Venezuela has left millions without access to basic services and resources, prompting UN agencies and human rights groups like Human Rights Watch to speak up and urge action.

“Venezuela needs help to tackle and overwhelming crisis,” said singer Ricardo Montaner alongside Human Rights Watch at the launch of the #TodosConVenezuela, or Together with Venezuelans, campaign.

“Join me. It’s not just my job or yours, it’s something we should all do. Tell your friends—let’s do this together,” he continued.

The campaign, launched ahead of the Summit of the Americas where world leaders will discuss the situation in Venezuela, asks the public to tweet at Latin American presidents to confront Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro about government abuses.

Such abuses include the suppression of dissent as government critics are often arbitarily detained and prosecuted in military tribunals.

An estimated 700 civilians have been prosecuted in military courts for offenses such as rebellion and treason.

Numerous UN Special Rapporteurs also found “excessive and indiscriminate use of force” during anti-government protests.

“Protests must not be criminalized,” they said.

Meanwhile, Venezuela has been facing a severe economic crisis since global oil prices plummeted in 2014.

The South American nation now has the highest inflation rate in the world which now exceeds 6,000 percent, making it nearly impossible for Venezuelans to access medicine and food and causing a health crisis.

In one year alone, maternal mortality and infant mortality increased by 65 percent and 30 percent respectively. Over 80 percent of the country now live in poverty.

Driven by the lack of access to basic services as well as political tensions, almost two million Venezuelans have left the country, causing the humanitarian crisis to spill over.

Carlos Miguele Machado told Human Rights Wach that he left his home country because he could not find medicine that his wife needed after undergoing thyroid surgery.

“I had to travel far, go from pharmacy to pharmacy looking for the medicine, and I could not find it—and it is very expensive in the black market,” he said.

Both Colombia and Brazil have seen the largest numbers of migrants crossing their borders in recent months. To date, over 1 million Venezuelans have reached Colombia while Brazil estimates that over 800 enters its country every day.

“As the complex political and socio-economic situation in their country continues to worsen, arriving Venezuelans are in more desperate need of food, shelter, and health care. Many also need international protection,” said UN High Comissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson William Spindler.

As public services in Brazil become more and more stretched in response to the inflows, UNCHR has ramped up its efforts to help register and house Venezuelans. The agency has opened up new shelters for vulnerable Venezuelans which are already almost at capacity.

In order to implement its regional response plan, UNCHR made an appeal of $46 million to donors. So far, it is only four percent funded.

Similarly, the International Organizaation for Migration (IOM) launched a regional action plan to strengthen response to the large-scale of flows of Venezuelans.

“IOM’s Regional Action Plan…represents a call for the international community to contribute to and strengthen the government efforts to receive and assist Venezuelans, so that those efforts may be sustained,” said IOM’s Regional Director for South America Diego Beltrand, encouraging host countries to adopt measures to help regularize Venezuelans’ stay.

World Food Programme Director David Beasely also urged the international community step up international donor funding in order to prevent the “humanitarian catastrophe” unraveling at the Colombian border.

“This could turn into an absolute disaster in unprecedented proportions for the Western Hemisphere,” Beasely said while visiting Colombia.

“I don’t think people around the world realize how bad the situation is and how much worse it could very well be,” he continued, pointing to the case of Syria’s crisis which began with a minor food emergency.

The upcoming presidential vote in May in Venezuela could determine the future of the country and its citizens.

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Trump Begins to Reverberate in Mexico’s Presidential Electionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/trump-begins-reverberate-mexicos-presidential-elections/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-begins-reverberate-mexicos-presidential-elections http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/trump-begins-reverberate-mexicos-presidential-elections/#respond Wed, 04 Apr 2018 23:49:15 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155154 Statements by U.S. President Donald Trump against Mexico have begun to permeate the presidential election campaign in this Latin American country, forcing the candidates to pronounce themselves on the matter. In his most recent angry tweet, Trump said Apr. 1 that he would withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if Mexico doesn’t […]

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Activists and academics from Canada, the United States and Mexico called in March in Mexico for an end to the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), because of its secrecy and because it fails to represent the interests of the people of the three nations. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

Activists and academics from Canada, the United States and Mexico called in March in Mexico for an end to the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), because of its secrecy and because it fails to represent the interests of the people of the three nations. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Apr 4 2018 (IPS)

Statements by U.S. President Donald Trump against Mexico have begun to permeate the presidential election campaign in this Latin American country, forcing the candidates to pronounce themselves on the matter.

In his most recent angry tweet, Trump said Apr. 1 that he would withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if Mexico doesn’t work harder to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking into the U.S.

The next few days will be crucial for the renegotiation of the trade deal between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada."After Trump's remarks, everything is up in the air. We will hear statements back and forth from the negotiating parties and the candidates. Any sign of having anything in common with Trump is political suicide for the candidates." -- Manuel Pérez Rocha

“After Trump’s remarks, everything is up in the air. We will hear statements back and forth from the negotiating parties and the candidates. Any sign of having anything in common with Trump is political suicide for the candidates,” said Manuel Pérez Rocha, Associate Fellow at the U.S. Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies.

The expert told IPS that “the important thing is to continue analysing the proposals of the candidates and see what positions they take with respect to NAFTA.”

The eighth, and presumably last, round of negotiations is scheduled to begin on Apr. 8 in Washington and end on Apr. 16.

After the seven previous rounds, the advances disclosed by the three partners have been scarce, in negotiations marked by rigid positions, tension and secrecy.

Of the 30 chapters that have been discussed, the negotiating teams have concluded the chapters on good regulatory practices, transparency, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, small and medium-sized businesses, competition and anti-corruption.

The priorities of the United States include new phytosanitary measures, greater protection of intellectual property, labour and environmental matters and the possible elimination of the dispute resolution chapter, which establishes special panels to address abusive trade practices.

Meanwhile, Mexico is focusing mainly on energy, electronic commerce and small and medium enterprises.

Canada, for its part, prioritises the inclusion of labour, environmental and gender standards, an increased migratory flow, indigenous rights, a revision of the dispute resolution mechanism, a more open government procurement market and higher wages.

The renegotiation of the treaty in force since 1994 also covers issues not included in the original text, such as energy, e-commerce and on-line activities.

The renegotiation of NAFTA was imposed by Trump, who included it in the campaign that took him to the White House in January 2017.

NAFTA and, above all, Trump’s outbursts about Mexico and Mexicans have begun to appear in the campaign for Mexico’s Jul. 1 presidential elections, although only the front-runner has addressed it explicitly.

Leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, heading the “Together We Make History” coalition, said on Apr. 1 that “we are not going to rule out the possibility of convincing Donald Trump of his mistaken foreign policy and in particular of his contemptuous attitude towards Mexicans, we will be very respectful of the government of the United States, but we will also demand respect for Mexicans.”

The three-time candidate for the Mexican presidency expressed his support for NAFTA, but clarified that “it would be best to sign agreements after Jul. 1,” when he hopes to finally win the presidency with the support of an alliance between the leftist National Regeneration Movement and Workers’ Party, together with the conservative Social Encounter Party.

A protest against U.S. President Donald Trump outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City. Trump’s verbal attacks against Mexico and Mexicans have increased since March and are beginning to reverberate in the campaign for the Jul. 1 presidential elections. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A protest against U.S. President Donald Trump outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City. Trump’s verbal attacks against Mexico and Mexicans have increased since March and are beginning to reverberate in the campaign for the Jul. 1 presidential elections. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The second in the polls, Ricardo Anaya, candidate for the “Mexico al Frente” coalition, formed by the right-wing National Action Party, the centrist Party of the Democratic Revolution, and the centre-right Citizen’s Movement, has not referred to the renegotiation.

Nor has the ruling party candidate José Meade, representing the conservative Institutional Revolutionary Party, the Ecologist Green Party and the New Alliance, mentioned NAFTA or Trump so far in the campaign.

None of the candidates have discussed Trump’s promise to build a border wall between the two countries.

“Mexico has to withdraw from negotiations to reform the treaty and wait for a new government to take over the process. We can’t tolerate all of these insults and threats from Trump,” academic Alberto Arroyo, a member of the non-governmental coalition Mexico Better without FTAs, told IPS.

The car industry, “maquilas” or for-export assembly plants, agro-exports and financial services are among the sectors that have benefited from the 24 years of free trade between the three countries.

According to academics and activists from the affected sectors, the big losers under NAFTA have been small-scale farmers, including producers of the staple products corn and beans, and the food sector in general.

NAFTA strengthened Mexico’s trade dependency on the U.S., which purchases more than 80 percent of Mexico’s exports.

Imports from the United States, meanwhile, climbed from 151 billion dollars in 1993 to 614 billion dollars in 2017 – a 307 percent increase. Meanwhile, its exports grew from 142 billion to 525 billion, a 270 percent rise.

“Any disruption to the economic relationship could have adverse effects on investment, employment, productivity, and North American competitiveness,” says the study “NAFTA Renegotiation and Modernization,” prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a non-partisan legislative branch agency housed in the Library of Congress.

The report published in February adds that “Mexico and Canada could consider imposing retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports if the United States were to withdraw” from NAFTA.

In 2017, the United States a trade deficit of 89.6 billion dollars with its two partners, compared with 9.1 billion in 1993.

“It is not clear how the (Trump) administration would expect to reduce the trade deficit through the renegotiation,” says the paper.

In another of his attacks, Trump threatened to impose extraordinary tariffs on steel and aluminum imports unless NAFTA were renegotiated to terms more favorable to the U.S

According to Pérez Rocha, Mexicans would celebrate the end of NAFTA as “a net job destroyer, and for allowing transnational corporations to devastate the environment.”

He added that, in his opinion, the majority of Mexico’s 123 million people would support an end to the treaty “for destroying the livelihoods of millions in rural areas, for being an instrument of corporations for reversing sanitary and environmental policies, and for making Mexico the Latin American country with the most obesity.”

He called for postponing the renegotiation until the new administration takes office, because “this government has been unable to ensure the interests of Mexicans. We need a change to society, a new way of interacting with all social sectors.”

For his part, Arroyo, who is writing a study on NAFTA’s impact on the Mexican economy, called for a treaty that respects “human, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, the national sovereignty of each country and real economic development.”

The CRS report concludes that the outlook for the renegotiation is “uncertain”.

Today, the United States and Mexico are more and more similar to what English journalist Alan Riding once described as “distant neighbours.”

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Castro’s Successor to Inherit Long-standing Conflict Between Cuba and the United Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/castros-successor-inherit-long-standing-conflict-cuba-united-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=castros-successor-inherit-long-standing-conflict-cuba-united-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/castros-successor-inherit-long-standing-conflict-cuba-united-states/#respond Mon, 02 Apr 2018 02:36:24 +0000 Patricia Grogg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155117 Cuba’s tense relations with the United States under the administration of Donald Trump reflect a scenario of conflict that is not alien to the generation that will take over the country on Apr. 19, when President Raúl Castro is set to step down. Since the 1960s, Cuba’s nationalist stance has drawn on the animosity with […]

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Cubans wait in line outside the Colombian embassy in Havana, to obtain a visa for Colombia in order to apply for a U.S. visa at the U.S. embassy in Bogotá, due to the reductions in staff in the U.S. embassy in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

Cubans wait in line outside the Colombian embassy in Havana, to obtain a visa for Colombia in order to apply for a U.S. visa at the U.S. embassy in Bogotá, due to the reductions in staff in the U.S. embassy in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Apr 2 2018 (IPS)

Cuba’s tense relations with the United States under the administration of Donald Trump reflect a scenario of conflict that is not alien to the generation that will take over the country on Apr. 19, when President Raúl Castro is set to step down.

Since the 1960s, Cuba’s nationalist stance has drawn on the animosity with the U.S., and the likely successors of the country’s current leaders, most of whom were born around the time of the 1959 revolution or afterwards, were educated in a culture of “anti-imperialist resistance”.

According to the official figures on the outcome of the Mar. 11 general elections, the average age of the new members of parliament fell to 49 years, compared to 57 years for the outgoing lawmakers.

The single-chamber National Assembly of People’s Power elects from among its members the 31 members of the Council of State, which according to the constitution is the highest representative of the Cuban state, whose president is the head of state and government."Reconciliation and rapprochement occur on a human level. States can facilitate it, but they can neither impose it nor stop it…Even during the most tense moments of relations between Cuba and the United States, we Cubans have remained in touch with our families, friends and collaborators." -- Lillian Manzor

The most likely candidate to succeed Castro is the current first vice president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, although there is no official confirmation.

The return to the tension that existed before the détente agreed by Raúl Castro, 86, and Barack Obama (2009-2017) on Dec. 17, 2014, which led to the restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana, brings additional difficulties to the weakened Cuban economy and puts a brake on the changes required by its socialist model of development.

“Unfortunately, reform in Cuba becomes more difficult when the United States is more aggressive and negative,” said John McAuliff, executive director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, a U.S.-based non-governmental organisation that supports efforts for reconciliation with Cuba.

In his opinion, a new generation of leaders “opens a door, but it does not guarantee” how quickly change will come. “If the new leaders expand opportunities for the self-employed and small businesses, especially in tourism and other professional sectors, the economy will improve,” he told IPS from the U.S. by e-mail.

In the same vein, he said that “if the public dialogue incorporates all the sectors that are not explicitly counterrevolutionary inside and outside the country, politics will expand, evolve and be strengthened along with Cuba’s history and culture.”

Trump’s adverse policy towards Cuba since his arrival at the White House in January 2017 has kept bilateral ties at their lowest level, with a skeleton staff at the two embassies, which are unable to carry out their consular and business duties, while it has restricted travel by U.S. citizens to the Caribbean island nation, among other limitations.

Senator Patrick Leahy (centre), and four other U.S. Democrat lawmakers give a press conference in Havana on Feb. 21, at the end of their visit to Cuba, in violation of the U.S. travel advisory against Cuba issued by Republican President Donald Trump. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

Senator Patrick Leahy (centre), and four other U.S. Democrat lawmakers give a press conference in Havana on Feb. 21, at the end of their visit to Cuba, in violation of the U.S. travel advisory against Cuba issued by Republican President Donald Trump. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

Washington justifies the reduction of personnel and the recommendation to U.S. citizens to refrain from traveling to Cuba by citing mysterious attacks – apparently linked to high-pitched sounds – that affected the health of U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Cuba between November 2016 and August 2017.

Havana has denied any involvement in the incidents.

In a Dec. 22 speech in the Cuban parliament, Castro accused the United States of fabricating “pretexts” to justify the return to “failed and universally rejected policies.”

U.S. lawmakers who visited Cuba between Feb. 19-21, led by the Democratic Senator for the state of Vermont, Patrick Leahy, said the measures ordered by Trump were a serious mistake, harmful to the governments and people of both nations.

In defiance of the travel advisory against Cuba, the legislators flew here with their wives, and in the case of Leahy, with his 13-year-old granddaughter. The group met with Castro and other local authorities.

“Cuba is changing. Soon you will elect a new president and likely experience a generation shift in leadership, and regrettably at this historic moment in Cuban history, the U.S. engagement is limited,” Jim Mcgovern, a Democrat member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Massachusetts, lamented in a press conference.

In turn, Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, reported that there is a legislative proposal against the embargo brought forward by him and other senators, which has strong bipartisan support. “After the November elections, we will have more support to end the embargo,” he said.

Meanwhile, migrants are among the biggest losers in the embassy conflict, although the Cuban embassy in Washington, with 17 fewer staff members, says it has maintained its usual services, including consular services for Cubans and Americans.

A classic 1957 convertible Chevrolet Bel-Air, used by private drivers for sightseeing tours, drives through the historic centre of Old Havana in search of customers, now that the boom of visits by U.S. citizens has ceased. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

A classic 1957 convertible Chevrolet Bel-Air, used by private drivers for sightseeing tours, drives through the historic centre of Old Havana in search of customers, now that the boom of visits by U.S. citizens has ceased. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

But the reduction of personnel in the U.S. embassy in Havana forces Cuban immigrants to travel to Colombia to process their visas, which will prevent Washington in 2018 from meeting its commitment to issue 20,000 visas a year, as established in the migration agreements of 1994 and 1995.

The main recipient of Cuban emigration is the United States, where over two million people of Cuban origin reside, of whom almost 1.2 million were born in Cuba, according to official data from the U.S. A good part of that population has not cut its umbilical cord with Cuba.

Lillian Manzor, interim chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Miami, told IPS by e-mail that currently, most Cubans in the U.S. support rapprochement between the two countries, while U.S. foreign policy is going in the opposite direction.

“Reconciliation and rapprochement occur on a human level. States can facilitate it, but they can neither impose it nor stop it,” she said, recalling that “even during the most tense moments of relations between Cuba and the United States, we Cubans have remained in touch with our families, friends and collaborators.”

In that sense, Manzor, a Cuban resident in the United States, does not underestimate the strength that this majority sector of Cuban migrants can represent in order to stop the setback imposed by the Trump administration on the normalisation of bilateral ties between Washington and Havana, restored in July 2015.

“That’s the big challenge. How can this need to stay connected with our family and friends be turned into an electoral force. In the meantime, we must continue with what we have always done: cope with adverse policies and fight for our rights as American citizens,” she said.

The academic also said that among immigrants favourable to “closer political and human relations” there are many who hope that “the new president of Cuba will continue with the necessary migratory changes to facilitate travel for Cubans residing abroad.”

Whoever it will be, Castro’s successor has the stage set to move in that direction. On Jan. 1, four Cuban government measures came into force, aimed at relaxing the country’s migration policy and improving its relation with the Cuban exile community. The provisions followed the new Migration Law in force since 2013.

“The Cuban passport is still one of the most expensive in the world especially considering the payment that must be made every two years to maintain the validity of the passport,” said Manzor. The document, valid for six years, costs 400 dollars plus 200 dollars for the biannual extension.

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Bridging the Humanitarian Needs with Long-term Resilience in Dominicahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/bridging-humanitarian-needs-long-term-resilience-dominica/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bridging-humanitarian-needs-long-term-resilience-dominica http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/bridging-humanitarian-needs-long-term-resilience-dominica/#respond Thu, 29 Mar 2018 14:41:44 +0000 Luca Renda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155092 Luca Renda is Senior Strategic Advisor for the UN Development Programme’s Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean

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Destruction left behind in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on the island of Dominica. Credit: UN Photo

By Luca Renda
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 29 2018 (IPS)

Six months ago, on 18 September 2017, Category 5 Hurricane Maria struck Dominica wreaking unimaginable disaster. Thirty-one people died, thirty-three more remain missing. Roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and over 40 percent of homes were destroyed or severely damaged.

Agriculture, a major source of income for poor people on the island, suffered tremendously: almost all crops were lost. The lush green forests, pride of this country and a UNESCO World Heritage site, were reduced to a barren, eerie landscape.

Five days later, I was at the General Assembly watching Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit deliver his address. “I come to you straight from the front line of the war on climate change,” he said, still visibly shaken.

“To deny climate change is to deny a truth we have just lived,” he added, appealing for international support. I was moved by his words. I remember thinking: this speech should be shown in every classroom, boardroom, parliament around the world!

Much to my surprise, the following day my boss asked me if I’d be willing to go to Dominica to head the UN Crisis Management Unit (CMU), tasked with coordinating the relief and recovery efforts on the ground. I had 24 hours to respond. PM Skerrrit’s words reverberated in my mind. “These are the moments for which the United Nations exists!” he had said. And so I went.

The CMU configuration (UNDP-OCHA) reflected an innovative approach to crisis response, inspired by the New Way of Working agenda, which calls for humanitarian and development actors to collaborate from the outset of a relief operation to ensure that long-term recovery needs are addressed as early as possible.

I was privileged to find exceptional colleagues on the ground from UN sister agencies (OCHA, WFP, IOM, UNICEF, FAO, PAHO), NGOs, and regional entities. Sharing the same working space in a semi-destroyed hotel in Roseau, we forged a collaboration built on our respective strengths.

We met government counterparts who admirably carried out their duties despite the situation. We drew inspiration from the determination of the Dominicans to rebuild their lives.

Shortly after my arrival, UN Secretary-General António Guterres came to visit, demonstrating the solidarity and commitment of the UN at the highest level. In the following days and weeks, thanks to generous donor support, the UN and partners distributed food, water, tarpaulins and other relief items.

We set up logistics and communications facilities, assisted the authorities in reopening schools and hospitals, supported emergency employment for debris removal, and provided counseling and cash support to vulnerable people for basic needs and home repair.

The New Way of Working became a strong partnership based on a clear division of labour within the CMU. While my OCHA colleagues focused on emergency coordination, doing a phenomenal job, my UNDP team and I worked with the government to lay the groundwork for long-term recovery.

Barely a month after the hurricane, despite logistical challenges, a comprehensive Post-Disaster Needs Assessment mission was undertaken, in partnership with the World Bank and the European Union. It provided the basis for the recovery strategy presented at the UNDP-CARICOM High-Level Conference for the Caribbean in November, which yielded over US$2.5 billion in international pledges.

Innovation was a key component of UNDP’s response. Jointly with the Ministry of Housing, we partnered with Microsoft – who donated tablets and designed a specific application – to undertake a comprehensive damage assessment that covered over 29,000 structures islandwide, generating key data for the reconstruction plan.

We also pioneered a collaboration with international NGO Engineers Without Borders to help the Ministry of Planning rewrite the Housing Guidelines to enhance structural resilience and to carry out training/certification for over 400 contractors and engineers.

Thanks to grants from China and India, we initiated programmes for resilient roofing, while the EU and the UK supported our debris removal initiative, which provided temporary employment to hundreds of hurricane-affected Dominicans. We provided advice to the government on recovery planning and the creation of a National Reconstruction Agency for Climate Resilience, based on international best practices.

These are not, strictly speaking, humanitarian activities, but in the aftermath of a crisis they are instrumental for long-term recovery. The sense of urgency of the national authorities was palpable, and we were able to respond quickly because we were there from the beginning. This is what the New Way of Working is all about.

By the end of 2017, OCHA phased out and the CMU was dissolved, its mission accomplished. We had provided humanitarian support and helped lay the foundations for long-term recovery. I departed Dominica at the end of January to return to New York, but many colleagues stayed to continue the work.

Despite considerable progress, much remains to be done to restore normalcy in the lives of Dominicans. With another hurricane season coming fast on the horizon, there is no time to spare.

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Excerpt:

Luca Renda is Senior Strategic Advisor for the UN Development Programme’s Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean

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Digital Media Take the Lead in Reporting in Venezuelahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/digital-media-take-lead-reporting-venezuela/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=digital-media-take-lead-reporting-venezuela http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/digital-media-take-lead-reporting-venezuela/#respond Wed, 28 Mar 2018 22:35:46 +0000 Humberto Marquez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155072 On-line media have taken the lead, ahead of the conventional media, in reporting in the tense political and economic climate in Venezuela, where freedom of speech and of information are under siege. In Venezuela, “the closure of traditional media, the purchase of others and the coercion exercised over companies and journalists have given a boost […]

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Poland Sues Argentine Newspaper Under New Holocaust Lawhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/poland-sues-argentine-newspaper-new-holocaust-law/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poland-sues-argentine-newspaper-new-holocaust-law http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/poland-sues-argentine-newspaper-new-holocaust-law/#comments Tue, 27 Mar 2018 01:53:40 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155041 Can an official historical truth be universally imposed in defence of a nation’s reputation? Poland believes that it can, and launched a crusade against those who accuse the Polish State or citizens of complicity with the Holocaust. An Argentine newspaper was its first victim. An article about a massacre of Jews perpetrated by their own […]

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The monument in memory of the Jedwabne massacre, vandalised with pro-Nazi grafitti. In 1941, in that Nazi-occupied town in Poland, 1,600 Jews were massacred by their neighbours. Credit: Courtesy Página 12

The monument in memory of the Jedwabne massacre, vandalised with pro-Nazi grafitti. In 1941, in that Nazi-occupied town in Poland, 1,600 Jews were massacred by their neighbours. Credit: Courtesy Página 12

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Mar 27 2018 (IPS)

Can an official historical truth be universally imposed in defence of a nation’s reputation? Poland believes that it can, and launched a crusade against those who accuse the Polish State or citizens of complicity with the Holocaust. An Argentine newspaper was its first victim.

An article about a massacre of Jews perpetrated by their own neighbours in a Polish town during World War Two (1939-1945), which was not ordered by the Nazi occupiers, prompted a lawsuit in the Polish courts against the newspaper Página 12 in early March.

Just a few days earlier, an unusual law that caused an international controversy had entered into force in the eastern European country, creating penalties of up to three years in prison for those who claim, anywhere around the world, that Poland or the Poles were responsible for the crimes committed against the Jews in their territory during the Nazi occupation.

“The lawsuit was filed by a group linked to the Polish government. We are going to make an international case of this, not to make ourselves famous, but because they are trying to impose a kind of global censorship for which there are not many precedents around the world,” the chief editor of Página 12, Martín Granovsky, told IPS.

“The article published in Página 12 did not mean to say that all Poles were anti-Semitic or that there were no non-Jewish Poles killed under Nazism. We told about a case of neighbours who tortured and killed other neighbours,” he added.

Granovsky said the lawsuit – of which the newspaper has not yet been notified – will be fought in the courts as well as in the court of public opinion. To this end, Página 12 is contacting organisations that defend journalism and freedom of expression around the world.

The complaint against Página 12, a centre-left newspaper that was founded in the 1980s, after Argentina’s return to democracy following the 1976-1983 dictatorship, was filed by the Polish League Against Defamation, a non-governmental organisation created in 2012 with the aim of “initiating and supporting actions to correct false information about the history of Poland, in particular about the role of the Poles in the Second World War, their attitudes towards the Jews and the German concentration camps,” according to its website.

There is a patent similarity between the organisation’s aims and the philosophy that inspired the bill passed by the Polish parliament on Feb. 1 and signed into law by ultraconservative President Andrzej Duda five days later.

The law, according to a statement issued by Poland’s Foreign Ministry, seeks to “combat all forms of denial and distortion of the truth about the Holocaust, as well as attempts to underestimate (the responsibility) of the real perpetrators.”

“Accusing the Polish State and nation of complicity with the Third German Reich in Nazi crimes is wrong, deceptive and hurtful for the victims,” the text continues.

The U.S. State Department had released a statement, when the Polish parliament was about to sanction the law, saying that it “could undermine free speech and academic discourse.”

Mar. 4 headline in the Argentine newspaper Página 12, reacting to a lawsuit brought under a controversial Polish law that penalises anyone, anywhere around the world, who states that the Polish State or citizens were complicit in the Holocaust. Credit: Courtesy Página 12

Mar. 4 headline in the Argentine newspaper Página 12, reacting to a lawsuit brought under a controversial Polish law that penalises anyone, anywhere around the world, who states that the Polish State or citizens were complicit in the Holocaust. Credit: Courtesy Página 12

The questioning by the United States is of particular significance since it is the main ally of Poland, a country that has been accused of violations of the rule of law by the European Union, of which that country is a member.

In December, the EU began to take steps to sanction Warsaw for the enactment of laws that, it argued, sought to weaken judicial independence.

The U.S. State Department suggested that the attempt to restrict opinions about Poland’s role in the Holocaust will lead the country to greater international isolation, as it pointed out that the law could have repercussions “on Poland’s strategic interests and relations, including with the United States and Israel.”

For Damián Loreti, former director of Communication Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, the Polish law on the Holocaust “violates all international standards in the field of freedom of expression and scientific research.”

“This is because it tries to impose an official historical truth, against which there can be nothing said to the contrary,” Loreti told IPS.

The academic said that “a country’s honour is not a legitimate legal subject to be protected by imposing restrictions on free speech, according to the European Convention on Human Rights, and it also violates United Nations resolutions.”

The op-ed that triggered the lawsuit was published by Página 12 on Dec. 18, 2017, under the title “Familiar Faces”. It was written by Federico Pavlovsky, a psychoanalyst who told IPS that he preferred not to make public statements while the case was making its way through the courts.

In his column, Pavlovsky describes “one of the cruelest and most incredible events recorded in the Second World War,” which occurred on Jul. 10, 1941 in Jedwabne, 190 km from Warsaw.

“That day, 1500 people killed or watched another 1600 being killed, the latter of whom were of Jewish origin,” reads the article, adding: “One of the peculiarities of this massacre is that in Nazi-occupied Poland, the Germans did not order the killing or participate in it, they merely authorised the sequence of events and took photographs.”

The op-ed basically collects the information made public in 2001 by historian Jan Gross in his book “Neighbours: the destruction of the Jewish community in Jedwabne, Poland”, which had a strong impact both in that country and in the United States.

Gross is a Pole born in 1947, the son of a Jewish father and Christian mother, who in 1969, during the communist regime, went into exile in the United States.

The Polish law punishes in particular anyone who speaks of “Polish concentration camps”, instead of clarifying that they were in Polish territory but were the responsibility of the Nazi regime, which was occupying the country.

“It is true that the Polish state had ceased to exist and that there was only a Polish government in exile in London, which fought the Nazis,” psychotherapist and writer Diana Wang told IPS. The daughter of Holocaust survivors, she was born in Poland in 1945 and has lived in Argentina since the age of two.

“However, Poland has a long tradition of anti-Semitism at a cultural level, and hundreds of thousands of Poles participated in the murder of Jews and appropriated their property,” added Wang, who heads Generations of the Shoah, an organisation dedicated to keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust in Argentina.

“It’s true that to talk about Polish concentration camps does not exactly represent the historical truth, because they were under the control of the Germans, but everyone has the right to say what they want,” said Wang, who after hearing about the lawsuit published an op-ed in Página 12 titled: “Poland can sue me too.”

Since the lawsuit was filed, the newspaper has published daily articles about the legal case and about the history of Jewish people in Jedwabne.

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New Platform Will Support Youth Projects on Water and Climatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate/#respond Fri, 23 Mar 2018 22:53:41 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155014 Young people around the globe with good ideas on how to deal with water and climate challenges now have a platform to show their projects to the world and attract funding and other contributions to realise their dreams. The Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform was formally launched during the 8th World Water […]

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People participate in the launch of the Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform during the World Water Forum in Brasilia. The initiative is promoted by the Global Water Partnership and other organisations, to connect young people from around the world dedicated to social and environmental projects that promote water security and climate change solutions. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

People participate in the launch of the Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform during the World Water Forum in Brasilia. The initiative is promoted by the Global Water Partnership and other organisations, to connect young people from around the world dedicated to social and environmental projects that promote water security and climate change solutions. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Mar 23 2018 (IPS)

Young people around the globe with good ideas on how to deal with water and climate challenges now have a platform to show their projects to the world and attract funding and other contributions to realise their dreams.

The Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform was formally launched during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia with the participation of a dozen country leaders.

The aim is to connect creative young people keen on helping to solve major environmental problems, in their communities or in wider areas, with potential funders and technical allies.

The idea is to promote “love at first sight” between these young people and potential supporters, that is, to accelerate the pairing between the two parties, according to a game that illustrates the idea of digital marketing of projects, the promoters of the initiative explained.

Marly Julajuj Coj, a 19-year-old indigenous woman from Guatemala, participated along with other young people from several continents in launching the platform, promoted by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and other partners of the initiative, on Thursday Mar. 22 at Switzerland’s country pavilion at the 8th World Water Forum.

Representatives from donor agencies in Europe and Africa were also at the event, to explain the support they offer and what kind of projects they are interested in. For example, they give priority to ones that involve gender issues, said the representative of Switzerland’s development aid agency.

The young Guatemalan woman’s project seeks to build “rainwater harvesting systems, tanks made of recycled and new materials, to provide clean water for 20 families, those in greatest need in a community of 80 families,” she told IPS.

“The local rivers are polluted, we have to find alternative sources of drinking water,” said the young high school graduate who learned English with a missionary from the U.S. This is her second trip outside of Guatemala; earlier she received training in public speaking in Belgium.

Economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, together with Pierre-Marie Grondin, of the French Water Solidarity Programme (pS-Eau), which will finance water and climate projects for young people around the world. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, together with Pierre-Marie Grondin, of the French Water Solidarity Programme (pS-Eau), which will finance water and climate projects for young people around the world. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“#YWC is a very useful tool, it helps to make my project known and to seek financing,” she said.

The platform is supported by a consortium of nine organisations from various regions and is operated by a Secretariat comprising the GWP, the International Secretariat for Water and AgroParisTech.

It is open to anyone who wants to submit a project or offer support. A committee evaluates the quality of the projects and gives a stamp of approval, after which they are published in order to attract funders and technical assistance.

This process enables the young social entrepreneurs to improve their projects, share tools and meet requirements, while ensuring results for donors.

On the platform people and organisations are free to choose their preferences and interests.

The advice, training and connection with supporters offered to young people is a fundamental part of #YWC, said Vilma Chanta from El Salvador, focal point in her country of GWP Central America, and a researcher in territorial development with El Salvador’s National Development Foundation.

“Young people are an important part of change in the world, they are committed, that is why it is important to train youth leaders, to help them perhaps to formulate a theory of change that every project must have, that helps to identify where to focus their efforts,” Chanta told IPS.

Vilma Chanta, a researcher in territorial development for the non-governmental National Development Foundation of El Salvador, and focal point in that country of GWP Central America, worries about the pollution and deterioration of the Lempa river, key to the generation of energy and water consumption in the Central American nation. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Vilma Chanta, a researcher in territorial development for the non-governmental National Development Foundation of El Salvador, and focal point in that country of GWP Central America, worries about the pollution and deterioration of the Lempa river, key to the generation of energy and water consumption in the Central American nation. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

With regard to water problems in El Salvador, she mentioned the Lempa River, shared with Honduras and Guatemala, countries for which the river “is not as important as it is to us as a source of energy and water,” she said.

A drought in 2017 left cities without water for three weeks, although the worst effects occurred in rural areas where “there is water but no access to it,” she said.

“It is a limiting factor for women and girls who spend a large part of their days getting water for their households,” one of the vital gender issues in territorial development, said the young Salvadoran.

On the other side of the world, the young economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, also tries to promote rainwater harvesting and training for women, but with an emphasis on income generation and the creation of companies to achieve economic growth.

“Water is a basic resource, indispensable for everything, even to obtain an income,” she told IPS. “In Bangladesh, water shortages prevent poor girls from going to school,” and guaranteeing access to water is essential to women’s education and financial future, she added.

“#YWC connects very diverse people, and is an opportunity for exchanging ideas and sharing know-how, which is important in my country,” she said.

Marly Julajuj Coj, a young indigenous woman from Guatemala, who at the age of 19 was one of the participants in the launch of the Youth Platform for Water and Climate in Brasilia, as leader of a project that seeks to ensure drinking water for her community of 80 families by harvesting rainwater. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Marly Julajuj Coj, a young indigenous woman from Guatemala, who at the age of 19 was one of the participants in the launch of the Youth Platform for Water and Climate in Brasilia, as leader of a project that seeks to ensure drinking water for her community of 80 families by harvesting rainwater. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Jelena Krstajic, president of the Youth Water Community, based in Slovenia and active in central and eastern Europe, sees #YWC primarily as a tool to seek financial support.

It is important “because we are all volunteers,” she told IPS in reference to the professionals who participate in the organisation.

A project in her community is the clean-up of the Ishmi river, in Albania, where there is an accumulation of plastic waste. Another project is to encourage the “voice of young people in the selection of policies” so that they can participate in decisions on social inclusion in Eastern Europe.

Young people will be decisive in the face of water and climate challenges, “they have energy and are more sensitive to the issues” and will be able to do more if they are connected internationally, said Pierre-Marie Grondin, director of the Water Solidarity Programme, a network of French organisations that finance projects in the developing South, especially Africa.

“#YWC is a good idea, it disseminates new ideas, promoting dialogue and coordination,” he told IPS, speaking as a donor.

The digital platform and the decision to support young people’s capacity for innovation are the result of ties forged among several national and international organisations since the December 2015 climate summit in Paris.

At the summit – the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), which gave rise to the Paris Agreement – the youth-led White Paper on Water and Climate, based on interviews in 20 countries from all continents, was presented.

During the World Water Forum, there were several initiatives aimed at young activists in water issues. One was the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, sponsored by Sweden, which chose a Brazilian project to attend the Water Week in Stockholm, in August of this year.

Meanwhile, participants in the Brazilian National Youth Parliament for Water presented their studies and projects at the Citizen Village, venue of the Alternative World Water Forum (FAMA), a parallel event.

The World Water Forum, organised by the World Water Council and the Brazilian government, drew 10,500 delegates from 172 countries, according to the organisers. They took part in 300 thematic sessions, and an Expo that was visited, according to their estimates, by more than 85,000 people.

FAMA focused on environmental education and attracted some 3,000 people from 34 countries, mostly students, plus tens of thousands of visitors who visited the fair.

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Working Together Is Key to Meeting Water Targets by 2030http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/working-together-key-meeting-water-targets-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=working-together-key-meeting-water-targets-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/working-together-key-meeting-water-targets-2030/#respond Thu, 22 Mar 2018 21:44:52 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154996 Mutual collaboration and coordination among the various stakeholders are tools to accelerate the actions necessary to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in the 2030 Agenda, which states the need to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all. The Global Water Partnership (GWP), an international network created in 1996 to promote integrated […]

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A crowd, mainly of students, has filled the Citizen Village, the building where the new generations are educated in environmental and water issues, with cinema, facilities, toys and talks, every day during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A crowd, mainly of students, has filled the Citizen Village, the building where the new generations are educated in environmental and water issues, with cinema, facilities, toys and talks, every day during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Mar 22 2018 (IPS)

Mutual collaboration and coordination among the various stakeholders are tools to accelerate the actions necessary to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in the 2030 Agenda, which states the need to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all.

The Global Water Partnership (GWP), an international network created in 1996 to promote integrated water resources management (IWRM), calls for working and thinking together as a key to fulfilling SDG number 6, of the 17 goals that make up the Agenda, agreed in 2015 by the world’s governments within the framework of the United Nations.

To this end, on Mar. 20 it launched the campaign “Act on SDG 6” in Brasilia, during an event emphasising the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships to promote water security, in the context of the Eighth World Water Forum, hosted by Brasilia Mar. 18-23.

“To integrate the different sectors and organisations at the national and regional levels, to implement solutions and improve water indicators” is what we are seeking in order to advance towards the targets, said Joshua Newton, senior GWP network officer in charge of coordinating the work of SDG 6 and global water political processes, governance and stakeholder engagement.

“We facilitate, through partnerships, the search for funds for projects, connecting governmental actors, international organisations, and leaders,” he told IPS.

The campaign is close to concluding an initial phase of monitoring indicators to identify “where we are” in relation to SDG 6, Newton explained.

The second phase, which “is about to begin” is to “design responses, how to act to meet the goals,” followed by the third, the implementation phase, which requires financing: “the most difficult part,” he said.

Nor is it easy to drum up political will, integrate human beings and sectors with different interests, reconcile different uses of water, such as for agriculture, energy and human consumption, but “we try to bring people together to address water problems,” he added.

Another difficulty arises from the diversity of conditions: “IWRM is not present in all countries and water governance varies greatly between countries, and these are things that we seek to harmonise,” concluded Newton, an expert in international relations who has been dedicated to water issues since 1995, when he was living in Argentina.

For the GWP, the 5th of the six specific targets included in SDG 6 is of particular importance, as it states the need to “implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate,” by 2030, coinciding with the mission of the network, which has more than 3,000 members worldwide.

Gladys Villarreal, in charge of the care of water basins in Panama’s Environment Ministry, believes that water unites people despite their diversity and helps them to understand each other. She believes it will not be difficult for Panama to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal, which seeks to make access to clean water and sanitation universal by 2030. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Gladys Villarreal, in charge of the care of water basins in Panama’s Environment Ministry, believes that water unites people despite their diversity and helps them to understand each other. She believes it will not be difficult for Panama to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal, which seeks to make access to clean water and sanitation universal by 2030. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The GWP is made up of governmental and intergovernmental institutions, international, non-governmental and academic organisations, companies and public service providers.

“I do not think it is difficult to reach SDG 6 in my country, we have already collected a great deal of information about our water and we started to implement IWRM in surface and underground sources,” said Gladys Villarreal, director of Hydrographic Basins at Panama’s Environment Ministry, at the launch of the GWP campaign.

In addition, “we have a 2015-2050 Water Security Plan,” with five strategic goals to guarantee water for domestic use, sanitation, healthy basins, with monitored water quality, all of which are sustainability targets, she told IPS.

But there is much to be done, she admitted. Of the 51 basins in Panama, there are organised water committees in only 14, and groundwater resources have hardly been studied. However, Villarreal pointed out that Panama has a Water Law, in force since 1965, and in the process of being updated.

Guatemala, on the other hand, does not have a specific law and has been facing water conflicts since 2016, between local communities, the government and private companies.

But “the tension is decreasing” and solutions are moving forward with technical committees oriented by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the creation of committees in micro-basins, said Álvaro Aceituno, head of the Department of Water Resources and Watersheds.

There are 38 basins in Guatemala, with numerous sub-basins and micro-basins. For the latter, community-based monitoring has begun, with complaints filed in the Ministry, in the attempt to ensure quality water for the communities, he told IPS.

The country also has a Basin Authority in the existing 38 basins, which works together with the micro-basins committees, establishing a monitoring system in the headwaters. The National Forestry Institute also works to prevent deforestation, requiring permits for logging, and protecting endemic plant species.

Chilean Aldo Palacios, who chairs GWP South America, takes part in the launch of the "Act on SDG 6" campaign by the World Water Partnership (GWP) in Brasilia, in the context of the eighth World Water Forum. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Chilean Aldo Palacios, who chairs GWP South America, takes part in the launch of the “Act on SDG 6” campaign by the World Water Partnership (GWP) in Brasilia, in the context of the eighth World Water Forum. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“In Guatemala, indigenous culture has considerable weight. In indigenous areas, forests are protected and we know that taking care of them means caring for water,” which favours agriculture, said Aceituno.

In this respect, he noted that there are communities where indigenous pressure benefits the water and the environment, but added that they also generate problems because their communities are independent “and follow their own laws.”

Villarreal and Aceituno consider the campaign beneficial for promoting actions to fulfill SDG 6. “Some countries, including Panama, seek to stand out,” and obtain incentives and support to achieve the goals, said Villarreal.

In South America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Peru are the countries that have shown the greatest progress with regard to SDG 6, said Aldo Palacios, president of GWP South America.

However, there are still major challenges. “There are cities where the drainage systems stopped working four or five decades ago, leading to heavy floods. In Chile, the loss of drinking water is close to 48 percent. We must accelerate management mechanisms, there are ideas but the answers are slow in coming,” he told IPS.

Climate change aggravated everything, with extreme weather events, such as more intense, longer droughts, excessive rainfall in short periods, and water-borne diseases.

“Many are entrenched, irreversible problems, against which reactions or attempts to adapt have fallen short. That is why we propose changing the mindset in our countries and adopting a resilience approach,” said Palacios.

That means ongoing, rather than isolated actions, with a medium to long-term – and preventive if possible – focus, with the aim of recovering or maintaining good living conditions.

As an example, he cited the actions taken by Germany and the Netherlands against the rising ocean level, which coastal cities around the world must undertake before they are flooded due to global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps.

He anticipated that resilience, at the core of IWRM, is a concept that goes beyond risk management, insofar as the risks are permanent. That, as well as the decentralisation of approaches, are ideas that the region intends to take to the GWP, as part of a reflection process.

“We are the region with the most rivers and the greatest water reserves, which is a distinctive factor to enhance, through shared leadership,” Palacios concluded.

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We Must Take Care of Nature, Because Without Rain There Is No Fresh Waterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/must-take-care-nature-without-rain-no-fresh-water/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=must-take-care-nature-without-rain-no-fresh-water http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/must-take-care-nature-without-rain-no-fresh-water/#respond Wed, 21 Mar 2018 16:02:37 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154931 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Water Day on Mar. 22.

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"Waters of the Planet," an installation of the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, exhibited in the Citizen’s Village at the 8th Water Forum, held in the capital of Brazil, is a large cube with satellite photos showing the Earth’s seas, rivers and lakes from space. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

"Waters of the Planet," an installation of the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, exhibited in the Citizen’s Village at the 8th Water Forum, held in the capital of Brazil, is a large cube with satellite photos showing the Earth’s seas, rivers and lakes from space. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Mar 21 2018 (IPS)

Confidence in large rivers and giant aquifers plummeted in many parts of the world, in the face of the expansion of water crises after intense and prolonged droughts in the last decade.

Water resources in the soil and subsoil do not hold up if the dry season lasts longer than usual for several years, as seen in several parts of Brazil and in other countries such as India, South Africa and Australia.

Brasilia, which hosts the 8th World Water Forum on Mar. 18-23, is a prime example, because no one could have imagined that the Brazilian capital, nicknamed the “birthplace of the waters” for its three large basins, would have to endure water rationing since early 2017.

“High levels of population growth, scarce investment in infrastructure and three years of below-average rainfall caused a water crisis,” said the governor of the Federal District, Rodrigo Rollemberg, at the official opening of the Forum, on Mar. 19, before highlighting works carried out by his government to ensure supply in the near future.

“Rain is the source of fresh water, sometimes moisture in the air is overlooked, because it’s not visible to the eye,” said Gerard Moss, a pilot who from 2007 to 2015 conducted the Flying Rivers project, which studied the air currents that carry water vapour through the Amazon basin.

“It is essential to maintain the rains and forests are indispensable in this sense, helping the moisture from the ocean to reach the interior of the continent. The ocean water would not travel 2,500 or 3,000 km to produce the rains that allow estate owners in Mato Grosso (in east-central Brazil) to produce two or three harvests a year,” he told IPS.

Moss’s research, which identified “flying rivers” in the Amazon rainforest that supplied several cities in Brazil, was discontinued, but it serves as a tool for the environmental education of children and adults, promoted by his wife Margi Moss, an initiative that will be moved to Europe.

Knowledge of the phenomenon of humid air currents that carry water to the rainforest provides a further argument to the theme adopted by UN-Water this year for World Water Day, which is celebrated on Mar. 22: “Nature for Water”.

UN-Water says nature-based solutions are the answer to many problems related to water, such as droughts and floods that are alternating with increasing frequency around the world, and to pollution.

The 8th World Water Forum began on Monday, Mar. 19, in the Ulysses Guimarães Convention Centre in the capital of Brazil. Credit: EBC

The 8th World Water Forum began on Monday, Mar. 19, in the Ulysses Guimarães Convention Centre in the capital of Brazil. Credit: EBC

Reforesting and conserving forests, restoring wetlands and reconnecting rivers with floodplains are some of its recommendations.

It’s about “not reinventing the wheel to deal with extreme weather events,” Glauco Kimura, a World Water Forum consultant, said regarding the campaign. “There is natural infrastructure, such as mangroves and other ecosystems, that help curb the impacts of hurricanes and excess rainfall,” he told IPS.

“Without forests around the springs and aquifers, there is less water, as discovered by São Paulo,” which was hit by severe shortages in 2014 and 2015, Kimura said.

To coexist with drought, the consultant recommended learning from the inhabitants of Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, who have built tanks to collect and store rainwater to get them through the dry season. “In central and southern Brazil that culture does not exist,” he lamented.

During the drought that has lasted since 2012 in the Northeast, there has been no massive exodus of desperate people to cities to the south, where they even looted shops during earlier, less severe, droughts.

This is largely due to social programmes such as Bolsa Familia and pensions for workers and disabled people, but also to the more than one million water tanks built mainly by the Articulação no Semi-Árido Brasileiro (roughly, Networking in Brazil’s Semiarid Region – ASA), a movement of some 3,000 social organisations working on behalf of rural families vulnerable to drought.

Another example of nature-based solutions is the Cultivating Good Water Programme, promoted by Itaipú Binacional, the company that operates the second largest hydroelectric plant in the world (in terms of installed capacity), shared by Brazil and Paraguay on the Paraná River.

Some 23 million trees were planted, restoring 1,322 km of riverbank forests, and 30,000 hectares of land received protection, on the Brazilian side, said Newton Kaminski, director of coordination in Itaipu.

Protests against the governor of the Federal District, Rodrigo Rollemberg, accused of being responsible for water rationing in Brasilia. The water crisis broke out after he took office in 2014, but it was an inherited problem, which now resonates in the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in the capital of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Protests against the governor of the Federal District, Rodrigo Rollemberg, accused of being responsible for water rationing in Brasilia. The water crisis broke out after he took office in 2014, but it was an inherited problem, which now resonates in the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in the capital of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“The key was the river basin management, with integrated actions on all fronts, not just restoration of water sources and groundwater recharge areas. Reforestation without conservation of the soil does not bring about major results. Also necessary are social participation, education, and agriculture that does not deteriorate the soil,” Kaminsky told IPS.

The president of Cape Verde, Jorge Carlos Fonseca, stressed in his speech before nine other government leaders participating in the opening of the World Water Forum that learning to “live in symbiotic harmony with nature” was fundamental to overcoming the hunger and thirst suffered by his people in recent years because of drought.

“Preserving nature and making rational use of the resources that it provides us, changing the relation of human beings with nature,” is the lesson learned from this experience, he said. “We broke the dry season-hunger tandem,” he said.

Sea water desalination and rainwater collection contributed to the improvement of the water situation, and the goal is to ensure 90 liters per person per day, below the 110 liters recommended by the United Nations.

Reforesting and conserving recharge areas and combating the degradation of soil due to change in use are the recommendations of Fabiola Tábora, executive secretary of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) in Central America.

Droughts in Central America have a worse impact along the Pacific west coast, which concentrates 70 percent of the sub-region’s population and is known as “the dry corridor”. That hurts food security and hydropower generation, which accounts for half of the national energy supply, she told IPS.

Another positive experience was the recovery of the La Poza micro-basin, in the southwest of El Salvador, involving broad community participation in integrated management, Tábora mentioned.

In Costa Rica and Guatemala, she highlighted the work with private companies and the government to generate environmental funds, which are invested in the management and conservation of watersheds.

These were cited as solutions in response to numerous references to world tragedies during the initial sessions of the 8th World Water Forum: nearly 700 million people without access to water in the world, two billion people drinking contaminated water, 3.5 billion without sanitation, a thousand children dying a day because of poor water quality and projections that the situation will worsen in the future.

The government leaders that were present followed the World Water Forum theme “Sharing Water”,by making continuous calls for cooperation and exchange of knowledge and experiences, since 40 percent of the world’s population depends on transboundary waters.

The post We Must Take Care of Nature, Because Without Rain There Is No Fresh Water appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Water Day on Mar. 22.

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Latin American Indigenous People Fight New Plunder of Their Resourceshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/latin-american-indigenous-people-fight-new-plunder-resources/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-american-indigenous-people-fight-new-plunder-resources http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/latin-american-indigenous-people-fight-new-plunder-resources/#respond Sat, 17 Mar 2018 18:14:20 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154868 Indigenous communities in Latin America, who have suffered the plunder of their natural resources since colonial times, are reliving that phenomenon again as mega infrastructure are jeopardising their habitat and their very survival. On the island of Assunção in Northeast Brazil, the village of the Truká indigenous people was split in two when the flow […]

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A street in the village of the Truká indigenous people, whose territory was divided in two by the diversion of the São Francisco River, on Assunção island in Northeast Brazil. Large-scale infrastructure projects, and the oil and mining industries have directly affected indigenous people in Latin America. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

A street in the village of the Truká indigenous people, whose territory was divided in two by the diversion of the São Francisco River, on Assunção island in Northeast Brazil. Large-scale infrastructure projects, and the oil and mining industries have directly affected indigenous people in Latin America. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
ISLA DE ASSUNÇÃO, Brazil , Mar 17 2018 (IPS)

Indigenous communities in Latin America, who have suffered the plunder of their natural resources since colonial times, are reliving that phenomenon again as mega infrastructure are jeopardising their habitat and their very survival.

On the island of Assunção in Northeast Brazil, the village of the Truká indigenous people was split in two when the flow of the São Francisco River was diverted.

“The Truká people have always been from this region. We are an ancient people in this territory. We have always lived on the riverbank fishing, hunting, planting crops. We did not need a canal,” lamented Claudia Truká, leader of the village in the municipality of Cabrobó, in the state of Pernambuco."However, the peasant and indigenous communities of the region - continually subjected to persecution, dispossession and defamation - have historically resisted, and continue to resist, encroachment." -- Luciana Guerreiro

The transfer, officially called the São Francisco River Integration Project, seeks to capture the river’s water through 713 km of canals, aqueducts, reservoirs, tunnels and pumping systems.

According to the government, the largest national infrastructure work of this type will ensure the water security of 12 million people in 390 municipalities in the states of Pernambuco, Ceará, Paraíba and Rio Grande do Norte and will benefit rural and riverbank communities.

But the project, according to what Truká told IPS, will hinder the process of demarcation of indigenous territories and will not bring them any benefits.

“The transfer will have many negative effects. It affects the vegetation and our animals, and it draws water from the river, not to bring water to those who are thirsty but to favour agribusiness. There are other ways to solve the lack of water,” she said.

“We were already colonised by the Casa de la Torre (an estate transformed into a sort of barracks from which ranchers conducted raids of indigenous lands in the seventeenth century), which together with the Capuchin (Cacholic Franciscan order) favoured that process. Once again the Truká people are going through a process of colonisation,” she said.

In the department of Madre de Dios, in the Amazon jungle in southeastern Peru, the Harakbut indigenous people are suffering the impacts of another megaproject.

In 2006, the U.S.-based Hunt Oil company was granted a concession to a plot of land for the exploration and exploitation of natural gas, overlapping with the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, in the ancestral territory of the Harakbut.

In 2017, the company handed over that land because it had obtained no conclusive results within the deadlines for the exploration. However, there are five other producers interested in resuming the megaproject, Andrea Cardoso, a professor at the Arturo Jauretche National University, told IPS from Argentina.

“The withdrawal of Hunt Oil from Harakbut territory does not mean that the problem has been solved, the impacts on the forest continue and have left their marks,” she said.

According to Cardoso “the presence of the oil company has generated divisions in the communities, even within families.”

“The company’s so-called public relations officers have convinced many indigenous people to work for them, or to accept goods or money. But other members of the communities continue to work on raising awareness about the oil industry’s irreversible impacts on the forests,” she said.

In addition, the camps of company workers “generate diseases and the breakdown of the social fabric,” Cardoso said.

An "oca", a traditional and ceremonial construction of the Truká indigenous people, where they celebrate their rituals, has a wooden cross on the outside, a vestige of the Portuguese Catholic colonisation, in the Truká village on Assunção island in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, Brazil. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

An “oca”, a traditional and ceremonial construction of the Truká indigenous people, where they celebrate their rituals, has a wooden cross on the outside, a vestige of the Portuguese Catholic colonisation, in the Truká village on Assunção island in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, Brazil. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

The oil industry activity there is being carried out at the headwaters of several rivers, “which are the only sources of water for more than 10,000 people, including indigenous people and non-native colonists,” she added.

For that reason, she said, “the rivers get polluted, with solid and liquid waste dumped directly into the forests and rivers, contaminating the soil and water and therefore also fish, one of the main sources of food for these communities.”

The researcher pointed out that the indigenous people of the Amazon basin, shared by eight South American countries, “know their territory better than anyone else. They are adapted to their environment and have great knowledge of the soils, flora and fauna, as well as their own technologies to take advantage of their natural resources, playing a role as guardians of the environment.”

According to Cardoso, the case of the Harakbut people must be analysed in a broader Latin American context.

Since the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, she said, “indigenous movements in Latin America have been at the centre of the political and social scene, in the framework of neoliberal practices implemented by different governments of the region,” with the influx of transnational capital for exploration and exploitation of fossil fuels.

“It’s in this context that there has been a loss of control over the common goods of nature and of indigenous peoples’ territories, as a consequence of the territorial dispossession, in a cycle of transnational extractivism that threatens our Americas,” she concluded.

In Ecuador, René Unda, from the Salesian Polytechnic University, highlighted the case of the Mirador-San Carlos Panantza Project, in the Condor mountain range, on the Amazonian western border with Peru, which plans to mine for gold, silver and copper “compromising several watersheds, nature reserves and forests that play a protective role.”

Unda said from Quito that one of the most affected indigenous peoples in the initial exploration stage are the Shuar, on both the Ecuadorian and Peruvian sides.

In a fragile ecosystem, a mining project of this scope “involves a profound transformation of their ways of life and their modes of survival,” he told IPS.

They are guardians of the environment “with their struggle and resistance. Not only against the coalitions that represent the interests of the government and of the corporations, but also against sectors of their own peoples who support the mining projects,” said Unda.

Luciana Guerreiro, an expert in indigenous autonomy processes at the University of Buenos Aires Gino Germani Research Institute, said that in Argentina, “one of the main threats to indigenous populations is the expansion of large-scale mining.”

One emblematic case is in Andalgalá, in Argentina’s northwestern province of Catamarca, where the Minera Alumbrera mining company has operated the first open-pit mine in Argentina for more than 20 years, currently in the process of closure and clean-up, she told IPS.

Guerreiro explained that “these ventures not only plunder the mineral resources and wealth of the territories they exploit, but also the water, a fundamental element in areas where it is scarce, leaving local people and their main traditional productive activities devastated and impoverished” and affecting their spirituality and their relationship with nature.

Another case is that of the Diaguita community of Aguas Calientes, in the north of the same Argentine province, which is fighting to keep out mining companies such as Buena Vista Gold.

“In these cases the only thing the communities can do is resist, protest and stop by their own means those who try to steal their land,” said the expert.

“The defence of the territories carried out by the Diaguita communities becomes a socio-environmental defence, since their territories also include the Laguna Blanca Biosphere Reserve, a protected natural area of great planetary importance for its biodiversity,” she said.

The Diaguita communities, she stressed, “maintain a close link with nature, which means protecting and respecting it; a spiritual relationship, with what they consider mother earth or ‘Pachamama’.”

According to Guerreiro, the “pattern of development” in Latin America “responds to the logic of the global financial markets…and keeps alive colonial relations, denying the specificity of territories and populations with their own ways of life, and recreating relations of subordination and exploitation.”

“However, the peasant and indigenous communities of the region – permanently subjected to persecution, dispossession and defamation – have historically resisted, and continue to resist, encroachment,” she said.

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Deported Salvadorans in Times of Trumphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/deported-salvadorans-times-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=deported-salvadorans-times-trump http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/deported-salvadorans-times-trump/#comments Fri, 16 Mar 2018 18:34:08 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154862 Carrying a red plastic bag containing an old pair of shoes and a few other belongings, David Antonio Pérez arrives to El Salvador, deported from the United States. David Antonio, 42, is a divorced father of two who has lived in the U.S. for a total of 12 years. He has spent five years in […]

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Latin America & the Caribbean Edging Towards Eliminating Tuberculosishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/latin-america-caribbean-edging-towards-eliminating-tuberculosis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-caribbean-edging-towards-eliminating-tuberculosis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/latin-america-caribbean-edging-towards-eliminating-tuberculosis/#respond Fri, 16 Mar 2018 06:53:02 +0000 Grace Virtue http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154841 Grace Virtue, Ph.D., is Senior Advisor – Communications, ACTION Global Health Advocacy Partnership.

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Tuberculosis, world's top infectious killer. Credit: UN

By Grace Virtue
WASHINGTON DC, Mar 16 2018 (IPS)

Known as El Libertador throughout the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region, Simón Bolívar was central to the battle for independence from Spanish rule in Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

A less known fact is that Bolívar, the son of a wealthy Venezuelan creole family, died from tuberculosis (TB) on December 17, 1880, at age 47. His compatriot, renowned impressionist Cristobal Rojas, painted La Miseria in 1886, depicting the social conditions of the day that gave rise to TB. He died from the disease in 1890 at age 33.

Tuberculosis is an ancient disease. Results from a 2014 DNA study of remains in southern Peru suggest that human TB was present 6,000 years ago. This chronic familiarity of the disease no doubt makes it more difficult to generate the attention required to eradicate it from the human experience.

Observed as World TB Day each year, March 24 is the annual opportunity for advocates and interest groups to build public awareness about the disease, which killed 1.7 million people in 2017 and sickened more than 10 million. The date marks the anniversary of the announcement in 1882 by Robert Koch, a German physician and microbiologist, that he had discovered the cause of TB: the tubercle bacillus.

Koch’s work was seminal in the treatment of TB—also known as the white plague—which was devastating populations in Europe and the Americas at the time. One in seven people in London, died from TB in the early 8th century, and by the start of the 19th century, the number had grown to 1:4.2 –fueled in part by the squalid conditions of the growing Industrial Revolution.

A hundred years after Koch’s discovery, in 1982, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease proposed observing the date as World TB day. The WHO formally recognized the annual observation more than a decade later.

Last year, WHO announced United Nations High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) on TB on September 26, alongside the 2018 General Assembly. The meeting is expected to build on the outcomes of the 2017 Moscow Ministerial Conference and commit to providing the resource and policy framework needed to end TB.

Anyone can catch TB, which is spread when an infected and untreated person coughs, spits or sneezes. However, it is still mostly spread in conditions of poverty and therefore more prevalent among populations in the global south.

Among countries with incidences of 40 cases or more per 100,000 in 2016, South Africa tops the list with 834 cases; followed by Lesotho, 788; Swaziland, 565; North Korea, 561; Kiribati, 551; Mozambique, 551; Timor-Leste (East Timor), 498; and Namibia, 489—to round off the top eight.

In the LAC region, eight of 33 countries made the list in 2016: Haiti with 194 cases per 100,000 followed by Peru with 119; Guyana, 93; Dominican Republic, 60; Ecuador, 52; El Salvador, 43; Honduras, 43; and Brazil and Paraguay with 41 each. While the incidences are far less than in parts of Africa and Asia, the disease remains a problem, correlated with conditions of poverty and particularly among indigenous populations and people living with HIV.

Haiti’s high numbers are attributable to the country’s desperate problems of poverty including overcrowded living conditions, poor sanitation, and inadequate healthcare services. The high cost of drugs and difficult treatment regime exacerbates conditions for those who become infected.

In the aftermath of the devastating magnitude 7.0 earthquake in 2010, which destroyed the health infrastructure in the Haitian capital, Port-Au- Prince, and left 1.5 million people homeless, the number of cases skyrocketed.

A 2015 WHO report said the increase was first noted among children. In 2010, 242 children younger than 10 years old were diagnosed with TB, compared to 72 in 2009—a 336 percent increase. While the incidences remain high overall, they are decreasing from those immediately after the earthquake.

With the second highest incidences in the region, Peru’s TB cases include virulent multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) at around 2,300 patients per year, or 35 percent of all cases in the region; and extensively drug resistant TB (XDR-TB), strains of the disease that do not respond to frontline treatment, affect around 100 patients per year, or 75 percent of all cases in the region.

Unlike many high-burden countries, though, Peru also has one of the highest TB cure rates in the world at 87 percent for all new TB cases and 66 percent, in 2013, for XDR-TB TB,.XDR-TB. Since 1990, the annual mortality rate per 100,000 people from TB in Peru has decreased by 73.8 percent, an average of 3.2 per year. Globally, the reduction rate for MDR-TB is around 52 percent and 28 percent for XDR-TB.

Although trending in the right direction, Peru’s reduction rate is still slow at around 1.5 percent a year, short of the global reduction of 1.65 percent annually, according to the WHO. To reach the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 3.3) of ending epidemics of TB and other infectious diseases by 2030, the reduction rates need to increase to at least 4 percent annually.

Peru’s largely positive trajectory began in 1991 when a new government headed by Alberto Fujimori set out to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, which had been destroyed by years of guerilla warfare.

Tuberculosis control was given high priority and the budget increased from US$600,000 to $5 million a year. New policy framework included direct observation treatment (DOTS), free diagnosis and treatment, and providing poor families with food packages both for nutritional support and to encourage compliance with treatment.

The work of Partner’s in Health, a Massachusetts-based NGO which trains volunteers to support TB patients through their treatment is also credited with Peru’s improved TB outcomes.

The UNHLM is intended to secure greater commitments from governments worldwide to reduce TB incidence by 80 percent and deaths by 90 percent and to eliminate catastrophic costs to households by 2030.

Latin America and the Caribbean, may be among the lesser economically developed regions of the world, but it is rich in inspiration provided by leaders like Bolivar. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the region is edging towards the goal of eliminating TB and solve an old problem that while persistent, is highly soluble.

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Excerpt:

Grace Virtue, Ph.D., is Senior Advisor – Communications, ACTION Global Health Advocacy Partnership.

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